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Book Page 101
"I found the children happy, and their parents tell me that they sleep like logs; they are especially sweet-natured, are still obedient and show a spirit of unlimited submission. So, in my view, they are still as normal as ever."
The same doctor drew up a long medical report in October, 1962. We shall not quote it in full owing to its length and highly technical nature, but the report ends with the following conclusions:
"1. From the pediatric and psychiatric viewpoints, the four girls have always been, and still are, quite normal.
2. Their ecstatic trances can not be classified in any of the physiological or psychopathological patterns known today.
3. Given the length of time that these phenomena have been occurring, if they had been due to pathological causes of any kind, easily proven symptoms would have made their appearance.
4. Within the field of both normal and pathological child psychology, I can find no explanation whatsoever that might throw some natural light on a series of phenomena that clearly escape the bounds of the natural order."
He sums up his opinion as follows: "Our enormous pride collapses when God confronts us with one of these dilemmas to show us how limited the possibilities of medicine are. Any attempt to explain away a phenomenon that is largely 'irrational' by purely rational means is both absurd and doomed to failure."
In the December 1962 issue of "Gaceta Medica Espanola", the magazine of the Spanish medical profession. Dr. Antonio Castillo Lucas published an article called "Memories of last summer in the mountains of Santander, from a medical point of view". In this article, after studying everything he had seen, he wound up by saying: "I feel that we doctors should undertake a scientific study of the phenomenon, and of the attendant circumstances of isolation, heredity, consanguinity and other elements, for we consider the mental health of these little girls to be in jeopardy, what with the present atmosphere of expectation and curiosity, complicated interrogation, theorising and other psychological factors that tend to disturb their peace of mind and that of their relatives; and we consider that this situation could end in collective neurosis."
I find this attitude quite reasonable, although the fact is that the girls live peacefully in spite of everything, and daily show their perfect mental balance.
On February 25th, 1965, Dr. Ricardo Puncernau, a neuropsychiatrist from Barcelona, gave a lecture on "The facts of Garabandal, as seen by a doctor". In his talk, he tackled the subject from a doctor's angle.
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Dr. Puncernau knows the case well, having studied it very thoroughly, spending long periods with the children and paying the closest attention to the analysis of all their reactions. At the end of his lecture, he declared: "I believe these happenings are of the greatest scientific interest and consequently deserve further, serious investigation. The truth of the matter is that no natural explanation can be found to cover them as a whole, so that, thus far, from a strictly scientific point of view, there is no denying the possibility of a supernatural cause behind all these phenomena. In the light of this possibility, it would be illogical from a Christian point of view to adopt a disdainful attitude." *
In his lecture, Dr. Puncernau merely ratified his thorough report of November 10th, 1962, which we cannot quote in full here owing to its length and technical nature. However, it ends as follows: "With the facts standing as they are, it is difficult for a doctor to find a purely natural explanation; one that would be easily understandable in itself, fully satisfactory and cover all the facts. Hence, as men of science, we must continue our examination of the extraordinary phenomena at Garabandal and hope to collect fresh data."
Finally, we have Dr. Alejandro Gasca Ruiz, who was working in Santander at the time of the apparitions. He was present during a great many of these inexplicable events, and has drawn up a cautious report signed jointly by himself and Dr. Ortiz Gonzalez. The main points made in the document are the following:
"Although we realize how little our modest knowledge can contribute to clarifying matters, our having followed and studied the events closely puts us under the obligation to express our opinion, for not to do so would be an act of rank scientific cowardice.
"For three consecutive years, we have personally kept an eye on the ecstatic phenomena at San Sebastian de Garabandal and their protagonists. Two features have struck us as members of the medical profession: 1. The total psychosomatic normality of the children, both then and now, in spite of having been subjected for long hours to a state of unconsciousness. 2. The fact that the four children's ecstatic trances have been accompanied by a series of parapsychological phenomena such as telepathy, premonitions, clairvoyance, retrovisions, hierognosis, falls while in ecstatic walks, levitation in the case of one child; namely, a great number of phenomena that are today classified as extra sensory perception.
"Consequently, we should have to admit, in all four children, such a degree of parapsychological ability that it would embrace
* Quoted from the newspaper report on Dr. Puncernau's lecture.
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"Consequently, we should have to admit, in all four children, such a degree of parapsychological ability that it would embrace most forms of extra sensory perception. Is this not a veritable scientific miracle? Let us remember the study undertaken in this respect by the London Institute of Parapsychology in cooperation with the radio and television networks. Out of eight million inhabitants tested, how few subjects showed signs of any of these faculties! In no case did the subject possess more than one faculty.
"Today, man cannot subject, control and implement the unconscious zone of his mental faculties in the same way that he can make use of his conscious zone.
"We cannot find any convincing scientific solution to explain such phenomena.
"Other doctors prefer to wait, in the light of the miracle announced by the children, shielded by their attitude of doubt and their impotence to explain the prodigies; but, let it not be forgotten that, more often than not, doubts imply a tragic form of belief."
A Newspaper Article on Garabandal
54.—The "Pensamiento Alaves", in its number of April 27th, 1962, ran an interesting article by Dr. Jose de la Vega, telling of his visit to San Sebastian de Garabandal. I think it is only appropriate to quote a newspaper report in this chapter devoted to the testimony written by others. It reads as follows:
"Since June 18th last, the Blessed Virgin has been walking almost daily through the twisting streets of a little village way up among the Cantabrian peaks. This is the claim of four little girls between the ages of ten and twelve, born and bred in the heart of the Santander uplands and devoid of any schooling other than the lessons taught them by the parish priest."
"The entire village, with its bare seventy families, has been in a state of confusion for months. Once, or even several times, each day, at pre-arranged hours, the children pray with, talk and blow kisses to the Virgin Mary, while lost in a deep ecstatic trance. The poor families of these children are frightened.
"The Church has prudently refrained from giving an opinion. Even the most incredulous doctors finally admit that the goings-on defy logical explanation. But, day after day, thousands of believers hailing from distant parts arrive at the hamlet, fervent in their faith and tears of emotion in their eyes; and in their faith they find the sole explanation of this extraordinary series of occurrences that is lived over and over, night after night, in San Sebastian de Garabandal.
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"I spent Holy Week among these people. I lent an ear to villagers and visitors alike; I chatted with the children before and after their visions. Since, professionally speaking, I can find no explanation for what I saw, I feel bound to believe in a prodigy.
" 'Did you see the Blessed Virgin,' people ask me.
" 'No, I didn't,' I confess, 'but I did feel her presence in my heart and soul.'
"Doctor, I find you most skeptical," remarked a Jesuit Father who accompanied me.
"No, Father. It's not that," I responded. "I'm utterly disconcerted. My dearest wish would be to feel just as the children and everybody else feel about it. But, you know far better than I do that faith is a gift that God doesn't give us all in the same measure."
"A few hours later, I found myself watching the second apparition at close quarters. It was before dawn on Holy Saturday. The rain was pouring down, and the whole village looked like a rock-strewn mud-pie. Armed with torches, we followed one of the visionaries at a great pace as she went round the village streets in ecstasy. Clasped between her hands was a crucifix. Her head was thrown back, her smiling eyes staring up at the heavens . . . From time to time, she would drop to her knees, pray and kiss the Cross. Half the locals and all the strangers, even visiting children, followed her, open-mouthed in wonder. Only shortly beforehand, in her humble peasant kitchen—where she had spoken to us rather drowsily, for it was 4 a.m.—we had seen her suddenly fall into an.ecstatic trance, falling to her knees without burning herself on the searing stones of the blazing hearth. As though uplifted by angels' wings, she rose to her feet and commenced her tour of the village. Stumbling in the pitch blackness of the night, spattering one another with mud up to our eyebrows, we pursued her, never pausing for breath.
"Fervently, I begged God to grant me the grace of faith.
"In the little visionary's wake, we plunged down practically every lane and alley in the hamlet; we visited the church porch, the cemetery, and the mountainside where the Virgin Mary had appeared for the first time.
"The unevenness of the ground underfoot, the darkness and my city-dweller's innate clumsiness caused me to trip up on every stone that lay in my path. Bit by bit, I was left behind. I could go no farther and decided to await the return of the others. My wife could not bear to stop, despite the fact that she was already panting for breath. On she went, drawing courage from my own incredulity.
"All of a sudden, before she reached the brow, the ecstatic child halted in her tracks and started to run downhill backwards, scarcely
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brushing the steep stony ground in her passage, her smiling gaze never leaving the night sky. Reaching the spot where I was waiting, she stopped. With a resounding thud, she fell to her bare knees on the sharp stones, as though they were a feather cushion. Then, she raised her crucifix heavenwards, paused, and proffered it to me to kiss. Around her neck were hanging medals and rosaries belonging to nearly all those present. Her fingers sought a particular chain, while she whispered rather than talked to her invisible apparition:
" 'Tell me which one it is. Is this it?' She held the medal up for the Virgin in her vision to kiss. 'Now, tell me whose it is,' we all heard her murmur huskily.
"Without a moment's hesitation, she turned to my wife, opened the gold catch of the chain and fastened it round her neck. My wife fell to her knees, moved to tears like myself and others who saw that strange scene. The child made her kiss the medal blessed by the Virgin Mary's lips and helped her to her feet with an angelic smile that we shall never forget.
"In like fashion, with roughly the same words, she placed round my neck my own medal kissed by Our Blessed Lady. I could no longer contain my emotion and dropped to my knees, too, with the sting of tears on my cheeks.
"At that instant, I discovered the explanation of all that I had thus far not understood. In the heavenly expression on that child's face, I saw reflected the invisible presence of Our Lady of Mount Carmel overhead. I wept unashamedly on my knees, and begged God's forgiveness for my incredulity.
"Like everybody else who goes there for a first time, I must go back to San Sebastian de Garabandal. With me I shall take doctors and friends, and I shall ask them to try to explain the prodigy of those four little girls from the uplands of Santander. But, with all my heart, I beg God never to let them take away from me the emotion I experienced that night. It is so beautiful to believe in the miracle!"
An Authoress's Account
55.—We cannot overlook Spanish literary circles in this chapter written by others.
Here is an extract from the moving pages about her visit to Garabandal by the brilliant Catalonian authoress, Mercedes Salisachs.
"Holy Saturday, April 21st, 1962.
I must confess, although I do not consider myself especially gullible where prodigies are concerned, no more do I feel bound to discount them simply on ethical grounds or on established principle.
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Many have been the 'gifts' that God has sent mankind in the course of the centuries. True enough, our faith should not be based on such 'gifts', but, if they are genuine, there is nothing to prevent our making use of them to nourish our religious life.
And this was really what I was looking for when I first set out for the village of Garabandal. I wanted to come closer to God and render homage to the Virgin Mary, although, naturally enough, I still had doubts as to the authenticity of the alleged apparitions.
The fact is that my religious life had undergone a considerable change some three and a half years earlier, as a result of the death of my son Miguel, and following an inner crisis that had entirely swept aside the deep-rooted habits and theories of a life-time.
Although I was a practicing Catholic, it was from force of habit and a sense of duty rather than from love of God.
My son, Miguel, on the other hand, was religious in the "spiritual" sense. The firmness of his faith was astonishing; especially the maturity of his reasoning. Without being a mystic, everything he did and thought had an underlying religious purpose, perhaps in contrast with the human effort that any of his ventures entailed.
His artistic work, praised by all the Spanish press following posthumous exhibitions in Madrid and Barcelona, give only a glimpse of the quasi-mystical spirituality which was reflected in his conversation and habits. The final result of his life, however, fully confirmed the greatness of his soul.
He was engaged when he died, and had intended getting married when he was twenty-two. With this in mind, he had done his military service earlier than usual. There was nothing in him to suggest the end he was to meet. Bursting with health, ever making new plans, he was the living embodiment of the future. Yet, on more than one occasion I had heard him exclaim forlornly: 'I'm wasting my time. The years are catching up with me . . .' He seemed goaded to these outbursts by something that neither he nor anyone comprehended. Seeing his disquietment, I would do what I could to calm him: 'But, you've got your whole life before you.' But, his 'fear' of not accomplishing what he planned to do was stronger than any reasoning: 'I haven't a minute to lose ... I must gain time . . .'
All the same, I think his sense of urgency was unconscious. At any rate, I never heard him mention the slightest suspicion of what fate had in store for him. Yet, his maturity was becoming increasingly apparent. The last year of his life was marvelous. The metaphysical evolution he was undergoing was very noticeable. He had succeeded in correcting his own inclination to rebelliousness to such a degree that, if ever it rose to the surface through ill-humor, he
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at once burst out laughing. 'There's nothing so grotesque as a rage', he used to say. Consequently, his company was a tonic to everybody, and conversation with him was a blessing.
About a month before he died, he and his fiancee decided (I think in fulfillment of a thanksgiving resolution) to receive Holy Communion every day. This new habit, which he never mentioned to me, but which I suspected, accentuated to an even greater degree the signs of his self-control; he had acquired an enviable calm, and his stoicism in adversity was uncommon at his age.
Indeed, adversity crossed his path on not a few occasions. In spite of the apparent ease of his life, year after year, difficulties beset him at every step. It is incredible how many of his ventures were doomed by adversity.
Towards the end, however, he no longer seemed to care about the mounting obstacles that barred his path. He gave the impression that, as far as he was concerned, nothing could really be adverse again. Shortly before his death, he exclaimed to a friend of his: 'I've been to Communion twenty days running. What a fool I am for not having done it before!' And he slapped his hand to his head in exasperation.
On October 30th, 1958, after going to Communion as usual, he set off for France with four fellow artists. Ten kilometers from their goal, they had an accident. Two of them were killed instantaneously. Two survived.
Miguel died at six o'clock the following morning, the 31st. I do not think he would have recovered consciousness.
I have given this short account, because the things that happened to me at San Sebastian de Garabandal are closely connected with it.
I have no idea what other mothers can have felt at the loss of a son like Miguel. But, I doubt whether they can have overcome the same sort of emptiness and horror that engulfed me. Our understanding of each other was such that, when speaking of him to me before his death, even his brothers and sisters (to say nothing of his friends) did not bother to mention him by name. They simply said 'our son', as though he were the only one.
Everyone considered Miguel as my alter ego, my real confidant and inseparable companion. They were not mistaken.
In our spare time, the three of us (his fiancée, he and I) were wont to get together. We went out together, or else stayed at home, chatting. His whims were always the same as mine and our plans were always made together. For my part, having him at my side was like owning a piece of cosmos. On him I focused all my good aspirations, and I believe he had the same attitude towards me. In fact, he was not just my son, but my best friend, too.
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So, it is hardly surprising that his death should have snuffed out the main point in my life, and that, on losing him, I should have felt overwhelmed by the most horrifying, stygian gloom.
People told me that I would get over it in time; that, although I would not manage to forget him, memory of him would gradually fade until he became a pleasant recollection. People said that, little by little, I would get used to not seeing him, not hearing his voice, and that I would eventually accept matters without such a wrench.
But, time went by, and I was still desperate. Although I attempted to hide my sadness, especially so as not to hurt the feelings of my other four children, the more time passed the emptier, sadder and more lost I felt.
Some resorted to religious reasoning. They spoke to me of Christian resignation, reminded me of Miguel's great faith, of his exemplary death, and said I should praise God for having taken him from me with his soul in such happy circumstances. But, resignation would not come, and all their persuasion struck me as empty, thoughtless arguments.
There even came a time when doubts about my faith became my obsession. Religion took on the appearance of a repair-patch on a burst tire, and everything that I had hitherto admitted without undue effort now started to crumble, plunging me into greater and greater depression. In this fashion, I finally turned into an empty shell with no horizon but the past, and no hope for the future but death.
The collapse of my morale was shattering. The temptation to 'doubt' continually assailed me. I got the impression that after death everything was over, that hope was nothing but a great lie, and that faith was a childish myth invented to keep us in order.
My doubts, however, did not win completely. Sometimes, for some unknown reason, hope returned. 'What if Miguel can see me? What if the dogma of the Communion of Saints is true . . . ?' It was as if Miguel were tugging at me; as if he were screaming out to me to arouse me from my apathy.
At that period, I could not even pray. I always ran into a blank wall of doubt. On one occasion, I remember, my mother suggested we should all say the rosary together, and (I still feel ashamed at my retort) I refused because I considered it 'vulgar'.
The fact was, I needed some proof; something to make me realize that, beyond death's threshold, life continued. But proof was not forthcoming, and, to tell the truth, I did not do anything to seek it out either. My devotion to Our Blessed Lady was practically non-existent.
One day, shortly before the feast of the Immaculate Conception,
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almost instinctively I found myself before a statue of Our Lady of Sorrows, begging the Blessed Virgin to give me proof that Miguel indeed existed still.
Proof was not long in coming. It was indisputable evidence. So incontestable was it that, even if someone were now to explain it away with normal arguments, I should still be convinced that what happened was nevertheless an answer from Our Lady.
From that day onwards, I had no other obsession than to return to God. Five months later (on May 4th, 1959, to be exact), I made a general confession and my peace with God, once and for all, resolving never to part from Him for a single second of my remaining life.
From that moment, everything began to change for me. Though I still missed Miguel greatly, and loneliness continued to torment me, my inward peace was now a great balm.
Reciting the rosary ceased to strike me as 'vulgar', and my devotion to the Virgin Mary grew day by day.
So it was that, when I heard of the children of Garabandal, I made up my mind to visit their little village, not just out of curiosity, but with the idea of rendering homage to the Virgin, even though the authenticity of the phenomena might be debatable.
My First Trip
Taking advantage of the fact that the family was away in Switzerland at the time, I left Barcelona on Maundy Thursday (1962), accompanied by our chauffeur, Jose, and his wife, Mercedes. We reached Cosio at noon on Good Friday.
In Cosio, I met the parish priest of Garabandal, Don Valentin Marichalar. While waiting for the car that was to drive us up to the village, I had an opportunity of speaking to him. He struck me as a kindly man, intelligent yet simple. As far as I could make out, his position was a very awkward one. Obedience to his superiors obliged him to be stern about the prodigies, and this severity was not always taken with good grace by his parishioners.
Despite his caution, he ended up by confessing that, at heart, he was convinced that the phenomenon occurring there was supernatural, and that their innocence made the little girls worthy to receive the visits of the Virgin.
He also spoke to me of the outstanding moral uprightness of the villagers, their religious fervor and a long-standing custom of saying the rosary in the village church every evening, even when he himself was away.
This chat with the village priest heightened my curiosity to meet
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the children. It was 2 p.m. when the car that was to take us turned up. Fidel, the driver, informed us that Fr. Corta, a Jesuit who had come to help Fr. Marichalar with the Holy Week ceremonies, was then about to give Holy Communion. The village en masse had congregated in the church.
From time to time, the children passed close to us. They appeared to be on very friendly terms with the Santa Marias, through whom I managed to get introduced to the private circle of each one.
That afternoon, I entrusted Jacinta with some pious objects to give to the Virgin to kiss. I made her and her fellow visionaries the same request: 'Ask the Virgin for news of my son.' I think it was Jacinta who inquired: 'What's wrong with your son?' I told her he had died.
This done, I made my way to Mary Loly's, where everyone was waiting for her next apparition. I gave Mary Loly a sheet of paper written on both sides. On handing it to her, I told her that I did not expect an answer. 'The only thing I should like to know is where my son is.' I did not mention his name. The one who might have known it was Jacinta, since I had left a commemoration card of his on the table for the Virgin to kiss. Jacinta might quite feasibly have informed Mary Loly secretly, but it does not seem in keeping for Mary Loly to lie when she told me that the name 'Miguel' was given her by the Virgin.
