What is St. Michael’s Lent?

St. Michael's Lent is a perfect opportunity for a spiritual reorientation during the long time between Lent and Advent.

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I felt a yawning gap between the two penitential seasons of the liturgical calendar. Catholics do a lot of spiritual work during Advent to prepare themselves for the birth of Christ, and they do a lot of spiritual work during Lent to prepare for Easter. But then it’s kind of bupkes until the next Advent. Lent is the West Coast. Advent is the East Coast. And that long span of ordinary time is the flyover country between the two. To my sensibilities, it seemed too long a stretch without a rigorous spiritual reorientation.

I was happy to find out I was not the only one who perceived a need for an oasis of atonement in this liturgically ordinary desert. St. Francis of Assisi also felt it, which makes sense. He was known for being very in tune with nature, so it’s not too much of a stretch to assume he would be sensitive to seasonal moods. I, too, am sensitive to seasonal moods, which is part of what drew me to the Catholic Church and its liturgical seasons in the first place. 

So, I was happy to find out that St. Francis created a Lent that perfectly filled the gap. It’s called St. Michael’s Lent, and it begins on the Feast of the Assumption, August 15, and goes until the Feast of the Archangels, or Michaelmas, on September 29.

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St. Michael’s Lent perfectly fills the vast chasm in penitential seasons. Much like Advent and Lent, it’s located in a seasonally perfect location on the calendar when the days of sacrifice tangibly match the weather, as does the feast day following each penitential period.  St. Michael’s Lent perfectly fills the vast chasm in penitential seasons. Tweet This

For instance, Advent takes place as we’re entering the coldest, darkest, and last part of the calendar year. Outside, everything looks dead, the wind is frigid, and oftentimes the walkways are covered in ice. Advent ends with Christmas, the time of year in which generosity and love are renewed within many people as they celebrate the generosity of God sending us His Son to save us. It’s a time of warmth and coziness inside the home while Jack Frost has his way outdoors. The solstice has passed, so the days are starting to get longer and brighter. The calendar New Year is right around the corner, bringing with it a feeling of new beginnings and fresh starts.

Lent often takes place during the coldest, dreariest last days of winter. When all is seemingly dead. Even the earth is done with Jack Frost at this point, trying to send up its earliest flowers—like the delicate snow drop flower—as it aches to throw off the snow and ice to unfurl its green shoots and cover itself with new life.  

Lent ends with Easter, the time of year when life is beginning anew in nature. The temperatures are warming up, flowers are starting to bloom, the animal world starts having babies, the insects and birds are starting to return. The hibernating world is waking up to warm their bodies in the rising sun as the world comes back to life. We warm our souls in the celebration of the rising of the Son of God who brings the fallen world back to life. Easter has a feeling of new beginnings and fresh starts.

And finally, St. Michael’s Lent begins mid-August, during the hottest, most humid part of the summer. The plants are shriveled and spent. The grass is browning and burnt. The birds’ nests are emptying. The insects are at their height of population. 

St. Michael’s Lent ends with Michaelmas, the time of year when the temperatures are finally starting to cool, schools are starting back in session, the harvest is coming ready, and the dried-out, sultry air is giving way to the cool days of autumn. The leaves are starting to turn colors. The sky is impossibly bright blue. It’s bonfire and hayride season. We have fought and vanquished the searing heat as St. Michael fought and vanquished the one who forever lives in searing heat. Michaelmas has a feeling of new beginnings and fresh starts.

As one can see with each of the other penitential periods, the penances we undergo during St. Michael’s Lent are complementary to the natural penances taking place in the seasonal world around us. It’s an innate use of both the internal and external burnout at the end of summer in preparation for the coming beautiful days of autumn.  

Advent, Lent, and St. Michael’s Lent make a trinity of penitential seasons, further illustrating St. Michael’s Lent as a suitable companion to the other two purple periods. As evidenced by the Rule of Three, the Rule of Thirds, and the Holy Trinity, we were made to experience life in threes.

Might I also mention that for children it brings new life to the feast day celebrating the Archangels. After spending half of August and most of September abstaining from sweets and reciting the St. Michael’s chaplet, it’s a great deal of fun reciting the St. Michael prayer and beating a devil-shaped pinata with wooden swords to get to the chocolate goodies inside to officially break the St. Michael’s Lent fast (hat tip to Kendra Tierney for the pinata idea). The fast always makes the feast so much more appreciated.  

And so far, there has been zero commercialization of this feast day.

St. Michael’s Lent fills that yawning gap I felt between the two penitential seasons of the liturgical calendar. It prepares the soul for celebrating the feast day of the angel who loved God so much that he, with God’s blessing, led the good angels into battle against Lucifer. 

It seems fitting to have it in rotation with preparing the soul during Advent for the feast day of the coming of the Savior who was sent to conquer evil in all of creation and preparing the soul during Lent for the feast day when the Savior conquered death. It really completes the liturgical picture. Serviam.


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