Tuesday, 20 November 2018

Death, Hope, and eternal Salvation - Sir Walter Raleigh; Blessed William Hart (martyr).

The one certainty in life is the inevitability of death, yet it is a subject which in the normal course of events is rarely mentioned. Obituaries are published in local and national newspapers, and the death of well-known personages or victims of disasters or violence receives wide coverage in the media. Death does make news, but perhaps the reality is that it is not death itself that people are interested in, rather is it the personal details of the deceased. The spiritual implication of death is rarely acknowledged in today’s secular world, the day of judgement and eternal life, if thought of at all, is regarded rather as a ‘religious’ belief that most people prefer not to think about. By the grace of God, Christians know otherwise, but even we can be strangely muted when it comes to discussing death.  The following two articles, written some four hundred years ago by the famous Elizabethan courtier, explorer, soldier, writer and poet, Sir Walter Raleigh c.1552-1618, reveal a commendably ruthless honesty which would not be out of place today in a sermon on the ‘Four Last Things’, although  a critic might suggest a certain absence of that spirit of Hope  found in the writings of the Saints.  Hope, one of the three Cardinal virtues, keeps us on track when we are tempted to despair, helping us to persevere throughout life in  knowing, loving, and serving God, so that we may be welcomed by Him when we die. Hope keeps death in perspective, for while the body will die, the soul of the just will find eternal joy and happiness with God.

The Workmanship of Death

'Our attendants are sicknesses and variable infirmities, and by how much the more we are accompanied with plenty, by so much the more greedily is our end desired, whom when Time has made undesirable to others, we become a burthen to ourselves: being of no other use than to hold the riches we have from our successors. In this time it is (as aforesaid) we, for the most part, and never before, prepare for our eternal habitation, which we pass on unto, with many sighs, groans, and sad thoughts, and in the end, by the workmanship of death, finish the sorrowful business of a wretched life, towards which we always travel both sleeping and waking; neither have those beloved companions of honour and riches any power at all to hold us any one day, by the glorious promise of entertainments; but by what crooked path soever we walk, the same leadeth on directly to the house of death:  whose doors lie open at all hours, and to all persons.  For this tide of man’s life, after it once turneth and declineth, ever runneth with a perpetual ebb and falling stream, but never floweth again: our leaf once fallen, springeth no more, neither doth the sun or the summer adorn us again, with the garments of new leaves and flowers.'
                                                      Sir Walter Raleigh (c.1552-1618)

O Eloquent, Just, and Mighty Death

'Death, which hateth and destroyeth man, is believed; God, which hath made him and loves him, is always deferred.  I have considered (saith Solomon) all the works that are under the sun, and behold, all is vanity, and vexation of spirit: but who believes it, till Death tells it us: it was Death, which opening the conscience of Charles the First, made him enjoin his son Philip to restore Navarre; and King Francis the First of France, to command that justice should be done upon the murderers of the Protestants in Merindol and Cabrieres, which till then he neglected.  It is therefore Death alone that can suddenly make man to know himself. He tells the proud and insolent, that they are but abjects, and humbles them at the instant; makes them cry, complain, and repent, yea, even to hate their forepassed happiness.  He takes the account of the rich, and proves him a beggar; a naked beggar, which hath interest in nothing, but in the gravel that fills his mouth.  He holds a glass before the eyes of the most beautiful, and makes them see therein, their deformity and rottenness; and they acknowledge it.
    O eloquent, just, and mighty Death! Whom none could advise thou hast persuaded; what none hath dared, thou hast done; and whom all the world hath flattered, thou only hast cast out of the world and despised: thou hast drawn together all the far stretched greatness, all the pride, cruelty, and ambition of man, and covered it all over with these two narrow words, Hic iacet – here lies …'
                                                      Sir Walter Raleigh (c.1552-1618)


