When the Barque of Peter is Tossed by Storms… Pray to St Michael Archangel!

From Fr George W. Rutler’s Weekly Column 

Saint Michael Archangel – Guido Reni

Nostalgia is a selective editing of the past. For instance, there are those who wish we had today some of the architects of thirteenth-century cathedrals, but who avoid mentioning thirteenth-century dentists. In recent times, the general conceit has been the opposite of nostalgia. The philosopher Owen Barfield spoke of “chronological snobbery,” defined as the belief that “intellectually, humanity languished for countless generations in the most childish errors on all sorts of crucial subjects, until it was redeemed by some scientific dictum of the last century.”

That snobbery had its heyday in the past generation, which defined itself as mankind finally “come of age.” Were that true, we should now be in the stage of incipient senility. Catholics are suffering from that period’s destructive arrogance. Just look at the circular churches and ugly music that replaced venerable shrines and chants. Characteristic of that polyester period was the underestimation of evil, which Pope Benedict XVI noticed even in some assertions of the Second Vatican Council. Without explanation, the Prayer to Saint Michael was dropped from the liturgical books in 1964. But “Satan and all the evil spirits” have not politely gone away.

That prayer was promulgated by Pope Leo XIII in 1884. Accounts variously claim that he was inspired by a vision of horrors to come in the twentieth century. Its use remained a private option after recitation of the prayer was dropped from the end of Mass, but in 1994 Pope Saint John Paul II, from his experience of travails in his native Poland, was not inclined to underestimate the power of the wickedness and snares of the devil: “I invite everyone not to forget it, but to recite it to obtain help in the battle against the forces of darkness and against the spirit of this world.”

Far from having “come of age,” chronological snobs have learned the hard way that theirs has been a prolonged adolescence. In our present cultural chaos, faced with moral decadence all around, the pope and bishops have asked that the Prayer to Saint Michael be restored at the conclusion of each Mass. In our parish we have not had to reinstate it because we never ceased to offer that prayer after Mass, sometimes to the consternation of a few who thought it retrograde. When the Barque of Peter is tossed by storms, it is time to bring the life jackets out of the storage where some liturgists hid them.

Our church is providentially dedicated to Saint Michael, and a month ago the Catholic News Service published a photograph of our own statue of him, based on the famous painting by Guido Reni. Generations ago, the people of “Hell’s Kitchen” knew that Michael and his sword would be a better defense in battle than liturgical dancers and the balloons of chronological snobs. They also knew, as Baudelaire said, that “The devil’s greatest trick is to persuade us that he does not exist.”

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5 Responses to When the Barque of Peter is Tossed by Storms… Pray to St Michael Archangel!

  1. Pingback: When the Barque of Peter is Tossed by Storms… Pray to St Michael Archangel! — « Medieval Otaku

  2. johnhenrycn says:

    I’m grateful CP&S has posted this reflection by Fr Rutler whose spot on my *favourites* bar was accidentally lost a while ago; but because I make it a practice to recite the Prayer to St Michael daily, and because I made my first Confession at a cathedral named in his honour, and because there is no mention of angels in the Holy Bible in anything other than the masculine gender, I cannot say I like the above image – famous though it may be – because it is feminized, which is not to say I don’t like women, because I do – so much so that I actually married one.
    There’s this wee church, Église de Sainte-Anne, in a wee village very close to my heart because I decided in my 17th year to convert at a famous shrine named in her honour. Procrastinator as I am, it took me another 38 years before I did so, but I last attended Mass at that wee church (which is not the aforementioned shrine) 5 years ago, which brings to mind this very young priest who is now pastor there and who wrote this excellent piece concerning the angel in question for a Catholic monthly over here. There’s a manly image of the angel at the top of his essay, which I much prefer to “the famous painting by Guido Reni” at the top of this one.

    Fr Scott Murray says that St Michael is called “Archistrategos”, the chief general of God’s army. So why depict him as a woman? Generals Pershing, Patton, Bradley, Marshall, Eisenhower and MacArthur are all weeping in Heaven. Or Purgatory.

  3. kathleen says:

    Great comment, JH, including some excellent links. (May God bless and protect faithful priests like Fr Scott Murray!)

    Studying the renowned painting of St Michael by Guido Reni in a bit more detail, I agree that the facial features are indeed strangely feminine. However, the rest of the body is undoubtedly masculine, don’t you think?: the warlike posture, strong broad torso, and muscular legs… albeit evidently those of a young man.

    Wikipedia tells us that: “The painting, completed in 1636, gave rise to an old legend that Reni had represented Satan—crushed under St Michael’s foot—with the facial features of Cardinal Giovanni Battista Pamphilj in revenge for a slight.”

    Wow! As everyone knows, Card. Pamphilj later became Pope Innocent X. Reni’s revenge in depicting him as Satan in his masterpiece naturally angered him a lot, but not much he could do about it.

  4. johnhenrycn says:

    Kathleen, I accept your observation that Reni’s masterpiece is a masculine one below the neck. What is the name of that Italian bishop who was recently depicted as a homosexual ascending into heaven in a painting now installed (I think) in his cathedral? Would that some latter day Reni could repeat his 17th century satire.

  5. kathleen says:

    JH, his name was Paglia, a smarmy member of the sodomitical lavender mafia, but appointed by Pope Francis nonetheless to head the Pontifical Pope JP2 Institute for Studies on Marriage and Family!! Honestly, it just belies belief, doesn’t it?
    HERE is our article from March 2017 on that blasphemous mural.

    We no longer have Guido Reni with us to repeat his satire, but we do have Eccles (see sidebar) to give us a good laugh … and possibly keep us from going round the bend in frustration.

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