The story of how the Archangel Raphael helped a young man named Tobias is found in the Old Testament Book of Tobit. When Tobias is sent by his blind father to a distant land to collect a debt, the archangel appears in the guise of an older companion and guide. At one point he helps Tobias catch a large fish with curative properties. When they reach their destination and Tobias falls in love with a young woman troubled by an evil spirit, Raphael teaches him how to drive the spirit away so that the two can marry. When they return home, the archangel prepares a salve from parts of the fish and heals Tobias’ blind father. Tobias’ dog follows the two travelers throughout their journey.
Based on this story, St. Raphael has long been considered the patron saint of healers, travelers, and fishermen. His traditional color is blue. In this icon he is shown as an older man, and both he and Tobias wear travelers’ garb from the deserts of the Middle East. The story is set in what is now Iraq.
Raphael’s feast day is October 24.
THE BOOK OF TOBIAS
This Book takes its name from the holy man Tobias, whose wonderful virtues are herein recorded. It contains most excellent documents of great piety, extraordinary patience, and of a perfect resignation to the will of God. His humble prayer was heard, and the angel Raphael was sent to relieve him: he is thankful and praises the Lord, calling on the children of Israel to do the same. Having lived to the age of one hundred and two years, he exhorts his son and grandsons to piety, foretells the destruction of Ninive and the rebuilding of Jerusalem: he dies happily.
Tobias Chapter 5: Young Tobias seeking a guide for his journey, the angel Raphael, in shape of a man, undertaketh this office.
5:1. Then Tobias answered his father, and said: I will do all things, father, which thou hast commanded me.
5:2. But how I shall get this money, I cannot tell; he knoweth not me, and I know not him: what token shall I give him? nor did I ever know the way which leadeth thither.
5:3. Then his father answered him, and said: I have a note of his hand with me, which when thou shalt shew him, he will presently pay it.
5:4. But go now, and seek thee out some faithful man, to go with thee for his hire: that thou mayst receive it, while I yet live.
5:5. Then Tobias going forth, found a beautiful young man, standing girded, and as it were ready to walk.
5:6. And not knowing that he was an angel of God, he saluted him, and said: From whence art thou, good young man?
5:7. But he answered: Of the children of Israel. And Tobias said to him: Knowest thou the way that leadeth to the country of the Medes?
5:8. And he answered: I know it: and I have often walked through all the ways thereof, and I have abode with Gabelus our brother, who dwelleth at Rages a city of the Medes, which is situate in the mount of Ecbatana.
5:9. And Tobias said to him: Stay for me, I beseech thee, till I tell these same things to my father.
5:10. Then Tobias going in told all these things to his father. Upon which his father being in admiration, desired that he would come in unto him.
5:11. So going in he saluted him, and said: Joy be to thee always.
5:12. And Tobias said: What manner of joy shall be to me, who sit in darkness and see not the light of heaven?
5:13. And the young man said to him: Be of good courage, thy cure from God is at hand.
5:14. And Tobias said to him: Canst thou conduct my son to Gabelus at Rages, a city of the Medes? and when thou shalt return, I will pay thee thy hire.
5:15. And the angel said to him: I will conduct him thither, and bring him back to thee.
5:16. And Tobias said to him: I pray thee, tell me, of what family, or what tribe art thou?
5:17. And Raphael the angel answered: Dost thou seek the family of him thou hirest, or the hired servant himself to go with thy son?
5:18. But lest I should make thee uneasy, I am Azarias the son of the great Ananias.
Azarias... The angel took the form of Azarias: and therefore might call himself by the name of the man whom he personated. Azarias, in Hebrew, signifies the help of God, and Ananias the grace of God.
5:19. And Tobias answered: Thou art of a great family. But I pray thee be not angry that I desired to know thy family.
5:20. And the angel said to him: I will lead thy son safe, and bring him to thee again safe.
5:21. And Tobias answering, said: May you have a good journey, and God be with you in your way, and his angel accompany you.
5:22. Then all things being ready, that were to be carried in their journey, Tobias bade his father and his mother farewell, and they set out both together.
5:23. And when they were departed, his mother began to weep, and to say: Thou hast taken the staff of our old age, and sent him away from us.
5:24. I wish the money for which thou hast sent him, had never been.
5:25. For our poverty was sufficient for us, that we might account it as riches, that we saw our son.
