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Feast of St. Michael


There are seven Archangels in all, but only the three mentioned in Sacred Scripture are commemorated liturgically; St. Gabriel's Feast is on 24 March, and St. Raphael's Feast is on 24 October (the Guardian Angels are remembered on 2 October). The other archangels, whose names we know from the non-canonical Book of Enoch, are Uriel, Raguel, Sariel, and Jeramiel.) Today, though, we honor St. Michael the Archangel, whose very name in Hebrew means, "Who is Like God" ("Quis ut Deus" in Latin).

St. Michael is described in the Golden Legend, written in A.D. 1275 by Jacobus de Voragine, Archbishop of Genoa, thus:
For like as Daniel witnesseth, he shall arise and address in the time of Antichrist against him, and shall stand as a defender and keeper for them that be chosen. [Daniel 10:13, 12]

He also fought with the dragon and his angels, and casting them out of heaven, had a great victory. [Apocalypse 12:7-9]

He also had a great plea and altercation with the devil for the body of Moses, because he would not show it; for the children of Israel should have adored and worshipped it. [Jude 1]

He received the souls of saints and brought them into the paradise of exultation and joy.

He was prince of the synagogue of the Jews, but now he is established of our Lord, prince of the church of Jesu Christ.

And as it is said, he made the plagues of Egypt, he departed and divided the Red Sea, he led the people of Israel by the desert and set them in the land of promission, he is had among the company of holy angels as bannerer. And bearing the sign of our Lord, he shall slay by the commandment of God, right puissantly, Antichrist that shall be in the Mount of Olivet. And dead men shall arise at the voice of this same archangel. And he shall show at the day of judgment the Cross, the spear, the nails and the crown of thorns of Jesu Christ.

Expounding on St. Michael's final victory over the Antichrist, the Golden Legend continues:

The fourth victory is that the archangel Michael shall have of Antichrist when he shall slay him. Then Michael, the great prince, shall arise, as it is said Danielis xii.: “He shall arise for them that be chosen as a helper and a protector, and shall strongly stand against Antichrist.” And after, as the Gloss saith: “Antichrist shall feign him to be dead, and shall hide him three days,” and after, he shall appear saying that he is risen from death to life, and the devils shall bear him by art magic, and shall mount up into the air, and all the people shall marvel and worship him. And at the last he shall mount up on the Mount of Olivet, and when he shall be in a pavilion, in his siege [seat], entered into that place where our Lord ascended, Michael shall come and shall slay him. Of which victory is understood, after St. Gregory, that which is said in the Apocalypse. The battle is made in heaven.

This word of the treble battle in heaven is expounded of the battle that he had with Lucifer when he expulsed him out of heaven, and of the battle that he had with the devils that torment us.

St. Michael is our warrior against the Evil One, and is the one we call on in times of temptation, especially with our Prayer to St. Michael -- a prayer every Catholic, even the youngest, should commit to memory:

St. Michael the Archangel, defend us in battle; be our safeguard 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, cast into Hell, Satan and all the other evil spirits, who wander throughout the world, seeking the ruin of souls. Amen.

This great champion of Israel has made many important appearances throughout the years. In A.D. 590, during the reign of Pope Gregory, a great pestilence swept through Rome. During a procession and litanies led by the Holy Father there, St. Michael appeared over the Castel Sant'Angelo -- a building which was formerly Hadrian's tomb, but which was converted to papal use, connected to the Vatican by a long tunnel. A statue of St. Michael sits atop the building today.

Mont St. Michel was built to St. Michael's honor off the coast of Normandy, France because our warrior Saint is said to have appeared there in 708 to St. Aubert, Bishop of Avranches.1

Castel Sant'Angelo in Rome, and Mont Saint Michel in France

Another important place sacred to St. Michael is the Sanctuary of Monte Sant'Angelo on Monte Gargagno, in the commune of Monte Sant'Angelo in Puglia, Italy. This basilica is at the site of a cave near which St. Michael appeared several times to the Bishop of Sipontum in A.D. 490. Michael told the Bishop that the cave should be consecrated and that, in return, the nearby town of Sipontum would be saved from pagan invaders. When the pagans came, St. Michael appeared on top of a mountain near the cave, brandishing a flaming sword, and the people of the town were victorious. Pope Gelasius I, who held the Petrine office from A.D. 492 to 496, built the basilica there, and the cave itself is a place of healing and pilgrimage.

St. Michael also, along with SS. Margaret and Catherine, appeared to St. Joan of Arc (d. 1431) when she was thirteen years old, encouraging her to assist the future Charles VII in defeating the English. She later told her judges, "I saw them with these very eyes, as well as I see you."

