He dwells among us: Defend us in battle

Pray to St. Michael and our guardian angels to protect us from Satan’s evil desires

By Bishop Richard F. Stika

“Protect them from the evil one” (John 17:15)

It is said the devil‘s greatest accomplishment is convincing people, and especially clergy, that he does not exist. Satan is never more powerful than when he is denied, and given his great success in this, we forget that we are part of a great mortal struggle between good and evil that calls each of us to spiritual battle.

For this reason, and because evil is where you least expect it, I decided that after every Mass we will pray the St. Michael the Archangel prayer to enlist the special help of God‘s angelic captain and his angels.

Pope Leo XIII wrote his prayer to St. Michael in 1886. Some say the impetus for writing this prayer was because of a terrible vision he was purported to have had of Satan plotting horrible attacks upon the Church and the world, the likes of which had never been seen in history.

Given the approaching century that would become known as the bloodiest in history, it would seem that the pope’s prayer was inspired by God and meant to help the Church to receive the full measure of spiritual help that we continue to be in need of today.

Jesus calls Satan a “murderer from the beginning” and “a liar and the father of lies” (John 8:44). He is a master of convincing people to “call evil good, and good evil” (Isaiah 5:20). He is the great “deceiver of the whole world” and the one who “wages war” against the children of Mary, the Church (Revelation 12:9; Genesis 3:15). To deny the existence of Satan and to fancy mention of him in Scripture as just a tool of theology-fiction to help teach moral lessons is not just a heresy, it is to make Jesus out to be a liar.

Pope Leo XIII, seeing the invisible hand of Satan in the growing storm clouds of the world, undoubtedly drew inspiration in writing his prayer from the book of Revelation describing how “Michael and his angels battled against the dragon” and defeated them (12:7-9). Because “the whole life of the Church benefits from the mysterious and powerful help of angels” (Catechism, n. 334), we should always implore their help in our lives, in our family, and our work. So it is good for us to examine the prayer of Pope Leo XIII to better appreciate the help of the angels.

“Defend us in battle.”

The first petition of this prayer recognizes that by virtue of our baptism we are all summoned to a battle that, without God’s grace and his angelic helpers, we cannot hope to prevail in. Like severely outnumbered troops engaged in a fierce battle where they lack the tactical advantage that high ground affords, we must call upon air support to take away the initiative and advantage of the enemy and put them to flight. If close air support is an essential element for gaining victory in battle, it is truer in our spiritual combat.

“Be our protection against the wickedness and snares of the devil.”

St. Paul reminds us that “Our struggle is not with flesh and blood but with principalities, with the powers, with the world rulers of this present darkness, with evil spirits in the heavens“ (Ephesians 6:12). We need protection because we are vulnerable to an enemy who in every category is superior to us. But because of God‘s great love for us, and the sacrifice of His Son upon the cross for our salvation, the victory is not to be our enemies’, but ours in Christ our Savior.

“May God rebuke him we humbly pray.”

Satan is the great “accuser” who wants us to believe that we are undeserving of God’s love and mercy. He is ever whispering words to discourage our heart from turning to God, saying things like, “You’re no good; you’re too sinful for God to forgive; you’ll never be a saint because you’re always falling into sin.” But with God’s grace, we say with Christ, who in expelling a demon from a possessed man, rebukes him saying —“Be quiet!

Come out of him!” (Luke 4:35). Remember, Satan is always trying to keep you from going to the sacrament of confession, but have no anxiety about hearing those words at the end of your confession announcing God’s infinite mercy, “Your sins are forgiven. Go in peace!”

“And do thou, O Prince of the heavenly host, by the power of God, thrust into hell Satan and all evil spirits who prowl about the world seeking the ruin of souls.”

In this final petition, we seek the help of St. Michael and his angels that we might be steadfast and resolved in living our baptismal promises to “reject sin, so as to live in the freedom of God’s children,” to “reject the glamour of evil, and refuse to be mastered by sin,” and to “reject Satan, father of sin and prince of darkness.” But St. Peter warns us to be always vigilant because “the devil is prowling around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, steadfast in faith” (1 Peter 5:8).

It is a consoling truth of our faith that each person is blessed with a guardian angel to help us to resist the devil. And as Jesus was strengthened by an angel in his agony in the Garden of Gethsemane (Luke 22:43), so, too, we are blessed with heavenly helpers.

“How great the dignity of the soul,” St. Jerome says, “since each one has from his birth an angel commissioned to guard it.” As such, St. Josemaría Escrivá encourages us to “have confidence in your guardian angel. Treat him as a lifelong friend – that is what he is – and he will render you a thousand services in the ordinary affairs of each day.”

Because we are engaged in a battle, we are sure to be wounded and to suffer setbacks. So let us also be resolved to seek the medicine of God’s healing as often as we can in the confessional.

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