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Prayer to Saint Michael

The Prayer to Saint Michael is a Catholic prayer addressed to Michael the archangel. It is used most prevalently among Catholics.

Pope Leo XIII added it in 1888 to the Leonine Prayers, which two years earlier he had directed to be said after Low Mass. The practice of reciting these prayers after Mass was suppressed in 1964. However, Pope John Paul II referred to the St Michael prayer in his Regina Coeli address of 24 April 1994 as follows:

"May prayer strengthen us for the spiritual battle we that the Letter to the Ephesians speaks of: 'Be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might' (). The Book of Revelation refers to this same battle, recalling before our eyes the image of St Michael the Archangel (cf. ). Pope Leo XIII certainly had this picture in mind when, at the end of the last century, he brought in, throughout the Church, a special prayer to St Michael: 'Saint Michael the 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 evil spirits Who wander through the world For the ruin of souls. Amen.' Although this prayer is no longer recited at the end of Mass, I ask everyone not to forget it and to recite it to obtain help in the battle against the forces of darkness and against the evil spirits of this world.

The Prayer

Sancte Michael Archangele,
defende nos in proelio.
contra nequitiam et insidias diaboli esto praesidium.
Imperet illi Deus, supplices deprecamur:
tuque, Princeps militiae caelestis,
Satanam aliosque spiritus malignos,
qui ad perditionem animarum pervagantur in mundo,
divina virtute, in infernum detrude.
Amen. Saint Michael the 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,
cast (thrust) into hell Satan and all (other) evil spirits
who wander through the world seeking the ruin of souls.
Amen.

History

This prayer, whose opening words are similar to the Alleluia verse for St Michael’s feasts on 8 May and 29 September in the Roman Missal of the time, was added in 1886 to the Leonine Prayers that in 1884 Pope Leo XIII ordered to be said after Low Mass, for the intention of obtaining a satisfactory solution to the problem that the loss of the Pope's temporal sovereignty caused in depriving him of the evident independence required for effective use of his spiritual authority.

This problem was resolved in 1929 by the creation of the State of Vatican City, and in the following year, Pope Pius XI ordered that the intention for which these prayers should from then on be offered was "to permit tranquillity and freedom to pro­fess the faith to be restored to the afflicted people of Russia".

The Leonine Prayers were officially suppressed by the Instruction Inter Oecumenici of 26 September 1964, which came into effect on 7 March 1965.

Another prayer to St Michael

On 18 May 1890, a much longer prayer to St Michael, quite distinct from that in the Leonine Prayers, was approved for use:

O glorious Archangel St Michael, Prince of the heavenly host, defend us in battle, and in the struggle which is ours against the principalities and Powers, against the rulers of this world of darkness, against spirits of evil in high places (). Come to the aid of men, whom God created immortal, made in his own image and likeness, and redeemed at a great price from the tyranny of the devil ().

Fight this day the battle of the Lord, together with the holy angels, as already thou hast fought the leader of the proud angels, Lucifer, and his apostate host, who were powerless to resist thee, nor was there place for them any longer in Heaven. But that cruel, that ancient serpent, who is called the devil or Satan, who seduces the whole world, was cast into the abyss with all his angels ().

Behold, this primeval enemy and slayer of man has taken courage, Transformed into an angel of light, he wanders about with all the multitude of wicked spirits, invading the earth in order to blot out the name of God and of his Christ, to seize upon, slay and cast into eternal perdition souls destined for the crown of eternal glory. This wicked dragon pours out, as a most impure flood, the venom of his malice on men of depraved mind and corrupt heart, the spirit of lying, of impiety, of blasphemy, and the pestilent breath of impurity, and of every vice and iniquity.

These most crafty enemies have filled and inebriated with gall and bitterness the Church, the spouse of the Immaculate Lamb, and have laid impious hands on her most sacred possessions.

In the Holy Place itself, where has been set up the See of the most holy Peter and the Chair of Truth for the light of the world, they have raised the throne of their abominable impiety, with the iniquitous design that when the Pastor has been struck, the sheep may be scattered.

Arise then, O invincible prince, bring help against the attacks of the lost spirits to the people of God, and bring them the victory.

The Church venerates thee as protector and patron; in thee holy Church glories as her defense against the malicious powers of this world and of hell; to thee has God entrusted the souls of men to be established in heavenly beatitude.

Oh, pray to the God of peace that He may put Satan under our feet, so far conquered that he may no longer be able to hold men in captivity and harm the Church. Offer our prayers in the sight of the Most High, so that they may quickly conciliate the mercies of the Lord; and beating down the dragon, the ancient serpent, who is the devil and Satan, do thou again make him captive in the abyss, that he may no longer seduce the nations.

This prayer was replaced in 1902, a year and a half before the death of Pope Leo XIII, by a much shortened prayer:

O glorious Archangel St Michael, Prince of the heavenly host, defend us in battle, and in the struggle which is ours against the principalities and Powers, against the rulers of this world of darkness, against spirits of evil in high places (). Come to the aid of men, whom God created immortal, made in his own image and likeness, and redeemed at a great price from the tyranny of the devil ().

The Church venerates thee as protector and patron; to thee has God entrusted the souls of men to be established in heavenly beatitude.

''Oh, pray to the God of peace that He may put Satan under our feet, so far conquered that he may no longer be able to hold men in captivity and harm the Church. Offer our prayers in the sight of the Most High, so that they may quickly conciliate the mercies of the Lord; and beating down the dragon, the ancient serpent, who is the devil and Satan, do thou again make him captive in the abyss, that he may no longer seduce the nations.