                      'Sir Walter Raleigh (1598)' by William Segar

Sir Walter Raleigh, was born in 1554 in East Budleigh, Devon, and brought up in the Protestant faith.  In 1569, he left for France to serve with the Huguenots in the French religious civil wars. In 1572, he was registered as an undergraduate at Oriel College, Oxford, leaving a year later but subsequently completing  his education in the Inns of Court.  He moved to Ireland taking part in the suppression of local rebellions, and eventually becoming the owner of property in Munster confiscated from the native Irish. He returned to England in 1581, becoming a favourite of Queen Elizabeth I, and was knighted in 1585. Raleigh was instrumental in the English colonisation of North America and was granted a royal patent to explore Virginia, which paved the way for future English settlements. In 1591, he secretly married Elizabeth Throckmorton one of the Queen's ladies-in-waiting, without the Queen's permission, for which he and his wife were subsequently punished and sent to the Tower of London. After a few months they were released, and returned to his estate at Sherborne in Dorset. In 1594 Raleigh sailed on a voyage of exploration to South America searching for the mythical El Dorado. Once back in England he published  ‘The Discovery of Guiana’ (1596), an account of his voyage which made exaggerated claims as to what had been discovered.  In 1603 Queen Elizabeth died and the throne passed to James I. The following year Raleigh was implicated on uncorroborated and flimsy evidence in the Main Plot, and was again imprisoned, but this time for many years. The Main Plot was an alleged conspiracy  by English courtiers, to remove King James I from the English throne, replacing him with his cousin Arabella (or Arbella) Stuart. The plot was supposedly led by Henry Brooke, Lord Cobham, and funded by the Spanish government. Much of Raleigh’s poetry and historical writing was completed during this period of imprisonment.  In 1616 he was released to lead a second expedition in search of El Dorado. This was unsuccessful, but men under his command ransacked a Spanish outpost, contrary to his orders and in breach of existing treaties with Spain. On his return to England the Spanish government demanded that he be held responsible and punished, and in 1618 he was arrested and executed.  Raleigh’s wife bore him three sons, one of whom died in infancy. They were a devoted couple and after Raleigh was beheaded, it has been said that Lady Raleigh kept her husband's head in a velvet bag until her death 29 years later, when it was returned to his tomb and interred at St. Margaret's Church, Westminster.


The following is taken from 'Martys to the Catholic Faith,  1577-1684' by Bishop Richard Challoner, and is part of a letter written to his mother by the Rev. William Hart, who was imprisoned at York Castle awaiting execution. 

…… ‘Alas! sweet mother, why do you weep? Why do you lament? Why do you take so heavily my honourable death? Know you not that we are born once to die, and that always in this life we may not live? Know you not how vain, how wicked, how inconstant, how miserable this life of ours is? Do you not consider my calling, my estate, my profession? Do you not remember that I am going to a place of all pleasure and felicity? Why then do you weep? Why do you mourn? Why do you cry out? But perhaps you will say, I weep not so much for your death as I do for that you are hanged, drawn, and quartered. My sweet mother, it is the favourablest, honourablest, and happiest death that ever could have chanced unto me. I die not for knavery, but for verity; I die not for treason, but for religion; I die not for any ill-demeanour or offence committed; but only for my faith, for my conscience, for my priesthood, for my blessed Saviour Jesus Christ; and, to tell you truth, if I had ten thousand lives, I am bound to lose them all rather than to break my faith, to lose my soul, to offend my God. We are not made to eat, drink, sleep, to go bravely, to feed daintily, to live in this wretched vale continually; but to serve God, to please God, to fear God, and to keep His commandments; which, when we cannot be suffered to do, then rather must we choose to lose our lives than to desire our lives.’…….(Extract from a letter written by Fr.William Hart to his mother, from York Castle, 10th March, 1583.)

Five days later Fr Hart was executed, being hanged, drawn, and quartered for ‘being a Roman priest’ (Athenae Oxoniensis)

N.B. Fr Hart was one of forty-two English Roman Catholic Martyrs beatified on December 29, 1886, by Pope Leo XIII

'Salvator Mundi' by Andrea Previtali (1519)

Tuesday, 23 October 2018

'Don't hurt Jesus, He loves you' - Fr William Doyle S.J.

