The angels can seem pretty mysterious. After all, they’re completely spiritual creatures. But what we do know about them gives us good reason to love and appreciate them. Here are three things you may not know about God’s holy angels.
The Bible tells us the names of three angels who we traditionally refer to as “archangels:” Michael, Gabriel and Raphael. Interestingly, the literal meanings of the names points to what they do in the service of God.
The name Michael means “Who is like God?” Michael is the angel who threw the rebellious angel Satan out of Heaven. Satan had said, “I will not serve,” and tried to set himself up as his own authority in opposition to God. The archangel Michael responded by casting him out of Heaven with the message, “Who is like God?” There is only one God, and nobody — not even an angel — can be like another God.
The name Gabriel means “God is my strength.” He appears several times in the Bible, the most famous being his visit to the Virgin Mary at the beginning of Luke’s Gospel (1:26). His messages ultimately bring strength to the people of God, since they point to the coming of Jesus Christ, our savior and redeemer.
The name Raphael means “God has healed.” In the Book of Tobit, Raphael comes to earth in response to the prayers of Tobit and Sarah. He embarks upon a journey with Tobit’s son Tobias, which ultimately brings about healing for both Tobit and Sarah in some surprising ways! (We leave it to you to read it for yourself.)
St. Thomas Aquinas dedicated a whole section of his famous Summa Theologiae to questions about angels. In one fascinating passage, he says that since lower minds are enlightened by higher minds, God can use angels to strengthen our intellects. Practically, this means you can pray to your guardian angel to help you get to know God better! Just as we can come to know more about people on earth through those who are closest to them (like their friends and family), so your guardian angel who lives in God’s presence in Heaven can help you learn about God and get to know Him better.
Jesus Christ was fully God, but he was also fully man. Does that mean he had a guardian angel? It’s not an official Church teaching, but a pious tradition says that Jesus did allow Himself to have a guardian angel. According to this tradition, that angel was none other than St. Michael the Archangel.
Whether or not this was really the case, we do find Jesus receiving the support and comfort of the angels at different times during his life: for example, when he is fasted in the desert and prayed in agony in the Garden of Gethsemane. You might wish to ponder this incredible humility the next time you hear these Scripture passages read at Mass.
We hope these reflections will help you know and love the holy angels of God! Have a blessed September, and see you next month!