-The Wonderful stories behind the Castle of the Angels in Rome and St Michael’s well in Tlaxcala, Mexico.
“At that time shall arise Michael, the great prince who has charge of your people.” Daniel 12:1
First miracle: The Virgin Mary and St. Michael appear to Pope St. Gregory the Great — The plague in Rome miraculously ended
When Saint Gregory the Great was elected pope, in the year 590, Rome and all of Italy was ravaged by a deadly plague. In fact, Pope St. Gregory was elected because his predecessor, Pope Pelagius, himself died of the epidemic on Feb 7th, 590. On April 25 of that year, the holy pope St Gregory requested a public procession through the streets of Rome to beg for an end to the epidemic. An icon of Our Lady that was painted by Saint Luke the Evangelist was carried at the head of the prayerful entourage.
The Litany of Saints was intoned, As the procession wound along the Tiber River, At the conclusion of the litany, Saint Gregory’s gaze was drawn upwards and he suddenly saw the heavens opened. Saint Michael the Archangel along with numerous other Angels descended above the crowd and a heavenly perfume seemingly filled the air. The angels began singing the “Regina Coeli” to the Blessed Virgin Mary, who was seated on a throne above Michael and the Angels.
Completely overwhelmed by the incredible sight, Saint Gregory concluded the angelic chorus by singing out the closing lines of the Regina Coeli: “Ora pro nobis Deum, alleluia! Gaude et lætare, Virgo Maria, alleluia! Quia surrexit Dominus vere, alleluia.” (Pray for us to God, alleluia! Rejoice and be glad, O Virgin Mary, alleluia! For the Lord has truly risen, alleluia!).
At the conclusion of the vision, the great pope witnessed Saint Michael sheathing his sword, and to the great joy of all the inhabitants the horrific plague came to an end. The beautiful Church called Castel Sant’Angelo stands at the site where Saint Michael and his fellow angels had appeared on that day along with the Blessed Virgin Mary.
From then on, the date of the apparition (April 25th) marking the end of the plague thus became the fixed date for the annual procession that would come to be known throughout the Catholic world as the “Greater Litanies”, since it was St Michael along with the Angels who joined in reciting the Litanies on that day. Nowadays the “Greater Litanies” processions are sometimes called “St Mark’s processions” because the date also coincides with the feast of St Mark.
Second Miracle: The plague in Tlaxcala, Mexico, 1631: St Michael appears once again during the the April 25th “Greater Litanies” Procession
The year 1631, Exactly 100 years after Our Lady’s apparitions to Blessed Juan Diego on Tepeyac Hill (Our Lady of Guadalupe, 1531) and More than a millennium after ending the plague in Rome, Mexico was blessed with another apparition.
Like the Romans, the native people of Nativitas, Tlaxcala, Mexico were also ravaged by a merciless plague. The illness, called “cocolixtli” by the locals, was a horrible form of smallpox that was devastating the people with immense sufferings and numerous deaths. As had been done on April 25th throughout the Catholic world since the time of Pope St. Gregory, the people of Tlaxcala took part in the procession of the Greater Litanies, praying for an end to the plague that was mercilessly afflicting them. It was once again at time of great suffering that God chose to send the great warrior Saint Michael to mitigate the plague.
On this occasion, instead of appearing to a saintly Pope, this time the great Archangel was sent by God to manifest himself to a lowly native Indian named Diego Lázaro de San Francisco (sometimes called Diego de San Lazaro), who was only seventeen years old at the time. Towards the conclusion of the Greater Litanies procession, Diego Lázaro suddenly saw Saint Michael in a vision, and the great Archangel spoke to him in his own native language (Náhuatl) stating:
“You are to know that I am Saint Michael the Archangel, and I have come to tell you that it is the will of God and mine that you tell the inhabitants of this place, and everywhere abroad, that near a valley between two mountain ridges you will find a miraculous spring of water that will cure the people of their ills. You will find it beneath a great boulder. Do not doubt what I have told you and do not neglect what I have sent you to do.”
