Saint Michael, Protector of the Church, by Bishop John Edward Cuthbert Hedley

detail of the statue Michael the Archangel defeating Lucifer; Fontaine Saint-Michel, Paris, France; swiped off Wikipedia“At that time shall rise up Michael, the great prince who standeth for the children of thy people . . . and at that time shall thy people be saved.” – Daniel 12:1,2

This great solemnity of the blessed Archangel Michael, whose name is invoked on this church and its flock, cannot but lift our hearts to the heavens. The name of this angel, seraph, minister of the Lord, leader of the armies of heaven, conqueror of Satan, protector of men, and standard-bearer of the Day of Judgment, needs must give these souls of ours a vision of a world far wider than that to which we are now confined, and a sense of great deeds, great issues, immeasurable space, unnumbered hosts, and the play of stupendous forces, none the less real that we so dimly conceive them. The name of Saint Michael the Archangel stands for the sum of the invisible interference of God in His creation. Jesus is the source of grace; Mary is the channel of grace; Michael stands for. the sword of God, which rids him of those who gainsay, the hammer of God which levels the hills and makes the rough ways plain, the special providence of God which watches His children from their birth to their judgment.

Saint Michael, like all the saints who are with God, intercedes for men; like all the angels he executes God’s ministry. But because he is prince and leader his ministry is of the widest reach, and his interces sion sets in motion the most far-reaching of the forces of the Incarnation.

This small earth of ours is only a grain of sand in the sight of God; yet the least of the souls which He has created has a place in His knowledge and His solicitude. He has proved this or proclaimed it by the Incarnation. The material laws of the universe are the expression of His will and the continuance of His creative act. These laws go on from year to year, from age to age, unbroken; on the whole, firm, fixed and constant. It is their results which we see in earth, ocean and sky; in this visible framework of things which seems, and which indeed is, so fair and so wonderful.

But the spiritual world of human souls, God’s chief concern, is very different. Here the forces of free intelligence and will have to be reckoned with. Compared with the earth, the sea, the heavens, men’s hearts are more substantial than the rock or the mountain, more unstable and uncontrolled than the widest waste of waters, and more mysterious, more incapable of being mapped and measured than the infinite depths of starry space. And yet the God Who took a human heart Himself to win hearts must follow all their wanderings, control all their forces, hold the secret of all their mysteries. He must do so because he made them so, and because, come what may, He is and must be the Father and the Friend of all the rational creatures He has made.

Therefore we should expect that the influence of God, and the pressure and working of God upon the spiritual nature of man, should pervade all the universe of humanity. We should be prepared to find a subtle and diffused force penetrating everywhere like an atmosphere, and ready to leap out into activity wherever it met human aspiration or human operation. We should not be surprised to see the infinite love and solicitude of our Heavenly Father taking hold of visible things and of men themselves, as a sculptor puts his ideas into marble and bronze, and associating all that human eyes and ears take note of, with the one grand purpose of winning and keeping the immortal creatures who can only find their rest in Him. In one word, we should expect to find what we do find the great kingdom of Divine grace; grace sanctifying, illuminating, strengthening, and impelling; grace which radiates from the Passion, from the Cross, and leaves no hidden place unvisited of all man’s complex nature, and no step unaided of all his earthly journeying. We should expect the great dispensation of the Church to keep alive the word of Jesus, and the sacramental touch of Jesus visible in her ministry and her ministrations, but made living and powerful by the unseen inspiration and spiritual power of Him Who has made her a world within a world in order to save the world.

What may we conceive to ourselves that God sees most that God regards most solicitously when from His heights and His splendours of light He looks down upon this wandering orb of ours this earth of His creation? Not its continents or its seas, its mutations or its tempests, its empires or its revolutions; but rather that Church which He has purchased with His blood, which is the sign of His love of souls, and the instrument of His saving of souls. This He will love this He will cherish this He will visit. This, by means of all the agencies which lie within the power of His mighty right Hand, He will guide and sustain; and nothing will stop Him except the barriers which He Himself has placed, of man’s freedom, probation, and merit.

