Two feasts every year.
One a double major, the other a double of the first class!
May 8, when Spring is spilling beauty all about; when in three weeks the splendor of the Warrior Maid will flash across the pages of our Missal.
September 29, when the pale mauve of the Michaelmas daisies is in country lanes and in lonely city lots.
To achieve one feast in the calendar of the Church, and that a simple, is an accomplishment on the stage of history so great that it irrevocably and irresistibly establishes one in the memory of men, and focuses upon one the reverent and loving glance of all men and angels, especially during the celebration of Mass, those awful, swift and blessed moments, the wells of our peace and the fountain of our strength. One’s name thereby becomes a terror wherewith to scatter the demons.
Few saints have more than one feast. Our Lady is excepted of course. The Church never tires of adorning the year with her feast days, and September alone has at least five. That and more is expected for her who is beyond all praise, even the rich praise that the Church alone can give. Saint Joseph, Saint John the Baptist, Saint Peter, Saint Paul and, in a sense, Saint Stephen have each two feasts.
And Monseigneur Saint Michel.
For the other millions of blessed angels there are on the calendars of earth only three feasts: Saint Gabriel, March 24, Saint Raphael, October 24, and on October 2, the feast of all the Guardian Angels.
But Saint Michael has two, for his archangelic majesty.
Magnificence and plenitude. Twice a year the Son of God made man is offered in Holy Mass to the most Blessed Trinity in honor of this angel, this creature. Twice a year the Divine Office on the lips of thousands, priests and religious is studded with the glorious name of Michael, leader of the heavenly armies. And music, too, is made in his honor May 8 and September 29, for Office in monastic houses is adorned with singing.
But Monseigneur Saint Michel is ever in the mind and on the lips of the Church militant. Is it not to him, after every low Mass, that in the name of all souls in this valley of darkness, the priest calls with a strong cry,
“Holy Michael the Archangel, defend us in the battle!” Is it not also to him that the priest, bent low at the beginning of Mass, “to blessed Michael the Archangel” after God and Our Lady, and before the Baptist and the Apostles, confesses aloud that he has sinned? To him also the acolyte, in the name of all men and especially of those present, humbly confesses, “beato Michaeli Archangelo,” that he has sinned. And if the Mass be a solemn one, is it not Michael whom we beseech, when the altar is incensed at the Offertory, to bear the perfume of our incense in presence of the Most High?
As Earth slowly turning on her axis from light to shadow dizzily hurtles through space in her race around the sun, human hands lift up Christ, every four seconds, as a clean Oblation to Divine Justice and Mercy. And three times in each celebration of this perpetual Holocaust the name of the Blessed and mighty Archangel rings above the blare of factory whistles, the hissing of steam engines, the scream of explosives on the field of battle, above the pop and fizz of uncorked bottles, above the reeling rhythms of dance halls, over the loneliness of the sick at night, over the silence of the newly dead, over the frail heartbeat of the little infant.
Holy Church is so chary of giving honor where it is not completely deserved; she is so meticulously discriminating in shading off the degree and quality of dignity attributed to any one, after God, even to the most Blessed Mother of God, Queen of men and angels, that it fills us with wonderment, and a kind of restless excitement, to see her load with honors a creature about whom we know so little as we do about Saint Michael.
Looking in the Who’s Who will help not at all, and looking in the Martyrology is equally useless.
Yet is any other name, save that of Mary, more beloved of Christians? Michael, Michel, Michele, Miguel… Mi-cha-el, Who is like to God! First and perpetual battle cry of all the Sons of Light against all the bastards of Darkness.
(This article was originally published in From the Housetops, Volume III, No.1, September, 1948.)