Chesterton got it exactly right; Catholic conversion is indeed like discovering a new continent. When I became Catholic, I was introduced to a whole new culture--a culture with its own distinctive art, architecture, music and literature. I was introduced to the glories of Catholic history, to Catholic mysticism, to the lives of the saints. I have been a Catholic for 17 years, and Catholicism has been my great life adventure.
All of this was unexpected.
But my favorite prayer is the prayer to St. Michael the Archangel, a militant, almost pugnacious prayer calling for St. Michael to help us in our fight against evil. It first came into use during the papacy of Pius XIII and was said after Mass during the early 20th century. In 1964, the Prayer to St. Michael was dropped as a regular postlude of the Mass, but it is being revived. I've heard it said several times after Mass over the past few weeks.
This is the short version:
St. Micheal, the Archangel, defend us in battle.
Be our defense against the wickedness and snares of the devil.
May God rebuke him, we humbly pray;
and do thou, O Prince of the heavenly host, by the power of God,
thrust into hell Satan and the other evil spirits who prowl about the world seeking the ruin of souls.
Amen.Here's what I like about this prayer. First, it acknowledges that life is a battle against evil and that the devil is a corporeal and palpable presence in the world. The older I get, the more convinced I am that the devil is real, and I like to hear other people express this sentiment in a public prayer.
Second, people who say this prayer are candidly asking St. Michael to cast Satan into hell along with the other evil spirits "who prowl about the world seeking the ruin of souls." I confess that I find this image very appealing. If indeed there are ill-spirited people seeking our destruction--and of course there are such people, why shouldn't those people be cast into hell? After all, isn't that what hell is for?
On the other hand, asking St. Michael to throw people into hell makes me uncomfortable, even if those people have evil spirits and are prowling around seeking the ruin of our souls. It doesn't seem like a very charitable sentiment. Nevertheless, I like this prayer; and I enjoy saying it after Mass.
In our postmodern world, we have just about abolished the notion of evil that is articulated in the Prayer to St. Michael the Archangel. Everything is relative, the college professors tell us; everyone's perspective is valid; no one's understanding of the world is more valid than another's.
But the militant Islamists in Syria and Iraq have unleashed hell. They have beheaded and crucified people; they have buried people alive; they've stoned people to death. They've murdered people who will not convert to their twisted religious beliefs. These people are truly evil.
We may persuade ourselves that what is going on in Iraq doesn't directly concern us. Nothing is happening there that should interrupt President Obama's golf game, his vacation at Martha's Vineyard, his campaign fundraising events. But evil is creeping closer every day, and we may not be as insulated from it as we think.
Indeed, just today BBC News reported that ISIS had beheaded David Foley, an American journalist. Apparently, a video of the act was posted on the web; and the depiction of Foley's actual murder was deemed so disturbing that You Tube took the video of its web site.
Personally, I am glad the prayer to St. Michael is making a comeback. "St. Michael, defend us in battle." Somehow these words are oddly comforting. And I sincerely hope St. Michael will cast the people who killed David Foley into the deepest bowels of hell.
|David Foley: Beheaded by Islamist Extremists|