Monday, April 02, 2007

St. Michael

"She struck me in the face. And went away. Afterwards she threw into the room, through the half-open doorway, a gold medallion of St. Michael, the R.C. patron of soldiers in action that she had worn between her breasts. I took it to mean the final act of parting. As if by no longer wearing it she abandoned all prayer for my safety. . . .It might just as well mean that she wished me to wear it myself for my personal protection. . . ." (374-375)

As the text states, St. Michael is a Roman Catholic patron saint often associated with soldiers. St. Michael was the angel who lead God's side in the battle with Lucifer over heaven. Portrayals of St. Michael, like in the pendant above, often feature Michael in armor, trampling Satan, sometimes in the form of a dragon (as pictured) and others in the form we commonly associate him with. His name, which is Hebrew for "Who is like God?" was the battle cry of God's forces.

St. Michael is not only the patron saint of soldiers, however. He is also commonly associated with the medical profession, and was actually first venerated as an angelic healer rather than as a soldier. He is also the patron saint of police officers, the river of the Nile, and even mariners (in Normandy, at least).

An example of a prayer to Michael that might be said by a soldier at war:

"In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Most glorious Prince of the Heavenly armies, Saint Michael the Archangel, defend us in our battle against principalities and powers, against the rulers of this world of darkness, against the spirit of wickedness in the high places. Come to the assistance of men whom God has created to His likeness and whom He has redeemed at a great price from the tyranny of the devil. The Holy Church venerates thee as her guardian and protector; to thee the Lord has entrusted the souls of the redeemed to be led into Heaven. Pray therefore the God of Peace to crush Satan beneath our feet, that he may no longer retain men captive and do injury to the Church. Offer our prayers to the most High, that without delay they may draw His mercy down upon us. Take hold of the dragon, that old serpent, which is the devil and Satan, bind him, and cast him into the bottomless pit so that he should no more seduce the nations. Amen."

For Catholics, pendants or medals like the one Sylvia throws at Tietjens are an old tradition. Often they are given out at significant moments in the receiver's life, such as at their first communion. They are often blessed in order to offer protection to the wearer. In Tietjen's case, a pendant of St. Michael, when worn, would be a constant prayer that St. Michael bring victory to England, keep Tietjen's safe in battle, help him to heal if he were injured and then to protect his soul should he die, since St. Michael is also seen as being a weigher of souls. In this way, Sylvia throwing the pendant is not only breaking up their relationship, but also, in her way, condemning Tietjens to death and England itself to failure in the war. Assuming that as a Catholic she believes in the pendant's power, this scene shows how much she is willing to sacrifice in order to spite her husband.

Sources: "St. Michael" and "Devotional Medals" from The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume X. New York: Robert Appleton Company. 1911.
and Michael The Archangel at the Catholic Forum

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