St. Michael is patron of knights, policemen, soldiers, paramedics, ambulance drivers, etc., and also danger at sea, for the sick, and of a holy death. He is usually depicted in art carrying a sword and/or shield, battling Satan, and the old Prayer to St. Michael is one of a handful of prayers that all Catholics should have memorized. Use it when in fear, when tempted or threatened, when seeing evil, etc. (Read more about Spiritual Warfare).



Some may prepare for Michaelmas2 by praying a Novena to St. Michael beginning on 20 September and ending on the eve of his feast (the 28th). Some may have been making St. Michael's Lent from the Feast of the Assumption to now in imitation of St. Francis, which culminates in an Act of Consecration to St. Michael the Archangel today.

As to prayer for the day, the Litany of St. Michael the Archangel (for private use only) or the chaplet in his honor would be perfect. As would this glorious prayer from the 1910 Raccolta:

O Jesu! life-spring of the soul!
The Father's Power and Glory bright!
Thee with the Angels we extol;
From Thee they draw their life and light.

Thy thousand, thousand hosts are spread,
Embattled o’er the azure sky;
But Michael bears thy standard dread,
And lifts the mighty Cross on high.

He in that Sign the rebel powers
Did with their Dragon Prince expel;
And hurled them from
the Heaven’s high towers,
Down like a thunderbolt to hell.

Grant us with Michael still, O Lord,
Against the Prince of Pride to fight;
So may a crown be our reward,
Before the Lamb's pure throne of light.

To God the Father and the Son,
Who rose from death, all glory be;
With Thee, O blessed Paraclete,
Henceforth through all eternity. Amen.

Antiphon: Most glorious Prince, Michael the Archangel, be mindful of us: pray for us always both here and everywhere to the Son of God.

V. In the sight of the Angels I will sing psalms to Thee, O my God.

R. I will adore at thy holy temple, and will confess to Thy name.

Let us pray. O God, Who disposest the services of Angels and men in a wonderful order; mercifully grant that those who ever stand before Thee, ministering to Thee in Heaven, may themselves also protect our life here upon earth. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

At this time of year, the Aster (Aster nova-belgii) blooms, and it has become known as the Michaelmas Daisy. The Michaelmas Daisy comes in many colors, from white to pink to purple. An old verse goes:

The Michaelmas Daisies, among dede weeds,
Bloom for St Michael's valorous deeds.
And seems the last of flowers that stood,
Till the feast of St. Simon and St. Jude.

(The Feast of SS. Simon and Jude is 28 October) An old custom surrounds Michaelmas Daisies; one plucks off the petals one by one thus: pull a petal while saying "S/he loves me," then pull of the next while saying "S/he loves me not," and repeat until all petals are gone. The words one intones while pulling off the last petal lets one know if one's love is requited.

Michaelmas Daisies

As to foods, geese were, at least at one time, plentiful during this time of year, so roast goose dinners are traditional (eating them on this day is said to protect against financial hardship, according to Irish and English folk belief). It was also the time (at least in Ireland) when the fishing season ended, the hunting season began, and apples were harvested, so eating apples today with that goose would be a nice touch.

Roast Goose with Apples (serves 8)

1 13-lb. goose, giblets and neck discarded (you'll need 1 lb per person)
3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
8 golden delicious apples, peeled, each cut into 6 wedges
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
6 TBSP sugar
1/4 cup calvados (apple brandy)
1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

Position rack in bottom third of oven and preheat to 350oF. Rinse goose inside and out; pat dry with paper towels. Sprinkle inside and out with salt and pepper. Using knife, cut small slits all over goose; place garlic slices into slits. Place goose on rack, breast side down, in large roasting pan. Roast goose 2 hours 45 minutes, basting occasionally with drippings and removing excess fat; reserve 6 tablespoons fat. Turn goose over. Roast until brown and thermometer inserted into thickest part of thigh registers 175°F, basting occasionally with drippings, about 45 minutes longer. Meanwhile, toss apples and lemon juice in large bowl. Pour 6 tablespoons goose fat into 15 x 10 x 2-inch glass baking dish. Using slotted spoon, transfer apples to baking dish; toss apples in goose fat. Add sugar, Calvados and cinnamon to apples; toss. Bake apples alongside goose until very tender and golden, about 1 hour. Serve goose with caramelized apples and a Bordeaux wine.

