Today is the feast/memorial of Apparition of Saint Michael the Archangel.
by Father Prosper Gueranger 1870
David foretold that the Emmanuel’s coming into this world would be greeted by the Angels, and that they would humbly adore him on his first appearing among us (Ps. xcvi. 8, Heb. i. 6). We saw this prophecy fulfilled on the Night ever blessed, when Mary brought forth the Fruit of her womb. The Angelic choirs sang one of their heavenly hymns, which led the Shepherds to the Stable; we blended our songs with theirs, in homage to our Infant-God. The Resurrection of our Emmanuel was sure to be honoured by the presence of these blessed Spirits, who had witnessed, with amazement and trembling, the humiliations and cruelties of His Passion. The moment He passed through the barrier that imprisoned Him in his Sepulchre, an Angel, with a face beaming as the sun, and garments white as snow, came and rolled back the Stone, and proclaimed to the holy Women, that He Whom they were seeking had risen. When they entered the cave of the Sepulchre, two other Angels, clad in white robes, appeared to them, and repeated the tidings of Jesus’ triumph.
Let us reverently honor these princely heralds of our deliverance, and consider how respectfully they cluster round Jesus their King and God, during the forty days after His Resurrection.
They adore this glorified Humanity, which they are soon to see raised up to the highest heavens, and throned at the Father’s right hand. They rejoice with us in the happiness brought to us by this Paschal Feast, which restores immortality to us in the person of our Risen Saviour; and thus, as St. Gregory told us a few days back, “it is the Feast of the Angels, because, by its recalling us to heaven, it fills up their number.” It was but right, therefore, that Paschal Time should devote one of its days to honouring the Angelic Spirits. Eight days previous to the Annunciation, we kept the feast of St. Gabriel, our Lady’s honoured messenger; today, it is St. Michael, the Archangel and Prince of the heavenly host, that is to receive our love and praise. He himself selected this day, by appearing on it, and leaving us a pledge of his presence and protection.
The very name of Michael urges us to honour this glorious Spirit; it is a cry of enthusiasm and fidelity, for it signifies: “Who is like unto God?” Satan trembles at hearing this name, for it reminds him of the noble protest wherewith the bright Archangel answered the call of the rebel angels. Michael proved his strength and prowess when he fought the great battle in heaven. On that account, he was made the Guardian and Protector of God’s people; of the Jews first, and afterwards, of the Christian Church, for the Synagogue forfeited all her honours. Michael now watches over Jesus’ Spouse, our mother; he supports her in her trials, and she wins no triumph in which he has not had some hand.
But, we are not to suppose, that the holy Archangel is so engaged in looking after the general interests of Christ’s kingdom on earth, that he cannot attend to the prayers of each individual member of the Church. God has given him a compassionate love for men; and there is not a single soul that escapes his notice. He wields the sword in defence of the Spouse of Christ; he wars with the dragon, who is ever lying in wait for the Woman and her Child (Apoc. xii. 13); but, at the same time, he is attentive to each one of us; for, after having confessed our sins to Almighty God, and to the Blessed Mary ever a Virgin, we acknowledge them likewise to Blessed Michael the Archangel, and beseech him to pray for us to the Lord our God.
He assists at every death-bed, for his special office is to receive the souls of the elect, on their quitting the flesh. He, with loving solicitude and princely bearing, presents them to the Light Eternal, and introduces them into the House of God’s glory. It is holy Church herself that tells us, in the words of her Liturgy, of these prerogatives of the great Archangel. She teaches us, that he has been set over Paradise, and that God has given him the charge of leading to heaven the souls of them that are to be received there. On the Last Day, when our Risen Jesus is to appear on the clouds of heaven to judge mankind, Michael will have to fulfil a ministry of awful import; he, with the rest of the Angels, will have to separate the good from the bad, all of whom will then have resumed their bodies in the general resurrection.
Our Catholic Forefathers, in the Middle Ages, were fond of representing the holy Archangel engaged in this dread function. They put him standing at the foot of Jesus’ judgment-seat, and holding a scale, in which he is weighing the souls of men and their works. Devotion to St. Michael was sure to spread through the Church, especially after the worship of idols had been banished from the various countries, and men were no longer tempted to give divine honour to creatures. Constantine built in honour of the great Archangel a celebrated Church called Michaelion; and at the time of Constantinople’s falling under the power of the Turks, there were no less than fifteen Churches that bore the name of Saint Michael, either in the City or the suburbs.
In other parts of Christendom, this devotion took root only by degrees; and it was by the holy Archangel’s appearing to men, that the Faithful were prompted to have recourse to him. These apparitions were local, and for reasons which to us might seem of secondary importance: but God, Who, from little causes, produces great effects, made use of them whereby to excite Christians to have confidence in their heavenly protector. The Greeks celebrate the apparition that took place at Chone, the ancient Colossa, in Phrygia. There was, in that city, a Church dedicated to St. Michael, and it was frequently visited by a holy man, named Archippus, who was violently persecuted by the pagans. One day, when Archippus was at his devotions in his favorite St. Michael’s, his enemies resolved to destroy both him and the Church. Hard by, ran a brook which flowed into the river Lycus: this they turned off, and flooded the ground on which stood the Church. Suddenly, there appeared the Archangel St. Michael, holding a rod in his hand: the water immediately receded, and flowed into a deep gulf, near Colossa, where the Lycus empties itself and disappears. The date of this apparition is not certain, beyond its having occurred at the period when the pagans were numerous enough in Colossa to harass the Christians.
