As social polarization, political tensions, and economic hardships escalate, it's unlikely that anyone views modern society optimistically. But as Christians, we are called not to optimism but to faith. And the popular prayer to St. Michael was given to the Church by Pope Leo XIII precisely to be an anchor for the faithful in such times of social disorder.
Social concerns were always prominent during Pope Leo’s twenty-five-year pontificate (1878-1903). Most well-known is the pioneering document of Catholic social teaching: Rerum novarum, on the conditions of workers. But his first encyclical, Inscrutabili Dei consilio, written just two months into his papacy, set the tone clearly as he lamented “the evils by which the human race is oppressed on every side: the subversion of those primary truths on which human society is based, civil strife, and the contempt of law.”
It was in 1886 that Pope Leo prescribed the St. Michael prayer to be said at the end of Mass. And while many legendary stories circulate online as to the origin of this prayer, we need not concern ourselves with these pious (though probably dubious) tales. Pope Leo’s intention in composing and promoting the prayer to St. Michael is clear enough from the historical context.
The St. Michael prayer was an addition to a set of prayers that Blessed Pope Pius IX had already instituted for churches within the Papal States in 1859 “for the conversion of sinners and for the freedom and exaltation of Holy Mother Church.” These prayers were clearly intended to resist the ongoing secularization of the modern states and their refusal to acknowledge the legitimate authority of the Church.
But amidst these struggles, Pope Leo XIII understood clearly the power of prayer as the antidote to our social maladies. In an inspirational letter on the Church and Civilization, penned a year before becoming Pope, then-Cardinal Pecci wrote, “If, at any time, you feel your soul weakening at the sight of this great uprising of men, of governments, and of sciences against God and his Church, forget not that you have an invincible and all-powerful weapon of defense: Prayer!”
Most recently, Pope Francis, citing the example of Pope Leo XIII, has asked the Church to call on St. Michael so that we may become “more aware of the faults, the errors and the abuses committed in the present and in the past, and committed to combating [them] without any hesitation, so that evil may not prevail.”
With unwavering faith and hope, and following the great example of so many courageous popes, let us continue to invoke the aid of St. Michael for the defense of the Church and the victory of the truth!
St. 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, cast into hell Satan, and all the evil spirits, who prowl about the world seeking the ruin of souls. Amen.
Br. Anthony Maria Akerman, O.P. | Meet the Brothers in Formation HERE