Last week I had the privilege and joy to gather with about 40 of our students in Lee’s Summit Missouri at the site acquired last Fall by the Diocese, for the building of a new diocesan high school. The students were freshman from two of our great Diocesan High Schools: St. Mary’s High School in Independence, and Archbishop O’Hara High School in South Kansas City. They are the Class of 2016, and as such – if God wills it – they will be members of the first graduating class from the new High School, planned to open in the Fall of 2015.
The occasion for gathering now was the fruition of a process we began months ago to solicit your ideas for a name for the High School in Jackson County which will combine the student bodies at both St. Mary’s and O’Hara, and will serve students and families throughout this central portion of our diocese for many generations to come.
The response to our survey was good and yielded quite a variety of names. They were narrowed down to three, and in a recent edition of The Catholic Key you were invited to vote for your favorite. The three names? St. Francis of Assisi, Mother of Mercy, and St. Michael the Archangel. Your choice? I was happy to confirm the name preferred by a large majority of those responding: St. Michael.
Next Spring, please God, we will begin the public phase of a Capital Campaign for financial support for this necessary project which will assure that we are able to continue to provide Catholic Secondary Education to our folks in the Greater Kansas City area. There will be plenty more on that later. I ask your good will, your prayers for this project, and your generous help.
I must confess that I had proposed – in the very first part of the process – a different “favorite name.” (I won’t tell what it was!) When St. Michael the Archangel emerged with strong support, I began to realize that it was an outstanding name and patron for a school that has as its mission to educate and form young people in the 21st Century, the beginning of the New Millennium, what the Holy Father has called “The Springtime of the New Evangelization.” All of us need the protection of God which he has promised through the angels. We live in a culture which has many graces and blessings, but also many dangers and pitfalls.
The Sacred Scripture tells us about St. Michael, a protector of what is good and right and just; a champion who takes God’s part and ours in the battle against Satan and evil in the world. St. Michael, for this reason, has always been invoked as a special patron of police and soldiers. But he remains for all of us a help and protector against all that might lead us away from God and from true love toward our neighbor. In the years before the Council, some will recall, we prayed together a special prayer to St. Michael at the end of Holy Mass, “for the conversion of Russia.” In recent times, the prayer remains a part of many people’s devotion. Before I came to Kansas City I recall the use of this prayer being asked for and prayed by groups of Catholics as a prayer for protection from war; and immediately after the September 11, 2001, tragedy. Following a practice in other dioceses I recently asked all of our parishes and institutions to pray the St. Michael Prayer at the end of the General Intercessions during the Fortnight of Freedom – when we asked God’s help to preserve the grace and gift of religious liberty, threatened still by the HHS mandates which have been imposed on us all by the current administration.
The St. Michael Prayer is a shorter version of a prayer composed by Pope Leo XIII, who died in 1904. Pope Leo had a troubling premonition of the dangers the world faced in the new century. He realized that we had a powerful ally before God in the Archangel St. Michael. He composed a lengthier prayer which asks the intercession of Michael against the attacks of the devil on the Church and the world. For some time I have prayed this prayer of Leo XIII daily for the protection of the diocese that has been entrusted to my care. I never tire of begging God to keep us safe from evil and on a right path.
How fitting it is that we now will call our next high school St. Michael the Archangel, and place it and our students under the patronage and protection of this great herald and guarantor of God’s will, Michael. I recommend that all of us pray this powerful prayer of St. Michael for the safeguarding of our young people, the success of our project, and the faithful education and formation of all our students.
We have many powerful and favorite patrons – certainly our diocesan patrons: Mary, St. Joseph, and St. John Francis Regis. We can and must continue to seek their inspiration and ask their help in all our endeavors. In addition, I recommend that Mothers and Fathers pray the St. Michael prayer daily for the fidelity and safety of their families and children. I would propose that all pastors, teachers, and other administrators, offer this prayer daily that they may be helped to lead well, and that God would safeguard, those under their care.
Saint Michael, the Archangel, defend us in battle.
Be our protection against the wickedness and snares of the devil.
May God rebuke him, we humbly pray;
And do thou, O prince of the heavenly hosts,
by the divine power of God, cast into hell, Satan, and all the evil s pirits
who roam about the world seeking the ruin of souls. Amen.
The Feast Day of the Archangels, Saints Michael, Gabriel, and Raphael, is September 29.