A patron saint for broadcasters

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 messenger.

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 thee."

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 Nazareth.

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 (Doubleday, 2006).

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2012