|Devotion to Our Lady||
St. Michael is one of the principal angels; his name was the war-cry of the good angels in the battle fought in heaven against the enemy and his followers. His name in Hebrew means “Who is like God?” Four times his name is recorded in Scripture:
(1) In the Book of Daniel 10:13 sqq., Gabriel says to Daniel, when he asks God to permit the Jews to return to Jerusalem: “The Angel [D.V. prince] of the kingdom of the Persians resisted me . . . and, behold Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me . . . and none is my helper in all these things, but Michael your prince.”
(2) Daniel chapter 12, sees the Angel speaking of the end of the world and the Antichrist says: “At that time shall Michael rise up, the great prince, who standeth for the children of thy people.”
(3) In the Catholic Epistle of St. Jude: “When Michael the Archangel, disputing with the devil, contended about the body of Moses”, etc. St. Jude alludes to an ancient Jewish tradition of a dispute between Michael and Satan over the body of Moses, an account of which is also found in the apocryphal book on the assumption of Moses (Origen, De Principiis III.2.2). St. Michael concealed the tomb of Moses; Satan, however, by disclosing it, tried to seduce the Jewish people to the sin of hero-worship. St. Michael also guards the body of Eve, according to the “Revelation of Moses” (“Apocryphal Gospels”, etc., ed. A. Walker, Edinburgh, p. 647).
(4) Apocalypse 12:7, “And there was a great battle in heaven, Michael and his angels fought with the dragon.” St. John speaks of the great conflict at the end of time, which reflects also the battle in heaven at the beginning of time. According to the Fathers there is often question of St. Michael in Scripture where his name is not mentioned. They say he was the cherub who stood at the gate of paradise, “to keep the way of the tree of life” (Genesis 3:24), the angel through whom God published the Decalogue to his chosen people, the angel who stood in the way against Balaam (Numbers 22:22 sqq.), the angel who routed the army of Sennacherib (2 Kings 19:35).
Following these Scriptural passages, Christian tradition gives to St. Michael four offices:
► To fight against Satan.
► To rescue the souls of the faithful from the power of the enemy, especially at the hour of death.
► To be the champion of God’s people, the Jews in the Old Law, the Christians in the New Testament; therefore he was the patron of the Church, and of the orders of knights during the Middle Ages.
► To call away from earth and bring men’s souls to judgment .
Regarding his rank in the celestial hierarchy opinions vary; St. Basil (Homily on the Angels) and other Greek Fathers, also Salmeron, Bellarmine, etc., place St. Michael over all the angels; they say he is called “Archangel” because he is the prince of the other angels; others (such as Bonaventura) believe that he is the prince of the Seraphim, the first of the nine angelic orders. But, according to St. Thomas (Summa Ia. q.113, art. 3) he is the prince of the last and lowest choir, the angels. The Roman Liturgy seems to follow the Greek Fathers; it calls him “the Prince of the heavenly host.” The hymn of the Mozarabic Breviary places St. Michael even above the Twenty-four Elders. The Greek Liturgy styles him Archistrategos, “highest general” (cf. Menaea, 8 Nov. and 6 Sept.).
THE TRUE STORY OF THE TWO MICHAELS : THE MARINE AND THE 'ANGELIC MARINE'
What follows is a copy of a letter that was written by a young Marine to his mother while he was hospitalized after being wounded on a Korean battlefield in 1950. It came into the hands of a Navy Chaplain, who read the letter before 5,060 Marines at a San Diego Naval Base in 1951.
The Navy chaplain had talked to the boy, to the boy’s mother and to the Sergeant in charge of the patrol. This navy chaplain, Father Walter Muldy, would always assure anyone who asked that this is a true story.
This letter had been read once a year in the 1960s over a Midwestern radio station at Christmas time. Since October is the month of the Holy Angels, we thought our readers would find it of interest. We present the letter and let it stand on its own merits.
I wouldn’t dare write this letter to anyone but you because no one else would believe it. Maybe even you will find it hard but I have got to tell somebody. First off, I am in a hospital. Now, don’t worry, you hear me don’t worry. I was wounded but I am okay you understand. Okay. The doctor says that I will be up and around in a month. But that is not what I want to tell you.
