St. Raphael is one of the seven Archangels who stand before the throne of the Lord, and one of the only three mentioned by name in the Bible. He appears, by name, only in the Book of Tobit. Raphael's name means "God heals." This identity came about because of the biblical story that claims he "healed" the earth when it was defiled by the sins of the fallen angels in the apocryphal book of Enoch.
Disguised as a human in the Book of Tobit, Raphael refers to himself as "Azarias the son of the great Ananias" and travels alongside Tobit's son, Tobiah. Once Raphael returns from his journey with Tobiah, he declares to Tobit that he was sent by the Lord to heal his blindness and deliver Sarah, Tobiah's future wife, from the demon Asmodeus. It is then that his true healing powers are revealed and he makes himself known as "the angel Raphael, one of the seven, who stand before the Lord" Tobit 12:15.
The demon Asmodeus killed every man Sarah married on the night of the wedding, before the marriage could be consummated. Raphael guided Tobiah and taught him how to safely enter the marriage with Sarah.
Raphael is credited with driving the evil spirit from Sarah and restoring Tobit's vision, allowing him to see the light of Heaven and for receiving all good things through his intercession.
Although only the archangels Gabriel and Michael are mentioned by name in the New Testament, the Gospel of John speaks of the pool at Bethesda, where many ill people rested, awaiting the moving of the water. "An angel of the Lord descended at certain times into the pond; and the water was moved. And he that went down first into the pond after the motion of the water was made whole of whatsoever infirmity he lay under" John 5:1-4. Because of the healing powers often linked to Raphael, the angel spoken of is generally associated with St. Raphael, the Archangel.
St. Raphael is the patron saint of travelers, the blind, bodily ills, happy meetings, nurses, physicians and medical workers. He is often pictured holding a staff and either holding or standing on a fish. His feast day is celebrated on September 29, along with St. Michael and St. Gabriel.
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By Deacon Frederick Bartels
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