Now war arose in heaven, Michael and his angels fighting against the dragon; and the dragon and his angels fought, but they were defeated and there was no longer any place for them in heaven. And the great dragon was thrown down, that ancient serpent who is called the Devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world — he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him.
— Revelation 12:7-9 [RSV]
God our Father,
in a wonderful way you guide the work of angels and men.
May those who serve you constantly in heaven
keep our lives safe from all harm on earth.
Grant this through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit. Amen.
First Reading: Daniel 7:9-10, 13-14
As I looked, thrones were placed and one that was ancient of days took his seat; his raiment was white as snow, and the hair of his head like pure wool; his throne was fiery flames, its wheels were burning fire. A stream of fire issued and came forth from before him; a thousand thousands served him, and ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him; the court sat in judgment, and the books were opened.
I saw in the night visions, and behold, with the clouds of heaven there came one like a son of man, and he came to the Ancient of Days and was presented before him. And to him was given dominion and glory and kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom one that shall not be destroyed.
Or: Revelation 12:7-12ab
Now war arose in heaven, Michael and his angels fighting against the dragon; and the dragon and his angels fought, but they were defeated and there was no longer any place for them in heaven. And the great dragon was thrown down, that ancient serpent, who is called the Devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world–he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him. And I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, “Now the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Christ have come, for the accuser of our brethren has been thrown down, who accuses them day and night before our God. And they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death. Rejoice then, O heaven and you that dwell therein!
Gospel Reading: John 1:47-51
Jesus saw Nathana-el coming to him, and said of him, “Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom is no guile!” Nathana-el said to him, “How do you know me?” Jesus answered him, “Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you.” Nathana-el answered him, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!” Jesus answered him, “Because I said to you, I saw you under the fig tree, do you believe? You shall see greater things than these.” And he said to him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you will see heaven opened, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of man.”
Angels are not like the other saints on the Church’s calendar who were all human beings. Angels are celestial beings created on a higher order than man. They are completely spiritual beings; they have intelligence and will; they are personal and immortal creatures. Angels are the servants and messengers of God — in fact, this is what the word “angel” means. Several different kinds (or ranks) of angels are mentioned in the Bible: angels, archangels, cherubim, seraphim, thrones, choirs, dominions, principalities, and powers.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church (328-336) summarizes the Church’s teaching on the nature and office of angels in the hierarchy of God’s creation.
The feast of Saint Michael, one of the seven archangels of Scripture, originated in the sixth century. It was known, in English, as “Michaelmas”, and this name lives on in a wildflower, a white aster with many small star-like flowers, that blooms in late September, known as the Michaelmas daisy.
Recently two other of the archangels named in scripture, Gabriel and Raphael, are also honored on this day.
Michael the archangel, whose name in Hebrew means “Who is like God?”, is revered as the leader of the angelic army who will conquer Satan and his armies of demons, and is considered the defender of the Church. Michael is more often represented in art thank any other angelic being. He is often shown wearing armor, in the act of slaying the great Dragon of the Apocalypse [Satan] in Revelation 12:7-9.
The archangel Gabriel, whose name in Hebrew means “Strength of God”, announced the birth of John the Baptist to Zachariah, and soon after, announced to Mary that she was to become the mother of Our Lord. His address to her, “Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with thee” (the “angelic salutation”) is familiar to all who say the Rosary.
The archangel Raphael, whose name means medic or ointment of God, is mentioned by name in the Old Testament book of Tobit (Tobias), whom the angel aided by healing him of blindness and guiding him on his travels.
The angels that appear in Scripture are never described as having wings. In fact, in several passages, the people who are visited by angels do not realize these messengers from On High are not ordinary men until it is revealed later.
