The St. Michael Prayer was recently reinstituted at the end of Mass in my diocese. The prayer used to be recited at the conclusion of every Mass until the revisions in the 1960s. Even without it in Mass, it seems cradle Catholics know it as well as they do the Hail Mary, and I’m scrambling to find it written in the bulletin to follow along. It feels like one more cultural thing I’m missing out on.
It’s taken me a long time to get some sort of grasp on angelogoy, being so speculative. I’ve grown to believe in and appreciate my guardian angel, and I understand the appeal of the battling defenders against dark forces. But it still feels funny to end Mass by mentioning the evil spirits “who prowl about the world seeking the ruin of souls.”
Michael means “Quis ut Deus?” or “Who is like God?” It is a rhetorical question, implying that no one is like God. It is also the rallying cry of the Army of God. Satan tried to be like God, and he and his followers were kicked out of heaven. Satan promised Adam and Eve they could be like God, and that led to the Fall. Who is like God? No one. And Michael fights those who say otherwise.
In the West, St. Michael is called an archangel. In the East, he is called a taxiarchos, or brigadier. Both terms honor him as a high-ranking leader. He is the protector of the Jewish people and later the Church. In Revelation he leads the forces against Satan. He really puts the militant into the Church Militant.
In the early Church, Michael was seen more as a healer. By the mid-fourth century, he was depicted more as a warrior. As the highest of the lowest rank of angels, the Church credits him with several roles: he is the leader of the Army of God against evil forces, he is the angel of death who leads souls, should they be judged as such, to heaven, and he is the patron of the Church.
Michaelmas is on Sept. 29. It is also considered the Feast of the Archangels, Sts. Michael, Gabriel, and Raphael.