The Pope Leos and the emerging of St. Michael – defender in turbulent times

by Donal Anthony Foley

Today is the feast of Pope St. Leo I, one of the most important popes in Church history and one of only three acclaimed as “great”, mainly for his teaching against heresy and for his famous Tome, which was read at the Council of Chalcedon in the year 451.  He had a huge impact on the Church and the world in the fifth century, when the Roman Empire was in the midst of its painful transition from imperial glory toward what would eventually become Christendom, the combined Catholic nations of medieval Europe.  St. Leo the Great was also a great leader in that he faced down Attila the Hun, who was threatening to attack and sack Rome.

The late nineteeth century was also very troubled when Pope Leo’s namesake, Pope Leo XIII, (1878-1903), began to reign in Rome.  The Church had been slowly rebuilding itself after the upheavals following the French Revolution, even as society was becoming increasingly secularized and anti-clerical.

In order to combat this de-Christianization, Pope Leo XIII advocated the praying of the Rosary and wrote 12 encyclicals and five apostolic letters on it.  He was also the recipient of a vision sometime in the mid-1880s, which led him to write his famous Prayer to St Michael. It was part of the Leonine prayers that were to be said after Mass as a way of calling on the assistance of this most powerful Archangel in the battle against the devil and evil.

Pope Leo XIII’s vision is said to have taken place during Mass, when the pontiff apparently saw demonic spirits gathering about Rome and menacing it.  Witnesses saw his face become pale and fearful during the vision.  Afterwards, the pope composed the Prayer to St Michael and requested that it be said at the end of Low Masses:

Saint Michael Archangel, defend us in battle, be our protection 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, cast into hell Satan and all the evil spirits who prowl through the world seeking the ruin of souls. Amen.

St. Michael the Archangel is traditionally seen as the leader of heaven’s armies and the one who, under God, was responsible for Satan and his followers being cast out of heaven. He is mentioned three times in the book of Daniel and in the book of Revelation.

The Angel of Portugal 

Portugal has always had a great devotion to St. Michael, traditionally venerated as the Angel of Portugal and Angel of Peace dating back to 1147 with the founding of the Order of Saint Michael of the Wing by King Afonso I of Portugal in commemoration of the Conquest of Santarem from the Moors.  There is an interesting possible link between St. Michael and Fatima, and specifically with the angel who appeared to the three young seers in 1916.  The angel identified himself as the Angel of Peace. Sister Lucia described him as: “a light, whiter than snow, in the form of a young man, transparent, and brighter than crystal pierced by the rays of the sun.”  He told them that by means of sacrifice and reparation, they could draw down peace upon their country, and said, “I am its Angel Guardian, the Angel of Portugal.”

Be that as it may, there is a tradition linking the last apparition of the Angel of Portugal to the children with St Michael, in that during that apparition he gave the children Holy Communion under the form of a host and a chalice of the precious blood. He gave the host to Lucia and the chalice to Jacinta and Francisco. As he did so, he said, “Take and drink the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ, horribly outraged by ungrateful men. Repair their crimes and console your God.”

But the question is: where did the host and chalice come from since Angels do not have the power to consecrate? The answer to this question may lie in the fact that the priest at the Church of St Michael in a village called Juncal to the west of Fatima, was perturbed to find that a chalice containing consecrated Mass wine, which he had left in the locked tabernacle of his church, had somehow been physically moved inside the tabernacle, although no one else had a key to it. He had also counted out the hosts for the Mass and noticed one was missing. This bothered him for years, until on his deathbed, he said he was no longer bothered by it.

Obviously, there is no proof of this story, but it is certainly an intriguing possibility.  And the fact that the church was dedicated to St Michael, means that it could well have been the one from which the chalice and host was obtained, and hence the Angel they saw could have been St Michael.

In any event, we are certainly living in difficult times again, when, it seems, the Church is uncertain about its message and the world is increasingly unwilling to listen to what it has to say.  Along with this is an increasing devotion to the Prayer of St Michael, not only as a prayer said after the Rosary, but increasingly recited at the end of the Mass in many parishes around the world.  Many are also turning to St. Michael in private devotion. This is a practice we would do well to emulate in these turbulent times.

Donal Anthony Foley is the author of a number of books on Marian Apparitions, including Marian Apparitions, the Bible, and the Modern World, and maintains a related web site at www.theotokos.org.uk.

 

 

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