(and you thought it was just a purple flower)
Actually today is the Feast Day of Sts. Michael, Gabriel and Raphael - yes, those famous archangels. St. Michael used to have this day all to himself - hence, Michaelmas - but changes in the General Roman Calendar now have him sharing the spot with Gabriel and Raphael. Although one can't seem to turn around these days without bumping into an 'angel' (I think mass-market saturation has most definitely been achieved...), much of the purported information out there on these celestial creatures stems from the questionable miasma known as the New Age. So, in counterpoint, here's some cool facts from a more traditional source:
- The name angel means servant or messenger of God.
- Angels have intellect and will, and are immortal. They are a vast mulitude, but each is an individual person.
- The name of the archangel Michael means, in Hebrew, who is like unto God? and he is also known as "the prince of the heavenly host".
- Michaelmas lore: In England this is one of the "quarter days", which was marked by hiring servants, electing magistrates, and beginning of legal and university terms. This day also marks the opening of the deer and other large game hunting season. In some parts of Europe, especially Germany, Denmark, and Austria, a special wine called "Saint Michael's Love" (Michelsminne) is drunk on this day. The foods for this day vary depending on nationality. In the British Isles, for example, goose was the traditional meal for Michaelmas, eaten for prosperity, France has waffles or Gaufres and the traditional fare in Scotland used to be St. Michael's Bannock (Struan Micheil) — a large, scone-like cake. In Italy, gnocchi is the traditional fare.
- St. Michael is the patron saint of numerous people and places, but the ones I liked best were: artists, hatmakers, and that famous heart of Europaland ™*: Brussels, Belgium.
- In 590, a great plague struck Rome. Pope St. Gregory the Great led a procession through the streets as an act of penance, seeking the forgiveness of and atoning for sin. At the tomb of Hadrian (now Castle Sant'Angelo near St. Peter's Basilica), St. Michael appeared and sheathed his sword, indicating the end of the plague. The Holy Father later built a chapel at the top of the tomb and to this day a large statue of St. Michael rests there. [source]
- St. Gabriel's name means "God is my strength".
- Biblically he appears three times as a messenger.
- (Of course, you know the most famous of those 'messenger occasions', right?)
- Neat patron connections: diplomats, radio workers and stamp collectors. (Think he'd take on bloggers? We're messengers, after all. But how on earth does one ask him?!)
- Archangel Raphael's mission as wonderful healer and fellow traveller with the youthful Tobias (Book of Tobit) has caused him to be invoked for journeys and at critical moments in life.
- Tradition holds that Raphael is the angel that stirred the waters at the healing sheep pool in Bethesda.
- His name means "God has healed".
- Selected patron roles: of the blind, happy meetings (as in committees? that'd be cool...), young people leaving home for the first time, and the Archdiocese of Dubuque, Iowa.
Pope Leo XIII (d. 1903) had a prophetic vision of the coming century of sorrow and war. After celebrating Mass, the Holy Father was conferring with his cardinals. Suddenly, he fell to the floor. The cardinals immediately called for a doctor. No pulse was detected, and the Holy Father was feared dead. Just as suddenly, Pope Leo awoke and said, "What a horrible picture I was permitted to see!" In this vision, God gave Satan the choice of one century in which to do his worst work against the Church. The devil chose the twentieth century. So moved was the Holy Father from this vision that he composed the prayer to St. Michael the Archangel: "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 host, by the power of God, thrust into Hell Satan and all the other evil spirits who roam about the world seeking the ruin of souls." Pope Leo ordered this prayer said at the conclusion of Mass in 1886. (When Pope Paul VI issued the Novus Ordo of the Mass in 1968, the prayer to St. Michael and the reading of the "last gospel" at the end of the Mass were suppressed.)Well, I've taught Pope Leo's prayer to my kids and we say it each day, along with the Guardian Angel prayer (and a few more) .
In the spring of 1994, our Holy Father, Pope John Paul II, urged the faithful to offer the prayer to St. Michael the Archangel. He also made the strong suggestion that the recitation of the prayer be instituted at Mass once again. [source]
And if you're looking for another reason to celebrate angels, Guardian Angels Feast Day is coming right up - October 2nd. In these times especially, it would seem prudent, at the very least, to enlist all the heavenly help we can get...