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Sermon for the Dedication of Saint Michael the Archangel Commemorating the 16th Sunday after Pentecost, September 29, 2019 by Father Paul A. Norton

IN DEDICATIONE S. MICHÆLIS ARCHANGELIS

COMMEMORATIO: DOMINICA XVI POST PENTECOSTEN

“St. Michael the 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 about the world seeking

the ruin of souls. Amen.”

This Sunday would normally be the 16th Sunday

after Pentecost, but this year that celebration

is reduced to a commemoration and instead we

celebrate the Dedication of St. Michael the

Archangel, commonly known as Michaelmas.

Michaelmas was one of the great feasts of the

Middle Ages, and many customs and traditions were

established around it, particularly in England and

Ireland. It was a Holy Day of Obligation in the

Church until the 18th century. This feast has been

kept with great solemnity on the 29th of September

ever since the fifth century, and was certainly

celebrated in Apulia in 493, especially after the

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apparition of St. Michael with his flaming sword

on Mount Gargano and the subsequent dedication of

the Church of St. Michael built there in honor of

this great Archangel. This dedication gave

occasion to the institution of this Feast in the

West, which is hence called in the Martyrologies

of St. Jerome, the Venerable Bede, and others, The

Dedication of St. Michael. The dedication of St.

Michael’s Church in Rome by Pope Boniface IV in

610, and that of several other churches in the

West in honor of this Archangel, which were

performed on this same day, increased the

celebrity of this day, which had however been long

before consecrated by Rome to the memory of all

the heavenly beings.

Churches were likewise erected in many places

around the world in honor of St. Michael but I

would like to underline here something that you

may not know: The tradition that refers to the

geographical line called “The sword of St.

Michael”

Yesterday, before I prepared myself to write this

sermon I took a map to refresh in my memory the

interesting thing I’m about to tell you: If you

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take a map and draw a line from Ireland to Israel

you will find that such a line perfectly includes

seven shrines dedicated to St. Michael the

Archangel. The shrines are:

1) Skelling Michael, Ireland: Where St.

Michael appeared to St. Patrick, to help him

to liberate that country from the devil.

2) St. Michael’s Mount, England: Where St.

Michael appeared to a group of fishermen.

3) Mont Saint Michel, France: A beautiful and

famous place in the coast of Normandy in which

St. Michael also appeared to St. Aubert.

4) Sacra di San Michele, Italy: Located in

the “Val de Susa” (a valley in the

Metropolitan City of Turin, Piedmont region of

northern Italy) where its construction began

around the year 1000.

5) Santuario di San Michele Archangelo,

Italy: Where St. Michael appeared in 490 to

San Lorenzo Maiorano in the region of Puglia.

6) Symi’s Monastery, Greece: A Shrine located

in the island of Symi which houses a three-

meter-high statue of the Archangel, one of the

largest of the world.

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7) Mount Carmel Monastery, Israel: The Sacred

Line ends in Israel at Mount Carmel Monastery,

in Haifa. Its construction dates back to the

12th century.

This Sacred Line is denominated “The Sword of St.

Michael the Archangel”. According to tradition,

the line represents the blow with which St.

Michael sent the devil to hell.

And yes, as we know, St. Michael the Archangel is

represented with a sword, because he is the Prince

of the Celestial Militia and because he is the

direct enemy of Satan, especially considering

that, from the beginning, the arrogant war cry of

the devil, the famous “non serviam” (I will not

serve) was answered and repressed with the

obedient motto “Quis ut Deus?” (Who [is] like

God?) of St. Michael the Archangel. Yes, St.

Michael have a sword, and that’s perhaps because

God want to teach us an important lesson: He gave

to His angels a sword to show us that we can’t

fight evil with “pacifism” and “tolerance”.

For this reason, St. Michael is not only our

protector, he is also an example for us of the

catholic attitude before evil, an attitude that

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was majestically condensed by Fr. Reginald

Garrigou-Lagrange, who wrote: “The Church is

intolerant in principle because she believes; she

is tolerant in practice because she loves. The

enemies of the Church are tolerant in principle

because they do not believe; they are intolerant

in practice because they do not love”1.

