Saint Michael, Archangelic Slave of Mary
Saint Stanislaus, Bishop and Martyr
Today is not the Feast of the Apparition of Saint Michael the Archangel near Siponto in Italy. Today is the Feast of the Martyred Bishop, Saint Stanislaus. But since tomorrow is Good Shepherd Sunday and I am going to preach about the Good Shepherd, I must anticipate Saint Michael’s Feast, and to do so, I must ask Saint Stanislaus to pardon the fact that I will make no more mention of him than I have thus far made in this sermon. So I will not mention how Saint Stanislaus was martyred in the eleventh century for rebuking the immorality of the head of state. I will not mention how Saint Stanislaus raised a man from the dead. I will not mention how Saint Stanislaus was dismembered after his martyrdom, only to have God repair the desecration of his body so that not a single mark of the wounds was traceable on his corpse. I will not mention how Saint Stanislaus in death won mercy for his murderer, King Boleslaus, who sought pardon of the Church after his sacrilege. I will not mention how Saint Stanislaus was a truly holy bishop in the city of Cracow. I will be utterly silent on the subject of Saint Stanislaus for the entirety of this sermon because this sermon is not about Saint Stanislaus, but about Saint Michael.
Specifically, I wish to draw attention to Mary by way of Saint Michael. It is not the Feast of Saint Michael today, but it is Saturday, and a First Saturday at that. So Our Lady ought very much be the focus of our thoughts today. Saint Michael bears many similarities to the Blessed Virgin Mary. They share a special affinity with this month of May, Saint Michael having the Feast of his Apparition on the eighth, and the Blessed Mother celebrated throughout the whole month, with particularly wonderful remembrances of Her on the thirteenth when She first appeared at Fatima; on the thirteenth also as She is hailed as the Queen of All Martyrs; on the thirteenth again as we behold Her as Our Lady of the Blessed Sacrament; on the twenty-fourth, when we beseech Her aid as the Help of Christians; and then on the final day of the month as we proclaim Her Queen of All Saints. Saint Michael’s other major Feast is in September, the month in which we rejoice in the Nativity of the Queen of Heaven and earth. Many prayers include pleas for the intercession of Saint Michael and the Blessed Virgin, perhaps the most frequently invoked being the Confiteor, in which both of those heavenly citizens are begged to add to the number of the Elect by appealing to God for mercy on us, His wayward children.
All of those liturgical and devotional notions notwithstanding, there are several other very profound likenesses between Saint Michael and Mary. Foremost of those similarities is that which is the least of the virtues, humility. Humility is the least of the virtues not because it is of the least importance, but because it is the virtue by which the creature comes to acknowledge the nothingness of the creature and the immensity of God the Creator. It is by the virtue of humility that least-ness is obtained, nay, begged for. Humility trembles at the thought of pursuing greatness, and rushes instead to be hidden, to be unknown, and to make God All in all. Saint Michael accomplished his perfect humility at the dawn of creation when he repulsed lucifer’s hateful pride with the triumphant battle cry, Quis ut Deus? Who is like God? Saint Michael did not counter lucifer’s proud rebellion with a proud defense of the Divine prerogatives; Saint Michael thought only of God in championing God. You will not hear Saint Michael mention Saint Michael when God is being glorified.
Humility reaches its creaturely pinnacle in the selflessness of the Blessed Virgin Mary. At Her initial instant of being, the Immaculate Conception began the everlasting moment of God’s utter praising in His creation. For all of Her time on earth, and now for ever in Heaven, Mary knows nothing but God, delights in no one but God, and desires that God receive glory from all. This is not a merit of Mary as such, but the perfection of the Divine Will accepted by Mary. Mary’s part in all of this is placing no obstacle to God doing all in all of this. As Saint Paul describes this dynamic, it is not Mary, but Christ in Mary. In the Virgin Mother of God, Saint Paul’s doctrine is fully, physically, emotionally, intellectually, spiritually, grace-fully, and lovingly made absolute. God is so All in all in Mary that, in the words of Saint Louis de Montfort, when we say, Mary, the echo that returns from Her is God! Mary’s only joy, Her only will, Her only desire is that none but God receive all glory, all honor, all love with every heart, every soul, every mind, and every strength.
