The Shrine of Saint Michael the
Archangel in the Gargano was the
first monument of the Archangel’s that we ever visited. We pray that
Michael and his Shrine touch you in the same way they have touched us,
as we have been called back, again and again. Come with us now, and
experience the Kingdom, the Glory and the Power of God as shown to us
through His Angels, especially the Prince of the Angels, our Michael.
Around the year 490, a lord of the Gargano was
searching for one of his prize bulls. He almost gave up, judging the
bull was helplessly lost, when he spotted him in a cave, kneeling. The
cave was high above the lord, and hopelessly inaccessible. The bull
would never be able to get out; so, as a gesture of mercy, the lord shot
an arrow toward the bull to put the animal out of its misery. The arrow
changed its course in mid-flight, like a boomerang, and struck the lord.
The lord went to the local bishop, declaring what had
happened. The bishop immediately instituted three days of fasting and
prayer to be done outside of the Cave, as he was not sure if it was a
Heavenly inspired occurrence, or from the other place. While the bishop,
his priests, and the lord were on the Gargano, praying at the mouth of
the cave, Saint Michael the Archangel appeared to the bishop, and declared:
"I am the Archangel Michael, and am always in the
presence of the Lord. This cave is sacred to me; it is of my choosing.
There will be no more shedding of bull’s blood. Where the rocks open
widely, the sins of man may be pardoned. That which is asked here in
prayer will be granted. Therefore, go up the mountain and dedicate the
grotto to Christian worship."
The bishop apparently was not convinced that the
apparition was truly the Prince of the Heavenly Hosts, or he could not
have hesitated in obeying the command. The bishop hesitated with "should
I, shouldn’t I," for two years!
The nearby town of Siponto was being invaded by pagan
hordes. It was certain that the town would be defeated. Gargano was
right in the path of the invaders. If Siponto fell, it was pretty
definite that Gargano would go, also. The bishop asked for a three day
truce for prayer.
During this time, Saint Michael the
Archangel appeared to the bishop,
again. He promised, if the people would attack the enemy believing
victory would be theirs, walking in faith, he, Michael, would lead them
to victory. The townspeople advanced boldly. A sand storm assailed and
whipped the enemy, blinding them; huge pellets of hale joined in,
pummeling them relentlessly. Terrorized, they retreated from Siponto,
leaving the area forever.
The bishop climbed up the mountain to the cave. He
did not come down for a long time. He seemed to be agonizing. He did not
enter the cave, but instead prayed outside, at the mouth of the cave .
When he came down, the bishop still did not have a church built there,
where the faithful could worship. We don’t know what caused the bishop
to hesitate this second time.
There was an anguish that didn’t leave him, a gnawing
inside of him, eating at him. The cave and the Archangel’s words were
constantly on his mind. His spirit was being wrenched by a tug-of-war.
He was being pulled in opposite directions. He knew he should be
honoring the Angel’s request. In his heart, he knew it was truly Saint
Michael who had appeared to him both times. But, in his head? Well,
something or someone was holding him back.
The following year, as the anniversary of the
apparition drew near, the bishop appealed to the Pope for guidance and
direction. The Pope ordered the bishop to go to the cave, with other
bishops and priests from the area, for three days of prayer and fasting.
He was to ask the Lord for discernment, and the Angel for help. The
bishop prayed outside the cave, at the mouth of the cave, again not
inside. During this time, Michael appeared to the bishop, a third time.
Saint Michael the Archangel ordered the bishop to enter the cave:
"It is not necessary that you dedicate this church
that I myself have consecrated with my presence. Enter and under my
assistance, raise prayer and celebrate the Sacrifice of the Mass. I will
show you how I myself have consecrated that place."