St. Raphael, Archangel
This holy Archangel, sent by the Almighty to Tobias, himself explained who he was, in the following words: “I am the angel Raphael, one of the seven who stand before the Lord.” Several authors maintain that he is one of those heavenly spirits who constitute the first and highest choir, and are called Seraphim. He is generally called an Archangel like St. Michael and St. Gabriel. Our knowledge of him is taken from the book of Tobias, the substance of which is as follows : Tobias, one of the captive Jews at Ninive, a good and faithful servant of God, when old and blind, remembered that he had lent a sum of money to a relative named Gabelus, living in the city of Rages, in Media, and wished to send his son, the young Tobias, to collect it. But unwilling to send him alone, he bade him go and seek a travelling companion to bring him safely to the place of his destination and back again. Hardly had the youth gone into the streets of Ninive, where he lived, to seek one, when he saw a beautiful young man standing girded as if ready to set out on a journey. This youth, as will be seen, was St. Raphael. Tobias asked him who he was and if he knew the road to Rages. Raphael answered that he was the son of the great Ananias, and knew well the way to Rages, and had made his abode with Gabelus, an inhabitant of that city. Tobias rejoiced and told it to his parents, who called the youth before them, and asked him whether he would conduct their son to Rages and back again for fair wages. Raphael consented, promising to do as they desired.
The two youths then set out on their journey. After the first day’s march, Tobias rested on the bank of the river Tigris, and when he went to wash his feet in this river, an immense fish came suddenly up to devour him. When he called to his companion for help, Raphael told him to seize the fish courageously and draw him to land. Tobias did so ; after which Raphael told him to open the fish, take out the entrails, and keep the heart, liver and gall, as useful medicines. They continued their journey, and took lodgings in the house of Raguel, who was of the same tribe as Tobias and who had an only daughter, named Sara, whom Raphael advised Tobias to take to wife. Tobias feared to do this, as he had heard that Sara had already been given in marriage to seven husbands, all of whom had been killed by the devil. Raphael, however, said: “Hear me, and I will tell thee who they are, over whom the devil can prevail. It is they who in such manner receive matrimony, as to shut out God from their heart and mind.”
Tobias exactly followed the directions of his holy companion, and remained unharmed. From how many evils would persons about to be married be saved if they had first received and followed suitable instructions from their pastors who, in regard to them, take the place of Raphael, advising them what they should do in order to enter the state of holy matrimony properly prepared. They should purify their heart by a good general confession and be married, not like heathens in the darkness of night, but at mass receiving the blessing of the priest at the altar. After marriage they should live as becomes the marriage state, faithfully fulfilling the admonition of St. Paul, sanctifying each other and taking care that their children shall become without delay children of God through baptism. Indeed how much displeased must be the guardian Angels of new-born children at seeing them, through the neglect of their parents to have them baptized in time, left in the power of the devil, in original sin and in danger of eternal perdition. While Tobias remained at the house of Raguel, his heavenly companion went to Rages, demanded and received without any hesitation, the borrowed money from Gabelus, returned to Raguel and having made a short stay there, accompanied Tobias back to his home at Ninive.
Anna, Tobias’ mother, had meanwhile, grieved very much at the long absence of her son. She daily went to a high mountain and looked into the distance, to see whether her son was coming; and when, on the day of his return, she saw him from afar, she ran to her husband and informed him of his son’s coming. Being blind, Tobias gave his hand to a servant and went to meet his son, as also did Anna. Both fell on his neck, kissed him and wept for joy. Having all entered their house, they adored the Almighty and gave due thanks to Him for the happy issue of the journey. Tobias, the son, then took some of the gall of the fish, and anointed his father’s eyes, as the Angel Raphael had told him to do before they had reached the house; and immediately the blind father recovered his sight. Indescribably great was the joy of the father, the mother, the whole household and neighbor hood. Having given humble thanks to God for this new grace, Tobias told his parents how many benefits he had received from his travelling companion. “He conducted me and brought me safe back again,” said he; “he received the money from Gabelus, he caused me to obtain my wife, and he chased from her the evil spirits and gave joy to her parents. Myself he delivered from being devoured by the fish; thee also, father hath he made to see the light of heaven, and we are filled with all good things through him. What can we give him sufficient for all these?”
