Father Rutler is Pastor of the Church of Saint Michael in New York City. He is the author of twenty-five books and many essays, and has lectured widely at home and abroad.
The selection of Saint Michael as our parish’s patron in 1857 certainly was inspired. Who could be a better champion in “Hell’s Kitchen” than that heavenly soldier wielding the sword, as the great statue in our church shows him? As angels are pure spirit and sublime intelligence, it is tempting for mortals of flesh and limited intelligence to pretend that they are fictions, but many times in meeting strangers we may “entertain angels unawares” (Hebrews 13:2).
Michael, whose name means “no one is like God,” leads a combat that is even more violent for being spiritual and not merely political. Spiritual combat is virulent now, when virtually every social institution is confused and angry, and harshly so in the Church, which is more than a human invention and is in fact the “Body of Christ”—that is, his living presence on earth. Our Lord predicted “… that the Son of Man was destined to suffer grievously, to be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes” (Mark 8:31).
In 1776 Thomas Paine wrote contemptuously of “the summer soldier and sunshine patriot” who flees when the going gets rough. Such are those who claim to have been baptized as Soldiers of Christ but who flee from spiritual combat when they are scandalized by news of sin. There is a parallel here with what a recent book, The Coddling of the American Mind, describes as a young generation living in a cultural bubble protected from psychological discomfort. They are so cushioned from the hard facts of life that they flee into “safe spaces” when traumatized by reality.
Saint Augustine said, “In addition to the fact that I am a Christian and must give God an account of my life, I as a leader must give him an account of my stewardship as well.” Church leaders who have been chortling glad-handers cannot give a good account because they have been summer soldiers and sunshine patriots. When the clouds gather, and battle lines are drawn, they are unable to confront what Belloc called Satan’s “comic inversion of our old certitudes.”
It has actually been suggested that Satan is exposing the sins of men in order to discourage the faithful. But the Prince of Lies exposes nothing. He has long been the cover-up artist. The Holy Spirit does the revealing: “For nothing is secret, that shall not be made manifest; neither anything hid, that shall not be known and come abroad” (Luke 8:17).
“Saint Michael the Archangel, protect me against the ruses and temptations of Satan. I consecrate to you all the faculties of my soul, my soul itself and all its potentials. Guard well the weaknesses of my poor nature, that the many battles that I may undergo will become as many victories and the eternal glory of the Most Precious Blood of Our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.”