Another of the similarities shared by Saint Michael and the Mother of God is the result of their perfect fidelity to the Will of God. When Saint Michael declared, Quis ut Deus? Who is like God? God made His loyal Archangel the instrument of Satan’s first defeat. It is Saint Michael whom God used to cast satan out of Heaven and into hell. Practically every depiction of Saint Michael shows him thrusting his spear into the void which serves satan as a heart, precipitating the author of evil into the abyss where he shall languish for all eternity.
Our Lady is the instrument used by God to accomplish the defeat of satan in history. Where Saint Michael cast satan out of Heaven, the Lowly Handmaid of the Lord grinds the infernal serpent’s head into the dust that God cursed him to eat for ever and ever. It was galling for satan to suffer vanquishing at the hands of the lesser angelic being, Saint Michael. It is eternally humiliating for satan to receive the final blow to his pride under the foot of the Woman who served to bring God into the world for the purpose of casting out the prince of the fallen world in favor of establishing the reign of the rightful King of creation.
Tomorrow we will commemorate the anniversary of Saint Michael appearing on Mount Gargano near Siponto, Italy. When the lieutenant of God’s armies appeared to the Bishop there at the end of the fifth century, he instructed the prelate to lead the faithful in offering praise to God in the Chapel in the cave where the apparition took place. The cave itself is church-shaped, which is to say that it is cruciform, in the pattern of a cross. Saint Michael informed the Bishop of the Divine Will that the Trinity and the Holy Angels receive worship and veneration on that site, and it has been the object of pilgrimages ever since.
Our Lady at Lourdes appeared to Saint Bernadette, and according to the directions received from the Comforter of the afflicted, the faithful in need of healing now bathe themselves in the miraculous waters that flow in the midst of the Grotto that marks the spot where the Immaculate Conception deigned to walk the earth once more. That humble setting — much like the caves on Mount Gargano, at Bethlehem, and of the Holy Sepulcher- is the object of heavenly predilection, favoring the lowly places of the earth with celestial visitations. Those who believe in the generosity of God and avail themselves of His grades distributed through Mary can obtain extraordinary benefits, for the body while in this life, and for the soul unto eternal Life.
Eternal Life for the Church Militant is the constant care of Her Guardian Angel, Saint Michael. It is his charge from God to watch over the Flock of Christ, defending them from the prowling wolves of this world, as the Good Shepherd guides us to the pastures of Heaven. Mary also watches over the whole of God’s children as the Mother of the Body of Christ. Saint Michael is, so to speak, the heavenly force that repels hell’s assaults against the Church. Mary is the gentle custodian who watches over the Body of Christ the Church, as diligently as She watched over the Body of Christ in the Manger, in Saint Joseph’s workshop, and on Calvary Hill.
Saint Michael’s dedication to guarding the entire Church does not stop at merely the big picture. God has deputed Saint Michael to be the Angelic escort who leads each beatified soul to her specific place among the choirs of Heaven. After standing as Guardian over the whole Church, Saint Michael then completes his labors by leading each member of the Church into the endless joys and glories of the Kingdom of Heaven reserved for those who persevere to the end.
Jesus Christ is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. Jesus the Way is brought to us through His Mother Mary, Our Mother. Saint Jean-Marie Baptiste Vianney says of Our Mother Mary, The Blessed Virgin is like a good mother who, not content with looking after all her children in general, watches over each one separately. Mary does indeed watch over the whole Church. That, however, is not enough for Her Mother’s Heart. She accomplishes Her sublime task of being Mother of the Church by mothering each person in the Church. There is no individual who escapes the notice of Mary. There is no prayer that is unheeded by Mary. There is no sinner who is forgotten by Mary. There is no grace that is refused by Mary. There is no love that is not rewarded by Mary. It is Mary’s supreme maternal joy to watch as Saint Michael escorts one of Her little ones into the eternal Presence of the Father who has called all to Himself.
One other similarity between Saint Michael and the Blessed Virgin ought to recommend itself to us during this holy Season of Easter: they delight now as they have since the first instance of their creation in singing Alleluia! Praise the Lord. Let us join them in this time of grace with the Faith, Hope, and Love they instill in our hearts that it is God’s will for us to join them forever in Heaven, singing Alleluia! Alleluia! Alleluia! Amen! Alleluia!