As it is the Feast of Raphael the Archangel in the older, traditional Roman calendar, I’ll share something I wrote for the UK’s best Catholic weekly… also, I’m traveling today, back to Rome after a nice rest at Lake Garda.
As I tap on my awkwardly propped laptop in a van bouncing on Roman streets, my mind turns to Archangel Raphael. I invoked him in the prayer called the Itinerarium, raised before a journey. Our pilgrimage group is heading north. Raphael is a protector of travelers, as we know from the book of Tobit. In the National Gallery in London there is a lovely painting by Verrocchio of Tobit (Tobias) and his fish, a jaunty Raphael, and, of course, a bit with a dog. In the traditional calendar of the Roman Church we celebrate the Feasts of the Archangels Michael, Gabriel and Raphael individually. Monday 24 October is the Feast of St Raphael.
Stepping out your door is a mysterious event. Ancient Romans had liminal deities (Latin limen is a threshold), the most famous of which is Janus, the god with two faces, one old, one young. A ianua is a doorway and our month January looks both forward and backward. When we go forth from our houses and churches to be about our daily business, we cross thresholds of hope and plunge into the unknown. Given the perils and vicissitudes of our modern world, with so many allurements to distract and trip the soul, we do well to pray to our angel guardians as we get under way.
Speaking of getting underway, here are a couple of the prayers of the aforementioned Itinerarium, which I prayed moments before plunging out of Rome and onto the Autostrada.
O God, who didst call Thy servant Abraham out of Ur of the Chaldees, and didst keep him from evil through all the ways of his pilgrimage, we beseech Thee, that it may please Thee to keep us Thy servants. Be Thou unto us, O Lord, a help when we go forward, a comfort by the way, a shadow from the heat, a covering from the rain and the cold, a chariot in weariness, a refuge in trouble, a staff in slippery paths, a haven in shipwreck Do Thou lead us, that we may happily come thither where we would be, and thereafter come again safe unto our own home.
Graciously hear our supplications, O Lord, we beseech Thee, and order the goings of Thy servants in the safe path that leadeth unto salvation in Thee, that amidst all the manifold changes of this life’s pilgrimage, Thy shield may never cease from us.