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Significance of May 8th

Updated: Apr 30

The following is an excerpt taken from History of the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Pompeii by Bl. Bartolo Longo


"The Appearance of St. Michael the Archangel on Mount Gargano" by Cesare Nebbia (1536-1614)

Chapter XII - The Archangel of Mount Gauro


The deed was not yet singed when I posed to the Bishop of Nola to fix the day for the
solemn consecration and laying of the cornerstone of the Temple of Pompei.

-We must choose a feast-day, - remarked the venerable Prelate, - so that the farmers of the Valley can be present at the ceremony; and it appears to me that the first Sunday of next May which will be the 7th of the month, would be a suitable day. 
St. Michael statue in the Grotto Church

-No, if you permit me - answered I; - for myself I should choose the 8th day of May even
though it is fall on a Monday as it is the day sacred to the Archangel St. Michael. And as the celestial Prince thrust Lucifer, the rebellious angel, out of Heaven's courts, so am I sure will he chase Satan from Valle di Pompei, where he is reined for so many a century.

But this choice of a day sacred to the apparition of The Archangel of God, which I felt inspired to make for this first and great solemnity, forerunner of so many others, did not only arise from a feeling of deep devotion, which I have for this noble Spirit of Heaven, but really from a higher reason.

Whosoever stands in this valley and looks toward the south, naturally rests his eyes on the mountain that form an immense barrier to the south of Castellammare, of Gragnano and Lettere. But one mountain among all the others attracts his especial attention, first because [it is] more majestic than the others, almost like a giant custodian of the valley, and secondly, because its summit is divided into three peaks, which present the shape of the thumb and first two fingers of our hand. And the third peak which is the highest, rises to heaven and again branches into three other points.

The very name of the mountain contains a mystery. It was anciently Gauro, which as some would explain it, meant Gaudio, that is joy, or better, as others would have it, Aureo, golden, mountain of gold. The faithful changed this name into that of Mounte San-Angelo, Mount Holy Angel, and consequence of the following event, which the Church celebrates in one office of the feast of Saint Catello, on the 19th of January.

Apparition of St Michael to Catello and Antonino
It was the seventh century of the church. A saint, St. Catello, was Bishop of Castellammare, who is now venerated on the Altars as protector of that city. That holy Bishop was wont often in the night to retire to the recesses of the mountain in company with the Abbot of Sorrento, who was then saint Antonino, Of the Order of St. Benedict, there to pray together. 

One night, while they were praying there, the Archangel Saint Michael appeared to the Bishop of Castellammare, and told him to build a church in his honor on the summit of that mountain, on the spot which he would indicate by the the apparition of a flame. 

And the flame appeared on the highest point of the three peaks of Mount Gauro. 

After innumerable difficulties and adversities which he had to surmount, and after being insulted and falsely accused in Rome, so that he was even imprisoned, the Holy Bishop of Castellammare succeeded in accomplishing the work enjoined on him by Heaven (i). And immediately there appeared on that high peak, a fresh fountain of crystalline and salubrious water, which first served in the works of the building, and then served to quench the thirst of the numerous pilgrims who every year in the month of September went to venerate the Archangel St. Michael on the spot of his apparition, in the temple erected by St. Catello (1).
Statue of st. Catello in the Cathedral of Castellammare
When on my first coming to Valle di Pompei, I learned this beautiful story of the apparition of St. Michael on Mount Gauro, from the Rev. Gennaro Federico, I soon devined that the greatest Prince of Heaven had some divine purpose to fulfill in this Valley. But at that time I was in ignorance of the purpose. Only it seemed evident to me that Saint Michael was the natural protector of this spot, that he had honored with his apparition and with the signs of his patronage. 

For this reason, with my heart full of such sentiments, I did not hesitate to make my proposition to the Bishop of Nola, as I have already stated.

- Saint Michael, the Archangel - I added, addressing the worthy Prelate - was the Guardian Angel of the Blessed Virgin during her life on earth, St. Michael is the Patron of all the Temples of the living God, and St. Michael shall be the Guardian and Protector of the Temple of Pompei. -

Giuseppe Formisano, Bishop of Nola (1855-1890)
The Bishop of Nola, to please me, consented.

My presentiments were not wrong. The powerful and glorious Prince, always kind to us, has repeatedly allowed us to feel the beneficent effects of his protection. Innumerable have been the victories gained by Saint Michael on this spot over all enemies visible and invisible, both of ourselves and this sanctuary. His apparition in the 7th century indicated the preparation for the reign of Mary in this desolate, unknown and abandoned country, that had one day been under the rule of sin and Satan. The great Archangel came to chase Satan from the land of the gentiles, where a new era of grace was to begin, and a new Sun of mercy to rise. 

However matters may stand, this much is certain, that inspired by the reading of this apparition, we proposed to the Bishop of Nola in 1876 that the day on which the cornerstone of the sanctuary of Mary was to be laid should be the 8th day of May, because sacred to the glory of that Angel who was the Guardian of Mary on earth and is the Defender of all the Sanctuaries of Mary throughout the world; and who, having appeared in this Valley, should by good reason be it singular protector.
 
And now during the course of seventeen years, we have always, on that 8th day of May, called with faith upon the first Angel of Heaven to celebrate together with us the glories of our common Queen. And in each year we celebrate two solemn epiphanies. The greatest Prince of Heaven, whose name is glorious, manifested himself to earth, choosing as a scene of his wonders the peak of a mountain. The greatest Queen that heaven and earth have ever had, has manifested herself to the sorrowing sons of Eve, choosing as centre of her marvels the humble Valley of a buried city.
 
But the Virgin, wishing to still further strengthen our faith in her protection and give new vigor to our reliance on her, so that the future battles, which we were to encounter, should not discourage us, or turn us from our undertaking, wished to perform still another miracle, a fifth one, before our laying the foundation stone.

Footnotes:


(i) See lessons on the Office of Saint Catello on the day of his feast, January 19th.


(1) The temple and the pilgrimage is lasted till 1860, when the brigands made a stronghold of it for themselves, and our soldiers, in order to oust the latter, destroyed the ancient monument. The Bishop of Castellammare saved the precious marble statue, representing the Archangel Saint Michael, which Saint Catello had brought 12 centuries before from Rome and placed there. And now His Excellency Mons. Sarnelli, present Bishop of Castellammare has placed this historic relic in a large and richly adorned Chapel built in the new cathedral of that City, where it is greatly venerated. 


The original statue brought from Rome by St. Catello is displayed in the Cathedral of Castellammare

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