Friday, May 31, 2013

Guiding Angel

One of the more attractive items in our gift shop is a St. Raphael prayer card designed by one of Flannery's first cousins, Frances Florencourt.  This prayer was so important to Flannery that she recited it every day for many years (The Habit of Being, p. 590).  Furthermore, as disclosed in a letter to Betty Hester in 1956 (see The Habit of Being p. 132), O'Connor even borrowed imagery from it and put it in her short story, "The Displaced Person" ("the business of Mrs. Shortley  looking on the frontiers of her true country.").  The allusion is apropos since all of us are, like Mrs. Shortley, travelers journeying to our "true country." According to Catholic belief, Raphael is the patron saint of travelers (in addition to medical workers and matchmakers).  In the biblical book of Tobit (considered canonical by Catholics), the archangel Raphael appears in human form as Azarias, the traveling companion of Tobit's blind son, Tobias.  During the course of their journey, Azarias's protective beneficence is revealed in many ways, including the binding of a demon in the Egyptian desert.  Upon reaching their destination and Tobias's miraculous healing, Azarias reveals himself as "the angel Raphael, one of the seven, who stand before the Lord." (Tobit 12:15)  Here, then, is the full text of this beautiful prayer to St. Raphael that meant so much to Flannery:
O Raphael, lead us toward those we are waiting for, those who are waiting for us: Raphael, Angel of happy meeting, lead us by the hand toward those we are looking for.  May all our movements be guided by your Light and transfigured by your joy.
Angel, guide of Tobias, lay the request we now address to you at the feet of Him on whose unveiled Face you are privileged to gaze.  Lonely and tired, crushed by the separations and sorrows of life, we feel the need of calling you and of pleading for the protection of your wings, so that we may not be as strangers in the province of joy, all ignorant of the concerns of our country.  Remember the weak, you who are strong, you whose home lies beyond the region of thunder, in a land that is always peaceful, always serene and bright with the resplendent glory of God.
- Mark

1 comment:

Christina said...

I love this prayer and am so grateful to Flannery O'Conner for introducing me to it. What a beautiful expression of hope, especially for those who suffer, like O'Conner herself. Thank you for posting this.