There are seven Archangels
in all, but only the three
mentioned in Sacred Scripture are commemorated liturgically; St.
Gabriel's Feast is on 24 March, and St. Raphael's Feast is on 24
October (the Guardian Angels are remembered on 2 October. The other
archangels, whom we know from the Book of Enoch, are Uriel, Raguel,
Sariel, and Jeramiel.) Today, though, we honor St. Michael the
Archangel, whose very name in Hebrew means, "Who is Like God" ("Quis ut
Deus" in Latin).
Michael is described in the Golden Legend, written in A.D. 1275 by
Jacobus de Voragine, Archbishop of Genoa, thus:
For like as
Daniel witnesseth, he shall arise and address in the time of Antichrist
against him, and shall stand as a defender and keeper for them that be
chosen. [Daniel 10:13, 12]
He also fought with the dragon and his angels, and casting them out of
heaven, had a great victory. [Apocalypse 12:7-9]
He also had a great plea and altercation with the devil for the body of
Moses, because he would not show it; for the children of Israel should
have adored and worshipped it. [Jude 1]
He received the souls of saints and brought them into the paradise of
exultation and joy.
He was prince of the synagogue of the Jews, but now he is established
of our Lord, prince of the church of Jesu Christ.
And as it is said, he made the plagues of Egypt, he departed and
divided the Red Sea, he led the people of Israel by the desert and set
them in the land of promission, he is had among the company of holy
angels as bannerer. And bearing the sign of our Lord, he shall slay by
the commandment of God, right puissantly, Antichrist that shall be in
the Mount of Olivet. And dead men shall arise at the voice of this same
archangel. And he shall show at the day of judgment the Cross, the
spear, the nails and the crown of thorns of Jesu Christ.
St. Michael's final victory over the Antichrist, the Golden Legend
victory is that the archangel Michael shall have of Antichrist when he
shall slay him. Then Michael, the great prince, shall arise, as it is
said Danielis xii.: “He shall arise for them that be chosen as a helper
and a protector, and shall strongly stand against Antichrist.” And
after, as the Gloss saith: “Antichrist shall feign him to be dead, and
shall hide him three days,” and after, he shall appear saying that he
is risen from death to life, and the devils shall bear him by art
magic, and shall mount up into the air, and all the people shall marvel
and worship him. And at the last he shall mount up on the Mount of
Olivet, and when he shall be in a pavilion, in his siege [seat],
entered into that place where our Lord ascended, Michael shall come and
shall slay him. Of which victory is understood, after St. Gregory, that
which is said in the Apocalypse. The battle is made in heaven.
This word of the treble battle in heaven is expounded of the battle
that he had with Lucifer when he expulsed him out of heaven, and of the
battle that he had with the devils that torment us.
St. Michael is
our warrior against the Evil One, and is the one we call on in times of
temptation, especially with our Prayer to St. Michael:
St. Michael the
Archangel, defend us in battle; be our safeguard 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 other evil spirits, who wander throughout the
world, seeking the ruin of souls. Amen.
champion of Israel has made many important appearances throughout the
years. In A.D. 590, during the reign of Pope Gregory, a great
pestilence swept through Rome. During a procession
and litanies led by
the Holy Father there, St. Michael appeared over the Castel Sant'Angelo
building which was formerly Hadrian's tomb, but which was
converted to papal
use, connected to the Vatican by a long tunnel. A statue of St. Michael
sits atop the building today.
Mont St. Michel was built to St. Michael's honor off the coast of
Normandy, France because our warrior Saint is said to have appeared
708 to St. Aubert, Bishop of Avranches.
Sant'Angelo in Rome, and Mont Saint Michel in France
Another important place sacred to St. Michael is the Sanctuary of Monte
Sant'Angelo in the province of Foggia, in northern Apulia, Italy. This
basilica is at the site of a cave near which St. Michael appeared
several times to the Bishop of Sipontum in A.D. 490.
Michael told the Bishop that the cave should be consecrated and that,
in return, the nearby town of Sipontum would be saved from pagan
When the pagans came, St. Michael appeared on top of a mountain near
the cave, brandishing a flaming sword, and the people of the town were
Pope Gelasius I, who held the Petrine office from A.D. 492 to 496 built
the basilica there, and the cave itself is a place of healing and
St. Michael also, along with SS. Margaret and Catherine, appeared to St.
