The Catholic Church has a long tradition of apparitions, those moments when the supernatural breaks into the everyday world to communicate a message or to offer assistance. Of course, Mary is rightly the queen of apparitions and there are numerous accounts of Mary’s appearance throughout world history. Jn his recent book, World of Marian Apparitions, Mariologist Wincenty Laszewsk goes through dozens of accounts that occurred in the last century. Yet, Mary is not the only one who appears to us in our world.
In the Lord’s providence, angels also appear to people in order to teach, protect, and, most importantly, deliver the messages of God. These angelic companions might appear in a personal way, like the guardian angel who rescues you from certain dangers, but there are also apparitions that change the course of history. St. Michael the Archangel is one such entity that has had an active role in guiding humanity back to Christ.
St. Michael was the angel who slew Lucifer and cast him out of paradise, but his work in spiritual warfare is still ongoing. As such, St. Michael often appears with his sword, a sure sign that people who see him have gazed upon an angelic warrior for God. While there are many accounts of St. Michael, let’s go over two famous stories of the archangel’s intervention.
Monte Gargano: St. Michael Protects the Faithful
There is a cave on the slopes of Monte Gargano in Apulia, Italy that has had a supernatural reputation since at least the time of the Romans. Pagans worshipped at the entrance of the cave long before Christianity came to the Italian peninsula, and it still had a mystical feeling after the conversion of the people.
In the fifth century, as the Roman Empire was coming apart in the West, a nobleman came to St. Lorenzo Maiorano, the bishop of nearby Siponto, with news of an odd occurrence. Depending on which account you read, either the nobleman or his servant shot an arrow at a bull who refused to leave the entrance of the cave only for the arrow to reverse and fly back. Either way, the nobleman was troubled and sought the bishop’s help. The saintly bishop knew that something was not right and immediately ordered the faithful to take on three days of prayer and penance.
At the end of the third day, the mighty St. Michael appeared to St. Lorenzo and commanded him, saying,
“Know ye that this man is so hurt by my will. I am Michael the archangel, which will that this place be worshipped on earth, and will have it surely kept. And therefore I have proved that I am keeper of this place by the demonstrance and showing of this thing.”
St. Lorenzo then made a procession to the entrance of the cave where he offered prayers and praise. The bishop was still nervous about entering the cave, given its reputation, but St. Micahel was not finished yet. Two years later, St. Micahel appeared again to promise the people protection from a barbarian invasion. After several days of prayer and penance, a strong storm of hail fell on the invading army and caused them to leave St. Lorenzo and his people alone.
In gratitude, St. Lorenzo and the people made another prayerful procession to the entrance of the cave where St. Michael appeared again. The archangel told the saint that the cave had now been consecrated to God and asked the bishop to build a church. When St. Lorenzo entered the cave for the first time, he found an altar and a cross and knew the archangel had kept his promise.
After receiving permission from the pope, a church was built and consecrated to St. Michael. The shrine is still there on Monte Gargano and there have been more apparitions of the archangel since the time of St. Lorenzo. As well, stones from the cave are considered relics and are even used in exorcisms, a testament to the great power of St. Michael.
Tlaxcala: The Archangel’s Apparition in North America
The most famous shrines to St. Michael’s apparitions are found in Europe. Perhaps the most popular shrine is Castel Sant’Angelo in Rome. What was once a mausoleum is now a popular tourist attraction near the Vatican with a great statue of St. Michael at the top. This commemorates an apparition seen by Pope St. Gregory the Great, which signaled the end of a plague.
While Castel Sant’Angelo and other European shrines are worth a visit, there is one closer to home for us in the Americas. A couple of hours East of Mexico City, in the state of Tlaxcala, is the town of San Miguel del Milagro which hosts a shrine to St. Michael and his seventeenth-century apparition.
A century after the famous Marian apparition at Guadalupe, St. Michael appeared to a young convert named Diego Lázaro de San Francisco on April 25, 1631. Like the apparition to St. Gregory in Rome, this apparition was related to an epidemic that had been decimating the people. St. Michael told the young man that he would provide a miraculous well in a ravine whose waters would cure disease and the archangel asked the young Diego to spread the word.
Diego was still a teenager and came from a native family, so the young man did not think that he would be listened to. So, Diego Lázaro initially doubted himself and did not tell anyone about the mystical vision. Soon after the first apparition, Diego himself fell ill with a burning fever and was thus greatly weakened. A few days into his illness, on May 7th, St. Michael appeared once again.
This time, many people saw the archangel in his glory. He was aloft in white light and fear fell over Diego’s family. The archangel took Diego by the hand and transported him to the site of the sacred spring where a beam of light illuminated the spot in the ravine. Diego was given water from the spring which, through the grace of God, cured Diego of his terrible illness. St. Michael took Diego back to his hut and now the young man obeyed St. Michael and began telling people of this miracle.
Many people had trouble believing that the great St. Michael was appearing to the young man and, once again, Diego Lázaro felt defeated. However, St. Michael was still not finished. In a final apparition, on November 13th, the archangel spoke to Diego during the Holy Mass and chastised him for not following his instructions. So the young man went and collected some water from the miraculous spring, which he presented to the bishop of Puebla.
The bishop listened to Diego’s story and took the spring water from him. From there, the bishop gave the water to several people suffering from disease and they were miraculously cured. More investigations were carried out and there were numerous stories of miraculous cures. Once again, the apparition of St. Michael signaled the end of an epidemic.
Soon, a shrine was built in what is now the town of San Miguel del Milagro. The people of the small town still hold processions in thanksgiving to St. Michael’s intercession, especially on September 29th, the Feast of the Holy Archangels.
Saint Michael, Pray for Us
These two brief retellings show the great power of St. Michael, but there are still more stories and even more details in these accounts. However, we can see clearly that the mighty Archangel is still working to protect and guide God’s children. St. Michael’s intercession is powerful and we should turn to him as a faithful companion in this life.
If you would like to read more about St. Michael’s apparitions, and other great miracles, I highly recommend Adam Blai’s book, The Catholic Guide to Miracles, which first inspired me to write this article. Other angels have made appearances to saints throughout the ages, and you can read about them in Encounters with Angels. Finally, one of the finest theological explorations of angels can be found in Cardinal Danielou’s The Angels and Their Mission.