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The Three Archangels with Tobias - by BOTTICINI, Francesco - from Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence


What are Angels ?

(Latin: angelus; Greek: aggelos; from the Hebrew
for "one going" or "one sent"; messenger)

The Catechism of the Catholic Church clearly affirms, "The existence of the spiritual non-corporeal beings that Sacred Scripture calls 'angels' is a truth of faith. The witness of Scripture is as clear as the unanimity of tradition" (No. 328). An angel is a pure spirit, that is, an angel has no matter, no body. Each angel is a person, and has a mind and a will like ours, but angels are of a nature higher than ours. They are often sent by God for certain duties on this earth, in fact, the word angel means "one who is sent" or "messenger." The oldest references to angels in the Old Testament might leave us wondering if angels are separate beings--or does the phrase "messenger of God" merely means God? (cf. Judges, chapter 6). But in the later part of the Old Testament and in the New Testament it becomes entirely clear that they are distinct creatures. We see this by many references to them in Scripture, e.g., Psalms 148:2; 103: 20-21; Matthew 22:30; Luke 1:26; 2 Peter 2:4; Revelation/Apocalypse 5:11.

The angels were not created in heaven, that is, with the vision of God. If they had had that, sin would have been impossible. But God gave the angels some sort of command -- we do not know what -- and some obeyed, some did not. Those who disobeyed were fixed in evil, and became devils. When we sin, our intelligence is limited by the material part of our intellect, the brain in our heads. For a material brain is much less powerful than the spiritual intelligence our souls have. This means that we seldom see things as fully as possible at once. But an angel has no such limit, and hence sees everything as fully as possible at once. So he cannot go back on his decision, and say: "I see it differently now; I wish I had not done that".

The fallen angels, the devils, still keep the great powers natural to a pure spirit. So they can do things that seem like miracles to us.

The good angels are sent to guide and protect us. They too have great powers. Each of us has a guardian angel. This is implied in Scripture and is found in the constant Tradition of the Church. After Peter was delivered from prison by angel, the disciples said in astonishment: "It was his angel" (Acts 12:15).

Our guardian angels are able to put good thoughts into our minds, and to protect us. Psalm 91:11 says: "He will command His angels about you, to guard you in all your ways." In time of temptation they can give us both light and strength. They never stop praying for us, and they present our prayers before God.

Clearly, it is only good sense to venerate our guardian angel, to cultivate their friendship, to thank them, to ask their help. So God said in Exodus 23:20-21: "Behold, I am sending an angel ahead of you, to guard you and bring you to the place I have prepared. Listen to his voice, and do not rebel against him, for my name is in Him, and he will not forgive."

Because of their disobedience, the wicked angels were condemned to eternal punishment. Saint Peter, using poetic language, says: "When the angels sinned, God did not spare them, but consigned them to the pit of hell to be kept for the judgment" (2 Peter 2:4).

lucifer2.gif (31255 bytes)As we said, the will of the devil is fixed in evil, and so he tries to seduce people, to harm them spiritually, and even to bring them to hell. He wants to lead us from the faithful service of God. First Peter 5:8-9 advises: "Be calm and watch, for your enemy the devil goes about seeking whom he may devour. Resist him, strong in faith, knowing that your brothers all over the world have the same trial."

God permits the devil to do this as a result of His decision to create spiritual beings, having free will. To thwart that regularly would be to contradict His own natural laws. He does draw good out of evil; temptation gives us the opportunity to show our faith and to trust in Him; it give us the chance to grow in virtue by the struggle. And He has given us a powerful counterforce in our Guardian Angels, and the Blessed Mother, and ordinary Saints.


What types of Angels are there?

We know on authority of Scripture that there are nine orders of angels:

littlegoldcross.gif (962 bytes)Angels

littlegoldcross.gif (962 bytes)Archangels

littlegoldcross.gif (962 bytes)Virtues

littlegoldcross.gif (962 bytes)Powers

littlegoldcross.gif (962 bytes)Principalities

littlegoldcross.gif (962 bytes)Dominions

littlegoldcross.gif (962 bytes)Throne

littlegoldcross.gif (962 bytes)Cherubim, and

littlegoldcross.gif (962 bytes)Seraphim

That there are Angels and Archangels, nearly every page of the Bible tells us; and the books of the Prophets talk of Cherubim and Seraphim. Saint Paul, too, writing to the Ephesians enumerates four orders when he says: 'above all Principality, and Power, and Virtue, and Domination', and again, writing to the Colossians he says:'whether Thrones, or Dominations, or Principalities, or Powers'. If we now join these two lists together we have five Orders, and adding Angels and Archangels, Cherubim and Seraphim, we find nine Orders of Angels.


