Why Do We Call the Archangels Saints?

Dear Catholic Exchange,

My son, Daniel (almost 9), would like to know why the archangels (St. Michael, St. Raphael, St. Gabriel) are called “saints.” We thought only people could become saints. Thank you for your help!

Tracy Spenst

Dear Tracy,

The word “saint” derives from the Latin word “sancta,” meaning “holy” one. Thus, by definition all of God’s holy angels are saints. Not all angels are holy, however, as some angels chose to follow Satan instead of God. These bad angels, called demons, seek our ruin and give us cause to ask for the help of God’s angels in spiritual battle.

While all of the heavenly angels are holy, only three have been called “saint”: Michael, Gabriel, and Raphael. The early Church venerated these angels, i.e., gave them honor, invoked their names, and asked for their intercession. One sign of veneration is the dedication of a church to their care. Another sign is their inclusion in formal prayer. Churches in the East were dedicated to St. Michael as early as the Fourth Century, and he was included in the Church’s liturgy prior to the Ninth Century. St. Gabriel is depicted with a halo in a Fifth-century mosaic of the Annunciation, and he is included in a Seventh-century litany. St. Raphael was venerated later than the other two — a Seventh-century church is dedicated to him. He was not included in the liturgy until the Seventeenth Century. No other angels have been named as saints.

Over time and in practice the three have become recognized as “saints.” They were never formally canonized, and wouldn't have been in need of such, given their status as angelic persons. In modern times Popes have established feasts and recognized their particular patronages. For example, St. Gabriel was declared in 1921 as patron saint of telecommunications.

In addition holy men and women were declared saints without a formal canonization process. They were popularly venerated as saints and the local bishop would grant them honor in his See (diocese). Only when the Bishop of Rome accepted the veneration of the saint did the veneration become universal. It wasn’t until the Seventeenth Century that Pope Urban VIII reserved the formal processes of beatification and canonization to the Holy See.

If you have further questions on this or would like more information about Catholics United for the Faith, please contact us at 1-800-MY-FAITH (693-2484). Please keep us in your prayers as we endeavor to “support, defend, and advance the efforts of the teaching Church.”
United in the Faith,

Thomas J. Nash
Senior Information Specialist
Catholics United for the Faith
827 North Fourth Street
Steubenville, OH 43952
800-MY-FAITH (800-693-2484)

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  • Guest

    This post answers a question I’ve long had but never asked. Thank you, and keep up the good work.

  • Guest

    Do you realize how tough a job it is to be any heavenly holy angel?

    The most demanding and exacting Boss of all – eternal as well as infinite, perfect as well as all-everything – has their every ‘moment’ at His commnd. He calls His holy angels ‘saints’ in partial recompense. He also lets them be guardian angels, messengers, etc., to have some grace and charm among His children. Of us and for us, they are also saints in their love for us.

    I remain your obedient servant, but God’s first,

    Pristinus Sapienter

    (wljewell @mail.catholicexchange.com or …yahoo.com)

  • Viperelite

    aint saints and angels just like magic men of there time? There are so many things in this life that carnt be explained but we dont live our life by them?