Diego Lázaro was initially filled with holy joy As soon as St. Michael disappeared. Astounded by the heavenly vision, he immediately asked others in the procession if they too had seen Saint Michael. The puzzled looks and replies of those around him made it clear he was the only one who had seen the Prince of the heavenly host. Confused, Diego Lázaro thought perhaps he imagined the whole encounter, and he decided not to tell anyone about his experience.
St Michael issues a grave warning
After a few days, the great archangel appeared to Diego Lázaro once again, and this time he was very displeased. He thundered:
“Why did you doubt what I have told you? Because you have not done as I requested, you too will be stricken with the plague that is devastating your people.”
Immediately Diego became severely ill with the “cocolixtli”. He remained in this grave state for about a week, until the Archangel’s next appearance. During this time thinking that his life was coming to an end, his family called for a priest, and he received the Sacrament of the sick.
Archangel Michael makes another appearance to Diego Lázaro, leading him to the miraculous spring, and cures him
St. Michael intervened once again, Just when those around Diego were convinced that he was passing from this life, This time, everyone present saw a dazzling light, which scared them tremendously, causing them all to flee from the hut. Describing afterwards what had happened, Diego states that St Michael took him by the hand:
“Saint Michael transported me to the place he had told me about before. With Saint Michael going before me through the night, everything was illuminated as the great prince passed, as if it were midday. Rocks and branches split apart as he passed, clearing a path for us. As we reached a certain spot, I saw Saint Michael holding a golden staff topped with a cross.”
‘From the place I touch with this staff you will see flowing the miraculous spring I told you about during the procession. Make it clear to everyone that the illness you have suffered is a fruit of your disobedience.’
“Having said this, a great whirlwind of deafening screams, wailing and moaning, as if a great crowd were being driven from the place. I shook with fear. It seemed to me that the entire mountain ridge would tumble down on top of me during the turmoil.
‘Do not fear; these are the sounds made by the demons, thine enemies, because they know the great benefits that through my intercession the faithful will receive in this place from Our Lord. Many, seeing the marvels worked here, will convert and do penance for their sins, and all will give thanks to God for His mercies. Those who approach this spring with lively faith and sorrow for their faults will, with the water from this spring, obtain relief in their sufferings and needs, and those at the point of death will find a comfort in these waters.’
“Having said this I saw a brilliant light descend from heaven, piercing the ground at the site of the spring.
Saint Michael then said,
‘This light that you have seen descend from heaven is the virtue that God in His Divine Providence gives in this spring for the health and relief of the sick and needy. Make this known at once to everyone. That they may believe your testimony, I promise to work a great prodigy through you.’
With that, Saint Michael disappeared, and I found myself here in this hut once again, completely cured.”
Doubts and miracles- News spreads and a great boulder is miraculously moved
The great flash of light that drove Diego’s family and friends in fear out of the hut, were of course his story afterwards, and most of all his sudden cure which completely amazed them. Keeping in mind St. Michael’s command to spread the devotion, Diego went at once to the local superior of the Franciscans, Friar Hernando García Rendón, Guardian of the convent of Natívitas. Seeing the obvious sincerity and firm resolve of the 17 year old, the priest listened attentively as Diego Lázaro recounted the story, yet he was unsure what to make of it. He decided to send Diego to the Governor of Tlaxcala, Don Gregório de Nazienzen, who was known for his learning.
Diego recounted to the governor the entire story of Saint Michael’s appearance to him. Sadly, Don Gregório concluded that the tale was false and he commanded Diego to return home at once, warning that he did not want to hear any more about apparitions, and threatening to punish him if he did. Diego returned home as he was told, deeply disappointed but undaunted in his mission to spread word of the miraculous spring water.
Diego then met with his family and a few friends and he led them to the place where Saint Michael had revealed the spring. As they approached, they saw a great boulder blocking the spot. Together the men tried to move the boulder, but it would not budge. It was at this moment that Diego remembered Saint Michael’s words:
“I promise to work a great prodigy through you.”
Asking everyone to stand back, he said a prayer for Saint Michael’s assistance. He then walked up and moved aside the massive boulder. The spring that was beneath gushed forth with crystalline water. Seeing him move the boulder and then the water coming forth, no one there doubted the truth of Diego’s words, and word quickly began to spread throughout the countryside of the miraculous spring.
