The Catholic Defender: Saints Michael, Gabriel, and Raphael
Angels—messengers from God—appear frequently in Scripture, but only Michael, Gabriel and Raphael are named.
The three Archangels Michael, Gabriel and Raphael are the only angels named in Sacred Scripture and all three have important roles in the history of salvation.
Each of these archangels performs a different mission in Scripture: Michael protects; Gabriel announces; Raphael guides (see the books of Daniel and Tobit). Their feast day is Sept. 29. ST. MICHAEL is the leader of all of the archangels and is in charge of protection, courage, strength, truth and integrity.
The four most often depicted in art are: Gabriel, the messenger of God who brought the announcement of Christ's birth to the Virgin Mary; Michael, the dispenser of justice; Raphael, the healer and protector of travellers; and Uriel, the angel of prophecy and wisdom.
The earliest specific Christian references are in the late 5th to early 6th century: Pseudo-Dionysius gives them as Michael, Gabriel, Raphael, Uriel, Camael, Jophiel, and Zadkiel. In the Lutheran and Roman-Rite Catholic Christian traditions, Michael, Gabriel and Raphael are referred to as archangels.
The angel Gabriel is the herald of visions, messenger of God and one of the angels of higher rank. He makes God's message understandable to people and helps them to accept it with a pure heart.
Within the hierarchy of the angels, at the highest level, St. Michael is a princely seraph, an angel of supreme power and the leader of God's army.
(Tobit 12:15) to be “one of the seven holy angels [archangels] who present the prayers of the saints and enter into the presence of the glory of the Holy One.” In the pseudepigraphal First Book of Enoch, Raphael is “the angel of the spirits of men,” and it is his business to “heal the earth which the angels
Dionysius described nine levels of spiritual beings which he grouped into three orders:
Highest orders Seraphim Cherubim Thrones.
Middle orders Dominions Virtues Powers.
Lowest orders Principalities Archangels Angels.
Saint Michael is an archangel, a spiritual warrior in the battle of good versus evil. He is considered a champion of justice, a healer of the sick, and the guardian of the Church. In art Saint Michael is depicted with a sword, a banner, or scales, and is often shown
Michael fights to reestablish divine justice; he defends the People of God from their enemies and above all from the arch-enemy par excellence, the devil.
There are nine ranks of angels. Thrones, dominions, principalities, seraphim's, cherubim's, powers, sovereignties, archangels, and angels.
Michael appears in Daniel’s vision as “the great prince” who defends Israel against its enemies; in the Book of Revelation, he leads God’s armies to final victory over the forces of evil. Devotion to Michael is the oldest angelic devotion, rising in the East in the fourth century. The Church in the West began to observe a feast honoring Michael and the angels in the fifth century.
Gabriel also makes an appearance in Daniel’s visions, announcing Michael’s role in God’s plan. His best-known appearance is an encounter with a young Jewish girl named Mary, who consents to bear the Messiah.
Raphael’s activity is confined to the Old Testament story of Tobit. There he appears to guide Tobit’s son Tobiah through a series of fantastic adventures which lead to a threefold happy ending: Tobiah’s marriage to Sarah, the healing of Tobit’s blindness, and the restoration of the family fortune.
The memorials of Gabriel and Raphael were added to the Roman calendar in 1921. The 1970 revision of the calendar joined their individual feasts to Michael’s.
Each of the archangels performs a different mission in Scripture: Michael protects; Gabriel announces; Raphael guides. Earlier belief that inexplicable events were due to the actions of spiritual beings has given way to a scientific world-view and a different sense of cause and effect. Yet believers still experience God’s protection, communication, and guidance in ways which defy description. We cannot dismiss angels too lightly.