Here is my interview with Carol Puschaver, author of Though War Be Waged Upon Me: A St. Michael Treasury of Prayer and Reflection, which can be purchased at this link.
EG: Please tell us a bit about yourself.
CP: I need to say first of all that I tend to be playful and am intensely curious — about everything!
What does this mean? How does that work? (And why?) Where will this road take me?
There. That said, I am the youngest of five, raised in a traditional Catholic family. I grew up in the Deep South of Alabama and attended a small Catholic grade school as the tumultuous late 60’s and early 70’s unfolded with a series of quite extraordinary events: Vatican II, the Civil Rights Movement, Vietnam War, Apollo moon landing, Watergate scandal; the shootings at Kent State University in Ohio.
Eight years after those shootings killed four students and wounded nine others, I enrolled as a freshman at Kent State and earned Bachelor and Master of Arts degrees in English. My studies made me hungry to go and explore the places where history was made, sometimes on a truly epic scale across a world stage over centuries. For some thirty years, I have been blessed with travels throughout Europe, the Mediterranean and the Holy Land. Each trip seemed naturally to take on a sense of pilgrimage, whether recalling the missionary journeys of St. Paul while sailing among the Greek Islands, contemplating Jesus calling His first disciples as I waded in the shallows of the Sea of Galilee, or feeling oh so close to heaven while sitting quietly in the cathedral nave of Notre-Dame de Paris*, with its unmistakable sense of the sacred and witness to centuries.
Eventually, I turned to the health care field, became a Registered Nurse and worked in casualty claims for the better part of twenty years. My career came to an abrupt end when I was forced to retire due to Bipolar Disorder. At age 51, I was told I would likely never work again.
*I last visited Paris in 2016, the Extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy, well before fire consumed the cathedral’s ceiling and roof in 2019. With hotel accommodations in the nearby Latin Quarter, I was easily able to walk the short distance to Notre-Dame and attend daily Mass throughout my stay.
EG: There is so much more to St. Michael than the Prayer to St. Michael composed by Pope Leo XIII. Please tell us about St. Michael and your book, Though War be Waged Upon Me …
CP: By the grace of God, St. Michael the Archangel has always been, and will be, a towering figure throughout history, from the expulsion of rebel spirits out of heaven in early times to the final overthrow of Satan at the Last Judgment. Scripture references to St. Michael in both the Old and New Testaments have led the Church to ascribe 4 principal offices to him, the foremost being to fight against Satan.
This background established early in the book leads naturally to a discussion of the vision and mystical experience of Pope Leo XIII. While this took place in 1884, I am convinced it speaks to the events we are witnessing today both within the Catholic Church and the world at large. The Holy Father’s vision showed St. Michael coming to the aid of the Church in extremis and his experience led him to write the Prayer to St. Michael. The book launches into a collection of prayers, including the St. Michael Chaplet (see question four) and Litany, Novena and Consecration prayers.
There follows the section, “An Archangel’s Beauty: Insights from the Treasury of Western Christian Art.” Innumerable works of art portraying St. Michael over the centuries offer an inestimably rich and visual perspective of the Warrior Archangel. Sacred art has much to teach and inspire us; its worthy contemplation often leads to greater devotion.
Living this devotion becomes the focus of the next section, with a discussion of “Ways to Love and Honor St. Michael.” Pick and choose from among nearly thirty possibilities such as
– recite the prayer to St. Michael – often
– ask his protection for priests and the Holy Father
– radiate the truth always
Before the Concluding Prayer to the Archangels, as a nod to my playful and questioning self, I have included a “Did You Know . . .?” section. Here discerning readers can learn
– how to tell St. Michael from St. George
– what St. Francis de Sales had to say about St. Michael
– which are some of the 21 professions having St. Michael as their patron saint
EG: You have a deep devotion to St. Michael. How did that strong devotion develop?
CP: My sudden retirement, which I had not foreseen or planned for especially (see answer to question one) sent me reeling. In one of the darkest chapters of my life, I seemed to feel myself falling down a rabbit hole – and who could say how dark and deep?
So I prayed – or more like “nagged” – Jesus to please lead me. Since I no longer had to be at work at 7 in the morning, I started going to daily Mass. All I can day is that gradually, inexplicably, I began to have an awareness of angels, particularly guardian angels, including my own. I have never seen as angel as we tend to think of them, but I clearly sensed their presence. It was an incredibly sweet consolation to realize all the angels in the grocery store check-out line, at singing rehearsal; during Mass – as many people, so were there as many dear angels.
After a time, this ongoing awareness led me to focus on St. Michael the Archangel. I did not know much about him, other than the prayer we used to say at the end of Mass and his being the patron of military and law enforcement individuals. I was curious to learn more.