Remember when I joined the Marines last year; remember when I left, how you told me to say a prayer to St. Michael everyday. You really didn’t have to tell me that. Ever since I can remember you always told me to pray to St. Michael the Archangel. You even named me after him. Well I always have.
When I got to Korea, I prayed even harder. Remember the prayer that you taught me? “Michael, Michael of the morning, fresh corps of Heaven adorning,..” you know the rest of it. Well I said it everyday. Sometimes when I was marching or sometimes resting. But always before I went to sleep. I even got some of the other fellas to say it.
Well, one day I was with an advance detail way up over the front lines. We were scouting for the Commies. I was plodding along in the bitter cold, my breath was like cigar smoke. I thought I knew every guy in the patrol, when another Marine I never met before, comes beside me. He was bigger than any other Marine I’d ever seen. He must have been 6’ 4” and built in proportion. It gave me a feeling of security to have such a body near.
Anyway, there we were trudging along. The rest of the patrol spread out. Just to start a conversation I said, “Cold ain’t it?” And then I laughed. Here I was with a good chance of getting killed any minute and I am talking about the weather.
My companion seemed to understand. I heard him laugh softly.
I looked at him, “I have never seen you before; I thought I knew every man in the outfit.”
“I just joined at the last minute”, he replied. “The name is Michael.”
“Is that so!” I said surprised. “That is my name too!”
“I know,” he said and then went on, “Michael, Michael of the morning...”
I was too amazed to say anything for a minute. How did he know my name, and a prayer that you had taught me? Then I smiled to myself, every guy in the outfit knew about me. Hadn’t I taught the prayer to anybody who would listen? Why now and then, they even referred to me as St. Michael!
Neither of us spoke for a time and then he broke the silence. “We are going to have some trouble up ahead!”
He must have been in fine physical shape, or he was breathing so lightly that I couldn’t see his breath. Mine poured out in great clouds. There was no smile on his face now. Trouble ahead, I thought to myself, well with the Commies all around us, that is no great revelation.
Snow began to fall in great thick globs. In a brief moment the whole countryside was blotted out. And I was marching in a white fog of wet sticky particles. My companion disappeared.
“Michael!” I shouted in sudden alarm.
I felt his hand on my arm, his voice was rich and strong, “This will stop shortly.”
His prophecy proved to be correct. In a few minutes the snow stopped as abruptly as it had begun. The sun was a hard shining disc.
I looked back for the rest of the patrol, there was no one in sight. We lost them in that heavy fall of snow. I looked ahead as we came over a little rise. Mom, my heart stopped. There were seven of them. Seven Commies in their padded pants and jackets and their funny hats. Only there wasn’t anything funny about them now. Seven rifles were aimed at us.
“Down Michael!” I screamed and hit the frozen earth. I heard those rifles fire almost as one. I heard the bullets. There was Michael still standing. Mom, those guys couldn’t have missed, not at that range. I expected to see him literally blown to bits. But there he stood, making no effort to fire himself. He was paralyzed with fear. It happens sometimes, Mom, even to the bravest. He was like a bird fascinated by a snake. At least, that was what I thought then. I jumped up to pull him down and that was when I got mine. I felt a sudden flame in my chest. I often wondered what it felt like to be hit, now I know.
I remember feeling strong arms about me, arms that laid me ever so gently on a pillow of snow. I opened my eyes, for one last look. I was dying. Maybe I was even dead, I remember thinking "Well, this is not so bad!" Maybe I was looking into the sun. Maybe I was in shock. But it seemed I saw Michael standing erect again only this time his face was shining with a terrible splendor.
As I say, maybe it was the sun in my eyes, but he seemed to change as I watched him. He grew bigger, his arms stretched out wide, maybe it was the snow falling again, but there was a brightness around him like the wings of an angel. In his hand was a sword. A sword that flashed with a million lights.
