On Easter Monday 1949 at 10:45pm, the priests who had undertaken the exorcism of a youth named “Robbie” had a breakthrough. Possessed by as many as ten demons, Robbie had been haunted for years in the wake of his use of a Ouija board to contact his deceased grandmother. After months of exorcisms, the priests invoked St. Michael to cast out the demons. Suddenly, a voice who identified himself as St. Michael commanded the demons to depart. According to eyewitnesses, Robbie went into violent convulsions and the demons left with a “sonic boom.” (The priests praying the Divine Office in a nearby church also heard this “sonic boom” and saw an incredible light illumine the whole church.) When Robbie came out of his trance, he related how he had a vision of St. Michael vanquishing Satan in a battle for his soul. Though many know this story through the popular 1970’s book and movie based on these real-life events, the role of St. Michael was somewhat muted in the fictional accounts.
For this reason, the prayer to St. Michael the Archangel is an essential part of our spiritual health. Originally abridged from Pope Leo XIII’s more robust composition which he was compelled to pen after his troubling mystical experience with the “smoke of Satan,” this simple prayer creates dynamic spiritual protection and power, both in our own life and in the life of the Church. As struggles abound in the lives of our families and culture, St. Michael’s patronage activates the full resource of the heavenly host. St. Paul makes clear that every struggle, no matter how mundane, has a spiritual dimension (Ephesians 6:12).
The spiritual world is not, as some may think, a world of unambiguous light and goodness. There is a nefarious aspect of the spiritual world which sow the seeds of chaos, violence, and darkness. Evil exits first, and primarily, in the spiritual realm. Whatever our struggles, St. Michael empowers us to flex our spiritual muscles and we experience his assistance in many ways.
One particular way is how St. Michael helps us in the daily overcoming of temptation and growing in virtue. Consider St. Michael’s origin story from Scripture and Tradition (Isaiah 14:12, Revelation 12). In the first cosmic upheaval between God and His creation, when Satan defies God and blasphemes the Holy Name, the leader of the heavenly host responds: “Who is like God?”, in Hebrew, Mikha’el.
The first rhetorical question in history is the name Michael. This name reveals the potency of humility when it is blended with courage. Against pride, which is rooted in self (the heart of sin is always “I”), Michael expresses the humility which is the foundation of virtue. Humility recognizes that God alone is the source of all life and happiness. Without God, we are nothing. If we want to be happy, humility is the first step towards our victory in the battle of selfishness. Alternatively, against a sort of false humility, Michael expresses a word of courage. False humility thinks that we are powerless in spiritual struggles. After all, who are we to overcome the devil, who has strength beyond our powers. Yet, courage recognizes that with God we can do anything. Nothing is impossible for God, and St. Michael decisively casts down the demonic hosts with this divine power flowing through him.
If we want to stand firm in overcoming daily temptations, if we want to find victory over our selfishness, if we want God’s power to flourish in us even in the face of most hopeless situations, St. Michael’s humble courage gives us the name and patronage upon whom we should call. When someone asks me for a simple way that they might grow in holiness and happiness, I always suggest praying to St. Michael daily. St. Michael is eager to accompany us in our daily struggles, so let us be bold to ask!
Fr. Michael Joseph Hurley, O.P.
This article was featured in our Fall 2022 Mission West Newsletter. Read more from our Fall issue and browse past newsletters by clicking below!
PRAYER TO ST. MICHAEL THE ARCHANGEL
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 evil spirits
who prowl throughout the world
seeking the ruin of souls.