This article was contributed by James Boss, Religion & Social Studies Teacher at St. John the Evangelist Catholic School in Panama City, FL.
As September 29th approaches it is a great privilege to teach kids about the three great archangels whose feast day we will celebrate. These three great champions of God are mentioned explicitly in Scripture and have a long history in Sacred Tradition. Here are some things you may want to consider in order to get across the important part that St. Michael, St. Gabriel, and St. Raphael have played and continue to play in God’s great plan for us.
- Break out the Scripture! These archangels are mentioned more than once in Scripture. Michael is in the Book of Daniel and the Book of Revelation. Look at his story as Captain of the Heavenly hosts—his very name is a war cry against the adversaries of God. Students need to understand that St. Michael was faithful to God and cast out Lucifer. He is a great defender of the People of God and a strong enemy of the devil. Kids may need to get past cartoon ideas about angels and this will help. You also need to make the presentation solidly Catholic and avoid misconceptions of the “New Age” view of Angels. Angels are great celestial beings endowed by God with enormous power and dignity. If you can show them from the Bible the important role they played it will go a long way in setting the foundation for love and devotion to these great angels. In St. Raphael’s case you may read excerpts from the Book of Tobit or show them where it is and give a synopsis of the story. Emphasize the solicitous care of St. Raphael toward young Tobias and how he helps in so many areas: physically, financially, in marriage, etc. His care and power are a reflection of God’s love and care for us. In the Gospel of Luke we see that St. Gabriel is the Angel of the Annunciation. He is the one chosen by God to bring the message and plan to the Blessed Virgin Mary. What an important mission! You can also point this out when you teach the Rosary—in October—and begin the first Joyful Mystery. Scripture is a good place to start in demonstrating to kids the reality and importance of these angels.
- Discuss the meaning of the names of the archangels. Kids will be fascinated to know that the names all mean something. (Michael means “Who is like God?”, Gabriel means “Power of God”, and Raphael means “Health or Healing of God”.) Have the students note how their names are linked to their mission and how we can ask the archangels for help in fulfilling our mission as children of God.
- Look at various saints or blesseds who had great devotion to these archangels. St. Joan of Arc listened to St. Michael and the voices of other saints in her effort to save France. St. Padre Pio was very devoted to St. Michael and encouraged others to visit the nearby shrine of St. Michael. Venerable Fulton Sheen was known to pray often to St. Raphael and ask for his help in all of his travels. Many other saints and popes have had marked devotion to these archangels and by bringing this out you make that a realistic possibility for your kids.
- Spend a week starting your classes with a prayer to the archangels! This will both honor the archangels and show the reality of these great heavenly helpers to your kids. When you model the prayer by saying it or leading it with your students it shows them that we pray to and ask for the intercession of the archangels. You might also ask for volunteers and have the kids lead the prayer.
- Give the kids a holy card or prayer card of one of the archangels. This is a hands-on way to stimulate interest and devotion. Kids can say the prayer in class, use them for bookmarks, and maybe even show them to their parents—which would be great! J
- If your students are more advanced you may want to show them the Chaplet of St. Michael, the Litany of St. Michael, or other prayers to these great archangels. The chaplet honors all of the choirs of angels—as spelled out by St. Thomas Aquinas—and asks for St. Michael’s protection and help.
Hopefully, this will help a little and be some food for thought as we anticipate the Feast of St. Michael, St. Gabriel, and St. Raphael. May their presence and prayers assist us as we try to teach children about their wonderful part in the plan of God. May we continue to teach this rich aspect of Catholic Tradition and Scripture for many years to come!