5:26. And Tobias said to her: Weep not, our son will arrive thither safe, and will return safe to us, and thy eyes shall see him.
5:27. For I believe that the good angel of God doth accompany him, and doth order all things well that are done about him, so that he shall return to us with joy.
5:28. At these words his mother ceased weeping, and held her peace.
Tobias Chapter 6: By the angel’s advice young Tobias taketh hold on a fish that assaulteth him. Reserveth the heart, the gall, and the liver for medicines. They lodge at the house of Raguel, whose daughter Sara, Tobias is to marry; she had before been married to seven husbands, who were all slain by a devil.
6:1. And Tobias went forward, and the dog followed him, and he lodged the first night by the river of Tigris.
6:2. And he went out to wash his feet, and behold a monstrous fish came up to devour him.
6:3. And Tobias being afraid of him, cried out with a loud voice, saying: Sir, he cometh upon me.
6:4. And the angel said to him: Take him by the gill, and draw him to thee. And when he had done so, he drew him out upon the land, and he began to pant before his feet.
6:5. Then the angel said to him: Take out the entrails of this fish, and lay up his heart, and his gall, and his liver for thee: for these are necessary for useful medicines.
6:6. And when he had done so, he roasted the flesh thereof, and they took it with them in the way: the rest they salted as much as might serve them, till they came to Rages the city of the Medes.
6:7. Then Tobias asked the angel, and said to him: I beseech thee, brother Azarias, tell me what remedies are these things good for, which thou hast bid me keep of the fish?
6:8. And the angel, answering, said to him: If thou put a little piece of its heart upon coals, the smoke thereof driveth away all kind of devils, either from man or from woman, so that they come no more to them.
Its heart, etc. The liver (ver. 19)... God was pleased to give these things a virtue against those proud spirits, to make them, who affected to be like the Most High, subject to such mean corporeal creatures as instruments of his power.
6:9. And the gall is good for anointing the eyes, in which there is a white speck, and they shall be cured.
6:10. And Tobias said to him: Where wilt thou that we lodge?
6:11. And the angel answering, said: Here is one whose name is Raguel, a near kinsman of thy tribe, and he hath a daughter named Sara, but he hath no son nor any other daughter beside her.
6:12. All his substance is due to thee, and thou must take her to wife.
6:13. Ask her therefore of her father, and he will give her thee to wife.
6:14. Then Tobias answered, and said: I hear that she hath been given to seven husbands, and they all died: moreover I have heard, that a devil killed them.
6:15. Now I am afraid, lest the same thing should happen to me also: and whereas I am the only child of my parents, I should bring down their old age with sorrow to hell.
Hell... That is, to the place where the souls of the good were kept before the coming of Christ.
6:16. Then the angel Raphael said to him: Hear me, and I will shew thee who they are, over whom the devil can prevail.
6:17. For they who in such manner receive matrimony, as to shut out God from themselves, and from their mind, and to give themselves to their lust, as the horse and mule, which have not understanding, over them the devil hath power.
6:18. But thou when thou shalt take her, go into the chamber, and for three days keep thyself continent from her, and give thyself to nothing else but to prayers with her.
6:19. And on that night lay the liver of the fish on the fire, and the devil shall be driven away.
6:20. But the second night thou shalt be admitted into the society of the holy Patriarchs.
6:21. And the third night thou shalt obtain a blessing that sound children may be born of you.
6:22. And when the third night is past, thou shalt take the virgin with the fear of the Lord, moved rather for love of children than for lust, that in the seed of Abraham thou mayst obtain a blessing in children.
Tobias Chapter 7: They are kindly entertained by Raguel. Tobias demandeth Sara to wife.
7:1. And they went in to Raguel, and Raguel received them with joy.
7:2. And Raguel looking upon Tobias, said to Anna his wife: How like is this young man to my cousin?
7:3. And when he had spoken these words, he said: Whence are ye young men our brethren?
7:4. But they said: We are of the tribe of Nephtali, of the captivity of Ninive.
7:5. And Raguel said to them: Do you know Tobias my brother? And they said: We know him.
7:6. And when he was speaking many good things of him, the angel said to Raguel: Tobias concerning whom thou inquirest is this young man’s father.
7:7. And Raguel went to him, and kissed him with tears and weeping upon his neck, said: A blessing be upon thee, my son, because thou art the son of a good and most virtuous man.