Do you believe that God interferes to uphold His Church? What do we mean by the interference of God? It is certain that everything that happens is done by God, except sin, which is not so much an act as the deflection of an act. It is certain also that grace is required for every meritorious work, and that sufficient grace is given to every human being. This being laid down, there comes that wide, that limitless field, which is called in Holy Scripture the field of His goodness “How good is the God of Israel, to them that are of a right heart!” (Psalm 123:1); or of His mercy “the Lord, the Lord God, merciful and gracious, patient and of much compassion, and true!” (Exodus 34:6) That which urges Him to be “good” and to be merciful is either His own greater glory, or also the movement which the soul makes (always through His grace) towards Him by faith, love, or contrition a movement which, poor and feeble as it is in the best of us, it is His custom to meet with the royal outpouring of His munificence, as a prince might reward with treasure the poor man who offered him a humble flower. We mean, there fore, by the “interference” of God of that God by Whom we live, move, and are those kind and merciful acts of His which are not either part of the law of nature or of that general law of grace which, although its source is God’s free bounty, yet is, as a fact, so regular and constant that it is virtually and practically a law. The truth is, that the magnificent goodness of God respects neither law nor promise when it is a question of drawing the souls of men. He will not be bound. His children must have more than they have a right to more than they deserve more than their very aspirations can reach to. He must always be helping, inspiring, urging, enriching. He takes a nature that is richly gifted, and transforms it by His grace into sanctity. He visits a heart that is empty of all natural advantage, and with sovereign operation He equally fills it with all that heaven can give. He leads the child by the hand to prayer, purity, and sacrifice. He illuminates the spirits of young men and women who turn to Him ever so little, and sets them safe upon their road. He gives sinners chance after chance; and thousands of them, the moment they attend to Him, are carried home upon His shoulders. He guards His children even from temporal danger and bodily pain, to make them love Him. He makes all visible things speak His name and urge His claims. He sways the vast universe, causing all the things that lie around us and above us and beneath our feet to co-operate with Him in that work of His which never ceases, the saving of the souls He has created.

It is on grounds like these that I say that God interferes to sustain and to protect His Church. The Church is His device, springing from the fruitfulness of His precious Blood, for making souls His own. Therefore, there is nothing on earth that He is equally solicitous about. It is true that the individual soul of you and of me is His object not an institution or an order. It is also most true that He does at times save souls without the ministry of word and sacrament. But we are not concerned with what happens rarely and extraordinarily. The Church is the fold of His sheep. There is safety, guidance, shelter, and food. Therefore the Church is the world’s grand visitation the pledge and the dispenser of grace and salvation to the multitudes of the children of men. If God interferes in matters here below, how is it possible He should not interfere to sustain His Church?

Moreover, it cannot be questioned that we can see and ascertain His interference. We can see Him, age by age, guiding His Church like a ship, and keeping her, to use the phrase, afloat. For, if you observe, this is what must be done for the Church in every generation. She is perfect in her constitution and equipment; the .Holy Spirit speaks through her, and the power of Christ is incarnate in her ministrations. But she is a visible and earthly institution. She sails, not in the clouds or in the realms of fancy, but in the turbulent human ocean. She may be holy, apostolical, divine; but what if she goes to the bottom? She may be the ark of salvation; but what if she falls to pieces? What if her own crew desert her and set up a rival ship? Or again, what if she will not sail, and cannot reach those shores to which she was meant to carry the precious freight of her lading? I contend that you can see, with very ordinary attention, that God has been interfering in mercy and goodness, even since the day of Pentecost, to preserve and sustain His Church by saving her from the hands of those who would destroy her, by preventing her from being split in pieces by her own children, and by keeping up, unweakened and undiminished, that saving and con verting power with which she started her career. I know that, speaking of this protection in general, we may truly say that Christ has promised it, and there fore in that sense it can hardly be called the result of God’s interference; it is rather a law of the spiritual world. But our Lord and Saviour might have fulfilled this promise of His in many different ways. What He has done is what a man, and our brother, might have done. He has not used His omnipotence, but His love. He has not thundered in the heavens and made the earth stand awed and silent, but has hidden Himself behind human agencies, and moved men and men’s works sweetly, silently for the most part, sometimes with power and the shadow of His fear, but generally as one who knows that there are more mighty means for moving this solid earth than even to call the lightning from the heavens. In one word, He has chosen that the history of His Divine dealing with .His Church should be a never-failing story and record of merciful interference.

