Fish Eaters: The Whys and Hows of Traditional Catholicism

``Where the Bishop is, there let the multitude of believers be;
even as where Jesus is, there is the Catholic Church'' Ignatius of Antioch, 1st c. A.D

Feast of St. Raphael

Though there are seven archangels altogether, St. Raphael, also known as Azarias, is one of the three Archangels named in Sacred Scripture; the other two are St. Michael (the warrior angel) and St. Gabriel (the messenger angel). St. Raphael is the healer angel; his very name in Hebrew means "God has healed."

We meet him first in the Book of Tobias -- a small book, consisting only of fourteen chapters. It tells the story of a man named Tobias who was a righteous soul, a man who followed God's laws and took special pains to bury the faithful dead. He and his wife, Anna, had a son whom they also named Tobias (he's sometimes referred to as "Tobit" -- and sometimes this order is reversed, with the father being called "Tobit" and the son "Tobias." The Bible, though, says that Tobias "took to wife Anna of his own tribe, and had a son by her, whom he called after his own name." The Douay refers to both as "Tobias").

As he lay sleeping one night, a bird defecated into his eyes, blinding him (this may have been a case of ocular histoplasmosis syndrome). Like Job, Tobias understood his suffering in light of eternity, and was mocked for his faith.

Tobias 2:12-18: 
Now this trial the Lord therefore permitted to happen to him, that an example might be given to posterity of his patience, as also of holy Job. For whereas he had always feared God from his infancy, and kept His commandments, he repined not against God because the evil of blindness had befallen him, But continued immoveable in the fear of God, giving thanks to God all the days of his life. For as the kings insulted over holy Job: so his relations and kinsmen mocked at his life, saying: Where is thy hope, for which thou gavest alms, and buriedst the dead?

But Tobias rebuked them, saying: Speak not so: For we are the children of the saints, and look for that life which God will give to those that never change their faith from Him. 

But because of the hardship he thinks he's bringing to his wife due to the dependency on her that his blindness has caused, he prays for death.

While all of that is going on, family in a faraway city called Rages is also enduring troubles. Sara, the daughter of a relative of Tobias, had been matched with seven different men, but they've all died on their wedding night, and she is suspected -- even by her own maid -- of having been the cause though, in reality, it was a demon who'd struck them.

So God has a plan to send St. Raphael to heal the both of them.

Meanwhile, Tobias I tells Tobias II to travel to Rages to collect some money owed to him, but to take someone with him. Tobias II goes out to find a traveling companion and meets St. Raphael who appears as a "a beautiful young man, standing girded, and as it were ready to walk." He asks the "man" if he'd go with him to Rages, and Raphael agrees. So the two start their journey, taking Tobias's little dog with them.

Along the way, Tobias II stops to wash his feet in a river and encounters a "monstrous fish." Raphael tells him to catch the fish and to keep its heart, liver, and gall so he can burn them and use them as medicines. He also tells Tobias II about Sara and advises him to marry her. Tobias had heard of her and the deaths of her husbands and is afraid, telling Raphael that he is the only child his parents have and that his dying would leave them alone in the world. Raphael reassures him that all would be well, and they continue on their journey.

When they finally arrive in Rages, they go to Sara and her family and are warmly greeted. Tobias II asks for Sara's hand, and her parents agree, though reluctantly because of what's happened in the past, and only after St. Raphael assured them that all would be well. They all feasted, and a wedding was had, but Tobias II said to his new wife "Sara, arise, and let us pray to God today, and tomorrow, and the next day: because for these three nights we are joined to God: and when the third night is over, we will be in our own wedlock. For we are the children of saints, and we must not be joined together like heathens that know not God."

So they waited three days to consummate their marriage, spending their first nights in prayer. Tobias prayed:

Lord God of our father, may the heavens and the earth, and the sea, and the fountains, and the rivers, and all thy creatures that are in them, bless Thee. Thou madest Adam of the slime of the earth, and gavest him Eve for a helper. And now, Lord, Thou knowest, that not for fleshly lust do I take my sister to wife, but only for the love of posterity, in which Thy name may be blessed for ever and ever.

Sara also said: Have mercy on us, O Lord, have mercy on us, and let us grow old both together in health.

Tobias also burned part of the fish liver as Raphael had instructed, at which point the angel "Raphael took the devil, and bound him in the desert of upper Egypt."

