For the last several weeks, we have been reciting the prayer to St. Michael the Archangel after Masses here at St. Paul, and also at every parish in the diocese of Colorado Springs at the request of Bishop Sheridan. It seems to me that a little history of the origin of the practice of praying this prayer after Mass may be helpful. The practice of praying to St. Michael the Archangel at the conclusion of Mass dates to 1886, at which time Pope Leo XIII instructed all priests to lead the faithful in specific prayers after Low Mass – Masses without music – including the prayer to St. Michael the Archangel, which he had himself composed after a mystical experience. After Mass one day in 1884, Pope Leo XIII stood transfixed in front of the altar. For perhaps ten minutes he stood there as if in a trance, his face drained of color. Then he went to his office and composed a prayer to St. Michael. He told his staff the prayer should be offered throughout the Church. He explained that he had heard two voices in the vicinity of the tabernacle. He believed they were the voices of Our Lord and of Satan. Pope Leo heard Satan boast that he could destroy the Church in 75 to 100 years, if given the opportunity. Then he heard Our Lord give Satan permission to try.
It’s difficult not to think of the current situation of the Church not directly related to the mystical experience of Pope Leo XIII. There have certainly been dramatic crises in these last years, as well as painful reopening of old wounds in recent months. How much more important for us now to reintroduce the practice of praying to the Captain of the Celestial Armies for protection from the invisible enemies of God and Church. It is a great comfort to me to know that, although silent and powerful opponents swirl around us plotting our destruction – and seem to have enjoyed some recent success – we have an equally silent, but far more powerful defender in St. Michael and all the angels of God, who at all times surround us with the assurance of divine protection. Let’s make an extra effort to invite these spiritual champions to do what they do best: surround God’s embattled people with the assurance that, in the light of His Goodness, the darkened will of the enemy is incapable of the destruction that is its desperate object.
- Fr. Fitz