29 September: Feast of Saints Michael, Gabriel & Raphael, Archangels. This feast, also known as “Michaelmas,” was a Holy Day of Obligation until the 18th century. The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches that “The existence of the spiritual, non-corporeal beings that Sacred Scripture usually calls “angels” is a truth of faith. The witness of Scripture is as clear as the unanimity of Tradition.” Archangels are one of the nine choirs of angels listed in the Bible. (In ascending order, the choirs or classes are: Angels, Archangels, Principalities, Powers, Virtues, Dominations, Thrones, Cherubim, and Seraphim.) St. Michael’s name means “Who is like unto God?” and he is known as the Prince of the heavenly host. St. Michael’s task is doing battle against Satan and all his evil followers. His name appears in Scripture four times. He is usually depicted as a mighty warrior and is known as a champion of justice; the guardian of the Church; the protector and defender the friends of God. We invoke St. Michael for help in the fight against evil and to rescue souls from Satan, especially at the hour of death. St. Gabriel’s name means “God is my strength” and he appears as a messenger in the Bible three times (to the prophet Daniel; to Zachariah announcing the birth of John the Baptist; and to Mary at the Annunciation). St. Gabriel’s famous greeting to Mary at the Annunciation was Hail Mary, full of grace. St. Raphael’s name means “God has healed.” Knowledge of St. Raphael comes from the book of Tobit. His mission as healer and fellow traveler with Tobias has caused him to be invoked for journeys and at critical moments in life. Tradition also holds that Raphael is the angel that stirred the waters at the healing pool in Bethesda. Another angelic feast is celebrated this week on 2 October: Feast of the Guardian Angels. “From infancy to death human life is surrounded by their watchful care and protection. Beside each believer stands an angel as protector and shepherd leading him to life.” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 336) St. Bernard wrote “…the angels are here; they are at your side, they are with you, present on your behalf. They are here to protect you and to serve you.” God has given each of us the incredible gift of a guardian angel – they will protect us and help us attain eternal salvation. “For he will give his angels charge of you to guard you in all your ways.” (Psalm 91:11)
Ideas for celebrating this feast day at home:
- Memorize the Prayer to St. Michael the Archangel. Pray it daily for protection from evil!
- In honor of St. Gabriel, Learn theAngelus. Traditionally, it is prayed at 6 and 12 o’clock
- Make recipes related to Michaelmas. Michael Bannock bread is traditionally served with roasted goose and carrots. Roasted chicken or Cornish hens work, too! (Easiest option is picking up a hot rotisserie chicken from the store!) Other ideas: angel food cake, devil’s food cake, angel hair pasta, or deviled eggs. For extra fun, poke cocktail swords (or little toy swords from play action figures) into your food! Decorate with white as symbolic of the angels.
- Do you have any angel-shaped Christmas cookie cutters? Use them to trace and color angels to decorate. OR, bake up some sugar cookies in angelic shapes.
- Folklore says Michaelmas is the last day that blackberries can be picked and eaten because when St. Michael expelled the devil from heaven, he fell from the skies and landed in a prickly blackberry bush. Satan cursed the fruit, stamped and spat on it, making it unfit for eating. So, on this feast day: enjoy blackberry wine or buy fresh blackberries to put on oatmeal, bake some into a pie or cobbler (recipe idea here), or top an angel food cake with blackberries.
- Saint Michael is the patron saint of police officers. This is the perfect day to stop by your local police station with thanks and treats. Tell them that it’s their feast day so you brought some food for feasting and you are praying for them.
- Don’t forget to memorize the Prayer to your Guardian Angel on October 2!