I still did not know how the visions occurred. Though they had been explained to me, I found it difficult to visualize them. I have now been to Garabandal three times and have seen many ecstasies, yet I still think there is no way of describing, not just the visionaries' "fall", their facial expressions and movements, but the atmosphere of respect that always reigns supreme when 'the apparitions arrive', in spite of the background of some of the tourists and the villagers' familiarity with these events.
A few days ago, I asked the children whether they had got accustomed to the idea of seeing the Blessed Virgin. Mary Loly came out with a very subtle reply. 'At this minute, I feel as if I have got accustomed now; but, when I see her again, it's as if it was something new.'
Well, that is in fact precisely the case with those of us who are present during an ecstasy. We feel as if we were already used to them; but, on seeing them afresh, we are still overcome with surprise.
At first sight, nothing that the children do appears to have any point to it. Their movements, their swaying motions, their headlong running, their conversations in an undertone, their insistence when proffering the crucifix in their hands for people to kiss . . . All
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these factors at first leave the onlooker open-mouthed in wonder at their incongruence and apparent inconsistence. (There is a priest who stated in his report that the goings-on at Garabandal were 'hardly dignified', most likely overlooking the scant dignity at Lourdes). Even admitting the undignified appearance of events, nothing that occurs there occurs without a purpose. The trouble is that, to grasp this, you have to stay in the village at least three days. Once you are acquainted with the apparent incongruence, everything is clear. Whether instantaneously or belatedly, the explanation is always forthcoming.
I, for my part, ought to add that, although my yearning was great, my hope was weak. I had approached my trip the same way one does a pilgrimage. I was prepared to put up with any discomforts or obstacles.
It was not long before we heard the characteristic thud of Mary Loly falling to her knees. It came from upstairs. Silence fell and only a short time had elapsed when we saw Mary Loly descending the stairs, her eyes staring heavenwards and her face transfigured, holding hands with another little girl.
I do not think the greatest actress could imitate that expression.
Mary Loly went to the table on which lay the objects to be presented to the Virgin. She began to hold them aloft to be kissed. I saw her pick up my sheet of paper, raise it on high, turn it round and deposit it on the table once more.
Then, clutching her crucifix, she went out into the street.Her regular strides were light and easy. It was as though she were walking on a smooth, flat surface. She was unaware of the quagmires, puddles, rubble and stones underfoot ...
Somehow or other, I grabbed the arm of the child to whom she was clinging, but, after a halt at the church door, Mary Loly started up the mountainside and I was forced to relinquish my hold. Exhaustion prevented my following them any farther. I felt as though my galloping heart beats would give out at any moment, so steep was the slope leading up to the pine grove.
Thus far, the evening had been none too pleasant as far as I was concerned. Often though the child had given the Cross to be kissed, she had overlooked me. I was deeply pained by the suspicion that, if all this was true, the Virgin Mary was deliberately evading my kiss.
When Mary Loly at last started down the mountainside, I saw her running backwards, her gaze piercing the gloom overhead, avoiding obstacles and pot holes as if she had eyes in the back of her head. When she reached the village, she was joined by Jacinta; they laughed as they met. . . Both of them proffered their crucifixes
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for people to kiss and walked on arm in arm.
At the church door, Jacinta emerged from her trance. Mary Loly returned home, still in a state of ecstasy.
I called Jacinta to me and asked for news of Miguel. The child replied that the Virgin had not answered her query. Downcast, I tackled Mary Loly next. Her response was identical. "Did she read my sheet of paper?" I urged. "Yes, she read it."
Realizing my disappointment, Fr. Corta inquired when she would see Our Lady again. "From two o'clock to half past two," she said. Fr. Corta suggested that she should once more ask the Virgin for news of my son when she saw her again.
That same night, when Mary Loly fell into an ecstatic trance for the second time, she was joined at once by Jacinta who was walking around the streets in a trance, too. Again, they gave all the onlookers their crucifixes to kiss; again, when they came my way, they passed my lips by.
But the worst of all was what they told me on re-emerging. Both Jacinta and Mary Loly told me the same story. "The Blessed Virgin gave me her answer, but I can't tell you what it is."
That reply was far worse than the previous one. There was no escaping the obvious conclusions. Either I did not deserve to be answered by the Virgin, or else, despite every supposition to the contrary, Miguel was in a place of which it was "better to remain in ignorance".
I goaded Mary Loly to tell me whether the Virgin's answer was pleasant or otherwise. "I can't say, I can't say . . ." she evaded my questioning. Her face was quite inscrutable.
Fr. Corta again tried to come to my rescue. He saw I was upset, and doubtless felt sorry for me. "Can you tell her tomorrow?" The child shrugged. "Perhaps ..."
Going to bed that night, I felt as if I had been turned into a block of ice. The suspicion that neither God nor Our Blessed Mother wanted to have anything to do with me depressed me as much as my assumption that Miguel might be suffering punishment. But, somehow it seemed out of the question to doubt Miguel's salvation ..
I wondered whether my conscience was, perhaps, not as clear as it might be. Yet, much as I tried to probe it and discover some grievous sin, I could recall nothing. I told myself that maybe the Virgin wanted me to show greater piety, more care when reciting the rosary, more humility . . .
One by one, I re-examined the phenomena that I had witnessed throughout that day and night. I desired with all my heart to discover a "flaw", grounds to disprove their authenticity . . . something
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that would make me see clearly that what was happening in Garabandal was sheer mumbo-jumbo. But, the more I went over the facts in my mind, the more authentic everything seemed. The only flaw in the whole set-up was myself. That was undoubtedly why the Virgin did not want me to kiss the crucifix.
Holy Saturday was a barren day, too. Notwithstanding the kindness shown me by the Santa Marias, Fr. Corta, Fr. Marichalar, the sergeant-major of the Civil Guard and even the mothers of the visionaries, everything in the village seemed hostile to me. Their kindness was no doubt due to the pity and distrust awakened in them by the isolation to which the Virgin had sentenced me. To me, it was of no importance at all what people might be thinking. What hurt me most was that continual disdain.
It was then that I first began to have a presentiment that everything that was happening to me was sheer trickery, a sort of trap ... I remembered that it was Holy Week. Could all this have something to do with the liturgy? I hardly dared think so; it seemed too subtle, too easy a way out. . .
But, the fact is, with the coming of that presentiment, I lost all notion of fear. I accepted everything and submitted to God's will.
That night, I had supper alone in the tavern. Afterwards, the sergeant-major of the Civil Guard took me round to Conchita's house.
Conchita's mother welcomed me kindly and offered me a seat next to her daughter. The heat of the fire on the hearth was bothersome, and I began to feel increasingly uncomfortable. But, as the hours passed, my morale gradually revived.
We chatted of this and that, of things that were not particularly closely connected with the visions. The most striking thing about those children is their naturalness in everyday life. They accept the supernatural with almost incredible simplicity. They feel that anyone can "see the Virgin", and that what is happening to them is perfectly normal.
What really worries them is to see people's disbelief. Over and over again, they ask people, "Do you believe? Do you really believe I see the Virgin?" They probably think that it depends on that belief whether or not the Virgin works the great miracle that she has been announcing from the very first. Conchita is particularly prone to this worry. When least expected, there she is asking, "Do you believe?"
Apart from this, they are always very sure of themselves when it comes to theological matters. Notwithstanding their obvious innocence, the perspicacity in their remarks is astounding.
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(On my second trip, when Conchita gave me in writing the messages that the Virgin had given her for me, I was overcome by what I was reading, and told her I did not deserve such generosity because I was not good enough and did not make sufficient sacrifices, and Conchita answered with a firmness that is uncommon in an ignorant, uneducated child. "It's enough to do our duty; Our Lady asks no more!")
That night, Conchita gave free reign to her tongue. Between them, she and Aniceta, her mother, recounted with a great sense of humor all the past events: the vision of St. Michael the Archangel; the colloquies they had had with the late Fr. Andreu; Conchita's trip to Santander and the story of her visit to the hairdresser's, where they cut off her plaits. Bit by bit, the house began to fill up. The blazing kitchen fire was too much for me and the air was becoming unbearable.
I was out of the room when Conchita fell to her knees in an ecstasy, and unable to see exactly what occurred.
After kneeling down, she arched over backwards until she was reclining on the floor. All at once, it was as if she was lifted upwards. People round her claimed that not a single part of her was touching the floor, but I cannot testify to this case of levitation because, from where I stood, I could not be certain. When she went out, however, I was able to see what happened to a newcomer to Garabandal, Señor Mandoli.
Although a practicing Catholic, he did not believe in visions. I suddenly saw Conchita turn in mid-stride and come straight towards us (Señor Mandoli was beside me) to offer him the crucifix. But, either out of shyness, or perhaps to put her to the test, he evaded her. Her head flung back, never once looking to see where she was stepping, Conchita pursued him relentlessly until she managed to get him to kiss the crucifix.
Much moved, Señor Mandoli confessed to me that he had just asked the Blessed Virgin, if all this business was true, to make Conchita seek him out and give him her crucifix to kiss.
If my memory serves me right, I was not given the crucifix to kiss that night either. If I did manage to kiss it at any particular point, it was purely by chance in passing as it was offered to someone else.
Walking on, Conchita joined the other three children, who were likewise in a trance. Light of step as usual, they linked arms as they proceeded up the street followed by the crowd.
I recalled that the other apparitions (Lourdes and Fatima) had been local and ecstatic, and it struck me that the ones I was witnessing could perhaps be explained by the ways of our modern times. It
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was as though the Virgin Mary, like Pope John XXIII, wished to adapt her mercy to the restless seeking of those in need of it.
When you come to think of it, it would look somewhat out of place in these days to see ecstatic trances of the same ilk as those at Fatima and Lourdes. People need another kind of tonic, other methods, another approach. And the methods in the case of these children were perfectly suited to our needs. The apparitions had become "approachable"; everybody could take part in them at a distance; anybody who wished could participate indirectly in the conversations between the visionaries and the apparition. According to the children, from the very first, the Blessed Virgin showed every sign of "desiring to close the gap" between herself and the onlookers. She allowed them to ask her questions; she suggested they give her pebbles to kiss. All together, the impression was that she wanted to break down all barriers.
At that moment, however, I was so depressed by the apparent "disdain" that the Apparition was showing me that, without stopping to think of the undoubted generosity she was showing the others, I firmly resolved not to ask any more questions or to expect the slightest sign through the children.
Following a long-standing local custom, in the early hours of Easter Sunday, the village women started to sing the rosary. Despite my weariness, I felt impelled to join them. The devoutness of that scene was truly impressive; I cannot remember ever having spent an Easter of such profound religious fervor as that one.
As we advanced, the night sky cleared. The rooftops shone almost as brightly as the moon and stars.
We must have been mid-way through the third mystery when the unexpected happened.
All at once, I felt someone prodding me in the back. Turning, I saw the Marquesa de Santa Maria arm in arm with Mary Loly. "Mary Loly says she has something to say to you," she confided.
At that moment, I could not think what she was referring to. I remembered that, following her ecstasy that evening (before midnight Mass, of course), I had spoken to the child and she had been as secretive as ever. Just as I had resolved, I had asked her no further questions, and she, for her part, had shown no signs of wishing to talk either. So, I could not grasp what she could possibly want to tell me.
But Rosario Santa Maria added: "It's something to do with what the Virgin told her yesterday, but it seems she was commanded to keep it quiet until after one o'clock today . . ."
Rather abashed, Mary Loly was saying: "Later on; I'll tell her afterwards . . ." We were walking along in procession reciting the
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rosary, and it was hardly proper to halt for a mere message.
Confused, I did not know whose side to take. But Rosario, who had seen the time I had been having, insisted: "Not on your life; you're to tell her this minute. You can't leave this poor lady with such a worry on her mind."
Mary Loly and I drew slightly away from the procession. Disconcerted, and still fearful of what might be in store for me, I bent down for the little girl to whisper in my ear.
In a clear voice she gave me the message. "Our Lady says your son is in Heaven."
I cannot say precisely what happened after that. Everything about me seemed in such a whirl that it is no easy matter to reconstruct the scene. Everything, absolutely everything, was as nought beside that one sentence.
The only thing I remember clearly was hugging Mary Loly as if I were embracing Miguel. Then, I found myself hugging Rosario. She, too, was crying. She was saying so many things at the same time that I could not hear her. People were milling round about us; it was like being on a roller-coaster with more and more people joining us as we spun round. I could see Fr. Marichalar, Fr. Corta, Eduardo Santa Maria, the sergeant-major of the Civil Guard . . . They were all looking at me, fright mingling with emotion in their faces. Alarmed at this interruption, Conchita's mother came over to comfort me. "If she's crying because they haven't given her the crucifix to kiss, tell the lady that they haven't given it to me tonight, either."
They told her mine were tears of joy; the good woman looked relieved. The rest of that rosary was like winging up to Heaven. All my earlier depression had disappeared; I recollect handing Rosario Santa Maria my walking-stick and clinging to Mary Loly's arm. Never in my life had I felt so light-hearted or so secure. Tears still stinging my eyes, we rejoined the procession through the streets in those early hours before dawn. I think I prayed more with my eyes than with my lips. Mary Loly was saying over and over: "Don't cry, don't cry . . ." But, there was no taking any notice of her plea. There was so much to cry about! She insisted: "You ought to be very happy."
Now, I did not bother to look where I was going. I no longer needed a torch; Mary Loly's arm was firm in mine. Full of confidence in her guidance and trust in the Blessed Virgin, I walked the rest of the way gazing up at the heavens. I have never seen the sky so clear and studded with stars; every twinkle was a smile.
It was 3 a.m. when we reached the tavern. Mary Loly's visions had been announced for 4:30 a.m. Still stunned by what had happened
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to me, I saw Rosario whispering to Mary Loly. "But, my dear child," she exclaimed, "don't keep it to yourself . . .! Tell her now." Coming over to me, Rosario added: "Mary Loly says the message she gave you is incomplete, but as you started to cry she couldn't go on telling you the rest of it."
What the child had to tell me this time left me still more overcome. "She also told me that your son is very happy, extremely happy, and he's at your side 'every day'."
She at once went on to confirm what Rosario had already intimated. "I already knew your son was in Heaven; Our Lady told me so yesterday. But she also said, "Don't tell the lady until tomorrow, after Sunday Mass,' That's why I kept quiet about it until now."
Such subtlety could not be the work of a child. Moved, I enjoined Mary Loly time and again to tell the Virgin, when next she saw her, to ask anything she wished of me, for, whatever it was, I would gladly give it to her. Afterwards, however, whenever I inquired whether she had conveyed my request to the Virgin, she replied that she had "forgotten." I told myself, by this "forgetfulness," she wished to give me to understand that when the Virgin gave something, she gave it unconditionally.
From the moment of that crisis, everything changed for me. No sooner had the child fallen to her knees in a trance that I had proof that my earlier "ostracism" had ended. She came straight to me. She held the crucifix to my lips once, twice, thrice . . .; then, making the Sign" of the Cross over my forehead, lips and heart, she held the crucifix up for the Virgin to kiss once more and, as if in final confirmation of all she had just told me, she held it out to me again.
Thereupon, without proffering it to anyone else, she went out into the night.
Outside, Mary Loly's father, Ceferino, beckoned us over. "She's talking to the Virgin about you," he said. Sure enough, she was undoubtedly speaking about me. "I told her not to cry, and that she ought to be happy, but she took no notice . . ." After a brief pause, she asked: "And what if she starts crying again when I tell her?"
From that night onwards, they never failed to proffer me the crucifix.
As soon as she emerged from her trance, Mary Loly came over and informed me in a low voice that Our Lady had given her another message. She waited until we were alone. "While I was speaking to the Virgin," she began, "I noticed she was laughing a lot and looking upwards; and, when I asked her why she was laughing so, she replied that, at the very moment she was talking to me, 'he' was looking at you and was very happy ..."
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"Who do you mean, Mary Loly? M ..... .?" I could not get his name out.
But she forestalled me. "That's right, Miguel. She said to me: 'Above all, tell the lady that this very minute while I am speaking to you, Miguel is watching her, and that he is full of joy, that he is very happy; very, very happy . . . indeed."
"Tell me, Mary Loly. How do you know his name is Miguel?"
The little girl was quite unperturbed. Very simply, she replied: "Because I asked her: 'Who is Miguel?' And she said to me: 'That lady's son'."
I have confirmation of all this recorded on tape. The following day, I begged Mary Loly to record that passage so my husband could hear it. Naturally, the flow of our conversation was less spontaneous than the previous night, but the general lines and atmosphere of it were the same. The little girl seemed bashful about speaking into a microphone. Nevertheless, on my second trip, when she recounted what had happened for my daughter's benefit, in spite of the time that had elapsed, she told the whole story without omitting the minutest detail.
Unfortunately, when he heard the tape, my husband seemed not to be convinced. He had to go to Garabandal before he would admit that what Mary Loly claimed might be true.
Conchita was the last to have an ecstasy that night. It lasted almost two hours. Dawn had already broken when she came to. She was surprised; she fondly imagined only a "short moment" had passed.
I returned to the house where I was lodging, as if I was walking on air. The village was tinged with blue under a sky in which the stars still shone. The first rays of the rising sun were peeping over the mountains.
held the crucifix
up for the Virgin to kiss. . ."
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The Message of October 18, 1961 signed by the four little visionaries
make many sacrifices, do much penance
We must visit the Blessed Sacrament frequently;
but first, we must be good
and unless we do this,
a punishment will befall us.
The Cup is already filling
and unless we change,
a very great punishment will befall us."
The Virgin wants us to do this,
so that God will not punish us."
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October 18, 1961: an expectant crowd gathers
and waits in the rain for the Message to be read.
56.—Conchita announced that the Virgin had given them a message. At the express command of Our Blessed Lady, they would make this message known on October 18th (1961).
The news spread all over Spain. On the day, pilgrims arrived in the hundreds, prepared to hear a sensational revelation. Most expected a spectacular miracle. Some even hoped to see the Blessed Virgin. As at Fatima on the day of the miracle of the sun, there was a downpour. Drenched to the skin and up to their eyes in mud, the public waited patiently. The visionaries had been instructed to read the message in church. Some members of the Commission intervened, however, and it was decided to make the announcement up in the pine grove, at 10 p.m. Submissive and obedient, but soaking wet, a very large crowd trudged their way up the steep mountainside at the appointed hour.
In the dim light of a torch, one of the little girls drew from her pocket a piece of paper signed by all four of them. In a weak voice, she proceeded to read the document. She could not make her reedy voice heard clearly, and the message was re-read afterwards by one of the people present. There was nothing very extraordinary about it, nothing spectacular. No miracle was forthcoming. The works of God are always simple, and sometimes even elementary.
The exact text drawn up by the children was couched in the following terms: "People must make many sacrifices and do much penance, and we must pay many visits to the Blessed Sacrament. But, first of all, we must be very good. And if we do not do this, a
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October 18, 1961: an expectant crowd gathers
and waits in the rain for the Message to be read.
very great punishment will befall us. The cup is already filling up, and if we do not change, a punishment will come."
At the foot of this message were the signatures of the four children, with their respective ages beside their names.
People's disappointment was quite understandable. Many had been without sleep since the previous day. They had borne with the rain. They had built their dreams around this day, and now, when the time came, all they found was a grubby, crumpled scrap of paper in which four small children asked them to make sacrifices and visit the Blessed Sacrament, all in their atrocious spelling and even worse syntax.
"This is the end of Garabandal," groaned the majority.
Even Fr. Luis Andreu's brother, Fr. Ramon, who had been fortunate enough to see so many wonders in the past few months, began to have his doubts. It was all over as far as he was concerned, too. But, then, a very odd thing occurred. Let us hear his own account of it, taken from a report written at the time.
