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Musical Musings: Miscellaneous

Where Have You Gone, Saint Michael?

by Dennis Poust

This article appeared in the March-April 1994 edition of Catholic Heritage magazine, formerly published by Our Sunday Visitor, Inc. The magazine is no longer being published.

Although the Prayer to Saint Michael is
no longer said at the end of Mass,
Pope John Paul II urged all Catholics not to forget it.

Saint Michael the Archangel
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 into hell Satan and all the evil spirits,
who wander thoughout the world, seeking the ruin of souls. Amen.
Like millions of other Catholics the world over, Dorothy Boroden of Pensacola FL, remembers fondly the days when this Prayer to Saint Michael the Archangel was prayed at the end of every Mass in the Tridentine rite.

But in today's Church, many young Catholics have never even heard the prayer.

To those who have, it can sound almost archaic with its references to "evil spirits" and Satan.

Yet Boroden, who has a daily personal devotion to the archangel of the Old and New Testaments, believes it is precisely this new generation that needs the prayer more than ever.

"We would have to be spiritually blind to not know that we are in fierce spiritual warfare out there," she said. "The fact that we don't have official prayers to Saint Michael at the end of Mass doesn't affect me because I am 59 years old and have had that in my past. However, younger Catholics are not being exposed to devotion to the angels, so I would be concerned for them."

She has an advocate in very high places — none other than Pope John Paul II. Though the Pope has not suggested returning the prayer to the end of the Mass, he did request on April 24, 1994, that Catholics get back into the habit of praying it.

The Pope's remarks came shortly after the preparatory conference for the United Nations International Conference on Population and Development, which would be held in Cairo that September.

At the April preparatory conference in New York, the Holy See fought a bitter battle to change the draft document for the Cairo conference, saying it would push abortion, contraception and Western ideas of sexuality on Third World nations.

The threats to marriage, family and human life that the Pope saw arising from the conference prompted his request.

"Even if this prayer isn't said any longer at the end of the Eucharistic celebration, I invite you all not to forget it," he told pilgrims at Saint Peter's Basilica in Rome. "Pray it so as to be helped in the battle against the forces of darkness and aginst the spirit of this world."

Saint Michael the Archangel

Saint Michael appears several times in the Bible — in the books of Daniel, Jude and Revelation. He is venerated as a warrior against evil and the guardian of the Church. In Revelation, it is Michael who hurls the great dragon, Satan, out of heaven.

In artwork, he is commonly represented as youthful and muscular, clothed in armor, often armed with a sword.

Pope Leo XIII wrote and promulgated the prayer in 1884 after he had a vision in which he saw a cloud of demons about to take hold of Rome, only to be cast back into hell by the archangel.

The prayer's disappearance from the Mass under the modern rite had nothing to do with a change in Church teaching or beliefs about Saint Michael.

The Church opted to do away with the Saint Michael prayer and other prayers from the end of Mass, as well as prayers before Mass, in "an attempt to see a liturgical unit standing on its own," according to Father C. Gerard Austin, who teaches liturgical history at The Catholic University of America in Washington DC.

In other words, it was deleted to keep the focus on the Mass itself. Today, the prayer is frequently recited at the end of the Rosary.

Kathleen Mallozzi, a religious education instructor at Saint Margaret's Parish in Pearl River NY, said she teaches the prayer and the story of Saint Michael on the September 29 shared feast day of the Archangels Michael, Gabriel and Raphael.

She said she agrees with the Pope that the forces of darkness are advancing. "It's the little ways morality has changed, which we believe is Satan's hook," she said. "If you do something wrong and don't get caught, it's all right." Mallozzi said that children today often feel unprotected, and praying the Prayer to Saint Michael is "reassuring."

"I think it's very important at this time," she said. "Part of the reason I teach it is, I think, a lot of time the children have the wrong heroes. They look up to baseball players who are drug addicts or they admire people they see shooting guns on television. Saint Michael is a warrior of God who gets rid of evil — like the first Superman."

Dennis Poust writes from Austin TX.

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