When you cut up your apples, cross-section a few -- cut horizontally through the mid-section, between the stem and calyx -- and show your children how the 5 seeds inside the 5-pointed star found inside represent the Five Wounds of Christ. They say, too, that if you ask a question that can be answered with a "yes" or "no," twist the stem of an apple while saying "yes" and "no," the answer being said when the stem breaks off is the answer to your question (others say the alphabet while twisting the stem: the letter announced when the stem breaks is said to be the first initial of your future spouse's name). Another fun thing to do with apples is to make those little apple dolls that always resemble old people:

Apple Dolls

Peel an apple (Granny Smith or Golden Delicious apples work well), cutting away any bruises (some people say to core the apple, others say not to. Experiment for yourself). Carve as life-like a face as possible into the apple (don't cut too deeply so as to avoid rotting). Don't forget the little things that make a face so human -- the little lines running from nose to mouth, the hollows of the eyes, the depressions caused by cheekbones, etc., but make the features exaggerated since they'll shrink as the apples dry. Depending on the "skin" tone desired, soak the carved apple for about 45 minutes in a mixture of lemon juice (or cider vinegar) and water (the longer you soak, the lighter the "skin" tone will be).

Hang the apple up in the dryest, darkest room of your home. Come back in 3 to 4 weeks to see what you have (Hallowe'en would be perfect time for the unveiling if these are made on Michaelmas). It should have shrunk by about two thirds its original size, darkened some, and show the wizened features of an old woman or man. When thoroughly dry, decorate using very diluted food colorings for rouge; corn silk, cotton, or yarn for hair; cloves or food colorings for eyes; fabric triangles for scarves, etc. Secure onto a "body" made of a bottle, styrofoam cone, wooden dowel, etc., and make clothes as desired.

For the Irish, the next food du jour is St. Michael's Bannock, a scone-like bread, cooked in a frying pan.

St. Michael's Bannock

1 1/3 C. barley flour
1 1/3 C. oat meal
1 1/3 C. rye meal
1 C. flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 scant tsp baking soda
2 1/2-3 C. buttermilk
3 TBSP honey or brown sugar
2 eggs
1 C. cream
4 TBSP melted butter

Mix the barley flour, oat meal, and rye meal. Add flour and salt. Mix the soda and buttermilk (start with the 2 1/2 C) and then add to the dry mixture. Stir in honey. Turn out onto floured board and mix (as with all breads, don't over-mix), adding more buttermilk if too dry, or more flour if too sticky).

Divide dough in half, and roll each half, on a floured board, into an 8" circle (about 1/2 inch to 3/4 inch thick). While heating a lightly greased skillet, mix the eggs, cream, and melted butter. Spread onto one of the bannocks and place the bannock, egg-side down, in the skillet and cook til the egg-side is browned. Put the egg mixture on the top side, flip the bannock and cook 'til the second side is golden. Repeat this application of the egg wash and flipping and cooking until each side has been cooked three times. Do the same with the second bannock. Serve warm with butter and honey.

According to an old Irish folk tale, blackberries were supposed to have been harvested and used up by this date, too, since it is told to children that on this date -- eons ago, at the beginning of time -- when Satan was kicked out of Heaven, he landed in a bramble patch -- and he returns each year on this feast to curse and spit on the fruits of the plant he landed on, rendering them inedible thereafter. So a dessert with blackberries would be perfect.

Blackberry Crumble

6 cups fresh blackberries
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/3 cup old-fashioned oats
1 cup dark brown sugar
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
6 TBSP butter, softened
2 TBSP vegetable oil
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp table salt

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. In a large bowl, gently combine blackberries, 1/3 c. granulated sugar and 1/3 c. all-purpose flour. Transfer to an 8 x 8 baking dish. For the crumble topping, combine remaining ingredients in a medium bowl and work together with your hands until the ingredients resemble a crumble. Sprinkle over the blackberry mixture. Bake crumble until the the topping is golden brown and blackberries are bubbling, about 40 minutes. Let cool for 15 minutes before serving. Serve warm or at room temperature, with ice cream, whipped cream, or plain old heavy cream if desired. (If you want a 9X13 pan full of crumble, just double the ingredients).

I have to tell you about a charming Bavarian Michaelmas tradition from Augsburg, Germany, as described by Dorothy Gladys Spicer's "The Festivals of Western Europe" (1958):

On September 29, Saint Michael's Day, the city of Augsburg holds an annual autumn fair to which hundreds of peasants from far and near come for trade and pleasure. Chief among the day's attractions is the hourly appearance of figures representing the Archangel and the Devil. The figures are built in the foundation of Perlach Turm, or Tower, called Tura in local dialect. This slender structure, which rises to a height of two-hundred-and-twenty-five-feet and stands next to the Peter's Kirche, north of the Rathaus, originally was a watch tower. In 1615 the watch tower was heightened and converted into a belfry.