Tobias sent Raphael to collect the money owed to his father, and the the two made the journey back to Tobias's parents. Sacred Scripture takes the time to tell us this enchanting detail: "Then the dog, which had been with them in the way, ran before, and coming as if he had brought the news, shewed his joy by his fawning and wagging his tail." 

They had a joyous, emotional reunion, after which Tobias annointed his father's eyes with the fish gall as Raphael instructed. After about thirty minutes, "a white skin began to come out of his eyes, like the skin of an egg. And Tobias took hold of it, and drew it from his eyes, and immediately he recovered his sight."

Sara and her family arrive a bit later, bringing camels, cattle, and money with them. The Tobiases offered Raphael half of this wealth, but Raphael refused and finally revealed who he actually is. He tells them,

I am the angel Raphael, one of the seven, who stand before the Lord... Peace be to you, fear not. For when I was with you, I was there by the will of God: bless ye Him, and sing praises to Him. I seemed indeed to eat and to drink with you: but I use an invisible meat and drink, which cannot be seen by men. It is time therefore that I return to Him that sent me: but bless ye God, and publish all His wonderful works.

He was then "taken from their sight, and they could see him no more."

Thereafter, we hear no more of St. Raphael by name in Scripture. But he's identifed as the angel who brought about the cures of the holy waters mentioned in John 5:2-4 --

Now there is at Jerusalem a pond, called Probatica, which in Hebrew is named Bethsaida, having five porches. In these lay a great multitude of sick, of blind, of lame, of withered; waiting for the moving of the water. And 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.

-- and he's appeared to a few Saints over the years, one being St. John of God. From "Life of Saint John of God," by Eleanor Baillon which you can find in this site's Catholic Library:

On a certain dark, rainy night, as John was returning from his almsbegging, he heard a poor man calling to him for help. He at once hastened to the sufferer, who was a cripple. The Saint's face was lighted up with heavenly radiance, and the poor man knew then it was John of God. Notwithstanding that lie was already heavily laden, the Saint took him on his shoulders, but being overcome with the additional burden, he fell. Then there appeared a person of unspeakable beauty, who lifted the cripple again on John's shoulders. The stranger held out his hand to the Saint, and offered to assist him on his way, saying, "God has sent me to you, Brother John, to help you in your charitable act; know that He has commanded me to keep an account of all you do for love of Him."

"My help always comes from God," answered the Saint; "but tell me, brother, your name."

He was wonderstruck when he learnt that the stranger was the Archangel Raphael, to whom God had confided the care of his person.

A few days after this event, as John was distributing bread among the sick, he found there was not sufficient for all. Then there appeared the same angelic spirit, dressed exactly like the Saint, holding in his hand a basket of loaves. John instantly recognized the heavenly visitor, who, whispering to him, said, "Brother, we are members of the same order; for men wearing a coarse habit may yet be equal to the Angels. Take this bread, which comes from heaven, to feed your poor sick."

Saying this, the Archangel vanished.

St. Raphael is the patron of the sick, the blind, nurses, doctors, travelers, and sailors. He can be recognized in art by the presence of a fish, by his accompanying a young man and the little dog, or by his being grouped with SS. Michael and Gabriel and, possibly, the four other, Scripturally nameless archangels.


Some may prepare for this feast by praying the Novena to St. Raphael the Archangel beginning on October 15 and ending on October 23, the eve of St. Raphael's day. For the feast itself, the Litany to St. Raphael the Archangel and the Chaplet of St. Raphael are good choices.

It's also a good day to pray for the sick and for those who care for the sick. And if you work in the medical field, please consider what's been happening to the field of medicine (politicization, corruption, forgetting to "first do no harm," etc.) and reaffirm your Christian ethics. Two prayers to St. Raphael:

A General Plea for St. Raphael's Assistance

Vouchsafe, O Lord God, to send unto our assistance St. Raphael the Archangel: and may he, who, we believe, evermore standeth before the throne of Thy Majesty, offer unto Thee our humble petitions to be blessed by Thee. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

A Prayer to St. Raphael the Archangel for Healing

O Glorious Archangel St. Raphael, great Prince of the Heavenly Court, illustrious for thy gifts of wisdom and grace, guide of those who journey by land or sea, consoler of the afflicted and refuge of sinners: assist me in all my needs and in all the suffering of this life, I beseech thee, as once thou didst help the young Tobias in his travels. And because thou art “the medicine of God”, I humbly pray thee to heal me of the many infirmities of my soul and of the ills which afflict my body if this be for my greater good. I especially ask of thee an angelic purity, which may fit me to be the temple of the Holy Ghost. Amen.

