Today we are celebrating a lesser known feast of St. Michael the Archangel, no longer on the liturgical calendar, which commemorates his appearance in a cave on Mount Gargano in Italy in the fifth century. Here is the story behind the feast, according to Dom Gueranger:
A celebrated apparition of the Archangel took place, under the Pontificate of Gelasius I, in Apulia, on the top of Mount Gargano, at whose foot lies the town of Siponto.
A bull belonging to a man who lived on the mountain, having strayed from the herd, was, after much searching, found hemmed fast in the mouth of a cave. One of its pursuers shot an arrow, with a view to rouse the animal by a wound; but the arrow rebounding struck him that sent it. This circumstance excited so much fear in the bystanders and in them who heard of it, that no one dared to go near the cave. The inhabitants of Siponto, therefore, consulted the Bishop; he answered that in order to know God’s will, they must spend three days in fasting and prayer.
At the end of the three days, the Archangel Michael warned the Bishop that the place was under his protection, and that what had occurred was an indication of his will that God should be worshiped there, in honor of himself and the Angels. Whereupon the Bishop repaired to the cave, together with his people. They found it like a church in shape, and began to use it for the celebration of the divine offices. Many miracles were afterward wrought there. Not long after, Pope Boniface dedicated a church in honor of St. Michael in the great Circus of Rome, on the third of the Kalends of October (September 29), the day on which the Church celebrates the memory of all the Angels. But today’s Feast is kept in commemoration of the Apparition of St. Michael the Archangel.
St. Michael has long been the special protector of God’s children, from the ancient Israelites in the Old Testament, up to our own times. And he will assist us in days to come as well, even in times of great tribulation and persecution – another good reason why we should have a devotion to this great saint. We are caught up in the middle of a great spiritual battle, which is revealed concretely in world events. As Fr. Amorth recently said, speaking about ISIS and the West’s lack of response to Christian persecution, “Things first happen in the spiritual realms, then they are made concrete on this earth…there are only two spiritual realms: The Holy Spirit and the demonic spirit…evil is disguised in various ways: political, religious, cultural, and it has one source of inspiration: the devil. As a Christian I fight the beast spiritually.”
This brings to mind another quote, recently sent to us by a friend, which is from then Cardinal Karol Wojtyla, in his address to the 1976 Eucharistic Congress in Philadelphia. This quote is not without controversy, as it is found only in one source, and not the official text. One blogger claims to have heard the controversial words in person, when Cardinal Wojtyla addressed a group in Michigan (you can read more about that here. Controversy aside, here is the quote:
We are now standing in the face of the greatest historical confrontation humanity has gone through. I do not think that wide circles of the American society or wide circles of the Christian community realize this fully. We are now facing the final confrontation between the Church and the anti-Church, of the Gospel and the anti-Gospel. This confrontation lies within the plans of divine providence. It is a trial which the whole Church… must take up. —Cardinal Karol Wojtyla (JOHN PAUL II), reprinted November 9, 1978, issue of The Wall Street Journal from a 1976 speech to the American Bishops
A few years after his address in Philadelphia the recently elected Pope John Paul II had this to say:
We must be prepared to undergo great trials in the not-too-distant future; trials that will require us to be ready to give up even our lives, and a total gift of self to Christ and for Christ. Through your prayers and mine, it is possible to alleviate this tribulation, but it is no longer possible to avert it, because it is only in this way that the Church can be effectively renewed. How many times, indeed, has the renewal of the Church been effected in blood? This time, again, it will not be otherwise. We must be strong, we must prepare ourselves, we must entrust ourselves to Christ and to His Mother, and we must
be attentive, very attentive, to the prayer of the Rosary. – John Paul II, interview with Catholics at Fulda, Germany, Nov. 1980, p. 51.
We take up this trial through personal holiness. No one will be exempt from involvement, so don’t think you can sit this one out. We are all lacking in personal holiness, but holy or not, we are all swept up into the great battle between God and satan. If we haven’t answered the call to holiness up to now, then it’s time to get started. Discouragement is the weapon of our enemy, so dismiss his lies that you can never achieve holiness, that you can never be worthy. God looks for our fidelity, not our perfection. It is in persevering fidelity that we can reach perfection.
In these days we must turn to the Sacraments, especially confession and the Eucharist, Our Lady and her Rosary, and St. Michael, the prince of the heavenly host, who will battle and defeat the prince of this world. “Couragio!,” as Padre Pio liked to say. The task of saving souls might be frightening because of the heavy responsibility God has entrusted to us, but it is also a privilege that the God of all creation, Our Father, asks us poor creatures to help build His Kingdom. If we are up for the task we can be sure that His abundant grace will sustain us.