I’m excited because I hear my namesake in the reading today, St. Michael the Archangel. That’s what I’d like to talk about in this homily is this beautiful gift we are given as St. Michael to be our defender and to be our protector.
In the reading, “He will come to us at a time of great distress.” I think over the past year; we have all experienced a time of great distress. We’ve experienced firsthand evil that has taken place. We have been attacked in many ways by evil. The church was closed down for the first, and hopefully the last time in my life that I’ll ever experience it. I look at what has happened to many people since that time; there has been a lot of evil. There’s evil in our country; there’s evil in our politics; there’s evil in our education, evil that has happened in the priesthood, the evil that has occurred with our bishops. The same is true for marriage and family when you look at the evil attack on marriage and families, especially children.
Today I want to reflect on the prayer of St. Michael. Those of you that are older probably have this prayer memorized. The reason is back when the Latin mass was celebrated, after the low Mass, the prayer to St. Michael was always said, so everyone would kneel and say the prayer together. So if you know the prayer, say it with me. If you don’t know it, look in awe at the people that do know it. “St. 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 oh prince of the heavenly hosts, by the power of God, cast into hell Satan and all evil spirits who prowl about the world seeking the ruin of souls. Amen.”
You’ve just shown your age, all of you. What a powerful prayer this is. This is the prayer that we can call on St. Michael whenever we’re going through a difficult time. Suppose you don’t have this prayer memorized. In that case, I highly recommend that you memorize it because he is our powerful intercessor against Satin, against distress, against the enemy, against sin, and the lure and temptation of sin.
St. John Paul said, “Although this prayer is no longer said at the end of mass, I ask everyone not to forget it and to recite it, to obtain help in the battle against the forces of darkness and the spirit of this world.” So every time we’re experiencing the forces of darkness in the spirit of this world, pray it.
St. Bernard once said, “Whenever any grievous temptation or vehement sorrow oppresses you, invoke St. Michael, your guardian. Cry out to him and say, ‘Lord save us lest we perish.” If you find yourself ever tempted by Satin, call on St. Michael to overcome that temptation.
There’s an exorcist, Gabriel Amorth, who is an exorcist in Rome. I want to read a little quote that he says about the demonic. He says, “Some people marvel at the ability of the demons to tempt men and even to own the body, but they can never take possession of the soul unless a man freely gives it.” We don’t have to worry about Satin taking possession of our souls or being possessed unless we freely give that. He says, “We should remember in the Book of Revelations ‘when war broke out in Heaven Michael and his angels fighting against the dragon, and the dragon and his angels fought, but they were defeated, and there was no longer any place for them in Heaven. And the great dragon was thrown down. The ancient serpent, the devil, and Satan, the deceiver of the world, were thrown down to earth, and his angels were thrown down with him. When the dragon saw that he had been thrown down to the earth, he pursued the woman dressed like the sun (we know this to be Mary) from whom Jesus was born. And when the dragon realized that his efforts had failed, he went off to make war on the rest of her offspring, on those who keep the commandments of God and bear testimony.”
The reality is, we’re in a battle. There is spiritual warfare that is constantly going on and will go on for all of our lives. Satin will be attacking us, he will be tempting us, he will be oppressing us, and it’s a constant battle that he has forged on the earth. Out of God’s providence, God allows us, and the only reason he will enable something like this is to strengthen our faith. When we find ourselves tempted, when we find ourselves lured by Satin’s traps, when we find ourselves giving in to any evil, that’s an opportunity to strengthen our faith and grow in virtue. It’s so important that we realize that there is a battle. There’s a battle in all these things going on in our world, our country, our nation. There is a battle. There is also a battle personally. Every one of us is struggling with some sin or some temptation or something that we’re just oppressed by, and that plagues us.
Fr. Gabriel Amorth goes on to say, “During May 24, 1987, when John Paul II visited the sanctuary of St. Michael the Archangel, he said, ‘The battle against the devil, the principal task of St. Michael the Archangel, is still being fought today because the devil is still alive and active in the world, and evil that surrounds us today. The disorders that plague our society, man’s inconsistency and brokenness are not only the result of original sin but the results of Satin’s pervasive and dark actions.’ Satin is on the prowl. He’s lurking; he’s waiting for us, to find us when we are weak. He’s waiting to find us and to take us out. All of us are marked with the mark and seal of Baptism. Satin wants to take every one of us out is possible.”
How do we prevent that? The exorcist says that I have a spiritual director who is an exorcist; he says the primary form of exorcism is confession. If you find yourself struggling with any of this, if you find yourself oppressed by any of this, if you find Satan getting out of control in your life, the primary form of exorcism is confession. That’s the first thing we can do is go to confession. The others are the means of sacramental life. Today we are receiving the Eucharist and fasting, doing some intentional fasting if you’re tempted to give something up and do some self-denial. Almsgiving so gives to the poor and to pardon offenses. Suppose there’s any unforgiveness in our lives for anyone. If there is any non-willingness to forgive anybody, that is a very open entry for Satan. Finally, to go to our Lord, to Mary, to St. Michael, all of the angels and the saints that are there to protect us.
He goes on to say that “may prayers strengthen us for the spiritual battle.” We hear in the letter from the Ephesians, “Be strong in the Lord, strength in his might.” The Book of Revelations refers to the same battle recalling the image of St. Michael the Archangel before our eyes. Pope Leo XIII had this picture when he had a fantastic moment. He was before the Blessed Sacrament, and he experienced both St. Michael and he also experienced Satan. He realized the demonic and willing Satan was going to destroy himself and the entire church. That’s where he wrote the Prayer of St. Michael.
Finally, he wrote a more extended version of the prayer of St. Michael that could be used by priests and can be used by priests for exorcism. I’m going to pray that prayer over you right now. Not that any of us are possessed, but we are oppressed, Satan attacks us, and Satan tries to take us out. I invite as I pray this prayer over you to fold your hands and to ask for God’s prayer and protection in whatever may be going on in your life. He also encouraged priests to pray this often, to pray it with the people in parishes at Mass. That’s why I’m doing this as well, too.
“Glorious prince, the celestial host, St. Michael the Archangel, defend us in the conflict which we have to sustain against the principalities and powers against the rulers of the world and darkness, against the spirit of wickedness in high places. Come to the rescue of your people whom God has created in his image and likeness and whom he has redeemed at a great price from the tyranny of the devil. It is you whom Holy Church venerates as her guardian and protector. You whom the Lord has charged to conduct redeemed souls into Heaven. Pray, therefore, the God of peace to subdue Satan beneath our feet that he may no longer retain people captive nor do injury to the church. Present our prayers to the Highest that without delay, they may draw His mercy down upon us. Seize the dragon, the old serpent, which is the devil, and Satan. Bind him and cast him in the bottomless pit that he may no more seduce the nations.” May almighty God bless you, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
I think it’s important to say, though Satan can seem like a strong force in our life, God is infinitely more vital. Satan is but a creature. God is the creator, so he does have absolute power with us and over Satan and us. But I also say that this is a reality. We are in spiritual warfare. It’s nothing new, and it’s going to continue to go on to us, but especially as we hear in the first reading, “When we are in times of great distress turn to St. Michael, the Archangel, the prince, whose job it is to protect us and guard us against earth into heaven.”