Angels and the Church Today

Two days of the year are set aside every year by the Church to honor angels. September 29th honors the archangels, Saints Michael, Gabriel and Raphael; and October 2nd honors our Guardian Angels. Michael, Gabriel and Raphael are the angels of our time. They are the Angels of the final time of the purification and the great tribulation. To them is entrusted a special task during the period of the trial and the great chastisement. To them befalls the task of saving the people of God, of gathering from every part of the earth those who are being called to form part of the little remnant which will remain faithful, in the safe refuge of the Immaculate Heart of Mary. Above all, they are the Angels who reveal the final events described in the sealed Book.



stmichael.jpg (29582 bytes) Saint Michael is an archangel and the leader of the angels who remained faithful to God. At their head he overcame Lucifer and the bad angels and cast them out of heaven. "And there was a great battle in heaven, Michael and his angels fought with the dragon." Saint John speaks of the great conflict at the end of time, which reflects also the battle in heaven at the beginning of time. Many times Michael has aided those who were faithful to God; he will again come to the aid of the faithful.
Tradition gives to Michael four offices:
  • To fight against Satan.
  • To rescue the souls of the faithful from the power of the enemy, especially at the hour of death.
  • To be the champion of God's people the Jews in the Old Law; the Christians in the New Testament; (therefore he was the patron of the Church).
  • To call away from the earth and bring men's souls to judgement. Michael is often depicted with a scale of justice to weigh men's souls.

For a children's story relating Saint Michael and "The Battle for Heaven" press the hover button below:



gabriel.jpg (30391 bytes) Gabriel is an archangel whose name means "the Power of God". He appeared to the prophet Daniel (Daniel 8:16; 9:21), to the priest Zachary to announce the forthcoming birth of Saint John the Baptist (Luke 1:11, 19), and to the Blessed Virgin Mary to announce the birth of Our Savior (Luke 1:26 - 38). Gabriel is mentioned only twice in the New Testament, but it is not unreasonable to suppose with Christian tradition that it is he who appeared to Saint Joseph and to the shepherds; and also that it was he who "strengthened" Our Lord in the garden.

Gabriel is regarded by the Jews as the angel of judgement, while Michael is called the angel of mercy. Thus they attribute to Gabriel the destruction of Sodom, though they also regard him as the angel who buried Moses, and as the one deputed to mark the figure Tau on the foreheads of the elect.



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Saint Raphael is the archangel which appears disguised in human form as the traveling companion of the younger Tobias, calling himself "Azarias the son of the great Ananias". The story of the adventurous journey during which the protective influence of the angel is shown "in the desert of upper Egypt", from the demon who had previously slain seven husbands of Sara, daughter of Raguel, (Tob. 5:11). After the return and the healing of the elder Tobias, Azarias makes himself known as "the angel Raphael, one of the seven, who stand before the Lord".

Of these seven archangels, only three, Gabriel, Michael and Raphael are mentioned in the canonical Scriptures. The others, according to the Jewish Book of Enoch are Uriel, Raguel, Sariel, and Jerahmeel, while from other apocryphal sources we get the variant names Izidkiel, Hanael, and Kepharel instead of the last three in the other list. Note that all the names and variant names of the archangels end with the letters "el". "El" is another name for God, as are "Yahweh", "I am" and "Jehovah".



guardian.jpg (29788 bytes) That every individual soul has a guardian angel has never been defined by the Church, and is, consequently, not an article of faith; but it is the mind of the Church, as Saint Jerome expressed it: "how great the dignity of the soul, since each one has from birth an angel commissioned to guard it". This belief in guardian angels can be traced throughout all antiquity. In the Bible this doctrine is clearly discernible and its development is well marked. In Genesis, angels not only act as the executors of God's wrath against the cities of the plain, but they also deliver Lot from danger. In Exodus, an angel is the appointed leader of the host of Israel, and God says to Moses: "my angel shall go before thee". It is clear that the Old Testament conceived of God's angels as His ministers who carried out His behests. In the New Testament the doctrine is stated with greater precision. Angels are everywhere as intermediaries between God and man. Christ set a seal upon the Old Testament teaching when He said: "See that you despise not one of these little ones, for I say to you, that their angels in heaven always see the face of my Father who is is heaven". A twofold aspect of the doctrine is here put before us: even little children have guardian angels, and these same angels lose not the vision of God by the fact that they have a mission to fulfil on earth. Saint Thomas Aquinas teaches that only the lowest order of angels are sent to men, and consequently they alone are our guardians. Our guardian angels can act upon our senses and upon our imaginations, however not upon our wills. Finally, they are not separated from us after death, but remain with us in heaven, not, however, to help us attain salvation, but to enlighten us through the angelic ministry.



angel_02.gif (2330 bytes) Saint Michael and the Angels at Mass

angel_02.gif (2330 bytes) The Protection of the Good Angels at Death


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