If ever there was a time for Catholics to call on a saint whose charge is to “defend us in battle,” it is now.
Bishops in more than a dozen dioceses are doing just that by asking that the prayer to St. Michael the Archangel be recited after Masses, as it was from 1886 to about 1964. Several dioceses are implementing the change beginning today, Sept. 29, the feast of the Archangels Michael, Gabriel and Raphael, citing particularly the need to pray as the Church deals with the clergy sexual-abuse scandal.
“In modern times, perhaps we have been lulled into complacency about the power of evil,” said Archbishop Leonard Blair of Hartford, Connecticut, in a letter to priests accompanying a Sept. 11 decree calling for recitation of the St. Michael Prayer after every Sunday and weekday Mass. “Yet as St. Paul says, ‘our struggle is not against enemies of flesh and blood, but against the rulers, the authorities, the cosmic powers of this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.’”
Archbishop Blair, whose decree also included adding an hour of public adoration of the Eucharist each week in all parishes in the archdiocese, told the Register that the St. Michael Prayer is one he has always prayed in his personal devotion and that it seems appropriate to encourage its recitation now. “Obviously as the [Sept. 29] feast day indicates, angels are part of our faith,” he said. “It is a biblical reality, and I think that the traditional prayer of the Catholic people, the Christian people, for the protection of St. Michael, as rooted in Scripture, is a very timely and healthy devotion.” He added, “Obviously, this is not just about the abuse crisis. It’s about the situation in the world today and the need to offer these kinds of prayers.”
The Hartford archbishop said his plan to ask for recitation of the St. Michael Prayer was well-received by the archdiocese’s presbyteral council, but that a few priests questioned whether the language might be scary for children. “The discussion we had prompted me to tell our priests that with the feast of the archangels coming up, it might be an occasion to do a little instruction about the existence of angels as a matter of our faith and also some of the traditions about St. Michael and the history of the prayer.”
The St. Michael Prayer was composed in 1886 by Pope Leo XIII, who also asked that it be said at the end of “low” Masses throughout the Church. Recitation of it fell away after the Second Vatican Council, however, and in recent years, some have been calling for it to be restored after Masses.
In the Diocese of Toledo, Ohio, where Bishop Daniel Thomas has asked that the St. Michael Prayer be recited after Masses beginning this weekend, Dan Demski, diocesan liturgy coordinator, said some pastors and parishes had asked about the possibility of reinstituting recitation of the prayer in light of the clergy abuse scandal. “It’s something for me when parishes actually call and request the prayer,” he said, because it is an indication they may be hearing about it from their own parishioners. “From my end, it seems the Holy Spirit is at work with this.”
Demski said when the Church already has a prayer invoking a powerful intercessor, “Why reinvent the wheel? ... St. Michael is there to guard and defend us in the Church, and it makes sense we should invoke his intercession.”
In a letter to priests of the Toledo Diocese, Bishop Thomas said he sees the addition of the prayer, which is to be recited after the dismissal of Mass and before the closing hymn, as part of an effort to take up “spiritual initiatives to combat intentionally the evil of the sexual-abuse scandal in the Church.”
The diocese also held a day of fasting, prayer and reparation Sept. 14, the feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, during which priests were encouraged to expose the Blessed Sacrament throughout the day so that the faithful could pray for the victims of clergy sexual abuse and the purification of the Church.
In the Archdiocese of New York, Cardinal Timothy Dolan asked in his Sept. 12 column in Catholic New York for the St. Michael Prayer to be said after Masses for nine days beginning Sept. 21 and concluding Sept. 29. “Enough of you have suggested this to me that I’ve concluded it’s from the Lord: that we seek the help of St. Michael the Archangel in fighting Lucifer’s invasion of the Church.”
Similarly, in the Diocese of Birmingham, Alabama, Bishop Robert Baker has called for a novena with the St. Michael Prayer to begin Sept. 29 and end Oct. 7, the feast of the Holy Rosary.
Among other dioceses praying the St. Michael Prayer, the Diocese of Springfield, Illinois, appears to have been in the forefront. There, the prayer has been recited after Masses since 2011, shortly after Bishop Thomas Paprocki became bishop. “We may have set the example,” said Marlene Mulford, director of communications.
The prayer is not mandated, but Mulford said she believes most of the diocese’s 129 parishes recite it after Masses. To encourage recitation both publicly and privately, the diocese created prayer cards with the prayer, a picture of St. Michael and an excerpt from a homily given by Bishop Paprocki that said, in part, “The St. Michael Prayer can help us ‘stand against the deceits of the devil’ (Ephesians 6:11) by ‘taking the shield of faith’ (Ephesians 6:16).”
Additionally, Bishop Robert Morlino of Madison, Wisconsin, asked in November 2017 for the prayer to be said at Masses as part of a call “to pray and to work for the casting out of evil.”
Other archdioceses and dioceses that are adding the St. Michael Prayer after Masses include:
- Bridgeport, Connecticut, where Bishop Frank Caggiano announced on Twitter Aug. 24 that the prayer would be recited at the end of all Masses celebrated in the diocese beginning Sept. 15, the memorial of Our Lady of Sorrows. He also asked that the faithful pray it individually.
- Knoxville, Tennessee, which is implementing recitation of the prayer this weekend.
- Orange, California, where Bishop Kevin Vann asked that it be recited after all Masses beginning Sept. 23 and running through Oct. 23, the feast of St. John of Capistrano, the diocese’s secondary patron. Hank Evers, director of communications for the diocese, said the response has been very positive. “So many people after Mass have been just glowing, saying, ‘This is wonderful.’ They’re just so happy we’re saying the prayer after Mass.”
- Portland, Oregon, where Archbishop Alexander Sample called last week for recitation of the prayer after all Masses for the protection of the Church amid the abuse crisis.
- Allentown, Pennsylvania, which restored the prayer the weekend of Sept. 15-16.
- Gallup, New Mexico, which reinstituted recitation of the prayer within the last month. Suzanne Hammons, communications director for the diocese, said Bishop James Wall also has asked parishes and priests to offer at least one Mass a month to pray for clergy-abuse survivors and the Church.
- Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, where priests have been asked to consider leading the Prayer to St. Michael during a “Year of Repentance,” which began Sept. 23. Bishop David Zubik also has asked clergy to pray and fast for the Church’s purification and to observe the 12 “Ember Days” by abstaining from meat and making a Holy Hour before the Blessed Sacrament on those days.
- Kansas City, Kansas, where Archbishop Joseph Naumann announced Sept. 24 his approval of use of the prayer after Masses.
- Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, where Archbishop Charles Chaput has asked all pastors to consider taking up the practice in their parishes.
The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops did not respond to a request for information about how many other dioceses were implementing the prayer.
Judy Roberts writes from Graytown, Ohio.
This story was updated Oct. 3 to include Philadelphia.
St. Michael Prayer
St. Michael the Archangel, defend us in battle.
Be our defense against the wickedness and snares of the devil.
May God rebuke him, we humbly pray, and do thou, O Prince of the heavenly hosts, by the power of God, thrust into hell Satan and all the evil spirits who prowl about the world seeking the ruin of souls. Amen.