In the corners of Christendom that celebrate saints’ days, today is the feast day of St. Michael and all Angels. As I was searching the web for pictures of St. Michael, I was surprised to find that, along with Guido Reni’s famous painting of St. Michael Crushing Satan, there were a great number of St. Michael tattoos–including some interesting variations in apparel and weaponry. St. Michael, of course, is the coolest angel for tattoo purposes. He’s a protector and champion, he carries a lance or a sword, and he gets to bruise the devil under his feet. But Michael is also the patron saint of police officers, paratroopers, fighter pilots, soldiers, fencers, and grocers–and that is why so many people are getting inked. Perhaps these days a tattoo takes the place of the more traditional saints’ medal.
There are numerous prayers addressed to St. Michael; two of them caught my attention. The first is related to a famous story of a young Marine saved by St. Michael in Korea. You could learn this verse as a child and carry it with you through a lifetime.
Michael, Michael of the morning,
Fresh corps of Heaven adorning,
Keep me safe today,
And in time of temptation
Drive the devil away.
The second prayer is said to be a police officer’s prayer:
Saint Michael, heaven’s glorious commissioner of police, who once so neatly and successfully cleared God’s premises of all its undesirables, look with kindly and professional eyes on your earthly force.
Give us cool heads, stout hearts, and uncanny flair for investigation and wise judgement. Make us the terror of burglars, the friend of children and law-abiding citizens, kind to strangers, polite to bores, strict with law-breakers and impervious to temptations.
You know, Saint Michael, from your own experiences with the devil that the police officer’s lot on earth is not always a happy one; but your sense of duty that so pleased God, your hard knocks that so surprised the devil, and your angelic self-control give us inspiration.
And when we lay down our night sticks, enroll us in your heavenly force, where we will be as proud to guard the throne of God as we have been to guard the city of all the people. Amen.
Sometimes an expression of faith is highly personal and not at all institutional. It can be wild and uncontrollable; without official sanction, but not without meaning. Sometimes you know the sinners by their saints.