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IHS Sixteenth Sunday after Pentecost—29 September AD 2019 Dedication of the Basilica of Saint Michae

Today, September 29, is the anniversary of the dedication of the Basilica of Saint Michael the Archangel. When I went to do some research on the Basilica, I found that there a countless number of basilicas dedicated to Saint Michael, including several in these United States, and at least one here in Florida. At first I was pretty sure that the Basilica in question was the Sanctuary of Monte Sant'Angelo on Mount Gargano, Italy, s cave located near the Adriatic, to the east of Rome. This Basilica dates back to the year 490 and an apparition of Saint Michael himself, who dedicated this cave as a church for himself.[1]

After a little more looking, I found that our Basilica is in Rome, near to Saint Peter's, in what used to be the tomb of the Emperor Hadrian—a large circular building that was consecrated by Pope Boniface IV on this date somewhere between 609 and 615.[2] The tomb was the site of an apparition to Pope Saint Gregory the great in 590 of Saint Michael sheathing his sword as sign that a plague that gripped Rome was then ending. Over the centuries the building served as a church, a castle, a fortress and an ecclesiastical prison. In each case, it is generally referred to as Castel Sant-Angelo. In 1277 Nicholas III connected the castel to the Vatican by means of a passage way (the Passetto de Borgo) which served several popes as an escape from siege on the Vatican.[3]

On this day, the Church honors the Archangels Michael, Gabriel, and Raphael, as well as the entire choirs of angels and archangels. You already know something about the nine choirs of angels if you were here early enough this morning to recite the Chaplet of Saint Michael.

Michael's name is a rhetorical question that translates from the Hebrew to the English “Who is like God?” It is spoken with the conviction that there is no one who can compare favorably with God. Michael’s name was the battle cry of the good angels who fought against the rebellious angels like Lucifer, who thought himself to be very much like God![4]

The Apocalypse (12:7) tells us that Michael will victoriously lead a re-engagement of this battle, which will take place at the end of time.[5] The Greek Liturgy names Saint Michael as “Archistrategos” a term roughly translated as head strategist, or perhaps “general” of the heavenly host.

He is found also in Daniel 10:13[6] where he helped the Jews to return from captivity in Persia; and in Daniel 12 where it is predicted that he will protect God's people against the Anti-Christ in the end times.[7]

In his Epistle, Saint Jude has Michael hiding the dead body of Moses to keep the Jews from worshiping it—only to find himself in contention with Satan, who is trying to make the body available for idolatry.[8]

Traditionally, the Church attributes four major functions to Saint Michael:

  • To fight against Satan. Michael is, after all, the “prince of the heavenly host” who has been assigned to resist the army of evil since the very beginning of time. Nonetheless, the duty remains our own as well.

  • To rescue souls at the point of death—perhaps by inspiring final repentance and/or by arranging for the deathbed reception of the Sacraments

  • To bring the souls of the departed before God for their particular judgment.

  • To champion God’s people—the Jews in Old Testament times; the Church in recent times. Giving patronage of the military orders.

We are going to recite Pope Leo XIII’s longer prayer to Saint Michael at the end of Mass. It was written in 1884, after the Pope had a vision of a conversation between Christ and the Devil., during which the Devil asked for more time to destroy the Church, The prayer really seems appropriate to the modern Church. Leo has the Devil pouring out “the venom of his malice on men” who are then filled and inebriated with “bitterness against the Church” and who have “laid impious hands on Her most sacred possessions.” They have invaded the Vatican itself!

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.[9]

Humanly speaking, we are small and weak, and there is very little we can do to oppose the diabolically inspired enemies of the Church. But in Leo XIII we have the authority of a great Pope—and in his prayers to Saint Michael we have bold invocations of the Archangel tasked with the care of souls and the defense of the Church. It is up to us to make these prayers our own.

Today we will say the longer prayer—we say the shorter prayer after nearly every Mass we offer. So, please attend Holy Mass as often as you are able, and make the prayer to Saint Michael your very own personal prayer—pray for an end to the confusion which plagues the modern day Church!



[2] Sixth reading at Matins of May 8.


[4] Isaias xiv:12ff




[8] Jude 1:9

[9] Leo XIII (Longer) Prayer to Saint Michael the Archangel

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