To St. Michael in Time of Peace
Gilbert K. Chesterton
Michael of the Morning,
Michael of the Army of the Lord,
Stiffen thou the hand upon the still sword, Michael,
Folded and shut upon the sheathed sword, Michael,
Under the fullness of the white robes falling,
Gird us with the secret of the sword.
When the world cracked because of a sneer in Heaven,
Down through the universe the vast night falling
When from the deeps of dying God astounded
Round us and over us the cold thoughts creeping
He that giveth peace unto us; not as the world giveth:
Michael, Michael: Michael of the Mustering,
I wouldn't dare write this letter to anyone but you because no one else would believe it. Maybe even you will find it hard but I have got to tell somebody.
First off, I am in a hospital. Now don't worry, ya hear me, don't worry. I was wounded but I am okay you understand. Okay. The doctor says that I will be up and around in a month.
But that is not what I want to tell you.
Remember when I joined the Marines last year; remember when I left, how you told me to say a prayer to St. Michael every day. You really didn't have to tell me that. Ever since I can remember you always told me to pray to St. Michael the Archangel. You even named me after him. Well I always have.
When I got to Korea, I prayed even harder. Remember the prayer that you taught me?
"Michael, Michael of the morning fresh crop of Heaven adorning," you know the rest of it. Well I said it everyday. Sometimes when I was marching or sometimes resting. But always before I went to sleep. I even got some of the other fellas to say it.
Well, one day I was with an advance detail way up over the front lines. We were scouting for the Commies. I was plodding along in the bitter cold, my breath was like cigar smoke.
I thought I knew every guy in the patrol, when along side of me comes another Marine I never met before. He was bigger than any other Marine I'd ever seen. He must have been 6' 4" and built in proportion. It gave me a feeling of security to have such a body near.
Anyway, there we were trudging along. The rest of the patrol spread out. Just to start a conversation I said, "Cold ain't it." And then I laughed. Here I was with a good chance of getting killed any minute and I am talking about the weather.
My companion seemed to understand. I heard him laugh softly.
I looked at him, "I have never seen you before, I thought
I knew every man in the outfit."
"I just joined at the last minute", he replied. "The name
"Is that so," I said surprised. "That is my name too."
"I know," he said and then went on, "Michael, Michael of
the morning . . ."
I was too amazed to say anything for a minute. How did he
know my name, and a prayer that you had taught me? Then I smiled to
myself, every guy in the outfit knew about me. Hadn't I taught the
prayer to anybody who would listen. Why now and then, they even
referred to me as St. Michael.
Neither of us spoke for a time and then he broke the
silence. "We are going to have some trouble up ahead."
He must have been in fine physical shape or he was
breathing so lightly I couldn't see his breath. Mine poured out in
great clouds. There was no smile on his face now. Trouble ahead, I
thought to myself, well with the Commies all around us, that is no
Snow began to fall in great thick globs. In a brief
moment the whole countryside was blotted out. And I was marching in a
white fog of wet sticky particles. My companion disappeared.
"Michael, " I shouted in sudden alarm.
I felt his hand on my arm, his voice was rich and strong,
"This will stop shortly."
His prophecy proved to be correct. In a few minutes the
snow stopped as abruptly as it had begun. The sun was a hard shining
I looked back for the rest of the patrol, there was no
one in sight. We lost them in that heavy fall of snow. I looked ahead
as we came over a little rise.
Mom, my heart stopped. There were seven of them. Seven
Commies in their padded pants and jackets and their funny hats. Only
there wasn't anything funny about them now. Seven rifles were aimed at
"Down Michael, " I screamed and hit the frozen earth.
I heard those rifles fire almost as one. I heard the
bullets. There was Michael still standing.
Mom, those guys couldn't have missed, not at that range.
I expected to see him literally blown to bits.
But there he stood, making no effort to fire himself. He
was paralyzed with fear. It happens sometimes, Mom, even to the
bravest. He was like a bird fascinated by a snake.
At least, that was what I thought then. I jumped up to
pull him down and that was when I got mine. I felt a sudden flame in my
chest. I often wondered what it felt like to be hit, now I know.
Maybe I was looking into the sun. Maybe I was in shock.
But it seemed I saw Michael standing erect again only this time his
face was shining with a terrible splendor.
As I say, maybe it was the sun in my eyes, but he seemed
to change as I watched him. He grew bigger, his arms stretched out
wide, maybe it was the snow falling again, but there was a brightness
around him like the wings of an Angel. In his hand was a sword. A sword
that flashed with a million lights.
Well, that is the last thing I remember until the rest of
the fellas came up and found me. I do not know how much time had
passed. Now and then I had but a moment's rest from the pain and fever.
I remember telling them of the enemy just ahead.
"Where is Michael," I asked.
I saw them look at one another. "Where's who?" asked one.
"Michael, Michael that big Marine I was walking with just before the
snow squall hit us."
"Kid," said the sergeant, "You weren't walking with
anyone. I had my eyes on you the whole time. You were getting too far
out. I was just going to call you in when you disappeared in the snow."
"How'd I do what?" I asked half angry despite my wound. "This marine named Michael and I were just . . ."
"Son, " said the sergeant kindly, "I picked this outfit myself and there just ain't another Michael in it. You are the only Mike in it."
He paused for a minute, "Just how did you do it kid? We heard shots. There hasn't been a shot fired from your rifle. And there isn't a bit of lead in them seven bodies over the hill there."
I didn't say anything, what could I say. I could only look open-mouthed with amazement. It was then the sergeant spoke again, "Kid," he said gently, "everyone of those seven Commies was killed by a sword stroke."
That is all I can tell you Mom. As I say, it may have been the sun in my eyes, it may have been the cold or the pain. But that is what happened.
PRAYER IN TIME OF WAR
O God, Who brings an end to wars and defeats the assailants of those who hope in Thee, help us when we turn to Thee, and grant us that the cruelty of our enemies may be crushed, and we, in turn, may praise Thee in unending Thanksgiving. Through Christ, our Lord. Amen.
Mary, Queen of Christians, pray for us.
From the Catholic "Mass in Time of War"
PRAYER FOR PEACE
O God, from Whom all holy desires, all right counsels and all just works do proceed; give unto Thy servants that peace which the world cannot give; that our hearts may be set to obey Thy commandments, and that, unafraid of our enemies, we may spend our days, under Thy protection, in peaceful order. Through Christ, our Lord. Amen.
Mary, Queen of Peace, pray for us.
From the Catholic "Mass for Peace"