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Saint Raphael the Archangel
Saint Raphael the Archangel by Bartolomé Esteban Murillo
Saint Archangel, 'Angel of Tobit', Angel of the Trumpet
Venerated in Christianity
Feast September 29; October 24 (local calendars and among Traditional Roman Catholics)
Attributes Archangel holding a bottle or flask; Archangel walking with Tobias; Archangel; young man carrying a fish; young man carrying a staff
Patronage apothecaries; blind people; bodily ills; diocese of Madison, WI, druggists; archdiocese of Dubuque, Iowa; eye problems; guardian angels; happy meetings; insanity; lovers; mental illness; nightmares, nurses; pharmacists; physicians; archdiocese of Seattle, Washington; shepherds; sick people; travelers; young people

Raphael (Standard Hebrew רָפָאֵל, Rāfāʾēl, "It is God who heals", "God Heals", "God, Please Heal", Arabic: إسرافيل‎, Isrāfāʾīl) is an archangel of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, who in the Judeo-Christian tradition performs all manners of healing.

Raphael in Judaism

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).

Raphael 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."[1]

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. Raphael is mentioned by name in the Book of Tobit, which is accepted as canonical by Catholics and Orthodox. Four others, however, are named in the 2nd century BC Book of Enoch (chapter xxi): Uriel, Raguel, Sariel, and Jarahmeel.

The root of the name Raphael also appears in the modern Hebrew word Rophe meaning doctor of medicine, thus echoing the healing function traditionally attributed to this angel.

Raphael in Christianity

The name of the angel Raphael appears only in the Deuterocanonical Book of Tobit. The Book of Tobit is considered canonical by Roman Catholic and Orthodox Christians. 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 adventurous course of the journey the archangel's protective influence is shown in many ways including the binding of the demon in the desert of upper Egypt. After the return and the healing of the blindness of Tobit, Azarias makes himself known as "the angel Raphael, one of the seven, who stand before the Lord" Tobit 12:15. Compare the unnamed angels in John's Revelation 8:2. He is often venerated and patronized as Saint Raphael the Archangel.

Regarding the healing powers attributed to Raphael,[2] we have little more than his declaration to Tobit (Tobit, 12) that he was sent by the Lord to heal him of his blindness and to deliver Sarah, his daughter-in-law, from the demon of lust, Asmodeus, who abducts and kills every man she marries on their wedding night before the marriage can be consummated.[3] Among Catholics, he is considered the patron saint of medical workers, matchmakers, and travellers and may be petitioned by them or those needing their services.[4]

Vectorial representation of Archangel Raphael atop a fish.

The feast day of Raphael was included for the first time in the General Roman Calendar in the year 1921, for celebration on October 24. With the reform of the Roman Catholic Calendar of Saints in 1969, this feast was transferred to September 29 for celebration together with Saint Michael and Saint Gabriel.[5] The Church of England has also adopted the September 29 date for celebrating "Michael and All Angels".[6] Some traditionalist Catholics continue to observe versions of the General Roman Calendar of the 1921-1969 period.

Raphael has made only a light impression on Catholic geography: Saint Raphaël, France and Saint Raphaël, Quebec, Canada; San Rafaels in Argentina, Bolivia, Colombia, Costa Rica, Chile, Mexico, Trinidad and Tobago, Peru, the Philippines and in Venezuela as San Rafael de Mohán and San Rafael de Orituco. In the United States, San Rafaels inherited from Mexico survive in California (where besides the city there are San Rafael Mountains), in New Mexico, and in Utah, where the San Rafael River flows seasonally in the San Rafael Desert. The Archangel also lends his name to St. Raphael's Cathedral, the seat of the Diocese of Madison, Wisconsin, to St. Raphael's Cathedral, the seat of the Archdiocese of Dubuque, and to Mission San Rafael Arcángel in San Rafael, California.

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 (usually on medallions) as standing atop a large fish or holding a caught fish at the end of a line. This is a reference to 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.[7]

Raphael in Islam

Raphael is honored in Islam as one of the great archangels. According to the hadith, Raphael is the angel responsible for signaling the coming of Judgment Day by blowing the trumpet (namely Sûr) and sending out a "Blast of Truth". According to tradition, the trumpet will be blown two times. The first blow of the trumpet will signal the beginning of Last Day and the second blow will signal the time when all the souls will be gathered for the Last Judgement.

Raphael in Paradise Lost

The angel Raphael, as well as many other prominent angels appear in John Milton's Paradise Lost, in which he is assigned by God to re-warn Adam concerning the sin of eating of the Tree of the knowledge of good and evil. He also expounds to Adam the War in Heaven in which Lucifer and the demons fell, and the creation of the Earth.

See also


  2. The Hebrew word for a doctor of medicine is Rophe connected to the same root as Raphael.
  4. "Dictionary of Patron Saints' Names", Thomas W. Sheehan, p514, Our Sunday Visitor Publishing, 2001, ISBN 0879735392
  5. "Calendarium Romanum" (Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 1969), p. 143)
  6. Calendar of saints (Church of England)#September
  7. saintr02.htm Patron Saints Index

External links