The history of the Church has been written by many, and from many points of view; and there are none of us, perhaps, who know so little of it as not to be impressed with the strong and sweet dealings of the Father Who loves us during every century of her existence. But at this moment, on this day, I would do no more than lift one corner of the veil which hides from worldly eyes the intricate path and the varied course of Providence. For it is certain that the Lord of heaven and earth, here as in other things, uses ministers to do the will of His mercy. It seems not less certain that the appointed spirit who by him self and his armies guards and upholds the Church is the Archangel Michael. He it is who executes those interferences of God’s mercy and power which are visible throughout the length of her annals. He is the prince of the heavenly host; God’s Church is the dearest of all God’s interest. Is it not right, is it not in accordance with the mind of Him Who willed the Incarnation, that the greatest angel should fight for the noblest empire?

The Holy Scriptures are full of Saint Michael. We have there described his ministry in the heavens and his ministry on earth. The first glimpse that is given to mortal eyes of his service of his Creator, is when we see him contending with Satan in that awful and tremendous battle which shook the heavens themselves. Saint Michael was the first of all the servants of God. At the moment of his creation, when he with all the multitude of the angelic host stood free to serve or to rebel, one act or two of that lofty spiritual essence, quicker than the lightning, sufficed to carry through that probation which with grosser beings is prolonged for days and years. In those first flashes of his grand intelligence and will he gave himself to his God in worship, loyalty and burning love. He was the first of creatures that did this. One by nature as great as he took the other side; and then came the conflict Michael and his angels, the dragon and his angels it is thus the revelation names them (Apoc. xii. 7, 8). It was Saint Michael’s first act of ministerial service. God needed him not, nor his legions. But ministration is part of the Divine plan of creation. God does everything, but the angels are His instruments; and so are you and I, and every one in his rank and place. The Eternal executed His most just wrath and judgment upon the apostates by the ministry of those who stood faithful. That was the catastrophe described in the Apocalypse “and their place was not found any more in heaven”. That chapter of the Apocalypse of Saint John goes on to say something suggestive and terrifying. The dragon who is cast out of the heavens falls to the earth. “Woe to the earth and to the sea, because the devil is come down unto you, having great wrath, knowing that he hath but a short time.” (Apocalypse 12:12) Well do we know what is implied in those brief and pregnant words. Part of the drama of human probation is man’s temptation by the demon. A certain power has been given to him. The chain that binds him has been a little lengthened out. He can suggest evil to the just, and he can stir up the unjust to acts of persecution and oppression. But there is one purpose which he took up the very moment that he fell from the heavens. He set himself to destroy the Church of God. For this, from the beginning, he has used all his intellect and set in motion all his legions. Whether in the primeval days when the Church was represented by the patriarchal tradition, or in the times of the Synagogue, or now when the Christian Church, founded at Pentecost, fills the world he has under stood what it was that it most behoved him to counteract and ruin. To cripple the Church, to divide her, to sterilise her, this has been his aim. For this he has urged on his own instruments by lust of power, corrupted her prelates and teachers by pride, and striven to cast upon her the chains of that sleep which worldliness so fatally brings on. “He persecuted the woman that brought forth the man-child.” (Apocalypse 12:13) That woman symbolises the Church, and that sentence of the Apocalypse sums up the work of the demon during these centuries of Christianity.

