29 Sept: St. Michael, 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!

The theology of chapel veils is a little complicated.  Perhaps in another post…   In any event, it is a good custom, though not obligatory.

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?

In our day, I believe we are witnessing in our cities – and veins – the sharp rise of the demonic.  All around us a spiritual war is being waged.

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

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. Fr. Kelly says:

    After the passage of Obamacare, when we were under the very real threat of an overreaching HHS mandate to be involved in the purchasing of contraceptives as part of every health insurance plan, our parish decided to add the full Leonine prayers after every Mass. (We had been praying the St. Michael prayer already at the urging of the now St. John Paul II.)
    A number of new prayers were being composed at the time asking for freedom of religion to be preserved … I pointed out that in the collect of these prayers, we ask for “freedom and axaltation of or Holy Mother, the Church” What more do we need?

    We have kept up this practice even til now. I am no longer at that parish, but we have started up the practice in my two new parishes as well.

    I heartily reecho Fr. Z’s plea for these prayers to be reinstuted everywhere.

    to paraphrase John Paul II when asking for the return of the St. Michael prayer after Masses:
    In the years after this regular practice was dropped, have things gotten better?

  2. Aman4allseasons says:

    One of our priests, years ago, reflected on the fact that the commander of heaven’s armies is taken from a lower choir of angels, not from the highest order – the same point made here about God choosing the lowly for his plans.

    If that isn’t a note of hope and inspiration for the lowly on earth, I don’t know what is. Praise God!

  3. WVC says:

    Chapel veils? I shall flee from this comment section post haste!!

  4. mysticalrose says:

    I really hope you do write a post on chapel veils, Father. I have worn one for years because it is traditional and on some level that is good enough for me. But I’ve never really heard any particularly convincing theological justification.

  5. JesusFreak84 says:

    I think we know which Saint to invoke for the wretched POTUS debates tonight. I, thankfully, will be getting ready for bed and hopefully comatose by the time it starts.

  6. Gregg the Obscure says:

    i’ve been praying the St. Michael prayer after my daily rosary for a few months now. and the “Angel of God” prayer before the rosary.

  7. Michaella says:

    Yes, please DO write a post about the angels and veils!

  8. JakeMC says:

    Yes, please do write a post soon about the angels and the head covering. I’ve always had trouble understanding that verse, “A woman ought to have a covering over her head, because of the angels.” I’ve always wondered what the angels have to do with it…although perhaps the Douay-Rheims translation gives a bit of a clue: Therefore ought the woman to have a POWER (Latin Vulgate: potestatem) over her head. The Powers are one of the nine choirs of angels, so does that have something to do with it?

  9. JonPatrick says:

    My parish priest has been saying the St. Michael prayer at end end of mass for some time. I also use it at the end of the rosary. My challenge now is to learn it in Latin as I usually say the rosary in Latin when i say it alone. I am currently working on learning the Salve Regina.

    That passage in First Corinthians, that angels are the reason for women covering has always puzzled me. Maybe a post on chapel veils might explain that.

  10. RosaryRose says:

    I talk mentally with my angel all day. When my six siblings and I were growing up, anytime we left the house Dad would mention our angels by doubling the number of people leaving. So, if Stephen and I were heading off to the library, Dad would say, “There are four of you going, you know!”

    That was great, except when our non-Catholic friends were with us and we had to explain it.

    There are marvelous stories of St Padre Pio and his angels.

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