His is still one of the most popular names for boys, even in this era of innovation in naming children. But otherwise, Saint Michael has fallen on some hard times lately.
Everybody knows Saint Michael the Archangel. He wields the flaming sword, and drives Lucifer and his rebel angels out of heaven and away from the presence of God because of their refusal to serve. He appears at various junctures to bring the help of the Host of God to the assistance of those who do serve him. For this prominent and recurring role in salvation history, he is known not only to Christians, but also to Jews and even Muslims. He is the patron saint of law enforcement and paratroopers, among others, for obvious reasons.
I bring him to your attention because this weekend, Sunday takes place on his feast day. For that, it is “suppressed,” or not celebrated, this year; but I do not want it to pass unobserved. Since the liturgical revisions of 1970, he shares his day with Saints Gabriel and Raphael, the other two Archangels, who have distinctive missions and characters of their own. This day customarily initiated the fall academic semester at the ancient universities of Europe, which is why in England it was (and may still be) known as “Michaelmas Term.” You can see why it would be prominent in people’s minds then – but not so much any more.
Saint Michael has a great prayer, too, which also has fallen into desuetude. It was recited together by the priest and congregation after all Low (said) Masses until the liturgical reforms after the Second Vatican Council, one of the few elements of Sunday worship that was in English, rather than Latin. I commend it to you all now. The only folks who have no need of it are the ones who do not confront evil. Who of us can claim that privilege? Learn it and, as the saying goes, use it early and often:
Prayer to Saint Michael
Saint Michael the Archangel, defend us in battle!
Be our defense against the wickedness and snares of the devil.
May God rebuke him, we humbly pray,
and do thou, O Prince of the heavenly host,
by the power of God, cast into Hell Satan
and all the other evil spirits who prowl about the world
seeking the ruin of souls. Amen
Offer this prayer for yourselves in your desire for salvation, that you be defended against anything or anyone, any sin or any sabotage, that would separate you from the service of the saving God. Offer this prayer also for all those who daily choose to serve, often in one uniform or another, who protect you from evil in this world: evil in nature, and evil in the hearts of men; evil abroad, and evil at home. Offer this prayer for our brothers and sisters in the Christian faith, who confront evil daily in their lives because of their loyalty to Christ.
This is the charge of this great Archangel, who has demonstrated his willingness to fulfill it throughout the ages in response to the needs of those who call upon him, all who are willing and eager to recognize and respond to Him who alone made us and saves us, not as Lucifer did in his rebellion and rejection, but as God’s own Son did: Not my will, Father, but your will be done. I will serve. This is the profession we are able to make that unites us to this great Archangel, and moreover, to Christ Himself.
“Hard times” are precisely where he is most at home. Saint Michael the Archangel, defend us in battle!Monsignor Smith