7:8. And Anna his wife, and Sara their daughter wept.
7:9. And after they had spoken, Raguel commanded a sheep to be killed, and a feast to be prepared. And when he desired them to sit down to dinner,
7:10. Tobias said: I will not eat nor drink here this day, unless thou first grant me my petition, and promise to give me Sara thy daughter.
7:11. Now when Raguel heard this he was afraid, knowing what had happened to those seven husbands, that went in unto her: and he began to fear lest it might happen to him also in like manner: and as he was in suspense, and gave no answer to his petition,
7:12. The angel said to him: Be not afraid to give her to this man, for to him who feareth God is thy daughter due to be his wife: therefore another could not have her.
7:13. Then Raguel said: I doubt not but God hath regarded my prayers and tears in his sight.
7:14. And I believe he hath therefore made you come to me, that this maid might be married to one of her own kindred, according to the law of Moses: and now doubt not but I will give her to thee.
7:15. And taking the right hand of his daughter, he gave it into the right hand of Tobias, saying: The God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob be with you, and may he join you together, and fulfill his blessing in you.
7:16. And taking paper they made a writing of the marriage.
7:17. And afterwards they made merry, blessing God.
7:18. And Raguel called to him Anna his wife, and bade her to prepare another chamber.
7:19. And she brought Sara her daughter in thither, and she wept.
7:20. And she said to her: Be of good cheer, my daughter: the Lord of heaven give thee joy for the trouble thou hast undergone.
Tobias Chapter 8: Tobias burneth part of the fish’s liver, and Raphael bindeth the devil. Tobias and Sara pray.
8:1. And after they had supped, they brought in the young man to her.
8:2. And Tobias remembering the angel’s word, took out of his bag part of the liver, and laid it upon burning coals.
8:3. Then the angel Raphael took the devil, and bound him in the desert of upper Egypt.
8:4. Then Tobias exhorted the virgin, and said to her: Sara, arise, and let us pray to God to day, and tomorrow, and the next day: because for these three nights we are joined to God: and when the third night is over, we will be in our own wedlock.
8:5. For we are the children of saints, and we must not be joined together like heathens that know not God.
8:6. So they both arose, and prayed earnestly both together that health might be given them,
8:7. And Tobias said: Lord God of our fathers, may the heavens and the earth, and the sea, and the fountains, and the rivers, and all thy creatures that are in them, bless thee.
8:8. Thou madest Adam of the slime of the earth, and gavest him Eve for a helper.
8:9. And now, Lord, thou knowest, that not for fleshly lust do I take my sister to wife, but only for the love of posterity, in which thy name may be blessed for ever and ever.
8:10. Sara also said: Have mercy on us, O Lord, have mercy on us, and let us grow old both together in health.
8:11. And it came to pass about the cockcrowing, Raguel ordered his servants to be called for, and they went with him together to dig a grave.
8:12. For he said: Lest perhaps it may have happened to him, in like manner as it did to the other seven husbands, that went in unto her.
8:13. And when they had prepared the pit, Raguel went back to his wife, and said to her:
8:14. Send one of thy maids, and let her see if he be dead, that I may bury him before it be day.
8:15. So she sent one of her maidservants, who went into the chamber, and found them safe and sound, sleeping both together.
8:16. And returning she brought the good news: and Raguel and Anna his wife blessed the Lord,
8:17. And said: We bless thee, O Lord God of Israel, because it hath not happened as we suspected.
8:18. For thou hast shewn thy mercy to us, and hast shut out from us the enemy that persecuted us.
8:19. And thou hast taken pity upon two only children. Make them, O Lord, bless thee more fully: and to offer up to thee a sacrifice of thy praise, and of their health, that all nations may know, that thou alone art God in all the earth.
8:20. And immediately Raguel commanded his servants, to fill up the pit they had made, before it was day.
8:21. And he spoke to his wife to make ready a feast, and prepare all kind of provisions that are necessary for such as go a journey.
8:22. He caused also two fat kine, and four wethers to be killed, and a banquet to be prepared for all his neighbours, and all his friends,
8:23. And Raguel adjured Tobias, to abide with him two weeks.
8:24. And of all things which Raguel possessed, he gave one half to Tobias, and made a writing, that the half that remained should after their decease come also to Tobias.