(Note: for lots of other helps for the sick, see the Sick Calls page)

As to music for the day, it's hard to imagine anything that can top this beautiful piece written by Johannes Brahms: Sankt Raphael, W. 34 No. 7. You can download the vocal sheet music -- for four voices -- in pdf format: Sankt Raphael :

Tröst die Bedrängten
und hilf den Kranken,
Sankt Raphael.
Tröst die Bedrängten
und hilf den Kranken,
Sankt Raphael.

Bresten und Schaden
uns überladen,
o hilf, o hilf, Sankt Raphael.

Wann wir uns legen,
tu unser pflegen,
Sankt Raphael.

Wann wir uns legen,
tu unser pflegen,
Sankt Raphael.

Unsere Schmerzen
nehme zu Herzen,
o hilf, o hilf, Sankt Raphael.

Hin zum Verderben,
lass niemand sterben,
Sankt Raphael.
Hin zum Verderben,
lass niemand sterben,
Sankt Raphael.
Beichten und büßen,
alle wir müssen,
o hilf, o hilf, Sankt Raphael.
Comfort the afflicted
and help the sick,
Saint Raphael.
Comfort the afflicted
and help the sick,
Saint Raphael.
Infirmities and injuries
overwhelm us,
help us, oh help us, Saint Raphael.

When we lie down,
watch over us,
Saint Raphael.
When we lie down,
watch over us,
Saint Raphael.
Our pains
take to heart,
help us, oh help us, Saint Raphael.

As we move toward perishing,
let no one be killed,
Saint Raphael.
As we move toward perishing,
let no one be killed,
Saint Raphael.
Confessing and atoning,
we all must come,
help us, oh help us, Saint Raphael.

And as to foods, fish is a natural. One recipe which would be good served with roasted vegetables (carrots, new potatoes, cherry tomatoes, and onions tossed in olive oil, sprinkled with salt and pepper, and baked for about 30 minutes at 400o 'til tender), and a salad:

Baked Cod with Lemon and Garlic

1 1/2 lb Cod fillet pieces, 4-6 pieces, patted dry*

For dipping and baking:
5 TBSP fresh lemon juice
5 TBSP extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoon melted butter
5 garlic cloves, minced

For dredging:
1/3 cup panko bread crumbs (or use flour)
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon sweet paprika
1 teaspoon ground cumin
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper

2 TBSP olive oil for frying
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley leaves

Preheat oven to 400oF. Mix together the lemon juice, olive oil, and melted butter in a shallow bowl.

In another shallow bowl, mix the panko, spices, salt and pepper.

Dip the fish in the lemon sauce then dip it in the panko mixture, shaking off any excess.

Heat 2 tablespoon olive oil in a cast iron skillet or other oven-safe pan over medium-high heat (watch the oil to be sure it is hot but not smoking). Add the fish and sear on each side just to give it some color (about 2 minutes on each side). Remove the skillet from heat.

To the remaining lemon sauce, add the minced garlic and mix. Drizzle over the fish, then put the skillet in the oven and bake until the fish flakes easily with a fork (about 8 to 10 minutes). Remove from the heat and sprinkle chopped parsley on top.

* If you use frozen fish, keep it in its packaging and place in a bowl of cold water for about 30 minutes until it's thawed.

For basic background information on the angels, see The Praeternatural World pages of this site.

Note that October 24 is day one of novenas prayed in honor of the Holy Souls in preparation for All Souls Day (the "Day of the Dead:) on November 2.

By Father John Hardon

We shall concentrate on this meditation on one book of the Old Testament, the book of Tobias, also called the Book of Tobit. Unfortunately as we know, this book is missing in both the Jewish and the Protestant Old Testaments. Jews, after Christianity was established, dropped this book because it was not originally written in Hebrew. And the Protestants dropped the same book saying, “Who better than the Jews know what belongs in the Old Testament.” It is however, one of the inspired writings of the Catholic Church.*

We will take this meditation in steps, first to see and say something about the history of Tobit, who was identified as the father, and Tobias identified as the son. Then a reflection on one chapter of this inspired book in which the Archangel Raphael speaks at length. The longest recorded speech of an angel is in this chapter twelve in the book of Tobias. Then we will make some applications for our own spiritual life drawing on both the experience of Tobias and his family, and especially on what the archangel told Tobias and through him is telling all of us.