The month of November will soon be upon us, the month of All Saints and the Holy Souls. I have chosen to reproduce an article on Father William Doyle S.J. originally published on my blog 'umblepie' on 9 November, 2012. 
                                         Remembrance Sunday
                       Laying wreaths at the Cenotaph - November 2010

                                                                                  (photo Creative Commons)
The month of November will see the annual Remembrance Sunday Commemorations, and  it is salutary to remind ourselves that in World War 1, a total of 1,115,600 servicemen from Great Britain and the Colonies died  for their country, and in World War 2, a further 384,000 gave their lives. Added to these are the many thousands who have died for their country in subsequent hostilities in Palestine, Malaya, Korea, Kenya, Falklands, Iraq, Afghanistan, N Ireland, and other areas of conflict. The vast majority of those who died were young men and women, who did not want war and certainly did not want to die, but accepted that for the world to have peace, the ultimate price might have to be paid.

“Eternal rest give unto them O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them. May they rest in peace”
Mary, Mother of God and Mother of mercy, pray for us and for all those who have died in the horrors of war”


My wife owns an excellent book, ‘Father William Doyle S.J.’ by Alfred O’Rahilly, a biography first published in 1920 by Longmans, Green & Co. –  this edition 1936.

Father Doyle was born in Dublin in 1873 and died on the ‘Western Front’ at the battle of Ypres in 1917.
The book is an absorbing account of this holy priest’s life, beautifully written and eminently readable. At this time of year I inevitably think of this courageous and inspirational Irish priest,  whose faith, bravery and devotion to his men on the field of battle, was truly outstanding.                        

                                  Father William Doyle S.J. - Army Chaplain

The following passage is from a letter of General Hickie, written to a friend on 18th November, 1917:-

 “Fr Doyle was one of the best priests I have ever met, and one of the bravest men who have fought or worked out here.  He did his duty, and more than his duty, most nobly, and has left a memory and a name behind him that will never be forgotten. On the day of his death, 16th August, he had worked in the front line, and even in front of that line, and appeared to know no fatigue – he never knew fear.  He was killed by a shell towards the close of the day, and was buried on the Frezenberg Ridge. ……….  He was recommended for the Victoria Cross by his Commanding Officer, by his Brigadier, and by myself.  Superior Authority, however, has not granted it, and as no other posthumous reward is given, his name will, I believe, be mentioned in the Commander-in-Chief’s Despatch. …..  I can say without boasting that this is a Division of brave men; and even among these, Fr Doyle stood out.”.
  Possibly the fact that he was an Irish Roman Catholic priest influenced the decision of the ‘Superior Authority’. Beyond the tributes of this world, numerous favours and cures have been attributed to his intercession, and to the use of his relics.

This biography includes many incidents in Fr Doyle’s life which reveal his extraordinary charity.
One such event, originally published in the ‘Irish Messenger of the Sacred Heart’ in August 1931, is included in Appendix IV of the book, and is reproduced below.

‘Snatched from the brink’