Before his father could answer, he begged him to give so faithful a companion, as recompense, one-half of all the things they had brought. Tobias acceded to this proposal of his son without hesitation, and calling the Angel, they both begged him to accept one-half of all the things they had brought, as a recompense for his services. But the Angel said to them: “Bless ye the God of heaven; give glory to Him in the sight of all that live; because he hath showed mercy to you. For it is good to hide the secret of a king; but honorable to confess and reveal the works of God. Prayer is good with fasting and alms, more than to lay up treasures of gold; for alms delivereth from death, and the same is that which purgeth away sin and maketh us to find mercy and life everlasting. But they that commit sin and iniquity, are enemies to their own soul. When thou didst pray with tears, and didst bury the dead, and didst leave thy dinner, and hide the dead by day in thy house, and bury them by night, I offered thy prayers to the Lord. And because thou wast acceptable to God, it was necessary that temptation should prove thee. And now the Lord hath sent me to heal thee, and to deliver Sara thy son’s wife from the devil. For I am the Angel Raphael, one of the seven who stand before the Lord.”
Having thus spoken, the holy Archangel was silent, but Tobias and his son were seized with fear, and fell trembling, with their faces to the ground. The Angel cheered them, with the words: “Peace be to you; fear not. For when I was with you, it was by the will of God: bless ye Him, and sing praises unto Him. It is time now that I return to him that sent me: but bless ye God, and publish all his wonderful works.” Having said these words, he vanished from their sight. They, however, lay prostrate on the ground for three hours, partly from fear, partly in wonder at the great goodness of God who had sent so high a prince of heaven to protect, comfort and help them. At length, having overcome their fear, they repeated their thanks to God, and announced everywhere, the benefits He had bestowed on them. The beautiful hymn of praise which Tobias composed on that occasion is to be found in Holy Writ. From this event, as true as it is wonderful, several historians, not without reason, conclude that the intercession of St. Raphael ought to be invoked by those who are either troubled or tempted by the Evil One, who are blind, or otherwise infirm, or who go on a journey. The name, Raphael, means “the remedy, or the physician of God,” and shows that this holy Angel assists particularly those who are sick, either in soul or body. The true Church teaches those who intend to undertake a journey to pray: “May the Angel Raphael be with us on our way!” from which we infer, that he is the especial patron of all travellers.
I.No more useful lesson can I give you to-day than that which St. Raphael has given. Read therefore, carefully the first instructions that young Tobias received, and learn from them how and to what end men ought to enter matrimony, and what they ought to avoid. Most memorable are those words in which he explains why the seven husbands of the pious Sara had all been strangled by Satan. The devil had power over them on account of the unchaste thoughts with which they entered the state of matrimony. Much greater, however, is his power over those who, under the pretext of their future marriage, commit sin without any compunction, because they pretend that they are already united before God, which is false, and can only have emanated from the spirit of hell, the father of lies, to ruin thousands of souls. The devil has power over those who act on such criminal principles. And what can be expected for those over whom the devil has power? Can such people promise themselves that their marriage will be happy and have God’s blessing, or can they expect eternal salvation, unless they do severe penance?
II. From the second instruction which St. Raphael gave to the old as well as to the young Tobias, learn, first, that we must give thanks to God and praise Him for all benefits received; and learn, secondly, how agreeable to the Almighty and how useful to men are prayer, fasting and alms. Whoever practises these, is more happy than he who gathers the greatest treasures of gold and silver; for gold and silver can save no one from eternal death, cleanse him from sin, or open heaven to him; while, according to the angel’s words, alms and other good works cleanse and save man.
III. Consider what the holy Angel says of those who commit sin: “They are enemies to their own souls,” which, after God, they should hold most clear. The sinner himself does more harm to his own soul, than-all men, all demons can do: and because he is an enemy to his own soul, he is also an enemy to his own body: for when the soul is lost, whither can the body go? Certainly, not to heaven, but to hell.
IV. Learn that the good works done by men are offered by the holy Angels to the Almighty, and are not lost, though they are not immediately followed by a reward. Lastly, understand well why the pious Tobias was visited with blindness. “Because thou wast acceptable to God, it was necessary that temptation should prove thee,” said St. Raphael. Hence, it is no sign that we are forsaken by God, or that we are not in favor with Him, when we have to suffer, although we lead a pious life. ” The misfortunes which assail the pious, are a proof of virtue, and not a sign of divine anger,” says St. Gregory.
Lives of the Saints: Compiled from Authentic Sources with a Practical Instruction on the Life of Each Saint, for Every Day in the Year by Rev. F. X. Weninger. Permissu Superiorum. New York: P. O’Shea, Publisher, 67 Barclay Street and 42 Park Place. 1876.