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Michael the Archangel by Guido Reni, Santa Maria della Concezione, Rome, 1636

The Prayer to Saint Michael is a prayer, used mainly by Catholics, which is addressed to Michael the archangel.

Pope Leo XIII added it in 1886[1] to the Leonine Prayers, which he had directed to be said after Low Mass two years earlier[2]. The practice of reciting these prayers after Mass was suppressed in 1964. However, Pope John Paul II referred to the St Michael prayer in his Regina Coeli address of 24 April 1994 as follows:

"May prayer strengthen us for the spiritual battle that the Letter to the Ephesians speaks of: 'Be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might' (Ephesians 6:10). The Book of Revelation refers to this same battle, recalling before our eyes the image of St Michael the Archangel (cf. Revelation 12:7). Pope Leo XIII certainly had this picture in mind when, at the end of the last century, he brought in, throughout the Church, a special prayer to St Michael: 'Saint Michael the Archangel, defend us in battle. Be our protection against the wickedness and snares of the devil...' Although this prayer is no longer recited 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 against the spirit of this world."[3]

Contents

The Prayer

Sancte Michael Archangele,
defende nos in proelio;
contra nequitiam et insidias diaboli esto praesidium.
Imperet illi Deus, supplices deprecamur:
tuque, Princeps militiae Caelestis,
satanam aliosque spiritus malignos,
qui ad perditionem animarum pervagantur in mundo,
divina virtute in infernum detrude.
Amen.[4]

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 evil spirits
who prowl about the world seeking the ruin of souls.
Amen.[5]

The English translations used in various countries differed slightly.

History

Pope Leo XIII

This prayer, whose opening words are similar to the Alleluia verse for Saint Michael’s feasts on 8 May and 29 September in the Roman Missal of the time (which ran, "Sancte Michael, defende nos in proelio ut non pereamus in tremendo iudicio"), was added in 1886 to the Leonine Prayers that in 1884 Pope Leo XIII ordered to be said after Low Mass, for the intention of obtaining a satisfactory solution to the problem that the loss of the Pope's temporal sovereignty caused in depriving him of the evident independence required for effective use of his spiritual authority.[2]

This problem was resolved in 1929 by the creation of the State of Vatican City, and in the following year, Pope Pius XI ordered that the intention for which these prayers should from then on be offered was "to permit tranquillity and freedom to profess the faith to be restored to the afflicted people of Russia".[6]

The Leonine Prayers were officially suppressed by the 26 September 1964 Instruction Inter Oecumenici, 48 j which came into effect on 7 March 1965.[7]

The opening words of the prayer ("St. Michael, defend us in battle") are often prayed independently. This is not a fragmented version, but rather an example of the short prayer form known as an aspiration or invocation.

Another prayer to St. Michael

On 18 May 1890, twenty years after the Capture of Rome had deprived the Pope of the last vestige of his temporal sovereignty, and the papal residence at the Quirinal Palace had been converted into that of the King of Italy, a much longer prayer to St. Michael, quite distinct from that in the Leonine Prayers, was approved for use:

O glorious Archangel St. Michael, Prince of the heavenly host, defend us in battle, and in the struggle which is ours against the principalities and Powers, against the rulers of this world of darkness, against spirits of evil in high places (Eph 6:12). Come to the aid of men, whom God created immortal, made in his own image and likeness, and redeemed at a great price from the tyranny of the devil (Wis 2:23-24, 1 Cor 6:20).

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. But that cruel, that ancient serpent, who is called the devil or Satan, who seduces the whole world, was cast into the abyss with all his angels (Rev 12:7-9).

Behold, this primeval enemy and slayer of man has 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, of blasphemy, and the pestilent breath of impurity, 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 bring them the victory.

The Church venerates thee as protector and patron; in thee holy Church glories as her defense against the malicious powers of this world and 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.

This prayer was replaced in 1902, a year and a half before the death of Pope Leo XIII, by a much shortened prayer:

O glorious Archangel St. Michael, Prince of the heavenly host, defend us in battle, and in the struggle which is ours against the principalities and Powers, against the rulers of this world of darkness, against spirits of evil in high places (Eph 6:12). Come to the aid of men, whom God created immortal, made in his own image and likeness, and redeemed at a great price from the tyranny of the devil (Wis 2:23-24, 1 Cor 6:20).