             ‘A telegram for you, Father,” said the Sister, laying the envelope on the table. Father Doyle looked up from his writing with a smile. “Thank you Sister” he said, “I was expecting one.”
            Having finished the letter he was writing, Father Doyle opened the telegram placed by his side. As he read it a slightly puzzled look passed across his face. He thought for a moment, and picking up a railway guide, studied it. Then he crossed to the electric bell and pressed the button.
            “Sister” he said, when the Lay Sister appeared, “I wonder could I see Reverend Mother for a moment.” “Certainly Father, I’ll get her at once” was the answer.
            In a few moments Reverend Mother entered the room. “Mother” said Father Doyle, “I have just got a telegram from my Provincial telling me to return to Dublin by the first available train, as I am to cross to England this evening. I find I shall have time to give the Community the last lecture of the Retreat, if I may give it now. I’m sure the Parish Priest will say Mass for you tomorrow in my place and give you Benediction.”
            “Of course Father, we can have the lecture at once,” said Reverend Mother, “but I am sorry you have to rush off like this. Were you expecting this news?” “No indeed,” replied Father Boyle. “I was expecting a telegram it is true, but not from the Provincial, nor with an invitation to take a trip to England. Perhaps the Provincial thinks I want a little rest and is sending me to Blackpool for a week,” he added with a laugh.  
            A couple of hours later the Limited Mail was carrying Father Doyle swiftly to Dublin, which was reached well up to time.           
           "Here I am, Father,” he said, as he entered the Provincial’s room, “ready for marching orders.”
           “Well,“ replied the Provincial with a smile, “your marching orders are to go to prison! Here is a telegram I got this morning from England, from the Governor of D…. Prison.  ‘Please send Father William Doyle SJ, to D….. Prison. Woman to be executed tomorrow asks to see him.’ “ Can you throw any light on the summons?” Father Doyle shook his head. “No” he said, “I don’t know of any of my friends who are going to be hanged!” “Well,” said the Provincial, “in any case you had better go. You will just have time to catch the night boat for Holyhead. You will get to D….. at 5 a.m., and you will have time to see this poor woman before she is executed.”
           Day was dawning when Father Doyle reached D….. Prison.  He was shown at once to the office of the Governor, who welcomed him courteously. “It was good of you sir” he said, “to come all this way at such short notice. This poor woman has been asking for you earnestly, and it will comfort her to see you.”
          “But,” said Father Doyle, “the whole thing is a mystery to me. Who is this woman, and why does she want to see me?” “Her name is Fanny Cranbush,” was the answer. “She is a girl of the unfortunate class who was convicted for her part in that poison case you may have seen in the papers. When brought here after her trial, she was asked in the usual way if she would like to see some minister of religion. She replied that she had no religion and had no need of priest or parson. A few days ago, however, she sent for me and said she had changed her mind and would like to see a certain priest.
           ‘What is his name?’ I asked. ‘I don’t know.’ ‘But how can I get you a priest whose name and address you don’t know? Can you give me any information at all about him?’ ‘All I can tell you,’ she replied, ‘is that this priest was in Y…. about two years ago. I was told he was from Ireland and was giving what is called a Mission in a church there. For God’s sake get him for me. I want to see him so much before I die.’ ‘I’ll do my best of course,’ I said, ’and perhaps I shall be able to find him for you.’
           “I at once got into communication with the police of Y….., and inquiries were made at the different churches of the place, if a clergyman from Ireland had given a Retreat or Mission there a couple of years previously. The address of your Superior was obtained and the telegram sent him that has brought you here.”
           “I’m still in the dark” said Father Doyle. “Well” replied the Governor, “I’ll take you to her, and she will be able to clear matters up, doubtless. There are some hours yet before the execution takes place, and if you wish, you may stay with her to the end. Will you please come with me,sir.”
           The Governor led the way up two flights of stairs and down a long corridor, at the end of which he stopped before a cell, and producing a bunch of keys, unlocked the door. “This is her cell, sir,” he said, “and I shall leave you alone with her.” Then beckoning to the warder on guard inside to leave, he stepped back and let the priest enter.
               Father Doyle saw a girl still in the twenties, sitting with bowed head on the edge of a narrow bed. As he came towards her, she looked up with a drawn, weary face. But next instant her look was transformed as she sprang to her feet, exclaiming: “Oh, Father, thank God, you are come!”
            “I’m glad I’ve come, my child,” said Father Doyle, as he took her by the hand and led her to a chair. “And now you must tell me why you have sent for me. Have we ever met before?” “Yes Father, but of course you don’t remember. Two years ago you stopped me in the street in Y…... I was a bad girl, have been all my life, and was out on my work of sin.
           You said to me, ‘My child, aren’t you out very late? Won’t you go home? Don’t hurt Jesus. He loves you.’ You said this so gently, so appealingly, and then you gave me a look that seemed to go right through me.”

