The Bible mentions only three archangels by name - St.
Michael, the warrior who drove Lucifer and the rebel angels
out of heaven and down into hell; St. Raphael, the guide and
guardian of Tobias; and St. Gabriel, God's favorite
St. Luke's Gospel opens with Gabriel appearing suddenly to
Zachary, Elizabeth's elderly husband, with the news that he
and his wife at long last were about to have a child. But St.
Gabriel is most famous as the angel of the Annunciation, who
told the Blessed Virgin Mary that God had chosen her to the
Mother of Christ. His greeting to Mary has become the opening
line of the most popular and best-known prayer in the
Catholic world, "Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with
Gabriel had come from God with a sublime message: The
promises of the Lord were about to be fulfilled, the long of
centuries of waiting for the Messiah were over, God was
sending His Son into the world as the Child of Mary. It is
said that after Gabriel delivered his message, all of heaven
and earth held its breath to hear how Mary would respond. She
said, "Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be to me
according to your word." (Lk 1:38)
Gabriel's news is always momentous and often startling. In
addition to telling Mary that she will be the mother of the
Messiah, he also revealed that her cousin Elizabeth, who had
never been able to have children and now was long past the
age for childbearing, was pregnant. Elizabeth's son would be
St. John the Baptist.
St. Matthew's Gospel doesn't give the angel's name, but
tradition always has assumed that it was Gabriel who told St.
Joseph to marry Mary, announced the birth of Jesus to the
shepherds of Bethlehem, warned the Magi not to return to King
Herod but to go home by a different route, commanded Joseph
to take Mary and the Christ Child to safety in Egypt, and
returned a couple years later with the news that Herod was
dead and it was safe for the Holy Family to come home to
Twice Gabriel the Archangel came down from heaven with happy
news - that a baby was in the way. At the very beginning of
St. Luke's gospel Gabriel appears to the priest Zachary to
tell him that he and his elderly wife Elizabeth, who had
despaired of ever having a child, will give birth to a
son-the future St. John the Baptist (Lk 1:8-17).
Over the centuries students of the Bible have identified
other messenger angels as Gabriel. On the night before His
crucifixion, when Jesus was in an agony of dread in the
Garden of Gethsemane, it is believed that Gabriel was the
angel sent from heaven to comfort him (Lk 22:43). Gabriel is
also identified as the angel who sat beside Christ's empty
tomb on that first Easter Sunday and told the holy women,
"Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here,
but has risen" (Lk 24:1-5).
Finally, at the end of time, it is Gabriel who will deliver
his final message, summoning all the living and all the dead
to appear before God for judgment (1 Thes 4:15).
As the messenger archangel, St. Gabriel is the patron saint
of broadcasters, postal workers, messengers and everyone in
the communications industry.
Craughwell is the author of This Saint Will Change
Your Life (Quirk, 2011) and Saints Behaving Badly