29 Sept: Feast of Angels (and chapel veils)

In these days of The Present Crisis a few bishops took a step towards sanity and asked their people once again to pray the St. Michael Prayer after Mass.

I think we should bring the Leonine Prayers back… all of them.  St. Michael was one of the prayers of the Leonine Prayers.

C’mon, guys!   DO IT!

Like few periods in the history of the Church do we need to be on our knees asking for the help of the Mother of God, invoking the Sacred Heart, and asking for angels to help us in this horrible battle against the forces of Hell.

In the older Roman calendar today is the Feast of the Dedication of St. Michael the Archangel, which refers to a basilica dedicated in his honor.

This has been the time of year to honor angels for a long time in the Roman Church. The ancient Veronese Sacramentary has an entry for “Natale Basilicae Angeli via Salaria” for 30 September. The Gelasian Sacramentary has a feast for “S. Michaelis Archangeli”. The Gregorian Sacramentary has “Dedicatio Basilionis S. Angeli Michaelis” for 29 September. It is possible that the basilica they were talking about was a long-gone church out the Via Salaria north of Rome. However, there is the monumental statue of St. Michael that looms over the City at the top of Hadrian’s mausoleum, known as Castel Sant’Angelo, placed there after the archangel signaled the end of a plague that had ravaged Rome.

Today at Matins in our Breviarium Romanum, in the 9th reading in the 3rd Nocturn, St. Jerome instructs us:

Oh, how great is the dignity of souls, whereof every one hath from its birth an Angel appointed to guard it! Hence, we read in the Revelation of John unto the Angel of the Church of Ephesus, (and so of the others,) write, ii. I And the Apostle (Paul) also saith: The woman (that is, in the Church) ought to have a covering on her head, because of the Angels. i Cor. xi. 10.

Hence… chapel veils!

From Scripture we know the names of three Archangels: Michael, Gabriel and Raphael.

There are other, apocryphal names of angels, but we are not to use them or invoke them.

Here is a nice depiction of all three angels easin’ elegantly on down the road with Tobias, Fido and the Fish.  Note their courtly bearing!

Our perennial Catholic thought is that the angels are in a hierarchy of nine “choirs”.  This goes back to the writings of St. Dionysius and of Gregory the Great.  St. Thomas Aquinas developed their foundational teachings.   According to the Angelic Doctor the choirs, which designate offices and roles, are

  1. Seraphim
  2. Cherubim
  3. Thrones
  4. Dominions
  5. Virtues
  6. Powers
  7. Principalities
  8. Archangels
  9. Angels

Note that Archangels are second from the last.  That St. Michael seems to be the commander of the heavenly host shows that even among angels (who are created persons, but without bodies), so vastly above us in the order of creation, God chose the lowly for His own plans.

In a few days we will have the Feast of the Guardian Angels.

Guardian Angel is a role assigned by God. Your angel or angels could be from the ranks of any of the choirs.

Do you think about angels?

Do you consider your Guardian Angel or ask for help?

Do you remember that there are also fallen angels?

Finally, one of my favorite depictions of St. Michael as a samurai warrior by Daniel Mitsui.

St. Michael by Daniel Mitsui. Click for more.

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About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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16 Responses to 29 Sept: Feast of Angels (and chapel veils)

  1. Bellarmino Vianney says:

    “The woman (that is, in the Church) ought to have a covering on her head, because of the Angels […] Hence… chapel veils!”

    First things first… in today’s world, one needs to say that the woman in the Church ought to have covering on her body in general. (For the record, this goes for men as well; some men, clearly not right in the head, dress rather over-exposed in Church.)

    Today is also the Feast of St. Raphael the Archangel, patron of meeting a good wife. Finding a good, Catholic, compatible adult female for a potential spouse is difficult enough. Adding the virtue of modesty to the mix makes it even more difficult. Modesty/decency is one of the necessary conditions for compatibility, and that significantly decreases the potential suitors due to the tendency towards indecency.

    For the record, though, there are indeed a few good women that make major sacrifices and dress modestly in Church. Hopefully God rewards them for their sacrifices.

  2. maternalView says:

    I speak to my guardian angel everyday and often to other folks’ too. I imagine the angels at Mass with me. And I suppose the choirs are involved in battles we don’t perceive.

  3. surritter says:

    I’m curious why the angels are depicted as feminine in that painting.

    [They aren’t depicted as feminine. Consider the provenance, era, school of painting, the styles of the times. There’s a reason why I mentioned their attitude, the stylized gesture of foot and hand.]

  4. deaconjohn1987 says:

    The Chaplet of St. Michael the Archangel is a wonderful devotion! I’ve been praying it for over 40 years and the Angels have helped me many times, spiritually and temporal. Back in the 80’s, driving a truck in NYC, the Angels always helped me find a parking place to make a delivery. The Popes have recommended the Angelus three times a day too! It is recommended to add the Guardian Angel Prayer after the Angelus. Keep close to the Angels and they will keep close to you!
    “Behold, I send an angel before you, to guard you on the way and to bring you to the place which I have prepared. Give heed to him and hearken to his voice. . . for My name is in him.” – Exodus 23:20

  5. MrsMacD says:

    God is so good!

    It has been said that each guardian angel was shown the soul he would be caring for and his,’fiat,’ decided his fate.

