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Saint Michael the Archangel

Updated: Sep 28, 2020

Saint Michael is one of the Archangels written in the bible. He is written about in both the old and new testaments.

Hebrew: מִיכָאֵל‎ ‎("Who is like God?")

Latin: Michahel

Greek: Μιχαήλ

Armenian: Միքայէլ

Coptic: ⲙⲓⲭⲁⲏⲗ

Arabic: ميكائيل‎

Saint Michael is found in scripture in the following locations:

  • Daniel 10:13, Gabriel says, "...but the prince of the kingdom of Persia stood in my way for twenty-one days, until finally Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me."

  • Daniel 10:21, "No one supports me against all these except Michael, your prince, standing as a reinforcement and a bulwark for me."

  • Daniel 12:1, "At that time there shall arise Michael, the great prince, guardian of your people; It shall be a time unsurpassed in distress since nations began until that time."

  • Jude 1:9, "Yet the archangel Michael, when he argued with the devil in a dispute over the body of Moses, did not venture to pronounce a reviling judgment upon him but said, 'May the Lord rebuke you!'"

  • Revelation 12:7–9, "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."

In the Catholic faith, Saint Michael has four tasks known:

The Defeat of Satan and the other fallen angels

Scripture describes Saint Michael as "one of the chief princes" and leader of Heaven's army in their triumph over Satan and his angels. The first defeat comes when he ejects Satan from Paradise and the second in Revelations when the Antichrist is defeated by him.

Hour of death

Saint Michael is presumed present at the hour of our death and charged with accompanying them to their particular judgement (Heaven or Hell).

Weighing Souls on Judgement Day

Saint Michael is often depicted holding scales, as he assists in weighing souls based on their deeds while they lived on Earth. In the Sistine Chapel, he is depicted holding a small book (those of the blessed) while other angels hold a massive book (those of the damned).

Guardian of the Church

In the Catholic tradition, Saint Michael is the agent and protector of the Blessed Sacrament and the Church itself. Saint Michael is also the guardian angel of the Pope.

Saint Michael was by far the most important angel during the middle ages. Constantine built the Michaelion at Chalcedon and other healing springs dedicated to the Archangel have been found in Anatolia, Antioch and Egypt. When Saint Pope Gregory the Great led his procession around Rome in 590 to combat the plague, he reportedly had a vision of Saint Michael sheathing his sword, indicating that the plague was ending. After this vision, he renamed the Mausoleum of Hadrian to Castel Sant'Angelo.

Pope Leo XIII added a prayer to Saint Michael to the Leonine Prayers in 1886 and after the prayers were discontinued after mass, Pope John Paul II encouraged the faithful to continue praying it, saying:

"I ask everyone not to forget it and to recite it to obtain help in the battle against forces of darkness."

In addition to the prayer, a Chaplet was approved by Pope Pius IX in 1851 after revelation to the Portuguese nun Antonia d'Astonaco by Saint Michael in 1751, a Scapular was formally approved under Pope Leo XIII as the Archconfraternity of the Scapular of Saint Michael, and a prayer to Saint Michael is included in the Rite of Exorcism in the Roman Ritual.

During the middle ages, Michaelmas (Michael's Mass) was celebrated as a Holy Day of obligation, ending only in the 18th century. In medieval England, it marked the ending and beginning of the husbandman's year as George C Homans observes:

"at that time harvest was over, and the bailiff of the manor would be making out the accounts for the year."

Due to it falling on September 29th, the holy day became associated with the beginning of Autumn and shortening of days. On the Isle of Skye, processions were held including sports, games and horse races. Folklore in Britain holds that the traditional meal for the day included a Goose and a special cake called Sruthan Micheil, Saint Michael's bannock, or Michaelmas Bannock on the eve of the feast of Saint Michael. Because early traditions held that Lucifier fell into a pickly blackberry bush when he was expelled from heaven, Michaelmas was often considered the last day of the year to pick blackberries. A special blackberry pie would be made from the last picking called a Michaelmas pie.

In the Roman calendar, September 29th is now the feast day for all three Archangels mentioned in the bible : Saint Michael (29 September originally), Saint Gabriel (originally 18 March), and Saint Raphael (24th October originally). In the Waldorf schools, it is celebrated as the "festival of strong will" during the equinox. In the City of London, Michaelmas is the day when the new Lord Mayor of London is elected. In the courts of Ireland, England and Wales, the term is used as the name of the first of four terms that the legal year is divided into. A red mass is traditionally held the Sunday closest to Michaelmas to bless lawyers and judges. Although the term isn't directly used, the Supreme Court of the United States begins its annual term by starting on the first Monday of October, a few days after Michaelmas.

Since the late medieval period, Saint Michael has been the patron saint of chivalry, police officers, medics and the military. The Order of Saint Michael is the patron of the first French chivalric order and the Order of the Michael the Brave is the highest military decoration in Romania. In the United States, the patron saint of the 82nd airborne division is Saint Michael and the first battle the 82nd division took place in was the Battle of Saint-Mihiel in WW1.

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