Michaelmas, Christian Feast Day of St. Michael the Archangel
September 29th is the Feast Day of St. Michael the Archangel and Franciscans worldwide are reminded of the passionate devotion St. Francis had to this heavenly protector of humankind.
The Franciscan Intellectual Tradition describes it this way: "Like many medieval Christians, Francis was deeply aware how our journey of faith was a perilous one, with temptations that threatened to divert the faithful from their heavenly goal. St Michael was at hand to defend them, and was especially present at the hour of their passing from this life...
"Francis made a pilgrimage to the great shrine of St. Michael at Monte Gargano in Apulia (as did St Clare's mother Orsola), although Francis, out of humility, did not enter the grotto itself but prayed outside. In the later years of his life, he would retreat to make a special Lent in honor of Mary and St. Michael by fasting the 40 days after the Feast of the Assumption until Sept 29. He was making such a Lent of St. Michael on Mount LaVerna when he received the Stigmata in 1224."
The holy day is also known as "Michaelmas" or "Michael and All Angels Day."
Biblically, Michael is the only angel that the Bible calls an archangel. We're told Michael's title in Jude 9. The Greek word for "archangel" (archaggelos) means "chief angel" or "chief messenger." The word "archangel" isn't used to describe him in the Hebrew Testament, but another angel calls him one of the chief princes in Dan 10:13. Calling the Archangel Michael "one of the chief princes" implies that he has peers; however, if there are any other archangels, the Bible doesn't tell us who they are.
Michael stands guard over Israel, directly opposes Satan yet only says four words (well, three Greek words that are often translated into four English words - in Jude 9, Michael says to Satan, "The Lord rebuke you!"), is also a military commander of some angels (Revelation), and battles the patron angels of other nations (Daniel).
Still, the Bible doesn't say very much about Michael the Archangel. Most of what we've heard is probably derived from extra-biblical sources. In fact, of the many angels spoken of in the Bible, only four are called by name. Want to know more about St. Michael the Archangel? I'd suggest reading the book of Daniel -- it mentions Michael more than any other book of the Bible.
On a personal note, I often pray into the icon of Archangel Michael. It's how this humble friar talks back against the 'demons' that attack with tempting thoughts...
Let's pray with St. Francis:
"Let every spirit, praise the Lord.
Praise the Lord for He is good.
all you who read this, bless the Lord.
All you creatures, bless the Lord.
Al you birds of heaven, praise the Lord.
All you children, praise the Lord.
Young men and virgins, praise the Lord.
Worthy is the Lamb Who was slain
to receive praise, glory, and honor.
Blessed be the Holy Trinity and Undivided Unity.
Saint Michael the Archangel, defend us in battle..."
(Francis of Assisi, "Exhortation to the Praise of God" 9-17)
The Rt. Rev. Br. Mark Gregory D'Alessio is a Franciscan friar in the new religious society of the Companions of Francis and Clare. He's also a interspiritual Christian bishop and priest, spiritual director, chaplain, retreat leader, author, and past President and Executive Director of the Psychotherapy & Spirituality Institute, which draws together the inspiration of the church with the wisdom of psychological care.
A graduate of the Guild for Spiritual Guidance, founded by Henri Nouwen and Madeline L'Engle, he is now a faculty member and community leader. He's also a faculty member at All Faiths Seminary International for the training of interfaith ministers. A long-time seeker and practitioner of spiritual wisdom, he's initiated into multiple spiritual lineages, both East (Buddhist) and West (Christian); does his best to affirm the Christian Wisdom tradition within a wider inter-spiritual framework; and, looks to God's science and spiritual heroes (such as Thich Nhat Hanh and Francis and Clare of Assisi) as sources of inspiration and hope.
Currently, Br. Mark lives on Long Island and serves as a crisis counselor and program coordinator at a shelter for men and women who are homeless and as a chaplain at a residential treatment center and school for children with learning and emotional disabilities. Moving to Long Island, he founded the Franciscan Circle, a progressive, interfaith gathering of clergy and lay people who seek to journey in mind and heart with the witness and wisdom of the Saints of Assisi, Francis and Clare. The Circle is dedicated to developing leaders for thoughtful social action and spiritual care.
As a Franciscan, he's committed to serving those who re sidelined and at risk. The Long Island Coalition for the Homeless awarded Br. Mark with their "Unsung Hero" Award last year.