(SEPTEMBER 25, 2018) — If ever there was a time to call on the greatest powers in heaven to come to the aid of Christ’s Church, it’s now. With scandal and controversy coming from virtually every diocese—including Rome—it’s time for the faithful to deepen their commitment to prayer and fasting.
And who better to call upon during this time of crisis, but the Prince of the Heavenly Host and his compatriots—the archangels. The Church marks their feast on Saturday (Sept. 29). You’ve likely heard of the three most famous archangels—Michael, Raphael, and Gabriel—but did you know there are four more?
In the Catholic Church, three archangels are mentioned by name in its canon of scripture: Michael, Gabriel, and Raphael. Raphael appears in the deuterocanonical Book of Tobit, where he is described as “one of the seven angels who stand ready and enter before the glory of the lord of spirits,” a phrase recalled in Rev. 8:2-6. In the Coptic Orthodox tradition, the seven archangels are named as Michael, Gabriel, Raphael, Suriel, Zadkiel, Sarathiel, and Aniel. (Source)
In response to the Church’s abuse crisis, several bishops have required that their priests lead the faithful in the St. Michael Prayer after or during every Sunday Mass. At our parish, we pray the prayer after all Masses—including daily Mass.
Bishop David Zubik has also called for a Year of Repentance, beginning Sept. 23, “in which all clergy of the Diocese of Pittsburgh are asked to fast and pray for the purification of the Church in light of the scandal of child sexual abuse, and all Catholics are invited to join in.” (Source)
This is serious business. The Holy Spirit inspired Pope Leo XIII to write the St. Michael Prayer after seeing a horrific vision of demons. “The vision likely occurred between 1884 and 1886 and took place during the celebration of Mass. Several different reports relate that Pope Leo had a visible change come over his face during the vision and one claims that his face was pale and fearful.” (Source)
From that experience, the Holy Father wrote the prayer that many parishes have recited ever since:
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, cast into hell Satan
and all the evil spirits who prowl through the world
seeking the ruin of souls. Amen.
St. Michael is legendary as an intercessor against evil. We find his exploits recorded in Revelation, kicking Satan and his minions out of heaven. “The dragon and his angels fought, but they were defeated and there was no longer any place for them in heaven” (Rev. 12:8-9). Michael is frequently depicted in art thrusting a lance, spear or sword into Satan, often portrayed as a serpent or dragon.
In 1998, when I visited Padre Pio’s San Giovanni Rotondo, I also made a pilgrimage to the nearby St. Michael the Archangel Shrine (Santuario di San Michele Arcangelo), a sacred cave and popular shrine where St. Michael appeared in 490, 492 and 1656 and consecrated the shrine himself. (Source)
The shrine is truly awe-inspiring. It’s considered one of the holiest places in Christendom. Many saints have visited, including St. Francis of Assisi, St. Bernard of Clairvaux, St. Bridget of Sweden—and at least seven popes including John Paul II and Benedict XVI. Saint Francis considered the shrine to be so holy that he would not even enter it.
While we’re on the subject of the archangels, let me field a question that has puzzled many of us: How can an angel or archangel be a saint?
The word “saint” derives from the Latin word “sancta,” meaning “holy” one. Thus, by definition, all of God’s holy angels are saints. Not all angels are holy, however, as some angels chose to follow Satan instead of God. These bad angels, called demons, seek our ruin and give us cause to ask for the help of God’s angels in spiritual battle. While all of the heavenly angels are holy, only three have been called “saint”: Michael, Gabriel, and Raphael. (Source)
Let’s make a habit of calling on these saintly intercessors daily. We need their protection against the powers of darkness that seek to capsize the Barque of Peter and doom all who call the Church their home.