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Christine LenahanSeptember 29, 2023
Statue of St. Michael the Archangel in Gasson Hall at Boston College. (Philip Huckins, July 25, 2015)

A Reflection for the Feast of Sts. Michael, Gabriel, and Raphael, archangels

Find today’s readings here

“Michael and his angels battled against the dragon.
The dragon and its angels fought back,
but they did not prevail
and there was no longer any place for them in heaven”

Every Wednesday throughout my senior year of college, I introduced Michael.

His large wings cast dancing shadows across the swirling marble floors. His face is somewhat stoic, but his body language tells another story. In one hand he carries a brass sword, swung high above his head, his marble body fluid in motion. He stands atop Satan, whose face is curled in a scowl at Michael, his final assailant.

The statue “St. Michael Conquering Lucifer” stands center in the rotunda of Gasson Hall on Boston College’s campus. Commissioned as a gift to the university in 1865, the statue has become an iconic element of the campus. As a campus tour guide during the years of my undergraduate studies at BC, I’ve walked hundreds of prospective students and their families through the rotunda of BC’s most photogenic building (with an Instagram page to prove it).

These prospective students, charged with the anxiety and excitement of the college application process, are consistently floored by the sheer beauty of Gasson Hall. The oil paintings tinged green from generations of sun exposure spanning the high ceilings and the grandeur of the gothic architecture stop hustling students and awe-struck visitors in their tracks. Yet it is impossible to miss the statue of St. Michael The Archangel, chiseled in gleaming white marble.

I always took my Wednesday afternoon campus tours through the Gasson Hall rotunda. Of course, I wanted to show off the best and most beautiful parts of campus, but I liked to pause at the image of Michael conquering Satan because it is an apt representation of what it means to defend what you love.

On the feast day of St. Michael the Archangel, we remember what it takes to defend what we love and to be brave enough to honor what we believe in.

There is a certain kind of responsibility when wearing the gold name tag of the campus tour guide. You are a storyteller, statistic reciter, master of walking backward and talking with your hands. At times, you are a consoler of the worrywart student (no, that A- you got in freshman year Latin will not deter your application.)

Most of all, as a tour guide you are the defender of the institution you represent. You have to defend what you love. For instance:

“I heard the dining hall food is bad.”

No! Just avoid the seafood stew on Fridays during Lent.

“I heard it's boring on weekends because there are no sororities and fraternities.”

No! Just join a club. We have 300 of them!

I paused in front of this statue during campus tours as a notable spot for talking about the university’s mission to defend the education of its students. In today’s reading, we see Michael being tasked with a divine defense. He is dispelling the presence of evil created by the fallen angel, Satan:

“The huge dragon, the ancient serpent,

who is called the Devil and Satan,

who deceived the whole world,

was thrown down to earth,

and its angels were thrown down with it.”

The image of Satan as the dragon is made manifest in the statue in Gasson Hall. As he stands crushing Satan’s serpentine tail, Michael has taken his final step in defending God by banishing the “accuser” from heaven. Michael, the archangel, is called to honor God and must protect the kingdom of heaven from Satan and his army.

On the feast day of St. Michael the Archangel, we remember what it takes to defend what we love and to be brave enough to honor what we believe in. Today, pause to reflect on the things and people you love, what you are willing to draw your sword for, and what you are called to defend.

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