As the battle between the Woman and the Serpent rages more fiercely, it has become all the more helpful to understand the techniques of the Adversary and how we can fight them. With this end in mind we present the following article by Fr. Gabriele Amorth on both the history of the prayer to St. Michael composed by Pope Leo XIII and the pseudo-mystical gifts that Satan can bestow on his faithful to lead them into error. – Ed.
Many people will remember that, before the reforms of the Second Vatican Council, at the end of every Mass the celebrant and the faithful knelt to recite a prayer to Mary and one to Michael the Archangel. This is a very beautiful prayer and brings great benefits to all those who pray it.
Saint Michael the Archangel, defend us in battle, be our protector 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 evil spirits who wander through the world for the ruin of souls. Amen.
What are the origins of this prayer? Here is what the magazine Ephemerides Liturgicae reported in 1995 on pages 58-59:
Father Domenico Pechenino writes: “I do not remember the exact year. One morning the great Pope Leo XIII had celebrated a Mass and, as usual, was attending a Mass of thanksgiving. Suddenly, we saw him raise his head and stare at something above the celebrant’s head. He was staring motionlessly, without batting an eye. His expression was one of horror and awe; the color and look on his face changing rapidly. Something unusual and grave was happening in him.”
“Finally, as though coming to his senses, he lightly but firmly tapped his hand and rose to his feet. He headed for his private office. His retinue followed anxiously and solicitously, whispering: ‘Holy Father, are you not feeling well? Do you need anything?’ He answered: ‘Nothing, nothing.’ About half an hour later, he called for the Secretary of the Congregation of Rites and, handing him a sheet of paper, requested that it be printed and sent to all the ordinaries around the world. What was that paper? It was the prayer that we recite with the people at the end of every Mass. It is the plea to Mary and the passionate request to the Prince of the heavenly host, beseeching God to send Satan back to hell.”
Pope Leo XIII instructed to kneel during those prayers. What we just reported was published in the newspaper La settimana del clero, March 30, 1947, but it does not give the source of the information. However, we were able to verify that the prayer was indeed sent to the ordinaries in 1886, under unusual circumstances. A reliable witness, Cardinal Nasalli Rocca, in his 1946 Lenten Pastoral Letter to the Diocese of Bologna, wrote: “Leo XIII himself wrote that prayer. The sentence ‘The evil spirits who wander through the world for the ruin of souls’ has a historical explanation that was many times repeated by his private secretary, Monsignor Rinaldo Angeli. Leo XIII truly saw, in a vision, demonic spirits who were congregating on the Eternal City (Rome). The prayer that he asked all the Church to recite was the fruit of that experience. He would recite that prayer with strong, powerful voice: we heard it many a time in the Vatican Basilica. Leo XIII also personally wrote an exorcism that is included in the Roman Ritual (1954 edition, XII, C. Ill, p. 863 and following). He recommended that bishops and priests read these exorcisms often in their dioceses and parishes. He himself would recite them often throughout the day.”
Another interesting factor attests to the value of the prayers that we used to recite after every Mass. Pius XI added a particular intention for the conversion of Russia (allocution of June 30, 1930). In this allocution, after reminding all to pray for Russia, and of the religious persecution in Russia, he closed with the following sentence: “Let us proclaim the prayers that our great predecessor, Leo XIII, directed all priests and the faithful to pray at the end of the Mass, for the particular intention of the conversion of Russia. Let all bishops and clergy so inform everyone who is present at the Holy Sacrifice, and remind them often.” (1)