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St. Michael, Strength of God
Published by Divine Word Publications
Written by Fr. Lawrence Lovasik, S.V.D.
IMPRIMI POTEST, NIHIL OBSTAT, IMPRIMATUR: 1957
St. Michael, Strength of God
Published by Divine Word Publications
Written by Fr. Lawrence Lovasik, S.V.D.
IMPRIMI POTEST, NIHIL OBSTAT, IMPRIMATUR: 1957
Offices of St. Michael, Prince of the Heavenly Hosts
Theologians are of the opinion that St. Michael surpasses in glory and power all the other Angels in Heaven, and "possesses in the highest and most perfect degree the zeal and the love peculiar to the highest Seraphim. The title Archangel does not, according to the words of St. Peter and St. Jude Thaddeus, signify that St. Michael belongs to the choir of Angels designated by that name, but that he is an Angel of superior rank. The Church also invokes him as the Prince of the Angels, who has supreme command over all the heavenly hierarchies.
This position of honor was merited by St. Michael in the battle which he waged against Lucifer and the rebellious Angels before the creation of the world. When God created the Angels as magnificent spirits of light and love which in countless hosts surround His Heavenly throne, He bestowed upon them most eminent gifts of nature and of grace. But before admitting them to the unveiled vision of His glory in Heaven, He placed them under probation, just as later He subjected mankind to a trial of obedience in the persons of Adam and Eve. The nature of the trial is not known with certainty. Learned and saintly theologians hold that the Heavenly Father revealed to the Angels the future Incarnation of His Divine Son, whom they were to adore in His sacred humanity. At the same time He revealed to them the surpassing dignity and glory of Mary, whom, as the Mother of God, they were to venerate as their Queen.
Lucifer, one of the most glorious and exalted princes of the Heavenly court, dazzled by the splendor of his own gifts, rebelled at the thought that human nature should be preferred to his own Angelic nature. He would not acknowledge that a woman inferior to him in nature should at some future time be made his queen, and that the seed of that woman should be preferred to himself for the honor of the hypostatic union. Desiring for himself the prerogatives of the God-man, he raised his great battle-cry of rebellion: "I will be like unto the Most High!" [Is. 14:14]
Some have held that in their pride, a third of the Angels took up Lucifer's rebellious cry. At the same instant another great Archangel, equal in beauty and grace to the proud Lucifer, prostrated himself before the throne of God. With
an act of profound adoration, he opposed the cry of the rebellious Angels with his own battle-cry of love and loyalty: "Michael"----Who is like unto God?
The fearlessness and fidelity of this mighty champion roused the faithful Angels, who rallied to his standard, repeating with one accord: "Who is like unto God?" Then followed that tremendous battle between the good and the bad Angels which St. John describes in Revelation: "And there was a battle in Heaven: Michael and his Angels battled with the dragon, and the dragon fought and his Angels. And they did not prevail, neither was their place found any more in Heaven. And that great dragon was cast down, the ancient serpent, he who is called the devil and Satan, who led astray the whole world" [12: 7-9].
Thus, St. Michael and his faithful followers won a glorious victory. With the swiftness of lightning, Lucifer and his companions were transformed into hideous demons and cast into the abyss of eternal torment and darkness which God created for them. In reward for his zeal and fidelity, the holy Archangel Michael was made Prince and commander-in-chief of all the Heavenly legions. The Angels most willingly and gratefully recognize his supremacy, for, after God, they owe to him their perseverance in grace and their eternal happiness. With loving submission they receive from him their various offices. They are attentive to his slightest wish, seeing in his commands and regulations the will of God, the sovereign Lord and King of all. Thus St. Michael receives highest honor in the Heavenly court.
On our part, also, he deserves high honor. Since he was the first to recognize and adore the Word-made-flesh, and the first to be illumined by His grace, he is the "first Christian." He is also the "first apostle," because he was the first to announce the Savior to the Angelic choirs. He is the "first lieutenant" of Jesus Christ, for he was the first to lead the faithful servants of God to victory against the enemy.
DEFENDER OF THE CHURCH
Both in the Old and the New Testament, the holy Archangel Michael is called the guardian Angel of the faithful of God, the [Catholic] Church in the New Testament [Chosen People in the Old Testament]. He is also honored as the herald of the general judgment and the guardian of Paradise. It is his office to lead all the elect into the kingdom of eternal glory.
