Tomorrow is the feast of the Archangels Michael, Gabriel and Raphael. They are the only angels mentioned by name in the Bible.

Although Scripture refers to Michael alone as an archangel, both Christian and Jewish tradition honor all three as archangels. The term archangel is used only twice in Scripture: Michael is called an archangel in the Letter of Jude and an unnamed archangel is mentioned in First Thessalonians. The non-canonical books of Enoch list other angels.

In the early Old Testament, an angel meant an earthly representation of God's presence, as when Moses encountered God in Exodus. After the exile, the Bible refers to angels as distinct beings, even giving three of them names: Gabriel meaning "power of God," Raphael meaning "God has healed" and Michael meaning, "who is like God."

Angels pervade Scripture. They are mentioned more than 100 times in the Old Testament and nearly twice as often in the New Testament, most of these in the Book of Revelation. The gospels refer to angels 50 times, and Christ himself speaks of angels more than a dozen times.

Theologians say the essence of an angel is being "a messenger from God," as was the angel at the annunciations to Zacharia to Mary and to Joseph.

Drawing on Scripture and early Christian writings, St. Thomas Aquinas proposed a hierarchy of angels in nine choirs: seraphim, cherubim, thrones, dominions, virtues, powers, principalities, archangels and angels. Many Christian traditions believe each of us has a divinely appointed angel watching over us as our guardian angel. The Greek Orthodox and Roman Catholic churches even celebrate a liturgical feast of guardian angels.

A 2007 Gallup poll reported three out of four Americans believe in angels, and more than half believe they have a guardian angel. The existence of angels is affirmed not only by Christianity and Judaism but also Islam, many Eastern religions and even New Agers. In his book, "Angels," Billy Graham wrote there are many good reasons for believing in angels and no good reason for denying their existence. To deny angels is to deny God has messengers.

What might mislead some people about angels are the images that have been created to convey the properties of angels such as wings, halos and flowing white robes. We do not know what angels look like, because they have no material body and therefore cannot resemble anything we have experienced. Some people who do not believe in angels do believe there are extraterrestrial beings who have powers beyond ours, can move with instant speed and can interact with us. What they have thrown out the front door they have let in the back door.

The once popular television series, "Touched by an Angel," might have lacked some theological fine points, but it did convey the Christian belief that God sends angels, often in disguise, to do his good work here on earth.

Be an angel.

Father Earl Meyer is from the Capuchin Center for Spiritual Life, Victoria.