SAINT MICHAEL PARISH, BEDFORD, MASSACHUSETTS
Constantinople, 337 A.D.
At Constantinople Michael was considered both a heavenly physician and a military protector. The Emperor Constantine the Great attributed his brilliant victory over the pagan Emperor Maxentius to the assistance of Saint Michael, and in gratitude built a magnificent church in Sosthenion, some 50 miles south of Constantinople. He dedicated it to the archangel and called it the Michaelion. In 337 Michael appeared to Constantine at this sanctuary, saying: "I am Michael, the chief of the angelic legions of the Lord of hosts, the protector of the Christian religion, who whilst thou wast battling against godless tyrants, placed the weapons in thy hands." The Michaelion became the scene of many miracles and a place of pilgrimage. Many sick and infirm were cured in it. The sick often slept in this church at night waiting for a manifestation of the archangel.
Monte Gargano, Italy, 493 A.D.
Another apparition of the archangel occurred at Monte Gargano (since renamed Monte Sant'Angelo) in the kingdom of Naples. It is said he showed himself there to the Bishop of Siponto in the year 493 and produced another spring of curative waters. In this apparition, "St. Michael intimated to the bishop that the place was under his protection and that it was his will that God should be worshipped there, in honor of himself and the angels." It is also said that the archangel left his red cloak there when he departed.
A sanctuary, the Santurio di San Michele, was built over the caverns where Michael had appeared. In this sanctuary the Lombards of Sipontum (now called Manfredonia) proclaimed that their May 8, 663 victory over the Greek Neapolitans was due to Michael's intercession.
Today in Gargano, the Santurio (also known as the Basilica of St. Michele Arcangelo) remains a place of devotion and a pilgrimage site. The small fountain in the grotto (actually a small opening in the rocks) is said to still retain its miraculous powers.
Marazion, England, 495 A.D.
St. Michael's Mount, a rocky island called Ictis by the ancient Romans, dominates the bay between Lands End and Lizard Point in West Cornwall. Legend says that in 495 Saint Michael, standing on a ledge on the western side of the island, appeared to Cornish fishermen and hermits to ask that a church be built on the summit. Edward the Confessor founded a Benedictine abbey on the Mount in 1044. A 14th Century castle stands there today.
Rome, 600 A.D.
During a plague which greatly depopulated the city of Rome, Pope Gregory I (Gregory the Great) ordered a penitential procession in which he himself carried a statue of the Blessed Virgin. As the procession reached the bridge across the Tiber, the singing of angels was heard. Suddenly Gregory saw an apparition of a gigantic archangel, Michael, descending upon the mausoleum of Emperor Hadrian. In his right hand, Michael held a sword, which he thrust into its scabard. Gregory took the vision as an omen that the plague would stop, which it did, and so he renamed the mausoleum the Castel Sant' Angelo (Castle of the Holy Angel) in Michael's honor.
Avranches, France, 708 A.D.
In France, Saint Michael is the patron of mariners. His statue atop Mont Saint-Michel on the Normandy coast is visible far out to sea. In the year 708 the archangel is said to have appeared to St. Aubert, bishop of Avranches, three times in the bishop's dreams. Each time he commanded Aubert to erect a monastery on a rocky outcrop that rose from the sea a mile off the beach. Aubert obeyed: the site was named Mont-Saint-Michel and the famous sanctuary was built there. Inspired by this famous sight twelve centuries later, Henry Adams wrote in his best-selling book "Mont Saint-Michel and Chartres," that "the Archangel loved heights. Standing on the summit of the tower that crowned his church, wings upspread, sword uplifted, the devil crawling beneath, and the cock, symbol of eternal vigilance, perched on his mailed foot, Saint Michael held a place of his own in heaven and on earth. . . . His place was where the danger was greatest."
Monte Pirchiriano, Italy, 987 A.D.
Just east of Turin, high above an Alpine pass connecting Italy and France, sits a Benedictine abbey known as “La Sacra di San Michele, una abbazia costruita dagli angeli” (“Consecrated by Saint Michael, an abbey made by angels”). The abbey is built around a church which was built around three ancient chapels atop Monte Pirchiriano. The church was built in 987 A.D. by Saint Giovanni Vincenzo after a dream in which Michael and other angels appeared, asking him to build a church and marking its location with a vision of flames on the summit of the mountain (hence the mountain's name, Pirchiriano, meaning “the Lord’s fire”). According to local legend, the first chapel on the site was built into the rock by Michael and his angels around 400 A.D. and the other two chapels were added soon thereafter.
In Fifteenth Century France, Joan of Arc was inspired and urged on to otherwise impossible feats by "voices" coming out of a blaze of light which she identified as those of St. Michael and other angels and saints. It was in vain that she resisted them, saying: "I am a poor girl; I do not know how to ride or fight." The voices only reiterated: "It is God who commands it." She went into battle and was supposedly guided by Michael in her brilliant campaign against the English during the Hundred Years' War.
In April, 1631, Saint Michael visited Tlaxcala, Mexico. On three separate occasions he appeared there to a local Indian, Diego Lazaro by name, and commanded him to "Make my message known." The message was an announcement of a new spring of water, infused and aglow with the "virtue of God." The story handed down to us tells that Diego overcame his initial reticence with difficulty and finally carried out the angel's request. The water soon became famous for its miraculous curative powers. Pilgrims still visit this holy water well, and the statue of Saint Michael, both of which are located at the basilica in the Nativitas district of San Miguel del Milagro (Saint Michael's Miracle), about 40 miles east of Mexico City.
The Vatican, 1884
One day, after celebrating Mass, the aged Pope Leo XIII was in conference with the Cardinals when suddenly he sank to the floor in a deep swoon. Physicians who hastened to his side could find no trace of his pulse and feared that he had expired. However, after a short interval the Holy Father regained consciousness and exclaimed with great emotion: "Oh, what a horrible picture I have been permitted to see!" He had been shown a vision of the activities of evil spirits and their efforts against the Church. But in the midst of the horror the archangel Michael appeared and cast Satan and his legions into the abyss of hell. Soon afterwards the pope composed the following prayer to Saint Michael:
Latin: Sancte Michael Archangele, defende nos in proelio, contra nequitiam et insidias diaboli esto praesidium. Imperet illi Deus, supplices deprecamur: tuque, Princeps militiae coelestis, Satanam aliosque spiritus malignos, qui ad perditionem animarum pervagantur in mundo, divina virtute, in infernum detrude.
English: St. Michael the Archangel, defend us in battle; be our defense 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 thrust into hell Satan and all the evil spirits who prowl about the world for the ruin of souls. Amen.
Photograph of Archangel Michael Copyright 2010 Loci B. Lenar