Increased attacks on Catholic churches in Europe, the US, and South America; growing political tensions; and abortion still considered healthcare are enough to prove the spiritual battle is intensifying. And, when you add on a growing pandemic and horrific accidents killing many and injuring thousands, it is clear that human power only goes so far and the growing anxiety suggests we’re relying on ourselves rather than acknowledging our weakness and trustfully turning to God.
St. Michael’s Lent is our chance to fight back as one Catholic Church. Not fight back with screams and arguments but by living the beatitudes. It is a chance, like Lent, to quiet ourselves, deny ourselves, and silently pose the question to those around us “Who is like God?”
Though St. Michael’s Lent has begun a resurgence, it is still unknown to the majority of Catholics. A term given to the period between the Assumption, August 15, and the feast of St. Michael, September 29 by St. Francis of Assisi, St. Michael’s Lent is another period in the year to devote to prayer and fasting.
By its name, St. Michael’s Lent sounds like a period of intense prayer to St. Michael. While turning to St. Michael during this period is significant, and resources like the St. Michael’s chaplet and devotional St. Michael and the Angels can help, it wasn’t the sole focus for St. Francis. Remember that we also celebrate the Exultation of the Cross and the feast of Our Lady of Sorrows in September, and at least the feast of the Exaltation of the Cross would have been on the forefront of St. Francis’s mind. So, St. Francis began observing St. Michael’s Lent to grow closer to the crucified Lord and it was while meditating on the crucifixion during St. Michael’s Lent when St. Francis was blessed with the gift of stigmata.
So how do you practice a devotion that isn’t widely observed or rigidly structured? Don’t overthink it. Give something up, add to or strengthen your prayer routine, abstain from meat on Fridays if you don’t already, find some devotional reading that helps you meditate on the Cross. All of these are good places to start, but to make it more personal, consider what you did in spring? Can you add to your Lenten sacrifice or improve it? Is it time to start praying the Liturgy of the Hours?
Because St. Michael’s Lent isn’t an official season of the Church, there aren’t hard and fast rules on particular days you need to fast like Ash Wednesday or Good Friday. In fact, St. Michael’s Lent begins on a solemnity, which would be an inappropriate day to fast. But you can consider some of the other days in September. Increasing your fast on days like the feast of the Cross (September 14), the feast of Our Mother of Sorrows (September 15) or September 28, the day before St. Michael’s feast, might be useful to you.