With the upcoming feast of the archangels Michael, Gabriel, and Raphael, it can be helpful to reflect on what they mean for us as Catholics today and what they can mean for a Catholic education. Angel means messenger, so an archangel is an angel that has an especially important message to bring. Why are important for us today and how can they help in the classroom?
First of all, there are many messages bombarding today’s youth, in social media, Netflix, the internet. We live in an age of instant messaging. This has had unprecedented effects on communication: what once took work and effort to produce, even if it was a handwritten letter, now takes a few movements of the fingers and seconds to produce. The benefit of these messages of course, doesn’t depend on the media use but on the one speaking and listening. What communicative media have brought about is a significant reduction in barriers to producing messages.
What does this have to do with the messengers we call angels? As pure spirits, angels have no barriers in communicating; no email can say that! The problem is that not all spirits are good. This is why the Church looks to Michael (Rev 12:7) as the one who led the angels to fight against “the Great Dragon”, that is Satan, once called Lucifer, the most splendid of all the angels before his revolt against God. Michael has always been a powerful advocate against the devil’s work. In a vision of the work of devils in the world, Pope Leo XIII was inspired to compose the prayer to Saint Michael that would then become one of the most common Catholic prayers since then, commonly said at the end of mass as we go forth into battle. How can a devotion to St Michael help Catholic education? As we all know, education isn’t just receiving information, it’s a battle and a competition. It involves a certain amount of pain and suffering, of effort, a foregoing of what might be easiest and most enjoyable in the pursuit of a higher goal. Thus, the enemy and opponent of authentic Catholic education is the devil, who seeks to snare the souls of youth, especially since they are our future. I don’t write all this to scare but to be realistic and true. St Michael, from this perspective, can effectively be a real help and guide for Catholic youth and not only an image on walls or an ideal.
What about St. Raphael? His name means “healing (or medicine) of God”, as shown in the book of Tobit. In this story, Raphael heals an old man (Tobit) of blindness and a young girl (Sarah) from the oppression of the demon Asmodeus. In the case of Tobit, Raphael heals him through the liver of a fish, a symbol of Christ, caught by his son Tobias. Raphael heals Sarah through expelling Asmodeus, who had been impeding her from entering into marriage. Thus, the archangel Raphael made it possible for Sarah to marry Tobias by ridding her of the devil (and shackling him up in Egypt; Tb 8:3).
Raphael didn’t act of his own accord however. He helped and guided Tobias along the way but it was Tobias who needed to catch the fish and follow Raphael’s instructions about how to use the fish properly. Thus, God’s healing includes obedience and instruction; he doesn’t use Angels like magic tricks. Nonetheless, without God’s help, without God’s healing we have no hope of salvation. That’s why Raphael can be such a powerful presence in our life, this word of God in the Book of Tobit can become our own experience through obedience to the messengers that God sends us in our life. In this way, every Catholic educator is called to be an “angel” for his or her students, to show the way to Christ, who is the true healer and doctor of each and every affliction of the soul.
- GabrielWe remember Gabriel from the Annunciation made to Mary (Lk 1:26-38). He’s the one who gets to bring the joyful news that God wants to enter into the human race through becoming a human baby and to save mankind from their sins. He brings good news to Mary, that is a gospel (literally meaning “good news”), through this dialogue. Through Mary’s humble submission to God’s marvelous and mysterious plan, Jesus was able to enter the world. This is truly a powerful event in the life of every Catholic: first, the dialogue with the angel and secondly, the acceptance of that word.
It makes the world of difference who we have conversations with. Let us keep in mind that in the garden of Eden, sin entered the world also through a dialogue with another angel, the messenger of evil (Gn 3:1-7). We need God’s help and the guidance of the Church to know which messages come from God and which do not. And this is not always easy to do.
Fortunately, at the Blessed Virgin Mary School the Catholic environment of the curriculum and teaching staff helps to form students into making this distinction, in being able to recognize God’s voice and through fostering virtue to be able to respond to it. With the help, healing and intercession which the archangels bring us, all students at the Blessed Virgin Mary School can come closer to Christ. And that, after all, is the true and final goal of Catholic education.