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A recent question (related to Catholicism) on Christianity SE has an answer which contains a Latin prayer to St Michael the Archangel. I posed a question on the meaning of part of that prayer, but wanted to make sure I was translating it correctly. The excerpt reads:

tibi trádidit Dóminus ánimas redemptórum in supérna felicitáte locándas

My attempted translation is:

The Lord has handed over to you the souls of the redeemed, to be placed in supernal happiness

This doesn't seem to match what I understand of Catholic teaching. In particular, although St Michael is the defender of Christian souls, it is not he who places souls in supernal happiness, but God Himself at a soul's particular judgment. So my first thought was that I mistranslated or misunderstood something. Is there something I missed here, or some nuance I overlooked?

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    I'm by no means an expert on theology, but your translation looks right to me. – Draconis Mar 27 at 22:25
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    You might want to explain what you think the theology is to see if there is something about that translation that doesn't gibe with it, but I agree, there's nothing wrong with the translation. – cmw Mar 27 at 22:41
  • Yeah, what do you think does not match? Angels in general are messengers, protectors and guides. Saint Michael, as princeps militiae coelestis is all of that par excellence. Not that he literally handles souls and places them (physically?) in heavenly happiness, though – Rafael Mar 28 at 1:20
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    @Rafael I've edited the question to clarify my confusion, which as you point out is precisely that he does not place souls in supernal happiness. Being a protector doesn't entail that. – Matt Gutting Mar 28 at 1:31
  • @cmweimer I've edited to clarify the issue. – Matt Gutting Mar 28 at 1:32
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As Draconis and I mentioned in the comments, your translation is fine. If I might break it down:

tibi trádidit Dóminus ánimas redemptórum in supérna felicitáte locándas

The subject is dominus in the nominative. The main verb is tradidit, in the perfect tense, and its direct and indirect object are animas and tibi respectively. The basic sentence is "The lord handed over to you the souls." Which souls? redemptorum, "of the redeemed," a past tense passive particple, but also locandas, a future passive particple, "to be placed." Where? in superna felicitate, in + abl indicating place in which, "in heavenly happiness."

It's a very straightforward sentence with no tricks here. Your translation is fine.

This seems to be consistent with his secondary roles, if Wikipedia's citation is accurate:

The second and third roles of Michael in Catholic teachings deal with death. In his second role, Michael is the angel of death, carrying the souls of all the deceased to heaven. In this role Michael descends at the hour of death, and gives each soul the chance to redeem itself before passing; thus consternating the devil and his minions. Catholic prayers often refer to this role of Michael. In his third role, he weighs souls in his perfectly balanced scales. For this reason, Michael is often depicted holding scales.

The Wikipedia article cites Mirabai Starr's 2007 book Saint Michael: The Archangel. I don't know anything about this book, but at least the article is consistent with this prayer and your interpretation of Michael's role from it.

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  • Thanks! I wasn't aware of this subsidiary role. That's perfect. – Matt Gutting Mar 28 at 10:14
  • From what I understand of the Catholic traditions he's not "carrying", but more like "shepherding" these souls - a role that's more in sync with his other duties (guidance and protection). But I concede it may be just an interpretation. – AcePL Mar 29 at 8:59
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I see my issue now. My translation was

The Lord has handed over to you the souls of the redeemed, to be placed in supernal happiness

But the comma should not be there. It gives the impression (to me at least) that Michael is the one who is to place the souls (quasi "animas redemptórum, ut locentur ..."). Without the comma, it is clearer (again, to me) that the souls are to be placed in supernal happiness, but not necessarily by Michael (quasi "animas redemptórum quae locandae sunt ..."). That one little comma was the whole problem. (And some people don't see punctuation as a big deal...)

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    I can't really see the comma working like that, but perhaps that's because I'm thinking in terms of the Latin. But good you got it all worked out. – cmw Mar 28 at 13:57

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