Another apparition, which encouraged devotion to St. Michael in Italy, took place on Mount Gargano, in Apulia; it is the one honoured by today’s feast. A third happened on Mount Tomba, on the coast of Normandy: we will commemorate it on the 16th October.
The feast we are keeping today is not so solemn as the one of September 29th; it is, however, more exclusively in honour of St. Michael, inasmuch as the Autumn Feast includes all the choirs of the Angelic hierarchy. The Roman Breviary gives us the following account of the apparition on Mount Gargano.
That the blessed Archangel Michael has often appeared to men, is attested both by the authority of sacred Scripture, and by the ancient tradition of the Saints. Hence, the memory of these apparitions is commemorated in divers places. As, heretofore, Michael was honoured by the Synagogue of the Jews as Guardian and Patron, so is he now by the Church of God. A celebrated apparition of the Archangel took place, under the pontificate of Gelasius 1st, in Apulia, on the top of Mount Gargano, at whose foot lies the town of Siponto.
A bull, belonging to a man who lived on the mountain, having strayed from the herd, was, after much searching, found hemmed fast in the mouth of a cave. One of its pursuers shot an arrow, with a view to rouse the animal by a wound; but the arrow rebounding, struck him that had sent it. This circumstance excited so much fear in the by-standers and in them that heard of it, that no one dared to go near the cave. The inhabitants of Siponto, therefore, consulted the Bishop; who answered, that in order to know God’s will, they must spend three days in fasting and prayer.
At the end of the three days, the Archangel Michael intimated to the Bishop, that the place was under his protection, and that what had occurred was an indication of his will that God should be worshipped there, in honour of himself and the Angels. Whereupon, the Bishop repaired to the cave, together with his people. They found it like a Church in shape, and began to use it for the celebration of the divine service. Many miracles were afterwards wrought there. Not long after, Pope Boniface dedicated a Church in honour of St. Michael, in the great Circus of Rome, on the third of the Kalends of October (September 29th), the day on which the Church celebrates the memory of all the Angels. But to-day’s feast is kept in commemoration of the apparition of Michael the Archangel. (2,3)
Prayer of Pope Leo XIII to St. Michael
The following prayer was promulgated in a Motu Proprio of Pope Leo XIII on September 25, 1888. The translation is taken from the Raccolta of 1908 and 1910. In later editions of the Raccolta, the words in bold print were eliminated:
O GLORIOUS Archangel St. Michael, Prince of the heavenly host, be our defense in the terrible warfare which we carry on against Principalities and Powers, against the rulers of this world of darkness, spirits of evil. Come to the aid of man, whom God created immortal, made in His own image and likeness, and redeemed at a great price from the tyranny of the devil. Fight this day the battle of the LORD, together with the holy angels, as already thou hast fought the leader of the proud angels, Lucifer, and his apostate host, who were powerless to resist thee, nor was there place for them any longer in Heaven. That cruel, that ancient serpent, who is called the devil or Satan, who seduces the whole world, was cast into the abyss with his angels. Behold, this primeval enemy and slayer of men hast taken courage. Transformed into an angel of light, he wanders about with all the multitude of wicked spirits, invading the earth in order to blot out the name of GOD and of His CHRIST, to seize upon, slay and cast into eternal perdition souls destined for the crown of eternal glory. This wicked dragon pours out, as a most impure flood, the venom of his malice on men of depraved mind and corrupt heart, the spirit of lying, of impiety, and of every vice and iniquity. These most crafty enemies have filled and inebriated with gall and bitterness the Church, the Spouse of the Immaculate Lamb, and have laid impious hands on Her most sacred possessions. In the Holy Place itself, where has been set up the See of the most holy Peter and the Chair of Truth for the light of the world, they have raised the throne of their abominable impiety, with the iniquitous design that when the Pastor has been struck, the sheep may be scattered. Arise, then, O invincible Prince, bring help against the attacks of the lost spirits to the people of GOD, and give them the victory. They venerate thee as their protector and patron; in thee holy Church glories as Her defense against the malicious power of Hell; to thee has GOD entrusted the souls of men to be established in heavenly beatitude. Oh, pray to the GOD of peace that He may put Satan under our feet, so far conquered that he may no longer be able to hold men in captivity and harm the Church. Offer our prayers in the sight of the Most High, so that they may quickly conciliate the mercies of the LORD; and beating down the dragon, the ancient serpent, who is the devil and Satan, do thou again make him captive in the abyss, that he may no longer seduce the nations. Amen.
V. Behold the Cross of the LORD; be scattered ye hostile powers.
R. The Lion of the tribe of Juda has conquered, the Root of David.
V. Let Thy mercies be upon us, O LORD.
R. As we have hoped in Thee.
V. O LORD, hear my prayer.
R. And let my cry come unto Thee.
Let us pray:
O GOD, the FATHER of OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST, we call upon Thy Holy Name, and as suppliants we implore Thy clemency, that by the intercession of Mary, ever Virgin Immaculate and our Mother, and of the glorious Archangel St. Michael, Thou wouldst deign to help us against Satan and all other unclean spirits, who wander about the world for the injury of the human race and the ruin of souls. Amen. (3)
Image: Sanctuary of Saint Michael the Archangel, Monte Sant’Angelo, Apulia, Italy. Statue of the Saint overlooking the main entrance. (6)
Research by Ed Masters, REGINA Staff