The St. Michael the Archangel Prayer was written by Pope Leo XIII around 1885. It is said that the pope had a vision of evil oppressing the Church and wrote the prayer in response. It is not a liturgical prayer but it can be prayed communally. In light of recent events in the Church; Bishop Stika has requested that every parish in our diocese offer the St. Michael prayer after the concluding prayer of the Mass for a year beginning on September 29th (the Feast of the Archangels Michael, Gabriel and Raphael). The prayer assures us of God’s triumph over Satan and evil and God’s love and protection of the Church.
The strength of St. Michael the Archangel is found in his name which means “Who is like unto God?” It is a rhetorical question bringing with it the awareness of the transcendence, omnipotence and majesty of God. In art, St. Michael is often presented as a warrior casting Satan down to the ground. This is a symbolic presentation of the singular truth of Michael’s name overcoming and casting down the pride of Satan who (in his foolishness) thought that he was greater than God. Who is like unto God? No one – no creature, no pride, no arrogance, no sin, no power nor principality – is like unto God. All is cast down before God and St. Michael stands in witness to this. The victory belongs to God.
In the prayer we say,
Saint Michael 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.
“…may God rebuke the (devil) … and do thou, O Prince of the heavenly host, by the power of God, cast into hell Satan …” God rebukes. By the triumph of Christ, Satan has been overcome and cast into hell. The archangel and his name stand in testimony to this victory and to the truth that Christ will always protect his bride the Church.
Last Sunday our Lord told his disciples that he must suffer and be crucified. Peter took our Lord aside thinking he knew better. Our Lord’s response? “Get behind me Satan. You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do.” In today’s gospel our Lord again says that the Son of Man must suffer and be killed. What are the disciples doing? They are arguing among themselves about who is the greatest among them. Our Lord’s response? He brings a child into their midst and putting his arms around the child says, “Whoever receives one child such as this in my name, receives me; and whoever receives me, receives not me but the One who sent me.”
Salvation and the Kingdom of God is not found in the proud illusion of one’s own strength and greatness (this is the sin of Satan – which the disciples were skating dangerously close to in today’s gospel) but in the humility of welcoming Christ and the salvation and victory that he has won for us. St. Michael stands in witness to this. “Who is like unto God?”
What can we as parish do in light of the sins and evil affecting our world and our Church? We can put into effect the words of St. James in his letter, “But the wisdom from above is first of all pure, then peaceable, gentle, compliant, full of mercy and good fruits, without inconstancy or insincerity. And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace for those who cultivate peace.” We can humbly welcome Christ and one another in the name of Christ. We can strive to live the truth, peace and mercy of the Kingdom of God as church community here in our time and in our world.
What more can we do? In wonder we can stand alongside St. Michael and proclaim by both our words and our actions that singular truth that neither Satan nor all his hosts of demons can stand against:
Who is like unto God?