Apparition of St. Michael
The history of the former feast of the Apparition of St. Michael is very remarkable. In the year 404, a wealthy man had a large herd of cattle grazing on Monte Gargano in Italy, not far from the once famous city of Siponto. One day a steer went astray from the herd and did not return with the rest of the cattle at the usual time. The owner and his hired men went in search of the steer, and finally found him on the summit of the mountain, lying at the entrance of a cave. The animal refused to leave the spot. At length the owner, exasperated by its stubbornness, took up his bow and sent an arrow toward it. However, the arrow whirled about in the air, and, coming directly toward the archer, wounded him.
All were frightened at this strange incident, and no one ventured to approach the place. They went directly to the Bishop of Siponto and related the incident to him. The holy prelate, after serious reflection, decided that there must be some mystery connected with it. He therefore prayed fervently that God's holy will might be revealed. Thereupon St. Michael appeared to him in great splendor and said: I am Michael, the Archangel, who ever stand before the Lord. I am keeping this place under my special protection. By this strange occurrence, I wish to remind men to celebrate the Divine service in my honor and that of all the Angels."
After this revelation, the Bishop and all the inhabitants of the place went up the mountain in solemn procession, and prayed to the Lord through the intercession of St. Michael. When they arrived at the cave, they found an entrance which led down a stairway. No one, however, ventured to enter, and they performed their devotions at the opening. After that many pilgrimages were made to this spot.
Meantime, the Neapolitans decided to make war upon the inhabitants of Siponto and Benevento. The latter, at the advice of their Bishop, kept a three days' fast and called upon the assistance of the holy Archangel. During the night preceding the attack, the Archangel again appeared to the Bishop and told him that God had listened to their petitions, that in the fourth hour of the day they should courageously meet the enemy, and they would gain the victory.
As soon as the attack began, all Monte Gargano was violently shaken. The entire summit was enveloped in dark clouds, from which flashes of lightning, like fiery arrows, flew toward the enemy, who, in consequence, took to flight. In joy and gratitude, and amid devout prayer, the conquerors entered the sacred spot. They found the cavern to be perfectly formed for a church, which could hold about five hundred persons.
This cave had evidently been a place of refuge in which the early Christians had secretly held their services during times of persecution. From a crevice in the rock, which formed the ceiling of this sanctuary, water dripped down upon the rocks. This water was very refreshing and most pleasant to the taste, and possessed healing properties. Many sick persons were instantly cured after drinking this water; others found health through the intercession of St. Michael. Many other miracles proved this place to be under the special protection of Heaven. Besides this subterranean church the Bishop erected another, in which the services were conducted by Canons Regular. This church still exists.