Revelation 12:7-12ab; John 1:47-51
It is said that one morning, perhaps in the year 1884, once Pope Leo XIII had finished saying Mass and was leaving the altar, he suddenly stopped. According to witnesses, it was as if he was in a trance; he stood motionless for several minutes and his face turned ashen in color. When he regained his composure the Pope went to his office, asked to be left alone, and began writing. It took him only a short while to produce what became a new prayer to St. Michael the Archangel, which he ordered to be recited after all Low Masses everywhere.
Only the Holy Father knows what he experienced during the vision; all we have is conjecture. Some say he heard Satan confronting Christ with threats to destroy the Church; others that he saw a terrible vision of dark angels attacking the Church. Whatever it was, Pope Leo left the chapel convinced that demonic forces were gathering and the next 100 years would be a great trial for the Church and the world. From our vantage point of history we see how right he was. The fingerprints of Satan are all over the 20th century: World wars, civil wars, weapons of mass destruction, bloodthirsty tyrants; millions upon millions of lost lives and, as if that isn’t enough, millions more killed in the wombs of their mothers.
Thanks be to God who has not left us to battle such grave evil alone but has given us good and holy angels like the three whose feast we now celebrate.
The Archangel Michael, whose name means Who is like unto God?, is the prince of angels. We read in Revelation why Holy Father Leo sought his intercession; it is Michael who leads the heavenly angels in the ultimate battle against Satan and his demons and teaches them why there are none like unto God. Apart from reciting the Pope’s prayer following Mass, let us also ask St. Michael’s intercession for all those who so often find themselves in harm’s way such as soldiers, first responders, and emergency workers. Let us also ask his intercession for ourselves during times of temptation as well as those who have fallen or are in danger of falling away from practice of the faith.
The Archangel Gabriel, whose name means God is my strength, is the great messenger of Christ. In the book of Daniel he speaks of the coming Messiah; to Zechariah he announces the birth of John the Baptist, forerunner to the Messiah; above all, he is chosen to greet and announce to the Blessed Virgin Mary the great mystery of the Incarnation. Let us ask the intercession of Gabriel on behalf of all those who are charged to carry the message of salvation to others, and ask him to intercede for us, that we may more and more be effective messengers of the Messiah ourselves.
Finally, there is the Archangel Raphael, whose name means God has healed. He appears in Scripture in only one place: the Old Testament book of Tobit. Full of Messianic undertones, the book tells of a loving father who sends his only son accompanied by a holy spirit (Raphael) to rescue a bride tormented by a demon. During their travels Raphael heals Tobit’s blindness; for this reason many who suffer with diseases of the eye ask his intercession. Let us also ask St. Raphael’s intercession for all those who are in any way blind, morally or spiritually, examining our own inner vision first.
I am no Pope Leo XIII, but I suggest that we make a habit of praying to these powerful archangels. Something like this:
St. Michael, Prince of Angels, protect me as I face the many dangers of this world;
St. Gabriel, strengthen me that I may worthily proclaim Christ to others;
St. Raphael, ask Our Lord to heal the blindness that keeps me from seeing His Face in everyone I meet.
Heavenly Father, grant me the grace of the Apostles, that I too may see heaven opened and all the holy angels ascending and descending on the Son of Man: Your only Son, our Lord, Jesus Christ who reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God forever and ever. Amen.
Sts. Michael, Gabriel, and Raphael, pray for us.