Thursday, August 6, 2009

The Great Prince: St. Michael and Garabandal



Written by Barry Hanratty   
Saint Michael is one of those amazing spiritual beings, created by God, that we call angels. They are of a higher order than humans, and not limited by space or distance, have far greater powers. And while angels number at least in the billions, they are all individuals with their own personality. At one point in their existence, their fidelity to God was put to the test and those who would remain faithful looked to one of their number to lead them—Michael.
So who is this mighty angel whom billions of angels followed? How much do we really know about him, and why should we have devotion to him?
Michael (archangel)Image via Wikipedia
What the Fathers Say
Saint Michael is commonly referred to as "Prince of the Heavenly Hosts" implying that he outranks all other angels, however, the Fathers of the Church did not all agree on that point. Saint Thomas Aquinas considered him only as the leader of the angels, the lowest of the nine choirs, (1) while Saint Bonaventure saw him as chief of the Seraphim, the highest choir.
But Saint Basil and the other Greek Fathers as well as Saint Robert Bellarmine and other Latins, place Saint Michael over all the angels. They explained that he is called archangel because he is above the rest, in the same sense that an archbishop is above a bishop. This position of primacy for Michael among the angels is reflected in the Roman liturgy. He is the only angel mentioned in the unchangeable parts of the (Traditional) Mass and the Prayer to Saint Michael is included in the prayers said by the priest and people directly after low Mass. The Greek Liturgy calls him Archistrategos, "highest general."
For Christians, Saint Michael's renown comes chiefly from the Book of Revelation, chapter 12:
Now war arose in heaven, Michael and his angels fighting against the dragon; and the dragon and his angels fought, but they were defeated and there was no longer any place for them in heaven. And the great dragon was thrown down, that ancient serpent, who is called the Devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world—he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him.
As the mighty warrior angel who led the good angels in their ferocious battle against Lucifer and his cohorts, Saint Michael has been forever revered. And his name which means "Who is like God?" has come down to us as testimony of his submission to God while Lucifer's "I will not serve" recalls that great former angel's primal act of disobedience and revolt against God.
The Jews also had great veneration for Michael. It is mentioned in the Book of Daniel that Michael, the great prince (a name in the old testament for angel) was Guardian of the People under the Old Law. Naturally for Christians, he became Guardian of the Church under the new dispensation.
Michael is mentioned four times in holy scripture: twice in Daniel, once in Revelation and once in the Letter of Jude where he contends with the Devil over the body of Moses and says to his adversary: "May God rebuke you," words which appear in the great Prayer to Saint Michael composed by Leo XIII: "Saint Michael the Archangel defend us in battle. Be our protection against the wickedness and snares of the Devil. May God rebuke him…"
But the Fathers see Saint Michael in other passages of scripture as well even though he is not specifically mentioned by name.
They say he was the cherub who stood at the gate of paradise, "to guard the way to the tree of life" (Genesis 3:24), the angel through whom God issued to his chosen people the Decalogue, the angel who stood in the way against Balaam (Numbers 22:22 seq.), the angel who routed the army of Sennacherib (IV Kings 19:35).
Following these Scriptural passages, Christian tradition gives to Saint Michael four offices:
• To fight against Satan.
• To rescue the souls of the faithful from the power of the enemy, especially at the hour of death.
• To be the champion of God's people, the Jews in the Old Law, the Christians in the New Testament; therefore he was the patron of the Church, and of the orders of knights during the Middle Ages.
• To call away from earth and bring men's souls to judgment. (2)
Saint Michael at Garabandal
What we have seen thus far from Scripture and the Fathers is that Saint Michael is an angel of important events. His appearing at Garabandal then indicates the critical nature of those happenings, and resonates with that passage from the Book of Daniel, chapter 12:
At that time shall arise Michael, the great prince who has charge of your people. And there shall be a time of trouble, such as never has been since there was a nation until that time.