Tobias Chapter 9: The angel Raphael goeth to Gabelus, receiveth the money, and bringeth him to the marriage.
9:1. Then Tobias called the angel to him, whom he took to be a man, and said to him: Brother Azarias, I pray thee hearken to my words:
9:2. If I should give myself to be thy servant I should not make a worthy return for thy care.
9:3. However, I beseech thee, to take with thee beasts and servants, and to go to Gabelus to Rages the city of the Medes: and to restore to him his note of hand, and receive of him the money, and desire him to come to my wedding.
9:4. For thou knowest that my father numbereth the days: and if I stay one day more, his soul will be afflicted.
9:5. And indeed thou seest how Raguel hath adjured me, whose adjuring I cannot despise.
9:6. Then Raphael took four of Raguel’s servants, and two camels, and went to Rages the city of the Medes: and finding Gabelus, gave him his note of hand, and received of him all the money.
9:7. And he told him concerning Tobias the son of Tobias, all that had been done: and made him come with him to the wedding.
9:8. And when he was come into Raguel’s house he found Tobias sitting at the table: and he leaped up, and they kissed each other: and Gabelus wept, and blessed God,
9:9. And said: The God of Israel bless thee, because thou art the son of a very good and just man, and that feareth God, and doth almsdeeds:
9:10. And may a blessing come upon thy wife and upon your parents.
9:11. And may you see your children, and your children’s children, unto the third and fourth generation: and may your seed be blessed by the God of Israel, who reigneth for ever and ever.
9:12. And when all had said, Amen, they went to the feast: but the marriage feast they celebrated also with the fear of the Lord.
Tobias Chapter 10: The parents lament the long absence of their son Tobias. He sets out to return.
10:1. But as Tobias made longer stay upon occasion of the marriage, Tobias his father was solicitous, saying: Why thinkest thou doth my son tarry, or why is he detained there?
10:2. Is Gabelus dead, thinkest thou, and no man will pay him the money?
10:3. And he began to be exceeding sad, both he and Anna his wife with him: and they began both to weep together, because their son did not return to them on the day appointed.
10:4. But his mother wept and was quite disconsolate, and said: Woe, woe is me, my son; why did we send thee to go to a strange country, the light of our eyes, the staff of our old age, the comfort of our life, the hope of our posterity?
10:5. We having all things together in thee alone, ought not to have let thee go from us.
10:6. And Tobias said to her: Hold thy peace, and be not troubled, our son is safe: that man with whom we sent him is very trusty.
10:7. But she could by no means be comforted, but daily running out looked round about, and went into all the ways by which there seemed any hope he might return, that she might if possible see him coming afar off.
10:8. But Raguel said to his son in law: Stay here, and I will send a messenger to Tobias thy father, that thou art in health.
10:9. And Tobias said to him: I know that my father and mother now count the days, and their spirit is grievously afflicted within them.
10:10. And when Raguel had pressed Tobias with many words, and he by no means would hearken to him, he delivered Sara unto him, and half of all his substance in menservants, and womenservants, in cattle, in camels, and in kine, and in much money, and sent him away safe and joyful from him,
10:11. Saying: The holy angel of the Lord be with you in your journey, and bring you through safe, and that you may find all things well about your parents, and my eyes may see your children before I die.
10:12. And the parents taking their daughter kissed her, and let her go:
10:13. Admonishing her to honour her father and mother in law, to love her husband, to take care of the family, to govern the house, and to behave herself irreprehensibly.
Tobias Chapter 11: Tobias anointeth his father’s eyes with the fish’s gall, and he recovereth his sight.
11:1. And as they were returning they came to Charan, which is in the midway to Ninive, the eleventh day.
11:2. And the angel said: Brother Tobias, thou knowest how thou didst leave thy father.
11:3. If it please thee therefore, let us go before, and let the family follow softly after us, together with thy wife, and with the beasts.
11:4. And as this their going pleased him, Raphael said to Tobias: Take with thee of the gall of the fish, for it will be necessary. So Tobias took some of that gall and departed.
11:5. But Anna sat beside the way daily, on the top of a hill, from whence she might see afar off.
11:6. And while she watched his coming from that place, she saw him afar off, and presently perceived it was her son coming: and returning she told her husband, saying: Behold thy son cometh.