According to Anthony Cekada, it was to those who had taken the Papal States from the possession of the Popes that the 1888 version referred as the "crafty enemies" of the Church who "laid impious hands on her most sacred possessions", and the "throne of abominable impiety" raised up in "the Holy Place itself, where there has been set up the See of the most holy Peter and the Chair of truth for the light of the world" was a reference to the throne of the King of Italy, set up in the Quirinal Palace, which until 1870 had been the Pope's principal residence in Rome. Hopes of a rapprochement with the King of Italy in 1902 explained the excision of these references.

In 1890, the longer form of this prayer was included as a sort of preface to a series of prayers of exorcism that was included in the Roman Ritual.

Speculation about the origin of one or other of these prayers

Ephemerides Liturgicae 1955

An article in the Roman journal Ephemerides Liturgicae (V. LXIX, pages 54-60) in 1955 gave an account in Latin and Italian of how the St. Michael prayer developed. Footnote nine of this account quotes an article in another Italian journal called La Settimana del Clero in 1947 by Fr. Domenico Pechenino who worked at the Vatican during the time of Leo XIII, in which he stated:

"I do not remember the exact year. One morning the great Pope Leo XIII had celebrated a Mass and, as usual, was attending a Mass of thanksgiving. Suddenly, we saw him raise his head and stare at something above the celebrant's head. He was staring motionlessly, without batting an eye. His expression was one of horror and awe; the colour and look on his face changing rapidly. Something unusual and grave was happening in him.

"Finally, as though coming to his senses, he lightly but firmly tapped his hand and rose to his feet. He headed for his private office. His retinue followed anxiously and solicitously, whispering: 'Holy Father, are you not feeling well? Do you need anything?' He answered: 'Nothing, nothing.' About half an hour later, he called for the Secretary of the Congregation of Rites and, handing him a sheet of paper, requested that it be printed and sent to all the ordinaries around the world. What was that paper? It was the prayer that we recite with the people at the end of every Mass. It is the plea to Mary and the passionate request to the Prince of the heavenly host, [St. Michael: Saint Michael the Archangel, defend us in battle] beseeching God to send Satan back to hell."

According to the same article in Ephemerides Liturgicae, Cardinal Giovanni Nasalli Rocca di Corneliano wrote in his Litteris Pastoralibus pro Quadragesima (Pastoral Letters for Lent) that "the sentence 'The evil spirits who wander through the world for the ruin of souls' has a historical explanation that was many times repeated by his private secretary, Monsignor Rinaldo Angeli. Leo XIII truly saw, in a vision, demonic spirits who were congregating on the Eternal City (Rome). The prayer that he asked all the Church to recite was the fruit of that experience. He would recite that prayer with strong, powerful voice: we heard it many a time in the Vatican Basilica. Leo XIII also personally wrote an exorcism that is included in the Roman Ritual. He recommended that bishops and priests read these exorcisms often in their dioceses and parishes. He himself would recite them often throughout the day.

Late 20th-century rumours

In the late twentieth century, more vivid stories circulated. According to these, Pope Leo XIII was drinking Vin Mariani one day. As he was marched up the steps to the altar (some other accounts say he was actually at the altar), the Pope suddenly stopped, stared fixedly at something in the air and with a terrible look on his face, collapsed to the floor (some accounts say he fell shrieking). The Pope was carried off by those around him to another room where he came around. As one rendition of the story tells it:

"When asked what had happened, he explained that, as he was about to leave the foot of the altar, he suddenly heard voices - two voices, one kind and gentle, the other guttural and harsh. They seemed to come from near the tabernacle. As he listened, he heard the following conversation:

The guttural voice, the voice of Satan in his pride, boasted to Our Lord: "I can destroy your Church."
The gentle voice of Our Lord: "You can? Then go ahead and do so."
Satan: "To do so, I need more time and more power."
Our Lord: "How much time? How much power?"
Satan: "75 to 100 years, and a greater power over those who will give themselves over to my service."
Our Lord: "You have the time, you will have the power. Do with them what you will."

A variant of the story of the vision of Leo XIII was given by Father William Saunders in the Arlington Catholic Herald of 2 October 2003: "Pope Leo XIII (d. 1903) had a prophetic vision of the coming century of sorrow and war. After celebrating Mass, the Holy Father was conferring with his cardinals. Suddenly, he fell to the floor. The cardinals immediately called for a doctor. No pulse was detected, and the Holy Father was feared dead. Just as suddenly, Pope Leo awoke and said, 'What a horrible picture I was permitted to see!' In this vision, God gave Satan the choice of one century in which to do his worst work against the Church. The devil chose the 20th century. So moved was the Holy Father from this vision that he composed the prayer to St. Michael the Archangel.

Use in popular culture

  • A similar fragmented prayer is used on the 2005 movie The Exorcism of Emily Rose when Father Richard Moore says it when seeing a shadow near his jail cell.
  • Priest Vallon and his son Amsterdam recite part of this prayer in the movie Gangs of New York, although the movie is set decades before the prayer was written. Further, the prayer is used out of context, i.e. for a physical battle rather than a spiritual battle.
  • The prayer is recited at the end of the song "Save Me" by PIG on their album Wrecked.
  • A fractured version is used in the episode "Demons" of Stargate SG-1.
  • A fractured version is used in the episode "Transgressions" of The Dead Zone (TV Series)

See also

References

External links

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