Feast of St. Michael the Archangel
Sermon Given By Father Pancras Raja, Sept. 29, 2019
“And there was a great battle in heaven, Michael and his angels fought with the dragon.” (Apocalypse 12:7)
St. Michael is one of the principal angels; his name was the war-cry of the good angels in the battle fought in heaven against Lucifer the enemy and his followers. (“Mi – Ca – El?” – “Who is net for God?”)
The Ranks of the Angels
Theologians teach that the holy Angels are divided into three sacred hierarchies, divided into nine Choirs—three Choirs for each hierarchy. The names of these are mentioned in holy Scripture. From highest to lowest they are: Seraphim, Cherubim, Thrones – Denominations, Powers, Virtues – Principalities, Archangels, and Angels.
St. Basil (Hom. de angelis) and other Greek Fathers, also Salmeron, Bellarmine, etc., place St. Michael over all the angels; they say he is called “archangel” because he is the prince of the other angels; others (cf. P. Bonaventura, op. cit.) believe that he is the prince of the Seraphim, the first of the nine angelic orders. The Roman Liturgy seems to follow the Greek Fathers; it calls him “The Prince of the Heavenly Army, whom the citizens of angels honour as their chief.” The hymn of the Mozarabic Breviary places St. Michael even above the Twenty-four Elders. The Greek Liturgy styles him A “highest general” (cf. Menaea, 8 Nov. and 6 Sept.).
The history of Devotion to St. Michael the Archangel:
Devotion to St. Michael grew great in the early Middle Ages, especially at the mountain sanctuary, Mont St. Michel, off the coast of Normandy in France. Great devotion to him arose because of St. Michael’s excellence and his power of intercession and protection in favor of the faithful, already indicated in the Scriptures. This accounts for the fact that St. Michael the Archangel was the only Angel in whose honor liturgical feasts were observed in the Church before the ninth century.
St. Michael the Archangel also spoke to the simple peasant girl, St. Joan of Arc, when she was but a child of thirteen years. His voice called her from her being a shepherdess to the command of armies. She heard his voice and the “voices” of many Angels who accompanied him. She saw them, as she told her judges, as plainly as her eyes then beheld her hearers. At first, she feared, but later, as often as her Heavenly visitors departed from her, she used to weep and pray that they might carry her away with them. When called on one occasion to an examination before judges regarding her associations with the Archangel, St. Joan of Arc replied: “As for St. Michael who appeared to me, I believe his words and actions as firmly as I believe that our Lord suffered His death and passion for us.” “Another reason which moves me to believe that it was really St. Michael appearing to me is the good counsel, the comfort, the sound doctrine he never ceased to give me. He told me of the desperate state of the kingdom of France.”
There are two feasts of St. Michael: The Apparition of St. Michael the Archangel (May 8), and the Dedication of St. Michael the Archangel (September 29).
In the Holy Roman Traditional Latin Mass, the Church urges us to pray to St. Michael that we may obtain his protection in life, and especially in death, ”Defend us in the conflict, that we may not perish in the awful judgment.”
Every time the Traditional Roman Mass (now removed in the Novus Ordo) is offered, the priest in the Confiteor which he makes at the foot of the altar, and the people after him, twice invoke the intercession of the great Archangel Michael, and the people do the same once more before Holy Communion. In the solemn Mass, when the incense is blessed at the Offertory, the celebrant prays that “through the intercession of Blessed Michael the Archangel, standing at the right of the altar of incense, the Lord may deign to bless the incense, and receive it in an odor of sweetness.” After low Mass a special prayer to St. Michael is offered for his powerful assistance against the enemy of our souls. [Still maintained in the Roman Mass but removed from the Novus Ordo, a most curious thing because Russia is not converted but is ever more decadent.]
Pope Pius IX, called the “Pope of St. Michael,” approved and indulgenced the Chaplet of St. Michael and the Archconfraternity of St. Michael. Pope Leo XIII approved the Scapular of St. Michael and instituted the prayer to St. Michael which is said after each low Mass. St. Pius X enriched the Archconfraternity with indulgences. Pope Pius XI ordered the prayer to St. Michael, said after the low Mass, to be offered for the conversion of Russia.
Pope Pius XII frequently has urged the faithful to place themselves under the protection of St. Michael. He has exhorted bishops, priests, religious, parents, children, members of Catholic Action, public police, and others. to seek his patronage. He declared St. Michael the patron of public discipline and security in all Italy [September 29, 1949] and the patron and protector of radiologists and radium therapists [January 15, 1941].
