St. Michael

The devastation wrought by Hurricane Michael came at a critical juncture in US history and in the life of the Church. What can we learn from this alignment?

As President Trump continued his dismissal of climate change last week, Hurricane Michael grew stronger and quicker than forecasts expected. It smashed into Florida and bullied its way northeast, devastating pretty much everything—and everyone—in its path.

At the same time, a different kind of storm was buffeting the Church.

In Rome, a global synod with and about youth had become a focal point of months and years of ideological bickering—bickering that of late grew fierce with revelations in the Americas of clerical sexual abuse of minors and against seminarians. Topping off all this was debate over Rome’s new diplomatic agreement with China, which some say was a betrayal to already persecuted Catholics in that troubled nation.

It’s been quite a week. And from the looks of things, more storms are brewing.

The question is, what lessons can we learn to prepare?

Our answers can be found always in Jesus Christ. Our home will always be His Church. And our role models will always be the saints—and here we should pause and consider something extraordinary happening this Sunday.

Capping off a busy first week of the Synod on Young People, the Faith and Vocational Discernment is Sunday’s elevation to sainthood of seven diverse souls. These are men and women whose lives showcase how God’s grace elevates the ebbs and flows of human history.

Catholic News Agency has a particularly helpful look at the saintly seven. But two among them deserve our attention.

I consider it one of Pope Francis’s most brilliant moves to canonize together Blessed Pope Paul VI and Blessed Oscar Romero. The former is a hero of the ideological right—with his inspired teachings on human life—while the latter is a hero of the left, with his heroic teachings and actions for the betterment of the poor in El Salvador.

To make sure we all get the point, Pope Francis will wear the chalice and pallium of Blessed Paul VI and use his staff at the Mass of Canonization, while wearing the blood-stained cincture of Blessed Oscar Romero. (Read the pontiff's homily here. As an aside, I wished it went further in the theme of unity.)

In other words, at that liturgy will be the union of the blood of Christ and the blood of men, the teachings of a pontiff—unpopular, vilified teachings on human life—and the sometimes unpopular wisdom of an in-the-trenches pastor and martyr.

To help those impacted by Hurricane Michael, please donate now to Catholic Charities of Northwest Florida.

Given that eco issues—climate change in particular—are so polarizing, let us take two lessons from all this:

First, the Holy Spirit actually may be reaching out to our ideological opposites; and second, so must we. (I dig into the how of that in two posts: one on the left reaching out to the right, and the second on the reverse of that process.)

The need to unite division is all the more apparent in the aftermath of Michael—and of all the storms and flooding the world over, all the wildfires and droughts. Our alternative is continuing tribal strife, but that will take us only in directions of greater and deadlier harm.

The choice is ours to make.

Of course, Our Lord offers help. He offers us His grace and the intercession of the saints. In particular, he offers a spiritual army for our mostly spiritual war. He especially offers us a particular saint—an archangel—to help with our battles.

After all, Satan—the fallen, pride-filled angel who prowls among us seeking the ruin of souls—has a quite formidable enemy.

This is Michael—a name of late in the news, a name that should be always on our lips.

The protection offered by Saint Michael is real and needed. Where Satan seeks division, Saint Michael brings comradery. Where Satan seeks turmoil, Saint Michael brings peace. Where Satan temps us and seeks to instill fear, Saint Michael brings strength, trust, and hope.

How demonic that a storm named after the great Saint Michael would become so strong and create such havoc. But how grace-filled it is that the actual Saint Michael remains with us so that humanity may yet learn to love our neighbors and protect creation for the good of all humanity.

Perhaps this is yet another reason that parishes should return to the old custom of praying the Prayer to Saint Michael after communion. Now wouldn't that be a bridge-building step!

For now, besides engaging in worldly assistance for those who need it, let us pray to Saints Maria Katharina Kasper, Nazaria Ignacia March Mesa, Nunzio Sulprizio, Francesco Spinelli, Vincent Romano, Oscar Romero, and Paul VI for unity within the Church and within the worldly sphere so that together we can protect human life and all creation.

And may Saint Michael the Archangel defend us in battle.

May he be our defense against the wickedness and snares of the Devil.

May God rebuke him, we humbly pray,

and do thou, O Prince of the heavenly hosts,

by the power of God, thrust into hell Satan,

and all the evil spirits, who prowl about the world

seeking the ruin of souls and the destruction of the Church.

Amen.


Photo: Flickr/The National Guard

About the Blog

Catholic Ecology posts my regular column in the Rhode Island Catholic, as well as scientific and theological commentary about the latest eco-news, both within and outside of the Catholic Church. What is contained herein is but one person's attempt to teach and defend the Church's teachings - ecological and otherwise. As such, I offer all contents of this blog for approval of the bishops of the Church. It is my hope that nothing herein will lead anyone astray from truth.