[This is the last of three posts on the archangels in celebration of their feast day today, September 29.]
When I was nine, my father gave to me the illustrated Lives of the Saints, edited by Rev. Hugo Hoever, S.O.Cist., which my grandparents had given him as a child of nine in 1957. He wanted me to learn about the lives of some of the holy men and women, young and old, that the Church had recognized as saints over the centuries. I naturally thumbed straight to my namesake, St. Michael. My father was, and remains, amused that I had chosen to focus on a saint who had not ever lived an earthly, corporeal life, and, yet, St. Michael teaches us just as any flesh-and-blood saint.
I was enthralled from the first line of Rev. Hoever’s life:
“The name Michael signifies “Who is like to God,” and was the war cry of the good angels in the battle fought in Heaven against Satan and his followers.”
The Church has honored him from the time of the Apostles, and the archangel is mentioned four times in the Bible in the Book of Daniel, Saint Jude’s Epistle, and the Book of Revelation.
Saint Michael, given free will as any human, chose to obey God and reject the entreaties and blandishments of Satan and his fallen angels, and it was he, as Prince of the Heavenly Host, who opposed them and cast them out. And so, since before we were created, he has been our especial defender, as prince of the Jews in the Old Testament and patron and protector of Christ’s Church to the present day.
Saint Michael’s glorious example to us is a part of what J.R.R. Tolkien called the “true myth” of our Lord Jesus Christ and His all-encompassing love for mankind. Saint Michael has ever assisted Him in the work of creation, and we should not fail to ask for his intercession.
Every night that I am able, I pray with my boys the great prayer to Saint Michael written by Pope Leo XIII in the 19th century near the very end of his long pontificate:
Saint Michael the 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 –
thrust into hell, satan and all evil spirits,
who wander through the world for the ruin of souls.
I encourage you to learn this prayer and rely on this mighty archangel. Happy Michaelmas!