Whether he’s referred to as St. Michael, St. Michael the Archangel, or Prince of the Heavenly Host, this powerful angel has been entrusted by God with the great mission of helping to defeat Satan and to shield God’s children from the forces of evil on earth.
St. Michael is one of the three main archangels mentioned in the Bible; the other two being Gabriel and Raphael. The earliest mention of St. Michael in the Scriptures is in the Old Testament book of Daniel (12:1 ):
"At that time Michael, the great prince who protects your people, will arise. There will be a time of distress such as has not happened from the beginning of nations until then. But at that time your people—everyone whose name is found written in the book—will be delivered.”
St. Michael's Battles With Satan
Saint Michael has a history of battling Satan. One of his first encounters with Satan is documented in Jude 1:9 when he and Satan argue over the body of Moses.
Although it’s never explained exactly why they were arguing, Jude described the outcome: “Yet Michael the archangel, when contending with the devil he disputed about the body of Moses, dared not bring against him a railing accusation, but said, The Lord rebuke you.”
It’s believed that Satan was trying to find where Moses’ body was buried in the hopes of going against God’s first commandment of “You shall have no other gods before me.” Satan wanted to tempt the Jewish people into sin by luring them into worshipping Moses.
St. Michael’s biggest battle with Satan is described in Revelation 12:7-8, when Satan’s wicked angels try to revolt against God: “there was war in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon fought and his angels, and prevailed not; neither was their place found any more in heaven. And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him.”
Because of St. Michael’s great battle and defeat of Satan, he is regarded as the great defender of the Church. St. Michael’s great victories over Satan also earned him the following four roles in the Church:
- Fight against Satan
- Rescue the souls of the faithful from Satan, especially at the hour of death
- Attend the dying and accompany them to judgment
- Be the champion of God's people; the Israelites in the Old Law, the Christians in the New Law; and to be Patron of the Church.
Pope Leo XIII Is Compelled To Create the Prayer to St. Michael the Archangel
In 1884, Pope Leo XIII received a disturbing premonition of Satan attempting to destroy the Church. Fr. Domenico Pechenino recounts that while the pope was attending mass, he began to stare in awe and shock at something above the celebrant’s head. Next, he remained in a trance-like state for some time. Finally he got up and left, without saying a word to anyone. Immediately he went into his office and emerged not too long after with a prayer he composed. He then contacted the Secretary of the Congregation of Rites and insisted that the prayer be shared and recited by the faithful worldwide.
“We too are tempted, we too are the target of attacks by the devil because the spirit of Evil does not want our holiness, he does not want our Christian witness, he does not want us to be disciples of Christ.” — Pope Francis
No one is sure what Pope XIII saw in his vision, as he never revealed it, but based on the prayer he composed, it was concluded that he saw Satan decimating the Church and spreading his evil works on earth. The pope’s vision was a reminder to all that we must constantly seek God’s protection and to pray to St. Michael for his intercession on our behalf for protection from the “wickedness and snares of the devil.”
The prayer is one of the most popular prayers in the Catholic Church and for a while was recited at the end of all masses. Some churches still recite the prayer. The following is the Prayer to St. Michael:
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,
thrust into hell Satan and all evil spirits
who wander through the world for the ruin of souls.