St. Michael the Archangel
By Fr. William P. Saunders
(From the issue of 10/2/03)
I have recently moved to the area, and have noticed that several parishes (including my own) recite the prayer to St. Michael the Archangel. Could you explain where this devotion comes from? � A reader in Great Falls
St. Michael the Archangel, whose name means, "one who is like God," led the army of angels who cast Satan and the rebellious angels into Hell; at the end of time, he will wield the sword of justice to separate the righteous from the evil (cf. Rv 12:7).
The early Church Fathers recognized the importance of the angels and archangels, particularly St. Michael. Theodoret of Cyr (393-466) in his Interpretation of Daniel wrote, "We are taught that each one of us is entrusted to the care of an individual angel to guard and protect us, and to deliver us from the snares of evil demons. Archangels are entrusted with the tasks of guarding nations, as the Blessed Moses taught, and with those remarks the Blessed Daniel is in accord; for he himself speaks of �the chief of the Kingdom of the Persians,� and a little later of �the chief of the Greeks,� while he calls Michael �the chief of Israel.�" The Church Fathers would also posit that St. Michael stood guard at the gate of paradise after Adam and Eve had been banished, and he was the angel through whom God published the Ten Commandments, who blocked the passage of Balaam (Nm 22:20), and who destroyed the army of Sennacherib (2 Chr 32:21)..
St. Basil and other Greek Fathers ranked St. Michael as the Prince of all the Angels. With the rise of scholasticism and the exposition of the "nine choirs of angels," some said St. Michael was the prince of the Seraphim, the first of the choirs. (However, St. Thomas Aquinas assigned St. Michael as the prince of the last choir, the angels.)
Fr. Saunders goes on to summarize the importance of St. Michael in Catholic tradition. For a detailed rundown of Michael traditions in the Jewish and Islamic traditions see the rather good "Michael the Archangel" article in Wikipedia. We just missed the feast day of St. Michael, which was 29 September.