In the Book of Revelation, winged beings who otherwise look like men are described as surrounding the throne of God. Thus, in early paintings angels are shown with wings — sometimes very colorfully feathered. In medieval paintings, angels are often shown wearing liturgical vestments of deacons. The idea that angels wear white robes comes from the white albs worn by deacons that appear in these paintings. In some paintings, especially of the Nativity of Christ, the angels who adore the infant are clad in elaborate liturgical vestments, including embroidered copes (large capes). But the worshipping angels are never dressed as priests — Christ alone is the High Priest. The infant Jesus in these paintings is shown with no clothing at all: he is “clothed in his own flesh”.
Prayers to the Archangels and a classic child’s prayer to a Guardian Angel appear below (The prayer to Saint Michael is given in English, Latin and Spanish).
Pope John Paul II urges revival of the Prayer to Saint Michael
The Prayer to the Archangel Michael was composed by Pope Leo XIII (d. 1903) after he had a vision of the battle between the “Woman clothed with the sun” and the great dragon who tried to devour her child at birth, in the Book of Revelation, chapter 12. In 1886, the pope decreed that this prayer be said at the end of “low” Mass (not “high”, or sung Masses) thoughout the universal Church, along with the Salve Regina (Hail, Holy Queen); and the practice of the congregation praying these prayers at the end of Mass continued until aout 1970.
In 1994, during the International Year of the Family, Pope John Paul II asked all Catholics to pray this prayer daily. He warned that the fate of humanity was in great peril (in particular because of the U.N. Population Conference to be held in Cairo that year). Though he did not order that the prayer be said after Mass, he urged Catholics to pray together to overcome the forces of darkness and evil in the world.
In his Angelus message given in St. Peter’s Square, Sunday, April 24 1994, shortly before the United Nations Conference in Cairo, the pope spoke of “the Woman clothed with the sun”, who appeared in Saint John’s apocalyptic vision, with the dragon about to devour her newborn child (Rev 12:1-4). The Holy Father said that in our time “all the accumulated threats to life” are placed before woman, and we must “address the Woman clothed with the sun” to overcome these snares. In this message he encouraged the revival of the prayer to Saint Michael:
“May prayer strengthen us for the spiritual battle of which we are told in the Letter to the Ephesians: ‘Draw strength from the Lord and from His mighty power’ (Ephesians 6:10). It is this same battle to which The Book of Revelation [Apocalypse] refers, recalling before our eyes the image of Saint Michael the Archangel (cf. Revelation 12:7). Pope Leo XIII certainly had a very vivid vision of this scene when, at the end of the last century, he introduced a special prayer to Saint Michael throughout the Church. Even if this prayer is no longer recited at the end of every Mass, I ask everyone to remember it and to recite it to obtain help in the battle against forces of darkness and against the spirit of this world.”
(This Angelus (Regina Coeli) message in Italian is on the Vatican Web stie:http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/john_paul_ii/angelus/1994/documents/hf_jp-ii_reg_19940424_it.html
Following is the prayer to the Archangel Michael (English and Spanish), as well as prayers for the intercession of Archangels, Raphael and Gabriel.
A Prayer to Saint Michael
Saint Michael, 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 other evil spirits who prowl about the world
seeking the ruin of souls. Amen.
–– Pope Leo XIII
Oracion a Sancte Mìchael
Sancte MÌchael Archangele,
defende nos in proelio contra nequÌtiam et insÌdias diaboli esto presÌdium.
Imperet illi Deus, supplices deprecemur:
tuque, princeps milÌtie celestis, Satanam aliusque spÌritus malÌgnos, qui ad perditiunem animorum pervagantur in mundo, divÌna virtute, In infernum detrude. Amen.
San Miguel Arcángel,
Defiéndenos en la batalla;
Sé nuestra protección contra la maldad y los engaños del diablo.
Que Dios lo reprenda, es nuestra humilde oración.
Y puedas, O príncipe de los Seres Celestiales, por el poder de Dios, echar a Satanás al infierno, así como a todos los demás espíritus
que vagan por el mundo
buscando la ruina de las almas. Amen.
