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)
As we can see, the popes remind us often of the terrible presence of Satan among us. Additionally, the recommendation of Pope Pius XI strikes at the core of the false doctrines that are so prevalent in our century and that continue to poison the lives not only of theologians but of all people. The fact that the directives of Pius XI were not followed is the fault of those whose task it was to implement them. These directives were given before the Fatima apparitions became known throughout the world, and they were independent from—but were well in keeping with—the charismatic events with which the Lord blessed humanity through these apparitions.
The Gifts of Satan
Satan has the authority to give certain powers to his faithful. Since the devil is truly a liar, at times those who receive these powers either are not or do not want to be aware of their origin; they are all too happy to receive these free gifts. It may happen that one person is given the gift of clairvoyance. Others, simply by sitting in front of a blank piece of paper with a pen in their hands, are able to write page after page of spontaneous messages. Yet others feel that they can bilocate and that part of them can enter buildings even far away. It is very common for many to hear “a voice” that at times suggests prayers and at other times anything but prayers.
I could go on with the list. What is the source of these particular gifts? Are these charisms from the Holy Spirit? Is their origin satanic? Are these simply metaphysical gifts? To be able to discern the truth, we must turn to those who have experience in this matter. When Paul was at Thyatira, he was constantly followed by a slave woman who had the gift of clairvoyance and thereby earned much money for her masters. This was a gift that originated with Satan, and it disappeared immediately after Saint Paul expelled the evil spirit (Acts 16:16-18).
I will give the example of a witness who calls himself “Erasmus of Bari,” as published in the magazine Rinnovamento dello Spirito Santo in September 1987. The parenthetical notes are my own.
A few years ago, I experienced the game of the glass, without realizing that it was a form of spiritism. The messages that I received during this game spoke of peace and brotherhood (notice how the devil can conceal himself under the appearance of good deeds). Sometime later, while I was in Lourdes practicing my ministry, I was given strange faculties (this is also noteworthy; there are no places, no matter how sacred, where the devil cannot enter).
Parapsychology defines the faculties that I was given as extrasensorial, that is, clairvoyance, mind reading, medical diagnosing, reading of hearts and lives of people both living and dead, and other powers. A few months later I received another faculty: the ability to take away pain merely by the imposition of hands. I could eliminate or alleviate any sort of suffering; could this be “prana therapy”?
With all these powers, I had no difficulty contacting people, but after our meetings, they would walk away, shocked at my conversation and profoundly disturbed because I could see in their soul, and condemned the sins that they committed. However, as I was reading God’s word, I realized that nothing had changed in my life. I continued to be quick to anger, slow in pardoning, easily resentful, and given to take offense at nothing. I was afraid to pick up my cross, I was afraid of the future and of death.
After a long journey in search of answers and many painful experiences, Jesus directed me to the renewal movement. There, I found brothers who prayed over me, and we realized that what happened to me was of diabolical origin, and not divine. I can witness that I have seen the power of the Name of Jesus. I recognized and confessed my past sins, I rejected every form of the occult. These powers came to an end and God forgave me; for this, I thank him.
Let us not forget that the Bible gives us examples of extraordinary deeds performed by God and by the devil. Some of the wonders that Moses performed at God’s command before Pharaoh were mimicked by the court’s magicians. That is why wonders of this kind, taken by themselves, do not point to their source.
Often those who are struck by evil disturbances are gifted with particular “sensitivities.” For instance, they are able immediately to sense negativity in others, they can foresee future events, or at times they have a strong tendency to “lay hands” on psychologically fragile people. Other times they feel that they can influence others’ lives, wishing them ill with a meanness, almost a dominance, that comes from within. I have witnessed that there is only one way to be healed of these disturbances; that is to fight and conquer these tendencies.
It is also advisable to enlist the classic spiritual weapons against any form of demonic temptation or obsession: the Crucifix, Holy Water, and the Rosary. – Ed. Fr. Gabriele Amorth is the Chief Exorcist of Rome and one of the world’s foremost authorities on demonology. This article was excerpted from An Excorcist Tells His Story, Ignatius, 1999.
(1) Civiltà cattolica, 1930, vol. 3.