San Miguel del Milagro: The Apparition of Saint Michael in Mexico

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San Miguel del Milagro: The Apparition of Saint Michael in Mexico
San Miguel del Milagro: The Apparition of Saint Michael in Mexico

The state of Tlaxcala, in Mexico, lies in a broad valley with distant views of active volcanoes. Steep hills tower over fertile farmlands where orchards, cornfields, and cattle ranches dot the landscape. The long history of this part of Mexico can be seen to this day in the impressive ruins of Indian pyramids and beautiful Spanish colonial architecture.

Prior to the arrival of Europeans, the Tlaxcalan Indians for centuries embraced idolatry and superstitious practices. When Hernán Cortés arrived in 1521, the Tlaxcalans at first resisted but later became his staunchest allies and united with him to conquer the Aztecs. As new friends of the Spanish, the Tlaxcalans themselves destroyed their idols and temples.

The Tlaxcalans became the first tribe in Mexico to embrace Catholicism. As a result, the hand of Divine Providence blessed Tlaxcala abundantly through the centuries. No greater manifestation can be found than in the year 631, when the great warrior archangel was sent to save the people from mortal danger and shower blessings on future generations.

Mexico and Rome—A Celestial Connection

Saint Michael’s apparition in Mexico is directly connected with another of his apparitions many centuries earlier. On the other side of the globe in the year 590, Saint Gregory the Great was elected pope. Rome and all of Italy was suffering from a terrible plague. The holy pope ordered public processions through the streets to beg for an end to the epidemic. An icon of Our Lady painted by Saint Luke the Evangelist was carried at the head of the papal court.

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As the procession wound along the Tiber River, the Litany of Saints was intoned. At the conclusion of the litany, Saint Gregory looked up and saw the heavens open. Saint Michael, with his fellow angels, descended. A heavenly perfume filled the air. The angels began singing to Our Lady, seated high above on a throne:

Regina Coeli, laetare, Alleluia!

Quia quem meruisti portare, Alleluia!

Resurrexit sicut dixit, Alleluia!*

Saint Gregory, overwhelmed at the sight, concluded the angelic chorus, singing out:

Ora pro nobis Deum, Alleluia!

Concluding the vision, the great pope witnessed Saint Michael sheathing his sword, and the plague at once came to an end. Castel Sant’Angelo was built at the site where Saint Michael and his fellow angels appeared. April 25th, the date of the apparition, became the fixed date for the annual procession that would come to be known throughout the Catholic world as the Greater Litanies.

Meanwhile, in Tlaxcala, the Processions Continue

More than a millennium later, the year 1631 saw the people of Tlaxcala, Mexico also ravaged by a plague. Called “cocolixtli” by the inhabitants, the horrible disease left few alive after immense sufferings. As had been done throughout the Catholic world since Saint Gregory’s time, on April 25th, the people of Tlaxcala took part in the procession of the Greater Litanies.

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It was here that Saint Michael chose to manifest himself again. Instead of the Vicar of Christ, this time, the great archangel appeared to a lowly Indian. Diego de San Lazaro, only seventeen years old at the time, saw Saint Michael in a vision at the conclusion of the procession. The heavenly warrior addressed him thus:

“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 around, that near a valley between two mountain ridges, you will find a miraculous spring of water that will cure men 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.”

Why Me?

As Saint Michael disappeared, Diego was filled with holy joy, which soon changed to confusion and anxiety. Astounded by the celestial vision, this young man asked others in the procession if they had seen Saint Michael. The puzzled looks on the faces of those around him made it clear he was the only one who had seen the celestial prince. Diego became convinced that he imagined the whole encounter, as he could not fathom why he of all people would be chosen for such an honor. Returning home that evening, Diego decided to tell no one about his vision of Saint Michael, not even his own family.

After a few days, the great archangel appeared to Diego again. This time, this heavenly and terrible guest was quite displeased. The great prince towering over him 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.”

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Immediately Diego fell back, taken violently ill. He remained in this state for some time, unable to move or speak, with his condition worsening quickly. Over the course of two weeks, this poor Indian stricken with the dreaded cocolixtli appeared to be wasting away. Diego’s family, convinced he was on the point of death, called for the priests. The Franciscans arrived and administered the Last Sacraments. Family, friends and clergy prayed aloud the prayers for the dying as Diego continued in his sufferings.

Saint Michael to the Rescue

Just when everyone was convinced the end was near, Saint Michael appeared yet again. This time, everyone present saw him, surrounded by dazzling light. Taking Diego by the hand, Saint Michael and Diego soon disappeared.

A short time later, Diego appeared again in the same room, standing and completely restored. He announced to everyone,

“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 will flow 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.’

