The headlines are almost unbearable:
A terror attack, with grievous loss of life, sowing great divisiveness at a time when we need to reach out to each other and stand together in an open space, one wherein our common humanity is raised in recognition of the dignity of the human person — every human person, every human life — because to withhold that recognition will be the death of us all.
And then, a child’s unthinkable death played for grotesque laughs or cruel political fodder on social media.
So much for human dignity, then. What have we become?
Prayer, we hear, is useless — an insufficient means of addressing moments of transcendent pain and confusion. But believers know that that is wrong. Action counts, of course, but prayer is an action — a most fundamental action. It supports any and all subsequent action because it is rightly-oriented toward a higher purpose, something that is an absolute balm to transcendent pain: transcendent love.
The greatest of the Archangels, Michael, is a warrior angel. His name means, “Who is like God,” and not for nothing do we pray, “St. Michael the Archangel, defend us in battle; be our defense against the wickedness and snares of the evil one…”
Next in power is Gabriel, the angel of announcements and needed information — he spoke to Daniel, and Zechariah and of course the Blessed Virgin Mary, moving between heaven and earth to work God’s purposes. “I am Gabriel, who stand before God…” (Luke 1:19). So often, when I ask my own guardian angel to lay a need before the throne of God, I think of Gabriel, whose name means “God’s strength”. It takes power to be a constant conduit of communication.
Then there is Raphael, “one of the seven, who stand before the Lord…” (Tobit 12:15) He is less well known — an angel credited with bringing about healing, again to suit God’s purposes, as his name means “God’s healing.” We find him in the Book of Tobit, where he both binds up a devil and prescribes a remedy for illness that some might find today in books on Chinese Medicine. Traditionally he is understood to be the angel who would regularly descend upon the pool at Bethesda, and after the “stirring of the waters” there would be healing.
Our times need all three of these angelic aspects. Let us pray.
O Holy Archangels, first and eternal servants of God the Creator, we call upon you in recognition of your heavenly offices,
you, Micha-el, the Great Defender,
you, Gabri-el, the Holy Adviser,
you Rapha-el, the Bearer of Restoration,
Hear the prayers of a people in great need of your patronage as we struggle to live through a confused, violent, and divided age. Help us to discern our roles within this tumult, as People of God, People of Christ, People of the Cross, and of the Resurrection.
To Michael, we acknowledge that we are called to defend the victims of aggression and marginalization, to uphold the meek and protect the weak, and we want to heed this call, but our fallen natures hold us back, make us fearful and lacking in trust.
We have need to share in the surety of Michael’s powerful defense of what is right and just, that we too may uphold the light, and do battle against the darkness, without faltering.
To Gabriel, we recognize that our dialogues are often too loud, too passionate, too unwilling to allow the necessary portion of good-faith listening that converts noise into true communication.
We seek a share of Gabriel’s ability to hear what is being said, rather than what we would prefer to receive, and to relay a message, or tell our stories, or simply talk to another with the simplicity and clarity that allows our yes to be “yes,” our no to be “no,” and our purpose to be God’s before our own.
To Raphael, we admit that we too often are ready to inflict harm upon others, in our words, in our thoughtless asides, in our deeds; we know that we are making the world ill through the spittle of our vicious tongues, our spite and our malice.
We seek a portion of Raphael’s eagerness to remedy what has become infected, mend what has been broken, and walk as true companions (as Raphael traveled with Tobias) in order to establish the trust that can facilitate lasting healing.
Hear our pleas, O Archangels, for the sharing and bestowal of your be-graced and everlasting gifts upon our fallen natures, which are insufficient to the tasks before us and in need of angelic assistance. We ask for your help, and for your prayers as you stand before Holy, Mighty and Immortal Creator of all, and all of this in the name of Christ Jesus, the Lamb, seated at his right hand. Amen.
Read more: 5 Things to know about Archangels