The Feast of the Archangels

by Catherine Fournier


Unless you celebrate namedays and a saint's day has come up recently, it's been a long time since there's been a feast to celebrate. The feast of the Archangels is a great reason to have a family celebration. This is a feast day for the boys, the Archangels are the epitome of chivalry, honour, loyalty, derring-do, adventure and bravery. All characteristics we want our sons (and daughters) to emulate.

As with any feast, it is important that the celebration begin with a period of preparation. Three days is the traditional length of time to fast, invoke the saint in prayer asking for their intercession and guidance, and make other decorative preparations. Fasting from meat and dessert is a noticeable sacrifice that makes the feast day itself all the more welcome. Including the Saint Michael prayer or some other prayer to the Archangels in the evening prayers will brng everyone's attention to the importance of the angels in our lives.


The symbols of Saint Michael, the one God appointed to drive Satan and his followers out of heaven and who stood baring the entrance to the Garden of Eden when Adam and Eve were forced to leave it are dragons, swords, and the scales of justice.

Helmets, shields and swords can be cut from cardboard boxes and strengthened and made to look like metal with silver duct tape. Angel wings made from cardboard would not be out of place either.

Gabriel, the messenger is represented by a lily, the flower of purity. Raphael, the guide and healer is symbolised with loaves, fishes and an ointment jar.

Children could cut all these symbols from paper, paper plates or construction paper,colour them according to their imagination, then string them around the dining room.


A simple game that can be played around the dinner table (with much giggling) is 'Pass the Message.' Gabriel, the messenger angel, was entrusted with God's messages and delivered them carefully and exactly to the person chosen by God. This game demonstrates how easy it is to get a message confused and distorted.

Begin at the head of the table. Choose a simple short sentence like "I like Mom's pie." or "It's time to play this game." Write it down, keeping it secret from the rest of the family, then whisper the message into the ear of the person at your right. They then whisper it into the ear of the person to their right and so on around the table (provide a washcloth to whoever is sitting beside the baby) until it comes back to the person at your left, who then says the message out loud. How closely does it resemble what you started with?

Battle in Heaven will probably develop on its own once you provide your boys with swords and other accutruments of knight-dom. Play is one of the major ways that children learn. With a little guidance, even what at first glance looks like mindless barbaric violence can be used to teach some very important lessons.

Make the point that this is an imaginary battle, not a real one, so no-one should get hurt. This means that the older children have to control their excitement enough to make sure that the younger children are safe and having fun. The older children are responsible for not mis-using their strength and superior co-ordination. A time-out and comments about your disappointment that they spoiled the game is usually sufficient.

This is exactly the kind of self control men (and women) need to develop, the self control that keeps men from dominating weaker people with their strength, that keeps women from bullying others, that teaches us to protect the weaker. Playing at archangels casting demons out of heaven helps to teach them this.

I remember our oldest son, when he was four or five, once spend a day running around the neighbourhood with a friend. Whenever I looked out the window, I could see them fiercely and energetically poking sticks into the ground every few feet. Tired and sweaty but looking very proud and satisfied at the end of the day, I asked him what he and Jill had been doing. "We were killing the debil," he explained. "The debil's under the ground in hell, so we stabbed him with our sticks, I bet we really killed him." I had to smile.

The Feast

Soldiers (and the archangels are soldiers) traditionally cooked their food over a campfire. Shish-kebabs apparently originated from the custom of Turkish soldiers to cook pieces of meat on their swords over the campfire. What better (and easier) than shish kebabs for the feast of the Archangels? Simply cut steak or a roast into pieces about one inch square. Marinate for an hour or so in Italian dressing. Wash and stem mushrooms, marinate them in dressing too ( a different bowl.) Cut red and green peppers, onions, zucchini into one inch pieces, wash cherry tomatoes as well, if you have them.

When the meat is marinated and your barbeque or broiler is heating, thread meat alternated with vegetables onto long skewers. You don't need to have meat as every second piece, just put the meat and vegetables onto the skewers in some kind of order. It will help them cook evenly. Barbeque or broil for about ten minutes or until done. Serve with rice.

And for dessert what could be more appropriate than Angel Food Cake with whipped cream frosting?

1 cup cake flour 1 1/2 teaspoons cream of tartar
1 1/2 cups white sugar 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
about 2 cups egg whites (use 12 to 13 eggs) 1/4 teaspoons alt
Preheat oven to 375. Adjust oven rack to 1/3 way from the bootom. Get out a tube pan, but do not grease it.
1. Combine the flour with half the sugar (3/4 cup), then sift it together well.
2. Put the eggs whites into a metal bowl. Beat at low speed for a few minutes to break them up and make them foamy. Add the cread of tartar, vanilla and salt. Take about 30 seconds to gradullay work up to medium spped on the mixer, then gradually add the remaining sugar to the egg whites as you beat them.
3. Stop beating when all the sugar is added, scrap down the sides of the bowl and resume beating, until the egg whites are stiff enough to hold a peak when you turn the beaters upside down (turn them off first) but still look moist and shiny. They should not slide around when you tip the bowl.
4. Sprinkle about 1/3 of the flour over the egg whites, and gently stir in into the batter. Sprinkle another 1/3 of the flour and fold in it, with gentle strokes similar to brushing long hair.
5. Fold in the remaining 1/3 of flour and fold it in as well until there are no streaks of flour or egg white remaining. You need to mix the flour into the batter without breaking many of the egg white air bubbles, which will make the cake rise light and high.
6. when it is mixed, gently pour it into the pan in big drops. Smooth it out and poke the batter with a long knife or spatula a few times to break any big air bubbles.
7. Bake in the preheated oven for 40 to 45 minutes. When a long thin knife inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean, or with only a few moist crumbs on it, the cake is done.
8. Remove from the over and immediately turn it upside down onto a cooling rack. Leave it upside down until it is completely cool — overnight is alright.
9. When it is cool, take a long thin knife and run it along the inside of the cake pan, loosening the cake from the pan. Turn the cake pan upside down again over a plate and gently remove the cake. Don't woory about squashing it, the cake is really quite spongy and resilient. Any holes or tears will be covered with frosting
10. Whip heavy cream until it holds stiff but moist peaks, just like the egg whites. It can be sweetened with sugar, flavoured with cocoa, instant coffee, or vanilla to taste. Generously cover the cake with the whipping cream.

Another delicious treat for the feast of the Archangels are waffles, known in France as Gaufres and Saint Michael's Waffles. Served with fruit and ice cream or softly whipped cream, they make a delicious dessert.

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