Joan of Arc (d. 1431) when she was thirteen years old, encouraging her
to assist Charles VII in defeating the English. She later told her
judges, "I saw them with these very eyes, as well as I see you."
St. Michael is patron of knights, policemen, soldiers, paramedics,
ambulance drivers, etc., and also danger at sea, for the sick, and of a
holy death. He is usually depicted in art carrying a sword and/or
shield, battling Satan, and the old Prayer to
St. Michael is one of a handful of prayers that all Catholics
should have memorized. Use it when in fear, when tempted or threatened,
when seeing evil, etc. (Read more about Spiritual Warfare).
At this time of
year, the Aster (Aster nova-belgii) blooms, and it has become known as
the Michaelmas Daisy. The Michaelmas Daisy comes
in many colors, from white to pink to purple. An old verse goes:
Daisies, among dede weeds,
Bloom for St Michael's valorous deeds.
And seems the last of flowers that stood,
Till the feast of St. Simon and St. Jude.
(The Feast of
SS. Simon and Jude is 28 October) An old custom surrounds Michaelmas
Daisies; one plucks off the petals one by one thus: pull a petal while
saying ""S/he loves me," then pull of the next while saying "S/he loves
me not," and repeat until all petals are gone. The words one intones
while pulling off the last petal lets one know if one's love is
As to foods, geese were, at least at one time, plentiful
time of year, so roast goose dinners are traditional (eating them on
this day is said to protect against financial hardship, according to
Irish and English folk belief). It was also the time (at least in
Ireland) when the fishing season ended, the hunting season began, and
apples were harvested, so eating apples today with that goose would be
a nice touch.
with Apples (serves 8)
1 13-lb. goose, giblets and neck discarded (you'll need 1 lb per
3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
8 golden delicious apples, peeled, each cut into 6 wedges
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
6 TBSP sugar
1/4 cup calvados (apple brandy)
1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
Position rack in bottom third of oven and preheat to 350°F. Rinse goose
inside and out; pat dry with paper towels. Sprinkle inside and out with
salt and pepper. Using knife, cut small slits all over goose; place
garlic slices into slits. Place goose on rack, breast side down, in
large roasting pan. Roast goose 2 hours 45 minutes, basting
occasionally with drippings and removing excess fat; reserve 6
tablespoons fat. Turn goose over. Roast until brown and thermometer
inserted into thickest part of thigh registers 175°F, basting
occasionally with drippings, about 45 minutes longer. Meanwhile, toss
apples and lemon juice in large bowl. Pour 6 tablespoons goose fat into
15 x 10 x 2-inch glass baking dish. Using slotted spoon, transfer
apples to baking dish; toss apples in goose fat. Add sugar, Calvados
and cinnamon to apples; toss. Bake apples alongside goose until very
tender and golden, about 1 hour. Serve goose with caramelized apples
and a Bordeaux wine.
When you cut up
your apples, cross-section a few and show your children how the 5 seeds
inside the 5-pointed star found inside represent the Five Wounds of Christ. Another fun thing to do
with apples is to make those little apple dolls that always resemble
Peel an apple (Granny Smith or Golden Delicious apples work well),
cutting away any bruises (some people say to core the apple, others say
not to. Experiment for yourself). Carve as life-like a face as possible
into the apple (don't cut too deeply so as to avoid rotting). Don't
forget the little things that make a face so human -- the little lines
running from nose to mouth, the hollows of the eyes, the depressions
caused by cheekbones, etc. Depending on the "skin" tone desired, soak
the carved apple for about 45 minutes in a mixture of lemon juice (or
cider vinegar) and water (the longer you soak, the lighter the "skin"
tone will be).
Hang the apple up in the dryest, darkest room of your home. Come back
in 3 to 4 weeks to see what you have (Hallowe'en
would be perfect time for the unveiling if these are made on
Michaelmas). It should have shrunk by
about two thirds its original size, darkened some, and show the wizened
features of an old woman or man. When thoroughly dry, decorate using
very diluted food colorings for rouge; corn silk, cotton, or yarn for
hair; cloves or food colorings for eyes; fabric triangles for scarves,
etc. Secure onto a "body" made of a bottle, styrofoam cone, wooden
dowel, etc., and make clothes as desired.