A young girl, Soon afterwards was stricken with the dreaded smallpox saw a vision of Saint Michael in a dream, instructing her to drink some of the miraculous water. She was restored to health, after a relative brought her the water, and Hearing this, Diego asked her to give testimony to the governor, however she refused fearing harsh treatment from the skeptical leader. In a neighboring village, another miracle followed soon after, this time a young lady cured of the same dreaded disease by the miraculous water. Again, Diego failed to convince this woman also to speak to the governor.
Months went by and Diego felt understandably discouraged in his efforts to convince the governor. On November 13, St Michael once more appeared to him and said,
“Why do you act cowardly, and are negligent in what two times now I have commanded you? Do you want to be punished once again for your disobedience? Arise, and have diligence in making known what I have commanded to you.”
Diego at once went to the spring, and filled a jug with water. This time bypassing the hostile governor, he went to the Bishop of Puebla, Don Gutierre Bernardo Quiroz. The kind Bishop listened attentively to the remarkable story of the apparition and its aftermath up to this point. Calling to mind how the Heavenly Father often had revealed the mysteries of his kingdom to simple people, he came to the conclusion that the young Indian man before him was sincere. He promised that he would make an investigation, ordering that the holy water be distributed among the sick in the area. All those who drank it afterwards greatly improved or completely recovered their health. The news of these cures were immediately reported to the Bishop, and were spread amongst the people in Puebla, Tlaxcala and other regions, and people began to arrive at “St Michael’s well” from many places.
The Official Church Investigations
There have been three official investigations into the apparition of Saint Michael to Diego Lázaro. The first was made the year following the events by order of the Bishop Gutierre Bernardo Quiroz. He ordered Professor Don Alonso Herrera to appear personally in the place, and after having obtained precise information from a number of witnesses, he gave a firm approval, and upon fulfilling his assignment, the canon remained completely convinced of the authenticity of the apparitions, even celebrating a high Mass for the devotees in a nearby Church on Oct. 29, 1632. Based on the numerous testimonies and verified miracles, Bishop Don Quiróz gave ecclesiastical approbation, and ordered the first chapel to be built.
Eleven years later, Bishop Don Juan de Palafox ordered the second investigation with the following decree:
“After having visited the site and having informed ourselves that it seems the marvelous things that God has worked by means of the Archangel have foundation, we give a commission to the Licentiate Gabriel Pérez de Alvarado, priest of Natívitas, to investigate this foundation. Given in Puebla, on Dec. 1, 1643.”
There were ten witnesses chosen, seven Spaniards and three Indians. Among the latter were numbered Andrés Pérez, who was Diego’s cousin, and his maternal grandmother, Isabel Castillán Xuchitl, The interrogation was concluded in January of 1644.
The third investigation was made by a Canon of the Cathedral of Puebla in 1675.
Since 1631, pilgrims from all over the world have come to visit the site and the Church of the miracle which is appropriately entitled “San Miguel del Milagro” and to partake of the miraculous water from the spring. The visionary, Diego de San Lazaro, died at age 20, just 3 years after the apparitions. He consecrated the last three years of his short life totally to the service of the holy Prince Saint Michael, and of the sick who came to the miraculous spring. He was the janitor of the first small chapel built at the site of the apparitions, and he soon became an infirmarian to the sick who came on pilgrimage. He was diligent in caring for the sick; he washed them with the water and clay from the fountain, and he encouraged them with his fervent words. His life was austere and penitent; he spent long hours in prayer, to such a degree, that his life and his virtues became another firm testimony of the veracity of the apparition. Today his holy remains are entombed behind the church’s high altar. Processions continue to this day and the faithful especially flock to the shrine on April 25th, the day Saint Michael first appeared during a procession, and September 29th, the Feast of the Archangels Gabriel, Raphael and Michael. Just as Saint Michael promised, not only was the plague at that time ended, but numerous conversions and healings have taken place there over the centuries.
“This light that you have seen descend from heaven is the virtue that God in His Divine Providence gives in this spring for the health and relief of the sick and needy.”
~St Michael to the visionary Diego de San Lazaro
~St Michael the Archangel, pray for us!