The Archangels: The Devotion of St. Josemaria Escriva
St. Josemaria Escriva’s devotion the Archangels is well-known in Opus Dei as he entrusted the apostolates of its members to their protection. However, his devotion is also an example for all the faithful who seek the intercession of the Archangels in their daily struggles, vocations, and work.
THE ARCHANGELS: CHIEF MESSENGERS OF GOD
On September 29 the Church celebrates the feast of the Archangels: St. Michael, St. Gabriel, and St. Raphael. According to St. Gregory the Great and St. Thomas Aquinas, they are called Archangels because of their roles as chief messengers who announce the greatest messages of God to man; therefore, they rule over the lesser messengers, or angels, as their chiefs.
Additionally, St. Michael, St. Gabriel, and St. Raphael are the only three angels who are mentioned by name in Scripture:
The name Michael means “who is like God.” In the Book of Daniel and in Revelation, it is Michael who battles against Satan and protects God’s people from his wickedness and destruction. “Then war broke out in heaven; Michael and his angels battled against the dragon. The dragon and its angels fought back” (Rev 12:7).
The name Gabriel means “God’s power.” We know that he is prominent in the story of salvation having been sent from God to Nazareth to bring glad tidings and announce the arrival of the Messiah to Mary. “In the sixth month, the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a town of Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph, of the house of David, and the virgin’s name was Mary” (Lk 1:26-27).
The name Raphael means “God’s remedy” and it appears only in the Book of Tobit. Raphael heals Tobit from blindness and his daughter-in-law from a deadly curse. “I am Raphael, one of the seven angels who enter and serve before the Glory of the Lord” (Tob 12:15).
ST. JOSEMARIA’S DEVOTION TO THE ARCHANGELS
Since early on in its foundation, Opus Dei’s apostolates were made up of people of different walks of life, with different jobs, ages, and other personal circumstances. Initially, however, between the people and Opus Dei there was no juridical bond, but simply obligations of service and fidelity undertaken freely and willingly within the framework of a generous response to a divine vocation. Within that “disorganization”, St. Josemaria Escriva sought to organize the apostolic tasks under the patronage of the three archangels and create an internal cohesion of the spirit of the Work, whose essence consists of the sanctification of ordinary daily work, and apostolate carried out in and through that work.
On Thursday, October 6, 1932, while praying in the chapel of Saint John of the Cross during his retreat at the Discalced Carmelite monastery in Segovia, St. Josemaria was for the first time inwardly moved to invoke the three archangels and the three apostles: Saints Michael, Gabriel and Raphael, and Saints Peter, Paul and John. From that moment on he considered them the patrons of the different fields of apostolate that would make up Opus Dei.
Under the patronage of Saint Raphael would be the work of Christian formation of young people. From it would come Opus Dei’s celibate vocations, which the founder would place under the patronage of Saint Michael for their formation, both spiritual and human. Married people who took part in the apostolic activities of the Work, or who formed part of it, would have Saint Gabriel as their patron.
Two days later, on Saturday, he wrote: “I prayed the prayers of the Work of God, invoking our patrons the holy archangels: Michael, Gabriel, Raphael. And how sure I am that this triple invocation, of personages so high in the kingdom of heaven, must surely be—is—most agreeable to the Three and One, and will hasten the hour of the Work.”
In an earlier entry in his personal notes, on May 8, 1931, feast of the Apparition of Saint Michael, he wrote: “I have entrusted the Work to Saint Michael, the great warrior, and I think he has heard me.
Adapted from: J. Coverdale, “Uncommon Faith: the Early Years of Opus Dei 1928-1943”, New York: Scepter, 2002, pp. 116-117; A. Vazquez de Prada, “The Founder of Opus Dei”, vol. 1, New York: Scepter, 2001, pp. 366-367 and p. 377.