While Abp. Carlo Maria Viganò is rallying bishops and priests around the world for a communal "Exorcism against Satan and the Apostate Angels" on Holy Saturday, St. Michael is again flashing his sword as many faithful are again turning to him for protection during this time of universal strife.
The priests and townspeople in the Italian town of Gargano called on St. Michael the Archangel on Palm Sunday to help them in their fight against the Wuhan virus.
A famed statue of St. Michael with sword held high resides in the Sanctuary of Monte Sant'Angelo, a complex of structures built around a cave that has been a site of prayer and pilgrimage for centuries.
Usually the archangel's sword is taken out of its reliquary and carried in a procession on his feast day (September 29), but this exceptional year, while the world is being ravaged by disease, the sword was removed on Palm Sunday by the rector and processed along with the Blessed Sacrament and a relic of the Holy Cross (a gift brought back from a crusader in 1228) through the mountainous town in southeast Italy.
Il Timione, a Catholic Italian newspaper, described the event as "one of great impact" both "in terms of faith and history."
"To find a similar event," the newpaper said, "it is necessary to go back almost 400 years, to 1656 when the people had also pleaded to St. Michael to help them against the spread of [another] plague."
The rector from the Shrine, Fr. Ladislao Sucky, invoked the prince of the heavenly host:
Today we want to invoke him because as in the past, in the various moments of trial, of natural disasters, even of plague, our fathers in this place have invoked him and have always found his help. His intercession brought a prodigious salvation for Monte Sant'Angelo during the plague period of 1656. Today we invoke through his intercession the Lord to save not only Monte Sant'Angelo, but all Italy, all Gargano, all the world from this epidemic.
Gargano's mayor implored St. Michael on behalf of his fellow citizens, "Archangel Michael," he said, "[Gargano] is a city that kneels before you through my knees; it is a city that looks up to you through my eyes; it is a city that prays to you today through my voice."
"Accept this prayer of ours, defend with your sword our city, our country from this pandemic. Protect this people today as [in 1656]. Give them the strength to stay united in the face of this terrible emergency," the mayor added. "May this prayer of ours be a song that goes straight to God."
Saint Michael is believed to have made multiple appearances in the mountain town beginning in late A.D. 400, when a bishop, hesitant at first about who he was seeing, acquiecsed to the veracity of his visons after fasting and prayer. The cave-church was built following St. Michael's request and is believed to be the only building of worship in the Catholic Church consecrated by the archangel, earning its title of Celestial Basilica.
Saint Michael makes his presence felt in another powerful way in Gargano: The Sanctuary of Monte Sant'Angelo rests in the middle of a mysterious ley line that links seven sacred sites — all connected to the archangel — from Ireland to Israel.
The line cuts a perfectly straight swath for over 2,000 km across the heart of Europe. According to tradition, "The Sword of Saint Michael" represents the blow with which St. Michael sends the devil to Hell.
The seven holy sites, each with stories of St. Michael to tell, include
Archbishop Viganò's call to bishops and priests worldwide "to fight the common enemy of the whole human race" also represents a return to St. Michael many faithful had forgotten and is now being resurrected.
"Since the early days of the Church, the archangel has been venerated as the defender of God's rights, helping Christians to be steadfast in their fidelity to God in times of trial," Abp. Viganò said.
During the troubled times of the Wuhan virus — when the "common enemy" seems to have won many battles — the faithful are turning to St. Michael for protection, as they prepare for the victory of Easter and ponder these words from the Apocalypse: "And there was a great battle in heaven: Michael and his angels fought with the dragon, and the dragon fought, and his angels. And they prevailed not ... ." (12:7–8).