"I stayed up there, on the mountainside, for about an hour, watching torches descending like a nightmare; at length, I wended my way down to the village. I entered a house to keep dry, but I was feeling so discouraged that everything irritated me. I left, and made for another house in the hopes of seeing familiar faces and not feeling so lonely. A few minutes after I arrived, someone came running to look for me, saying that the children wanted to see me urgently. I was conducted to Maria Dolores' house. There, the little
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girl took me aside and said: "Father, we've been with the Virgin and we cried awfully, because the Virgin told us that when you went up to the pines you were very happy, but when you came down you were very sad and full of doubts. She told Conchita everything you were thinking and the reasons why you doubted. And she told us to tell you this at once, so you'll cheer up and be at ease, because it really is the Virgin who appears to us."
I went round to Conchita's house. Her only greeting on seeing me enter was: "Are you still sad?" She then proceeded to give me a concise yet exact resume of all my inner thought processes and the reasons for my discouragement. "She told me lots of things about you, and charged me not to tell you for the time being," she added. "Was Our Lady sad? I asked. And she responded: "No, she was smiling."
The general disappointment was hardly surprising in the light of a message that clearly told us nothing new, a message, what is more, that was made known at a late hour on a day that ended in an impressive display of lightning, rolling thunder, rain, hail, pitch darkness and cold.
Nevertheless, overlooking the literary efforts of these children, who barely knew how to write, the meaning of the message is truly in keeping with what the world needs today. It speaks of a punishment which has been announced for a long time. And, to avert this, it demands repentance, sacrifices and penance. The message also mentions devotion to the Blessed Sacrament as a means of reparation, and employs an expression whose meaning was unknown to the children, but which happens to be a piece of Marian terminology, used by the Blessed Virgin on another occasion: "The cup is already filling up . . ."
At Fatima, in their early apparitions, the visionaries likewise saw a large cup in the shape of a chalice into which were falling drops
Mystical Communion. The Host is invisible.
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of blood. This is precisely the same symbolism the children at Garabandal saw enacted in one of their ecstasies. They later drew a sketch of it to give us.
In this case, it turned out that the little girls were unaware of the meaning of the expression, for they asked several people to give them the right explanation of it, next day.
In the vision of the 20th, Jacinta, who was in an ecstasy, was heard to comment: "Nobody believes us any longer, you know . . . So you must do a great big, big miracle so they'll believe again . . ." But, at this request. Our Lady always smiled and simply answered: "They'll believe . . ."
The Miracle of the Holy Communion
57.—"Here are a few lines with the best of the impressions I have received on this, my third trip, although for me personally, as a priest, it has not been a pleasant one at all because I was not allowed to say Mass or receive Holy Communion, a thing that the children likewise complain about, for they have not received the Lord in their clean little hearts for days on end." *
The appearance of a new mystical phenomenon was no doubt due to this prudent situation brought about by superior ecclesiastical orders. This was the administration of Holy Communion by the Angel. The phenomenon is not. a new one in itself. On several occasions, the visionaries at Fatima also received Holy Communion administered by "the Angel of Peace," the shining figure who first appeared to the little children and prepared them for the Blessed Virgin's visits. The same prodigy was frequent in the case of Theresa Neumann and other mystics in the past.
The little girls at Garabandal were often seen to fall to their knees in ecstasy, pray, take up the customary attitude for receiving Communion, open their mouths, and swallow something. A priest once remarked to Conchita: "What you say cannot be true, because angels cannot consecrate." Conchita merely shrugged. But, a few days later, she explained: "I asked the Virgin and you're right. She told me the Angel takes the Hosts from the tabernacles on earth . . ."
Doctors have verified the authenticity of the state of ecstasy when the children take up this attitude and they go through the motions of really receiving Communion. One day, on coming to, Conchita remarked that she was hungry. Her mother offered her a sandwich, and, not daring to taste it, the child said: "But, you see, I've still got a taste of the Host in my mouth."
In her diary, Conchita writes that, at first, St. Michael the Archangel
* From a letter by a priest whose name we consider it discreet to conceal.
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used to give them unconsecrated hosts to teach them how to receive Holy Communion devoutly. One day, he told them to fast the following day, and to bring a little girl up to the pines with them. When they arrived at the pines, the Angel appeared to them "with a cup that looked like gold." He indicated that they should prepare to receive Holy Communion, and that the Hosts were consecrated. He made them say the "I confess . . ." and afterwards they made their thanksgiving and said the "Soul of Christ, sanctify me" in Spanish. Conchita ends her description saying: "And then we told people about it, and some of them made fun of us. And when he gave us Holy Communion, he stayed a long time."
Further on, Conchita's diary reads as follows: "Since we insisted so much with the Blessed Virgin and the Angel that they should work a miracle, on June 22nd, when I was about to receive Holy Communion, he said to me: "I am going to work a miracle; not me, God; but through my intercession and yours." And I asked him: "And what's it going to be?" And he said: "When I give you the Sacred Host, people will see It on your tongue." I reflected a bit. Then I said to him: "But, when you give me Holy Communion, the Host can be seen on my tongue anyway!" And he told me this was not so, that the people round about could not see It. But, the day he performed the miracle. It would, be seen. And I said to him: "But, that is only a little miracle." And he laughed . . . And that day, after telling me this, he went away."
Next day, she again received Communion from the hands of the Angel, and asked him when the miracle would take place. The Angel replied that the Blessed Virgin would tell her the date. When she asked the Virgin the same question, Conchita recounts in her diary that Our Lady revealed that the following Friday she would hear a voice, and the voice would tell her the date.
Her diary goes on: "Friday came, and as the Virgin had told me, while I was in the pines I noticed a voice telling me that July 18th was the day when the miracle would be performed. The voice I heard said to me: 'the little miracle, as you call it'."
In obedience to the instructions she had been given, from July 3rd onwards, Conchita commenced to announce the prodigy of the visible Communion with the same calm and self-assurance that she now shows in foretelling the great miracle which is to come "so everyone will believe."
She wrote the Bishop a letter which was delivered to him personally by Don Placido Ruiloba Arias of Santander, who has seen a great many of the wonders at Garabandal and has shown the utmost prudence and insight in the close check he has kept on the events we are relating.
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Hearing that the child was sending letters all over the country announcing the phenomenon, Fr. Marichalar thought it advisable to suggest that she should not write any more. Similar suggestions were put forward by other people, fearful lest the miracle might not materialize. But, Conchita assured them that she was writing on the Angel's orders.
The 18th of July (1962) came, and the streets of the hamlet were filled with a growing throng of pilgrims and sight-seers. As the day wore on, the uneasiness increased with the swelling numbers of the visitors. Near Conchita's house, a village dance was under way to the strains of bagpipes and drums. So it came about that, within a very short distance of one another, there were two groups, one dancing, the other saying the rosary. Since many were afraid that there would be no miracle at all if the dancing continued, Don Ignacio Rubio asked Conchita whether it might not be wise to ask them to stop it. To which Conchita replied that, "dancing or no dancing," the miracle would take place, as she puts it in her diary. "And then," she adds, "they didn't bother about the dancing any longer."
"When it began to get dark," Conchita goes on, "people became uneasy because it was getting late for them, but since the Angel and the Virgin had told me that the miracle would come, I was not worried, because neither the Virgin nor the Angel has ever told me anything would happen which didn't happen."
It is truly admirable to see the faith of this girl who has never for a moment doubted the truth of anything that she has heard in her locutions or from the Vision's lips.
Let us continue to quote from her diary:
"When ten o'clock arrived, I had a summons, and another at midnight. Later, at two o'clock, the Angel appeared to me in my room. In the house were my mother Aniceta, my brother Aniceto, my uncle Elias, my cousin Lucia and Maria del Carmen Fontaneda from Aguilar del Campo. The Angel stayed with me for a while and, as on the other days, he said to me: "Say the 'I confess,' and think of Him whom you are about to receive." I did as I was told, and then he gave me Holy Communion. And after he had given me Communion, he told me to say the "Soul of Christ, sanctify me" and make my thanksgiving, and to keep my tongue out until he disappeared and the Virgin came. And that is what I did. When the Virgin came, she told me that not everybody believed yet."
This is Conchita's account. On falling into a rapture, of course, she had no longer had any notion of what she was doing. The fact is that she entered a state of ecstasy and, her head flung back,
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walked out of her room, down the stairs and out into the street, followed by the crowds who surrounded her and scarcely let her advance as far as a street-corner, so eager were they all to get as close as possible. There, she thudded to her knees in an impressive fall. She next stuck her tongue out, and those about her could see that it was quite bare. But, a split second later, a thickish white Host formed and she kept it there on her tongue in full view for quite some time.
Here is an account of this inexplicable episode, related by Don Alejandro Damians of Barcelona. Providence dictated that he should find himself some eighteen inches in front of Conchita at the moment of the miracle, and he even succeeded in using his movie camera.
His story reads as follows: "At one time or another, I have been called upon to relate my impressions of the phenomenon which I was lucky enough to see in San Sebastian de Garabandal on July 18th, last year.
Depending on my audience, my frame of mind, the presence of people who had heard the story previously, and many other factors, my story was more or less long, and more or less well told.
To avoid any possible variations (rather than contradictions) that might crop up, I thought it would be a sound idea to confine my account to reading a statement that I myself would write calmly, after due close examination of each point. Some people of reliable judgment advised me to do so, and I resolved to waste no time in drawing up this document which may give you a clear idea of the part I played in events at San Sebastian de Garabandal.
My report starts on Monday, July 16, 1962.
I already knew that the first phenomenon at San Sebastian de Garabandal had been foretold for the 18th; at least, it was to be the first public prodigy of importance, because there, like everywhere else, God's wonders never cease in our day to day existence.
I have always considered myself as a man of faith. I have never needed to see miracles in order to convince myself of the truth of my religion. But, the previous March, human curiosity had already taken me on a visit to the little hamlet in the province of Santander. Without being especially impressionable, I must admit that the kindness of the village-folk, the raptures of the children, the atmosphere of the proximity of the supernatural that strikes one as soon as one sets foot in the place, and the strange inward, personal things that I had experienced there, had all made some impact on my senses. Notwithstanding, I felt that was enough experience in this line, and though I quite looked forward to returning to Garabandal, I was rather undecided about taking that particular opportunity.
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I confess that I enjoy my creature comforts, and this is perhaps why I was prepared to spend four days' holiday at our house at Premia de Mar, trying my level best to ignore the fact that, on the 18th, there would take place a spectacle which I was hardly likely to have a chance of seeing again anywhere. I tried to make excuses for my indifference, arguing that, if I was fated to go to the village, then God's will would be done without any help from me.
A cousin of mine was eager to go, and I had left the decision to him. We had arranged that, before setting off, he would pass through Premia on the 16th, on his way back from a town up the coast, to confirm whether or not I should join the party. The time we had agreed on was between six and seven o'clock. I waited in vain, until I finally decided to make myself comfortable and have supper. This I did; by then, I was fully resoved not to interrupt my holiday.
Half-way through supper, my cousin turned up to say that family affairs made it impossible for him to go, but that a friend of his was willing to go if he could only find someone to keep him company on the journey.
I turned the invitation down. My excuses for not going waxed more and more plausible; the lateness of the hour; my cousin's backing out; and the idea of making this trip in the company of someone who was almost a stranger at the time. All these were fine pretexts for my remaining at home.
It was at this juncture, in the most natural way, that I became fully aware of the Divine Will, in the shape of pressure brought to bear on me, not just by my wife and cousin, of whom such a reaction was to be expected, but mainly by my son, whose extreme youth hardly seemed to warrant it. Persuasion by my wife, advice from my cousin, and supplications from my son. At last, I gave in.
There ensued a whirlwind of activity.
A telephone call from Premia to my cousin's friend; our rendezvous for 4 a.m.; the drive up to our Barcelona apartment to pack a bag with the bare essentials and leave a note at my office to say I should be away for a few days. Everything was done in a rush; it was a nightmare.
At 4 a.m. sharp, my friend, his brother, my wife and I departed in a Renault Dauphine.
And now comes a point which was perhaps destined to be the most important of all. Before we drove off, my cousin lent me a movie-camera belonging to a friend of his, giving me a few quick instructions on how to use it, since I was totally ignorant of such matters.
I need not go into any details of our journey. Suffice it to say
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that we did not bother to sleep on the way, and we reached San Sebastian de Garabandal at about 10 p.m. on the 17th.
The little village was packed with strangers. Without any publicity, the news of the first visible proof had spread all over Spain, and a multitude of people from all parts of the country and every walk of life had brought with them an atmosphere of expectation that could be cut with a knife. Among the visitors were several priests, who were chatting with Fr. Valentin Marichalar, parish priest of Cosio. He had come up to San Sebastian because the following day was the feast of the patron saint of the village.
We found accommodation at the home of Encarna, an aunt of one of the visionaries. There, we deposited our scant luggage and immediately went round to Conchita's, for she was the visionary who had announced the miracle.
That night, we saw some trances. They were as wonderful to behold as ever, and made an even greater impact on us since we were waiting for that visible proof of the supernatural.
It seems absurd to speak of 'the next day,' when, in my mind, the 17th and 18th were all one unbroken day; that night, which I found endless, was chased away by a dim, overcast, leaden-gray dawn that was no more than a continuation of the night hours.
Mass that morning was followed by a slight air of bustle as the village made ready for its celebrations. It was barely noticeable in the morning, but the early afternoon brought mounting expectation.
I spent almost the whole day at Conchita's, with my wife, our companion, several priests and one or two other people.
In the course of the day, I had the opportunity of having a long talk with Fray Justo, a Franciscan priest with whom I have since kept up correspondence. In a letter to a friend of mine, he stated how incredulous he had become on leaving Garabandal after the prodigy. It was not to be long before he saw the light and changed his earlier attitude. But, that is another story.
Two factors were present on that occasion to cast doubts on whether or not the expected would take place. One was the festive atmosphere in the village, and the other was the presence of priests.
On certain previous occasions when the first of these circumstances had occurred, the children had not fallen into a rapture. As for the presence of priests, it had always resulted in the child receiving Holy Communion in the normal fashion, and never from the Angel.
The atmosphere certainly lent itself to doubt, because, despite these proven facts, the rumor spread among the visitors that Conchita had personally notified some of the priests to come to Garabandal
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on the 18th, and that, when questioned about it that very day, she had declared that neither the fiesta nor the presence of the priests would prevent the prodigy taking place.
At midday, Conchita announced that she was going to have lunch. This convinced us that, if what we were waiting for was the Communion, then we should have to wait at least another three hours for it.
So, amid doubts, confidence, tedium and hope, that day dragged on into night.
The 18th had passed uneventfully. People were discouraged and openly incredulous.
It was almost one o'clock in the morning on the 19th, and some had already begun to make their way home, when the news spread like lightning that, as measured by the sun, the 18th did not really end until 1:25 a.m.
By that time, those of us at Conchita's house knew one thing for sure; Conchita had received her first summons.
Shortly afterwards, we were asked to go outside. I stood in the doorway with a friend of Conchita's family to prevent anyone entering.
From where I was standing, I could see the kitchen and the staircase leading to the upper floor.
Conchita was upstairs, in company with a cousin and an uncle, I think, when she was seized into an ecstasy. The first I knew was when I saw her descend the stairs very fast, wearing that classic expression which softens and embellishes their features.
As she crossed the threshold, the crowd waiting before the house opened just sufficient time to let her pass, and then the multitude was milling round her, like a river that has burst its banks and sweeps away everything in its path. I saw people falling to the ground and trampled by others. As far as I know, nobody was hurt. But the sight of that fantastic mob on the run, shoving and elbowing one another, could not be more terrifying.
I attempted to follow Conchita, but a crowd, fifteen or twenty feet deep separated us. I sometimes caught a' vague glimpse of her. She turned left along the lane formed by the side of her house and a low wall. She turned left again, and there, right in the middle of the alley, which is fairly wide at that spot, she suddenly fell to her knees.
Her fall was so unexpected that the avalanche of people were carried past on either side of her by the weight of their own numbers. I was fortunate in not being carried past with them, and before I knew it, I unexpectedly found myself to her right, with her face a mere eighteen inches from mine. I staunchly withstood the pushing
of those behind me, striving with all my might not to be wrenched from my vantage point. I succeeded.
The shoves gradually ceased and relative calm ensued.
Shortly before midnight, the clouds obscuring the sky had slowly drifted away, and the blue mantle of the heavens had become studded with stars shining about the moon.
In their light, and that of an infinite number of torches in the alley, I could see quite plainly that Conchita's mouth was open and her tongue out in the position customary when going to Communion. She was prettier than ever. Far from causing laughter or looking the slightest bit ridiculous, her expression and attitude had about them an awesome, moving mysticism.
Suddenly, without my knowing quite how, without really realizing it, without Conchita changing her expression in the slightest, the Sacred Host appeared on her tongue. It was totally unexpected. It did not seem to have been deposited there, but might be described rather as having materialized there, faster than the human eye could see.
It is impossible to describe the feeling that came over me at that moment. I still relive it today when I recall it. In these or similar words, I have related the occurrence a thousand times just as it happened, and I have never been able to reach this point without experiencing again those marvelous feelings of tenderness, of love and of joy that bring irrepressible tears to my eyes.
Afterwards, I was told that Conchita had held the Sacred Host motionless on her tongue for about two minutes, before consuming it normally and finally kissing the crucifix in her hand. I was told some months later that this long wait was due to the fact that the Angel had instructed Conchita to keep it in sight until the Blessed Virgin appeared to her.
Personally, I hardly noticed the passage of time. I only remember, as in a dream, voices crying out to me to get down, and I felt a heavy blow on my head.
Hanging from my wrist was the movie-camera. Paying no attention to the protests from behind me, scarcely remembering my cousin's instructions, I pressed the button and filmed the last few moments of Conchita's Communion.
I had never filmed anything in my life before, and I only knew that I had succeeded in focusing on the subject. But, in view of my total lack of experience, I seriously doubted whether the film would come out.
Still in her rapture, Conchita rose to her feet and disappeared from my view, followed by Garabandal en masse.
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Afterwards, I heard that the ecstasy had lasted almost an hour.
For my part, I had had enough. I stayed where I was, alone in a corner. Leaning back against the wall, I clung to the movie-camera with my last remaining strength. I do not know how long I stood there. When a calm lassitude had replaced the nervous tension in my limbs, I rambled aimlessly through the village streets. I exchanged impressions with people as I went, and finally made my way back to Conchita's house. She was not in a trance now, and she wrote a little dedicatory note for me on a holy picture.
I said goodbye to her and to Fr. Valentin Marichalar, who had sent for me to ask my address. At about 3:15 a.m., feeling totally exhausted, I set out from San Sebastian de Garabandal bound for Barcelona.
Not for one minute did it cross my mind that the movie-camera could have recorded anything. For one thing, there was my ignorance of how to handle the camera, and, for another, the scant light, because the phenomenon took place in the dim glow cast by flashlights. Nevertheless, I took the film to be developed. And now came
Mr. Damiáns photograph of the Miracle of the Host
"The Sacred Host appeared on her tongue. It was totally unexpected . . . (She) held the Sacred Host motionless on her tongue for about two minutes before consuming it normally . . ."
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another "miracle." On the film there appeared seventy-nine frames showing the scene. Jogging by the people around me had resulted in many of the photographs not centering properly on the subject, and they only showed the top of Conchita's head. But, several had recorded the picture quite clearly. Of these, I have chosen one which I enclose with this report.
I do not know what you think of all this, or what decision the Church will adopt after weighing the facts. I honestly have no idea. The only thing I can assure you without the slightest shadow of a doubt is that, on July 18th, 1962, at San Sebastian de Garabandal, two miracles were worked. The first was the Holy Communion administered to Conchita, which was a supernatural occurrence of overwhelming proportions. The second, though just a small miracle, was this sign of the infinite condescension of Our Blessed Lady; for, only her infinite condescension explains my having been there to see the phenomenon in the first place, and its having been recorded on my film."