The Church venerates thee as protector and patron; 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.

In 1890, the longer form of this prayer was included as a sort of preface to a series of prayers of exorcism that was included in the Roman Ritual.[8]

Speculation about the origin of the prayers

Statue of Archangel Michael slaying Satan represented as a dragon. Quis ut Deus? is inscribed on his shield.

An article in the Roman journal Ephemerides Liturgicae (V. LXIX, pages 54–60) in 1955 gave an account in Latin and Italian of how the St. Michael prayer developed. Footnote nine of this account quotes an article in another Italian journal called La Settimana del Clero in 1947 by Fr. Domenico Pechenino who worked at the Vatican during the time of Leo XIII, in which he stated:

"I do not remember the exact year. One morning the great Pope Leo XIII had celebrated a Mass and, as usual, was attending a Mass of thanksgiving. Suddenly, we saw him raise his head and stare at something above the celebrant's head. He was staring motionlessly, without batting an eye. His expression was one of horror and awe; the colour and look on his face changing rapidly. Something unusual and grave was happening in him.
"Finally, as though coming to his senses, he lightly but firmly tapped his hand and rose to his feet. He headed for his private office. His retinue followed anxiously and solicitously, whispering: 'Holy Father, are you not feeling well? Do you need anything?' He answered: 'Nothing, nothing.' About half an hour later, he called for the Secretary of the Congregation of Rites and, handing him a sheet of paper, requested that it be printed and sent to all the ordinaries around the world. What was that paper? It was the prayer that we recite with the people at the end of every Mass. It is the plea to Mary and the passionate request to the Prince of the heavenly host, (St. Michael: Saint Michael the Archangel, defend us in battle) beseeching God to send Satan back to hell."

According to the same article in Ephemerides Liturgicae,[9] Cardinal Giovanni Nasalli Rocca di Corneliano wrote in his Litteris Pastoralibus pro Quadragesima (Pastoral Letters for Lent) that "the sentence 'The evil spirits who wander through the world for the ruin of souls' has a historical explanation that was many times repeated by his private secretary, Monsignor Rinaldo Angeli. Leo XIII truly saw, in a vision, demonic spirits who were congregating on the Eternal City (Rome). The prayer that he asked all the Church to recite was the fruit of that experience. He would recite that prayer with strong, powerful voice: we heard it many a time in the Vatican Basilica. Leo XIII also personally wrote an exorcism that is included in the Roman Ritual. He recommended that bishops and priests read these exorcisms often in their dioceses and parishes. He himself would recite them often throughout the day."[10]

In the late twentieth century, more vivid stories circulated among traditionalist Catholics, according to which in that century Satan would be particularly powerful. They recounted that Pope Leo XIII was climbing the steps to the altar when he suddenly stopped, stared fixedly at something in the air and with a terrible look on his face, collapsed to the floor (some accounts say he fell shrieking). The Pope was carried off by those around him to another room where he came around. As one rendition of the story tells it:

"When asked what had happened, he explained that, as he was about to leave the foot of the altar, he suddenly heard voices - two voices, one kind and gentle, the other guttural and harsh. They seemed to come from near the tabernacle. As he listened, he heard the following conversation:

The guttural voice, the voice of Satan in his pride, boasted to Our Lord: "I can destroy your Church."
The gentle voice of Our Lord: "You can? Then go ahead and do so."
Satan: "To do so, I need more time and more power."
Our Lord: "How much time? How much power?"
Satan: "75 to 100 years, and a greater power over those who will give themselves over to my service."
Our Lord: "You have the time, you will have the power. Do with them what you will."[11][12][13]

A variant of the story of the vision of Leo XIII was given by Father William Saunders in the Arlington Catholic Herald of 2 October 2003: "Pope Leo XIII (d. 1903) had a prophetic vision of the coming century of sorrow and war. After celebrating Mass, the Holy Father was conferring with his cardinals. Suddenly, he fell to the floor. The cardinals immediately called for a doctor. No pulse was detected, and the Holy Father was feared dead. Just as suddenly, Pope Leo awoke and said, 'What a horrible picture I was permitted to see!' In this vision, God gave Satan the choice of one century in which to do his worst work against the Church. The devil chose the 20th century. So moved was the Holy Father from this vision that he composed the prayer to St. Michael the Archangel.[14]