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“Having said this, a great whirlwind rushed in amid the din of screams, wailing and moaning as if a great crowd were being driven from the place. I shook with fear. It appeared the entire mountain ridge would tumble down on top of me during the turmoil. ‘Do not fear,’ said my heavenly protector, ‘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 with lively faith and sorrow for their faults will, with the water from this spring, obtain relief in their labors and needs, and find a comfort in these waters for the sick on the point of death.’

“This being said, 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 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 once again, completely restored.”

Making the Miracle Known

Diego’s family stood in awe as he recounted his tale. His sudden transformation thrilled them to no end. Remembering Saint Michael’s command to spread the devotion, Diego went at once to the superior of the Franciscans. The priest listened with interest as Diego recounted the story, uncertain 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 and discernment.

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Diego was received by the governor and recounted the entire story of Saint Michael’s appearance to him. The governor listened, growing more skeptical as Diego continued. How could the Prince of the Heavenly Armies choose to appear to an uneducated Indian like Diego? There were scholars, doctors of theology, skilled orators and other dignitaries living in the vicinity. Why would Saint Michael not choose from among their number?

After asking a few questions, Don Gregório concluded that the tale was false. He commanded Diego to return home at once, warning that he did not want to hear any more about apparitions. Diego did as he was told, disappointed but undaunted in his quest to promote devotion to his heavenly prince.

Diego then summoned his family and led them to the place where Saint Michael had revealed the spring. As they approached, they saw the great boulder blocking the spot. The men toiled in vain to remove the great stone, but the half-ton monolith would not budge. It was here 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 lifted up the massive rock as if it were made of paper. The promised spring gushed forth with crystalline water. No one there doubted the truth of Diego’s words, and word began to spread of the miraculous water.

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A young girl stricken with the dreaded cocolixtli saw a vision of Saint Michael in a dream, bidding her to avail of the water. A relative brought the requested water, and she was restored to health. Hearing this, Diego begged her to give testimony to the governor. This she refused, fearing a harsh treatment. In a neighboring village, another miracle followed soon after, this time a young lady cured of the same dread disease by the miraculous water. Again, Diego failed to find help from her or anyone in the family.

Help From Above

Feeling discouraged, Diego considered the task before him impossible. A year had gone by, and he still had little support. His heavenly intercessor, seeing his plight, 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.”

Diego at once went to the spring, and filled a jug with water. Bypassing the hostile governor, he went with haste to the Bishop of Puebla, Don Quiróz. The same archangel facilitated his entrance before the bishop. Diego recounted all concerning Saint Michael’s manifestation. He came to seek the aid of the bishop in completing Saint Michael’s command of spreading the devotion. The bishop listened with great interest. He ordered the water taken to the hospital. All who drank from it were cured of their maladies.

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Others soon came to testify before the bishop in the official investigation. Two recently arrived Spaniards went to the spring and were overwhelmed by a heavenly fragrance that permeated the place. Taking water with them back to Puebla, they testified to the many sick that drank and were cured. Officials sent to the spring testified to the great number of cures as well as the devotions to Saint Michael that were flourishing. Based on the numerous testimonies and verified miracles, Don Quiróz gave ecclesiastical approbation and ordered the first chapel erected, just as Saint Michael requested.

A Constant Flow of Blessings

Since 1631, the number of pilgrims to what came to be known as San Miguel del Milagro continually increased. The first chapel became too small, and larger churches have since been built at the site. Diego de San Lazaro, faithful to Saint Michael’s commands, spent the rest of his life spreading the devotion and is today buried behind the church’s high altar.

Processions continue to our own day. The faithful flock to the shrine on April 25th, the day Saint Michael first appeared during a procession, and September 29th, his glorious feast day.

Just as Saint Michael promised, conversions have taken place due to the marvels worked here over the centuries. Pilgrims from Tlaxcala, other parts of Mexico and beyond come to avail themselves of the water and to honor the celestial prince. Though physical cures are rare today, great numbers leave strengthened, secure in Saint Michael’s assistance for life’s many battles.

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The Prince of the Heavenly Armies manifested himself in 1631 in this remote part of Mexico to show forth his great power. An epidemic came to an end and a source of miraculous water now flows continuously.

Like Saint Gregory the Great and Diego de San Lazaro before us, let us have confidence in the celestial archangel. With trust in his powerful help, a great victory in our days is assured.

*The Regina Coeli translates as follows: Queen of Heaven, rejoice, Alleluia! For the Son whom thou merited to bear, Alleluia! Has risen as He said, Alleluia! Pray for us to God, Alleluia!

Bibliographical Note: The primary source for this article was the book Narracion de la maravillosa aparicion que hizo el Arcángel San Miguel a Diego Lazaro de San Francisco by Fr. Francisco de Florencia, SJ, published 1898 in Puebla, Mexico.

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