Well, that is the last thing I remember until the rest of the fellas came up and found me. I do not now how much time had passed. Now and then I had but a moment’s rest from the pain and fever. I remember telling them of the enemy just ahead.
“Where is Michael?” I asked. I saw them look at one another.
“Where’s who?” asked one.
“Michael--that big Marine I was walking with, just before the snow squall hit us.”
“Kid,” said the sergeant, “You weren’t walking with anyone. I had my eyes on you the whole time. You were getting too far out. I was just going to call you in, when you disappeared in the snow.”
He looked at me, curiously. “How did you do it kid?”
“How’d I do what?” I asked half angry despite my wound. “This marine named Michael and I were just...”
“Son,” said the sergeant kindly, “I picked this outfit myself and there just ain’t another Michael in it. You are the only Mike in it.”
He paused for a minute, “Just how did you do it kid? We heard shots. There hasn’t been a shot fired from your rifle. And there isn’t a bit of lead in them seven bodies over the hill there!”
I didn’t say anything, what could I say. I could only look open-mouthed with amazement.
It was then the sergeant spoke again, “Kid,” he said gently, “every one of those seven Commies was killed by a sword stroke.”
That is all I can tell you Mom. As I say, it may have been the sun in my eyes, it may have been the cold or the pain. But that is what happened.
POPE LEO XIII's
ORIGINAL PRAYER TO
O Glorious Prince of the heavenly host, St. Michael the Archangel, defend us in the battle and in the terrible warfare that we are waging against the principalities and powers, against the rulers of this world of darkness, against the evil spirits. Come to the aid of man, whom Almighty God created immortal, made in His own image and likeness, and redeemed at a great price from the tyranny of Satan.
Fight this day the battle of the Lord, together with the holy angels, as already thou hast fought the leader of the proud angels, Lucifer, and his apostate host, who were powerless to resist thee, nor was there place for them any longer in Heaven. That cruel, ancient serpent, who is called the devil or Satan, who seduces the whole world, was cast into the abyss with his angels. Behold, this primeval enemy and slayer of men has taken courage. Transformed into an angel of light, he wanders about with all the multitude of wicked spirits, invading the earth, in order to blot out the Name of God and of His Christ, to seize upon, slay and cast into eternal perdition souls destined for the crown of eternal glory. This wicked dragon pours out, as a most impure flood, the venom of his malice on men of depraved mind and corrupt heart, the spirit of lying, of impiety, of blasphemy, and the pestilent breath of impurity, and of every vice and iniquity.
These most crafty enemies have filled and inebriated with gall and bitterness the Church, the spouse of the immaculate Lamb, and have laid impious hands on her most sacred possessions. In the Holy Place itself, where the See of Holy Peter and the Chair of Truth has been set up as the light of the world, they have raised the throne of their abominable impiety, with the iniquitous design that when the Pastor has been struck, the sheep may be.
Arise then, O invincible Prince, bring help against the attacks of the lost spirits to the people of God, and give them the victory. They venerate thee as their protector and patron; in thee Holy Church glories as Her defense against the malicious power of Hell; to thee has God entrusted the souls of men to be established in heavenly beatitude. O, pray to the God of peace that He may put Satan under our feet, so far conquered that he may no longer be able to hold men in captivity and harm the Church. Offer our prayers in the sight of the Most High, so that they may quickly find mercy in the sight of the Lord; and vanquishing the dragon, the ancient serpent, who is the devil and Satan, do thou again make him captive in the abyss, that he may no longer seduce the nations. Amen.
V. Behold the Cross of the Lord; be scattered ye hostile powers.
R. The Lion of the tribe of Judah has conquered the root of David.
V. Let Thy mercies be upon us, O Lord.
R. As we have hoped in Thee.
V. O Lord, hear my prayer.
R. And let my cry come unto Thee.
Let us pray.
O God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, we call upon Thy holy Name, and as supplicants, we implore Thy clemency, that by the intercession of Mary, ever Virgin Immaculate and our Mother, and of the glorious St. Michael the Archangel, Thou wouldst deign to help us against Satan and all the other unclean spirits who wander about the world for the injury of the human race and the ruin of souls. Amen.