Almost a hundred years earlier the group depicting the saint and the devil had been installed in the tower's understructure. Annually on his feast day the archangel's armor-clad figure, holding a pointed spear, appeared whenever the tower bell struck, and stabbed at the devil writhing at his feet.

During World War II the historic figures--the delight of generations of fair-goers--were destroyed. Since then a new group has been made and installed. Today, as for over four centuries, spectators continue to gather about the Tura and to watch breathlessly the symbolic drama of Michael, head of the Church Triumphant, dealing death blows to the dragon which brings evil and destruction to the world of men.

The topic of Michaelmas can't be left without mentioning Bach's Man singet mit Freuden vom Sieg (BWV 149), written for St. Michael's Day --

-- and the very ancient hymn "Te splendor et virtus Patris," written by the 9th century Benedictine monk  Blessed Rabanus Maurus, and revised by Pope Urban.

Te, splendor et virtus Patris,
Te vita, Jesu, cordium,
Ab ore qui pendent tuo,
Laudámus inter Angelos.

Tibi mille densa millium
Ducum coróna mílitat;
Sed éxplicat victor Crucem
Míchaël salútis sígnifer.

Dracónis hic dirum caput
In ima pellit tártara,
Ducemque cum rebéllibus
Caelesti ab arce fúlminat.

Contra ducem superbiae
Sequámur hunc nos príncipem,
Ut detur ex Agni throno
Nobis coróna gloriae.

Deo Patri sit gloria,
Qui, quos redémit Filius,
Et Sanctus unxit Spíritus,
Per Angelos custodiat. Amen.
O Jesus, life-spring of the soul!
The Father's Power and Glory bright!
Thee with Angels we extol;
from Thee they draw their life and light.

Thy thousand, thousand hosts are spread,
embattled o’er the azure sky;
but Michael bears Thy standard dread,
and lifts the mighty Cross on high.

He in that sign the rebel powers
did with their dragon prince expel:
and hurled them from heaven’s high towers,
down like a thunderbolt to hell.

Grant us, with Michael, still, O Lord,
Against the prince of pride to fight;
So may a crown be our reward,
Before the Lamb’s pure throne of light.

To God the Father, with the Son
And Holy Paraclete, with thee,
As evermore hath been before,
Be glory through eternity. Amen.

As noted earlier, St. Michael has made many appearances throughout the centuries, and that doesn't preclude the times we live in. See this page to read and listen to the stories of two marines who encountered St. Michael on the battlefield.

And I conclude with another little side page about "The Sword of St. Michael" -- an alleged sort of "ley line" based on sites sacred to St. Michael.

For basic background information on the angels, see The Praeternatural World pages of this site.


From Dom Prosper Gueranger's "The Liturgical Year"

The glorious Archangel appears to-day at the head of the heavenly army: There was a great battle in heaven, Michael and his angels fought with the dragon, and the dragon fought and his angels.  In the sixth century, the dedication of the churches of St. Michael on Monte Gtargano and in the Roman Circus increased the celebrity of this day, which had however been long before consecrated by Borne to the memory of all the heavenly Virtues.

The east commemorates on the sixth of September an apparition of the victorious Prince at Chone in Phrygia; while the eighth of November is their solemnity of the angels, corresponding to our feast of to-day, and bearing the title: 'Synaxis of Saint Michael prince of the heavenly host, and of the other spiritual Powers.' Although the term synaxk is usually applied only to religious assemblies here on earth, we are informed that in this instance it also signifies the gathering of the faithful angels at the cry of their chief, and their union eternally sealed by their victory.

Who, then, are these heavenly Powers, whose mysterious combat heads the first page of history ? Their existence is attested by the traditions of all nations as well as by the authority of holy Scripture.

If we consult the Church, she teaches us that in the beginning God created simultaneously two natures, the spiritual and the corporal, and afterwards man who is composed of both. The scale of nature descends by gradation from beings made to the likeness of God, to the very confines of nothingness ; and by the same degrees the creature mounts upwards to his Creator. God is infinite being, infinite intelligence, infinite love. The creature is for ever finite: but man, endowed with a reasoning intellect, and the angel, with an intuitive grasp of truth, are ever, by a continual process of purification, widening the bounds of their imperfect nature, in order to reach, by increase of light, the perfection of greater love.

God alone is simple with that unchangeable productive simplicity, which is absolute perfection excluding the possibility of progress; He is pure Act, in whom substance, power, and operation are one thing. The angel, though entirely independent of matter, is yet subject to the natural weakness necessary to a created being; he is not absolutely simple, for in him action is distinct from power, and power from essence. How much greater is the weakness of man's composite nature, unable to carry on the operations of the intellect without the aid of the senses!

