On the 29th of September each year the Church celebrates the liturgical feast of the Archangels Michael, Gabriel and Raphael. On the 2nd of October, we celebrate the Guardian Angels.
Angels are purely spiritual beings – they have no bodies, contrary to what we see depicted in art
– and have both an intellect and free will and are superior visible creatures. “Angel” is the name of their office; they are servants and messengers of God. In their nature, they are spirit. The three archangels (and the fallen angel Lucifer) are the only angels whose personal names we know. (In fact it is a heresy to attempt to interpret angel’s names since they have not been revealed in Sacred Scripture.)
Saint Michael appears twice in the Book of the Prophet Daniel (10:13 and 12:1) and again in the Book of Revelation. Traditionally Michael has been given four titles: the angel of death who accompanies each soul to Heaven for judgment, special patron of the Chosen People of the Old Testament (the Jewish People), supreme foe of Satan, and finally as guardian of the Church.
Saint Michael, whose name means “who is like God”, has always been venerated as one of God’s chief angels in Heaven.
Saint Gabriel is the Angel of the Annunciation. He appears to Zachariah (Luke 1:11-19), in the Book of Daniel (8:16,9:21) and again to the Virgin Mary (Luke 1:26-38). This last visit is Gabriel’s most important since he announces the coming of Christ and asks Our Lady if she is willing to participate in God’s plan. The Church repeats Gabriel’s greeting “Hail Mary” each time we pray that ancient prayer.
Saint Raphael, whose name means “healer of God’, is honored as the head of the Guardian Angels and the angel of knowledge and science. Raphael appears in the Book of Tobit (12:15) who brings much needed assistance to Tobias, helping to rid him of the frightful torments of the demon Asmodeus. Although not specifically mentioned, tradition associates Raphael with the angel of the sheep pool in John’s Gospel (5:2) and as one of the three angels who visited Abraham before the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah.
The Church turns our attention to the angels more often than we think. We repeat the angels’ message on Christmas night as we sing or recite the Gloria (Glory to God in the highest) at Sunday and feast day Masses. In every Mass we join the angel choir that endlessly sings Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God of Hosts. Each time God sends an angel with a message, the angel’s first words are always the same: “be not afraid.” As we join our prayers with the angels we praise God and in that praise learn to be more in love with Him and less afraid of the world in which we live.