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FARNBOROUGH, England (ChurchMilitant.com) - Faithful Catholics around the world are invited to join Benedictine monks in England for a novena to St. Michael the Archangel.
The novena begins on Sept. 21 and runs through Sept. 29, the Feast of St. Michael. It's being initiated by the Benedictine monks of the historic St. Michael's Abbey in Farnborough, 30 kilometers outside of London.
The abbot of Farnborough, Right Reverend Dom Cuthbert Brogan, OSB, is urging people all over the world to join him and his fellow monks in nine successive days of prayer to the leader of God's army. He told Church Militant this week:
Our world and the Church find themselves facing great challenges today, which can only be overcome by spiritual remedies. What better than to unite our prayers with those of the Benedictine Order, who have engaged in this combat for more than 1500 years? Our monks, as they chant the daily round of offices, will be happy to join their prayers to yours in powerful unison, in asking St. Michael, head of the heavenly host, to intercede for your intentions.
Dom Cuthbert's abbey enjoys a storied and sacred history. It was founded in 1881 by Empress Eugénie, widow of Emperor Napoleon III, the last monarch of France.
The empress, her husband and their son, the prince imperial — exiled from France after the fall of the Second French Empire — found refuge in Farnborough. Grief-stricken after the death of her husband in 1873 and her son in 1879, the empress built the abbey as an imperial mausoleum and as a monastery. The abbey church was designed in spectacular gothic style by the renowned French architect Gabriel-Hippolyte Destailleur.
It is interesting to note that Empress Eugénie left her mark on history in another important way. Her belief in the healing waters of Lourdes eventually forced local officials to open the grotto site that had been barricaded by anti-Catholic government factions gaining power in France and Europe.
Shortly after Our Lady's apparitions to St. Bernadette in 1858, the two-year-old prince imperial contracted tuberculosis, often fatal at the time. While his father sought aid from the best doctors in France, Eugénie looked to the holy power of Lourdes, sending the prince's governess for some miraculous spring water.
Bypassing the barriers at the grotto, the governess returned with the miraculous water, which healed the young prince. This act of God compelled Napoleon to order the reopening of the grotto in the backwoods town of Lourdes. The foundress of the abbey thereby became an instrument of Our Lady in opening Lourdes to the world.
According to the abbey's website, the current community is "small and young," with the monks living "a traditional life of prayer, work and study according to the Rule of St. Benedict." Calling on the rich Benedictine tradition, they "focus on what is essential to the monastic life, the beauty of the liturgy, the chanting of the office, and manual work within the enclosure of the monastery."
Recalling that the liturgy is the source and summit of the faith, the monks say:
We try to celebrate [the liturgy] at Farnborough with the great attention, simplicity and beauty which are marks of the monastic tradition. Our liturgy is celebrated facing East, in Latin, and sung to Gregorian Chant. Our liturgical life goes hand in hand with our publishing and printing, which go back at Farnborough to our early French days.
On the beams of the apse above the high altar of the abbey church, a text (painted in French) reads: "St. Michael, our glorious patron, intercede before God for France and for England." Now the monks of the abbey, by the power of this novena, are asking their glorious patron to intercede before God for the whole world.
The monks know St. Michael is charged with the tasks of protecting those who love God and leading the battle against Satan and his works. They know this powerful angel is traditionally called upon to free those possessed in spiritual bondage. They know the position of archangel isn't one to be taken lightly. In this spirit, they invite all to join in the nine days of prayer.
The novena is being hosted by Hozana, an international online prayer forum with the goal of promoting the habit of prayer. An administrator of the forum told Church Militant:
Our goal is to gather as many people as possible in prayer through the internet. As people no longer practice their faith, or believe in God, we believe that we can reach out to people through the internet and encourage them to pick up the habit of praying.
Every day for the nine days of the novena, the registered will receive: