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Meet the Three Archangels: Gabriel, Michael, Raphael

We honor them on their shared feast day, September 29!

Angels and archangels—what’s the difference? 

According to aleteia.com, the former comes from the Greek word “angelus,” meaning “messenger of God.” The latter, with its prefix “arch” (meaning “chief”) means “chief or principal messenger.” As such, archangels are bearers of the most important messages that must be given to humans. 

Although the Book of Enoch names seven archangels, the Bible recognizes the following three who happen to be celebrating their feast day today, September 29. (Read: 3 Powerful Prayers to the Archangels)

St. Gabriel (The Messenger)

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“The Annunciation” (detail), Bartolomé Murillo, 1665-1660. The angel Gabriel appears to Mary, announces that she’s going to give birth to the Messiah, and tells her to name the baby Jesus. (Photo from Good Question)
  • Patron saint of: Messengers, postal workers, those in the business of communications
  • His name means: Man of God or God has shown might 
  • Distinguishing features: St. Gabriel holds a spear in his right hand, and a mirror of jasper with an “X” in his left hand. In the Greek alphabet, “X” is the first letter of the word Christ, and the mirror is a symbol of God’s wisdom.
  • Known for: His multiple appearances in the Bible. According to stgabrielpo.org, St. Gabriel is the angel who appeared to numerous characters in key events in the Old and New Testaments. In true messenger fashion, he sent announcements to Sts. Joachim and Anne, Zachariah, Daniel, the shepherds at Jesus’s nativity, the women bearing myrrh at Jesus’ tomb, and to Jesus Himself during His prayer at the Garden of Gethsemane. But above all these, St. Gabriel’s most significant appearances were to Mary, wherein he told her that she would have a son conceived by the Holy Spirit; and to her husband, Joseph, whom he advised in a dream not to leave Mary. 

St. Michael (The Defender)

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Saint Michael Vanquishing Satan (Oil transferred from wood to canvas) (1518) from Louvre Museum (Photo from Wikipedia)
  • Patron saint of: Soldiers, police, and doctors 
  • His name means: Who is like God 
  • Distinguishing features: Dressed for battle, St. Michael wields a sword in one hand and a scale in the other as he overpowers Satan, who appears in the form of a snake. 
  • Known for: Four responsibilities or offices, says catholic.org. These are fighting Satan, escorting the faithful to heaven at their hour of death, championing Christians and the Church, and calling men from life on Earth to their heavenly judgment.

St. Raphael (The Healer)

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In the Book of Tobit the archangel Raphael guides Tobias in his travels, so he is often pictured as a traveler with a walking staff. (Photo from Christian Iconography)
  • Patron saint of: Travelers, the blind, body ailments, happy meetings, nurses, physicians, medical frontliners 
  • His name means: God heals 
  • Distinguishing features: He’s the one holding a staff and standing on a fish
  • Known for: His appearance as a human in the Book of Tobit, according to catholic.org. Calling himself Azarias, the son of the great Ananias, he joins Tobiah, son of Tobit, on his journey. Upon his return, he reveals to Tobit his true identity. “I am Raphael, one of the seven angels who stand ready and enter before the glory of the Lord,” he says in Tobit 12:15.  He also relays his real mission—to heal Tobit of his blindness with the gall of a fish and save Tobiah’s future wife Sarah from the demon Asmodeus. 

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