Where must the Christian heart look for Saint Michael, the great Archangel, during all these years of conflict? Where but at the very head of that army of the ministers of the Lamb, to whom it has been given to carry the power of God into this never-ceasing war? We seem to see him dimly through the mist and twilight of the earliest records, even in the days when God began to form a chosen people to be His Church’s prototype. Who was he, that chief angel of the three, who stood before Abraham in the vale of Mambre, as he sat in the door of his tent on that day at noon? (Genesis 18:1). The Jewish tradition, accepted by our best Christian interpreters, has handed down that it was Saint Michael. But in that visit was given the Divine charter and promise to the Father of all the faithful. When God commissioned Moses in that august vision at the burning bush, who was the angel who sustained the very personality of God the Redeemer? Again, Catholic tradition says it was Michael Michael who spoke to the Hebrew herdsman, not as to a private person, but as to the future leader of Israel and the prince of the Synagogue; the same Michael who, not long afterwards, when Josue was camped before that Jericho which signified the powers of hell, suddenly appeared to him in the plain, holding a drawn sword, and spoke those words at which the great leader threw himself upon his face upon the ground: “I am prince of the host of the Lord, and now I am come” (Josue 5:14). Thus, and in many other apparitions too numerous to mention, he showed himself as Israel’s champion, and by the prophet Daniel is called, as you have heard, the “great prince who standeth” for that people, their “own prince” and guardian. It is in this character that we catch mysterious glimpses of him in the Psalms and Prophecies, ruling the destinies of the race and commanding legions of blessed spirits; as in that vision of the prophet Zacharias, in which the “angel of the Lord” is seen as a mounted warrior in the grove of the myrtle trees with other riders, who answer him that they have walked through and patrolled the whole land, and then the princely leader lifts up his voice and prays for the people that he loves. (Zachariah 1:8)

That ancient covenant passed away. It was for another nation on another and a wider field that the great Archangel and his legions were finally to contend. One night Saint Michael led his hosts to where a Child was born in Bethlehem of Juda, and their swords were for the moment sheathed and their heads unhelmeted whilst they chanted glory to God in heaven, and peace on earth to men. Holy Scripture nowhere mentions Saint Michael in connection with our Blessed Lord. But we are told that Angels were at His birth, that Angels ministered to Him, that Angels comforted Him, that Angels kept guard at His tomb, that Angels conducted Him to the heavens. If the heavenly host did these things, their Prince and Leader was foremost in them all. There can be no rashness in saying as much as this. Many Saints and holy persons seem to have had it revealed to them that he was the Guardian of the Sacred Humanity, and that he was, and is still, the Guardian of the Blessed Sacrament. These pious beliefs undoubtedly indicate traditional Catholic leanings. But we do not need them. What the angelic army does its chief inspires; and what the Angels do in their ministry to their Sovereign Lord and Master made man, in compliance with that command which was given when Jesus entered the world, “Let all the Angels of God adore Him,” that their Chief must have done, not by the intermediary of any others, however august, but personally, with all the love and loyalty of his being. Silently, sorrowfully, he looked on whilst his Lord was poor and mocked and put to death. Jesus knew who was by His side: “Could not My Father give Me more than twelve legions of Angels?” (Matthew 26:53) And once, when the disciples came back to Him saying that even the devils were subject to them in His name, He immediately uttered those rapt mysterious words, “I saw Satan falling from heaven like lightning!” (Luke 10:18). May He in that hour have communed with His faithful minister, and, looking back to the day when the great Archangel himself brought about this catastrophe, have had it in His Sacred Heart that as Michael first routed Satan in Heaven, so he was also to baffle and quell him on earth, beginning with the days when the disciples wondered at their power, and going on during all the generations in which poor weak men, trusting in faith, shall also marvel without ceasing that they can over come the persecutor, the heretic, and the worldling, instruments of him who fell in that great fall? What was Abraham, or Moses, or the Judges, or the Kings, or the Prophets, in comparison with the great Church, the wide Church, the immortal Church, the mother of men, the nurse of Saints, the saving of the world? If the great Angels, with Saint Michael, visited the earth in the days before Gabriel spoke to Mary, what must they be doing now, and what must they have been doing during all these centuries?

There can be no question as to the mind of the Church at this present moment on the subject of Saint Michael’s office and guardianship. One of the most momentous steps ever taken by a Sovereign Pontiff was to order those prayers for the Church which are now said at the end of every Mass. When we consider the vast number of priests and of people whom this order affects, and the daily recurrence of its obligation, we see and understand the enormous spiritual machinery it sets in motion, and the effort which it calls for in every quarter of the Christian world. It is like the preaching of a new Crusade. The Holy See itself has undertaken to stir up the universal flock to the task of saving the Ark of God. And what Saint besides Mary, Mother of God, is conspicuously and specially invoked in this united militant cry of the Catholic world? Who but the great Archangel? “Defend us in the day of battle! Be our safeguard against the wickedness and snares of the devil! May God rebuke him!” This was the judicial word of power with which Michael defeated Satan in that contest one among many when he succeeded in concealing the body of Moses, and so saving Israel from the dangers of idolatry. “May God rebuke him! And do thou, Prince of the heavenly host by the power of God, thrust down into hell Satan and all wicked spirits who wander through the world!” At this hour, therefore, of the Church’s destinies we are ranged under the banner of Saint Michael. Can we do better than seize the opportunity of this principal Feast in order to renew our loyalty to the cause of that Church we ought to love so deeply and cherish so devoutly, and at the same time to cheer our hopes and lift our courage by the thought that we have such unconquered auxiliaries as Saint Michael and his heavenly host?

