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
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.
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
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.
7) Mount Carmel Monastery, Israel: The Sacred
Line ends in Israel at Mount Carmel Monastery,
in Haifa. Its construction dates back to the
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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