Although called “Saint”, Michael the Archangel is an angel, rather than a “saint” seemingly around since the beginning of time.
An angel, is a being described in the Catechism of the Catholic Church as follows: “The existence of the spiritual, non-corporeal beings that Sacred Scripture usually calls “angels” is a truth of faith.” The purpose of angels is described as, “With their whole beings the angels are servants and messengers of God.”
Saint Michael has been part of Christian tradition since the earliest of times with reports of his veneration as early as the first century and has enjoyed more recent popularity in the Catholic Church with the introduction of the Prayer to Saint Michael in 1886 (see below). Saint Michael (the Protector) is considered the leader of the angels, and his feast is now celebrated on September 29, along the with angel Gabriel (of The Annunciation) and Raphael (the Guide).
Saint Michael is mentioned by name in Scripture only four or five times and from these mentions, and surrounding traditions, he is assigned these responsibilities:
- To combat Satan;
- To accompany the faithful to the heavenly judgment at death;
- To protect and guard the Church, including being the Guardian Angel of the Pope
- To preside over the judgement at death determining entrance to heaven, or not – the so-called Psychostasy.
In the following dramatic passage from the Book of the Revelation to John (The Apocalypse), John describes not only what he sees in the end times, but also harkens back to the great battle at the beginning of time when Saint Michael and the angels defeated Satan and cast him out of heaven:
Revelations (12: 7-12) Then war broke out in heaven; Michael and his angels battled against the dragon. The dragon and its angels fought back, but they did not prevail and there was no longer any place for them in heaven. The huge dragon, the ancient serpent, who is called the Devil and Satan, who deceived the whole world, was thrown down to earth, and its angels were thrown down with it. Then I heard a loud voice in heaven say:
“Now have salvation and power come, and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Anointed. For the accuser of our brothers is cast out, who accuses them before our God day and night. They conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony; love for life did not deter them from death. Therefore, rejoice, you heavens, and you who dwell in them. But woe to you, earth and sea, for the Devil has come down to you in great fury, for he knows he has but a short time.”
The last line of the scripture passage may be the impetus for the recitation of the Prayer to Saint Michael by the faithful. This prayer was endorsed by Pope Leo XIII in 1886. From 1886 to 1964 (implementation of changes of Vatican II), this prayer was recited after Mass in the Catholic Church; and has enjoyed somewhat of a revival in many churches today.
Prayer to St. Michael the Archangel
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, O Prince of the Heavenly host, by the power of God, cast into hell Satan and all the evil spirits who prowl about the world seeking the ruin of souls.
Saint Michael is depicted in art dressed in battle gear with a spear or sword to fight Satan who is shown as a demon at his feet. Frequently a balance-scale is also included in the portrayal representing his role in the assessing (weighing) of the merits of souls on the Judgement Day (the Psychostasy). Representing his role as a protector, Saint Michael the Archangel is the patron of soldiers, police and doctors.
Catechism of the Catholic Church https://www.vatican.va/archive/ccc_css/archive/catechism/p1s2c1p5.htm
St. Michael the Archangel Roman Catholic Church https://saintmichaelcc.org/prayer-to-st-michael-the-archangel
Guide to Christian Iconography https://christianiconography.info/michael.html
Catholic Online https://www.catholic.org/saints/saint.php?saint_id=308