For the Irish,
the next food du jour is St. Michael's Bannock, a scone-like bread,
cooked in a frying pan.
1 1/3 C. barley flour
1 1/3 C. oat meal
1 1/3 C. rye meal
1 C. flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 scant tsp baking soda
2 1/2-3 C. buttermilk
3 TBSP honey or brown sugar
1 C. cream
4 TBSP melted butter
Mix the barley flour, oat meal, and rye meal. Add flour and salt. Mix
the soda and buttermilk (start with the 2 1/2 C) and then add to the
dry mixture. Stir in honey. Turn out onto floured board and mix (as
with all breads, don't over-mix), adding more buttermilk if too dry, or
more flour if too sticky).
Divide dough in half, and roll each, on a floured board, into an 8"
circle (about 1/2 inch to 3/4 inch thick). While heating a lightly
greased skillet, mix the eggs, cream, and melted butter. Spread onto
one of the bannocks and place the bannock, egg-side down, in the
skillet and cook til the egg-side is browned. Put the egg mixture on
the top side, flip the bannock and cook 'til the second side is golden.
Repeat this application of the egg wash and flipping and cooking until
each side has been cooked three times. Do the same with the second
bannock. Serve warm with butter and honey.
According to an
old Irish folk tale, blackberries were supposed to have been harvested
and used up by this date, too, since it is told to children that
when Satan was kicked out of Heaven, he landed in a bramble patch --
and returns each year to curse and spit on the fruits of the plant he
landed on, rendering them inedible thereafter. So a dessert with
blackberries would be perfect.
6 cups fresh blackberries
1/3 cup granulated sugar
2/3 cup old-fashioned oats
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
3 tbsp butter, softened
1 tbsp vegetable oil
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp table salt
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. In a large bowl, gently combine
blackberries, 1/3 c. granulated sugar and 1/3 c. all-purpose flour.
Transfer to an 8 x 8 baking dish. For the crumble topping, combine
remaining ingredients in a medium bowl and work together with your
hands until the ingredients resemble a crumble. Sprinkle over the
blackberry mixture. Bake crumble until the the topping is golden brown
and blackberries are bubbling, about 40 minutes. Let cool for 15
minutes before serving. Serve warm or at room temperature, with ice
cream if desired.
Finally, I have
to tell you about a charming Bavarian Michaelmas tradition from
Augsburg, as described by Dorothy Gladys Spicer's "The Festivals of
Western Europe" (1958):
On September 29,
Saint Michael's Day, the city of Augsburg holds an annual autumn fair
to which hundreds of peasants from far and near come for trade and
pleasure. Chief among the day's attractions is the hourly appearance of
figures representing the Archangel and the Devil. The figures are built
in the foundation of Perlach Turm, or Tower, called Tura in local
dialect. This slender structure, which rises to a height of
two-hundred-and-twenty-five-feet and stands next to the Peter's Kirche,
north of the Rathaus, originally was a watch tower. In 1615 the watch
tower was heightened and converted into a belfry.
Almost a hundred years earlier the group depicting the saint and the
devil had been installed in the tower's understructure. Annually on his
feast day the archangel's armor-clad figure, holding a pointed spear,
appeared whenever the tower bell struck, and stabbed at the devil
writhing at his feet.
During World War II the historic figures--the delight of generations of
fair-goers--were destroyed. Since then a new group has been made and
installed. Today, as for over four centuries, spectators continue to
gather about the Tura and to watch breathlessly the symbolic drama of
Michael, head of the Church Triumphant, dealing death blows to the
dragon which brings evil and destruction to the world of men.
"Michaelmas" is pronounced "MICKel-mus."
Today is also one of the 4 English "Quarter Days," days which fall
around the Equinoxes or Solstices and mark the beginnings of new
natural seasons (i.e., Spring, Summer, Winter, Fall) and which were
used in medieval times to mark "quarters" for legal purposes, such as
settling debts. The other days like this are: Lady Day (the Feast of
the Annunciation) on March 25, the Feast of St. John on June 24, and
Christmas on December 25.
Back to Customs of the Liturgical Year
Back to Being