11:7. And Raphael said to Tobias: As soon as thou shalt come into thy house, forthwith adore the Lord thy God: and giving thanks to him, go to thy father, and kiss him.
11:8. And immediately anoint his eyes with this gall of the fish, which thou carriest with thee. For be assured that his eyes shall be presently opened, and thy father shall see the light of heaven, and shall rejoice in the sight of thee.
11:9. Then the dog, which had been with them in the way, ran before, and coming as if he had brought the news, shewed his joy by his fawning and wagging his tail.
The dog, etc... This may seem a very minute circumstance to be recorded in sacred history: but as we learn from our Saviour, St. Matt. 5.18, there are iotas and tittles in the word of God: that is to say, things that appear minute, but which have indeed a deep and mysterious meaning in them.
11:10. And his father that was blind, rising up, began to run stumbling with his feet: and giving a servant his hand, went to meet his son.
11:11. And receiving him kissed him, as did also his wife, and they began to weep for joy.
11:12. And when they had adored God, and given him thanks, they sat down together.
11:13. Then Tobias taking of the gall of the fish, anointed his father’s eyes.
11:14. And he stayed about half an hour: and a white skin began to come out of his eyes, like the skin of an egg.
11:15. And Tobias took hold of it, and drew it from his eyes, and recovered his sight.
11:16. And they glorified God, both he and his wife and all that knew him.
11:17. And Tobias said: I bless thee, O Lord God of Israel, because thou hast chastised me, and thou hast saved me and behold I see Tobias my son.
11:18. And after seven days Sara his son’s wife and all the family arrived safe, and the cattle, and the camels, and an abundance of money of his wife’s: and that money also which he had received of Gabelus,
11:19. And he told his parents all the benefits of God, which he had done to him by the man that conducted him.
11:20. And Achior and Nabath the kinsmen of Tobias came, rejoicing for Tobias, and congratulating with him for all the good things that God had done for him.
11:21. And for seven days they feasted and rejoiced all with great joy.
Tobias Chapter 12: Raphael maketh himself known.
12:1. Then Tobias called to him his son and said to him: What can we give to this holy man, that is come with thee?
12:2. Tobias answering, said to his father: Father, what wages shall we give him? or what can be worthy of his benefits?
12:3. He conducted me and brought me safe again, he received the money of Gabelus, he caused me to have my wife, and he chased from her the evil spirit, he gave joy to her parents, myself he delivered from being devoured by the fish, thee also he hath made to see the light of heaven, and we are filled with all good things through him. What can we give him sufficient for these things?
12:4. But I beseech thee, my father, to desire him, that he would vouchsafe to accept of one half of all things that have been brought.
12:5. So the father and the son calling him, took him aside: and began to desire him that he would vouchsafe to accept of half of all things that they had brought,
12:6. Then he said to them secretly, Bless ye the God of heaven, give glory to him in the sight of all that live, because he hath shewn his mercy to you.
12:7. For it is good to hide the secret of a king: to reveal and confess the works of God.
12:8. Prayer is good with fasting and alms more than to lay up treasures of gold.
12:9. For alms delivereth from death, and the same is that which purgeth away sins, and maketh to find mercy and life everlasting.
12:10. But they that commit sin and iniquity, are enemies to their own soul.
12:11. I discover then the truth unto you, and I will not hide the secret from you.
12:12. 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 prayer to the Lord.
12:13. And because thou wast acceptable to God, it was necessary that temptation should prove thee.
12:14. And now the Lord hath sent me to heal thee, and to deliver Sara thy son’s wife from the devil.
12:15. For I am the angel Raphael, one of the seven, who stand before the Lord.
12:16. And when they had heard these things, they were troubled, and being seized with fear they fell upon the ground on their face.
12:17. And the angel said to them: Peace be to you, fear not.
12:18. For when I was with you, I was there by the will of God: bless ye him, and sing praises to him.
12:19. I seemed indeed to eat and to drink with you but I use an invisible meat and drink, which cannot be seen by men.
12:20. It is time therefore that I return to him that sent me: but bless ye God, and publish all his wonderful works.
12:21. And when he had said these things, he was taken from their sight, and they could see him no more.
12:22. Then they lying prostrate for three hours upon their face, blessed God, and rising up, they told all his wonderful works.
—Excerpts from the Old Testament: Book of Tobias