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St. Michael Archangel

St. Michael Archangel by Lewis Williams, OFS

Artist Narrative:

San Miguel, also known as St. Michael, prince of the heavenly host of angels, is one of only three angels mentioned by name in the Bible. Miguel’s name means, “who is like unto God”, which is a question posed to us all. Renowned in the Jewish, Christian and Islamic traditions, he forms between us a common bond. Miguel, similar to God in Spirit, yet different in that he was created, was called on to lead the heavenly faithful during the Great War of Heaven, when Lucifer moved to assert himself as superior to the Father. Lucifer, often depicted as a dragon, was defeated and cast from heaven. Traditionally, Miguel is called upon to rescue the souls of the faithful in their constant battle with the forces of evil, during life and at the moment of death; to be a champion of Gods people; and to lead souls to heaven, ushering in the reign of Christ’s abiding peace.

San Miguel is revered in Spanish speaking countries around the world. Devotion is evident in the many churches and missions named in his honor. In Mexico, there is a tradition that he is the angel holding up Our Lady of Guadalupe to St. Juan Diego, seen in the famous image transposed onto Juan’s tilma.

In this icon, Miguel exudes two aspects: the handsome youth, whose zealous love for God is overpowering; and the Noble Warrior Prince, terror of the rebellious company of angels and all that is evil. His hand is raised in greeting and warning. He carries his rod and an admonition; do not take him lightly. His green inner robe expresses a life-giving quality he offers as messenger and protector of us here on earth; the red outer garb, trimmed in gold, indicates a heavenly radiance, as does the gold of his halo breaking the gold border. The jewels in his hair band are actual turquoise surrounded by coral stones, indicative of his tie to Mexico and the desert southwest. The ribbons in his hair are evidence of his haste, having just arrived from his heavenly flight out of the cosmos to us with a question. “Are we ‘like unto God’?” He is patron of grocers, mariners, police, paratroopers and all who are ill.

His feast day is September 29.

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St. Michael, who ranks among the seven archangels, is also one of the three angels mentioned by name in the Scriptures, the others being St. Raphael and St. Gabriel. St. Michael is spoken of twice in the Old Testament, and twice in the New. The first reference occurs in the Book of Daniel (chapter x), where Michael comes to comfort Daniel after he has had a vision, and promises to be his helper in all things. In Daniel xii, Michael is called "the great prince who standeth for the children of Thy people." In these references Michael is represented as Israel's great support during the seventy years of the Babylonian captivity. Daniel, wise and holy leader that he was, wanted his people to understand that God had not forgotten them, and that, even though enslaved, they had a royal champion. In the New Testament (Jude ix), we are told that Michael disputed with the devil over the body of Moses; this episode is not mentioned elsewhere in the Bible.

In the Apocalypse (chapter xii) we find the most dramatic reference to St. Michael. Here John recounts the great battle in Heaven, when the wicked angels under Lucifer revolt against God, and how Michael, leading the faithful angels, defeats the hosts of evil and drives them out. In this role he has been painted by many artists, and the poet Milton, in book vi of Paradise Lost, recounts the famous struggle. Because of this victory, St. Michael is revered in Catholic tradition and liturgy as the protector of the Church, as once he was regarded as the protector of the Israelites. In the Eastern Church, as well as among many theologians in the West, St Michael is placed over all the angels, as prince of the Seraphim. He is the special patron of sick people, mariners, and grocers; in Asia Minor many curative springs were dedicated to him. His cult has also been popular in Egypt, Rome, France, and Germany. His emblems are a banner, a sword, a dragon, and scales. The name Michael is a variation of Micah, meaning in Hebrew, "Who is like God?"