Conchita writes: "After the miracle which Our Lord God worked through the intercession of the angel, St. Michael, those who had seen the whole miracle, and some of those who had just seen the Host on my tongue, firmly believed; and many of those who had not seen believed it too on hearing the reports of those who had. But, as the days went by, people began to doubt, and some said that it was I who had placed the Host on my tongue. And there was nothing but talk of the Host for a long time."
"A Franciscan Father, Fr. Justo, said it was a lie, and that I was the one who had done it. But, two or three days later, I got a letter from this Father asking forgiveness for thinking so ill of me, and in his letter he said it was the devil who had tempted him. And, shortly after I got the letter, three Fathers arrived, sent by him, because he had to explain many things to them about Garabandal, about the Virgin; and those three Fathers told me that Fr. Justo has spent several very unhappy days and sleepless nights, thinking about the Sacred Host, but that he had now recovered and was very happy and believed very firmly."
Conchita wrote a letter to one of the members of the Commission. In her missive, she complained about his assertion that she herself had been the author of the miracle of the Holy Communion. Here is an extract from that letter: "What a responsibility for me before God! Don't you think I have sense enough by now to think of that . . .? And besides, I would have realized that people would notice; and anyway, I would not be clever enough to do a thing like that. It was the angel, St. Michael, who put a visible Host on my tongue for people to see."
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And her letter ends with the following paragraph: "I am also certain the Miracle will come, because the Virgin told me so, and I know the date of the Miracle, too, and what will happen in the miracle that the Blessed Virgin is going to work for "the world. I am as certain that the miracle is coming as I am that two and two make four."
Having proved Conchita's genuine state of ecstasy on the day of the visible Communion, it is plain that the unconsciousness, rigidity and other phenomena that occur in a rapture are entirely incompatible with the artificiality of a pretense. The Host seen in the photograph could not have been placed in her mouth by Conchita herself or by any member of the family, because the state of trance makes this deceit impossible.
A Frenchman, whose name we need not mention, was also just in front of Conchita. But, he did not succeed in bringing his movie camera into action. In an interview with Senor Damians, both of them witnesses of the phenomenon, he attributed this fact to his not being in a state of Grace at the time. Here is his own explanation of the scene:
"I had everything prepared to film the miracle; everything was ready, but only at the very last moment, in the last fraction of a second, did I get a glimpse of the Host disappearing as the child consumed it. And at that instant, I felt a fearful, horrible pain that overwhelmed me; it was the impression that I could have glimpsed but He had slipped away from me; and then, I realized that I was in mortal sin. I felt the need to weep in desperation, and I understood in one instant what Hell must be like, and what it meant to live separated from God. From that time on, I have always lived in a state of Grace, and I hope God will allow me to see the miracle, for I am certain that by doing so I shall recover the inner peace of which I am in need."
58.—Let us round off our information on this subject with the evidence given by Benjamin Gomez, a farmer from Potes, who frequently went up to Garabandal and was lucky enough to be in front of the child at the instant she received the visible Communion.
In an interview recorded on a tape recorder, he made the following statement:
"I was little more than a hand's breadth away from Conchita at the moment when she put out her tongue; I saw it was quite bare; there was absolutely nothing on it; I could see her tongue quite plainly, and I assure you it didn't make the slightest motion. All at once I found the Host before me. It was white, shining, It reminded me of the snow when it's iced over and the sun glances off
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it. But, it didn't dazzle the eyes. It was the size of a five-duro coin,* but thicker, as if there were two coins, one on top of the other. It was not quite round. Conchita's face wore that transfigured look this little girl always has in ecstasy. It was the face of an angel. Some people said she must have put the Host there with her hand, or else have had it in her mouth all the time; but I can testify that she didn't move her hands, or raise them to her face either; nor did she draw in her tongue before she stuck it out even farther ... It was without moving it that she received the Host. .. And everybody who was there must have seen this, just as I did, and there were a lot of us. We all had time to contemplate the prodigy at our leisure and without hurry. I didn't believe until that day ... I say that, because it's the truth, and for no other reason, because I'm not so Catholic as to let myself be taken in over this. I have never taken any notice of God in the past, except to curse; or else to offend Him ... I went to Confession last April, but I hadn't been for twenty-three years . . . When I began to come up to Garabandal, the whole village laughed at me. They were surprised that I should be the one to come. 'You've got more sense than to go in for all that', they said to me. And it's true. I have got sense; and that is precisely why I can't help calling a spade a spade . . ."
I have thought it appropriate to include part of his statement in order to show as exactly as possible the evidence given by this tiller of the soil who was a leading witness of the miracle of the Holy Communion in the early hours of July 19th, 1962.
The Miracle Prophesied
59.—The mystery of Garabandal will be cleared up the day of the miracle, the one which Conchita insistently announces and of which she knows many details.
We know that it will come about at 8:30 p.m. on a Thursday coinciding with an event of great importance for Christendom; we also know that it will fall on the feast-day of a saint who is indirectly connected with the Holy Eucharist; and that the miracle will be seen by everybody who comes to Garabandal or its surroundings on that day. What is more, we know that the Pope and Padre Pio will see it from wherever they happen to be; that the sick who are present will be cured, that sinners will be converted, that the miracle will last some fifteen minutes; that the Bishop will raise his prohibition beforehand, so that priests may be there; and
* One "duro" is five pesetas. A five-duro or twenty-five peseta coin is about the size of a quarter.
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that a permanent sign will be left as proof of the miracle, etc.
Just as the punishment we deserve is very great," says Conchita, "the miracle will be as great and spectacular as the world needs." Let us wait trustfully and prepare properly for that great day of the miracle, for it will perhaps be the last chance given us by Heaven, Mary's final effort to make the world leave its road to perdition and, by rectifying in time, ward off its punishment.
If the sun played the main role in the miracle at Fatima, will the moon and the stars be Heaven's messengers at Garabandal?
When the raptures were interrupted, the children kept up their contact with the world of their visions through the phenomenon known as the locution. Says Conchita: "They're like a voice of joy, a voice of happiness, a voice of peace. These locutions have done me a lot of good, because it's as though the Blessed Virgin were inside me. I prefer the locutions to the apparitions, because in the locutions I have her inside me. Jesus will give me the Cross to purify me, and through my crosses He will also make it possible for me to do some good to the world, because without God's help we can do nothing.
So, the locutions confirm the children in their message and in the promise of the great miracle that is coming to make everybody believe. Hence, we can deduce that the hour is near. Let us make ready to know the date of the great prodigy and for God to grant us the grace to be there on the day . . . And let us not fall into the temptation of shrugging our shoulders out of indifference ... If God wants to grant us an exceptional prodigy, we ought to pay attention to Him and show Him due acknowledgement for so great a favor, by preparing to deserve it in the first place, and to show our gratitude and benefit as much as possible from it on a spiritual plane.
To shrug the whole thing off or simply reject it as "unnecessary," as I have often heard devout Catholics describe it, reveals an inner sin of pride that makes us unworthy of such a grace.
Let us live for that day, the day of the confirmation of Garabandal, so that a great many of the Blessed Virgin's children may be there on the day, devout and trusting in her; and so that the message of Garabandal may be spread and obeyed as the works of God so justly require and advise
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Garabandal and the nine Pines seen from the south.
Miracle will be seen by everybody who comes
to Garabandal or its surroundings on that day."
SOME POINTS TO CONSIDER
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60.—There is no moral obligation to believe in private revelations. But, this generic affirmation does not mean to say that in certain cases there is not an acquired obligation to believe in them with supernatural faith, on account of the very special attendant circumstances. As the Revd. Fr. John Francis Maxwell says, there have sometimes been facts which have not at first been approved by the Church, and yet God has revealed them to a small minority of people in such clear and conclusive circumstances that these in all conscience prevent them being rejected.
This leads one to the conclusion that, although Christians as a whole are under no obligation at all to believe in the phenomena at Garabandal, which have not for the moment received ecclesiastical approbation, it is none the less true to say that certain people may feel themselves under an obligation to believe them, because Heaven has made them see their reality under conditions that are morally incompatible with doubt.
In this case, the pastoral recommendations should be observed in a spirit of obedience. If the Bishopric recommends priests to abstain from going up to Garabandal, then, those who have obeyed their superiors' orders in exemplary fashion from the very first, regardless of their specific links with these phenomena, are, I think, to be highly commended for their attitude. But, to my mind, this does not mean that those who have been privileged spectators of supernatural happenings should twist their judgement round in order to cease believing in "their truth", the gift so generously given them by God, in the light of which doubts that are perfectly licit and just in another would be morally censurable in their case.
I have a sincere admiration for the approach of those who have managed to fulfill their delicate mission showing both a spirit of obedience and prudent zeal, submitting to ecclesiastical discipline and offering God not only their firm faith in Our Lady of Garabandal, but the sacrifices of their silence, of their renunciation and of the not always pleasant remarks that have been made about them.
May the merits of these anonymous heroes reach Heaven, and serve as a lever to hasten the divine seal of confirmation that we are sure will be forthcoming to clear up this mystery.
POINTS TO CONSIDER
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The Blessed Virgin in Action
61.—We are living at the height of the era of Marian Apostolate; this is the Marian century referred to by Louis Marie de Montfort when he said that these latter times would be characterised by the Blessed Virgin's presence, which should be understood as a token and promise of the next coming of the Holy Spirit, that is to say, the conversion of the incredulous and the unification of Christians.
The fact is that the Virgin Mary has been appearing to mankind periodically, and her exhortations have been becoming more and more urgent. Similarly, the proof she offers us is becoming more and more spectacular. At Garabandal, a public miracle has been promised. Everything appears to point to the fact that Spain, the altar of Catholicism, has been chosen as the scene for Mary's appeal for the conversion of her children. If mankind does not mend its ways, perhaps the punishment she announces is near. So, the miracle awaited must needs be convincing in order to get through to our reasoning worldly minds. We have already seen that it is to take place at 8:30 p.m., on a Thursday coinciding with an event of the greatest importance to Christendom . . . The prodigy will be announced eight days in advance.
Does Conchita know the date . . .? I am inclined to think she does. At least, Circular No. 8 sent out by the Garabandal Information Center, quotes a letter from Conchita which says: "The Virgin will not let me say what the miracle will consist of, although I know this as well as the date, which I can only reveal eight days beforehand."
In her ecstatic colloquy recorded on a tape recorder on the 8th of December, of which I have a copy, she is heard to say to the Virgin, in a breathless, earnest voice as is customary in the visionaries' raptures: "As for the miracle, there's nothing more for me to ask. As I know all about it ... I'm dying for the day to come, so I can tell them . . . People ask me when it's to be ..."
If the issue of Garabandal had not taken the turn it has, with the announcement of a public miracle, this book would in all likelihood not have been written. But the issue is still open and has now reached its most interesting stage: the promise from Heaven has entered a blind alley; either the events at Garabandal are meaningless, or else that little hamlet in the province of Santander is destined to become the final setting for a supreme celestial revolution.
POINTS TO CONSIDER
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Part Three of the Secret
62.—From all the known private revelations, from the visions at La Salette and at Lourdes, approved by the Church, from the message of Fatima and so on, it can be seen that Our Lady is asking us for prayers, repentance and penance to save mankind from a punishment which will come like the great Flood to restore the balance of Divine Justice.
The secret of Fatima came in three parts. The first part concerned the vision of Hell. The second foretold the 1939-45 World War preceded by a strange light in the sky which was announced by Our Lady. This prophesy was duly communicated by Lucy, and the light was seen without any possible mistake or doubt on the night of January 25th, 1938. The following day, the Press reported the phenomenon. Part three of the message was written out by the visionary and is still sealed in an envelope which was for a long time deposited in the care of the Bishop of Leiria, and is now kept in the Pontifical apartments at the Vatican. This last part of the secret was revealed to Lucy of Fatima by Our Lady as soon as the hair-raising dance of the sun was over.
"You have just seen the prodigy of a short while ago," she said, "the great miracle of the sun. And now, proclaim in my name: A punishment will befall the entire human race. It will not come today or tomorrow, but in the second half of the 20th century. What I revealed at La Salette through the children Melanie and Maximin I repeat today before you. The human race has sinned and trampled with its feet the gift that was bestowed on it. Nowhere does order reign. Satan has reached the very highest places and decides the march of events. He will succeed in introducing himself into and reaching the highest summit of the Church. He will succeed in seducing the minds of great scholars who will invent weapons with which it will be possible to destroy half of mankind in a matter of a few minutes. He will have powerful nations under his empire, and he will lead them to the mass production of these weapons. If mankind does not take steps to stop him, I shall be obliged to let my Son's arm fall. And then, God will punish Man far more severely than when He did so by means of the Flood. The great and powerful will perish in the same way as the weak and small. But a time of severe trials will also come for the Church. Cardinal will oppose cardinal, and bishop will oppose bishop. Fire and smoke will then fall from the heavens, and the waters of the oceans will evaporate; the spray will leap into the sky, and everything that Is standing will sink. Millions of men will perish by the hour, and those who are left alive will envy those who have died ..."
POINTS TO CONSIDER
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It is better not to go on with the spine-chilling story. Our worries can be summed up in this question: Are these really the contents of the secret that the visionary forbade to be revealed before I960? Why was the envelope not opened when the date arrived? And, if it was indeed opened, why was the secret not made known?
The document that I have quoted in part above was published on the 15th of October, 1963, in "Neu-Europa" of Stuttgart, under the heading "The Future of Mankind". The article was signed by Louis Enrich, and was later reprinted in "Mensage de Fátima" of Fundao; "Agora" of Lisbon; "El Pueblo" of Madrid; "La Voz de España" of San Sebastian, etc. The publication of this document was justified by the claim that it was the contents of the secret of Fátima, and that it had been sent by Pope Paul VI to President Kennedy, Mr. MacMillan and Khruschev prior to the Moscow meetings which resulted in the agreement of August 6th, 1963, on the control of atomic tests. The article likewise claimed that the success of the agreement, which has now been signed by ninety countries, was largely due to the influence of this document. The surprising part is that this news was not subsequently denied by the Vatican as happens whenever something is affirmed as a fact when it is really doubtful; whence we can reach the terrible conclusion that the news item in question was true.
To ascertain the authenticity of the text, the magazine "Miriam" wrote to the Carmelite Convent at Coimbra, requesting confirmation or denial of the version published. A similar request was sent to the Bishop of Leiria, the diocese to which the Fátima shrine belongs. "We know nothing about the matter," came the reply from Coimbra. On the other hand, the Bishopric of Leiria remained silent.
According to the January-February 1965 number of "Miriam", the most varied constructions may be put on the evasive reply from Coimbra and the dead silence from Leiria. For his part, the Archbishop of Oviedo made a statement to the Press, saying that he "supposed the Portuguese Episcopacy would issue a statement on the subject." But, no statement at all was forthcoming from the Portuguese ecclesiastical, authorities or, for that matter, from the Vatican. This alarming silence, quite contrary to the traditional course taken by the Church, was universally interpreted as meaning that the document of which we have quoted a small part is unfortunately only too genuine. If this is so, then the Treaty of Moscow was not the result of the activity of politicians, but the fruit of Pope Paul's exquisite tact and Vatican diplomacy. And it means that the present generation is gaily, yet unconsciously, sitting on top of a volcano.
POINTS TO CONSIDER
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There have also been hints that this is not the true original text, but merely the one circulated in diplomatic circles following Pope Paul's appeal to world political leaders. The original text is written in far more hair-raising terms.
There is very explicit proof of the veracity of this document. This is the visit paid to Lucy, on November 26th, 1957, by Fr. Agustin Fuentes, Postulator in the process of beatification of the Fatima visionaries, Francisco and Jacinta. After due ecclesiastical censorship, the contents of their talks were published, in June 1959, in a magazine called "Fatima Findings", and later in "In Coure de Maria" (August-September, 1961.)
From their conversation the following points may be gathered:
1.—Lucy is very upset because mankind has not paid the slightest attention to Our Lady's Message, but has trampled the Grace of Fatima in the dust, bringing upon itself a punishment in which millions of people run the risk of perishing.
2.—This situation will end in a decisive battle between Good and Evil, and in this struggle everybody will be forced to take part either on one side or the other.
3.—Mary will win in the end. But at the price of how many misfortunes? This is the point that it lies in mankind's power to avert, or at least allay.
Fr. Agustin Fuentes quotes Lucy verbatim as follows:
"The Lord will punish the world very soon. The punishment is imminent. Just think. Father, of all the souls that are cast into Hell; and this happens because people do not pray or do penance. This is the reason for the Blessed Virgin's great sorrow. Our Lady has often said to me: 'The punishment is on the point of arriving.' And that 'many nations will vanish from the face of the Earth; Russia will be the scourge chosen by God to punish mankind' if we do not obtain the grace of her conversion by prayer and the Sacraments.' Tell them. Father, about the sorrow of the Hearts of Jesus and Mary at the falls of religious and priestly souls . . . There is still time to check Heaven's punishment. We have two very effective means at our disposal: prayer and penance. Three times Our Lady has told me that we are approaching the latter times ... It is urgent that we should realize the terrible truth. And let us not forget that, since the Blessed Virgin gave such great effectiveness to the Rosary, there is no material, spiritual, national or international problem that cannot be solved by means of the Holy Rosary and by our sacrifices. Reciting it with love and piety will enable us to console Mary and wipe away those loving tears shed by her Immaculate Heart."
POINTS TO CONSIDER
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Conchita begins the New Year well
63.—On January 1st, 1965, Conchita was discovered in a state of ecstasy in the pine grove by two little shepherds who were descending the mountainside to the village with their flocks. Their names were Joaquin, aged twelve, and Urbano, aged nine. According to reports, the rapture must have lasted two hours. The scene, as related by Conchita, is charming. She recalls that she was about to return home after saying her prayers in the pine grove, accompanied by her little dog, when, without warning, she found herself in the presence of the Virgin. "I was overcome with surprise, and knelt there looking at her, and she said to me:
'Hello, Conchita. Where are you off to . . .?'
And I answered her: 'I'm going back to our home . . .'
And that is how the conversation started.
According to absolutely reliable sources. Our Lady of Mount Carmel spoke to her at length. Conchita declares that the Blessed Virgin told her she would give her a fresh message, because people had paid no attention at all to the one made known on October 18th, 1961. The message she is to give will be the last one. "Our Lady revealed to me what the punishment will consist of. But I can't say what it is, except this: it will be an effect of God's Divine intervention, which makes it more fearful than anything imaginable. It will be less terrible for little children to die a natural death than to die of the punishment."
"The punishment, if it comes," she adds, "will take place after the miracle."
However, let us trust in Our Blessed Lady, who is still striving to save us and is offering us now prodigies to overcome mankind's wavering faith, without forgetting her promise at Fatima, where she said: "But, in the end, My Immaculate Heart will triumph."
The document which we have quoted here, and which reveals what is assumed to be Lucy's secret, also ends with comforting promises. "Afterwards, when those who survive all are still alive, the new Kingdom of God will be proclaimed, and Mankind will serve Him once again as in the days before the perversion of the world. Rally all the sincere disciples of My Son Jesus Christ, all the true Christians of these latter times . . .! What a misfortune if this conversion does not come, and if everything remains as it has been until now or in a situation of even graver responsibility! Go, my child, and proclaim this. For this purpose I shall be at your side and shall always be your aid."
We trust that, through her spectacular apostolate, the Virgin Mary will bring about the conversion of Mankind, thus saving it from the collective suicide that threatens it.