First then the book of Tobias itself. This book first of all, describes the Jewish people who were taken over by the Ninivites. And among the Jewish people, enslaved by this pagan nation, was Tobias. A captive, we might call him, but a very generous man who practiced extraordinary charity. In his old age he became blind. He sent his son, Tobias, on a long journey to retrieve a long, unpaid debt. Then Tobias’ companion on this journey was what seemed to be, spoke like, and was thought to be a man. But who was the archangel Raphael in human form. He was the companion of Tobias.

Raphael rescued the family, especially Sarah, from the powers of the devil. Raphael helped to recover the long, unpaid debt. Raphael prescribed just what should be done for Tobit’s blindness and he was healed. Before this book closes we have a wonderful and I repeat, unduplicated talk call it speech or inspired declaration by the angel. All this while, Tobias, Tobit and the family, thought he was a man. They had planned to reward this very kind human being, by giving him one half of all their possessions. But this archangel, in disguise, said Thank You, and just before the end of the chapter, this generous companion and great helper of the family identified himself as an angel of the Lord. He gives one more short statement to the family and then leaves.

I am calling it the speech of Raphael. It is the most extensive, most detailed, and for us the most practical declaration of an angel of God in the whole of the Bible.

Father and son, Tobias, and Tobit, had just finished offering their generous companion one half of all their possession. Then the angel, appearing to them as a man says to them secretly. Remember Raphael has not identified himself as an angel. He tells Tobias, Tobit, and the family:

Bless the God in Heaven. Give glory to Him in the sight of all the world because He has shown his mercy to you. For it is good to hide the secret of a king but it is honorable to reveal and proclaim the works of God. There is good in fasting, alms more than to lay up treasures of gold. For I delivered one from death and the same is that which absolves from sins. Alms provided for finding mercy and the life-everlasting. Those that commit sin and iniquity are enemies are of their own souls. I reveal the truth to you. I will not hide the secret from you. When you pray with tears, and you bury the dead, when you left your meal and without to pick up the dead and keep them in your house during the day and bury them at night, you offer your prayer to the Lord. Because you were acceptable to God it was is necessary that temptation should prove you. Now the Lord sent me to heal you. I delivered Sarah, your son’s wife from the devil. For I am the angel Raphael. One of the seven who stand before God.

The moment Raphael identifies himself as the angel of God, Tobit and Tobias fell to the ground in dreadful fear, realizing the one speaking to them was an angel of the Lord. Raphael then went on: “Peace be to you. Do not fear for when I was with you I was there by the will of God. Bless Him and sing praises to Him. I seemed to eat and drink with you, but it was an invisible meat and drink. It is time that I return to Him who sent me. But bless God and published all His wondrous deeds.” Having said this Raphael disappeared. I repeat this is the longest prologue, detail of any angels found in Sacred Scripture.

Needless to say it was given to Tobit and Tobias who are two men to us. What then are some of the implications of the message of Raphael in our own lives of meditation and devotion?

First, Raphael tells us that God sends His angels to help us in our needs. This is the teaching of the Church and the deeper and more grave our needs, the more sure we can be that God is providing us with angelic assistance. In other words, the more serious the need the more sure we can be that an angel is there to help us. This is not angelic poetry, this is our faith. Raphael tells us Tobit and his son and is telling us “Bless God.”

What does “Bless God” mean? To bless God means to speak to God, and as we have seen we begin to pray when we first think of God. We are told that we are to share God, show Him our appreciation of what He has done for us. Talk to God and tell Him how much you need Him and love Him. The more you pray to Him, the more you reap. That is why Raphael replies, “That is why God sends us trials.” We all have grace to remind us to pray to God and to speak to God. In another word to pray.

What is he telling us? What Raphael told father and son and is telling us in this language. To publicize what God has done for us. As we have seen before the retreat is over, more than once, the angels will help those who they hear the lines to use. Make known what God has done for you. Proclaim God’s goodness to all. Do not keep God’s gifts to you in secret. Share, communicate what God has given to you.

