Wednesday, 28 September 2011

Saint Michael the Archangel, defend us in battle

The 29th of September is the Feast day of Ss Michael, Gabriel and Raphael (and, by the way, the tenth wedding anniversary of the author of this post - for which, thanks be to God).  St Michael is well known as being an Archangel and as Prince of the Angels.  What might be less well known is that according to Church teaching he has four distinct roles. 
  •   Enemy of Satan, expelling him from Heaven. 
  •   Saving souls at the hour of death 
  •   Weighing souls on Judgment Day 
  •   Guardian of the Church
While some of these roles might appear unfashionable to some, they apply now as ever.  In the homily given at his first ordination of bishops as Pope Benedict XVI, the Holy Father talked about the similarities between the mission of bishops and the mission of the angels.  Fr Ray Blake quoted a very informative news release on this homily on his St Mary Magdalen, Brighton blog :
Just as angels, explained the pope, bishops must lead humanity to God; they must knock on the door to their hearts to announce Christ; they must heal the wounds of relations between man and woman and save them from sin with reconciliation and forgiveness.
The Holy Father's homily was a timely reminder of the importance of the role of the angels, in this age where so many do not know God, and when even many of those who do like to form their own conclusions rather than listen to the Church.  On his recent visit to Germany, the Holy Father talked about how strange it now seems to the modern mind that Martin Luther was so interested in how one might receive God's grace: 
“How do I receive the grace of God?” The fact that this question was the driving force of his whole life never ceases to make an impression on me. For who is actually concerned about this today – even among Christians? What does the question of God mean in our lives? In our preaching? Most people today, even Christians, set out from the presupposition that God is not fundamentally interested in our sins and virtues. He knows that we are all mere flesh. Insofar as people today believe in an afterlife and a divine judgement at all, nearly everyone presumes for all practical purposes that God is bound to be magnanimous and that ultimately he mercifully overlooks our small failings. But are they really so small, our failings? Is not the world laid waste through the corruption of the great, but also of the small, who think only of their own advantage? Is it not laid waste through the power of drugs, which thrives on the one hand on greed and avarice, and on the other hand on the craving for pleasure of those who become addicted? Is the world not threatened by the growing readiness to use violence, frequently masking itself with claims to religious motivation? Could hunger and poverty so devastate parts of the world if love for God and godly love of neighbour – of his creatures, of men and women – were more alive in us? I could go on. No, evil is no small matter. Were we truly to place God at the centre of our lives, it could not be so powerful. The question: what is God’s position towards me, where do I stand before God? – this burning question of Martin Luther must once more, doubtless in a new form, become our question too.
So how might we build the work of the angels?  In addition to doing what we humanly can to contribute to their mission in "announcing Christ", perhaps through being Confidently Catholic, the answer is prayer.  Pope Leo XIII added the prayer below to the "Leonine Prayers" to be said after Mass.  Although the Leonine Prayers are no longer required after Mass, Pope John Paul II specifically encouraged the faithful to use this prayer to St Michael, as an aid in our "....battle against the forces of darkness and the spirit of this world."
Saint Michael the 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, thrust into hell Satan and all the evil spirits who prowl about the world seeking the ruin of souls.
To conclude, a setting of Psalm 148 by the eighteenth-century French organist and composer, Michel Corrette. 

St Michael, pray for us.

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