POINTS TO CONSIDER
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Let us beg the Lord for saintly priests
64.—The concern shown by the Blessed Virgin for priests is most striking. It appeared for the first time in her vision at La Salette, and later at Fatima. "Cardinals will oppose cardinals, and bishops will oppose bishops." the document reads. This overt worry, which has also been apparent in the visionaries' talks with Our Lady at Garabandal, calls to mind the persistent recent reports of certain maneuvres of atheistic communism in the seminaries.
On April 13th, 1965, the Madrid daily, "A.B.C.", published an article on this thorny subject. The article in question was called "Los Nuevos Curas," or "The New Priests." On April 24th, the same newspaper published a reply to that article from Don Fernando de Urbina, Director of the Hispano-American Theological Seminary.
If these rumors are true, we need not be surprised if the Church does pass through that phase of opposition and strife between cardinals and bishops, with the implicit risk of internal decomposition which may, through scandal, cause confusion among the faithful.
The arguments of Garabandal's detractors
65.—Some consider it rather undignified, if not somewhat ridiculous, for the Blessed Virgin to appear and spend her time kissing pebbles, medals, crucifixes and wedding-rings.
On the whole, God's works are so simple and elementary that they have at all periods in history seemed ridiculous from a merely human point of view. In the Gospels, we read that, to cure a blindman, Jesus took dust and saliva; today, this would also seem rather ridiculous and not a little odd. That the Virgin Mary should appear so frequently in the early hours of the morning to talk to a few ignorant little girls about matters that often prove essentially to be commonplace is something that the thinking man certainly considers impossible, if he insists that a Heavenly visit should be surrounded by the strict protocol imposed by most of our authorities on earth. But, the Kingdom of God belongs to the little ones, and to see and believe we must become as humble and simple as children. All the visions that have in the long run been granted Church approval have occurred in the midst of details that mankind has in many cases considered commonplace, and in other cases, frankly ridiculous.
Yet, to me, this is further proof of their reality. Indeed, it would be far more alarming if the phenomena had occurred in line with the protocol-laden ideas that modern man has about the proper way to receive a V.I.P.
POINTS TO CONSIDER
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What is more, does the unusual not serve as a sieve to select, according to their degree of faith, the group of witnesses and followers? Let us not forget that being witnesses of a miracle is a Grace or favor that must be deserved.
When Fr. Valentin Marichalar was replaced as parish priest at Cosio, the Chancery sent a young priest with instructions to be over-prudent, an attitude that required a certain predisposition against the supernatural character of these events.
The fact is, some maintain that, in a place where apparently miraculous phenomena occur, the ecclesiastical authorities should at first be reluctant to believe in the extraordinary. Hence, an essentially prudent approach is adopted, and I do not feel that this attitude can be the object of criticism. The new parish priest was Fr. Amador Fernandez Gonzalez, a good psychologist. He played his part as the devil's advocate to perfection. Determined to accomplish his task as best he could, he kept a close watch on the children at all times. From the first, he declared that the four girls were not putting over a farce or acting in bad faith, but were suffering from an illness that proved difficult to diagnose. Asked whether the Church would accept the authenticity of the apparitions if an unquestionable, proven miracle were to take place, he did not hesitate to say that the Church would not; because the miracle—so he said—would not prove anything either. "It would be a reward from God for the faith of those who asked for it." Perhaps this is twisting matters round to an extreme and making any reasonable solution impossible. But, it is not for us to judge. The Church has her own doctors. Let us simply say that the four children could not perpetrate a fraud for so many months at a time; that, if the visionaries were suffering from some illness, it would have natural effects, and the intensity and frequency of the raptures would long since have ruined their health; that phenomena which arouse in this way religious fervor, the spirit of faith, and love of God and the Blessed Virgin, cannot possibly proceed from extra-natural sources under the influence of the devil. Hence, it seems likely that there are sound grounds for believing that the cause is neither natural nor preternatural, but shows signs of being supernatural.
It should not be forgotten that, throughout the Gospels and the history of the Church, one great fact is evident; as a rule, the works of God, however great they may be, require the cooperation of his creatures.
The peace of mind felt at Garabandal, the spirit of friendship
POINTS TO CONSIDER
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and joy that exists among the "Garabandalistas" or Garabandalites * together with everything that has happened there, these are intuitive arguments that lead to an inner conviction tending to belief in the supernatural origins of the phenomena.
What is necessary now is that this faith should grow and spread. But the results may depend on our own behavior. We have received as a gift, an invitation to believe in Garabandal. Perhaps it depends on us whether or not that faith increases, and whether or not the miracle takes place to confirm the supernatural truth of the message; this is the human factor of cooperation which is always required in God's work.**
The girls follow their
Vision to the door of
* In her reports. Miss Carmen Cavestany, one of the main
witnesses of a great majority of the events at Garabandal, and an unflagging
apostle of the Message given out by the visionaries, remarks on the spirit of
unity, friendship and inner joy that links all those who saw the unforgettable
days of the raptures together. Hers are the following words, taken from her
writings on the subject:
"Everything at Garabandal leads us to purify ourselves, there and elsewhere, by living the Message in our daily lives."
"Conchita wrote me saying that the Blessed Virgin wants the Message to be spread throughout the world."
"We should form a sort of union of all of us who go to Garabandal, committing ourselves to a common programme, namely, fulfillment of the Marian Message."
** This chapter had already been written
when news was received that Conchita had had the announcement of what she calls
a "warning so that the world will make amends". "This
warning," she says, "is like a punishment, for the just and the
wicked alike; for the just, so as to bring them closer to God, and for the
wicked to announce to them that time is running out, and that these are the
last warnings. It is very long; I cannot explain it by letter. Nobody can
prevent this coming. It is a certainty, although I do not know the day or
anything about the date."
From this paragraph, taken from a letter written by Conchita, it can be deduced that the punishment will, or will not, come, depending on the conduct of the human race. But, what is certain is that, before the possible punishment, and as a last means of persuasion to convert mankind, there will be an appeal from Heaven that will cause a state of tension and great fear.
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Book Page 146
Mary-Loli in ecstasy.
trances, the children's faces
underwent a complete change, turning
radiant and softly beautiful."
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66.—On September 7th, 1961, the Press* published the following statement issued by the Bishopric of Santander concerning the "Apparitions at San Sebastian de Garabandal".
"In the light of the constant questions put to Us with regard to the nature of the events taking place in the village of San Sebastian de Garabandal, and in our desire to guide the faithful in the correct interpretation of the same, we have felt obliged to study them thoroughly for the purpose of fulfilling our pastoral duty.
To this end, We appointed a commission of persons of well-known prudence and doctrine to inform us about the said events objectively, competently and with every guarantee.
In view of the report that has been submitted to Us, we believe it is too early to give any final judgment concerning the nature of the phenomena in question. Nothing so far obliges Us to affirm the supernatural origin of the events that have occurred there.
In the light of this, and final judgment remaining subject to the events that may take place in the future. We hereby declare that:
1. It is our desire that priests, be they of this or any other diocese, and members of the clergy of both sexes, even independent clergy, should for the time being abstain from going to San Sebastian de Garabandal.
2. Until such time as the ecclesiastical authorities pass final judgment on this matter, We advise the faithful to try not to go to the said village.
By these provisional steps, We certainly do not obstruct Divine action on souls; on the contrary, once the spectacular nature of the events has been eliminated, the light of truth will be greatly assisted."
Shortly afterwards on October 27th of the same year, the Bishopric of Santander published a fresh communique which read as follows:
"Respecting the events that have been taking place at San Sebastian de Garabandal, a village within our Diocese, We are bound to tell you that, in fulfillment of our pastoral duty, and to forestall any hasty or imprudent interpretations by those who venture to pass final judgment where the Church does not yet consider it wise to do so, as also to serve as guidance for souls, We have decided to make the following statement:
* Quoted from the Madrid daily, "YA".
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1. There is no proof that the said apparitions, visions, locutions or revelations can so far be presented as true and authentic, or be held as such on any serious grounds.
2. Priests should refrain absolutely from anything that might contribute to creating confusion among the faithful. Let them therefore carefully avoid, as far as they are concerned, the organization of visits and pilgrimages to the said places.
3. Let them soberly and charitably enlighten the faithful as to the true attitude of the Church in these matters. Let them make them understand that our Faith does not need the support of as yet unproved revelations and miracles to maintain it. We believe what God has revealed and the Church teaches us; the clear, genuine miracles of Jesus Christ fall within this category. He gave them to us as proof of his doctrine, to which there is nothing to be added. If He, Himself or through His Blessed Mother, thinks fit to speak to us, we should be attentive to hear his words and say to Him, like Samuel: "Speak on, Lord, Thy servant is listening."
4. Let them likewise teach their parishioners that the best preparation to hear the voice of God is perfect, whole-hearted humble submission to the teachings of the Church, and that nobody can benefit from hearing the voice of Our Father Who is in Heaven, if he proudly rejects the doctrine of our Mother the Church, who welcomes and sanctifies us on earth.
5. As for you, beloved faithful, do not let yourselves be seduced by any doctrine that comes along. Harken calmly and trustingly to the teachings of your priests, placed at your side to be the Church's true teachers.
I know that you have felt impatient and expectant, and that many of your minds became perturbed at the approach of these recent days. I should like to bring to your minds the peace and tranquility which is the basic prerequisite for serene, balanced judgment. Let nobody snatch from you the precious gift of that peace which lies in God, and as St. Paul says to the Thessalonians: "do not be thrown into confusion, by any spiritual utterance, any message or letter . . ."
It can be seen from these statements that, in view of the numbers of people who were flocking from all over the country, and the repercussions that these events were having inside and outside Spain, the Chancery deemed it wise to relieve the tension, which is not appropriate in cases of phenomena of this kind.
In doing so, the Chancery simply gave further proof of its proverbial foresight. But, having read both documents thoroughly, there is nothing to indicate that the events at Garabandal are denied, or condemned by the Church, as some people make out.
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In the first note, the Chancery's reasoning is summed up in the following words: "In view of the report that has been submitted to Us, We believe it is too early to give any final judgment concerning the nature of the phenomena in question."
After saying that "nothing so far obliges Us to affirm the supernatural origin of the events," it ends by declaring, "final judgment remaining subject to the events that may take place in the future."
The second note was produced after the groundless disappointment caused among those present by the message of October 18th, because most people who went to the village were convinced that a spectacular miracle would take place at that moment. This note does not deny the phenomena either, but simply says that "there is no proof that the said apparitions, visions, locutions or revelations can so far be presented as true and authentic, or be held as such on any serious grounds." Hence, it does not discard the possibility that they may prove to be authentic later on. It simply recommends calm and serenity in view of the fact that many people had become perturbed about the events that were awaited.
We most sincerely acclaim the prudent approach adopted by the Church, setting people's minds at rest and recommending them to wait; this does not mean to say that some of their informants may not have adopted personal attitudes with injudicious results, because an excess of zeal can be as harmful as a lack of it. But, quite understandably, even if a conductor leads his orchestra well, when it is formed of many musicians with different repertoires and abilities, it is no easy matter to prevent one or two playing a note or two off key . . .*
* When His Excellency, Bishop Eugenio Beitia Aldazabal took possession of the Diocese of Santander, he published in the "Boletín Oficial del Obispado" (Official Gazette of the Bishopric) a decree dated October 7th, 1962, in which he ratified and confirmed the contents of the notes published by the Apostolic Administrator, the Revd. Doroteo Fernandez Fernandez. This decree begins as follows:
"THE SPECIAL COMMISSION, set up to study the events occurring in the village of San Sebastian de Garabandal, submitted the corresponding report to us on October 4th of the present year. The said COMMISSION maintains its previous position, and finds that those phenomena lack any supernatural origin, and have an explanation of a natural order. In consequence . . . etc., etc."
I have thought fit to quote the heading of the decree so that it may be seen that the "attitude of the Bishopric is perforce a consequence of the reports which it received from the Special Commission in question, to which the Bishop always refers in capital letters; for, with the Commission rests the responsibility for a series of resolutions which we, in principle, consider to have been arrived at hastily, and which are fully justified in light of the findings of the Commission and the proverbial prudence of the Church.
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"What is happening at San Sebastian de Garabandal?"
67.—A few months after the last note from the Chancery of Santander, an unsigned article appeared under this title. It think it deserves to be quoted here, for it is a perfect, objective summary of all the events we have covered. It reads as follows:
"For many months now, a great number of people have been asking themselves: 'What is happening at San Sebastian de Garabandal?' "
The four little girls who see the Virgin, and who have had no rest for the last eleven months, make the most amazing statements in all simplicity, and set an example of penance and charity.
Mary Cruz, Jacinta, Maria Dolores and Maria Concepcion claim that they see the Virgin. The children are certainly not lying. If they say that they see the Virgin, then they see her. The questions which we all ask ourselves on arriving at Garabandal are: How and why do they see her? Why don't other children see her? Why, when at certain times they want to see her, do they not succeed in seeing her? Why do all four children see her together? Why do they see her separately? Why are the apparitions announced to them in advance? Why do days at a time go by without any of them seeing her, until the foretold date arrives? Why do such amazing and profoundly sublime things happen here, in such simple surroundings?
Legend and truth have mingled to become almost inseparable one from the other. Rumors, lies, distortions of the truth have been mixed up with the real facts. This is only natural; but to get to know the facts properly, one has to resort to firsthand experience.
The solutions that have been put forward by members of the medical profession have been refuted one after the other, and there always remains an element of doubt about any medical explanation. The four girls are normal; they have been the witnesses of countless extraordinary happenings, and they are not lying. Clairvoyance, metempsychosis, hysteria, suggestion, auto-suggestion and many other words defining pathological and neurotic states, etc., have all in turn been invoked.
Meanwhile, the four girls go on seeing the same personages, hearing them, receiving lessons in obedience and humility; they are docile and humble. The Virgin has invited them to be charitable, to be well-behaved, and to do penance for the sins of mankind.
Both their simplicity and their spirit of penance are astonishing As if it were the most natural thing in the world to do, they have risen at five or six o'clock in the morning throughout the winter to
CHANCERY OF SANTANDER
go and say the rosary in the "cuadro", the enclosed spot where the first apparitions took place. After seeing this, one doctor exclaimed: "Hysteria is far more comfort-loving than all this."
It is a fact that they have spoken sentences in English, French, German, Latin and Greek; and the most amazing part of it is that, by repeating what they heard, they gradually corrected themselves until they pronounced the words properly.
I know of several cases of reading of consciences, and all of them have been both accurately and charitably done. The person in question has been the only one to know about it in each case. They have spoken about matters of which they were totally ignorant.
Their insensitiveness to outside pain is complete. They go through the streets at a slow walk, and sometimes they run at an incredible speed. The sharp, painful stones seem to soften beneath their feet.
From the spiritual point of view, conversions to a better way of life have been so many that this hamlet appears to have turned into a source of sanctification. A French Jewess, a Protestant German engineer, and an American engineer, to name but a few, have found the road to Catholicism here.
Crowds have flocked to the scene in countless numbers, like a rosary of wonderment and devotion, to see these children who ought in point of fact to be exhausted or dead by now, but who show every sign of absolute normality. The foreign Press has reported these events in a number of well written articles.
A gentleman who lay in a hospital in Switzerland following a car accident felt Our Lady's call, and made a pilgrimage in thanksgiving for the inward grace received. A lady came all the way from Algeria to ask the Blessed Virgin to protect her son's life. She walked the last four miles barefoot. *
Many people have come in thanksgiving for unusual recovery of health and cures. There is talk of instantaneous mending of broken bones in Barcelona; last degree tuberculosis cured in a flash in Cadiz, etc.
It is a fact that great spiritual benefits are received here.
I have spoken to some of the people who were pointed out to me as having actually received these graces. I know that they have had to suffer because of it, but I also found that they are the most amazed of all at the things they have seen.
How is it that the four girls at Garabandal have managed to prophesy events that have subsequently occurred at the time foretold?
* The sacrifice of walking barefoot up the steep rough track from Cosio to Garabandal has been made by many people, including two ladies of leading Santander families, who, despite their pregnancy, did not hesitate to offer the Blessed Virgin this fearful penance.
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How is it that everything is so confined to the spiritual plane? Why are doctors, industrialists, theologians, educated people and simple people alike, all baffled by what they see?
This is but a small fragment of the ensemble of prodigious happenings that draw people in their thousands to the picturesque rural scene.
There are four girls, and in a few days' time a year will have passed since their first apparition. At 10 p.m. on August 8, these children saw how the Blessed Virgin announced his coming death to Fr. Luis Maria Andreu, a Jesuit priest. Fr. Andreu died without any agony at all, passing from his normal state to death instantaneously, after declaring: "Today is the happiest day of my life." He died six hours after his death was announced.
The girls offer their crucifixes to people to kiss, and whether or not they make the Sign of the Cross in blessing, they serve as the vehicle of God's Grace, which touches people's hearts and brings tears to the eyes of the strongest among us.
So great a number of cases are there, that a whole book would be necessary to relate them all.
The only thing one needs when one goes to Garabandal is some spiritual training and good will.
Our Holy Mother the Church, as Mother of us all, will guide us along this pilgrim's way with her boundless prudence. And it falls to her to have the last say in this matter. The Apostolic Chancellor of the diocese of Santander wrote in October 1961, even before the time factor had become yet another argument in favor of these events, among other pastoral advice, "If God, Himself or through His Most Blessed Mother, thinks fit to speak to us, we should be attentive and listen to his words, saying to Him like Samuel: 'Speak, Lord, Thy servant is listening'."
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68.—We have already said that, in all the revelations to mankind, the Divine factor has demanded human cooperation, and our response has always had a great influence on the subsequent course of events.
At Garabandal, the Angel did not appear the day after his first apparition, perhaps because a gang of small boys threw stones at the scene of the prodigy. The miracle of the visible Communion, announced for July 18, took place in the early hours of the 19th, perhaps on account of the dancing which the village youths did not want to forgo. When people came to the village in a spirit of scant devotion or respect, we have seen that the Vision departed, after complaining to the visionaries at this conduct ... In fact, this behavior on the part of the Vision is not only to be found at Garabandal. The same thing occurred at Fatima and all places where phenomena of this kind have taken place. When the little Portuguese visionaries were kidnaped by the Mayor of Ourem and could not keep their appointment with Our Lady on the 13th of the month, the Vision appeared on the 19th instead, and told them that the miracle announced for October would be less spectacular owing to the kidnaping incident. Human conduct has always influenced the Divine attitude, and this is hardly to be wondered at. If the master of the house receives his visitor with bad grace, however kindly the visitor may be, the host will eventually lose his friendship and not see him again. If this behavior is observed in the case of important people, such as a prince or a king, for instance, their absence later is even more justified, because the discourtesy and offence is far worse. And how would one go about describing a reaction of marked discourtesy and outright assault against One who sets aside the physical laws of Nature to come to us in God's name and deliver a message for our salvation? Prudence is no justification for a rude reception. Prudence demands what the Church has done in this case, namely, avoidance of hasty discussion and not granting official approval to events before the prophesies are confirmed and their circumstances fully clarified. But, for a mere investigator or a member of a commission, this attitude of prudence is quite compatible with respect, a private wish to see everything confirmed eventually, love of Our Blessed Lady, and a
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spirit of faith. Both attitudes are indeed compatible, even though the latter may not be expressed openly. This is particularly so when, from the phenomena themselves, it is clear that there are more than sufficient grounds for a minimum of hope.
To twist things around so as to find a natural explanation for incomprehensible happenings is pointless. Hastily to express negative opinions when highly experienced people are in doubt or assert the contrary is hardly wise. To dismiss the whole thing, just to avoid complications and further bother is not just. The very prudence of the Church requires that her silence should last as long as possible. But, prolonging her silence does not mean to say that she should elude a hasty "yes" by coming out, instead, with a hasty "no". That is why the notes issued by the Bishop leave the issue undecided, and simply state that "nothing so far obliges Us to affirm the supernatural origin of the events, final judgment remaining subject to those that may take place in the future." Hence, the denial of the events did not proceed from the Bishop; this denial and the hurried, unreasonable judgments bandied about proceeded from certain individuals who, emitting their comments, made use of an authority with which they are not in fact vested.
