I grew up in a Protestant church, so I never much connected with the idea of patron saints, but I must say I feel a real attraction to the idea of St. Michael the Archangel as being the patron saint of police officers and soldiers. Angels are "in" right now, and you see pictures of a lot of pretty fluffy-looking ones around these days, but St. Michael usually looks like he means business. Christianity, Judaism, and Islam all tell stories of St. Michael, and I like that too.
My favorite story is from the book of Revelation, in which the author John has a wonderful vision of St. Michael and his angels throwing Satan and his angels out of heaven:
Then a war broke out in heaven; Michael and his angels had to fight a war with the serpent. The serpent and its angels fought. But it was not strong enough, and there was no longer any place for them in heaven. The huge serpent was thrown down. That ancient snake, named Devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world, was thrown down to earth. Its angels were thrown down with it. Then I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, "Now the salvation, power, kingdom of our God and the authority of his Messiah have come. The one accusing our brothers and sisters, the one accusing them day and night in the presence of our God, has been thrown out. They won the victory over him because of the blood of the lamb and the word of their testimony. They didn't love their life so much that they refused to give it up. Be glad for this reason, heavens and those who live in them. How horrible it is for the earth and the sea because the Devil has come down to them with fierce anger, knowing that he has little time left."*
It presents the hopeful thought that the critical battle has already been won, as well as acknowledging the evil we still have to deal with in the world. It is an ancient story of heroism, that basic battle between good and evil, and many different cultures have versions of it. I collect images of St. Michael (such as the one linked in below), and one thing I notice is that they very often portray Michael's battle with the serpent as a one-on-one battle. There are not nearly so many pictures of a dragon facing an army, although the story specifies that Michael had the help of his troops. Interesting! Wouldn't you think you might call for back up if you had to face a foe so dangerous?
Maybe this reflects the deep-down truth that at its most basic level, the battle between good and evil is first waged in the human heart. The dragon can represent the evil you battle on the street; it can represent the dangers outside of you - the criminal who shoots or stabs, the terrorist who flies an airplane into a building or sets a trap. But it can also represent the dangers inside - the inner threats of disillusionment, discouragement, depression, cynicism, and despair. It can represent our own potential for doing evil. That inner battle is every bit as dangerous as the other sort, and it can be just as deadly.
As Macarius, an early Christian hermit, said,
The heart is but a small vessel and yet dragons and lions are there, and there poisonous creatures and all the treasures of wickedness; rough uneven places are there, and gaping chasms. There likewise is God, there are the angels, there life and the Kingdom, the light and the apostles... all things are there.
I like to think of cops as Michael's troops, but I also think they need angels themselves. Cops go into too many situations where they're at risk - in physical danger, and also in emotional and spiritual danger. They live with a lot more stress than most of us live with - constant reminders of how stupid, selfish, dishonest, and cruel people can be; constant reminders of how fragile life is, and how vulnerable we all are; the pressure of being the ones who are supposed to fix all these situations; the helplessness of not actually being able to fix many of them. And a lot of the time, they stand pretty much alone - they don't get a lot of back-up from the communities they protect. The battle of good and evil is no joke, and officers work right on the front line.
I am glad to think God has angels watching over them as they watch over everybody else, because I think they can use all the back-up they can get. I think their families can use some angels, too.
To all of you who serve in law enforcement: thank you. What you do matters, and you matter. I pray for your protection.
To law enforcement families: thank you, too, for sharing your officers with us. You're their number one support - and you bear some of their burdens and risks. I pray for your protection, as well.
* (Revelation 12:7-12, Translation: "God's Word for Peace Officers Tactical Edition Bible")