26th Tuesday in Ordinary Time
Feast of St. Michael and all the Angels.
On October 13th 1884, after celebrating Mass in his private chapel, Pope Leo XIII had a vision that left him pale and shaken to the core. In the direction of the tabernacle he heard two voices – the gentle voice of the Lord and harsh, guttural voice of Satan speaking. Satan was asking for 100 years to destroy the Church and our Lord said to Satan ‘You will have to the time and you will have the power, do with them what you will.’
Pope Leo XIII immediately composed this prayer to St Michael. It begins Saint Michael, the Archangel, defend us in battle; be our protection against the wickedness and snares of the devil. This prayer was to be said after every Low Mass. It is no longer said with the new rite of the Mass but St John Paul urged the faithful to continue to pray it privately.
Defend us in battle. When we hear battles we think of the wars we see on TV or in films. But there is another sort of battle raging all around us and within us and unlike other wars it will not end soon. It will be there till the end of time. I think we should all be aware that there is battle for our soul. We fight for many things – we fight over wealth, we fight over fame, we fight over land, we fight over our entitlements. And we forget that the most precious possession we have is our own soul. If we lose this, everything else we gain will be a total waste. It is the only soul we have or will ever get. How zealous are we for our own soul. How conscious are we of the purity of our soul, to keep it stainless, to cast out the insinuations of evil instead of entertaining them as fantasies? This is not a matter of mere psychology or mental health. It determines our eternal destiny.
To be aware of this battle, we need to go deeper. We live at the surface of things. We are very outward directed and think that we are in control just because we think and we will and we do. But this prayer speaks of the wickedness and snares of the devil. We are spiritual beings and are open to invisible, unfelt, silent and powerful influences that infiltrate into our awareness as our thoughts. Behind them lie our passions and behind these passions lies the influence of Satan – through obsessional thought and spiritual oppression and even possession eventually. It happens so slowly and so silently that it can catch us unawares.
This prayer is a humble petition to St Michael to defend us. Do we feel it? No. Can we see it? Hardly. But we pray because we believe that there is more to us than what meets the eye. And for that more that does not meet the human, we have no control and yet the forces bearing on us are very real, more real than the reality we are used to. We need the help of truly spiritual beings – the angels to come to our aid. We might not feel the help and not see it. But if we believe and pray, it will happen. It might seem like coincidence but it is actually providence acting in time. If we pray coincidences will happen and only if we pray. If we don’t they don’t happen.
Saint 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, O prince of the heavenly host, by the power of God, thrust into Hell, Satan and all the other evil spirits, who prowl throughout the world, seeking the ruin of souls. Amen.”