POPE LEO XIII's
'DECIMATED' PRAYER TO
As with all powerful weapons of the Church, the devil has succeeded in having the original prayer severely shortened, just as he has succeeded in having the rites of exorcism changed and shortened. This version of the St. Michael Prayer was the one that eventually evolved out of the more powerful longer version.
St. Michael the Archangel, defend us battle! Be our protection against the wickedness and snares of the devil. May God rebuke him, we humbly pray; and do thou, Prince of the heavenly host, by the power of God, cast into Hell, Satan and all wicked spirits who wander throughout the world seeking the ruin of souls. Amen.
Other Prayers to St. Michael
Glorious Prince, chief and champion of the heavenly hosts; guardian of the souls of men; conqueror of the rebel angels! How beautiful art thou, in thy heaven-made armor. We love thee, dear Prince of Heaven! We, thy happy clients, yearn to enjoy thy special protection. Obtain for us from God a share of thy sturdy courage; pray that we may have a strong and tender love for our Redeemer and, in every danger or temptation, be invincible against the enemy of our souls. O standard-bearer of our salvation! Be with us in our last moments and when our souls quit this earthly exile, carry them safely to the judgement seat of Christ, and may Our Lord and Master bid thee bear us speedily to the kingdom of eternal bliss. Teach us ever to repeat the sublime cry: “Who is like unto God?” Amen.
Saint Michael the Archangel, Powerful Spirit of Truth! Take my hand and lead me to Divine Truth. Protect me from all the evil in the world. Guard me and compensate for all my weaknesses. Change, bless, and restore the consequences of all my mistakes. Carry me on the wings of your love and might to the Throne of God and pray to Him with me forever. Amen.
Glorious St. Michael, Prince of the heavenly hosts, who standest always ready to give assistance to the people of God; who didst fight with the dragon, the old serpent, and didst cast him out of heaven, and now valiantly defendest the Church of God that the gates of hell may never prevail against her, I earnestly entreat thee to assist me also, in the painful and dangerous conflict which I have to sustain against the same formidable foe. Be with me, O mighty Prince! that I may courageously fight and wholly vanquish that proud spirit, whom thou hast by the Divine Power, so gloriously overthrown, and whom our powerful King, Jesus Christ, has, in our nature, so completely overcome; to the end that having triumphed over the enemy of my salvation, I may with thee and the holy angels, praise the clemency of God who, having refused mercy to the rebellious angels after their fall, has granted repentance and forgiveness to fallen man. Amen.
THE OFFICES AND ROLES OF ST. MICHAEL THE ARCHANGEL
Theologians are of the opinion that St. Michael surpasses in glory and power all the other Angels in Heaven, and “possesses in the highest and most perfect degree the zeal and the love peculiar to the highest Seraphim. The title Archangel does not, according to the words of St. Peter and St. Jude Thaddeus, signify that St. Michael belongs to the choir of Angels designated by that name, but that he is an Angel of superior rank. The Church also invokes him as the Prince of the Angels, who has supreme command over all the heavenly hierarchies.
This position of honor was merited by St. Michael in the battle which he waged against Lucifer and the rebellious Angels before the creation of the world. When God created the Angels as magnificent spirits of light and love which in countless hosts surround His Heavenly throne, He bestowed upon them most eminent gifts of nature and of grace. But before admitting them to the unveiled vision of His glory in Heaven, He placed them under probation, just as later He subjected mankind to a trial of obedience in the persons of Adam and Eve. The nature of the trial is not known with certainty. Learned and saintly theologians hold that the Heavenly Father revealed to the Angels the future Incarnation of His Divine Son, whom they were to adore in His sacred humanity. At the same time He revealed to them the surpassing dignity and glory of Mary, whom, as the Mother of God, they were to venerate as their Queen.
