Q. Recently, in my parish, we have begun reciting the prayer asking St. Michael’s protection. I have heard that this prayer was once used at Mass, but was dropped sometime in the last century. What is the origin of this prayer?
N.R., via e-mail
A. Here’s a reply from TCA columnist Father Ray Ryland, Ph.D., J.D:
On Oct. 1, 1884, Pope Leo XIII had a deeply disturbing mystical experience at Mass. He had just finished celebrating in his private chapel when he suddenly stood transfixed in front of the altar. For perhaps 10 minutes he stood there as if in a trance, his face drained of color. Then he went to his office and composed a prayer to St. Michael. He told his staff the prayer should be offered throughout the Church.
He explained that he had heard two voices in the vicinity of the tabernacle. He believed they were the voices of Our Lord and of Satan. Pope Leo heard Satan boast that he could destroy the Church in 75 or 100 years, if given the opportunity. Then he heard Our Lord give Satan permission to try. (This sounds somewhat similar to what we read in Job 1.)
The prayer which Pope Leo XIII composed was 10 times the length of the version we use today. Use of the prayer was discontinued in 1964. Thirty years later, in his Regina Coeli address, Pope John Paul II revived use of the prayer. He said, “Although the prayer is no longer recited at the end of Mass, I ask every one not to forget it and to recite it to obtain help in the battle against the forces of darkness and against the spirit of the world.” The pope clearly intended that we should offer this prayer in our homes as well. The prayer, by the way, is as follows:
St. Michael 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 hosts,
by the power of God,
thrust into hell Satan,
and all the evil spirits,
who prowl about the world
seeking the ruin of souls. Amen.