Today is the Feast of the Archangels—Michael, Gabriel and Raphael. The feast reminds me of my experiences as a pastor of two parishes in the rural Philippines. Both of them had parish churches in towns located on the coastline of their respective island. St. Michael the Archangel was patron of the parish on Maripipi Island. St. Raphael was patron of the parish in the town of Kawayan on Biliran Island. These two parishes are separated from each other by about ten miles of ocean.
St. Michael Parish has a statue of its patron saint, depicted with a spear which Michael runs through a demon. In the book of Daniel and in Revelation, St. Michael defeated the power of Lucifer and the angels who joined him in revolt against the Lord God. Michael means “who is like God?” In the rural Philippines during the nineteenth century there were Moslem pirate raids conducted from sail boats that came into the central Philippines and stole, raped and kidnapped. The only defense was for everyone living on Maripipi to flee into the interior where the jungle provided cover and where the mountainous terrain and its poisonous snakes discouraged pursuit. St. Michael was invoked as a powerful patron and defender against the pirates.
St. Raphael Parish depicted its patron with a fishing pole dangling a fish hooked on Raphael’s line. Recall the book of Tobit and how Raphael became the companion of the young Tobiah on his journey to obtain the money his father Tobit had deposited in Media. Raphael also helped Tobiah find a wife and overcome the widow-making demon that plagued her. Raphael instructed Tobiah how to heal his father’s blindness by using the gall bladder of the fish. So, the name Raphael means “God heals.” The parish had frequent celebrations of the Eucharist which included Anointing of the Sick. Everybody who came to the church for the healing Mass wanted to be anointed.
Both Michael and Raphael, are symbols of God’s mercy and care
for his people in their time of need.
As a pastor, my missionary parish gave me new insights into the meaning of these archangels as I joined the people in celebrating the feast of the archangels. It struck me that Michael and Raphael had more impact on the people than Gabriel who announced the coming birth of Jesus to the Immaculate Virgin Mary. On this Feast of the Archangels, reflect on what the three archangels mean in your life of faith. Here’s my starters::
- I recall a prayer to St. Michael recited after Mass in the 1950’s with the line, “St. Michael be our defender in battle.”
- I remember a friar with the name Raphael who had strange sense of humor.
- When I think of Gabriel I recall his role in announcing the birth of Jesus to Mary. I think of Br. Gabriel in my community–a gifted musician with a booming bass voice.