Lucifer, one of the most glorious and exalted princes of the Heavenly court, dazzled by the splendor of his own gifts, rebelled at the thought that human nature should be preferred to his own Angelic nature. He would not acknowledge that a woman inferior to him in nature should at some future time be made his queen, and that the seed of that woman should be preferred to himself for the honor of the hypostatic union. Desiring for himself the prerogatives of the God-man, he raised his great battle-cry of rebellion: “I will be like unto the Most High!” (Isaias 14:14).
Some have held that in their pride, a third of the Angels took up Lucifer’s rebellious cry. At the same instant another great Archangel, equal in beauty and grace to the proud Lucifer, prostrated himself before the throne of God. With
an act of profound adoration, he opposed the cry of the rebellious Angels with his own battle-cry of love and loyalty: “Michael”—Who is like unto God?
The fearlessness and fidelity of this mighty champion roused the faithful Angels, who rallied to his standard, repeating with one accord: “Who is like unto God?” Then followed that tremendous battle between the good and the bad Angels which St. John describes in the Book of the Apocalypse: “And there was a battle in Heaven: Michael and his Angels battled with the dragon, and the dragon fought and his Angels. And they did not prevail, neither was their place found any more in Heaven. And that great dragon was cast down, the ancient serpent, he who is called the devil and Satan, who led astray the whole world” (Apocalypse 12: 7-9).
Thus, St. Michael and his faithful followers won a glorious victory. With the swiftness of lightning, Lucifer and his companions were transformed into hideous demons and cast into the abyss of eternal torment and darkness which God created for them. In reward for his zeal and fidelity, the holy Archangel Michael was made Prince and commander-in-chief of all the Heavenly legions. The Angels most willingly and gratefully recognize his supremacy, for, after God, they owe to him their perseverance in grace and their eternal happiness. With loving submission they receive from him their various offices. They are attentive to his slightest wish, seeing in his commands and regulations the will of God, the sovereign Lord and King of all. Thus St. Michael receives highest honor in the Heavenly court.
On our part, also, he deserves high honor. Since he was the first to recognize and adore the Word-made-flesh, and the first to be illumined by His grace, he is the “first Christian.” He is also the “first apostle,” because he was the first to announce the Savior to the Angelic choirs. He is the “first lieutenant” of Jesus Christ, for he was the first to lead the faithful servants of God to victory against the enemy.
DEFENDER OF THE CHURCH
Both in the Old and the New Testament, the holy Archangel Michael is called the guardian Angel of the faithful of God, the [Catholic] Church in the New Testament [Chosen People in the Old Testament]. He is also honored as the herald of the general judgment and the guardian of Paradise. It is his office to lead all the elect into the kingdom of eternal glory.
The world’s history is replete with instances of St. Michael’s solicitude for the children of men during the time of their earthly pilgrimage. He began to fulfill his office as defender and leader of God’s faithful in the garden of paradise. St. Ambrose says that God commissioned St. Michael to lead Adam into paradise, to explain to him the purpose of his creation, to guide him and to associate with him in visible form. After the fall of Adam and Eve, this same glorious Archangel stood guard at the gate of paradise with flaming sword, “to keep the way of the tree of life” [Gn. 3: 24].
The Fathers of the Church tell us that even though in many instances the name of St. Michael is not mentioned in Holy Scripture when reference is made to the services of an Angel, we may confidently believe that it was either St. Michael himself who rendered assistance, or his Angelic subjects, who did so at his command.
They speculate that it may have been St. Michael who warned Noe, and that through St. Michael Abraham was named the father of the Chosen People and received that wonderful promise which Holy Church has immortalized in her prayers for the dead: “May the holy standard-bearer, Michael, introduce them into that holy light which You promised of old to Abraham and his descendants.” The Angel who appeared to Moses in the burning bush was St. Michael, according to the teaching of St. Gregory Nazianzen. It was this mighty angel who performed the wonders which took place at the departure of the Israelites from Egypt, and through whom God gave the Ten Commandments to the Israelites on Mount Sinai. Likewise, the angel who routed the army of Sennacherib [2 Kgs. 19: 35] was the holy Archangel Michael.
