Weninger’s Lives of the Saints – The Three Companions of the Holy Prophet Daniel, Ananias, Azarias and Misael

painting of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego by Simeon Solomon, 1863Article

The Roman Martyrology speaks today of the three companions of the holy prophet Daniel, and as Holy Writ relates the wonderful events of their lives it is but right that we also should remember them on this day. Nabuchodonosor, the idolatrous king of Babylon, besieged Jerusalem at the time when Joakim, king of Judaea, reigned there. The Almighty, angry because of the iniquity of the people, permitted the king of Babylon to take the city, to make Joakim and many others prisoners, and to carry them away into Chaldaea. As many of the prisoners were of royal and princely blood, the king wished to have them wait upon him. Asphenez, the Lord Chamberlain, was ordered to select some of them, who were well-formed and instruct them in the Chaldean language and other knowledge. These were to be fed for three years from the royal table; arid then to serve the king. Asphenez chose, from among the prisoners, Daniel and three others, named Ananias, Azarias and Misael; but he changed their names, calling Daniel, Baltassar; Ananias, Sidrach; Misael, Misach; and Azarias, Abednago. When they heard that they were to be fed from the royal table, and hence, that such food would be given them as the divine law forbade them to touch, they entreated the Chamberlain to excuse them on account of this reason. The Chamberlain replied: “I fear my Lord the King, who has appointed you meat and drink; for if he should see your faces leaner than those of the other youths, who eat of the appointed food, you shall endanger my head to the King.” Daniel said: “Try, I beseech thee, thy servants for ten days, and let vegetables be given us to eat and water to drink. And look upon our faces and the faces of those who eat of the king’s meat, and as you shalt see, so deal with thy servants.” Daniel spoke thus, knowing that the fulfillment of the divine laws would not be detrimental to their well-being, as health and beauty do not come from the food only, but are principally a gift from God. The issue showed how rightly Daniel had judged; for, after the expiration of ten days, it was manifest that both he and his three companions had increased more in strength and beauty than all the children who were fed from the royal table. Praising the Almighty, they continued to avoid the forbidden food that had been appointed to them.

At last, when the time arrived at which, all those chosen for the service of the king should be presented to him, Daniel and his companions were preferred before all the others. The king, on speaking to them, found that they outshone all others in learning, and was greatly pleased with them, and kept them near his person. Soon after, it happened that Daniel interpreted a dream of the king so wisely, that he was made Governor overall the provinces of Babylon and chief over all the wise men. On this occasion, Daniel requested the king to promote his three companions also, which accordingly was done. Some time later, the king, inflated by pride, desired to be honored like a god, and erected a great golden statue representing himself. All magistrates, judges and rulers were to appear on a day appointed, and they were commanded, at a given signal, to fall down and worship this statue. To this command was added the menace that those who refused to obey, should be cast into a burning furnace. All prostrated themselves and worshiped the statue, except the three noble companions of Daniel, who would .not obey, but stood boldly upright, while all others were bending their knees. The king was immediately informed of this, and, full of wrath, he ordered the three youths into his presence and asked them: “Is it true that you do not worship my gods, nor adore the golden statue that I have set up? Now I command you, that at whatever hour you hear the sound of the trumpet and other musical instruments, you prostrate yourselves and adore the statue that I have made. But if you do not adore it, in the same hour, you shall be cast into the fiery furnace. And who is the God that shall deliver you out of my hands?” To this blasphemous speech, the three youths answered fearlessly: “We need not answer you concerning this matter. For behold, the God whom we worship is able to save us from the fiery furnace and to deliver us out of thy hands, O king! But if he will not, be it known to thee, O king, that we will not worship thy gods nor adore the golden statue which you hast set up.” This fearless answer aroused still more the king’s wrath, and he commanded that the furnace should be heated seven times more than it had been heated, and that without delay the three youths should be cast into it. The command was immediately obeyed; but the flames seized the men who cast the pious youths into the furnace, and destroyed them immediately, while the three youths themselves remained unharmed. An angel of the Lord appeared and drove the flames out of the furnace; and creating a soft breath, he protected them from the fire in such a manner that they were not even touched by it. The three heroes, seeing themselves so wonderfully protected by the Almighty, began loudly to praise the Lord. They invited not only all the Angels of heaven, but also all other creatures to praise the Lord. This magnificent hymn of praise is to be found in Holy Writ, and is daily recited in the breviary of the holy Church. Nabuchodonosor was greatly astonished at this miracle, especially as he perceived that the youths, who had been cast bound into the furnace, walked through it, free and unfettered; and that they were accompanied by a fourth person, who, according to his own words, looked like an angel. Hence he went to the door of the furnace, and said: “Sidrach, Misach and Abdenago, ye servants of the Most High God, come forth!” They came, and princes and judges, and all that surrounded the king, regarded them one after another attentively and saw with astonishment that the flames had not touched their bodies, nor even singed a hair upon their heads, nor left the smell of fire upon them. Then the king, no longer able to contain himself, broke forth into praising the Lord in the following words: “Blessed be the God of all Gods, the God of Sidrach, Misach and Abdenago, who sent his angel and has delivered his servants who believed in him!” Not satisfied with this confession and praise of the true God, the king commanded that nobody in his kingdom should in future blaspheme the God of these three youths; “for,” said he, “there is no other God who can save in this manner!” He showed more favor than before to these three fearless confessors of the Lord and promoted them to higher offices.

