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Commentary | June 20, 2014

Chaplain's Corner: Saint Michael, patron saint of the airborne, military

By Army Chaplain (Capt.) Paul Lynn 1-40th Cavalry Chaplain

The "Chaplain's Corner" offers perspectives to enhance spiritual/religious resiliency in support of Air Force and Army Comprehensive Fitness programs.

Comments regarding specific beliefs, practices, or behaviors are strictly those of the author and do not convey  endorsement by the U.S. government, the Department of Defense, the Army, the Air Force, Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, or the 673d Air Base Wing.

A few years back, I was roaming through the Barnes and Noble bookstore and stumbled across a volume which caught my attention.
Titled "The Sword of St. Michael: The 82nd Airborne Division in World War II," it opens with a quote from John Milton's book, Paradise Lost:

"... but the Sword
Of Michael from the Armorie of God
Was giv'n him tempered so, that neither keen
Nor solid might resist the edge: it met
The sword of Satan with steep force to smite
Descending, in half cut sheere, nor staid,
But with swift wheele reverse, deep entering shar'd
All his right side; then Satan knew first pain ..."

The highly spiritual and religious quote cited above can spark a chill down one's spine.

This is the battle between good and evil crafted in poetic fashion.

But, what is the origin of this fierce spiritual warrior, Saint Michael, the patron of the airborne?

Three major religions, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam all cite Michael as a great figure to be revered.

He's mentioned in the Hebrew Bible, the Christian New Testament, and the Quran.
The name Michael means "Who is like God?" in Hebrew.

The ultimate answer to his name is "no one."

The Bible records Michael's name with the title, archangel, which means "chief angel."
He is one of the chief angels of the heavenly army doing God's bidding in the fight against spiritual evil.

The Catholic Church has listed an additional title - saint, meaning holy one.

So, what is the historical link between Saint Michael and the military community?

During medieval times the Catholic Church chose Michael to be the patron of the military.

As a patron saint, he was an advocate and intercessor to God on behalf of the military.

According to the holy texts, there is a continuous spiritual war between good and evil going on, and it is fleshed out on the battlefield in both heaven and earth.

This spiritual battle is described in the Apostle Paul's Letter to the Church at Ephesus.

In Ephesians 6:10, he wrote, "For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, and against the authorities, and against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places."

Christian religious texts say there is a relationship between our prayers to God, the archangel Michael's fight in the heavenly areas, and how our lives are affected on earth.
To say it another way, there is a correlation between a service member's prayers and Michael's heavenly fight against evil.

Our prayers fuel Michael's fight, which in turn provides us with protection and assistance.

One can easily see why Saint Michael would be adopted as the patron of the airborne paratrooper in World War II.

There was great evil that needed to be conquered, both in Europe and in the Pacific.

Saint Michael is a symbol for us as a spiritual warrior, who stands ready to fight on behalf of the good.

He is, in a sense, a captivating and encouraging symbol.

For many who believe, we are drawn to God through Michael as a symbol of protection and assistance in the midst of a dangerous employment.

We take great comfort that God has placed such an advocate on the side of the good to help us succeed.

This is the faith we bring to the fight.