On Sept. 29, the Church marks the feast of Sts. Michael, Gabriel and Raphael, known as the three archangels. And though we celebrate them every year, we perhaps don’t always call to mind their great intercessory power. In light of the current crisis in the Church, however, a reintroduction to these three figures seems to be not only appropriate but essential for both clergy and laity.
St. Michael the Archangel appears numerous times both in the Old and New Testament. He is God’s warrior, God’s mighty one, and a protector against evil. In short, he is exactly the kind of intercessor we need as the Church faces the darkness of evil from within and without.
Pope Leo XIII understood the intercessory power of St. Michael, composing the St. Michael prayer after a mystical experience in 1884 in which he heard a conversation between Satan and Our Lord where Satan was boasting that he could destroy the Church in 75 to 100 years. As the story goes, Our Lord gave him permission to try. After composing the St. Michael prayer to “defend us in battle,” Pope Leo XIII asked that it be recited after every Mass. Though the practice was stopped with consistency after the Second Vatican Council, in 1994 Pope St. John Paul II urged Catholics “not to forget it and to recite it to obtain help in the battle against the forces of darkness and against the spirit of the world.” Adopting the St. Michael prayer into daily prayers, if not already there, is a positive step toward combatting the evil forces at work in our world.
St. Raphael the Archangel, whose name means “God heals” or “the Healer of God,” appears in the Old Testament Book of Tobit. Raphael helps rid Tobiah from the torment of a demon, bringing prosperity to his life. And he restores the sight of Tobit, who had been blind. Raphael encourages both to offer proper due to God, reminding us that when God offers us healing, we are to respond with thanks and praise. “Bless God and give him thanks before all the living for the good things he has done for you, by blessing and extolling his name in song. Proclaim before all with due honor the deeds of God, and do not be slack in thanking him” (Tb 12:6).
Finally, St. Gabriel the Archangel shares with us a message of hope because of his role as “the angel of the annunciation” to both Zachariah and Mary. To both, Gabriel communicated the coming of hope: to Zachariah, the birth of a son after years of childlessness for he and his wife Elizabeth, and to Mary, the arrival of the Savior of the world.
It’s a reminder that God has plans for us that we cannot anticipate and that we may not even be able to understand. But Gabriel reminds us to be people of hope, despite whatever challenges we might be facing.
So during these challenging times, let’s call upon the aid of these archangels who offer strength, healing and hope.
Gretchen R. Crowe is editor-in-chief of OSV Newsweekly. Follow her on Twitter @GretchenOSV.