                       Father Doyle nodded. “I remember,” he said half to himself, “I had been hearing confessions late that night and was on my way home.”
          “Your look and words stunned me,” went on the girl. ”I actually turned back, and went home in a dazed state. All that night I lay awake. The words: ‘Don’t hurt Jesus, He loves you,’ kept ringing in my ear. Had I hurt Jesus, did He love me? Who was He? I knew very little about Him. I had had little schooling and less religion. I had never prayed, I had never been baptized. Mother told me that before she died. Yet, ’Don’t hurt Jesus, He loves you,…’ seemed to find an echo in my heart. I felt He was in some way within me.
            I saw you once again Father, after that night. I was with another girl and you passed on the other side of the street. ‘Who is that clergyman?’ I asked my companion. ‘I hear he is from Ireland,’ she replied ,’and is giving a Mission or something here.’
            For weeks after that I kept off the streets, but then want and hunger drove me out again. I sank lower and lower, until now I am to be hanged. I came here hard, defiant and unrepentant, and wanted to have nothing to do with priest or parson. Then one day your words came back to me. ‘Don’t hurt Jesus, He loves you.’              
           Something seemed to snap within me and I wept – the first time for many years. I felt changed, softened, and there came a great longing to see you and to learn more about Jesus. Now that you have come, won’t you tell me more about Him? Won’t you set my feet on the road that goes to Him?” 
          “Do you mean my child, that you wish to know about the one True Faith, that you want to become a Catholic?” “Yes Father, I do, with all my heart.”
           The essential articles of faith were quickly explained and drunk in with eagerness by a soul that thirsted for the truth. Then the waters of baptism were poured for the first time upon her head, and all the wicked past was washed away.
           “I shall leave you now for a while, my child,” said Father Doyle. “I am going to try to get permission and the requisites for Mass here, when I shall give you Jesus in Holy Communion.”
            Father Doyle hurried off to the nearest Catholic Church, and without much difficulty obtained the necessary leave and outfit for saying Mass.  A tiny altar was erected in the cell, and Fanny heard her first and last Mass and received her God for the first and last time. She refused the breakfast offered her.  “I have just eaten the Bread of Life,” she said with her smiling thanks.
              As she walked to the scaffold with Father Doyle beside her, she whispered to him, “I am so happy, Father! Jesus knows that I am sorry for having hurt Him, and I know that Jesus loves me.”
           A moment later and Fanny Cranbush, with her baptismal robe unspotted, was in the arms of Jesus


On 19th October, 2008,  I posted briefly about Father William Doyle S.J.  (N.B. I have recently re-posted this on 'umblepie'   
22 October 2018 - see link on side-bar)

After the original was posted, I received a communication from a lady in the south of England, to say that she was in possession of an army overcoat which she believed to have belonged at one time to Father Doyle. She further stated that her father had worn it throughout various military campaigns of World War II, and had attributed his survival to the protection of Father Doyle.
Certainly, numerous favours and cures were attributed to Father Doyle’s intercession after his death, and many are listed in the book

For those who would like to learn more about this brave and holy priest, I recommend the following website dedicated to his life and memory.  http://fatherdoyle.com 

      Memorial window, St Finnians Church, Dromin, Co. Louth

  “Another very severe pain for the holy souls is caused by the thought that, during life, God showed them so many special mercies not shown to others, after they had by their sins compelled Him to hate them, and to condemn them to hell.  He, nevertheless, through His pure mercy, pardoned and saved them.”
(Daily thoughts from St Alphonsus - November 9th)


Saturday, 29 September 2018

The Holy Archangels Michael, Gabriel, and Raphael.

With acknowledgement and thanks to 'Catholicism Pure and Simple' for the following interesting, informative, and spiritually  encouraging post.

Today we celebrate the feast of three of the holy archangels. Their names have special meanings for their intercession between God and man.