It did not take long to discover the vision of Pope Leo XIII and his account of the “horrible picture [he had] been permitted to see . . . a vision of the activities of the evil spirits and their efforts against the Church. But in the midst of the horror, the Archangel Michael appeared and cast Satan and his legions into the abyss of hell” (Though War Be Waged Upon Me, 17). This took place just after His Holiness had celebrated Mass at the Vatican. The date was October 13, 1884, that is, 33 years to the day before the Miracle of the Sun at Fatima.
The words quickly sank in, and as I was sitting reading, my head snapped up sharply as though I had just been hit by something. I came straightway to the conviction that we are living – here and now — the vision.* That was it. I was so thoroughly impressed by our urgent need for St. Michael’s help that I resolved then and there to do all in my power to actively promote and encourage devotion to him.
*The clergy sex abuse scandal in the Church was again making headlines.
EG: Tell us a bit about the St. Michael Chaplet and why you believe it is so powerful.
CP: I first came across a St. Michael Chaplet unexpectedly while signing in for my usual Eucharistic Adoration hour. Someone had left as a “takeaway” the odd multi-colored jumble of beads that somewhat resembled a Rosary, but lacked a crucifix, and had nine sections of three beads instead of the familiar five decades with ten Hail Mary beads. It did not help that it was broken and I remember thinking, “What the heck is that?!” Luckily knowing about someone who made and repaired Rosaries, I took it with me to have it mended. Several weeks later I received it back with word that it was a St. Michael Chaplet. “A what?” Clearly, I had more learning to do.
St. Michael himself revealed the Chaplet to a Carmelite religious in the 18th century. The Prince of the Heavenly Host asked that it be prayed in his honor and that of the nine heavenly choirs of angels – all for the greater honor and glory of God. He made three remarkable promises to those who recite the Chaplet, “particularly in such time as the Catholic Church should experience some special trial” (Though War Be Waged Upon Me, p. 20):
Those who pray the Chaplet before receiving Holy Communion will have an escort
of nine angels, one from each of the nine Choirs of angels, and
Those who pray the Chaplet daily will enjoy the continual assistance of St. Michael
and that of all the holy angels during this life, and
He, St. Michael, will obtain deliverance from purgatory for all who pray the Chaplet
And for their relations.
Consider that is it none other than the Nine Choirs of Angels whose powerful intercession we are seeking as we pray the Chaplet. These countless, ineffable angel hosts have always preserved their God-given innocence and intellect even when Lucifer rebelled together with so many of their fellows. In everything they conform perfectly to the will of God, “for Whom nothing is impossible” (Lk 1.37).
As spiritual, incorporeal beings, the holy angels are not bound by the physical limitations of space and time. Consequently, we implore the help of heavenly beings for whom, by the grace, granting, and will of God
– no whisper is too faint, or light too dim,
– hunger, infirmity, fatigue, the cold of winter and heat of summer have no effect,
– nothing is too heavy or overwhelming; there is no mountain too high, ocean too
deep, current too swift, or journey too far;
– no language is foreign, human plan secret, treasure hidden or dilemma insurmountable.
Consider just a small number of ways the angels are lively, marvelously at work in Scripture as they
– guard us in all our ways (Ps. 91.11)
– minister by countless thousands to the Ancient of Days (Cf. Dan. 7.9-10)
– prepare Isaiah for his prophetic mission (Cf. Isa. 6.6)
– announce the wonder of the Incarnation: “you will conceive . . . and bear a Son” (Lk. 1.31)
– make the heavens resound with exultant praise: “Glory to God in the highest” (Lk. 2.14)
– comfort Jesus in the Garden (Cf. Lk. 22.43)
– witness to the Resurrection (Cf. Lk. 24.6);
– seal the foreheads of the servants of God (Cf. Rev. 8.3)
With the Chaplet we implore the intercession of these wondrous angel citizens of heaven and, as St. Michael taught us, petition them for a treasure trove of spiritual gifts: perfect charity, true and sincere humility, a spirit of obedience, deliverance, perseverance . . . The Chaplet ends with a plea to St. Michael to deliver us from evil “especially at the hour of our death” and bring us safely into the “august presence of [God’s] Divine Majesty.” (Though War Be Waged Upon Me, p. 24).
Finally, adding to the Chaplet’s power is the approval and indulgence granted by Blessed Pope Pius in 1851.
EG: Our world is in turmoil with an obvious battle raging between good and evil. How can St. Michael give us hope and faith that good will triumph?
