Tuesday, September 13, 2022

St. Michael the Archangel

When we think of angels, what comes to mind? Often angels are depicted in sacred art as cute infants with wings, floating around the periphery of the painting. Or sometimes in movies, angels are played by pretty young ladies with sweet voices.

Then, of course, there is everyone’s favorite angel, Clarence Oddbody, from the movie It’s A Wonderful Life. (Actually, until the very last scene, Clarence's rank was “AS2” — Angel, Second Class — as he told George Bailey, explaining the embarrassing absence of wings.) Clarence was goofy and friendly, and he had a heart of gold.
So, quite often, we think of angels as small and cute and completely harmless. But that’s not how the Bible describes angels. For starters, virtually every time an angel appears to a human, the angel has to declare, “Fear not!”

I don’t think fluttering babies or cute little ladies or kind-hearted Clarences would need to tell people to stop cowering in fear. There’s a good reason why people freak out when an angel appears. (By the way, I’m pretty sure “freak out” is a well-known biblical expression.) It’s because angels are described in Scripture as large warriors, often wielding a sword approximately the size of a City Hall flagpole.

Angels are spiritual beings, unlike we humans who are spirit and flesh hybrids. The main duty of angels is to be the Lord’s messengers, often issuing important declarations during key moments in salvation history. But angels are also in charge of heavenly security and military operations. 

We don’t hear about angels too often at Mass. In recent years, though, many parishes have reinstituted the practice of reciting the St. Michael Prayer after Mass has officially ended and before the closing hymn.

If you’re not familiar with St. Michael the Archangel, he is a very impressive guy. We read about him in the book of Revelation, where it describes what happened in the heavenly realm before the world began: “Then 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 12:7-9).
In the gospels, Jesus mentions that He “saw Satan fall like lightning from Heaven.” This is the same event described in that passage from Revelation, when the rebellious angel Satan and his followers were defeated and thrown out of God’s kingdom. Any guess who was at the head of the victorious army? Yup, it was St. Michael the Archangel.

When we pray the St. Michael Prayer at the end of Mass, we are calling on a spiritual warrior who has a track record of fighting evil and winning. Here is that powerful prayer: “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 hosts, by the power of God, cast into Hell Satan, and all the evil spirits who prowl about the world, seeking the ruin of souls. Amen.”

If you don’t believe that evil spirits prowl about the world seeking the ruin of souls, well, I guess you haven’t watched the news in a while. But if you do understand that a cosmic battle between good and evil is being fought in our world today, then asking for St. Michael’s help is a smart move. 
St. Michael the Archangel is not a cherubic infant with wings; he’s not a pretty young lady with a sweet voice; and he’s certainly not a goofy elderly fellow with a kind heart. St. Michael is a warrior. And his battlefield is the spiritual realm, where good and evil have been clashing since the beginning of time.  

Please pray the St. Michael Prayer. Nowadays, we need all the help we can get. 

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