Monday, September 24, 2012

Ora Pro Nobis: A Thank You to St. Raphael




This Saturday is the Feast of the Archangels, Michael, Gabriel, and Raphael.  Of course, St. Michael defeated Satan and gets his own prayer, and St. Gabriel played a pretty major role in the Annunciation, but I always thought St. Raphael got a little shafted.  I mean, I never even heard of him until college.  Maybe the fact that he seems to be the least-known archangel, and maybe isn't as busy as the other two, is why he had so much time to intercede for me over the years.  Seriously!

The book of Tobit tells the story of Sarah, a young woman who's been married seven times.  Only each time, her new husband has died on their wedding night (can you even imagine what that would feel like?!).  Thanks to Old Testament laws and arrangements that I admit I don't fully understand, Tobiah is the next, most worthy man to make Sarah his bride, and thanks to Raphael's guidance, falls in love and is told he, unlike the other men, is truly worthy of this courageous, beautiful, holy woman.  He wants to marry her, but obviously he's terrified.  On the day of their wedding, Sarah's father's already started digging the grave!  That night, though, something different happens.  I'll let the Scriptures take it from here:
When Sarah's parents left the bedroom and closed the door behind them, Tobiah
rose from the bed and said to his wife, "My sister, come, let us pray and beg our Lord
to grant us mercy and protection."

She got up, and they started to pray and beg that they might be protected.  He
began with these words:

"Blessed are you, O God of our ancestors;
blessed be your name forever and ever!
Let the heavens and all your creation bless you forever.

You made Adam, and you made his wife Eve
to be his helper and support;
and from these two the human race has come.
You said, 'It is not good for the man to be alone;
let us make him a helper like himself.'

Now, not with lust,
but with fidelity I take this kinswoman as my wife.
Send down your mercy on me and on her,
and grant that we may grow old together.
Bless us with children."

They said together, "Amen, amen!"

Then they went to bed for the night.
(Tobit 8:4-9, NAB)

I love the meaning of this story for so many reasons.  It lets you believe that lust can be slain, that love does give life, and that there are good men willing to die for love of their brides.  And, it's because of Tobiah and Sarah that the angel Raphael is traditionally known, among other causes, as the patron of happy meetings.  In other words, he's basically a patron of husband-hunting!  I kid--it's not that you should be constantly be on the prowl, adding his last name to your favorite baby names every time you meet someone Catholic and adorable (who hasn't fallen into that trap?), but I've come to trust and value his intercession so, so deeply.

When I was 18, I'd been writing letters to my future husband for a while already.  Around Valentine's Day that year, I stumbled across an article from Zenit, a news publication from the Vatican, about a prayer to St. Raphael that had helped dozens of people meet their spouses.  I learned about the story from Tobit for the first time and started reading tons of love stories from a link in the article.  Honestly, I was pretty skeptical.  It all seemed superstitious to me. But, for whatever reason, I was moved to write down the prayer and began saying it every day, asking Raphael's intercession for me to meet my husband when the time was right.  Those words have seen me through so much loneliness and so much incredible joy.  There were days I came to him in tears of tremendous frustration, begging him to help me find love, days after the end of my first serious relationship when his intercession bore peace and clarity, and days of thanksgiving when Andrew and I started dating, as I barely dared to trust the feeling in my heart that this was it.

I continued asking for Raphael's prayers long after I became certain whom I would marry, asking him to prepare us well for our life together, and began adding my friends to the prayer.  It's funny--for months, I thought my best friend would hit it off perfectly with one of Andrew's close friends.  I named them each time I said the prayer.  As the Lord would have it, they did both find the ones for them, but not in each other.  She's getting married next month, and he's madly in love with a radiantly beautiful violinist.  This is real!  I can't make this up, because I didn't--it's all thanks to God and what he's made for them.  There are plenty of saints whom I love and pray to often, but I feel the closest affinity for Raphael.  I am eternally thankful; his prayers have bestowed on me such a beautiful, unearned gift in Andrew.  I marvel so often: how else but through my small prayer and immense amounts of grace could I have the amazing fortune of being loved by someone who's everything to me, in ways I never even imagined I wanted?

If you're reading this and haven't met your husband yet (or maybe you have, and just don't know it!), find peaceful strength in this prayer.  Bring your hope, your optimism, your frustration, and your questions.  Bring everything right to the foot of the Cross.

Saint Raphael, you were sent by God to guide young Tobias in finding a good and virtuous spouse.  Please guide _________ (me, my future husband, whoever else you're praying for and their future spouses...) in this important decision which will affect my/his/her entire future.  You not only guided Tobias in finding a wife, you gave him instructions which should be foremost in every Christian marriage: "Pray together before making important decisions." 

Amen.


2 comments:

  1. Stephanie, me too! The book of Tobit had me praying to the good archangel and I wrote letters before I met my hubby, too. I'll email you back soon and if you still want to write that St. Therese post, please let me know. By the way, your pictures are gorgeous.

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    Replies
    1. That's amazing, Annabelle!! He is so good! Looking forward to your email! My St. Therese post is scheduled for October 1, so once it's up I'll pass the link to you. And thank you for your nice words--I'm new to the whole design thing, but I've really been enjoying doing my own graphics!

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