The world's history is replete with instances of St. Michael's solicitude for the children of men during the time of their earthly pilgrimage. He began to fulfill his office as defender and leader of God's faithful in the garden of paradise. St. Ambrose says that God commissioned St. Michael to lead Adam into paradise, to explain to him the purpose of his creation, to guide him and to associate with him in visible form. After the fall of Adam and Eve, this same glorious Archangel stood guard at the gate of paradise with flaming sword, "to keep the way of the tree of life" [Gn. 3: 24].
The Fathers of the Church tell us that even though in many instances the name of St. Michael is not mentioned in Holy Scripture when reference is made to the services of an Angel, we may confidently believe that it was either St. Michael himself who rendered assistance, or his Angelic subjects, who did so at his command.
They speculate that it may have been St. Michael who warned Noe, and that through St. Michael Abraham was named the father of the Chosen People and received that wonderful promise which Holy Church has immortalized in her prayers for the dead: "May the holy standard-bearer, Michael, introduce them into that holy light which You promised of old to Abraham and his descendants." The Angel who appeared to Moses in the burning bush was St. Michael, according to the teaching of St. Gregory Nazianzen. It was this mighty angel who performed the wonders which took place at the departure of the Israelites from Egypt, and through whom God gave the Ten Commandments to the Israelites on Mount Sinai. Likewise, the angel who routed the army of Sennacherib [2 Kgs. 19: 35] was the holy Archangel Michael.
After the death of Moses. according to an ancient Jewish tradition to which St. Jude refers in his Epistle [1: 9]. St. Michael concealed the tomb of Moses from the people, and also from Satan who wished to disclose it to the Israelites to seduce them thereby to the sin of false worship.
God revealed to St. Michael the designs of His justice and mercy regarding His Chosen People. Of this the prophecies of Daniel and Zechariah bear witness. Finally, it was this great celestial prince who aided the Israelites and rendered the army of Judas Macchabeus victorious over their enemies.
Even to this day the Jews invoke the holy Archangel Michael as the principal defender of the Synagogue and their protector against enemies. On the Feast of the Atonement they conclude their prayers with this beautiful invocation: "Michael, prince of mercy, pray for Israel, that it may reign in heaven, in that light which streams forth from the face of the King who sits upon the throne of mercy."
PROTECTOR OF THE CHURCH
Just as the Chosen People of the Old Law were marvelously protected by St. Michael, so we may believe this same prince of Heaven protects the Church of God even more wonderfully. Under the New Law, as under the Old, St. Michael is the "Vicar of the Most High and the Prince of His people," ever prepared to render assistance. The Fathers of the Church are of one mind in teaching that St. Michael is the Guardian Angel and the protector of the Catholic Church.
Time and again. in centuries past. St. Michael came to the rescue when dreadful wars and persecutions threatened to destroy Christianity. He it was who. at the command of Mary. Queen of Angels. came to the assistance of Constantine the Great in the fourth century. and helped his forces to gain a brilliant victory over the pagan Emperor Maxentius. The Archangel himself revealed his identity in this instance. Appearing to Constantine after the completion of a beautiful church which the latter had erected to his honor in gratitude. he said: "I am Michael. the chief of the Angelic legions of the Lord of hosts, the protector of the Christian Religion, who while you were battling against godless tyrants placed the weapons in your hands." This famous edifice, generally know as the Michaelion, has been the scene of many miracles wrought through the great Archangel.
Later, St. Michael proved himself a powerful protector against the invasions of barbarian hordes. The Greek Emperor Justinian I erected six churches in his honor, in grateful recognition of this assistance. In the fifteenth century when it seemed that the Turks would conquer all Europe, St. Michael, at the command of the Blessed Virgin, again championed the cause of Christianity, and a glorious victory was gained over the infidels. St. Joan of Arc, the Maid of Orleans, who in the fifteenth century saved France, ascribed her vocation and her victories to St. Michael. Three times he appeared to her and informed her that she was called to deliver her country.
Thus has St. Michael proved himself a valiant warrior for the honor of God both in Heaven and on earth. And he still wages incessant war with the archfiend Satan, in the great kingdom of God upon earth, the Church.
Pope Leo XIII, realizing by Divine enlightenment the present and future struggles of the Church against the powers of hell, felt convinced that through the intervention of St. Michael, hell would be conquered, and the Church restored to peace and liberty. He therefore composed a prayer in honor of the warrior Archangel.
