This is my favorite time of the Church year. Not only is the beginning of autumn the most beautiful season, but I love these 10 days in the Church calendar: St. Michael, St. Jerome, St. Thérèse, St. Francis, St. Faustina, Our Lady of the Rosary.
Wow. That our parish is Our Lady of the Rosary tops it off.
But St. Michael kicks it off.
One of the reasons I love the feast of St. Michael and All Angels: because just by the existence of this feast in the Church calendar we knock a couple of deadly modernist heresies on the head.
I’m thinking of that three-headed hound from hell named Cerberus — and his three heads are Materialism, Scientism and Symbolist Reductionism.
Let me explain.
The angels are God’s invisible messengers. They speed to do his will and are real, but usually not visible to us. By affirming their existence we also affirm the reality of the whole invisible realm, and by doing this we acknowledge the reality of the interchange between this physical world and the spiritual realm. We also affirm that this is really what religion is all about.
Religion is not primarily feeding the hungry, housing the poor, winning equal rights, saving the environment, having good manners, being good citizens, being respectable, obeying the rules and not dropping litter. Religion is not primarily about changing the world, but about preparing for the next world.
Of course the corporal works of mercy are vital, but they’re not the first priority. Good works are necessary but we are not saved by good works. Neither can the Catholic faith be reduced to a welfare agency.
As Pope Francis has said, “We must not reduce the Church to just another NGO.” The reason for religion is the commerce between this world and the next and the angels — who are the messengers between this world and the next — are the vivid reminder of this essential truth.
The modern man (and too many modern Catholics) would like us to believe that all the supernatural stuff is no more than an extravagant fairy tale. It’s make-believe and angels are in the same category as the good fairy, Tinker Bell and leprechauns.
The first head of Cerberus is the philosophy of materialism. Materialism is not simply going to the mall to shop until you drop. Materialism is the belief that there is nothing more than this physical realm. What you see is what you get. There is no heaven, no hell, no angels, no demons, no miracles — and if there is a God, he is asleep on a cloud somewhere and is never involved in this physical world.
Scientism is the second head of the hound of hell. Scientism should not be confused with science or scientific knowledge. Scientism is a mask of materialism. It is the heresy that teaches that the only valid form of knowledge is that which is proven through scientific research. In other words, if you don’t have the scientific data — fuhgeddaboudit. This regularly surfaces as atheists asking for “evidence” for the existence of God.
The third heresy is the most insidious and the one you find in modernist Church circles. For want of a better name I call it “symbolist reductionism,” which is a fancy way of saying the real supernatural aspect of religion is reduced to a mere symbol. This theological sleight of hand enables modern churchmen to say they believe in angels, but what they don’t tell you is that they only believe in them as symbols. So when pressed they might say, “Oh, yes. Angels! Wonderful! St. Michael is such a powerful image of the triumph of good over evil.” Or they might say, “Angels! What inspiring agents of all that is beautiful, spiritual and true!”
They do the same thing with demons. “Oh yes. I believe in the devil!” They profess. “The devil is such a potent and vivid image of evil in the world.”
In other words, angels and demons are no more the pretty pictures or literary devices.
One of the practical ways to counter this materialism, scientism and symbolist reductionism is to recite the St. Michael prayer regularly:
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. Amen.
So for my money, bring on St. Michael and all the hosts of heaven. For Michael tramples down the dragon. Let us celebrate him as the hammer of heresies and let us celebrate all that is seen and unseen.