On Tuesday, September 29, the Church celebrates with great solemnity the dedication of the Church of St. Michael the Archangel on Monte Sant’Angelo in Apulia in southern Italy. The building of this church goes back to a miracle in the 5th century, in which St. Michael revealed that Monte Gargano was under his special protection and that he wished a church to be built there in his honor and in honor of all the holy angels. The local bishop piously complied, and the dedication of the construction of the basilica became a great feast in the Roman Church. We rejoice today with the holy angels!
The feast of St. Michael’s church today is a celebration of the whole structure of reality, in which God governs His creation through the ministry of the celestial beings, the angels. We know from Sacred Scripture, expounded especially by St. Dionysius the Areopagite and St. Gregory the Great, that there exist nine choirs of spiritual beings, divided into three hierarchies. These beings, called “angels” after the lowest of the choirs, are marvelous spiritual creatures, intellectual beings of great power and majesty. They are far greater than us in the order of nature and yet they remain creatures all the same, subject like us to the Sovereign Majesty of God.
The angels were created in grace with a heavenly calling like ours, and each angel was given the choice to accept his divine vocation. Some of the angels (probably one-third of them) tragically said, “I will not serve,” and were cast out of Heaven into the eternal punishment of Hell. As we read in the Book of Revelation: “And there was a great battle in heaven, Michael and his angels fought with the dragon, and the dragon fought and his angels: And they prevailed not, neither was their place found any more in heaven” (12:7-8). These evil angels are called “demons” and their master is Lucifer, who was the greatest of all the celestial beings. It is Lucifer who is called “Satan” or “the devil,” and it is over him that Michael is most fittingly said to be victorious.
The name of Michael means, “Who is like God?” This was the battle cry of the good angels as they defeated the wicked angels. Against the pride that leads to damnation in the evil angels, the good angels proclaim the humility of salvation, whereby we entrust ourselves completely to the loving care of the Eternal Father, accepting everything in our lives – all of reality – with joyful gratitude. Even if we don’t feel like it, we thank God for everything and in this way we live humility.
In order to live in this saving humility, we turn often to Michael, asking him to protect us from pride. While there are many sins that can damn us, the root of them all is pride, for when we sin, we rely on ourselves as our own god, rather than trusting in the loving Providence of the true God.
It is beautiful to note that Michael asked that the church on Monte Gargano be dedicated not just to him, but to all the holy angels. You and I are part of the marvelous ordering of the universe, which includes the beauty and power of the holy angels. They are given to us by God to protect us, to encourage us, to keep us safe, and to guide us to our Heavenly Homeland. Each one of us has been given an angel specific to us to govern us and keep us in the way of humility. Today pray to this guardian angel of yours. Make friends with him. Get to know him. He is a powerful and faithful soldier of St. Michael in your life. May he always protect you from all pride, so that you can serve God in true humility flourishing in charity!
Fr. Joseph Previtali