There is nothing, except direct revelation, which evinces so clearly the existence of God and the action of His Providence as history. In the written annals of man and nations, you see, as if you looked down from a mountain-top, the wide landscape of things that have come to pass and are now marshalled in their order, irrevocable and monumental. You see whole cycles of events, their beginning, their development, and their end. You see the true causes of success and the true reasons of failure. You see the will and the wisdom of One Who is irresistible. You see the true dimensions of what once was hailed as filling the universe; the real significance and living power of certain humble beginnings; and the in destructible vitality of the things which have God for their author and His servants for their upholders. And nowhere is all this so clear as in the history of the Church herself.

It is not, however, my intention to quote history today. But I would illustrate, by a passing reference to history, certain principles or methods of God’s dealing with His Church which should never be forgotten by the children of the Church, and least of all in the days in which we live.

And, first, it is certain that a large part of the life of that immortal Church is spent in the throes and the agonies of persecution. Persecution is the fiery breath of the dragon, who pursueth the woman and her child. The Church is, and must always be, open to persecution, because she is not only a spiritual idea, but a visible kingdom, The dragon cannot touch her essential life; but he can reach her pastors and her children. His instruments are rulers, ministers, governments; any cruel, malicious, or mistaken man or men who can command power, or money, or executioners, or policemen. Sometimes persecution is merely the malice or ignorance of the savage; sometimes it is the result of the cold calculations of the philosopher, the politician, or the despot. Sometimes it is the casual violence of a mob; sometimes the organised onslaught of an empire. Sometimes there are bloodshed, torture, and death; at others, imprisonment, fines, and confiscation. Sometimes it is the Sovereign Pontiff who is attacked; at others it is the bishops, the monastic bodies, or the priest and his flock. Sometimes churches are shut up or destroyed, and schools starved out; sometimes the priest’s poor pittance is taken from him; and sometimes, again, where the helpless child and the ailing poor are gathered for food and shelter, jealous hands lock the doors against the Church’s ministrations. If you read the first chapter of the Apocalypse, not to say the twelfth, you find that these things are the work of the devil. He began to be busy before the last of the Apostles was dead; he has been busy in every age; and he is busy at this moment.

The general conclusion that we draw from the history of every persecution is this, that God has visibly interfered; that such interference has been the work of Saint Michael and his Angels; and that there has been victory for the Church.

There were, for example, the great persecutions, ten in number, of the Roman Empire. Where was Michael where was Christ during those long three centuries, when every generation there were fresh edicts and fresh holocausts; when the fathers smote down the fathers, and the sons, when their time came, the sons; when Christianity had to hide itself in catacombs and the wilderness? Not far off. The legions of the Angels were close at hand, sustaining and encouraging, teaching the persecuted ones how to conquer even by dying. Neither were they always out of sight. When Rom anus was looking at the martyrdom of Saint Law rence he saw an Angel descend from heaven and comfort the great champion of Christ, wiping the sweat from his face and the blood from his body. When Saint Vincent, that Saint Lawrence of the Church of Spain, was flung into his dungeon at Saragossa, after a day of rack and fire, a mere bleeding heap of dislocated bones, the blessed spirits of Saint Michael’s army thronged down into the prison, and filled it with heavenly light and song; and the holy martyr in ecstasy cried out to the wondering guards, “Behold, it is my brethren who have come to me! Will you not recognise the greatness of the King Whom we serve?” When the great wonder-worker, Felix of Nola, lay fettered in his dungeon, an Angel came and broke his iron bonds and led him out to the hills, where his bishop, Saint Maximus, lay. An Angel warned Saint Polycarp of what awaited him in the Roman amphitheatre. An Angel brought a message to Saint Agatha. An Angel protected Saint Agnes. Two Angels brought joy and * refreshment into the prison of the young soldier Procopius, the illustrious martyr of Palestine. Angels sang around the soldier Theodore, the generous destroyer of idolatry, the patron of our Crusaders, when he lay torn with scourges awaiting death. And who can read unmoved that history, given by the Bollandists on the 5th of June, of those 9,000 or 10,000 Roman soldiers, part of the army of the Emperor Hadrian in Armenia, who were converted by an Angel, led to victory by an Angel, and then, after they had been scourged and crowned with thorns and put to death by crucifixion, were finally buried in one huge grave by the Angels themselves! Christ and Saint Michael and his hosts were not far from the martyrs. Their invisible cohorts stood beside the rack, the fire, and the sword; and when the glorious servants of Jesus in their very torture felt themselves strong, and fear less, and even joyous, it was the magic of heaven, ministered by the spirits of light, strength, and peace, which wrought such miracles, and transformed flesh and blood into steel and adamant. And at last, when the victory was to declare itself, and the fruits of persecution were to be made visible to the world, who was it but Michael who displayed in the skies over the Roman Campagna the Standard of the Cross in which Constantine was told he was to conquer?

