Michael is one of only two angels in the Christian Bible that is explicitly named, along with Gabriel. While Gabriel is known as God’s messenger, Michael is often referred to as the leader of God’s armies of angelic beings. He is the protector of heaven and of God’s chosen people, and he enforces the will of God by battling and subduing the demons, especially Satan. He is now regarded as the patron saint of police officers, paramedics, and the military.
About St. Michael
Michael is rare in the Catholic Church as a named saint that is not a human being. His influence as a member of the heavenly host is certainly great, but he should not be made an object of true worship on the same level as God Himself.
As an angel, Michael is a created being under God’s sovereign will. That being said, he has been given extraordinary authority over God’s heavenly forces and is legitimately named as an archangel in the Bible. He is told to battle directly with demonic forces, and according to the book of Revelation he will prevail against Satan in combat (under God’s divine strength and power) and will bind him up before God casts him into the eternal lake of fire.
The name Michael can be translated, “Who is like God?” from the original Hebrew name used in the text. Michael is a key heavenly figure in both the New and Old Testament, although he is not mentioned very often.
In the Old Testament or the Hebrew Bible, he is only named in the book of Daniel. During one of Daniel’s prophetic visions, the angel Michael is named as the protector of Israel that would be sent to deliver Israel from her enemies. Michael came to the aid of the angel who was sent to give Daniel his vision; that angel was prevented from ministering to Daniel for a period of time, but Michael came to his aid to help him arrive. He is also said to arise during the end times in Daniel’s final vision.
In the New Testament, Michael is specified by name in two books that deal with prophetic visions of the end of days. In the epistle of Jude, Michael is named as an angel who will confront Satan and rebuke him. In Revelation, Michael is the leader of the heavenly armies who will defeat Satan, bind him up, and cast him out of heaven into the earth.
Michael is regarded as an archangel, or leader of the angels, by textual inference and external tradition. Specifically, he is named as an archangel by the use of that term in the original Greek of the book of Jude. However, he is also ascribed this title in the Talmud, or the extra-biblical traditions of the Jews written before the time of Christ. Of the four archangels regarded in this tradition, Michael became most closely associated as the advocate and protector of Israel, to the point where some people would offer prayers directly to him.
This tradition also names Michael as the angel who directly intervened in the affairs of mankind. Some instances where Michael’s actions are identified are his deliverance of Isaac from being sacrificed by Abraham, preventing harm coming to the patriarchs like Lot and Jacob, and destroying the armies of the king of Assyria when they came before the city of Jerusalem to conquer it.
While Michael was not a human being, he has still been regarded as a saint in the Catholic Church because of his divinely-granted power and status in heaven. He is alternatively referred to as Holy Michael the Archangel, and in some litanies, he is named separately from other angels like Gabriel and Raphael.
Michael has four major roles in the Catholic Church. The first is to act as the leader of the armies of God, embodying the virtues of every spiritual warrior. The second role is to act as the angel of death, carrying the souls of all deceased persons into heaven; he is said to visit everyone in the hour before their death and offering a final chance at salvation, acting as an agent of deliverance from Satan’s minions. His third role involves dispensing the justice of God; he is often depicted in this role by holding a pair of scales. His fourth and final role is the defender of the church and her saints.
This final role is one of the more visible roles for St. Michael through the ages. Knights and armies in the Middle Ages would dedicate themselves to Michael’s protection before going into battle. There is also a liturgical prayer to Michael for defense and protection for both physical battles as well as spiritual battles.
St. Michael is considered the patron saint of chivalry and is also the patron saint of police officers, paramedics, and the military. This leads back to the medieval practice of offering prayers of protection from St. Michael. He shares this patronage with St. George, who was a human soldier whose ministry has also become closely associated with the virtues of chivalry and of soldiers going into battle. The sick and the suffering also consider Michael their patron saint, due to his ministry of deliverance.
Michael is often portrayed as a warrior and the chief of God’s angels. Because of the imagery used of him battling against a dragon in the book of Revelation, Michael is often shown treading on the head of a dragon. Other depictions show him engaged in his other roles of delivering souls and weighing their goodness on his scales. Most commonly, however, he is a warrior bearing a sword.
Other religions outside of Christianity ascribe honor to Michael as well. He is revered by Seventh-Day Adventists, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and Mormons. However, they believe that Michael is a pseudonym or heavenly identity for other characters named in Scripture. For example, Adventists and Jehovah’s Witnesses believe that Michael is another name for Jesus Himself, whereas Mormons believe that Michael is Adam reincarnated in heaven. He is also named in Islam as responsible for the forces of nature, and the progenitor of other angels. Even outside of a strict faith-based tradition, belief systems with elements of supernatural influence or general spirituality see Michael as battling the forces of darkness.
It is important to honor and respect the members of our armed forces and law enforcement. They have taken on the responsibility of protecting our cities and communities, as well as our nations from foreign interference and invasion. Under certain faith traditions, it is fitting that many of them choose to march under the banner and example of Michael, the archangel who presides over God’s angelic armed forces.
Michael’s role as protector of Israel, and later of all of God’s chosen people, is well established in Scripture and in extrabiblical traditions crafted by scholars and theologians over the centuries. We can rest assured that God will use any and all means to deliver us from the power of sin and that Michael will act under God’s loving hand to fight Satan’s armies and work God’s deliverance into His salvation forever.
Natalie Regoli is a child of God, devoted wife, and mother of two boys. She has a Masters Degree in Law from The University of Texas. Natalie has been published in several national journals and has been practicing law for 18 years.