Our Lady of Fatima was displeased at the conduct of the Mayor of Ourem, a freemason, an atheist, and a self-declared enemy of the Church (Heaven subsequently punished him, for he was blown up by a bomb which he himself was carrying in a briefcase, intending to throw it at a political rival passing in a procession). And if this is so, how much greater displeasure Our Lady must feel at similar behavior on the part of people who, being Catholics, are duty-bound to examine the phenomena calmly, showing cautious zeal, great charity, faith and love of God.
We are all undoubtedly bound to make mistakes. To make an error of judgment is innate in our human condition. There is no denying the fact that even heinous crimes have been committed in the name of high ideals. It is a proven fact, admitted by the Church, that, invoking prudence, the Inquisition sentenced holy innocents to death. St. Joan of Arc was dragged to the stake by a group of good men who were scandalized by the things which the young maid heard and said, and it now turns out that what she heard was God, and what she said was holy.
Only the voice of the Church when She makes a solemn statement should be harkened to in a spirit of absolute submission and obedience. Outside Church matters, we live in a perpetual state of improvement and progress, modifying our viewpoints and correcting our errors. Even within the Church, the recent sessions of the Vatican Council have given ample proof that there was much to be rectified,
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and that all discussion on issues that do not affect dogma is good as long as it is charitable and in good faith.
In saying this, it is my intention to enlighten certain people who consider a person's private opinion as an undoubtable axiom, simply and solely because that person wields a little authority. Their ignorance carries them even farther; it leads them to follow that private criterion unquestioningly, even though their own personal convictions, arrived at in the first place because of what they have seen and heard, cry out to them to do just the contrary. I was deeply impressed by the sincere sorrow of a mother, recounted in a book on Fatima:
"I was unable to see the miracle of the sun, because my confessor forced me to cancel the trip ..."
More than ninety thousand people are estimated to have stayed at home on the day of the miracle, deaf to the Blessed Virgin's appeal, due to others who brought to bear on them powers that lay beyond their real attributes, and forbade them to believe in "visions". But, it afterwards turned out that the vision was true and Our Lady's invitation genuine. So it was that those poor people submitted in blind obedience and missed the unique opportunity of their lives. Perhaps some of those souls, whose lives were bound to have changed, had they but seen the miracle, are now deprived of God's presence because they followed that unfortunate piece of advice. What a responsibility for those who were truly to blame!
Therefore, though I admit my own lack of authority in the matter, I venture to advise prudence; prudence of the kind that does not require one to rush into affirming or gainsaying anything too quickly.
True enough, a commission appointed by the Chancery of Santander stated that there is a natural explanation for everything that has happened at Garabandal; a natural explanation—be it said in passing—which neither competent doctors nor specialized theologians have been able to find. But it is no less true that another commission, acting privately with the permission of the same Chancery, came to the opposite conclusion. Which of them was right?
When and if the miracle takes place, it would be most regrettable if many people were to fail to see it, as happened at Fatima, because the guidance given them was inspired with excessive prudence. For the Garabandal case is not over. The day the issue is closed, we shall be the first to accept the decision, be it "yes" or "no", and write as an epilogue to this account the ending which only Heaven can give us.
I should not like what I say to be misconstrued. But, I feel compelled
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to say it because of the attitude of some Catholics who consider themselves "more Catholic than the Pope". To justify my view, let me relate a short anecdote.
I am friendly with a writer who specializes in Marian subjects. I thought that he might be interested in seeing a filmed report on Garabandal. I have a series of carefully selected slides and a taped commentary to go with them, which includes the recorded voices of the girls saying the rosary while in an ecstasy, and some of their conversations with the Blessed Virgin. I also have a number of films of certain ecstasies. Quite apart from the authenticity of these events, I think all this has a human value for everybody, and especially for someone who is known to be an expert on the subject. The impact of the filmed account is tremendous. It effectively arouses and strengthens ones love of God and of the Blessed Virgin. On the other hand, there is no Church provision forbidding one to look at photographs of Garabandal. Be this as it may, my offer was indignantly turned down, with much touching of wood and astonishment that anyone should have been rash enough to make such a proposal, which he saw as the most heinous of sins. Calling on all my powers of understanding, I respect his opinion, but I must confess that it strikes me as absurd.
Garabandal—I repeat—still remains a mystery. Our Lady, who almost "lived" in the village for most of 1961 and 1962, was absent for a time, it is true . . . Why? Perhaps it is the human element that is to blame, for, in my view, it has failed her rather badly. But, even though she was absent, she did not sever the contact. She is still "carrying on the correspondence" as we might call it, if the expression is not irreverent, and in her "letters" she promises to return on the day of the great miracle.
On December 8, 1964, she "called" Conchita in a locution to greet and congratuate her on her Saint's day.* On January 1st, 1965,
* When Conchita came out of church saying that she had had a locution, a priest who was there at the time asked her to give him a written account of the phenomenon. Then and there, in the sacristy, taking up pen and paper, she spontaneously proceeded to write with the greatest of ease the description given below:
"While I was giving thanks to God and asking Him for things, He answered me. I asked Him to give me a Cross, for I am living without any suffering other than the suffering of not having a Cross to bear, and when 1 was asking this of Him, Jesus replied: Yes, I shall give you the Cross: and, much moved, I went on asking Him for more things, and I said to Him: "Why is the miracle coming? To convert people? And He replied: To convert the whole world. Will Russia be converted? She will also be converted and thus everybody will love Our Hearts. And will the punishment come after that? And He did not answer me. Why have You come to my poor undeserving heart? I have not come for your sake; I have come' for everybody's sake. Is the miracle going to happen as if I were the only one to have seen the Blessed Virgin? And He responded: For your sacrifices, your forbearance, I am allowing you to be the intercessor to work the miracle. And I said to Him: Would it not be better if it were all of us, or, otherwise, if You did not make any of us the intercessor? And He said to me: No. Will I go to Heaven? And He replied to me: You will love very much and you will pray to Our Hearts. When will You give me the Cross? And He did not answer me. What will I be? And He did not answer. He only said that wherever I am and whatever I do, I shall have much to suffer. And I said to Him: Will I die soon? And He responded: You will have to be on earth to help the world. And I said to Him: I am worthless, I shall not be ahle to help at all. And He said to me: By your prayers and sufferings you will help the world. When people go to Heaven, do they go dead? And he said to me: People never die. I thought we did not go to Heaven until we were resurrected. I asked Him whether St. Peter was at the gates of Heaven to receive us, and He said: No.
When I was in this prayer or conversation with God, I felt outside this world.
Jesus also told me that there are now more people who love His Heart. About priests. He told me 1 must pray hard for them, so that they may be saintly and do their duty and make others better. That they may make Me known to those who do not know Me; and that they may make Me loved by those who know Me, but do not love Me.
(Signed) Conchita Gonzalez.
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She announced a new apparition of the Angel for the 18th of June. This announcement was a most important prophesy for the happenings at Garabandal; in the first place, because it was a prophesy made six months in advance. As Dr. J. M. Bonance said at the time: "Let the supporters and opponents of the supernatural origin of Our Lady of Mount Carmel's apparitions take this unprecedented opportunity of confirming their opinion and of correcting it. It is a new invitation open to all mankind, with far longer notice than the famous miracle of the Sacred Host on July 18, 1962."
What is more, this forecast of the date was a sign of the Virgin Mary's benevolence, because, if the prophesy turned out to be true, mankind would be better able to prepare for the announcement of the great miracle, whose authenticity it would then prove difficult to question . . .
Ecstatic walk of
and Jacinta, May 1962.
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Mary-Loli and Jacinta follow the Apparition through the village.
"These girls are not lying; they see 'someone' . . .
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69.—To sum up, from everything we have mentioned here, phenomena and other circumstances checked by thousands of eyewitnesses, from the photographs that exist by the hundred; from the tape recordings of the dialogues and prayers in ecstasy; from the films that have been taken; from the tests made to ascertain the veracity of the ecstasies; from the medical inspections and reports; from the state of health of the children, devoid of the slightest pathological symptoms; from the miracle of the Communion announced in advance and photographed; from all the circumstances surrounding the death of Fr. Luis; from the graces obtained through the mediation of Our Lady at Garabandal; from the interrogations and studies undertaken by theologians and experts, etc., one indisputable fact transpires: these girls are not lying, these girls see "someone" who speaks to them, corrects them, teaches them, informs them of things of which they are ignorant; announces to them prophesies that are fulfilled; gives them directions in order to find lost objects; permits them to gain knowledge of the state of the consciences of certain people; enables them to identify priests in lay clothes, and to answer questions framed solely in their minds . . . All these are completely verified phenomena, which defy any natural explanation.
We do not know whether the cause is preternatural or supernatural. But, in view of the type of message in question, the conversions that have taken place and the fervor aroused, we cannot help thinking, (prompted by those words spoken by Jesus, "by their fruit thou shalt know them") that the prodigies are due to supernatural causes. It is true that, for the moment, the Church has not seen fit to pass final judgment, but, on the Vision's behalf, the children long since announced this period of contradictions, doubts and misgivings which have in fact made their appearance and which, given the proverbial prudence of the Church, were the reason for the denials in the first place.
But, over and over again, after foretelling this negative phase, the Vision insisted that the miracle will take place and people will believe. And everything that this strange Vision has said has hitherto
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been fulfilled to the letter. It announced the miracle of the Holy Communion, and the miracle was performed; it announced that the children would have much to suffer and would come to doubt everything, and the children did in point of fact have their moment of vacillation, a black night that seemed to engulf their souls.
But, their locutions continue. The raptures are back . . . For on June 18, 1965, a new angelical apparition was announced, and as we have seen, all the circumstances surrounding the miracle are known.
Why should we consider the case closed precisely now, when it has reached its most promising point?
Let us admit the truth. The question mark remains, the investigation is not over. Garabandal is still a mystery which, as Catholics and men of conscience, we are still duty-bound to follow respectfully and zealously. Only in this way, when the miracle is announced, will it find us prepared, thus avoiding the Blessed Virgin's voice being drowned in the silence of surprise or ignorance.
If Mary calls us, an immense multitude should be on hand to obey her summons and witness the gift which she offers us, that marvelous spectacle which will come as a seal to ratify the divine message from Heaven. Will the same happen with us now as happened at Fatima, where twenty-five years had to elapse before the world heard Our Lady's message?
May our sacrifices and our prayers, our conduct, cooperate with Heaven so that the issue of Garabandal may soon be resolved and shown to be an undeniable truth.
And I close these pages, thanking Mary for having granted me the opportunity of seeing, believing and taking up my pen on her behalf, at a time like this when confusion, heated debate, doubt and misgivings reign supreme, and so much has been said and written in favor of and against Garabandal. The circumstances of life are often confusing and mislead one, and the author of this book, who has been fortunate enough to write in defense of the Marian apparitions and messages, could just as easily have fallen into the same temptation as Monroy, * whom I sincerely invite to accompany me on the day of the celestial appointment awaited by all. For, I feel sure that, if the miracle takes place and the whole matter is cleared up, he will admit his mistake about Garabandal, as I am prepared to recognize my own possible errors of appreciation, and that he will take up his brilliant pen again, this time to devote to the Blessed Virgin a warm, fervent prayer for forgiveness, showing his indebtedness and his love . . .
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THE STORY OF A TRIP
70.—This book had already been printed and only needed binding when June 18, 1965, arrived.* This was the date for which Conchita had announced an apparition of St. Michael the Archangel. That date was also the fourth anniversary of his first apparition. Conchita prophesied the ecstasy more than five months in advance. The Blessed Virgin foretold it on New Year's Day. From that time onwards, she did not hesitate to announce the event to all who asked about it.
Accompanied by Fr. Luna, a zealous priest from Saragossa, I arrived at Garabandal at 2 p.m. on June 17th.
The village was packed with cars from many countries. It was no easy matter to find room to park. I abandoned my car in a narrow street which it virtually blocked, thanking my stars that, fortunately in San Sebastian de Garabandal there were no traffic police and, for the time being, no parking rules.
"The village was packed with cars from many countries . . ."
We walked round the streets, greeting acquaintances. We first of all met the Marques and Marquesa de Santa Maria. Not far behind them was Mary Loly. Fr. Luna, who was on his first visit to Garabandal, had a chance to talk to her. We admired her simplicity, her sweetness, her charm, that affable, amazingly natural welcome so characteristic of the four girls.
We had been chatting with Mary Loly for a while when Mary
* The author is referring to the first Spanish edition.
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Conchita talking to the author.
Cruz came up. They both accompanied us to church. Coming out of the church we saw Jacinta. Fr. Luna spoke to her for a moment, until we left them all besieged by pilgrims. We then made our way to Conchita's house. We had heard she was ill in bed. This piece of news had given rise to very varied comments. Many thought it was an excuse since she had committed herself by announcing the apparition. But the truth of the matter was that Conchita had had a heavy cold for two days, and that very morning she had had a temperature of 101°. She felt better in the afternoon, however, and got up. When we reached her house, she was chatting amicably with a party of visitors, sitting on the bench by the door.
"Do you expect to see the Virgin?" one asked.
"No, not the Virgin; only the Angel," she replied, her manner very natural.
"And what if there's no apparition?"
"The Virgin can't tell a lie."
"Are you sure, then?"
"Of course, I'm quite sure." And she smiled, calm yet gay, puzzled that anyone should have misgivings about the apparition on the following day.
I was taken aback by Conchita's astounding memory on that occasion. The pilgrim with whom she was talking remarked that this was his second visit. Conchita reminded him of the month in which he had come on his first visit, and described the people who had accompanied him, details which the pilgrim himself appeared to have forgotten.
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June 18, 1965: The crowd gathers and waits for Conchita.
We sat there for a long time, overcome with admiration at the very appropriate replies she had for everybody, ever ready with a joke or some of that innocent fun that always enlivens her conversation.
I remember someone remarking to her that, with so many foreigners arriving, she would have to study languages to understand everybody.
"On the contrary," Conchita replied, "if I don't know the language, it saves me answering things that I shouldn't or that I don't understand."
I hazarded an indiscreet question.
"Do you know roughly what time the apparition will be?"
She looked at me and smiled, but did not answer. I assumed the answer to be in the negative, but the following day I discovered that she had said nothing so as not to tell a lie. The fact was that Conchita knew every circumstance of the ecstasy that had been announced.
We took our leave and continued roaming the village streets, from house to house, from one group to another. At Garabandal one knows everyone, greets everyone. The soul blossoms out and people fully express both their ideas and their feelings. The afternoon sped by. I spent my time chatting with people, getting firsthand accounts of many earlier events in the village. I had a long talk with Fr. Valentin Marichalar, with Don Placido Ruiloba, with the sergeant-major of the Civil Guard who had been stationed in the district when the apparitions were frequent (he had come all the way from Barcelona to see this one), with Don Benjamin Gomez, the witness of the miraculous Communion. I also spoke with
Mercedes Salisachs, Don Maximo Foerschler, Dr. Gasca, Fr. Marcelino Andreu, Fr. Lopez de Ratenaga (who has made a meticulous study of the phenomena at Garabandal, and drawn up a very thorough report on the matter); I talked to Fr. Corta and to several of the visionaries' relatives, etc. I also saw Dr. Puncernau from Barcelona, and Dr. Ortiz from Santander. I had the opportunity of clearing up one or two points, and rounding off my data on Garabandal.
That evening, we went to the car in search of some cans of food for an improvised cold supper. Afterwards, beneath the star-strewn expanse of a beautiful night sky, we organized a rosary service, a sublime procession up to the pines. Fr. Luna led, and the responses were given in many different tongues by a large group of men and women. We recited all fifteen mysteries, and Fr. Luna gave a very beautiful sermon on the feast of Corpus Christi which we were commemorating that day, June 17th, speaking of the hopes that had brought us all together in that atmosphere of peace of mind and love of Our Lady.
When we returned down the mountainside to the village, the road, seen from above, looked like a rosary of lights. We descended to take a closer look at the long line of cars, stretching out of sight. In many of them, pilgrims were sleeping. At Garabandal, a car is indispensable, for it becomes rather like a small apartment, serving as a larder, kitchen and dormitory.
Next morning, the priests all said Mass. The church was packed all morning. That day, Conchita was the center of everybody's attention. Wherever she went, there the crowds followed her. She received Holy Communion from the hands of Fr. Marcelino Andreu, a missionary in Formosa and brother of the late Fr. Luis. When
among the pilgrims. On the right Mr. Lomangino,
a blind American whose faith brought him to Garabandal.
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Conchita came out of church, more than thirty photographers and movie-cameramen were standing at the ready on the churchyard wall. Conchita was at once surrounded by a large crowd, kissing her, giving her pious medals, asking her to relay their requests to the Vision ... In church all morning was a French priest, Fr. Pel, aged 87, a man renowned for his saintliness." Fr. Pel had followed the course of events at Garabandal for some time, and that morning he assured everyone who asked him that he expected to see an impressive ecstasy that night.
After lunch, the rumor spread that the visionary had had two summonses. Old Garabandal hands were surprised at the news, because the apparition announced was of the Angel, and the "llamadas" or summonses only came when the Blessed Virgin appeared. I soon found that it was a false alarm, the result of someone's impatience, and perhaps not devoid of questionable intentions. Conchita, who was talking calmly with everybody who came near her, denied having had a summons.
The afternoon dragged on. People thronged the streets saying the rosary in different languages. People from France, Germany, Britain, Italy, Poland, the United States, etc., gathered before Conchita's humble dwelling, all unified by a common sentiment of supplication and love towards the Virgin Mary. Personally, I expected the apparition to take place in the early evening. I assumed that, as the Angel had appeared for the first time at 8:30 p.m., four years earlier, the prodigy announced would occur at more or less the same hour. I made for the center of the village and walked down the road to check the points of origin of the vehicles parked there. The result confirmed the sad truth: there were more foreign cars than Spanish ones. Garabandal is far better known outside Spain than within her frontiers. Is this perhaps due to the Church's attitude and the great respect felt in Spain for the decision of the ecclesiastical hierarchy? Otherwise, why would the events of Garabandal be so closely followed by Catholics all over the world, while Catholics in Spain remain ignorant, indifferent and silent?
I talked to Fr. Bernardino Cennamo, from the Convent of San Pasquale at Benevento (Italy). He gave me some photographs of Padre Pio, and as a relic, a scrap of cloth soaked in the blood from his stigmata. I met Roman journalist Gabriela Montemayor, and a famous Italian Television star, Signor Carlo Campanini. I spent some time with Fr. Pel, and with the apostle of Garabandal in France, Fr. Laffineur. I saw Dr. Caux, of whom we spoke in the chapter relating the miraculous Communion; and Monsieur Jean Masure, for whom Our Lady had a surprise in store that night, and
Book Page 166
he explained to me how, when he reached Torrelavega, he was on the point of turning back to Madrid because a priest assured him that Garabandal was a myth that had been condemned by the Church.
Towards 8:30 p.m., the hour that I had erroneously forecast for the ecstasy, I made my way to Conchita's house. The crowd were still standing or kneeling before her house, praying or singing hymns in Our Lady's honor. It was a most impressive sight. It must have been about ten o'clock when Conchita declared:
"The apparition will be a little later on, up at the sunken lane. Tell everyone to go on saying the rosary and doing penance. I'll be along in a short while."
The warning was spread in different languages. The crowd thinned rapidly as people went to find a good vantage-point in the lane where the children had had their first visions. This enabled me to reach Conchita's house. Her brother, who was standing guard at the door, invited me in. There, in the kitchen, humble yet welcoming as few kitchens can be, Conchita was sitting by the window, talking through its bars to the pilgrims outside.