Apparition of St. Michael
The history of the former feast of the Apparition of St. Michael is very remarkable. In the year 404, a wealthy man had a large herd of cattle grazing on Monte Gargano in Italy, not far from the once famous city of Siponto. One day a steer (bull) went astray from the herd and did not return with the rest of the cattle at the usual time. The owner and his hired men went in search of the steer, and finally found him on the summit of the mountain, lying at the entrance of a cave. The animal refused to leave the spot. At length the owner, exasperated by its stubbornness, took up his bow and sent an arrow toward it. However, the arrow whirled about in the air, and, coming directly toward the archer, wounded him.
All were frightened at this strange incident, and no one ventured to approach the place. They went directly to the Bishop of Siponto and related the incident to him. The holy prelate, after serious reflection, decided that there must be some mystery connected with it. He therefore prayed fervently that God’s holy will might be revealed. Thereupon St. Michael appeared to him in great splendor and said: I am Michael, the Archangel, who, ever stand before the Lord. I am keeping this place under my special protection. By this strange occurrence, I wish to remind men to celebrate the Divine service in my honor and that of all the Angels.”
After this revelation, the Bishop and all the inhabitants of the place went up the mountain in solemn procession and prayed to the Lord through the intercession of St. Michael. When they arrived at the cave, they found an entrance which led down a stairway. No one, however, ventured to enter, and they performed their devotions at the opening. After that many pilgrimages were made to this spot.
Meantime, the Neapolitans decided to make war upon the inhabitants of Siponto and Benevento. The latter, at the advice of their Bishop, kept a three days’ fast and called upon the assistance of the holy Archangel. During the night preceding the attack, the Archangel again appeared to the Bishop and told him that God had listened to their petitions, that in the fourth hour of the day they should courageously meet the enemy, and they would gain the victory.
As soon as the attack began, all Monte Gargano was violently shaken. The entire summit was enveloped in dark clouds, from which flashes of lightning, like fiery arrows, flew toward the enemy, who, in consequence, took to flight. In joy and gratitude, and amid devout prayer, the conquerors entered the sacred spot. They found the cavern to be perfectly formed for a church, which could hold about five hundred persons.
This cave had evidently been a place of refuge in which the early Christians had secretly held their services during times of persecution. From a crevice in the rock, which formed the ceiling of this sanctuary, water dripped down upon the rocks. This water was very refreshing and most pleasant to the taste and possessed healing properties. Many sick persons were instantly cured after drinking this water; others found health through the intercession of St. Michael. Many other miracles proved this place to be under the special protection of Heaven. Besides this subterranean church the Bishop erected another church, in which the services were conducted by Canons Regular. This church still exists.
Dedication of St. Michael
On September 29, it is not certain just what parish or which church is commemorated as having been dedicated to St. Michael the Archangel on this day. Yet the pious belief has gained favor that the entire Catholic Church is here indicated.
For, by casting the rebel spirits into the abyss, St. Michael dedicated the Church Triumphant in Heaven as the peaceful abode of the Angels, and as he wards off the devil and his colleagues from the Church upon earth, he has dedicated the Church Militant as the secure dwelling place of the faithful upon earth. Finally, as helper and consoler of the Souls in Purgatory, the Church Suffering is placed under his care.
The Practice of Devotion to St. Michael
Let us cultivate a personal devotion to St. Michael in our daily life. St. Michael was created to glorify God. He does so personally, but he also helps others to know, love, and serve God through his patronage. We should invoke the Archangel Michael as our Patron. Let him be the guardian of our soul and body. We must call upon him especially when the temptations of the world. the flesh, and the devil trouble us.
Those who stand closest to God in love and perfection, stand very near also to the Blessed Virgin Mary – the Mother of God. St. Michael exerts great influence upon the Virgin Mary – the Queen of Angels, since he is one of the most excellent of Angelic spirits who occupy a place near the Throne of God. You may go to the Blessed Mary through St. Michael, and through Our lady to Jesus.
Entrust yourself and your family to his care and invoke his help frequently. If you are devoted to him in life, he will come to receive your soul in death and admit you to your Heavenly home, for God has delivered to him the Souls of all the faithful that he may conduct them to Heaven. He is God’s Ambassador for the Souls of the just, as the Church prays: “Michael, Ambassador of paradise, whom the fellow citizens of the Angels honor.” Or as Pope Pius XII exhorted us [Feb. 11, 1949]: “If God is with us, who is there that could overcome us? (“Mi – Ca – El” – “Who is like god”) In the final hour we shall stand victorious with St. Michael, the Archangel, and share in the triumph of the Heavenly Jerusalem!”
Finally, it is Michael the Archangel who was sent by Our Lady to Fatima in order to announce the world and prepare us for the Triumph of the Immaculate heart of Mary by teaching the children of Fatima the prayer: “O Most Holy Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Ghost, I adore Thee profoundly. I offer Thee the most precious Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ present in all the tabernacles of the world, in reparation for the outrages, sacrileges and indifferences by which He is offended. By the infinite merits of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of Mary I beg the conversion of poor sinners.”