Sacratísimo Corazón de Jesús,
Ten piedad de nosotros.
En el nombre del Padre y del Hijo y del Espíritu Santo. Amen.
Blessed Saint Gabriel, Archangel
We beseech thee to intercede for us at the throne of divine mercy:
As thou didst announce to Mary the mystery of the Incarnation,
so through thy prayers may we receive strength of faith and
courage of spirit, and thus find favor with God and redemption through Christ Our Lord.
May we sing the praise of God our Savior with the angels and saints in heaven
forever and ever. Amen.
Blessed Saint Raphael, Archangel,
We beseech thee to help us in all our needs and trials of this life,
as thou, through the power of God, didst restore sight and give guidance to young Tobit.
We humbly seek thine aid and intercession,
that our souls may be healed,
our bodies protected from all ills,
and that through divine grace we may be made fit
to dwell in the eternal Glory of God in heaven. Amen.
Child’s Prayer to Guardian Angel
[link to: Guardian Angels – October 2]
Angel of God, my guardian dear,
To whom His love commits me here,
Ever this day be at my side,
To light and guard, to rule and guide. Amen
qui custos es mei,
me, tibi commíssum pietáte supérna,
rege et gubérna.
Suggested family activities
- This feast presents an excellent opportunity to teach children about angels — and to review the Catechism’s teaching about angels. Scripture passages in the Catechism will add further to our understanding concerning these heavenly beings.
- Young children can learn to say the traditional “Guardian Angel” prayer. Older children might well memorize the Prayer to Saint Michael, and can look up passages in the Old and New Testaments that refer to the mission and office of angels.
- An angelfood cake — so named because of its pristine whiteness and ethereal lightness — would be a most appropriate dessert on this feast. It could be frosted with white icing. If you cover the center of the cake with a piece of cardboard before frosting the cake, it will support a small figurine of an angel. Silver dragees could be added for an even more festive look.
- Three white candles — one for each of the Archangels whom the Church honors today — might be placed in candleholders around the cake. The prayer for each of the Archangels (below) could be said as each candle is lighted. Older children could say the prayers and light the candles just before the meal blessing.
A Sermon of Pope Saint Gregory
From the Third Nocturn of Matins of the feast of Saint Michael the Archangel
We speak of nine orders of Angels, because we know, by the testimony of Holy Scripture, that there are the following: Angels, Archangels, Virtues, Powers, Principalities, Dominations, Thrones, Cherubim and Seraphim. It must be realized that “Angel” is the name of their office, not of their nature. For the holy Spirits of the heavenly homeland are always Spirits, but they cannot always be called Angels; they are Angels only when they are announcing something. Those who announce less important things are called Angels, and those who announce the highest things are called Archangels. And so not any Angel but the Archangel Gabriel was sent to Mary; for this ministry, it was fitting to have the highest Angel, since he was to announce the greatest news of all. These Archangels are also given special names to describe their particular virtue. For Michael means “Who is like to God?” Gabriel means “Strength of God,” and Raphael “Medicine of God.”
Whenever something is to be done needing great power, Michael is sent forth so that from his action and his name we may understand that no one can do what God can do. Hence that old enemy who through pride desired to be like God is shown at the end of the world, left to his own strength and about to undergo the final punishment, as destined to fight with Michael the Archangel, as John says, “There was a battle with Michael the Archangel.” Similarly, Gabriel was sent to Mary; he who is called “Strength of God” came to announce Him who deigned to appear in humility to conquer the powers of the air. And Raphael is interpreted, as we said, “Medicine of God,” for when he touched the eyes of Tobias to do the work of healing, he dispelled the “night of his blindness.”
Holy Angels – excerpt from the Directory on Popular Piety and the Liturgy
213. With the clear and sober language of catechesis, the Church teaches that “the existence of the spiritual, non-corporeal beings that Sacred Scripture usually calls ‘angels’ is a truth of faith. The witness of Scripture is as clear as the unanimity of Tradition”(280).
