We have another coming liturgical feast day this week that is very important for a number of different reasons. On Wednesday, September 29, we celebrate the Feast Day of the Holy Archangels…Saint Michael, Saint Gabriel, and Saint Raphael! This is one of the most ancient feast days in the West and originally focused only on the role of Michael the Archangel, both in salvation history (Old Testament) and in the life of the Church (New Testament and beyond).
The origins of September 29th as a feast day for St. Michael are found in the dedication of a basilica near Rome in the 4th or early 5th centuries. This basilica, which is sadly no longer in existence, was dedicated on September 30th, yet celebrations and vigil Masses were offered the evening before, on September 29th. For many centuries, the Missal and other liturgical books referred to September 29th as the Dedication of Saint Michael the Archangel, meaning, the dedication of the Roman basilica built in his honor. This feast of St. Michael is often also a special day of prayer for police officers and others in law enforcement, since St. Michael is a patron saint of these brave men and women. Earlier this summer, I had the privilege to visit a memorial for the NYS Troopers in Farmingdale, Long Island, and those that passed away in the last calendar year. It was comforting for me, personally, to see my brother’s name inscribed; Trooper Joseph Gallagher. It was likewise comforting to see a beautifully carved image of St. Michael the Archangel on the memorial as well, keeping a watchful eye on the names of deceased New York State troopers.
With the liturgical changes after Vatican II, September 29th also became a day to commemorate the other two named archangels of our faith…St. Gabriel and St. Raphael. Gabriel the Archangel is, of course, the one who announced the incarnation of Christ the Lord, and proclaimed said incarnation to the Blessed Virgin Mary in the gospel of St. Luke. However, before the Annunciation in Luke’s gospel, the Archangel Gabriel also announced the birth of St. John the Baptist to his father, Zechariah, within the Holy of Holies in the Temple of Jerusalem, no less!
St. Raphael the Archangel is known for his journey with the young Tobias in the Book of Tobit. Raphael, in disguise, protects Tobias on his journey and shows him how to make medicine from a fish he catches in the Tigris River. This medicine is later used by Tobias to heal his blind father, Tobit himself. For these reasons, the Archangel Raphael is a patron saint and protector of travelers (alongside St. Christopher) and a patron and healer of those with blindness and other eye issues (alongside St. Lucy).
May we remember these three powerful archangels on Wednesday, September 29th, and always invoke their help and intercession on our earthly journey towards the Kingdom of Heaven!
St. Michael the Archangel…pray for us and defend us! Sts. Gabriel and Raphael…pray for us and defend us! St. Mary of Egypt…pray for us.
~Fr. Martin Gallagher