CP: Consider that St. Michael accomplishes everything by the power, design and permission of Almighty God. Let that sink in for a minute. . . . The divinely-appointed Warrior Archangel
– acts out of love for God and in perfect obedience and loyalty to God’s holy will,
– is animated with a most lively trust in God, even in the midst of the greatest danger,
– fights the archenemy and his legions without trace of fear, hesitation or reserve,
– cannot be taken by surprise, outwitted, outmaneuvered, overcome or defeated, and
– is perfectly invincible and one might say, necessarily victorious, for “the battle belongs to the Lord” (1 Sam. 17. 47).
I often think of St. Michael along the lines of a military general, albeit one having a singular God-given ability to fight and prevail against the forces of evil. As Satan spends himself “with the reckless abandon of one who has nothing more to lose” (Though War Be Waged Upon Me, back cover), St. Michael remains firmly in command of the situation. In our own present time especially, when evil seems to be winning, he stands out as a magnificent example of St. Paul’s teaching:
. . . where sin increased, grace abounded all the more (Rom. 5.20).
Our world is in trouble, and I earnestly believe things are going to get worse as the “birth pangs” (Matt. 24.8) intensify and become more frequent. We do well to call on St. Michael sincerely and often.*
Even as generals sometimes deliver a rousing message to their soldiers about to go into harm’s way, so I think St. Michael might have some words for us. Maybe something like:
Have courage and fight with the ability God gives. Above all, live always in the
love of God, “Who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (I Cor. 15.57)
*As previously mentioned in the question two above, a brief and very powerful prayer (Only 59 words, including “Amen”!) is that written by Pope Leo XIII:
Saint Michael the Archangel defend us in battle. Be our defense against the
wickedness and snares of the devil. May God rebuke him we humbly
pray, and do thou, O Prince of the Heavenly Host, by the power of God,
cast into hell Satan and all the evil spirits who prowl around the world seeking
the ruin of souls. Amen.
Please, make a habit of saying this prayer from your heart — often.
EG: You also have a deep devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. How are these two devotions interconnected? How are they similar and how are they different?
CP: Oh goodness. Well . . .
One point I need make in no uncertain terms is a cornerstone of our faith:
God alone is almighty and sovereign, with an “everlasting dominion” (Dan. 7.14) over all things. No matter how much we may love or revere the angels and saints, and even our Blessed Mother –
IT IS GOD ALONE, FATHER, SON AND HOLY SPIRIT, WHOM WE ADORE.
Looking back, I think my devotion to the Sacred Heart began when I was 14 and living in Alabama, although I did not realize it at the time. I got something in the mail (a miracle in itself!) – from the Sacred Heart Auto League. “But I’m not even old enough to drive,” I remember thinking. Inside was a small laminated Sacred Heart “badge.” Somehow that dear badge stayed with me over many years, through high school, college, work and travel. It even survived a run-in with the washing machine! The Sacred Heart, it seems, was determined to stay with me. The same is true of a beautiful vintage picture of the Sacred Heart that has been in my family since before I can remember. Somehow, it has stayed with me too.
For me, Sacred Heart devotion and Eucharistic Adoration just go together naturally. Even perfectly and seamlessly. By the grace of God, I have gone to Adoration almost every week for 22 years, starting in 1998. (Unfortunately, COVID-19 resulted in an unavoidable four-month suspension of this special devotion, from March to July, 2020). In the course of our regular one-on-one visits over the years, I believe our Eucharistic King Jesus deepened my faith in the mystery of His Real Presence in the Blessed Sacrament, and with accounts of Eucharistic Miracles such as Lanciano, brought me to understand that the consecrated Host is, in reality, the Sacred Heart of Jesus. That was, and remains an unspeakably profound treasure of faith..
My devotion to St. Michael developed much later in life, about 3-4 years after I retired at 51.
A growing awareness of angels (see question three) led naturally to a focus on St. Michael, and with it, the study of the mystical vision of Pope Leo XIII. The account of the revelation granted to the Holy Father catapulted a nascent devotion into compelling fervor and lively, irrepressible resolve to act. I experienced, if you will, nothing short of an urgent call to heavenly arms, and I “signed up” at once.
Only in retrospect did it occur to me that devotion to the Sacred Heart and devotion to St. Michael have unfolded together as though in a sweet complementarity. By turns, one seems to advance the other, always centering on and bringing me in closer union with the Eucharist – with Jesus Himself.
Love for an angel or saint leads ultimately to love for God Who creates them and raises them to be models of peerless sanctity for the Universal Church. In union with them, following their example, we are called without ceasing to give “Glory to God in the highest . . .” (Lk 2.14).
St. Michael, defend us in battle!
Author’s responses copyright Carol Puschaver 2020