Tradition regards the angels as messengers of God, “potent executives of his commands, and ready at the sound of his words” (Ps 103, 20. They serve his salvific plan, and are “sent to serve those who will inherit salvation” (Hb 1, 14).
214. The faithful are well aware of the numerous interventions of angels in the New and Old Covenants. They closed the gates of the earthly paradise (cf. Gen 3,24), they saved Hagar and her child Ishmael (cf. Gen 21, 17), they stayed the hand of Abraham as he was about to sacrifice Isaac (cf. gen 22, 7), they announce prodigious births (cf. Jud 13, 3-7), they protect the footsteps of the just (cf. Ps 91, 11), they praise God unceasingly (cf. Is 6, 1-4), and they present the prayer of the Saints to God (cf. Ap 8, 34). The faithful are also aware of the angel’s coming to help Elijah, an exhausted fugitive (cf. 1 Kings 19, 4-8), of Azariah and his companions in the fiery furnace (cf. Dan 3, 49-50), and are familiar with the story of Tobias in which Raphael, “one of the seven Angels who stand ever ready to enter the presence of the glory of God” (cf. Tb 12, 15), who renders many services to Tobit, his son Tobias and his wife Sarah.
The faithful are also conscious of the roles played by the Angels in the life of Jesus: the Angel Gabriel declared to Mary that she would conceive and give birth to the Son of the Most High (cf. Lk 1, 26-38), and that an Angel revealed to Joseph the supernatural origin of Mary’s conception (cf. Mt 1, 18-25); the Angels appear to the shepherds in Bethlehem with the news of great joy of the Saviour’s birth (cf. Lk 2, 8-24); “the Angel of the Lord” protected the infant Jesus when he was threatened by Herod (cf. Mt 2, 13-20); the Angels ministered to Jesus in the desert (cf. Mt 4, 11) and comforted him in his agony (Lk 22, 43), and to the women gathered at the tomb, they announced that he had risen (cf. Mk 16, 1-8), they appear again at the Ascension, revealing its meaning to the disciples and announcing that “Jesus …will come back in the same way as you have seen him go” (Acts 1, 11).
The faithful will have well grasped the significance of Jesus’ admonition not to despise the least of those who believe in him for “their Angels in heaven are continually in the presence of my Father in heaven” (Mt 10, 10), and the consolation of his assurance that “there is rejoicing among the Angels of God over one repentant sinner” (Lk 15, 10). The faithful also realize that “the Son of man will come in his glory with all his Angels” (mt 25, 31) to judge the living and the dead, and bring history to a close.
215. The Church, which at its outset was saved and protected by the ministry of Angels, and which constantly experiences their “mysterious and powerful assistance”(281), venerates these heavenly spirts and has recourse to their prompt intercession.
During the liturgical year, the Church celebrates the role played by the Holy Angels, in the events of salvation(282) and commemorates them on specific days: 29 September (feast of the Archangels Michael, Gabriel and Raphael), 2 October (the Guardian Angels). The Church has a votive Mass dedicated to the Holy Angels whose preface proclaims that “the glory of God is reflected in his Angels”(283). In the celebration of the sacred mysteries, the Church associates herself with the angelic hymn and proclaims the thrice holy God (cf. Isaiah 6, 3)(284) invoking their assistance so that the Eucharistic sacrifice “may be taken [to your] altar in heaven, in the presence of […] divine majesty”(285). The office of lauds is celebrated in their presence (cf. Ps 137, 1)(286). The Church entrusts to the ministry of the Holy Angels (cf. Aps 5, 8; 8, 3) the prayers of the faithful, the contrition of penitents(287), and the protection of the innocent from the assaults of the Malign One(288). The Church implores God to send his Angels at the end of the day to protect the faithful as they sleep(289), prays that the celestial spirits come to the assistance of the faithful in their last agony(290), and in the rite of obsequies, invokes God to send his Angels to accompany the souls of just into paradise(291) and to watch over their graves.