After the death of Moses. according to an ancient Jewish tradition to which St. Jude refers in his Epistle [1: 9]. St. Michael concealed the tomb of Moses from the people, and also from Satan who wished to disclose it to the Israelites to seduce them thereby to the sin of false worship.
God revealed to St. Michael the designs of His justice and mercy regarding His Chosen People. Of this the prophecies of Daniel and Zechariah bear witness. Finally, it was this great celestial prince who aided the Israelites and rendered the army of Judas Macchabeus victorious over their enemies.
Even to this day the Jews invoke the holy Archangel Michael as the principal defender of the Synagogue and their protector against enemies. On the Feast of the Atonement they conclude their prayers with this beautiful invocation: “Michael, prince of mercy, pray for Israel, that it may reign in heaven, in that light which streams forth from the face of the King who sits upon the throne of mercy.”
PROTECTOR OF THE CHURCH
Just as the Chosen People of the Old Law were marvelously protected by St. Michael, so we may believe this same prince of Heaven protects the Church of God even more wonderfully. Under the New Law, as under the Old, St. Michael is the “Vicar of the Most High and the Prince of His people,” ever prepared to render assistance. The Fathers of the Church are of one mind in teaching that St. Michael is the Guardian Angel and the protector of the Catholic Church.
Time and again. in centuries past. St. Michael came to the rescue when dreadful wars and persecutions threatened to destroy Christianity. He it was who. at the command of Mary. Queen of Angels. came to the assistance of Constantine the Great in the fourth century. and helped his forces to gain a brilliant victory over the pagan Emperor Maxentius. The Archangel himself revealed his identity in this instance. Appearing to Constantine after the completion of a beautiful church which the latter had erected to his honor in gratitude. he said: “I am Michael. the chief of the Angelic legions of the Lord of hosts, the protector of the Christian Religion, who while you were battling against godless tyrants placed the weapons in your hands.” This famous edifice, generally know as the Michaelion, has been the scene of many miracles wrought through the great Archangel.
Later, St. Michael proved himself a powerful protector against the invasions of barbarian hordes. The Greek Emperor Justinian I erected six churches in his honor, in grateful recognition of this assistance. In the fifteenth century when it seemed that the Turks would conquer all Europe, St. Michael, at the command of the Blessed Virgin, again championed the cause of Christianity, and a glorious victory was gained over the infidels. St. Joan of Arc, the Maid of Orleans, who in the fifteenth century saved France, ascribed her vocation and her victories to St. Michael. Three times he appeared to her and informed her that she was called to deliver her country.
Thus has St. Michael proved himself a valiant warrior for the honor of God both in Heaven and on earth. And he still wages incessant war with the archfiend Satan, in the great kingdom of God upon earth, the Church.
Pope Leo XIII, realizing by Divine enlightenment the present and future struggles of the Church against the powers of hell, felt convinced that through the intervention of St. Michael, hell would be conquered, and the Church restored to peace and liberty. He therefore composed a prayer in honor of the warrior Archangel.
It is said that one day, having celebrated the Holy Sacrifice, the aged Pontiff was in conference with the Cardinals. Suddenly he sank to the floor in a deep swoon. Physicians who hastened to his side feared that he had already expired, for they could find no trace of his pulse. However, after a short interval the Holy Father rallied, and opening his eyes, exclaimed with great emotion: “Oh, what a horrible picture I was permitted to see”----He had been shown in spirit the tremendous activities of the evil spirits and their ravings against the Church. But in the midst of this vision of horror he had also beheld consoling visions of the glorious Archangel Michael, who had appeared and cast Satan and his legions back into the abyss of Hell.
THE VISION OF POPE LEO XIII, OCTOBER 13TH, 1884
After Pope Leo XIII had finished saying Mass in the Vatican Chapel, on the date mentioned, where he was attended by some Cardinals and other members of the Vatican staff, he suddenly stopped at the foot of the altar, where he stood for about ten minutes, as if in a trance, his face ashen white. The, going immediately from the Chapel to his office, he composed the prayer to St. Michael, with instructions that it be said after all the Low Masses everywhere, which it was until Vatican II.
