St. Raphael Archangel

Lewis Williams, OFS

Artist's Narrative:
Raphael, one of the seven angels that “stand before the Lord,” and with Michael and Gabriel, are the only three Archangels mentioned by name in the bible. Raphael is mentioned by name in only one Book, but the Book of Tobit describes a great story. He appears disguised in human form as an unexpected traveling companion of young Tobias, who, at the request of his blind father Tobit, journeys to collect a debt. In his role as Azarias, Raphael protects the youth through many hazards, including binding the demon Asmodeus. This demon had killed the seven previous husbands of Sarah, each on their wedding night. Tobias weds her safely and returns, with the debt, to his father. At the request of ‘Azarias’, Tobias uses a liniment made from a fish to cure the blindness of his father, and Raphael is revealed as the healing angel. Raphael’s name means, “God has healed.” He is known as the angel of medicine, science and knowledge, and the most sociable of all archangels.

In his role as Patron of Travelers, Raphael is seen in this icon as a special protector of those who travel by air, and those who work in the troubled airline industry. In the wake of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, the airline industry has been reeling in financial woes as many individuals refuse to fly. The memories of that day are vivid in the minds of many who do fly, making travel a fearful endeavor.

In this image, the circles of a mandala surround Raphael. In an icon, a mandala is evidence of the space between heaven and earth. Raphael enters into our earthly realm, offering his strength and support to protect those who fly. He offers reassurance in a time of terror, that we who journey, and those who labor for safe travel, are not alone, and faith, as with Tobias, is a liniment that heals.

His feast day is October 24.


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