St. Raphael the Archangel
Saint Raphael the Archangel
Saint Raphael, Archangel of God
Saint Raphael is a little different from Saint Constantine and Blessed Charlemagne. For one thing, he is not a human; he is an angel, a being of pure spirit who resides not on Earth but in Heaven. Specifically, he is an Archangel, which means that he is one of the seven angels who stand before the Throne of God Almighty.
St. Raphael is interesting because he is one of only three angel Saints revealed to us in the Catholic Church's Deposit of Faith. The other two angel Saints are quite famous; St. Michael the Archangel is very well known as the angel who led the forces of God against Satan's forces in Heaven and who, with God's authority, banished Satan to Hell. St. Gabriel, of course, is the angel who revealed to the Blessed Mother that she would be bearing the Christ-child in her womb.
St. Raphael's story is a bit less famous. He is featured quite prominently in the book of Tobit. Tobit is one of the deuterocanonical books, meaning it is one of the books that was not part of the original Hebrew Bible (the protocanon); nevertheless, its status as Sacred Scripture is no less valid and official than any other book in the Bible, at least to Catholics, who accept that the deuterocanonical books are indeed inspired Scripture (Protestants generally put them in a section of the Bible known as the Apocrypha and do not consider them inspired by God).
In the book, a good and righteous man named Tobit from the city of Nineveh goes blind in a freak accident. This causes tension in his marriage and makes him utterly miserable, and so he prays to God for death. At the same time far away, a righteous woman named Sarah from the far-off land of Media also prays for death. She has married seven times but before the marriage could be consummated a demon named Asmodeus killed her husbands. She lives in shame and asks God to end her misery.
This is the point where the angel Raphael comes in. He has received the prayers to present them to God, and has been sent down by God to help. As it turns out, around this time Tobit has to send his son Tobiah off to Media to collect a sum of money he has deposited there. He tells Tobiah to bring a guide with him and pay him upon his return. Tobiah finds a man named Azariah, who claims to be his kinsman. He says he will be Tobiah's guide, and Tobit is thrilled that a kinsman is his son's guide.
Of course, Azariah is not truly Azariah, but the angel Raphael in disguise. On the way to Media, Tobiah is attacked by a fish. Raphael tells him to capture it and then cut out its organs, as they are useful as medicine.
Once they arrive in Media, Raphael tells Tobiah that, due to his family status, he has the right to marry Sarah. He tells him not to be afraid of the demon Asmodeus; if he burns the liver and heart of the fish and prays to God for protection, the demon will be driven off.
Tobiah goes to Sarah's household and tells Sarah's Father of his wish to marry her. That night, before they consummate the marriage, Tobiah does as Raphael asks and the night passes without incident. This is because when the demon is driven away, Raphael fights him in upper Egypt and binds him so that he cannot harm anybody, protecting the couple from harm.
When Tobiah, Raphael, and Sarah return, they find Tobiah's mother in despair; she assumes Tobiah is dead because he is late due to the marriage, and is overjoyed on seeing him alive and well. The miracle is completed when Tobiah uses the gall of the fish to cure his Father's blindness. It is after this that Raphael reveals himself to be an angel of God and returns to Heaven, telling Tobit and his family to sing of God's glory.
Raphael's name means "God heals", obviously associating him with the healing of Tobit's blindness. Because of what has been revealed to us of his intercession, he is the patron Saint of travelers, the blind, happy meetings, nurses, and physicians. His feast day is celebrated on September 29. It is about time this little known Angel-Saint got the respect he deserved.
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