The Catholic Church celebrates the feast of St. Michael on September 29th. He is the one who protects or defends. His name means “one who is like God”. Many times, we see him depicted standing on top of Satan, often portrayed as a dragon or serpent while holding a lance, sword, or spear. He even sought protection from many.
BIBLICAL REFERENCES TO ST. MICHAEL
St. Michael is first mentioned in the Prophet Daniel on three separate occasions. The first is that he is depicted as “one of the chief princes,” (Daniel10:13). The next time he is mentioned he is “standing as a reinforcement and a bulwark,” (Daniel 10:21). In the last mention, Daniel refers to him as “the great prince, guardian of your people” (Daniel 12:1). Daniel consistently portrays St. Michael as someone who is prepared to engage evil spirits. The Book of Jude briefly mentions him quarreling with Satan over the body of Moses (Jude 9). The final time St. Michael is mentioned is in the Book of Revelation defeating a dragon (Revelation 12:7-9). Each book in the bible consistently portrays him as someone who is in the breach fighting the devil and defending God’s people.
ORIGINS OF THE ST. MICHAEL PRAYER
Under the reign of Pope Leo XIII, he requested certain prayers known as Leonine Prayers to be prayed following the low Masses for the defense of the Holy See.
During a vision Pope Leo XIII had following Mass, he oversaw a dialogue between Jesus and Satan, like the beginning of the Book of Job. Witnesses even saw a pale look on the pope’s face as he retreated from public appearance. The exchange between Jesus and Satan prompted the faithful Holy Father to pen the prayer.
One of the prayers, which was added in 1886, read:
Blessed Michael, archangel,
defend us in the hour of conflict.
Be our safeguard against the wickedness and snares of the devil
(May God restrain him, we humbly pray):
and do thou, O Prince of the heavenly host,
by the power of God thrust Satan down to hell
and with him those other wicked spirits
who wander through the world for the ruin of souls.
The prayer would be recited after low Masses from 1886 until it was suppressed in 1964. However, St. John Paul the Great encouraged the faithful to continue to ask for St. Michael’s intercession during a Regina Caeli address in 1994:
Although this prayer is no longer recited at the end of Mass, I ask everyone not to forget it and to recite it to obtain help in the battle against the forces of darkness and against the spirit of this world.
24 years later, Pope Francis himself encouraged the faithful to pray the Prayer to St. Michael every day in October following the numerous grand jury reports surrounding years of clergy abuse throughout the world.
Like the time Pope Leo XIII led our church, our recent Holy Fathers knew full well that the church is going through a tumultuous battle that needs an intercessor now more than ever.
Today, a longer version is prayed by bishops and priests authorized when giving an exorcism.
Monte Sant’Angelo and Le Mont-Saint-Michel
Over the centuries, St. Michael has manifested himself to many. There are two locations devoted to him that have become popular places of pilgrimage and prayer.
In 490, a bishop received a visit from St. Michael while investigating a mystical occurrence of a bull in a cave. St. Michael instructed the bishop to build a chapel within the cave. Thus, this pilgrimage site is known as Monte Sant’ Angelo located in Gargano, Italy.
In 708, St. Michael appeared to St. Aubert, a bishop in France, and instructed him to build a chapel on a nearby mountain. As time went on, there were more structures built there along with a monastery that would soon become Le Mont- Saint Michel.
Both sites are popular visits for pilgrims, especially in France and Italy.
The faithful can’t underestimate the fact that we are battling Satan and his empty promises. Let us continue to call upon this powerful saint to help us defeat Satan as we continue onward on our journey to heaven.
Together, we pray:
Saint Michael Archangel, defend us in battle, be our protection 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 evil spirits who prowl through the world seeking the ruin of souls. Amen.