I approached her. She sensed my concern and smiled. She was as calm as ever.
"There isn't much of the day left. Do you know everything that is going to happen," I asked, worried at the general disappointment if the expected did not occur.
"Yes, I don't know what the Angel will say to me, but I know all the rest of the details."
She looked at her watch, and added: "There's a little time to wait yet."
And she began to write little dedicatory notes on holy pictures, showing more signs of gaiety than of impatience.
It was than that I noticed the wedding rings that she was wearing on her fingers, and I asked if I could give her mine, too. But she at once explained: "Not today. The Angel doesn't kiss them . . ." And she laughingly added, "The Angel isn't anybody . . ."
She then wrote on a holy picture for Fr. Luna, a surname which in Spanish means "Moon". Wearing her best air of innocent mischief, she inquired:
"Shall I put Fr. Moon or Fr. Sun?"
All at once she was serious. She glanced at her watch and declared:
"It's half-past eleven. Let's go to the lane."
Her mother—an admirable woman for whom the apparitions have been the cause of particular trials and suffering, and who treats pilgrims with extraordinary patience and kindness—got out a short jacket. Conchita put it on and, taking her cousin's arm,
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went out escorted by her brothers, by a few village lads, and by a large group of Civil Guards.
The Confirmation of Garabandal
I wanted to stick to the group escorting Conchita, but I was unable to. At once, an avalanche of people prevented my following close behind her. Hundreds of lights flashed from the shadows to light the way. Conchita broke into a run. She drew farther and farther away from me. We all entered the sunken lane jammed shoulder to shoulder. Suddenly, this human wave halted, wavering dangerously. Some fell to the ground. Spotlights flashed on, operated by technicians of the Spanish newsreel company NODO, and the Italian Television. As best I could, I clung to the wall of the lane and, after some effort, managed to scale it. I succeeded in reaching the top and leaning forward, I could see Conchita some distance below. On reaching the center of what is known as the "cuadro", Conchita had fallen to her knees in a rapture.
Conchita in ecstasy, and the crowd on June 18, 1965 (see text).
I saw her with her eyes wide open and unblinking, receiving the full glare of the spotlights and flashbulbs. Her face was transfigured; it seemed transparent. Tape recorders were recording part
Book Page 168
of her celestial colloquy: "No, no, not yet ... " said Conchita pleading in that low, rather husky tone of voice which she has in ecstasy. All of a sudden, she raised her hand, in which she bore a crucifix. She held it out at the Vision's command for Fr. Pel to kiss. I still have no idea how Fr. Pel managed to arrive at the forefront of the crowd. Afterwards, she held it out to one of Fr. Pel's companions, and finally to Monsieur Jean Masure, a Frenchman residing in Madrid. To him she later said:
"The Angel says I'm to tell you that the Blessed Virgin has granted your request."
ecstasy gives the
Crucifix for M. Masure to kiss.
The ecstasy was breathtaking, and lasted some twenty minutes. Without warning, she rose to her feet and then crashed, like lead to the ground, her knees smashing onto the sharp stones in the lane. A grinding crunch was heard, like the sound of two stones being struck together hard. Nevertheless, it was afterwards seen that she had not come to the slightest harm.
She proceeded to make the Sign of the Cross in the customary way, and then emerged from her trance. At that instant, her eyes, which had unblinkingly withstood those torrents of light for twenty minutes, squeezed tight shut, and she covered her face with her hands to protect her eyes from the glare.
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Had the visionary not been in a real trance, her open eyes, which withstood the concentrated beams of so many spotlights, would have been burnt out in a matter of minutes, and, today, Conchita Gonzalez would be blind. On the contrary, she came to quite normally, without being dazzled at all, and her eyes are as expressive and healthy as ever.
The dense crowd made it practically impossible for Conchita to retrace her steps down the lane. The Civil Guard and several village youths protected her from the buffeting as best they could, forcing a path through the tightly packed crowd. Several people slipped and fell as they scrambled down the lane, and those behind stumbled over them. A voice was heard calling for help. I felt a sudden fear, thinking of the possible consequences of that human avalanche. But, once again, the miraculous happened; quite inexplicably, there were no casualties.
I reached Conchita's house and managed to squeeze through the door. She answered our questions with that natural air of one who cannot see the importance of the phenomena in which she is playing a leading role.
Scenes from the ecstasy of June 18, 1965, recorded and televised.
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"The Angel has given me a message for the world."
"Can you tell us what it is?"
"No, not now."
"Is it good or bad?"
"What comes from God is always good."
"I mean, is it pleasant or unpleasant?"
She shrugged her shoulders.
"Can't you tell us straight away," I insisted.
"He told me to give it out in writing."
"Will we know what it is tomorrow?"
Watching the rapture had left us with an immense inner joy, and this, I could see, was general. That night, there was many an embrace and many a kind word of friendship between complete strangers. It was in this same spirit that I found myself embracing Fr. Bernardino Cennano, a Franciscan who had come from Italy.
In my view, the ecstasy of June 18th was the confirmation of Garabandal. Let us analyze the facts.
Conchita had a rapture on New Year's Day. She was alone. Two young shepherd boys saw her in ecstasy. By the time they had run to inform people in the village and had started back up the mountainside to see her, Conchita was descending the lane. Taken by surprise, she had no alternative but to tell her story.
"I saw Our Lady, and She told me the Angel is going to appear to me on June 18th, to give me a new message."
The news spread round Spain like wildfire, across the frontier and throughout the Catholic world. With her usual naturalness when recounting her visions, Conchita confirmed the news to everyone who asked. She calmly awaited the day announced by the Vision. She never lost her assurance and gaiety. She allayed my own fears, saying that she "knew all the details". At the time set for the Angel's apparition, she happily set off for the appointed place. And, the instant she reached the spot, she went into a rapture. Doctors checked that her trance and state of ecstasy were genuine. The powerful spotlights did not harm her eyes; her face was transfigured; her breathing and voice acquired the measure and tone proper to a state of ecstasy. All of a sudden, she rose to her feet and then crashed back, to her knees, a jarring blow that left her skin without so much as a graze. After twenty minutes, she emerged from her trance in a totally normal state. She spoke of a message that she would communicate in writing, and this message, composed by a young girl lacking anything more than the most elementary schooling, proved to be a piece of perfect theology. Is all this not
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clear proof of the supernatural causes of the phenomena we are relating?
The Message of June 18th, 1965
Late the next morning, after Mass, Conchita issued the message, written in her clumsy handwriting and poor spelling on a sheet of ordinary writing paper. Fr. Luna read it out in Spanish, French and Italian from the doorway of the visionary's home; Fr. Marcelino Andreu afterwards repeated it in English. The public who had been waiting for this moment heard the message in silence; many had tears in their eyes. Afterwards, they asked to be allowed to copy the text. Slowly, it was dictated in different languages, so that everyone could note it down correctly. Then, I was handed the message and held it up so that it could be photographed.
The message read as follows:
"The Message which the Blessed Virgin has given to the world through the intercession of St. Michael.
The Angel said: 'As my Message of the 18th of October has not been complied with, and as it has not been made known to the world, I am telling you that this is the last one. Previously, the Cup was filling; now, it is brimming over. Many priests are following the road to perdition, and with them they are taking many more souls. Ever less importance is being given to the Holy Eucharist. We should turn the wrath of God away from us by our own efforts. If you ask His forgiveness with a sincere heart. He will pardon you. I, your Mother, through the intercession of St. Michael the Archangel, wish to tell you that you should make amends. You are now being given the last warnings. I love you very much, and I do not want your condemnation. Ask Us sincerely and We shall grant your plea. You must make more sacrifices. Reflect on the Passion of Jesus.
Conchita Gonzalez, 18-VI-65."
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A number of ideas can be gathered from this Message: Our Lady is disturbed at the lack of response to her message of October 18th, 1961; she is concerned about priests; the Holy Eucharist must be given the pride of place It deserves; it is essential that we appease God by our efforts . . . Our Lady promises forgiveness to those who ask for it sincerely; she tells us she will grant us our pleas; she insists that she loves us very much and desires our salvation; she asks us to make sacrifices and recommends us to reflect on the Passion of Jesus; she assures us that we are being given the last warnings, and that this is the last message.
All this fits in perfectly with the contents of the prophesies, and with the theological facts.
The ecstasy, announced almost six months earlier, and the contents of the message revealed to the child while in her trance are confirmation of the Garabandal apparitions for any Christian of good faith.
But such confirmation is not sufficient for the world at large, and much less for the Church, whose prudence is even more exacting. This is why Our Lady has announced what will be the final confirmation; namely, the public miracle whose date will be given beforehand, a miracle so spectacular that it will make any doubt impossible.
Time and again, when her visionaries have protested at the lack of faith of so many people, Our Lady has reassured them, saying that "they will believe in time . . ."
Faced with this mystery, however, our attitude meanwhile should be one of respectful and hopeful attention. To twist things around in an effort to elude a logical approach to the matter is neither wise nor just. Garabandal is crying out for a conscientious study of the facts by experienced specialists with good faith, a study that has yet to be carried out.
The Press Reports
It was with real surprise, if not a little annoyance, that we read in the Press a note from Santander, released by the "Cifra" News Agency to most Spanish newspapers. This report carried the headings "Alleged Apparitions in a village of the Province of Santander," and "The Ecclesiastical Hierarchy does not accept the possibility of supernatural causes." The full report read as follows:
"Circulars and pamphlets published in France have been the cause of the revival of the now old subject of the alleged apparitions in the
Note! Paragraph continues on page 174
Book Page 173
THE MESSAGE OF JUNE 18, 1965
"The Message which the Blessed Virgin has given to the world through the intercession of St. Michael.
The Angel said: 'As my Message of the 18th of October has not been complied with, and as it has not been made known to the world, I am telling you that this is the last one. Previously, the Cup was filling; now, it is brimming over. Many priests are following the road to perdition, and with them they are taking many more souls. Ever less importance is being given to the Holy Eucharist. We should turn the wrath of God away from us by our own efforts. If you ask His forgiveness with a sincere heart, He will pardon you. I, your Mother, through the intercession of St. Michael the Archangel, wish to tell you that you should make amends. You are now being given the last warnings. I love you very much, and I do not want your condemnation. Ask Us sincerely and We shall grant your plea. You must make more sacrifices. Reflect on the Passion of Jesus.
Conchita Gonzalez, 18-VI-65."
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village of San Sebastian de Garabandal, where more than a thousand people, foreigners for the most part, gathered last Friday.
"A hundred and forty automobiles with foreign plates were counted and a bare fifty from various provinces of Spain; very few people from Santander went to the village.
"According to information given to us by a spokesman for the Chancery, the question of these alleged visions is far from new: it had already come up in 1961, when, on August 26th, to be exact, the Apostolic Administrator of the diocese. Dr. Doroteo Fernandez, signed an episcopal decree in which he said that, following investigations carried out in the matter by a Commission appointed for the purpose, "nothing obliges us to confirm the supernatural origin of the events." This decree also said: 'It is our desire that priests, be they of this or any other diocese, and religious of both sexes, even the independent clergy, should FOR THE TIME BEING abstain from going to San Sebastian de Garabandal.'
"The same Apostolic Administrator again addressed the members of his diocese on October 19th of the same year, saying that 'it would show a great lack of sense on our part if we were to accept as coming from God any gust of the wind of human opinion.' There is no proof that the said apparitions, visions, locutions or revelations can so far be presented as true and authentic, or be held as such on any serious grounds." This decree insisted on the prohibition imposed on priests, and asked them to inform the faithful of the true attitude of the Church in these matters.
"Again, a year later, on October 7th, 1962, the Feast of the Holy Rosary, the Bishop of Santander, Mgr. Eugenio Beitia Aldazabal, signed a further episcopal decree whose provisions read as follows:
'We fully confirm the official notes issued by this Chancery and dated August 26th and October 19th, 1961.'
'We forbid all priests, be they of this or any other diocese, and all religious, even the independent clergy, to gather at the aforesaid village without express permission from the diocesan authorities.'
'We repeat to the faithful the warning that they should abstain from going to this village for the purpose of heightening the atmosphere of excitement created by the unfolding of these events'
"Regarding this year's recurrence of the alleged apparitions, for the reasons indicated above, the attitude of the Chancery (so the spokesman informs us) remains unchanged. It is thought scientifically possible that the fourteen year old child who claims to see the apparitions may be suffering from a condition of health conducive to ecstatic trances, but all this is of a natural order, and there is no possibility of any supernatural cause."
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It is hard to believe that this note, which contains errors and contradictions by the dozen, was really issued by a spokesman of the Chancery of Santander. It is far more likely to have been the product of a journalist's hasty pen.
In it we are told that the "circulars and pamphlets published in France have been the cause of the revival of the now old subject of the alleged apparitions," whereas, in fact, it should be the other way round. The inexplicable phenomena that have occurred and still are occurring at Garabandal are the one and only cause of the circulars, pamphlets and books published in France, Spain and elsewhere. What is more, it is quite obvious to everybody that, if people from many countries gathered at Garabandal on June 18th, it was not because pamphlets were published in France, but because the visionary, who has so often proved to be right in her predictions, had announced for that day an apparition of the Angel for a particular purpose. And this prophesy, like all her others, was fully confirmed when the time came.
In the second place, the note takes great pride in stating that most of the cars that went to Garabandal were from abroad, while very few people from Santander itself went to the village. We, modestly, beg to think otherwise. It is a disgrace to Spain and particularly to Santander that, notwithstanding the favor shown in the mere possibility of our land being chosen as the scene and our nation as the emissary of God's manifestations, we should have cloaked in silence what may well prove to be a great and unique task in the history of mankind.
The news agency report gives the visionary's age as fourteen, whereas, in fact, she was sixteen at the time.
It further denies the supernatural origin of the apparitions, claiming to confirm the episcopal decrees hitherto published. But the truth of the matter is that, as we have seen, those decrees go no further than adopting a prudent approach, repeatedly stressing that for the time being there is no definite proof of the supernatural origin of the events . . . The decrees do not close the door to future evidence, or use the tone of denial and condemnation so blatantly employed in the news agency note.
The news agency states that priests are forbidden to go up to Garabandal. This is not true either. The episcopal decrees simply dictate that "they should not go there without prior permission." This stipulation is merely for the purpose of controlling their movements, but not of generally prohibiting their going.
Finally, the note claims that "it is thought scientifically possible for the fourteen year old (?) child who claims to see the apparitions
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to be suffering from a condition of health conducive to ecstatic trances, but all this is of a natural order and there is no possibility of any supernatural cause."
This paragraph can be divided into two parts, both equally inadmissible. The first is the recognition of the fact that the child has genuine raptures; a surprising admission this, when it is considered that no steps have been taken either to study their causes or to classify them from a medical viewpoint.
We are to assume that the child is calmly left to fend for herself, without any medical assistance whatsoever; and without any prior investigation of the matter, the note declares that the ecstasies are of a natural order. This is the first incongruous point.
The second is far more serious. The second part makes the following allegation, no less: (we quote, word for word, the second heading of the news agency report, just as it appeared in the "Heraldo de Aragón" of Saragossa, on June 20th).
"The ecclesiastical hierarchy does not accept the possibility of any supernatural cause."
Quite honestly, I think it is a bit much that the ecclesiastical hierarchy should claim to limit God's activities by denying the possibility of his supernatural intervention whenever He pleases. I think that at Garabandal, or anywhere else for that matter, the ecclesiastical authorities have no alternative but to admit the possibility of God making manifestations to mankind as and when He thinks fit.
All those who are convinced that something of the greatest importance is going on at Garabandal have come to this conclusion after a meticulous and cautious investigation of the facts. It would be indiscreet on my part to reveal names, but I can assure the reader that leading doctors, very prudent theologians and the most expert specialists have been to Garabandal and are definitely inclined to affirm the existence of something that is, scientifically speaking, inexplicable.
How can the special Commission, referred to by the Chancery of Santander in some of its decrees, take such an uncompromising negative attitude? This we do not know. We can only say, for the reader's information, that other people also carried out an investigation with the permission of the Chancery, and they reached the opposite conclusion.
Perhaps it is all due to the desire of some well-meaning people to create obstacles for the sake of prudence, and thus force Our Lady's hand so that her miracle will be even more spectacular and conclusive. The layman does not understand these tactics. Nor dare he criticize them. He respects them in all sincerity because he
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realizes that, if the phenomena at Garabandal are confirmed, as we expect them to be, then Mary's triumph will be all the greater, the Church will have given us an admirable lesson in holy prudence, and God's enemies will have no grounds for their attacks which customarily speak of "comedies artfully arranged in advance with the help of the clergy."
And, if the phenomena are not confirmed, the Commission in question will have rendered the Church its greatest service.
Let us then leave the issue of Garabandal open and wait till Heaven and future events, which will speak more eloquently than we can, bring the issue to its close. For the time being, and in a spirit of respectful anticipation, we shall continue to put our trust in the Virgin Mary; we shall humbly pray Her to enlighten our minds and to kindle the flame in our hearts, so that we may fulfill the Message, by making it the guide of our life and the source of inspiration of our apostolate.
June 18, 1965: Conchita in ecstasy makes the sign of the Cross.
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On July 8th, 1965, the Bishop of
Santander, Mgr. Eugenio Beitia Aldazabal, issued a note which stated, among
"We hereby declare that We have not found any matter deserving condemnatory ecclesiastical censorship, either in the doctrine or in the spiritual recommendations that have been divulged on this occasion as having been addressed to the Christian faithful, for these recommendations contain an exhortation to prayer and sacrifice, to devotion to the Holy Eucharist, to veneration of Our Blessed Lady in traditional praiseworthy ways, and to holy fear of God, offended by our sins. They simply repeat the common doctrine of the Church in this respect."
The note goes on to say that "the Chancery has collected a large amount of documentary evidence in the last few years with regard to everything that has occurred. Its dossier on this issue has not been closed. It will always be grateful to receive all evidence sent in. The Supreme Sacred Congregation of the Holy Office has entered into contact with the diocese of Santander to obtain information on this grave matter."
In our desire to cooperate within our modest means and ever at the service of the Church and the ecclesiastical hierarchy, the author is sending this book to the open dossier at the Chancery of Santander. All the evidence contained in this volume has been checked and re-checked, over and over again; and in Spain, only a limited edition has been published for specialists and followers of events at Garabandal.* It is to be hoped that this work may serve as yet another item of evidence in the Garabandal dossier, which is now beginning to be studied thoroughly and objectively.
In so doing, I feel I am making my own very modest contribution, while at the same time complying with the dictates of my conscience, which, because of circumstances of personal significance, I could not possibly ignore.
* We hope that Heaven will send confirmation of the supernatural causes of the phenomena at Garabandal, so that we may apply for the "Imprimatur" and publish the book on a scale that the subject deserves.
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ROME AND THE LAST APPARITION
We have thought it worthwhile to add to this new edition a chapter relating the latest events connected with Garabandal: Conchita's trip to Rome, and her vision on November 13th, 1965.
At the same time, and in view of the importance of the visionary's assertions of a prophetic nature—namely, all she has said about the Warning, the Miracle and the Punishment—we give below three notes written by Conchita herself, in which she explains everything she knows about these points. These notes will enable the reader to see for himself the importance and the plausibility of the prophesies.
The notes read as follows:
THE WARNING—"The Virgin told me about this on January 1st, 1965, up in the pine grove. I can not say what it will consist of, because she did not command me to do so. And, as for when it is going to be, she did not tell me, so I do not know. What I do know is that it will be visible to everybody; it will be a direct work of God and will take place before the miracle. I do not know whether people will die because of it. They could only die from the shock of seeing it."
