Saint Raphael is one of the three angels mentioned in the Bible whom we know by name. He is also one of the seven that stand before God’s throne.
In the book of Tobias we encounter an enchanting story of this saint’s miraculous powers and his tender care towards travelers and the sick. The young man Tobias was about to set off on a journey to a distant city, a journey that was to be full of peril, and his father was worried about his son’s safety. At the moment of departure, a man, almost unearthly in his appearance approaches the father, Tobias the elder, and offers to accompany the youth. The father gratefully accepts and together the two set off, their destination and purpose being the city in which Tobias the younger must retrieve a treasure owed to his father. As the two make their way, Tobias stops at a river to quench his thirst and is assaulted by a monstrous fish which seeks to devour him. The stranger, whom Tobias knows only as Azarias, shows Tobias how to overpower the fish. Then a part of the fish is extracted and kept on the person of the travelers.
Continuing on their journey they are shown hospitality in the home of one of Tobias’ kinsman. The lord of the house is however troubled, and soon they find out that his daughter, Sara, suffers from a cruel fate. She has been married seven times, and on the night of each wedding feast a demon had slain her husbands. Tobias offers to marry Sara and again Azarias shows him how to protect himself. The demon’s power over Sara is broken and he flees. Azarias pursues him and enchains him. Azarias then offers to continue the journey alone. He returns after some time bearing the wealth of Tobias senior. Together with his former companion and new bride he sets off to bring to the old man his treasure.
Tobias the elder had in the meantime been battling against blindness. On the return of his son he is suddenly cured by the stranger. Full of joy, he and Tobias set aside a portion of their wealth with which they wish to reward their faithful friend. At that moment Azarias reveals his true identity. “I am the angel, Raphael,” he says to the astonishment of the two men. “One of the seven who stand before the Lord.” Saint Raphael then goes on to explain why Tobias the elder had merited for himself and his son the cure of his blindness, protection on his journey, the restoration of his wealth and the finding of a good wife. The archangel tells Tobias the elder that when he had fulfilled the corporal work of mercy relating to the burial of the dead, he, Raphael, had offered his prayers to God. Pleased with his servant Tobias, the Lord had sent Raphael to assist him in all his necessities.
What a compelling story and how the virtues which it propounds echo down from the time of Tobias to our own baleful times. The story of Tobias holds many truths. The way in which God most often acts not by fiat but through the operation of secondary causes, or instruments, is clearly present. So too is the ethos of ‘the constant prayers of the just man’ being very powerful with God.
A number of other truths are shown but to my mind the most compelling is that of burying the dead. The Masons and Satanists of our time would have us believe that cremation is a necessity in our ‘over populated world’ that the Christian body whose members have been sanctified by the eating of the Blessed Sacrament must be disposed of, burned, discarded. How right of Holy Mother Church to fly in the face of earthly wisdom and to insist on the proper burial of the bodies of those who form the Communion of Saints. May the archangel Raphael, patron of many causes including joy, marriage, cure of blindness, eye problems, mental illnesses and sickness, travelers and immigrants be ever invoked by us that we, like Tobias, may merit his constant and loving intercession.