One night, not too long after I committed to this crazy Catholic thing, I was laying in the dark of my bedroom, listening to my children sleeping. The baby was in a crib to my right, and my four-year old daughter was sleeping in a nest of blankets and pillows on the floor at the foot of my bed.
My husband worked the night shift at the time, and often didn’t get home until 3 a.m., but our day had been so full that I knew I’d be sound asleep before he silently opened the door and crept into bed.
The kids and I had been to the Missionaries of Charity convent in Memphis that afternoon, bringing a meal to serve the homeless women and children there. The Sisters all loved my daughter, and took great delight in draping their sari-like habits over her head to approximate what she’d look like if she joined their Order.
As I said, the whole Catholicism thing was new to me, having spent most of my adult life entrenched in New Age, occult, DIY spirituality. The notion of having children who may have vocations to religious life was something deeply, shockingly unknown to me, and I remember laying there in the darkness of that Memphis suburb, delightedly mulling over the possibility in my mind.
Oh sure, the girl was only four, and who knew where God would lead her, but I still allowed a pleasant daydream to play out, where she was this holy and faithful nun, setting the world on fire for Jesus- in a pretty sweet sari habit, to boot.
Then, suddenly, I couldn’t breathe. It was as if all the air had been sucked out of the room, and I had this wild, irrational, completely undeniable sense that there was a presence in the room, standing over my daughter. A fear gripped me, not the adrenaline-fueled fear of a horror movie or a bump in the night or even a near collision in a car. It was not a fight-or-flight fear, it was something deeper, beyond physical responses; it was something older and darker than man-made terrors.
I wanted to spring out of bed and rush to my daughter, to gather her in my arms and protect her from…whatever it was, but I couldn’t. I couldn’t breathe and I couldn’t move and I could barely think beyond registering that awful presence at the foot of my bed. In her sleep, I could hear my daughter roll over and groan.
Suddenly, the words of a prayer that I had only just learned, at the urging of my best friend, came to mind. Mustering up everything I could, my lips barely moved as I breathed out the words to the St. Michael prayer.
By the end of the prayer, the thing was gone. I could breathe and move again. I gathered up my still sleeping daughter and brought her into bed with me. I lay there, shocked and uncomprehending, until my husband came home. I never told him what happened. In fact, other than a sheepish retelling to my best friend a few days later, I’ve never told that story, but today is a good day for it.
Today, the Church honors the archangels, particularly the ones called by name in the Bible— Raphael, Gabriel and Michael.
The Catechism teaches us about angels:
“Angel” is the name of their office, not of their nature. If you seek the name of their nature, it is ‘spirit’; if you seek the name of their office, it is ‘angel’: from what they are, ‘spirit’, from what they do, “angel.” With their whole beings the angels are servants and messengers of God. Because they “always behold the face of my Father who is in heaven” they are the “mighty ones who do his word, hearkening to the voice of his word”.
As purely spiritual creatures angels have intelligence and will: they are personal and immortal creatures, surpassing in perfection all visible creatures, as the splendor of their glory bears witness.
–Catechism of the Catholic Church, 329-330
And so these created spirits, given the function of serving God, are called angels. Each one of us was set such a protector from the moment of conception, and we can call upon them to defend us bodily and spiritually.
In fact, the most well-known of angelic warriors is honored today in a special way. St. Michael, the first angel to stand against Lucifer’s rebellion, stood against the insistence that Lucifer was like a god, challenging that pride and deceit with the war cry that became his name: Michael- Who Is Like God? From the beginning, we see that angels, far from being fat babies with wings and golden curls, are fearsome defenders and protectors of the Truth.
It is good for us to ask the angels, particularly St. Michael, to stay close to us all the time. One, to help us check ourselves with a timely “Who Is Like God?” when our pride gets out of control, and two, to help us cast out the evil in our lives, whether it be interior thoughts, exterior actions, or dark spiritual attack when we least expect it.
St. Michael, 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, thrust into hell Satan,
And all evil sprits who prowl the earth,
Seeking the ruin of souls.