We continue. Raphael insists on prayer as an imperative “Pray, pray, pray.” Talk to God, talk with God. It is all part of our faith—God is always speaking to us. He wants us to engage Him in conversation in prayer. Raphael at length, praises the father for His great charity telling us therefore to practice charity.

Practice charity, see the needs of others before they can tell you what they need. The deepest needs of people, they do not expect. Charity begins in the mind. When the mind sees someone in need the heart goes out to that one in need. Finding the need and filling it. Whatever verb we use, help others, assist others, give to others. The deepest need anyone has is our love for them.

No matter what we can give them materially, what the human heart most wants is love. Raphael goes on, how this needs to be underlined and memorized.

Says Raphael: “God tries those who love Him.” What a statement. This is God’s way of enabling us to grow in our love for Him. Love is in the will. The main reason we have a free will is to love God. But how this needs to be understood, the more demanding, the more difficult, the more reluctant we are to do something, and yet we do it, the more our will is used to do what our conscience tells us is the will of God.

Thank God for the trials in your lives. Express your gratitude for the hardships and trials He gives us. Quoting the archangel Raphael, God sometimes enables us who love Him to love Him more through trials. How we need to hear this. God’s graces can be pleasant and enjoyable, but the graces can also be difficult and painful. Never deceive yourself that what is pleasing to us is displeasing to God. Raphael talked to Tobias’ son and is teaching us this.

Finally, Raphael told father and son to be at peace. As we have seen on Christmas morning, again not just one angel, but a host of angels tell us “Peace on earth to men of Good will”. Whatever else we should learn but from not only Raphael, but from God speaking through His angels, is that we should not just be at peace but cultivate peace in our minds and in our hearts. What is peace of mind? Peace of mind is the experience of knowing the truth. Behind that statement stands years of experience. One allegedly developed country after another has tried everything that this world can offer, but are not at peace. Why not? Because we are only as much at peace in our minds as our minds possess the truth. That is why when God became man, He identified Himself as, “I am the truth.”

What is the truth? Truth is our minds corresponding with reality. Yet, millions are living in a dream world of unreality. They do not posses the truth, and the truth, I repeat, is the agreement of the mind with reality. I keep telling one audience after another, statisticians tells us that ninety percent of reading American read is fiction. How we need to guard our minds from reading bewitched by the untruth.

How do we acquire the truth? We acquire it, of course, from God’s revelation. But it is one thing to say posses the truth-such as there are three persons in one God, or I know that God became man in the person of Jesus Christ, and that Jesus Christ, the living God-man is present here on earth in the Holy Eucharist. But if we are to grow in this peace of mind, we are to grow in our understanding of the truth that God has revealed.

That is the main purpose of meditation. By prayerfully reflecting on God’s revealed truth we grow in our grasp and understanding of what God has revealed. And our minds grow in this blessed gift of peace of mind. But, as Raphael told father and son and is telling us, we are to have also peace of heart. A synonym for peace of heart is peace of will.

What is peace of heart? Peace of heart is the experience of doing God’s will. And that is the only true source and foundation of joy in this valley of tears. We shall have peace of heart only in the measure that we are doing God’s will. Ah, what an examination of conscience we must all make. How faithful to God’s will am I? How ready am I to accept the cross He sends me? How willing am I to share with others what God has so generously given me? How much attention do I give to prayer in my life? So the litany goes on. Peace of heart is the experience of doing the will of God, and that experience is the happiness of spirit. Know God’s will with the mind and doing it with the will.

As Christ later on will tell us, we are to be peace makers. We shall bring peace to others only if we are at peace ourselves. We will bring peace to others by sharing with them the truth which we believe. We shall bring peace to others only in the degree that we ourselves are generous, loyal and doing the will of God. All of this and far more is locked up in the most detailed and deepest revelation of an angel sent by God to teach us how we are to live our lives here on earth in anticipation of joining the choirs of angels in a heavenly eternity.

Lord of the angels, we thank you for providing for our needs by sending your angels to help us. Your angel Raphael’s name means “God heals,” send us your angels to heal us from such bodily infirmity as you wish us to have removed. But, dear Lord, heal us especially in our spirit from the sickness of soul so that healthy in mind and body we may bless you, the Lord of the angels, and that we may grow in our love for you, healed by you through your angels here on earth and that we may reach you and join you for all eternity.

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