Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira
Saint Michael the Archangel, Model of the Perfect Knight
September 28, 1966 (*)
The Catholic calendar reads: Saint Michael, Prince of the Heavenly Host fought the rebel angels in the heavenly battle. He continues to lead the battle to free us from the devil. Our guardian angels depend on him. He is the custodian angel of the Church and the one who presents the Eucharistic Oblation to the Eternal Father. We are in the novena of Our Lady of the Rosary and in the novena of Our Lady Mediatrix of All Graces.
I call your attention to the fact that Saint Michael is the chief who fought against the devil and cast him into hell. He is the leader of the guardian angels of individuals and also of the guardian angels of institutions. He is himself the guardian angel of the Institution of institutions, the Holy Roman Catholic and Apostolic Church.
Therefore, he has a custodian function, which one may ask how it relates to his attitude or mission of casting into hell those who rose up against Our Lord, on the one hand, and on the other hand the protection he gives the Church and men in this vale of tears and in this arena of life. And we see that these two missions are concatenated. He defended God; God wanted to employ him as His shield against the devil. God wants him to be the shield of men against the devil. God wants him to be the shield of the Holy Catholic Church against the devil. But he is not merely a shield: he is also a sword. He not only defends but also defeats and casts into hell.
This is, therefore, the twofold mission of Saint Michael. This is why in the Middle Ages the knights considered Saint Michael the first of all knights; the heavenly knight, perfectly loyal as a knight must be, ideally strong as a knight must be, pure as an angel as a knight must be, and victorious as a knight must be; a knight who placed his whole confidence in God, and then, after she was born, also in Our Lady.
So we should consider admirable Saint Michael as our natural ally in the struggle; because the counter-revolutionary movement wants to be nothing other than a group of men who execute, on a human level, mutatis mutandis, the task of Saint Michael the Archangel; in other words, to defend the honor of God, the glory of Our Lady, the Catholic Church, and Christian civilization. Therefore, we see this has an enormous affinity with us and that it is very fitting for counter-revolutionaries to make Saint Michael the Archangel their special patron.
Dom Guéranger has a text on the angels’ contemplative devotion:
“The Church considers Saint Michael as the mediator of her liturgical prayer. He stands between humanity and divinity. For His own glory, God, Who has established in admirable fashion the visible and invisible hierarchies, abundantly employs in His service these heavenly spirits who incessantly contemplate the adorable face of the Father and who know, better than men, how to contemplate the beauty of His infinite perfections.”
This is where it goes on to say that Saint Michael also presents the Eucharistic oblation to the Eternal Father. And this is also how he appeared to the three little shepherds at Fatima — with the chalice in hand.
“Mi – cha — El: who is like God? Of itself, this name expresses, in its brevity, the most perfect adoration, the most complete recognition of divine transcendence, and a creature’s humblest confession of his own nothingness; he is, therefore, the model of humility.”
Because he who exclaims that no one is like God, exclaims that he himself is nothing; this is perfect humility. The knight’s form of humility is not a gooey, sugary and illogic sentimentality.
“So also the Church invites the heavenly spirits to bless the Lord and sing His praises; to laud and bless Him incessantly. This contemplative vocation of the angels is the model of our own, as the beautiful preface to the Sacramentary of Saint Leo reminds us. It is truly fitting to render graces to Thee Who teaches us through the Apostle that our lives are meant for heaven; Who benevolently wishes us to transport ourselves in spirit to the place where these whom we venerate serve Thee, and especially to soar to those heights on the feast of the blessed Saint Michael the Archangel.”
This is a remarkable trait of devotion to the angels. The angels are inhabitants of the heavenly Court. And in the heavenly Court they live in eternal contemplation, a contemplation of one who sees God face to face; and all the great mystics tell us about their visions of parties that are held in heaven, which are true feasts indeed. They are not mere images or chimeras; they are true feasts in which God successively manifests His grandeurs and they acclaim Him with new triumphs which absolutely never end.
There is a heavenly happiness, a sense that heaven is the motherland of our soul and precisely the order of things for which we have been created; the one that fully corresponds to all our aspirations. There is such a sense of heavenly happiness through the face-to-face contemplation of God, Who is the absolute perfection of all things that some of it can and must transpire to earth. And in epochs of true faith some of that happiness filters down; something of that piety is felt by pious souls and communicated through the most pious ones to become a common treasure of the whole Church.
And that is what we lack so direly nowadays: One has no idea of heavenly happiness; and without the idea of a heavenly happiness one has no appetite for heaven; and people wallow in the sheer craving of the goods of the earth. But if they were able to understand even for a moment what the consolation of the Holy Ghost is like, what a grace from the Holy Ghost is like, what type of happiness the consideration of the heavenly goods actually brings; if they were able to understand that even for a minute they would begin to become detached from the goods of the earth and to understand how everything is fleeting, how all this is nothing, how there are values which are above all this and make the earth a little handful of dust.
That is exactly what is missing and what the angels can obtain for us; they, who are inundated with this happiness and, once in a while, communicate it to the saints. There is a kind of mystical phenomenon which is a concert — Saint Therese the Little Flower experienced it and tells about in the History of a Soul — a marvelous, faraway concert with marvelous, otherworldly harmonies. It is a little bit of the eternal canticle of the angels that thus arrives to the ears of the blessed, precisely to give them an appetite for the things of heaven.
This appetite is abysmally absent in our times. Many people are only interested in and enthralled with things of the earth — money, politicking, worldliness, trivia in the daily news — but they are not enthused with elevated things, doctrinal things, and even less for specifically heavenly things.
Let us therefore ask the angels to communicate to us this desire of heavenly things with which they overflow. This is an excellent intention to be added to the feast of Saint Michael the Archangel: that he make us his imitators and perfect knights of Our Lady on this earth.
(*) The preceding article has been translated and adapted for publication without the author's revision. –Ed. American TFP.