In the rich history of our beloved Catholic Church, September 29th has been set aside for us to remember and pay homage to the these wonderful creatures…the Archangels. We need to realize that angels are purely incorporeal, rational beings that are extensions of God Himself. They personify His grace, His majesty and His intellect. Archangels play an important role in the history of salvation. Archangels are pure created beings….they are celestial beings on a higher order than human beings. They have no bodies and do not depend on matter for their existence. And contrary to what many people think…we do not become angels when we die…If we live holy lives and make our way to Heaven, we become saints…not angels. From sacred scripture we know that these Archangels have been instrumental in advancing God’s divine plan….setting things in motion…as it were….both in Heaven and on earth. Of the archangels we know of just three: St. Michael, St. Gabriel and St. Raphael.
Saint Michael is referred to as “The Prince of the Heavenly Host”. His Hebrew name means “Who is like God?” And in the book of Revelation we find that it is in fact St. Micheal that battles the prideful angel Lucifer, and banishes him and his followers from Heaven…
War broke out in heaven;
Michael and his angels battled against the dragon.
The dragon and its angels fought back,
but they did not prevail
and there was no longer any place for them in heaven.
The huge dragon, the ancient serpent,
who is called the Devil and Satan,
who deceived the whole world,
was thrown down to earth,
and its angels were thrown down with it.- Rev 12 : 7-12
Back in 1886, after having a prophetic dream involving the devil and the world, Pope Leo XIII created a prayer that would invoke the protection of Saint Michael … the following excerpt is copied from Our Glorious Popes published in 1955 by the Slaves of the Immaculate Heart of Mary:
Pope Leo XIII, who died in our own century, July 20, 1903 (aged 93), had a vision during his pontificate of Lucifer and his devils. He saw their fearful triumphs in all the countries of the world in the days soon to come. He beheld their evil glee and unholy mockery as they ravished the Mystical Body of Christ, stilled heavenly espousals in the hearts of maidens, muted the voices of priests and bishops, imprisoned the Popes, and silenced the song of monks and nuns in monasteries and convents grown empty of vocations.
The vision, given the Holy Father one morning after his Mass, was so beyond bearing, so overpowering in its sheer unrelieved, inexpressible evil, that it stopped the heart of Christ’s Vicar. The Pope lost consciousness. His frail body sank to the floor. The physicians who rushed to him could not, for long moments, hear the beat of his heart or feel the throb of his pulse. When they were about to pronounce him dead, he awoke, in great labor and groaning, in overwhelming pain of spirit.
He told, as much as such things lend themselves to words, what it was that he had seen. He told that when he was filled with so much terror for the world that he thought he would die of it, there appeared to him, beside the maliciously triumphant Satan, the gloriously shining Saint Michael, the Archangel. And when he recovered, Pope Leo XIII wrote letters of warning to the bishops all over the world. He fearlessly named the enemy behind whose deceiving mask Satan looked out upon the twentieth-century world and plotted its destruction. In the encyclical letter, Humanum Genus, he instructed his bishops as to what they must teach and do, before it would be too late, in order to overcome Lucifer and his devils.
It was then that Pope Leo XIII drafted, to be added to the prayers at the end of Low Mass and said by the priests and the faithful over the whole world, the intercession to Saint Michael which is now so familiar to us all:
St. Michael the Archangel,
defend us in battle.
Be our defense against the wickedness and snares of the Devil.
May God rebuke him, we humbly pray,
and do thou,
O Prince of the heavenly hosts,
by the power of God,
thrust into hell Satan,
and all the evil spirits,
who prowl about the world
seeking the ruin of souls. Amen.
Saint Gabriel’s name means “God’s strength.” He appears four times in scripture. He visits Zachariah to foretell the birth of his son, St. John the Baptist. And he is also the angel that appears to Mary announcing that she had been chosen to bear Our Lord and Savior. It is believed that he is also the angel that appears to Joseph in his dreams….convincing him to stay with Mary and then again warning Joseph to travel with Mary because of Herod. It is also believed that Gabriel is the angel that appeared to Jesus as he suffered in the garden of Gethsemane.
Finally, we come to Saint Raphael, whose name means “God has healed.” He is mentioned in the book of Tobit in which he heals Tobias’ blindness. He is recognized for his healing and for and for facilitating acts of mercy. In the Gospel of John (5: 1-4), we read about an angel who descended into the pool of Bethesda… transferring to it, powers of healing, the angel is also identified as Raphael.
Today’s feast of the archangels gives us an opportunity to show the depth of our gratitude to God for having created these heavenly spirits that encompass such great sanctity and dignity, which are extensions of God Himself... primarily to be at our service…Our very hearts would explode if we could actually comprehend the depth of God’s love for man….and out of that unfathomable love…He uses these celestial beings to aide us in our journey.
We should always remember that we are surrounded by other angels as well… namely our guardian angels, which are the special angels which have been assigned to each of us by God. They love us and do everything within God’s Will to protect us from harm. As far as angels and archangels go, we should seek their intercession as we do the Blessed Mother and the Saints… But it is important that we always remember that when we pray to the angels…we are not worshiping them...we are merely asking them to intercede for us in obtaining God’s goodness …in obtaining God’s grace… angels cannot fulfill our requests on their own….Remember….they are extensions of God…and His Will.
One final thought to add about St. Michael, as we prepare to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the apparition at Fatima…and the world seems to be quickening in it’s downward spiral towards evil…it would be most prudent for Faithful Catholics….for faithful Christians….everywhere...to memorize the Saint Michael prayer and pray it often, adding it to the end of each decade of the Rosary… seeking not only the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, but also the aide of this wonderful Archangel….Thou, O Prince of the Heavenly Hosts.