When asked what happened, the Pontiff explained that as he was about to leave the foot of the altar, he suddenly heard voices—two voices, one kind and gentle, the other guttural and harsh. They seemed to be coming from near the tabernacle. As he listened, he heard the following conversation:
The guttural voice of Satan, in his pride, boasted to Our Lord:
“I can destroy Your Church.”
The gentle voice of Our Lord:
“You can? Then go ahead and do so.”
Satan: “To do so, I need more time and power.”
Our Lord: “How much time? How much power?”
Satan: “75 to 100 years, and a greater power over those who will give themselves over to my service.”
Our Lord: “You have the time, you will have the power. Do with them what you will.”
Pope Leo XIII understood that Satan was to be given a certain amount of time in order to accomplish his purpose; and a greater power to spread evil, through those human agents who would dedicate themselves to his cause. He was given further to understand that, if the devil had not accomplished his purpose at the end of the time limit given, he would suffer a most crushing and humiliating defeat. Furthermore, the forces of good would not be helpless in the face of the onslaught of Satan and his legions. They, too, were given a greater power for good, if only they would use it. Through their prayers and sacrifices and good Catholic lives, they could offset the power of the devil and his human agents.
It was then that he saw the great role St. Michael was to play in this conflict, and that we should call upon his powerful intercession. As he had hurled Lucifer and the fallen Angels out of Heaven, after the “first revolt against God,” so, too, he would play a great part in the battle to come, and would eventually cast Satan again into Hell.
Soon afterward he composed the well-known prayer: “St. Michael, the Archangel, defend us in the battle. Be our defense against the wickedness and snares of the devil . . .”
We know what happened, of course, the Church modernized into near collapse in most countries and the loss of the Roman Rite almost completely when it abolished this Prayer of St. Michael’s Protection after every Low Mass. Exactly 100 years to the very day of the Vision, the present Pontiff, Pope John Paul II issued “Quattuor abhinc annis,” restoring the Roman Rite to the Church. Today, whenever a Low Mass of the Traditional Roman Rite [the “latin Mass” as it is popularly called] is offered, this prayer is recited immediately after the Mass concludes.
The Church has special need of St. Michael’s powerful protection in our times. On all sides she is assailed by strong and bitter enemies. In one country after another religious persecution rises to an ever higher pitch of hatred and insolence. The terrible crimes which have been committed in recent times and are still being committed against the Church. both in her sanctuaries and her members, surely are instigated by the devil. No human mind could be base enough to conceive and put them into execution.
We know that the gates of Hell shall never prevail against the Church, for our Lord has promised to be with her till the end of time, but we must do our part in defending her cause. God might have cast the rebel Angels down to Hell by a single act of His will. but He chose rather to send against them His armies of loyal spirits, under the leadership of the great St. Michael. So. too. in the present critical times. He could confound the enemies of the Church by merely willing to do so. But He wills, rather, that we should cooperate in her defense, under the leadership of the great captain of the Heavenly hosts.
THE HEAVENLY PHYSICIAN
In the early ages of the Church, devotion to St. Michael was very popular. The early Christians invoked him especially for the cure of the sick. Tradition relates that in the earliest ages, St. Michael caused a medicinal spring to spout at Chairotopa near Colossae, and all the sick who bathed there, invoking the Blessed Trinity and St. Michael, were cured. Still more famous are the springs which St. Michael is said to have drawn from the rock at Colossae itself. The pagans directed a stream against the sanctuary of St. Michael to destroy it, but the Archangel split the rock by lightning to give a new bed to the stream and sanctified forever the waters which came from the gorge.
At Constantinople, likewise, St. Michael was the great Heavenly physician. The Christians of Egypt placed their life-giving river, the Nile, under the protection of St. Michael.
In Rome, also the role of heavenly physician was assigned to St. Michael. During the pontificate of St. Gregory the Great, a terrible pestilence depopulated the city of Rome. The Sovereign Pontiff ordered a penitential procession during which he himself carried a statue of the Blessed Virgin. Eighty persons died in the ranks of the procession itself. Still the Pope continued the prayers. When they arrived at the bridge crossing the Tiber, they heard the song of angels in the skies. Suddenly above the castle of St. Angelo, St. Michael appeared in gigantic size. In his right hand he held a sword which he thrust into the scabbard. At the same moment the pestilence ceased.
