| By Alfredo E. Cardenas | Correspondent

Cathedral’s St. Michael statue stands guard over Austin

St. Michael the Archangel, now perched near the top of St. Mary Cathedral in Austin, is in an ideal position to protect and guard God’s people.

Last December, Father Daniel Liu, rector of the cathedral, blessed the statue and the following day, crews lifted the statue to the platform near the top of the church’s tower. Workers cordoned off 10th Street for five hours while they elevated and secured the statue atop the church. Students at the Cathedral School of St. Mary observed the historic event, as did numerous passers-by.

The idea for the statue came five years ago when Deacon Guadalupe Rodríguez was viewing the cathedral’s original plans that architect Nicholas J. Clayton prepared for the cathedral. The drawings included a “major bell tower” where a statue of St. Michael the Archangel was supposed to have been installed.

“While the platform had indeed been constructed, no St. Michael statue had ever been installed,” said Ted Eubanks, a historian who has studied the cathedral for many years.

Clayton first designed the church in 1874, when it was known as St. Patrick. In 1906, the parish again commissioned Clayton to draw plans to finish the front facade. The following year, contractors completed the towers and portals, leaving St. Michael out.

Deacon Rodríguez contacted sculptor Larry Schueckler from College Station, who created the bronze statue of the Blessed Mother on top of the dome at St. Mary Catholic Center in College Station. Schueckler molded St. Michael from a four-ton block of limestone from the same quarry that had provided the cathedral’s original rock material. Schueckler’s version of St. Michael portrays the archangel as stout and muscular.

“This robust version is easily seen from ground level, leaving no doubt about his identity. Also, St. Michael faces the State Capitol, a significance not lost on many at the dedication,” Eubanks said. “Rather than a restoration, the addition of the St. Michael statue is a completion, and one that future generations of parishioners will remember.”

The overall cost of the project was about $100,000. The parish had half that amount on hand and raised the remaining $50,000 from contributions.

In the New Testament, Jude tells us St. Michael “did not venture to pronounce a reviling judgment upon him but said, “May the Lord rebuke you!” (Jd 1:9) In the book of Revelation, St. Michael went to war with Satan and his minions and expelled them from the Heavenly Kingdom of God. (Rev 12:7-8) In the book of Daniel, St. Michael is depicted as “one of the chief princes” who helps God’s people and as “the great prince, guardian of your people.” (Dan 12:1)

Catholics often invoke the protection of St. Michael as we pray, “St. 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 host, by the power of God, cast into hell Satan and all the evil spirits who prowl about the world seeking the ruin of souls. Amen.”

Alfredo E. Cárdenas began as a freelance writer for the Catholic Spirit in 2000, writing histories of parishes. In 2010, he was named editor of the South Texas Catholic, a publication of the Corpus Christi Diocese. Upon his retirement in 2017, he returned to Austin, where he resumed writing for the Catholic Spirit.