The name of the Archangel Michael, Protector of the Church, means “Who is like God?"

                                                St Michael the Archangel (1632) by Luca Giordano
The name comes from the Hebrew מִיכָאֵל (Mikha’el) meaning “who is like God?”. This is a rhetorical question, implying no person is like God. Michael is one of the archangels in Hebrew tradition and the only one identified as an archangel in the Bible. In the Book of Daniel in the Old Testament he is named as a protector of Israel. In the Book of Revelation in the New Testament he is portrayed as the leader of heaven’s armies in the war against Satan, and is thus considered the patron saint of soldiers in Christianity and protector of the Church.

St. Michael himself comes to defend us in battle. He came down from heaven and appeared in Italy towards 525 under the pontificate of Gelasius I, in Apulia, on the summit of Monte Gargano, near the Adriatic and the ancient Sipontum. He requested that a sanctuary should be erected where the True God should be worshipped in order to make amends for the pagan worship that once occurred there, and in memory of himself and all the angels. The Sanctuary of Monte Sant’Angelo sul Gargano still remains to this day. and has become much celebrated on account of numerous miracles.

St. Michael later appeared with a flaming sword atop the mountain during a storm on the eve of battle for the Lombards. The Lombards attributed their victory in battle on that day. He is regarded as the special Guardian Angel of Saint Joseph and the Guardian Angel of each one of the Popes and one of the seven great angels who stand before the throne of God.

The prayer to St Michael the archangel was composed by Pope Leo XIII after his prophetic vision of Satan’s boast to Our Lord that he could destroy the Church in 100 years. It is the plea to Mary and the passionate request to the Prince of the heavenly host, (“Saint Michael the Archangel, defend us in battle…”) beseeching God to send Satan back to hell. On October 13, 1884, after the Pope had finished celebrating Mass in the Vatican Chapel, attended by a few Cardinals and members of the Vatican staff, he suddenly stopped at the foot of the altar. He stood there for about 10 minutes, as if in a trance, his face ashen white. (He recounted afterwards the details of this terrifying vision.) Then, going immediately from the Chapel to his office, he composed this prayer to St. Michael, with instructions it be said after all Low Masses everywhere to defeat the evil plans of Satan and his devils.

Could the current troubles in the Church today be attributed, at least in part, to the abolishing of this holy prayer in the Liturgical changes of 1964?

The name of the Archangel of the Annunciation, Gabriel, means “God’s strength” or “Power of God”

                                                        'Saint Gabriel the Archangel' by Gaudenzio Ferrari
St. Gabriel was sent to Daniel to enlighten him as to the time when Christ would be born, and to Zachary, at the hour in which he offered incense in the temple, to announce to him the birth of John the Baptist, the Precursor of the Messias. “Only Gabriel, a name that means ‘Power of God,’ was found worthy among all the angels,” says St. Bernard, “to announce to Mary the designs of God with regard to her”. He was chosen from among all the angels to proclaim the wondrous mystery of the Incarnation.

With a feeling of holy reverence, St. Gabriel came to the Virgin who from all eternity had been chosen to be the Mother of God, Jesus Christ. In the words inspired by the most High, and which the Church desires us to repeat frequently, he said to her: “Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women.”

And seeing that Mary was taken aback by this salutation, the angel explained that he had come to obtain her consent, her Fiat, that the great mystery on which depended the redemption of mankind might be accomplished. “I am Gabriel who stand before God, and I have been sent I to speak to thee and to tell thee these good tidings”.

It was Mary’s wish to remain a virgin, and the angel of the Lord announced that she would conceive of the Holy Ghost and that she would give birth to a son to whom she would give the name of Jesus, that is to say, Saviour.

Mary then, without hesitating, submitted with the most profound humility: “Behold the handmaid of the Lord: be it done to me according to Thy word”.