The celebrated sanctuary of Mont-St. Michel in Normandy, France, has likewise been the scene of many marvelous cures wrought through the intercession of the great Archangel. During the Middle Ages, this mount was one of Europe’s most renowned places of pilgrimage. This sanctuary owes its origin to an apparition of St. Michael to St. Aubert, Bishop of Avranches, during the eighth century. Appearing to the holy Bishop, the Archangel pointed out to him a tall cliff extending out into the sea, telling him that this spot was under his special protection and re- questing that a church be built there to his honor. An imposing church was erected on a rocky mount, at the cost of great hardships and difficulties. Here the glorious Archangel testified to the truth of the apparition by effecting many and wonderful cures. Twelve blind persons had their sight restored and many sick were cured of their diseases. From that time forward the Archangel Michael has been highly venerated throughout France.
Up to the time of Charles XI, every Frankish king made a pilgrimage to this mount. Here Charlemagne dedicated his mighty kingdom to the Archangel. The church, with a Benedictine monastery adjoining, has a view far out over the sea. Its many steeples give it the appearance of a fortress. During the French revolution the monastery was converted into a central prison, and pilgrimages ceased. During the past few decades, however, the veneration of St. Michael at this sanctuary has been given a new impetus, and large pilgrimages are once more ascending the holy mount to honor God through His glorious Archangel.
From the history of Mont-St. Michel and Monte Gargano it is evident that pilgrimages are pleasing to the great Archangel, and that special graces are obtained in this manner. However, since few persons are in a position to make pilgrimages to such celebrated shrines, one may instead visit any church or chapel, or even a picture of the Archangel. If such visits are repeated several times, or even nine times as a novena, and are united with assistance at Holy Mass and the reception of Holy Communion, one may trustfully expect the aid of the holy Archangel even in the gravest necessities.
Not only during life does the glorious Archangel Michael defend and protect souls, but he is their special advocate and consoler at the hour of death. When the last hour of our earthly career draws near, and we are confronted by that awful moment when our soul must leave the body which it has loved so much, satanic hosts, like ravening lions, will make a last attack upon us. But we need not fear if during life we have been faithful in venerating St. Michael and in imploring his aid for the hour of death. In that hour of supreme need, this invincible Archangel, ever ready to assist the faithful soul, will come to our aid with his hosts and do battle in our be- half. He will cover us with his strong shield and lead us safely through the midst of our enemies.
And when at length our soul has been freed from its earthly bonds, he will conduct us to the judgment seat of Christ, where he will undertake our defense and implore the forgiveness of our sins. Finally, if we have merited to be numbered among the elect, he will take us beneath his glorious banner and conduct us to the blessed home of light, where all the Angels and Elect children of God glory in the eternal praise of their Creator. It is therefore a commendable practice daily to invoke St. Michael to lend his assistance at the critical hour of death. Many are the faithful clients of St. Michael who have experienced his help in that hour.
Among the writings of St. Alphonsus Liguori we find the following account of St. Michael’s assistance at the hour of death: A certain Polish gentleman had for many years led a wicked life, When the hour of death approached, he was filled with terror and tortured by remorse of conscience over his former recklessness, so that he was reduced to a state of utter despair. No amount of exhortation or encouragement had any effect upon him; he refused every spiritual consolation.
This unhappy man, however, still had some veneration for St. Michael, and God in His mercy permitted the holy Archangel to appear to him in his last struggle. St. Michael encouraged him to repentance and said that he had prayed and obtained for him sufficient time to regulate the affairs of his soul. Shortly afterwards, two Dominican priests came to the house, saying that a stranger had sent them. The sick man recognized this as the work of St. Michael. He confessed his sins amid tears of repentance, received Holy Communion with touching devotion, and breathed forth his soul with every indication of being truly reconciled with God.