Celebrated 29th September
Raphael (Standard Hebrew רָפָאֵל, Rāfāʾēl, “It is God who heals”, “God Heals”, “God, Please Heal”) is an archangel of Judaism, Islam and Christianity, who in the Christian tradition performs all manners of healing. In Islam, Raphael is the fourth major angel; in Muslim tradition, he is known as Israfil. Raphael is mentioned in the Book of Tobit, which is accepted as canonical by Catholics, Orthodox, and some Anglo-Catholics, and as useful for public teaching by Lutherans and Anglicans. Raphael is generally associated with the angel mentioned in the Gospel of John as stirring the water at the healing pool of Bethesda. Raphael is also an angel in Mormonism, as he is briefly mentioned in the Doctrine and Covenants.
The angels mentioned in the Torah, the older books of the Hebrew Bible, are without names. Rabbi Shimon ben Lakish of Tiberias (A.D. 230–270), asserted that all the specific names for the angels were brought back by the Jews from Babylon, and modern commentators would tend to agree.
Raphael is named in several Jewish apocryphal books (see below).
In the Book of Enoch
Raphael bound Azazel under a desert called Dudael according to Enoch 10:4–6:
And again the Lord said to Raphael: “Bind Azazel hand and foot, and cast him into the darkness: and make an opening in the desert, which is in Dudael, and cast him therein. And place upon him rough and jagged rocks, and cover him with darkness, and let him abide there for ever, and cover his face that he may not see light. And on the day of the great judgment he shall be cast into the fire.”
Of seven archangels in the angelology of post-Exilic Judaism, only Michael, mentioned as archangel (Daniel 12:1; Jude verse 9), and Gabriel are mentioned by name in the scriptures that came to be accepted as canonical by all Christians.
The name of the angel Raphael appears only in the Biblical Book of Tobit. The Book of Tobit is considered canonical by Catholics, Orthodox, and some Anglicans. Raphael first appears disguised in human form as the travelling companion of Tobit’s son, Tobiah (Greek: Τωβίας/Tobias), calling himself “Azarias the son of the great Ananias”. During the course of the journey the archangel’s protective influence is shown in many ways including the binding of a demon in the desert of upper Egypt. After returning and healing the blind Tobit, Azarias makes himself known as “the angel Raphael, one of the seven, who stand before the Lord” Tobit 12:15. He is venerated as Saint Raphael the Archangel.
Regarding the healing powers attributed to Raphael, we have his declaration to Tobit (Tobit, 12) that he was sent by the Lord to heal him of his blindness and to deliver Sarah, his future daughter-in-law, from the demon Asmodeus, who kills every man she marries on their wedding night before the marriage can be consummated.
In the New Testament, only the archangels Gabriel and Michael are mentioned by name (Luke 1:9–26; Jude 1:9). Later manuscripts of John 5:1–4 refer to the pool at Bethesda, where the multitude of the infirm lay awaiting the moving of the water, for “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”. Because of the healing role assigned to Raphael, this particular angel is generally associated with the archangel.
Raphael is sometimes shown as standing atop a large fish or holding a caught fish at the end of a line. This is a reference to the Book of Tobit (Tobias), where he told Tobias to catch a fish, and then uses the gallbladder to heal Tobit’s eyes, and to drive away Asmodeus by burning the heart and liver.
Due to his actions in the Book of Tobit and the Gospel of John, St. Raphael is accounted patron of travellers, the blind, happy meetings, nurses, physicians, medical workers, matchmakers,Christian marriage, and Catholic studies. As a particular enemy of the devil, he was revered in Catholic Europe as a special protector of Catholic sailors: on a corner of Venice’s famous Doge’s Palace, there is a relief depicting Raphael holding a scroll on which is written: Efficia fretum quietum (“Keep the Gulf quiet”). On July 8, 1497, when Vasco Da Gama set forth from Lisbon with his four ship fleet to sail to India, the flagship was named—at the King of Portugal’s insistence—the St. Raphael. When the flotilla reached the Cape of Good Hope on October 22, the sailors disembarked and erected a column in the archangel’s honour. The little statue of St. Raphael that accompanied Da Gama on the voyage is now in the Naval Museum in Lisbon.
Raphael is said to guard pilgrims on their journeys, and is often depicted holding a staff. He is also often depicted holding or standing on a fish, which alludes to his healing of Tobit with the fish’s gall.
The feast day of Raphael was included for the first time in the General Roman Calendar in 1921, for celebration on October 24. With the 1969 revision of the General Roman Calendar, the feast was transferred to September 29 for celebration together with archangels Saints Michael and Gabriel. Due toPope Benedict XVI’s Summorum Pontificum, the Catholic Church permits, within certain limits for public use, the General Roman Calendar of 1960, which has October 24 as Raphael’s feast day.
The Archangel Raphael is said to have appeared in Cordova, Spain, during the 16th century; in response to the city’s appeal, Pope Innocent X allowed the local celebration of a feast in the Archangel’s honour on May 7, the date of the principal apparition. St. John of God, founder of the Hospital order that bears his name, is also said to have received visitations from St. Raphael, who encouraged and instructed him. In tribute to this, many of the Brothers Hospitallers of St. John of God’s facilities are called “Raphael Centres” to this day. The 18th century Neapolitan nun, St. Maria Francesca of the Five Wounds is also said to have seen apparitions of Raphael.
1. ^ Doctrine and Covenants 128:21.
2. ^ “The Book of Enoch: The Book of Enoch: Chapter X”. Sacred-texts.com. Retrieved 2011-12-05.
3. ^ Driscoll, James F. “St. Raphael.” The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 12. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1911. 3 May 2013
4. ^ The Hebrew word for a doctor of medicine is Rophe connected to the same root as Raphael.
5. ^ Dictionary of Patron Saints’ Names, Thomas W. Sheehan, p. 514, Our Sunday Visitor Publishing, 2001, ISBN 0-87973-539-2
6. ^ a b “Archangel Raphael”, Queen of Angels Foundation
7. ^ “All About St. Raphael the Archangel”, St. Raphael Episcopal Church
8. ^ Calendarium Romanum (Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 1969), p. 143)