Now, I want you to return to that image we have

of St. Michael as our protector. The Gospel of

today ends with this phrase pronounced by Christ:

“I tell you, their Angels in heaven always behold

the face of My Father in heaven”. If we note well,

this is the conclusion of a series of imprecations

and very strong warnings like these: “whoever

causes one of these little ones who believe in Me

to sin, it were better for him to have a great

millstone hung around his neck, and to be drowned

in the depths of the sea” or “woe to the man

through whom scandal does come!” or “if your hand

or your foot is an occasion of sin to you, cut it

off and cast it from you!” and “if your eye is an

occasion of sin to you, pluck it out and cast it

1 God, His Existence and Nature: Vol. II, p. 412 Herder edition. 1936

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from you!”. I won’t enter here to analyze each one

of these phrases (that have had several

explanations during the history of the Church) nor

will I enter in details about the aberrant and

totally antichristian idea of mutilating one’s

body (as Eusebius of Caesarea2 says Origen did.

Origen is one of the few Fathers of the Church

that are not canonized).

I would rather underline the terrible and powerful

“revenge” (if it is possible to use this word)

that the angels of the Lord will carry on to those

that “scandalize” in the manner mentioned in the

Gospel. Is there something that could be worse

than “to have a great millstone hung around (…)

[one’s] neck, and to be drowned in the depths of

the sea”? We can deduce from the words of Our Lord

that yes, there is something worse: What the

“Angels in heaven [who] always behold the face of

(…) [the] Father” could do as a result of such

scandal.

And what is that? I don’t know. But it’s enough

for me and for us to know that it’s “better (…)

2 Eusebius of Caesarea, C.F. Cruze, trans., Eusebius’ Ecclesiastical History. Peabody, MA, USA: Hendrickson Publishers (1998). ISBN: 978-1-56563-371-7.

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to have a great millstone hung around (…) [the]

neck, and to be drowned in the depths of the sea”.

Yes, my dear faithful, the angels are not chubby

winged babies floating around with lyres in their

hands. They are soldiers, powerful entities with

whom you don’t want to mess. They destroyed entire

cities in a blink of an eye, they expelled and

enchained powerful demons, crushed the valor of

the soldiers of big armies, caused fear in Judges

and Prophets who feared for their lives because

of seeing an angel of the Lord face to face, and

a long list of et caeteras.

I will read here one last example from the book

of Numbers, chapter 22, which I consider necessary

to cast out that phony idea about angels which the

renaissance placed in the contemporary culture:

“Balaam arose in the morning, and saddling his

donkey went with them. And God was angry. And

an angel of the Lord stood in the way against

Balaam, who sat on the donkey, and had two

servants with him. The donkey seeing the angel

standing in the way, with a drawn sword,

turned herself out of the way, and went into

the field. And when Balaam beat her, and had

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a mind to bring her again to the way, the angel

stood in a narrow place between two walls,

wherewith the vineyards were enclosed. And the

donkey seeing him, thrust herself close to the

wall, and bruised the foot of the rider. But

he beat her again:

And nevertheless, the angel going on to a

narrow place, where there was no way to turn

aside either to the right hand or to the left,

stood to meet him. And when the donkey saw the

angel standing, she fell under the feet of the

rider: who being angry beat her sides more

vehemently with a staff. And the Lord opened

the mouth of the donkey, and she said: What

have I done to thee? Why strikest thou me, lo,

now this third time? Balaam answered: Because

thou hast deserved it, and hast served me ill:

I would I had a sword that I might kill thee.

The donkey said: Am not I thy beast, on which

thou hast been always accustomed to ride until

this present day? tell me if I ever did the

like thing to thee. But he said: Never.

Forthwith the Lord opened the eyes of Balaam,

and he saw the angel standing in the way with

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a drawn sword, and he worshipped him falling

flat on the ground. And the angel said to him:

Why beatest thou thy donkey these three times?

I am come to withstand thee, because thy way

is perverse, and contrary to me: And unless

the donkey had turned out of the way, giving

place to me who stood against thee, I had slain

thee, and she should have lived.”

As we can see, my dear faithful, the angels are

powerful protectors and intercessors, they come

here with the dignity of the messengers of God,

so, when we pray to them, we should remember also

to ask St. Michael the Archangel that, as he

cleansed once the city of Rome from the plague –

drawing his sword from the top of the castle of

Sant’angelo- may he also intercede for us to

“preserve us from all blight of error and

corruption” and to clean modernist Rome from the

current plague, worse than that of the 6th century,

that spreads and infects many Catholics around the

world today.

Posted on October 19, 2019 at 6:15 pm

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