It is said that one day, having celebrated the Holy Sacrifice, the aged Pontiff was in conference with the Cardinals. Suddenly he sank to the floor in a deep swoon. Physicians who hastened to his side feared that he had already expired, for they could find no trace of his pulse. However, after a short interval the Holy Father rallied, and opening his eyes, exclaimed with great emotion: "Oh, what a horrible picture I was permitted to see"----He had been shown in spirit the tremendous activities of the evil spirits and their ravings against the Church. But in the midst of this vision of horror he had also beheld consoling visions of the glorious Archangel Michael, who had appeared and cast Satan and his legions back into the abyss of Hell.
The Vision of Pope Leo XIII, October 13, 1884
After Pope Leo XIII had finished saying Mass in the Vatican Chapel, on the date mentioned, where he was attended by some Cardinals and other members of the Vatican staff, he suddenly stopped at the foot of the altar, where he stood for about ten minutes, as if in a trance, his face ashen white. The, going immediately from the Chapel to his office, he
composed the prayer to St. Michael, with instructions that it be said after all the Low
Masses everywhere, which it was until Vatican II.
When asked what happened, the Pontiff explained that as he was about to leave the foot
of the altar, he suddenly heard voices-------two voices, one kind and gentle, the other
guttural and harsh. They seemed to be coming from near the tabernacle. As he listened,
he heard the following conversation:
The guttural voice of Satan, in his pride, boasted to Our Lord:
"I can destroy Your Church."
The gentle voice of Our Lord:
"You can?" Then go ahead and do so."
Satan: "To do so, I need more time and power."
Our Lord: "How much time? How much power?"
Satan: "75 to 100 years, and a greater power over those who
will give themselves over to my service."
Our Lord: "You have the time, you will have the power. Do with them
what you will."
Pope Leo XIII understood that Satan was to be given a certain amount of time in order to accomplish his purpose; and a greater power to spread evil, through those human agents who would dedicate themselves to his cause. He was given further to understand that, if the devil had not accomplished his purpose at the end of the time limit given, he would suffer a most crushing and humiliating defeat. Furthermore, the forces of good would not be helpless in the face of the onslaught of Satan and his legions. They, too, were given a greater power for good, if only they would use it. Through their prayers and sacrifices and
good Catholic lives, they could offset the power of the devil and his human agents.
It was then that he saw the great role St. Michael was to play in this conflict, and that we should call upon his powerful intercession. As he had hurled Lucifer and the fallen Angels out of Heaven, after the "first revolt against God," so, too, he would play a great part in the battle to come, and would eventually cast Satan again into Hell.
Soon afterward he composed the well-known prayer: "St. Michael, the Archangel, defend us in the battle. Be our defense against the wickedness and snares of the devil . . ."
We know what happened, of course, the Church modernized into near collapse in most
countries and the loss of the Roman Rite almost completely when it abolished this Prayer of St. Michael's Protection after every Low Mass. Exactly 100 years to the very day of the Vision, the present Pontiff, Pope John Paul II issued "Quattuor abhinc annis," restoring the Roman Rite to the Church. Today, whenever a Low Mass of the Traditional Roman Rite [the "latin Mass" as it is popularly called] is offered, this prayer is recited immediately after the Mass concludes.
The Church has special need of St. Michael's powerful protection in our times. On all sides she is assailed by strong and bitter enemies. In one country after another religious persecution rises to an ever higher pitch of hatred and insolence. The terrible crimes which have been committed in recent times and are still being committed against the Church. both in her sanctuaries and her members, surely are instigated by the devil. No human mind could be base enough to conceive and put them into execution.
We know that the gates of Hell shall never prevail against the Church, for our Lord has promised to be with her till the end of time, but we must do our part in defending her cause. God might have cast the rebel Angels down to Hell by a single act of His will. but He chose rather to send against them His armies of loyal spirits, under the leadership of the great St. Michael. So. too. in the present critical times. He could confound the enemies of the Church by merely willing to do so. But He wills, rather, that we should cooperate in her defense, under the leadership of the great captain of the Heavenly hosts.
In the early ages of the Church, devotion to St. Michael was very popular. The early Christians invoked him especially for the cure of the sick. Tradition relates that in the earliest ages, St. Michael caused a medicinal spring to spout at Chairotopa near Colossae, and all the sick who bathed there, invoking the Blessed Trinity and St. Michael, were cured. Still more famous are the springs which St. Michael is said to have drawn from the rock at Colossae itself. The pagans directed a stream against the sanctuary of St. Michael to destroy it, but the Archangel split the rock by lightning to give a new bed to the stream and sanctified forever the waters which came from the gorge.