While the above quote, which deals with the end of the world, may not necessarily refers to Saint Michael's appearance at Garabandal, there is one point worth considering. In all the times the Blessed Virgin appeared throughout the Marian era, which began in the mid-nineteenth century, she was never accompanied by Saint Michael—until Garabandal.
Fulfilling His Role
Even during the Garabandal apparitions themselves, Saint Michael showed himself to be an angel of important events. He was the first to appear and thereby "opened" the events—with the all-important Message, most likely in Latin, beneath his feet.
He prepared the way for Our Lady's coming, announced when she would appear and then, with another angel whom Jacinta said was Saint Gabriel, accompanied her on her first visit.
He fulfilled in these events another office that the Church gives him— Guardian of the Eucharist. After instructing the seers on the proper way to receive Communion using unconsecrated hosts, He brought them Holy Communion as this excerpt from Conchita's Diary shows:
One day he asked us to go to the Pines in the morning without eating anything... When we reached the Pines, the Angel appeared to us with a goblet that looked like gold. He said to us: "I am going to give you Holy Communion but this time the Hosts are consecrated. Recite the I Confess." We recited it and then he gave us Holy Communion. Afterwards, he told us that we should give thanks to God. When we had done this, he told us to recite with him the prayer Soul of Christ. This we did also.
These mystical Communions, invisible to onlookers, became a regular feature at Garabandal although the Angel usually only came to give the seers Communion when there was no priest available in the village to do so. On one occasion, the Host Conchita received from Saint Michael did become visible to spectators. This "Little Miracle" as Conchita called it, which occurred on the night of July 18-19, 1962, had been announced to Conchita by the great Archangel 19 days in advance.
One month prior to the Miracle of the Host, Saint Michael was again on the scene at a critical time when he appeared by himself to the visionaries— but not to give them Holy Communion. His sudden presence should have been a warning. It was June 18, 1962, the anniversary of his first appearance at Garabandal, and it was the eve of two visions at Garabandal that can only be described as shattering. On those two "Nights of Screams" (June 19-20, 1962), the visionaries screamed in terror as they saw scenes of the communist persecution to precede the Warning, and the Chastisement that will come if the world does not change.
Yet another important event in which the Archangel had a hand, was the announcement of the great Miracle. It was he, and not Our Lady, who on January 15,1963, revealed the date to Conchita.
On June 18, 1965, Saint Michael completed his role of being there for important events. It was four years to the day and in the same place, la calleja, where he first appeared with the Message beneath his feet. This time he had another Message, the second and last one, which he delivered to Conchita on behalf of Our Lady.
Garabandal Pines 1Image by garabandal archives via Flickr
Why Should We Have Devotion to Him?
From the moment we are conceived in our mother's womb, we have an enemy. Some never even make it out of the womb, at least not alive, and the practice of abortion can only be attributed to the work of the Devil.
Against this malignant spirit who throughout our lives tries to lead us away from the sure path to Heaven, God sets Our Lady—and Saint Michael, the one who drove him out of heaven. Because of the ever presence of Satan, we should not hesitate to call upon Saint Michael to "defend us in battle" against him. And the mighty Archangel can and will help us in our daily struggles. And let us not forget his other role as heavenly physician. Since God has given us such a powerful advocate, we should take advantage of this universal Guardian.
It was at Garabandal that Our Lady for the first time in her many earthly appearances, asked that a chapel be built to someone other than herself—and it was to Saint Michael.
When the Virgin first appeared, Saint Michael announced her coming. When he himself first appeared, his coming was announced by a clap of thunder, a sign that this manifestation of the angel of important events, the Great Prince and Guardian of the Church, was the herald of momentous happenings.
Saint Michael the Archangel pray for us.

Barry Hanratty is Editor of Garabandal Journal, PO Box 1796, St. Cloud, MN 56302-1796, U.S.A. This article was republished with permission from the Journal. 
Notes
(1) Summa la. 113.3.
(2) Catholic Encyclopedia.

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