"Compared with ours," says one of the most enlightened brethren of the angelic doctor, "how calm and how luminous is the knowledge of pure spirits! They are not doomed to the intricate discoursings of our reason, which runs after the truth, composes and analyzes, and laboriously draws conclusions from premises. They instantaneously apprehend the whole compass of primary truths. Their intuition is so prompt, so lively, so penetrating, that it is impossible for them to be surprised, as we are, into error. If they deceive themselves, it must be of their own will. The perfection of their will is equal to the perfection of their intellect. They know not what it is to be disturbed by the violence of appetites. Their love is without emotion; and their hatred of evil is as calm and as wisely tempered as their love. A will so free can know no perplexity as to its aims, no inconstancy in its resolutions. Whereas with us long and anxious meditation is necessary before we make a decision, it is the property of the angels to determine by a single act the object of their choice. God proposed to them, as He does to us, infinite beatitude in the vision of His own Essence; and to fit them for so great an end, He endowed them with grace at the same time as He gave them being. In one instant they said Yes or No; in one instant they freely and deliberately decided their own fate.'"

Let us not be envious. By nature the angel is superior to us; but, to which of the angels hath He said at any time, "Thou art My Son" The only begotten Son of God did not take to Himself the angelic nature. When on earth, He acknowledged the temporary subordination of humanity to those pure spirits, and deigned to receive from them, even as do His brethren in the flesh, the announcements of the divine will, and help and strength. But "God hath not subjected unto angels the world to come," says the apostle. How can we understand this attraction of God towards what is feeblest? We can only worship it in humble, loving faith. It was Lucifer's stumbling-block on the day of the great battle in heaven. But the faithful angels prostrated themselves in joyous adoration at the feet of the Infant-God foreshown to them enthroned on Mary's knee, and then rose up to sing: "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men of good will."

O Christ, my Christ as St. Denis calls Thee, the Church today delightedly proclaims Thee the beauty of the holy angels. Thou, the God-Man, art the lofty height whence purity, light, and love flow down upon the triple hierarchy of the nine choirs. Thou art the supreme Hierarch, the centre of worlds, controller of the deifying mysteries at the eternal feast.

Flaming Seraphim, glittering Cherubim, steadfast Thrones, court of honour to the Most High, and possessed of the noblest inheritance: according to the Areopagite, ye receive your justice, your splendour, and your burning love by direct communication from our Lord: and through you, all grace overflows from Him upon the holy city.

Dominations, Virtues, and Powers; sovereign disposers, prime movers, and rulers of the universe: in whose name do ye govern the world? Doubtless in His whose inheritance it is; in the name of the King of glory, the Man-God, the Lord strong and mighty, the Lord of hosts.

Angels, Archangels, and Principalities; heaven's messengers, ambassadors, and overseers here below: are ye not also, as the apostle says, ministers of the salvation wrought on earth by Jesus, the heavenly High-Priest?

We also, through this same Jesus, O most holy Trinity, glorify Thee, together with the three princely hierarchies, which surround Thy Majesty with their nine immaterial rings as with a many-circled rampart.

To tend to Thee, and to draw all things to Thee, is their common law. Purification, illumination, union: by these three ways in succession, or simultaneously, are these noble beings attracted to God, and by the same they attract those who strive to emulate them. Sublime spirits, it is with your gaze ever fixed on high that ye influence those below and around you. Draw plentifully, both for yourselves and for us, from the central fires of the Divinity; purify us from more than the involuntary infirmities of nature; enlighten us; kindle us with your heavenly flames. For the same reason that Satan hates us, ye love us: protect the race of the Word made Flesh against the common enemy. So guard us, that we may hereafter be worthy to occupy among you the places left vacant by the victims of pride.


1 For information's sake: near the top of Mt. St. Michel is a restaurant called La Mère Poulard. It is the home of the most famous omelette in the world, a soufflé-like omlette whose recipe is secret -- but involves copper bowls and open fires -- and which has chefs all over the world guessing.

2 "Michaelmas" is pronounced "MICKel-mus."

Today is also one of the 4 English "Quarter Days," days which fall around the Equinoxes or Solstices and mark the beginnings of new natural seasons (i.e., Spring, Summer, Winter, Fall) and which were used in medieval times to mark "quarters" for legal purposes, such as settling debts. The other days like this are: Lady Day (the Feast of the Annunciation) on March 25, the Feast of St. John on June 24, and Christmas on December 25.

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