The young man went out and the angel went with him; and the dog came out with him and went along with them.
A Prayer to St Raphael, Angel of Happy Meetings
O Raphael, lead us towards those we are waiting for, those who are waiting for us! Raphael, Angel of Happy Meetings, lead us by the hand towards those we are looking for! May all our movements, all their 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 earth, we feel the need of calling to 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.
“A Prayer to St Raphael, Angel of Happy Meetings” is said to have been a favourite prayer of both Dorothy Day and Flannery O’Connor (who exchanged some letters but never met in person). The Book of Tobit, to which this prayer refers, though included in the Catholic and Orthodox versions of The Bible, did not make it into the Protestant canon—but it is charming nonetheless (and may be found in the King James Version’s Apocrypha). It concerns a young man named Tobias who sets out on what proves to be a very eventful journey, with an angel and a dog as his companions. He doesn’t know that his apparently human companion is the Angel Raphael, and nobody knows whether the dog is his own, a stray, another disguised angel, or a symbol of some kind. The quiet, faithful dog reminds me of the random, cryptically theological stray dogs of Michael Leunig: “When the heart/ Is cut or cracked or broken…/ Let a stray dog lick it…”
May all our movements, all their movements… How dizzying, how wondrous, is the chain of causation! How do we fathom the complexity of the separate stories that lead, somehow, to that intersection of parallel lines which is a meeting between two people?
Crushed by the separations and sorrows of earth… And how do we heal from the grief of estrangement?
Let us give thanks for the happy meetings in our own lives—our first, apparently chance encounters with friends and guides and mentors, with artistic or literary or musical or vocational collaborators, with husbands or wives or partners—without which our lives would be unimaginably poorer. And let us give thanks for those who introduced us!
Let us pray for healing from those meetings we regard as unhappy, either for us, or for the one we met, or for both—and let us pray that some good might nonetheless come out of them.
Let us look forward to the happy meetings—and meetings-again or reconciliations—yet to come!
And in our goings out and our comings in, may we always be accompanied by an angel… and blessed by a friendly dog!