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Saint of the week

The saint who threw Satan out of heaven

St Michael the Archangel (September 29) provides aid in the spiritual struggle fought in every human soul

By on Thursday, 22 September 2011

A giant statue of St Michael in Mexico City (CNS photo/Greg Tarczynski)

A giant statue of St Michael in Mexico City (CNS photo/Greg Tarczynski)

The Archangel Michael is honoured as the leader of the heavenly host which threw Satan and his fellow rebels out of heaven.

Today, the Catechism of the Catholic Church stoutly maintains the existence of angels as “true of faith”: “The witness of Scripture is as clear as the unanimity of tradition.”

Angels, the Catechism elucidates, “are servants and messengers of God. Because they ‘always behold the face of my Father who is in heaven’ (Mt 18:10) they are ‘the mighty ones who do his word’ (Ps 103:20).
“The whole life of the Church benefits from the mysterious and powerful help of the angels. From its beginning until death, human life is surrounded by their watchful care and intercession.”

This is a development of Jewish tradition. In the Old Testament there are copious references to angels, although Michael’s status is not precisely clear. In the Book of Daniel, written c 550 BC, he is “the great prince which standeth for the children of thy people”.

Jesus Christ speaks (Mt 26:53) of having “more than 12 legions of angels” potentially at his side. And although the term “archangel” does not appear in the Bible, the reference in Revelation (12:7) to “Michael and his angels” suggests his supremacy.

In Hebrew the name Michael actually means “Who is like unto God?” The implication, which the rebellious angels learned to their cost, is that no one possibly could be like God.

In Catholic tradition, Michael serves four distinct roles. Just as he had defeated Satan in celestial combat, so he provides aid in the spiritual struggle fought in every human soul.

“With me,” the worldly Bishop Blougram explains in Browning’s poem:

faith means perpetual unbelief
Kept quiet like the snake ’neath Michael’s foot
Who stands calm just because he feels it writhe.

Secondly, Michael is present at every deathbed, offering the hope of redemption.

Thirdly, he weighs the merits of the soul after death.

Fourthly, he stands forth as the guarantor of Christ’s promise to the Church that it will endure to the end of time.

The cult of Michael developed in Byzantine Christianity, though stories of his apparition on Monte Gargano (southern Italy) in the late fifth century helped to spread his fame in western Europe.

Around 495 a vision of the archangel in Cornwall apparently led to the naming of St Michael’s Mount. By the end of the Middle Ages nearly 700 churches in England (many of them on high ground) bore Michael’s name. His feast was even retained in the ultra-Protestant Prayer Book of 1549.

Since 1969 the Catholic Church has combined his feast day with those of Gabriel, Raphael “and all angels”. Michael, though, is still in control of the army. 

  • Joshua Michael

    A slight correction. The term “archangel” does appear in the Bible, once is specifically in reference to Michael. See 1 Thessalonians 4:16 and Jude 1:9.

  • Carol Chilson

    I say the chaplet to St Michael daily, in the promise he made to Antonia D’Astonac all who should recite the nine salutations every day before receiving Holy Communion, he promised an angel of each of the 9 choirs would be assigned to accompany them, continual assistance during life and after death.
    And(to me the most important) the deliverance of their soul and their relatives from the pain of Puragatory.
    My brother was named Michael, my son’s middle name is Michael, and I have always had a close 
    relationship with my guardian angel and St Michael its like they have always been my best friends.

  • Brad

    I just read Rome’s excorcist, Fr. Amorth’s, memoirs.  The demons, if we could see them, are as numerous as to blot out the sun, hovering all around us, on us, sometimes in us, filling the created world.

    We need St. Michael and the other faithful and true angels.  The help us constantly in ways we will understand at the particular judgment.  The prayer to St. Michael is a beautiful and efficacious prayer of deliverance if not exorcism.

    I wonder how many Catholics have read Tobit and come to know St. Raphael, the one who kindly heals us as God’s hand? 

    Or Luke’s account of St. Gabriel, who as God’s strength announces salvation?

    Oh angels, we are sorry for constantly ignoring you, our elder brothers who deserve our thanks and love.  You charity toward us is your food: to do the will of our Father.  May He bless you even more.

  • Pat Schwarz

    Does anyone know the longer version of the Prayer to St. Michael the Archangel?  I read it somewhere and haven’t been able to find it again.

  • Jack Dwyer
  • Pat Schwarz

    Jack, thank you so very much for posting this most powerful prayer.  It is awsome and beautiful.  After reading it again, I almost felt as if I needed to be a priest to say these prayers of exorcism.  But, as stated, if a lay person says the prayers, they make the sign of the cross.  If a priest is saying them, he give a priestly blessing.  Oh, how this kind of prayer is so needed in so many places today.  Thanks again, and I will definitely share this prayer with others.  It is the perfect prayer whenever I will use blessed salt, as I have many times already.  God bless you abundantly.  St. Michael the Archangel, pray for us. 

  • Pat Schwarz

    Jack I don’t think my REPLY posted in the right place.  It went to the beginning of the comments.