I was in my mid-twenties, taking part in a peaceful, pro-life Rosary walk, when the people leading the decades surprised me at the end by reciting a prayer that I did not know:
St. Michael the 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 Hosts,
cast into hell, Satan and all the evil spirits,
who prowl about the world seeking the ruin of souls.
The Prayer to St. Michael was new to me that day (back then, I had only recently learned how to pray the Rosary), but over the years that followed, it became one of the most important prayers in my life.
After composing the Prayer to St. Michael in the 19th century, Pope Leo XIII prescribed it to be said at the end of all Low Masses throughout the Christian world—a practice which, as I understand it, remained in place until the reforms of Vatican II. In 1994, Saint John Paul II called for a renewal of the devotion.
“Although today this prayer is no longer recited at the end of Mass,” he said, “I ask everyone not to forget it, and to recite it to obtain help in the battle against the forces of darkness and against the spirit of this world.”
The Prayer to St. Michael is a powerful devotion that we can turn to for help, not only at the end of Mass, but in many different circumstances in everyday life.
St. Michael Takes Care of Us and Our Families
In a homily given to newlyweds in 1940, (as recorded in the book Dear Newlyweds: Pope Pius XII Speaks to Married Couples), Pope Pius XII exhorted the faithful to invoke the patronage of St. Michael—not only at the hour of death, but in the many hours of life.
“You must not think that [Michael]…waits until the hour of death to manifest his goodness to mankind,” Pope Pius XII said. “How dear, then, his patronage ought to be to you, husbands and wives, in order to help you receive into this world the souls for which you will prepare a physical abode in obedience to the law of the Creator! And after this, Holy Michael will continue to assist you in your mission, taking care of you and your children.”
In our homes and workplaces, in a car or in the grocery store, in homeless shelters or in adoration—anywhere we go, at any time, we can ask for St. Michael’s protection over our loved ones and the everyday affairs that affect our lives. He hears our petitions for health and protection of mind, body, and spirit, and comes quickly to our assistance.
“Ask Holy Michael to keep from your homes the anxieties which children’s ill health, threats of epidemics, or actual crises cause to the hearts of parents,” Pope Pius XII said. “But the Church invokes the Archangel above all as protector of the health of souls, far more precious than bodily health, and always threatened by the contagion of evil.”
After reading Dear Newlyweds during our first year of marriage, my husband and I adopted the practice of stopping to pray the St. Michael prayer together any time we recognized the signs of our marriage being under spiritual attack. The enemy will attack Christian marriages, but God gives us the graces of sacramental marriage and the might of St. Michael to protect us. Whenever we sense unnecessary hurt, anger, frustration, or miscommunication coming between us, my husband or I will begin saying the St. Michael prayer, and the other person will join in.
I won’t lie to you. There have been times when I could barely get the words out. That’s the nature of spiritual attack—it is characterized by a strong resistance to prayer. Recognizing this, I must remember that I am in a battle, and in order to win, I must pray. It is an act of the will, and it is worth every ounce of effort. When we finish the prayer, a tangible grace enfolds us. The Archangel has arrived to defend us in battle.
“However much Satan strives to cast [men] into hell, so much the more the Archangel labors to bring them back to the paradise they lost,” Pope Pius XII said. When the enemy is plotting our destruction, St. Michael is arranging our protection.
“Let These Souls Not Fall into Darkness”
While I was in the midst of writing this article, I took a walk and came upon a husband and wife having an escalated argument in the street, in front of their child. At first, I didn’t know what to do. Then, I remembered that I was writing this article, and the Holy Spirit inspired me to pray the St. Michael prayer for them. It was a consolation to me, knowing that St. Michael would help this family.
To pray the St. Michael prayer for others is to imitate the Church, who invokes St. Michael on behalf of Her faithful. As Pope Pius XII noted, the prayer of the Offertory of the Mass for the Dead proclaims: “Let these souls not fall into darkness, but let the standard-bearer Michael bring them into the holy light.”
The St. Michael prayer is a treasure in the history of the Church. In its entirety, it is filled with supernatural grace and power; yet even if the only part we can remember to say into the darkness is the first line—“St. Michael the Archangel, defend us in battle”—we can be confident that this alone will be enough to bring this angelic protector to our side.
And when St. Michael is on our side, the enemy is defeated (Rev 12:7-9). As Pope Francis said in 2013, when he consecrated Vatican City to the Archangel’s protection, “St. Michael wins, because in him there is God who acts.”
May St. Michael, by the power of God, defend you, dear reader, and your loved ones, and all of those who most need his protection.