    @Bellarmino Vianney it’s true that many women do not dress decently but, speaking from experience, they do not know. Women are almost never complimented or encouraged when they dress decently, fathers and Fathers are afraid of ailienating their flock, some women think that they have to dress indecently to attract a spouse. Women don’t know how important it is or what it means to a man when they do not veil their precious bodies.

    That said the veil is a step in the right direction as it is a sign of submission to authority, to the authority of God, who, if followed carefully, will lead us by the way of gracefullness in dress.

  6. JesusFreak84 says:

    Heh, I beg my Guardian Angel for help every time I go to the TLM; I have to merge in city traffic on a highway I would never, ever drive on during the week, Christmas aside.

  7. chantgirl says:

    My mother taught us from a young age to say our Guardian Angel prayer. Once, when I was a junior in high school, on the way to a dance with three other teens in the car, I felt an urgent moment of uneasiness. We were on the highway, it was raining, and I quickly said a prayer for the intercession of the guardian angels of all present. Not thirty seconds later, the car was in a ditch on the side of the highway, but no one was hurt. Considering that we were all teens, most having been raised in pretty lax Catholic households with little catechesis, I felt that God had been very merciful to all of us.

    Now, as a mom, whenever I leave the house with one of the teens babysitting, I ask the intercession of all of their angels. Same with car trips. When pregnant, I try to ask the intercession of the baby’s guardian angel too. If I drop a son off to serve at Mass, I say a St. Michael prayer. Finally, if I am trying to offer a Communion for an urgent matter, I frequently ask the angels to accompany me and help me to receive worthily, hoping that they will help me focus and maybe make up for the distractions and deficiencies of my reception.

    When all things are revealed at the Last Judgment, we will finally know and understand all of what the angels have done for us, and we will know what a debt of gratitude we owe them.

    Here is the chaplet to St. Michael, which has a number of promises attached to it:


    For a fun activity with kids for Michaelmas, make a blackberry pie or race some horses:


  8. After every Mass at our parish the whole Congregation prays the Prayer to St. Michael for the end to abortion, and all while many of us are wearing a veil. I feel naked without my veil. I keep one in my car and if I stop to make a visit while in town the veil always goes on. I also agree that a woman’s whole body should be “veiled”. Some of the things I see would blind a person. Good grief! The number of young girls I see wearing night club clothes is a shame. The parents need a come to Jesus and His mommy moment.

  9. Fuerza says:

    With regard to the place of archangels in the 9 choirs, I was always taught that there was a difference between the choir of archangels and the Archangels who stand before the throne of God. In this understanding, Michael, Raphael and Gabriel are from among the Seraphim and Cherubim, and Archangel is only a title. On the other hand, the angels which make up the choir of archangels are different, and their name merely indicates that they are higher than those simply called “angels”. Perhaps I’m wrong, but I have seen this echoed in a few different sources.

  10. Fr. Kelly says:

    I expect you are right about that.
    St. Raphael says that he is one of seven who stand before the throne of God, and he is listed as an archangel with Michael and Gabriel.

    When st. Thomas asks this question he says that either they are Archangels in the lowest choir, or, more probably, when we call Michael, Gabriel and Raphael Archangels, we are using Arch- to mean “high ” and thus they are among the Seraphim.

    But this is one of the mysteries that we will come to know when we get to heaven.

  11. Kent Wendler says:

    I, too, remember occasions in which my family seems to have benefited from angelic intervention.

    I have been thinking about the angelic beings for years. As purely spiritual creatures how they experience their existence is necessarily rather mysterious to us material, time-bound beings. I do think, though, that as a necessary consequence of being purely spiritual they are also completely dimensionless as we think of it. Unless they act in the material world I suspect that space and time are irrelevant to them – except as their actions are restrained by God.

  12. Elizabeth Rose says:

    Father, can you please tell me the artist’s name that painted that picture of Tobias and the Angels?

  13. Eliz Rose: says: the artist’s name

    Francesco Botticini with Andrea Verrocchio, painted around 1470, tempera on panel. It is in the Uffizi in Florence. There are other famous depictions of Tobias with Raphael, and variations of the Tobias with all three such as that of Filippino Lippi

  14. KateD says:

    On a previous Sunday at a random church we stopped into, the priest asked at the start of the homily, “Why is no one in these first pews this morning? You are like all good Catholics sitting in the back? Ah, I know, these seats have been reserved for all of our guardian angels.” It was really sweet. We knew we were in for a good Mass when he addressed and welcomed all of our guardian angels and he didn’t disappoint! He talked about the courage of just men in the face of attacks from wicked people. How we are disparaged or ostracized for little things like not laughing at inappropriate jokes or preferring to not engage in profanity Let alone for speaking the truth about Catholic teachings on subjects such as marriage and homosexuality.

    ~God bless our heroic priests who continue to feed His sheep!~.

    It has occurred to me on several occasions that our use of profanity and crude jokes must be very offensive to our angels.

  15. KateD says:

    My guardian angel must be a 5-star general, by now, at least. Uncommon valor, FOR SURE!

    So how does that work? Do they have all eternity to do their own thing, then they accompany us through life and in the end…..they are free to go on their way again? Or are they stuck with us….FOREVER?

  16. surritter says:

    Following up on my comment…

    Fr. Z: “They aren’t depicted as feminine. Consider the provenance, era, school of painting, the styles of the times.”

    Then I ask — in all earnestness and charity — about the Divine Mercy image of Jesus that you’ve criticized in the past, saying that it seems effeminate. Could the same standard be used in assessing that image (school of painting, etc.)?