Holy Writ testifies to this great miracle. Saint Chrysostom finds not words enough to praise the unconquerable heroism of these youths, but teaches at the same time, that Christians should follow their example, and not allow respect of persons or fear of temporal evil to keep them from obeying the divine commandments, or make them transgress the laws of God.

Practical Considerations

This whole history is a grand instruction to observe firmly the divine laws and never to abandon them. Consider, however, especially the two following points.

• The three youths and their holy instructor, the prophet Daniel, do not allow themselves to be persuaded to partake of the meats of the royal table; for, this was forbidden by the law of the Lord. When the royal officer feared that worse nourishment would make them sick or weak, they requested him to allow them to try it for ten days; and at the end of this time, they looked fairer and more healthy than those who had eaten from the royal table; which clearly shows that health and a fair form are not the result of food, but are given by God. There are people who make a pretext of their weakness to be excused from fasting or abstaining according to the laws of the Church. They fear that it will be detrimental to their health. Hence they dispense themselves, or ask a dispensation from the ecclesiastical authorities. They ought not to believe their self-love so easily, but first make a trial to ascertain if it really is as they say. For, it is well known that with most of them it is pure imagination, and not a well-grounded fear. Hence, if they dispense themselves, or ask from the ecclesiastical authority a dispensation and make use of it, they will not be able to give an account of it to the Lord who sees into the heart, and who judges not by human imaginings, but according to the truth. Neither the testimony of the physician, who judges by what they say, nor the dispensation of the ecclesiastical authorities can protect them. To such people we can rightly say what Albert the Great said to a certain Canon, who excused his possessing several ecclesiastical prebends, by a papal dispensation, “Before,” said he, “you would have gone to hell without the dispensation; but now, you will go to hell with it.”

• The three companions of the holy Prophet Daniel said to the king who blasphemed the true God and His power: “Our God, whom we worship, is able to save us out of thy hands, O King! But if He will not, be it known to thee, O King, that we will not worship thy gods:” words that should cheer you and give you strength in adversity and sorrow. The Evil one may perhaps whisper to you: “Behold, your prayers are not regarded by God. God has forgotten you. He will not come to your aid.” Or perhaps Satan may advise you to make use of superstitious means in your sickness. Under such circumstances, take courage, and say confidently: “The God whom I worship, and on whom I can call, can save me; can help me; can cure my sickness. Should He, for reasons known to Him alone, not hear my prayer, yet will I not leave Him, nor murmur against His decrees. I will not use superstitious means, nor in any other manner offend Him, but will bear patiently all that He sends.” Such trust in the Almighty and such true love of Him, will move Him to assist you much sooner than if you leave off praying, or murmur, or in any other way sin against Him. You have an example in the three heroes whom God, to increase their glory, shielded in the midst of the flames and rescued from the fire of the furnace. “He comes to help those who put their trust in him,” says the holy Prophet Daniel. (Daniel 13) And the Psalmist sings: “Mercy will surround him” – protect him on all sides – “who trusts in the Lord.” (Psalm 31)

MLA Citation

  • Father Francis Xavier Weninger, DD, SJ. “The Three Companions of the Holy Prophet Daniel, Ananias, Azarias and Misael”. Lives of the Saints, 1876. CatholicSaints.Info. 3 June 2018. Web. 24 September 2018. <>