The plague in Tlaxcala, Mexico, 1631: St Michael appears during the the April 25th “Greater Litanies” Procession
More than a millennium after ending the plague in Rome, and exactly 100 years after Our Lady’s apparitions to Blessed Juan Diego on Tepeyac Hill (Our Lady of Guadalupe, 1531) we come to the year 1631 with another Mexican apparition, which like the Romans finds the native people of Nativitas, Tlaxcala, Mexico 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 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.”
As soon as St. Michael disappeared, Diego Lázaro was initially filled with holy joy. 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.
St Michael makes another appearance to Diego Lázaro, leading him to the miraculous spring, and cures him
Just when those around Diego were convinced that he was passing from this life, St Michael intervened once again. 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.’
‘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
Diego’s family and friends were of course astounded by not only the great flash of light that drove them in fear out of the hut, 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.
Soon afterwards, a young girl stricken with the dreaded smallpox saw a vision of Saint Michael in a dream, instructing her to drink some of the miraculous water. A relative brought her the water, and she was restored to health. 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.”
Cures abound through “San Miguel del Milagro”
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.
“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!