The first variant of the story to appear in print was that in a 1933 German Sunday newspaper article, which stated that, as a result of the vision, Leo XIII, shortly after 1880, ordered the prayer to Saint Michael to be recited. In reality, it was only in 1884 that the Pope instituted the Leonine Prayers, still at that time without the prayer to Saint Michael.[15]

In 1934, a year after the appearance of the earliest printed version of the story, a German writer, Father Bers, tried to trace the origin of the story and declared that, though the story was widespread, nowhere could he find a trace of proof. Sources close to the institution of the prayer in 1886, including an account of a conversation with Pope Leo XIII about his decision, say nothing of the alleged vision. Father Bers concluded that the story was a later invention that was spreading like a virus.[16]

The story is also found in Carl Vogl's 1935 Begone Satan: A Soul-Stirring Account of Diabolical Possession in Iowa[17]

In a later version the vision is said to have occurred on 13 October 1884,[18] the year in which the Leonine Prayers were instituted without the prayer to Saint Michael. And yet another date, 25 September 1888, two years after Pope Leo XIII had added the prayer to the Leonine Prayers, was given in a 1991 version.[19]

See also

References

  1. ^ Irish Ecclesiastical Review 7 (1886),1050
  2. ^ a b Decree Iam inde ab anno of the Sacred Congregation of Rites of 6 January 1884, published in Acta Sanctae Sedis 16 (1884), pages 249–250
  3. ^ Regina Coeli address; cf. Prayer to St Michael; Mary Serves Cause of Life
  4. ^ [1]
  5. ^ Raccolta Manual of Indulgences Published by St Athanasius Press, 2003 ISBN 0970652666 page 340
  6. ^ Allocution Indictam ante of 30 June 1930, in Acta Apostolicae Sedis 22 (1930), page 301
  7. ^ Inter Oecumenici, 48 j
  8. ^ Rituale Romanum, 6th ed. post typicam, (Ratisbon: Pustet 1898), 163*ff.
  9. ^ p.58-59, footnote nine
  10. ^ This account, which speaks not of the prayer but of the exorcisms for which the prayer served as a sort of preface, claims that the Pope recommended bishops and priests to perform exorcisms often in their dioceses and parishes, and that he himself acted as exorcist often throughout the day.
  11. ^ [ http://www.stjosephschurch.net/leoxiii.htm The Religious Congregation of Mary Immaculate Queen]
  12. ^ Knights of La Salette
  13. ^ Our Lady of the Roses
  14. ^ Arlington Catholic Herald
  15. ^ "Nachdem Leo XIII. eines Morgens die heilige Messe zelebriert hatte, begab er sich zu einer Besprechung mit den Kardinälen. Aber plötzlich sank er in Ohnmacht zusammen. Die herbeigeeilten Arzte fanden keinen Grund zu dieser Ohnmacht, obwohl der Pulsschlag fast aufhörte. Plötzlich erwachte er wieder und war frisch wie zuvor. Er erzählte dann, er hätte ein furchtbares Bild gesehen. Er durfte die Verführungskünste und das Wüten der Teufel der kommenden Zeiten in allen Ländern sehen. In dieser Not erschien St. Michael, der Erzengel, und warf den Satan mit allen seinen Teufeln in den höllischen Abgrund zurück. Daraufhin ordnete Leo XIII. kurz nach 1880 das allgemeine Gebet zum heiligen Michael an." Hg. Schnell in the Konnersreuther Sonntagsblattes (1933), no. 39, quoted in Bers “Die Gebete nach der hl. Messe”, Theol-Prakt. Quartalschrift 87 (1934), 161.
  16. ^ "Like a perpetual sickness" – "Die Gebete nach der hl. Messe", Theol-Prakt. Quartalschrift 87 (1934), 162-163
  17. ^ Reprinted by TAN Books (Rockford IL) in 1973, the year in which the film The Exorcist (film) appeared.
  18. ^ Arthur H. Durand, "Satan's Hundred Year War", The Remnant (15 January 1984), 9–10
  19. ^ Gary Giuffré, "Exile of the Pope-Elect, Part VII: Warnings from Heaven Suppressed", Sangre de Cristo Newsnotes 69–70 (1991), 4

External links

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