As I tap on my awkwardly propped laptop in a van bouncing on Roman streets, my mind turns to Archangel Raphael. I invoked him in the prayer called the Itinerarium, raised before a journey. Our pilgrimage group is heading north.
Raphael is a protector of travellers, as we know from the Book of Tobit. In the National Gallery there is a lovely painting by Verrocchio of Tobit (Tobias) and his fish, a jaunty Raphael, and, of course, a bit with a dog.
In the traditional calendar of the Roman Church we celebrate the feasts of the archangels Michael, Gabriel and Raphael individually. Monday, October 24, is the feast of St Raphael.
Stepping out of your door is a mysterious event. Ancient Romans had liminal deities (the Latin word limen means a threshold), the most famous of which is Janus, the god with two faces, one old, one young. An ianua is a doorway and our month January looks both forward and backward.
When we go forth from our houses and churches to set about our daily business, we cross thresholds of hope and plunge into the unknown. Given the perils and vicissitudes of our modern world, with so many allurements to distract and trip the soul, we do well to pray to our angel guardians as we get under way.
Speaking of getting underway, here are a couple of prayers of the aforementioned Itinerarium, which I prayed moments before plunging out of Rome and onto the autostrada:
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