216. Down through the centuries, the faithful have translated into various devotional exercises the teaching of the faith in relation to the ministry of Angels: the Holy Angels have been adopted as patrons of cities and corporations; great shrines in their honour have developed such as Mont-Saint-Michel in Normandy, San Michele della Chiusa in Piemonte and San Michele Gargano in Apulia, each appointed with specific feast days; hymns and devotions to the Holy Angels have also been composed.
Popular piety encompasses many forms of devotion to the Guardian Angels. St. Basil Great (+378) taught that “each and every member of the faithful has a Guardian Angel to protect, guard and guide them through life”(292). This ancient teaching was consolidated by biblical and patristic sources and lies behind many forms of piety. St. Bernard of Clarivaux (+1153) was a great master and a notable promoter of devotion to the Guardian Angels. For him, they were a proof “that heaven denies us nothing that assists us”, and hence, “these celestial spirits have been placed at our sides to protect us, instruct us and to guide us”(293).
Devotion to the Holy Angels gives rise to a certain form of the Christian life which is characterized by:
- devout gratitude to God for having placed these heavenly spirits of great sanctity and dignity at the service of man;
- an attitude of devotion deriving from the knowledge of living constantly in the presence of the Holy Angels of God;- serenity and confidence in facing difficult situations, since the Lord guides and protects the faithful in the way of justice through the ministry of His Holy Angels.Among the prayers to the Guardian Angels the Angele Dei(294) is especially popular, and is often recited by families at morning and evening prayers, or at the recitation of the Angelus.
217. Popular devotion to the Holy Angels, which is legitimate and good, can, however, also give rise to possible deviations:
- when, as sometimes can happen, the faithful are taken by the idea that the world is subject to demiurgical struggles, or an incessant battle between good and evil spirits, or Angels and daemons, in which man is left at the mercy of superior forces and over which he is helpless; such cosmologies bear little relation to the true Gospel vision of the struggle to overcome the Devil, which requires moral commitment, a fundamental option for the Gospel, humility and prayer;
- when the daily events of life, which have nothing or little to do with our progressive maturing on the journey towards Christ are read schematically or simplistically, indeed childishly, so as to ascribe all setbacks to the Devil and all success to the Guardian Angels. The practice of assigning names to the Holy Angels should be discouraged, except in the cases of Gabriel, Raphael and Michael whose names are contained in Holy Scripture.
(280) CCC 328.
(281) Ibid., 336.
(282) The same is true, for example in the solemnity of Easter and in the solemnities of the Annunciation (25 march), Christmas (25 December), Ascension, the Immaculate Conception (8 December), St. Joseph (19 March), Sts. Peter and Paul (29 June), Assumption (15 August) and All Saints (1 November).
(283) MISSALE ROMANUM, Praefatio de Angelis.
(284) Cf. ibid., Prex eucharistica, Sanctus.
(285) Ibid., Prex eucharistica I, Supplices te rogamus.
(286) Cf. St. BENEDICT, Regula, 19, 5: CSEL 75, Vindobonae 1960, p. 75.
(287) Cf. RITUALE ROMANUM, Ordo Paenitentiae, Editio Typica, Typis Polyglotis Vatacanis 1974, 54.
(288) Cf. LITURGIA HORARUM, Die 2 Octobris, Ss Angelorum Custodum memoria, Ad Vesperas, Hymnus, “Custodes hominum psallimus angelos”.
(289) Cf. ibid., Ad Completorium post II Vesperas Dominicae et Sollemnitatum, Oratio “Visita quaesumus”.
(290) Cf. RITUALE ROMANUM, Ordo unctionis informorum eorumque patoralis curae, cit., 147.
(291) Cf. RITUALE ROMANUM, Ordo exsequiarum , Editio Typica, Typis Polyglottis Vaticanis 1969, 50.