And in that instant was accomplished the greatest of all miracles, when God raised unto Himself and into union with Him the blessed fruit of the womb of the Virgin: “And the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us.” The Word took upon Him our humanity, our poverty, our nothingness, and gave us in return His divinity. The prayers of the Angelus remind us daily of this most sublime moment in the history of Mankind when Heaven reached down and touched Earth.

Indeed, the Virgin Mary needed “God’s strength” at the moment of the Incarnation, as Pope Saint John Paul II eloquently put it in his apostolic letter Mulieris dignitatem on the dignity and vocation of women, § 3:

Hence Mary attains a union with God that exceeds all the expectations of the human spirit. It even exceeds the expectations of all Israel, in particular the daughters of this Chosen People, who, on the basis of the promise, could hope that one of their number would one day become the mother of the Messiah. Who among them, however, could have imagined that the promised Messiah would be “the Son of the Most High”? On the basis of the Old Testament’s monotheistic faith such a thing was difficult to imagine. Only by the power of the Holy Spirit, who “overshadowed” her, was Mary able to accept what is “impossible with men, but not with God” (cf. Mk 10: 27).

The angel Gabriel, “strength of God,” came to announce and support the divine vocation of the Woman, the Blessed Virgin Mary, chosen from all eternity to be the Mother of God. This powerful archangel will become our strength to help us carry out our own vocations when we invoke him!

The name of Archangel Raphael means “God heals”

       'Tobias and Sarah with the Archangel Raphael exorcising the demon Asmodeus' by Jan Steen

Although only the archangels Michael and Gabriel are mentioned by name in the New Testament, the Gospel of John speaks of the pool at Bethesda, where many ill people rested, awaiting the moving of the water. “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” John 5:1-4. Because of the healing powers often linked to Raphael, the angel spoken of is generally associated with St. Raphael, the Archangel.

The name of the angel Raphael appears in the Biblical Book of Tobit. The Book of Tobit is considered deuterocanonical by Catholics and Orthodox. St. Raphael is one of the seven spirits who always stand before the Lord and offer Him the incense of their adoration and that of men. “While thou didst pray with tears,” he declared to Tobias, “and didst bury the dead, and didst leave thy dinner to conceal the dead in thine house by day, and by night didst bury them, I presented thy prayer unto the Lord. And because thou wast agreeable to the Lord it was necessary that temptation should try thee.”

Raphael had first appeared 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 course of the journey the archangel’s protective influence is shown in many ways including the binding of a demon in the desert of upper Egypt. He was sent by the Lord to return to heal the blind Tobit and to deliver Sarah, his future daughter-in-law, from the demon Asmodeus, who kills every man she marries on their wedding night before the marriage can be consummated. Azarias then makes himself known as “the angel Raphael, one of the seven, who stand before the Lord” (Tobit 12:15). He is venerated as Saint Raphael the Archangel.

St. Raphael is an eminent intercessor – a special patron of the sick and travellers – who brings our prayers to God. He is one of the highest angelic spirits that assist God and, therefore, has conditions to ask God for the graces we need.

This general consideration inspired by St. Raphael’s mission shows us how similar earthly realities are to heavenly realities. Insofar as we love the earthly realities that are similar to those of Heaven, we are preparing ourselves for Heaven. Love of hierarchy, nobility, distinction and elevation prepare us for Heaven.

This preparation for Heaven is ever more necessary as we sink into a world of horror. Our exterior surroundings are increasingly monstrous, chaotic and disorganised. In order not to fall into despair, the human soul needs to see something that is magnificent and well-organised. It is harmful to a man’s soul to live in constant disarray, seeing things deteriorating and decaying. Since everything that is elevated and dignified is disappearing from the earth, our desire for Heaven should intensify in order not to lose the psychological conditions to survive in this world.

                                                                  'Crowning of the Queen of Heaven' by Fra Angelico

(Sources for this article include adaptions from Liturgia Latina, Tradition in Action, Marie de Nazareth)

(ack. and thanks to 'Catholicism Pure and Simple' for the above post.)