There have been persecutions since that day; persecutions of barbarian, persecutions of medieval tyrants, persecutions of modern revolution. Saint Bernard, speaking in the midst of medieval Catholicism, having before his mind all the troubles the Church had then to endure from usurping princes and overbearing soldiers, says that it is the angels who are intended by that passage of Isaias: “Upon thy walls, O Jerusalem, I have appointed watchmen, all the day and all the night.” (Isaiah 62:6) And he cries out to the Church: “Well is it with thee in the place of thy pilgrimage, for help cometh to thee from the heavens and from the earth ” (Sermon Ixxvii. on the Canticles). Once, at the consecration of the Church of her monastery, at the moment when the antiphon Fundamenta templi was chanted, Saint Gertrude saw the angelic spirits thronging round the walls, like soldiers in the battlements of a fortress, as if they were guarding the Church and watching for its enemies. Their golden wings, as they touched each other, sounded in exquisite melody, a symbol of their perfect and peaceful obedience to their Creator (Rev., part iv. chap. Ix.). During the persecutions in England of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, we have an occasional glimpse of the confidence of the suffering Catholics in the protection of Saint Michael and his hosts; as when Saint Mary’s Convent at York was threatened (in 1686) with destruction by a mob, and the picture of Saint Michael was hung over the door, and then, as by a miracle, the officers and the furious people melted away, and the convent was left at peace. And it is touching to find Cardinal Allen, a native of the Fylde of Lancashire, leaving by his will the fittings of his chapel, should the faith come back to England, to the old mother church of the Fylde, Saint Michael-le-Wyre.

Naturally, the work of the holy angels for the Church is most clearly to be seen in their never-ending contest with the persecutors. When the Church comes to be in danger from her own children, who would break her in pieces from within, then the hand of Satan is less visible, and the spear of Michael not so sensible. But as the unity of the Church throughout the ages has been the work of the Papacy, therefore the heavenly champions have gathered in immense strength around the Sovereign Pontiff, and like guards of the body of the sovereign, they have fought for the Pope in every century. The angel who delivered Peter out of prison is generally conceived to have been Saint Michael It was Saint Michael who put an end to the persecutions, and brought Constantine to Pope Saint Sylvester. It was Saint Michael who took under his protection the beginnings of the reign of Gregory the Great, and who, from his shrine of Saint Angelo, having sheathed the sword of calamity, according to the legend, carried the word and force of that great Pope into every quarter of the world, thus laying the foundations of the new Christendom. Saint Leo IX in augurated by a pilgrimage to the great sanctuary of Saint Michael at Gargano, in South Italy, a reign which was to be one perpetual conflict with the simony and erastianism of the eleventh century. Saint Gregory VII went to the same shrine, and fought the same battle under the same protection, with even more toil and greater success. Saint Pius went there too, and saved Europe from the Turk by the help of our Lady and Saint Michael. And Pius IX, when the enemy began to close in upon him, looked to Saint Michael, talked of Saint Michael, placed his cause in the hands of Saint Michael, who, alas! was not to bring him then any visible or final victory, but was to stand beside him whilst he and the people of God suffered the blows and injuries of the enemy; triumphing, indeed, in the sight of God, Who counts all these things against the hour when He gives His hosts the signal to sweep the evil powers into the gulf of darkness.