At Constantinople, likewise, St. Michael was the great Heavenly physician. The Christians of Egypt placed their life-giving river, the Nile, under the protection of St. Michael.
In Rome, also the role of heavenly physician was assigned to St. Michael. During the pontificate of St. Gregory the Great, a terrible pestilence depopulated the city of Rome. The Sovereign Pontiff ordered a penitential procession during which he himself carried a statue of the Blessed Virgin. Eighty persons died in the ranks of the procession itself. Still the Pope continued the prayers. When they arrived at the bridge crossing the Tiber, they heard the song of angels in the skies. Suddenly above the castle of St. Angelo, St. Michael appeared in gigantic size. In his right hand he held a sword which he thrust into the scabbard. At the same moment the pestilence ceased.
The celebrated sanctuary of Mont-St. Michel in Normandy, France, has likewise been the scene of many marvelous cures wrought through the intercession of the great Archangel. During the Middle Ages, this mount was one of Europe's most renowned places of pilgrimage. This sanctuary owes its origin to an apparition of St. Michael to St. Aubert, Bishop of Avranches, during the eighth century. Appearing to the holy Bishop, the Archangel pointed out to him a tall cliff extending out into the sea, telling him that this spot was under his special protection and re- questing that a church be built there to his honor. An imposing church was erected on a rocky mount, at the cost of great hardships and difficulties. Here the glorious Archangel testified to the truth of the apparition by effecting many and wonderful cures. Twelve blind persons had their sight restored and many sick were cured of their diseases. From that time forward the Archangel Michael has been highly venerated throughout France.
Up to the time of Charles XI, every Frankish king made a pilgrimage to this mount. Here Charlemagne dedicated his mighty kingdom to the Archangel. The church, with a Benedictine monastery adjoining, has a view far out over the sea. Its many steeples give it the appearance of a fortress. During the French revolution the monastery was converted into a central prison, and pilgrimages ceased. During the past few decades, however, the veneration of St. Michael at this sanctuary has been given a new impetus, and large pilgrimages are once more ascending the holy mount to honor God through His glorious Archangel.
From the history of Mont-St. Michel and Monte Gargano it is evident that pilgrimages are pleasing to the great Archangel, and that special graces are obtained in this manner. However, since few persons are in a position to make pilgrimages to such celebrated shrines, one may instead visit any church or chapel, or even a picture of the Archangel. If such visits are repeated several times, or even nine times as a novena, and are united with assistance at Holy Mass and the reception of Holy Communion, one may trustfully expect the aid of the holy Archangel even in the gravest necessities.
Not only during life does the glorious Archangel Michael defend and protect souls, but he is their special advocate and consoler at the hour of death. When the last hour of our earthly career draws near, and we are confronted by that awful moment when our soul must leave the body which it has loved so much, satanic hosts, like ravening lions, will make a last attack upon us. But we need not fear if during life we have been faithful in venerating St. Michael and in imploring his aid for the hour of death. In that hour of supreme need, this invincible Archangel, ever ready to assist the faithful soul, will come to our aid with his hosts and do battle in our be- half. He will cover us with his strong shield and lead us safely through the midst of our enemies.
And when at length our soul has been freed from its earthly bonds, he will conduct us to the judgment seat of Christ, where he will undertake our defense and implore the forgiveness of our sins. Finally, if we have merited to be numbered among the elect, he will take us beneath his glorious banner and conduct us to the blessed home of light, where all the Angels and Elect children of God glory in the eternal praise of their Creator. It is therefore a commendable practice daily to invoke St. Michael to lend his assistance at the critical hour of death. Many are the faithful clients of St. Michael who have experienced his help in that hour.
Among the writings of St. Alphonsus Liguori we find the following account of St. Michael's assistance at the hour of death: A certain Polish gentleman had for many years led a wicked life, When the hour of death approached, he was filled with terror and tortured by remorse of conscience over his former recklessness, so that he was reduced to a state of utter despair. No amount of exhortation or encouragement had any effect upon him; he refused every spiritual consolation.
This unhappy man, however, still had some veneration for St. Michael, and God in His mercy permitted the holy Archangel to appear to him in his last struggle. St. Michael encouraged him to repentance and said that he had prayed and obtained for him sufficient time to regulate the affairs of his soul. Shortly afterwards, two Dominican priests came to the house, saying that a stranger had sent them. The sick man recognized this as the work of St. Michael. He confessed his sins amid tears of repentance, received Holy Communion with touching devotion, and breathed forth his soul with every indication of being truly reconciled with God.