In October I wrote two separate blog articles reflecting on The Serenity Prayer and the Prayer of St. Francis. Two years ago, I shared a homily from a holy hour reflecting on the Lord’s Prayer. Today I would like to reflect on the Prayer to St. Michael but I would like to take a little different approach than in my previous reflections on the prayers already mentioned.
I would like to begin by reflecting on the origin of the Prayer to St. Michael and why the prayer is becoming more popular today.
The origin of the prayer goes back to 1884. After Pope Leo XIII finished saying Mass, he experienced a vision of spiritual warfare between Jesus and Satan. From the vision, Pope Leo XIII was led to compose the Prayer to St. Michael. He ordered that it be said after the conclusion of every Mass. This practice continued until the 1950’s.
I specifically mention that it is after Mass that the prayer is said. The Mass is the greatest prayer we can offer. We do not need to add to the Mass. Thus, the Prayer to St. Michael is said after Mass, not to add to the Mass but to remind us as we go out into the world that we need help in the battle against Satan. We can say the prayer anytime on our own. We say it together after we conclude Mass to remind us that we are united together in the battle against sin. We rely on St. Michael who helps us through the “power of God.”
So, why is it making a comeback? For myself, I had seen the prayer in the past but, honestly, I didn’t pay much attention to it until I was assigned as pastor to St. Michael’s Church in Newark, NY. Upon my arrival I read some short books to learn more about St. Michael (that reading is incorporated into homilies I gave on St. Michael in 2016 and 2017 on the Feast of the Archangels, September 29th). The material that I read included the origin of the Prayer to St. Michael I already mentioned above.
I was led to consider resuming the custom of saying the Prayer to St. Michael Prayer at the conclusion of Mass. As I was praying over this, other parishes and even whole dioceses were resuming this practice. Why? Because of a growing sense that we are indeed in a “battle” against Satan. We need help. Ultimately, of course the help comes from God.
God works through others. In the battle against evil, St. Michael plays a vital role. In chapter 12 of the Book of Revelation, we learn of the battle against Satan in Heaven. In verse 7 we are told it is St. Michael the Archangel who leads this battle. So, we seek his help as we fight against evil.
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.
Satan is real. Satan, named as the serpent, led Adam and Eve to commit the first sin (cf. “Original Sin and the Question of Limbo”) in the Garden of Eden in chapter 3 of the Book of Genesis. It is Satan who tries to get Job to reject God in the Book of Job. It is Satan who tempts Jesus in the desert (Matthew 4:1-11, Mark 1:12-13, Luke 4:1-13). It is Satan who “entered into Judas,” leading him to betray Jesus (Luke 22:3).
Yes, Satan is real. So, we ask St. Michael to “defend us in battle,” to “be our defense against the wickedness and snares of the devil.” Of course, we know God is the one brings victory over sin. Thus, we pray, “may God rebuke him.”
Even as we pray that St. Michael, as the “Prince of the heavenly hosts…thrust into hell Satan, all the evil spirits” we know it is “by the power of God” that he does this.
Satan and the evil spirits “prowl around the world seeking the ruin of souls.” Why? One common answer is that Satan is looking to increase the numbers under him. He builds his pride by ruining our souls. Another is that Satan is envious of us. If he can’t get into Heaven, he does not want us to be get into Heaven either.
Satan is cunning as he seeks the ruin of souls. We struggle against temptation. The good news is that we do not need to fight the battle alone. God is with us and He gives us St. Michael to help us.