Not once but many times has the great Archangel seemed to break through the mystery and the obscurity of the spiritual world, and to diffuse over Europe a sense of his presence, and the joy and profit of renewed devotion to his glorious princedom. First there was that splendid temple which Constantine built, or rather dedicated to him, on the shores of the Bosphorus, to which for ages pilgrims came from every land, and whence no one went away with prayer unheard. Next, at the moment when the Roman Empire was crumbling, when Theodoric was fighting Odoacer in Italy, and when Saint Benedict was writing his Rule at Monte Cassino, there was the apparition which we commemorate on the 8th of May. Mount Gargano is a lofty promontory which stands boldly out from the shores of Southern Italy into the Adriatic. At its foot, on the landward side, was built the ancient Roman town of Sepuntum. God made use of the incident of the loss of straying cattle to intimate that His Angel was to be honoured there, and Saint Michael appeared to the Bishop of Seponto and said: “I am the Archangel Michael, one of those who stand for ever before the face of the Lord. I have chosen this place in which to be venerated upon earth, and I shall protect and guard it for ever.” A huge rock-cavern was dedicated, amidst prodigies of every kind; the Sovereign Pontiff visited the new sanctuary the wonderful recovery of Italy in the sixth century began; pilgrims from that time nocked to the shrine from all Europe. The conquering Normans of the eleventh and twelfth centuries seem to have been called to the aid of the Holy See by the prayers of the devout visitants of this holy mountain. The Emperor Saint Henry spent the night alone in the grotto, and saw a vision of angels, and heard their chant. It was there that Otho III met Saint Nilus, the famous hermit, at whose feet he threw his royal crown. As late as 1656 we have the history of a pestilence almost contemporary with the great plague of London suddenly stopping after a pilgrimage to Mount Gargano. And in our own days the crowds still gather on this day to the spot where Saint Michael revealed himself 1400 years ago.

The celebrated sanctuary of Saint Michael’s Mount in Brittany began to be frequented in the eighth century, when the Mahometan power was menacing the South of France. It was Saint Aubert, Bishop of Avranches, who built an oratory to Saint Michael on the summit of that lofty and sea-girt rock. Here, doubtless, as at Mount Gargano and elsewhere in Europe, but especially in Wales and Brittany, the towering mountain had been the scene of druidical and diabolical worship. Michael was the dragon’s antagonist, and wherever there were traces on those summits of the dominion of Satan, the piety of our forefathers made a dedica tion to Saint Michael, as you may yet see in many a spot of ancient Britain. The great champion of the Church was not slow to respond; nay, sometimes as we see he took the initiative, and to hundreds of sanctuaries of Saint Michael throughout Europe, devout populations pressed up stony paths on mountain sides, declaring their faith in God and their trust in the angelic host of heaven.

In these days of ours, these latest days, when persecution has assumed such puzzling shapes, when the very dragon has found out new ways of changing himself into an angel of light; when the Church has more to fear from pens which drop venom than from the clubs of the barbarians or the Greek fire of the Saracen, what are the children of the Church waiting for? Where are our pilgrimages, our national vows, our Crusades? Do we expect a new apparition of the Prince of the Angels? Are we indifferent because the host of the Lord seems to have retreated into its own heavenly country because no mountain-top is irradiated with Michael’s spear, and no midnight skies flash with the banners of principalities and powers? I know not what sign we want. Is there not a sign?

Let me recall to you a passage in a far-off history.

It was when Israel had entered the promised land, but the Madianite and the Amalecite were still strong and menacing. An Angel of the Lord came and sat under an oak tree, waiting for Gedeon, the leader that was to be. And he greeted Gedeon, who said to him in reply, “If the Lord be with us, why have these evils fallen upon us? Where are His miracles which our fathers have told us of? The Lord hath forsaken us!” (Judges 6:11 sqq.). Then, to convince him and to chide him for his want of faith, the Angel stretched forth his rod, the symbol of angelic power, and touched the sacrifice which lay upon the rock and behold! there arose a fire from the rock, and consumed the sacrifice. In those days the Angels came down to announce deliverance; in these days a word, more clear than that of any prophet, more widely noted than any supernatural proclamation made by a messenger from the skies, has gone forth bidding the Christian world expect its deliverance. And that no man may hesitate to believe, the first effect of that word of the Pontiff has been to kindle a fire from the very rock to force into prayer the hearts, not of a few pious people, but of the whole Catholic world.

