In my travels around the country, I’ve encountered a few places where the bishop has mandated that this prayer be said at the end of every Mass in the diocese. This was a common practice before the liturgical reforms of Vatican II.
Now another diocese has added the prayer: Bishop Frank Caggiano of Bridgeport has asked that parishes begin saying this prayer at the end of each and every Mass, effective September 15, the Memorial of Our Lady of Sorrows.
This prayer has an interesting history:
The ‘Leonine Prayers’ originated in 1884, when Pope Leo XIII ordered certain prayers to be said after Low Mass, in defense of the independence of the Holy See. God’s help was sought for a satisfactory solution to the loss of the Pope’s temporal sovereignty, which deprived him of the independence felt to be required for effective use of his spiritual authority. The prayer to St Michael described above was added to the Leonine Prayers in 1886.
The Pope’s status as a temporal leader was restored in 1929 by the creation of the State of Vatican City, and in the following year, Pope Pius XI ordered that the intention for which these prayers should from then on be offered was “to permit tranquility and freedom to profess the faith to be restored to the afflicted people of Russia”.
The practice of reciting this and the other Leonine prayers after Mass was officially suppressed by the 26 September 1964 Instruction Inter Oecumenici which came into effect on 7 March 1965.
Removing the obligation to recite this prayer (along with the three Hail Mary’s, the Hail Holy Queen, and the prayer for the Church) after Low Mass did not mean forbidding its use either privately or publicly in other circumstances, but not at Mass time. And thirty years later in his Regina Caeli Address on Sunday 24 April 1994, Pope John Paul II recommended its use, saying:
May prayer strengthen us for the spiritual battle that the Letter to the Ephesians speaks of: ‘Be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might’ (Ephesians 6:10). The Book of Revelation refers to this same battle, recalling before our eyes the image of St Michael the Archangel (cf. Revelation 12:7). Pope Leo XIII certainly had this picture in mind when, at the end of the last century, he brought in, throughout the Church, a special prayer to St Michael: ‘Saint Michael the Archangel, defend us in battle. Be our protection against the wickedness and snares of the devil…’ Although this prayer is no longer recited at the end of Mass, I ask everyone not to forget it and to recite it to obtain help in the battle against the forces of darkness and against the spirit of this world.
My wife and I say this prayer daily, at the end of our morning prayers. It can only help.
And right now, let’s face it: we all need all the help we can get.