This Thursday 29th September, is the Feast of the Holy Archangels, Michael, Gabriel and Raphael. Angels are spiritual, personal and immortal creatures, with intelligence and free will, who glorify God and serve him as messengers of His saving plan. God sends angels to us to make announcements, take care of us, protect us on our journey, guide us on the way in life, and to inspire us with apostolic zeal to draw others closer to Him. Traditionally, the choirs of angels have been divided into various ranks, including archangels, cherubim, seraphim, thrones, dominions, principalities, and powers (see Col 1:16). St. Michael is known as the Prince of the Heavenly Hosts. Michael appears in the Book of Revelation (12: 7-9) where he battles and defeats the dragon, that is, Satan and his demons. He first appears in the Old Testament as God’s deputy, the leader of God’s army, who protects the chosen people, Israel, either helping Daniel or assisting at the end of the world (cf. Daniel 10: 13, 12: 1). The Lectionary for 29th September offers a choice of these two passages for the First Reading. In this sense, Michael, as the defender and protector of all humanity, reminds us of the real existence of the Devil and of diabolical (Gk. dia-ballein ‘to cast between’ hence ‘to divide’) activity. St. Michael is invoked against lethal enemies. He is the patron saint of soldiers, police, fire-fighters and doctors. He is also the One who leads souls to heaven at the hour of their death.
It is interesting that Michael (lit. ‘One who is like God’) is a popular patron for boys at their Confirmation. I am always struck by how many of our candidates choose the name Michael. Yet when I ask them if they know the excellent Prayer to St. Michael, they look blank. What a shame! It is a great prayer for everyone to know and to recite often. For the record, here it is:
Holy Michael, the Archangel,
defend us in the day of battle.
Be our safeguard 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 the wicked spirits
who wander through the world for the ruin of souls.
As the Bishop, I say this prayer a lot. Not infrequently, I experience, either against me or against our works in the Diocese, combinations of peoples and events that seem like assaults from the Evil One, seeking to pull us all away from the joy, goodness and mission of Christ.