I am not saying that this united prayer, through Saint Michael, is as fervent as it should be, as pure, or as zealously kept up. It is prayer, and it is a wonderful sign. But no Catholic believer ought to be content until that prayer storms the heights of heaven. As it is, we say or hear it every day; and, like things of every day, it grows common and unregarded. So did the shrines of the ancient times. They were left, too many of them, to the storms and the rain of the mountain-top; their sanctuaries fell to ruin, and their stones decayed; the paths that led up to them were grown over with thorns, and the place of miracles became a solitude. Yet the angels were always as near, and as mighty, and as zealous for God’s honour and men’s souls. But it is the law of the spiritual world; man must do his little that God may show His might. It was not a great thing that peasants or town people should walk in procession to a chapel, or that bishop and clergy should follow the cross to the shrine of a Saint. But it was faith and love and trust; it was sacrifice; it was prayer; it was piety. And when these outward things were given up, it was a too sure sign that the inward springs had ceased to flow.

Let us believe in prayer; in short prayers it may be, in easy prayer no matter, let us believe and let us persevere.

What could Saint Michael and his hosts do for us at this hour? They could restore the Pontiff to his liberty; they could free the Church in certain European countries from the murderous grip of the civil law; they could make men respect the Sacraments of the New Covenant, the dispensers of the power of the Precious Blood; they could sweep down upon the floors of public institutions and, walking to and fro as they did in the Babylonian furnace, could guard our children from the fire; they could reinforce the struggling churches in countries where Catholics are in a minority, and lead the majority from bitterness and blind injustice to reason and kindness, and so preserve the Christian education of a nation, and the full Catholic training of our own poor little ones; and, if the need were, one of them could visit the camp of the Assyrian as of old, and even judge, slay, and exterminate. These things they could do, with more ease than a man takes up his staff for a journey. And when we ask why they do them not, let us first be sure we do not ask in the spirit of Gedeon the spirit of those who will not do their own part. But if this public prayer is a true, real, warm, persevering effort of the heart, then we have only to watch with attention, and, as one sees the meteors begin to play down in the south when the light of the summer’s day is failing, so shall we discern the signs of the interference of God and His angels. It will be now a conversion, and now a great act of Christian gene rosity; now a powerful society founded, now the fetters of an abuse struck off for ever; now a victory for the Sovereign Pontiff, now a missionary triumph among the heathen; now a withering persecution lived through and beaten back; or again, bad laws reversed, public opinion brought round to Christian truth, good literature rising like a tide, great and zealous pastors springing up as from the very earth. Pray, and these things will be; look, and you will see them come to pass. Not a prayer, not a man can be spared. Do not our leaders tell us that the efforts of the dragon were never better organised than they are now? That must be so, because the enemy always seizes upon the most effective weapons of the age or of the day; and in these days we have a most highly developed press, with all its powerful adjuncts. Such an instrument lends itself much more readily to the intelligence of Satan than iron, or steel, or even gold. We are told of dark masonic leagues, of Satanic parliaments, of congresses of atheists sworn to exterminate the Church and the name of Christ. Do not be too sure there are not such things. But if there were not; if the demon were even so simple as to do all his fighting with the openness of a child and the bows and arrows of a savage, yet still there is enough of argument, declamation, misrepresentation, prejudice, and hostility within the shortest distance of every one of us, to stir up the dullest heart in the defence of Christ and His kingdom.

Then let us pray through Saint Michael’s intercession. As of old, so on this day he stands beside the altar, with a golden thurible in his hand. Give him, as he had then, abundance of incense, abundance of prayer and intercession, and from his censer it must rise to the throne of God.

And may he, the Angel of peace, the Angel of loyalty, the Angel of judgment, visit this church and flock, and bring with him God’s own peace, and true faith and love, and the promise of a happy death to pastor and to people