THE MIRACLE— "The Virgin told only me about the miracle. She forbade me to say what it will consist of. I cannot reveal the date either until eight days beforehand. What I am allowed to say is that it will coincide with an event in the Church, and with the feast of a saint who is a martyr of the Holy Eucharist; it will be at half-past eight on a Thursday evening; it will be visible to everybody in the village and on the surrounding mountainsides; the sick who are present will be cured and the incredulous will believe. It will be the greatest miracle that Jesus has worked for the world. There will not remain the slightest doubt that it comes from God and is for the good of mankind. In the pine grove, a sign of the miracle will be left forever. It will be possible to film and televise it."
THE PUNISHMENT—"The punishment is conditioned to whether or not mankind heeds the Blessed Virgin's messages and the miracle. If it does take place, then I know what it will consist of, because the Virgin told me, but I am not allowed to say. What is more, I have seen the punishment. What I can assure you is that, if it comes, it is far worse than if we were enveloped in fire; worse than if we had fire above us, and fire beneath. I do not know how long a time will elapse after the miracle, before God sends it."
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We have in our possession the original copies of these texts, in Conchita's own handwriting.
A Letter from Conchita about Her Last Vision (November 13th, 1965).
Conchita's letter about her vision of November 13th reads as follows:
"The Virgin has announced to me in a locution while I was in church that I would see her in the pine grove on Saturday the 13th of November; a special apparition to kiss religious objects to be distributed afterwards, because they are of the greatest importance.
"I longed for that day to arrive, so I could once again see those who have brought the felicity of God to my soul; namely, the Blessed Virgin with the Infant Jesus in her arms.
"It was raining that day, but of course I did not mind going up to the pines; with me, I had a lot of rosaries that had recently been given me so I could hand them out. As the Blessed Virgin had told me, I took them with me so she could kiss them.
"While I was on my way up to the pines alone, I said to myself that, since I was very repentant about my faults, I would not commit any of them again, because I felt ashamed of presenting myself before the Mother of God without first ridding myself of them.
"When I reached the pines, I started to take out the objects that I had with me, and at that instant I heard a very sweet voice (the Blessed Virgin's, of course, which can easily be distinguished from any other voice) calling me by my name. I answered: 'What is it?' And, then, I saw her, with the Infant Jesus in her arms; she was attired as usual and smiling. I said to her, 'I've come to bring you the rosaries for you to kiss.' She said to me: 'So I see.'
"I had been eating chewing-gum, but the moment I saw the Blessed Virgin, I stopped chewing and stuck it behind a tooth. But, she obviously must have known that I had it there, and she said to me: 'Conchita, why don't you give up your chewing-gum and offer it up as a sacrifice for the Glory of My Son.' I felt ashamed, and taking it out I threw it on the ground. And she said to me:
* IMPORTANT NOTE—The printing of this book was almost completed when there came into my hands a prophesy by Sister Maria Faustina, a Polish nun who died during the invasion of Poland in 1938. The prophesy was written on February 22nd, 1931, and reads as follows:
"The Lord manifested Himself to me today, and He said to me: 'Before coming as the just Judge, I shall come as the King of Mercy. Before Judgment Day arrives, there will appear a sign in the heavens and over the earth. That sign will be the Sign of the Cross, and from each of the wounds in My hands and in My feet there will issue a bright light that will illumine the whole earth for a few minutes. This will be the end of time'."
Could this be a prediction of the great miracle of Garabandal, announced way back in 1931 ?
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'You will remember what I told you on your saint's day, that you will suffer very much on earth; well, I repeat it to you, once again. Have trust in Us, and you will bear it with pleasure for Our Hearts, and for the good of your brethren, and thus you will feel Us closer to you.'
"I said to her: 'How unworthy I am. Our Mother, of so many graces received through you, and even so you have come to me today to lighten the little Cross which I now bear.' She said to me: 'Conchita, I have not come only for your sake; I have come for the sake of all my children, with the desire of bringing them closer to Our Hearts.' And she then asked me: 'Give me everything you have brought for me to kiss.' I gave everything to her. With me I had a Crucifix; she kissed that, too, and said to me: 'Pass it through the hands of the Infant Jesus.' I did so. He did not say anything to me. I said to the Blessed Virgin: 'I shall take this Crucifix to the convent with me.' She did not say anything. After kissing everything, She said to me: 'Through the kiss that I have bestowed on them, My Son will work prodigies. Distribute them to others.' 'Of course I shall do so.'
"She told me to tell her the petitions that others had requested me to convey to her. I told her, and she said: 'Tell me, Conchita, tell me things about my children; I have all of them beneath my mantle.' I said to her: 'It is very small, we can not fit them all in.' She smiled.
'Do you know, Conchita, why I did not come myself on June 18th to give you the message for the world? Because it saddened me to tell it to you myself. But, I have to tell you it for your own good, and, if you all fulfill it, for the Glory of God. I love you all very much, and I desire your salvation and to gather you all here in Heaven, around the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. You will respond to me, Conchita, won't you?' And I said to her: 'Yes; if I were to see you all the time, yes, I would. But if not, I do not know, because I am very bad.' 'You do your best, and We shall help you.'
"She only stayed a short time, and she also said to me: 'This is the last time you will see me here, but I shall always be with you, and with all my children.' Afterwards, she added: 'Conchita, why do you not go more often to visit My Son at the Tabernacle? Why let yourself be overcome by laziness, not going to visit Him, when He is there waiting for you all day and night?"
"As I said before, it was raining, and the Blessed Virgin and the Infant Jesus did not get wet at all. While I saw them, I did not notice that it was raining, but, afterwards, when I saw them no longer, I was all wet. I had said to the Blessed Virgin: 'How happy I am when I see you. Why do you not take me with you now?' She
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said to me: 'Remember what I told you on your saint's day, and when you present yourself before God you must show Him your hands full of good works done by you for the benefit of your brethren and for the Glory of God; and at present your hands are empty.'
"And that was all. The joyous moment passed when I was with my Mama in Heaven, my best friend, and the Infant Jesus. I saw Them no longer, but I did not cease to feel Them. Once again, They left my soul full of peace, joy and a great desire to overcome my faults and to love with all my strength the Hearts of Jesus and Mary Who love us so much.
"Earlier, the Blessed Virgin told me that Jesus would not send us the Punishment to harm us, but to help us, and to reprove us for not heeding Him; and the Warning, to purify us to make us see the Miracle through which He shows us the great love that He bears us and, hence, His desire" for us to fulfill the message.
"We should do our very best for the Glory of God and our Blessed Mother.
"This is the apparition of November 13th, a Saturday, to Conchita Gonzalez.
P.S. This is not a secret."
The letter is admirable from start to finish: the naive, childish detail about her chewing-gum; Our Lady's assertion that she has not come for the children's sake, but for that of all mankind, always answering with a smile and not paying too much attention to the visionaries' personal problems (this is a circumstance in favor of the supernatural origin of these events, particularly in the case of Conchita's desire to take the crucifix passed through the Infant Jesus' hands to the convent with her, which was a wily attempt to sound the Blessed Virgin out on a matter that is currently Conchita's cross and prime cause of concern); the visionary's reply to the Blessed Virgin's interest in her children, "all of whom she has beneath her mantle", an ironical sally that brought a smile to Our Lady's lips; Our Blessed Mother's affectionate explanation of why she delivered her message of June 18th through an intermediary, a point which fully reveals the loving kindness with which she treats her children; Conchita's fears of "not living up to the graces which she receives" if she is not fortunate enough to go on seeing the Blessed Virgin, because she considers herself "bad"; Our Lady's promise that she will be attentive to all her children's needs; the fact that Jesus is waiting for us night and day in the tabernacle; and the highly important revelation that this is the last apparition for Conchita at Garabandal, which indicates that the Virgin will
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continue to keep in touch with her visionary, but away from what has so far been the scene of these exceptional manifestations.
The Blessed Virgin did not want to "take Conchita with her" because her hands are empty of good works; we should all meditate on these words and ask Heaven to grant us, too, the grace to fill our hands and remain on earth until we have gathered sufficient merits so that we may leave this world with the satisfaction and joy of having done our duty. Conchita's "Mother and best Friend", as she calls her, left her filled with peace, joy and a desire to achieve perfection.
And, to encourage us in our daily toils, let us bear in mind one point. If, after seeing the Blessed Virgin so often, Conchita is still afraid of her imperfections, should she be left without Our Lady's apparitions and assistance, then, how much more justified such fears and errors are in the case of people who have not had the good fortune to see the reality of the supernatural world with their own eyes.
But, the Blessed Virgin has repeated time and time again that she comes for the sake of all mankind and all her children, and she has us all beneath her mantle; she "loves us all very much and desires our salvation." For, God is sending us the warning so there will be no further doubts about the miracle, and so that the greatest possible number of people may be present to see it; the miracle will be like a final effort to convert sinners and thus, as far as possible, avert Heaven's punishment.
Let us read this letter a thousand and one times, and draw from it the surprising spiritual fruits which it encloses. *
Conchita's Trip to Rome
The discretion advisable as regards Conchita's visit to Rome prevents our revealing full details of the circumstances and facts surrounding this pilgrimage. Consequently, let us simply say that she was summoned by Cardinal Ottaviani; that she requested and obtained The Holy Father's blessing for her subsequent entry into a convent; that she spent two and a half hours at the Congregation
* While Conchita was alone up in the pine-grove, receiving Our Lady's visit, a truck was climbing the steep mountain track leading up from Cosio to Garabandal, fell into a gorge and was completely wrecked. In the truck were many villagers who were returning from morning market in Puentenansa, There were no casualties. Everyone escaped unscathed from this spectacular accident.
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of the Holy Office, and that, at the request of those who accompanied her, she went to see Padre Pio. We can also say that "everything went off very smoothly and was clearly providential, and there is reason to be very pleased and deeply grateful to God."
Rather than go to Rome, what Conchita really wanted to do was to come back from Rome, because her mother, Aniceta, had promised her that, upon her return, she would allow her to go to the convent in Pamplona.
Circumstances Common to All Apparitions
I should like to stress the fact that some events that have taken place at Garabandal fully coincide with other similar ones which are proper to all the apparitions that have been officially approved by the Church. This is true of the characteristics of the ecstasies: the great weight very often acquired by the visionaries; total imperviousness to pain; the instantaneous fall to their knees as if their feet were swept from under them, a phenomenon that is typical of the different manifestations of this kind; the presence of an angel who prepares the visionaries and announces the Blessed Virgin's visit to them (Catherine Laboure, the children of Fatima, etc.); the summonses, which were similarly felt by Bernadette, who knew, in this way, when she had to go to the grotto; the secret which generally concerns mankind's punishment and which occurred in the case of Our Lady of Paris, La Salette and Fatima; the terminology used by the Blessed Virgin, etc., etc.
The Negative Note at Garabandal
The negative note at Garabandal is struck by Mary Cruz. The Church's justified attitude is no doubt due to her, but we should not overlook the fact that all the visions that have eventually turned out to be God's work have passed through a negative stage of confusion and controversy.
We ought not, in principle, to be surprised that a matter as delicate as the possible presence of the supernatural should be surrounded by a certain atmosphere of confusion and some contradictory aspects in which positive and negative arguments mingle at one and the same time. Such confusion justifies the Church's prudence and the fact that It has deferred final judgment until there is full confirmation in the form of a miracle. If there were no question mark hanging over Garabandal; if Garabandal were a clear, indisputable, proven affair, and if it had the Church's backing from the outset, then, faith in Garabandal would be entirely devoid
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of merit of any kind, and the reaction of the multitudes would make the normal course of its history impossible. If Conchita's statement about the curing of the sick who are present on the day of the miracle were believed out of hand by mankind en masse, on account of clear, unquestionable evidence of the reality of her assertion, then, the reader can picture what it would be like . . . The entire world would react and all mankind would strive to gather at a single geographical point; survival would be impossible. Divine Providence has, therefore, always permitted these prodigies to be surrounded by a certain air of confusion, contradictions and negative arguments, which are eventually cleared up by a spectacular miracle in the presence of a large number of people who are worthy of that grace. Only in this fashion can the human development of such events follow its proper course. It was not for nothing that Jesus Christ also spoke in parables in the Gospels.
Finally, we should add that Mary's apostolic activity is unceasing and encompasses the whole globe. Her activity begs a question:
On the day of the miracle at Garabandal, will the prodigy likewise take place simultaneously in all the places that have been, or are now, the scene of similar Marian manifestations?
We hope that this will indeed be the conclusion reached from the investigations we have mentioned, whose findings we shall publish in due course. The key-note of these investigations will be the location of the greatest possible number of present-day manifestations that are probably supernatural, for the purpose of comparing them with others, analyzing the contents of the respective messages and the promise of their confirmation in a public miracle. In principle, we do not consider it absurd to hold the view that such a miracle might take place at all those places chosen by Mary, at the same hour on the same day. From our survey it will be possible to see the geographical area covered by Heaven's activities, for there can be no doubt whatsoever that The Virgin Mary is making an all-out effort to save mankind through the use of a plan devised by Providence, and mankind is spread over many countries and continents. The voice of this Lady who appears surrounded by brilliant light will reach us all, casting the life-line of salvation to each people in its own language and according to its needs.
Through this documentation which we intend to gather, and for which we request and desire assistance from all those who can provide any information, it will be possible to weigh up the extent of Our Heavenly Mother's apostolic mission of love and effort.
In this study, we shall also deal with The Blessed Virgin's amazing activity in the heart of Russia.
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reciting the rosary at the Pines with Loli
and Conchita (August 1965).
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3.—Monroy commences his book as follows: "I had always wanted to make known the contradictions of every kind that I had observed in the apparitions at Lourdes and Fatima as related in the books I had read. So, I decided to take the opportunity offered me by these four little Spanish girls who have come to make international headlines from their almost unknown upland village in the province of Santander."
That is how "El Mito de las Apariciones" begins. The author divides it into two parts; the first, dedicated to an account of events at San Sebastian de Garabandal, barely sticking to the facts at all, but doing his utmost to ridicule everything; the second part is an attempt to place other cases of apparitions on a par with Garabandal, the main targets being Lourdes and Fatima. The whole maneuver is painfully obvious. By convincing the reader of the fallacy of the apparitions at Garabandal, not yet sanctioned by the Church, it is easier to introduce a suspicion of fallacy in the case of other apparitions of the same order, even despite the guarantee offered to the sincere Catholic by the ecclesiastical sanction in such cases. Having thus shaken the foundations of the reader's faith in happenings accepted as true by the Church, it is a fairly simple matter to discredit the Church herself. Monroy has employed language which he himself admits in his preface to be "daring, tough, and even violent". He claims that this was unavoidable. "It is the natural reaction of a person who has lived with the very deceit that he now repudiates. It is not a question of hard language chosen to be offensive. It is the rebellion of a sincere thinker against religious divergence, against the collective suicide of the masses in the crafty hands of the Enemy. It is the righteous indignation of a suffering soul at the false spiritual shepherds who are leading the flock to perdition." *
The Angels are Acquitted . . .
4.—Let us look at the contradictions mentioned by Monroy, on which he bases his case to make "as clear as daylight" the deceit behind the apparitions at Lourdes and Fatima.
He starts by attacking the fact that the visionaries at Fatima, like those at Garabandal, saw the Blessed Virgin, the occasional angel, and even the Infant Jesus and St. Joseph. This is quite beyond Monroy. Try as he may, he can find no plausible explanation, a fact which is hardly surprising since, rationally speaking, it is not easy to grasp. Indeed, we consider it miraculous precisely because it is not logically natural. Monroy, however, does give his blessing to the angels. "We have no objection," he says, "as far as angels are concerned. They can appear to human beings if God wills it, because we have precedents to prove it in the Bible. This does not mean that we admit
* Monroy, "El Mito de las Apariciones." Editorial Pisga. Preface.
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their having appeared at Garabandal, Lourdes or Fatima. We repeat that they can appear if God sees fit. They are heavenly beings. They were not born and therefore they have not died; there is no angel's body on earth".* It can therefore be deduced that they can appear "because they have not died".
Monroy takes the Holy Bible absolutely literally, and since the Bible includes two hundred and seventy-three instances (I quote his figures) of apparitions of angels, he has no doubts whatsoever on this matter. But he claims, on the other hand, that subsequent to the Incarnation of Jesus Christ and the descent of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost "the ministry of the angels came to an end". According to Monroy, thenceforth God could not make use, however much He might wish to do so, of more than two means of convincing mankind: the Holy Spirit and the Holy Bible,**
In the light of his own appeals for a rational, comprehensible approach to the whole matter, his case would not appear to be watertight. But he ends with a triumphant flourish. "After having spoken His final word to mankind on the Grecian island of Pathmos, nearly two thousand years ago, God cannot conceivably be wasting His time in this turbulent age of ours sending us angels from heaven . . ." And it is all the more astonishing and unthinkable that He should send them "to innocent children who are of no specific use".***
In Monroy's view, visions of angels are surprising, apparently impossible and highly absurd. Yet he does concede the point that they are just feasible. What he will not admit under any circumstances is the possibility of apparitions of the Infant Jesus, the Blessed Virgin or St. Joseph. Let us see why.
"What sort of body does Jesus have in heaven? The body of a man or of a child?" he asks. "His body, as the holy women saw Him after the resurrection, was the body of a man. The voice that threw St. Paul from the saddle and reproached him for his persecution was the voice of Christ the Man. In the thirteenth century, Raimyndo Lull claimed to have had a vision of Jesus Christ, and he saw Him as a man. In December 1954, Pope Pius XII told the world that Jesus had appeared to him, and here again, the vision was of a man. How is it that they saw Him in the form of a child at Fatima? Does Christ in heaven change bodies as we do shirts?"**** And, having expounded his views in this flippant and irreverent tone, he adds: "If He wants to, then of course He can. But ... to what purpose?"
As I understand it, it is Monroy who runs into contradictions here. After assuring us that only angels can appear in visions, he asserts the reality of a whole series of apparitions of Our Lord in order to refute those of the Infant Jesus.
The explanation of this phenomenon is given by a Dominican scholar, Fr. Antonio Royo Marin, a specialist in visions and — so Monroy makes out, although we ourselves have no evidence to support this — a staunch supporter of the events at San Sebastian de Garabandal. Monroy himself quotes Fr. Royo Marin as follows: "In one
*** Monroy; page 36
**** Monroy; page 36
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form or another, absolutely everything that exists may be the object of a supernatural vision; God, Jesus Christ, the Blessed Virgin, the angels, saints, souls in purgatory, devils, living beings and even inanimate objects." This is too much for Monroy, and the reason is only too clear. "These assertions", he counters, "lack any biblical basis". There is, nevertheless, one vision which is frequently quoted by spiritualists. It is a unique case that admits no argument because it is quoted from the Holy Bible. Monroy refers us to "Chapter XXVIII of the First Book of Samuel, where the prophet appears to King Saul. There is no doubt whatsoever that the vision was indeed Samuel and not a satanical trap, as some have attemped to make out. But this apparition tells us nothing since it was totally negative."*
Monroy sets about proving that it was a negative vision. "Firstly," he proceeds, "both the seer and King Saul were aware that they were breaking God's laws by invoking Samuel's spirit. Secondly, Saul did not consult the dead man in order to obtain a favor from God, but because he knew that he was not in His grace, but in the hands of the devil. Thirdly, as Samuel did not tell him what he wanted to know, Saul did not benefit by this vision. Fourthly, on the contrary, Samuel informed the king that he would die the following day for having committed the grievous sin of consulting the dead. And fifthly, Samuel complained to Saul at having been disturbed from his celestial repose."**
"This is the sole case in the whole Bible," concludes the author, "where we are told of a dead man appearing to a living being. And, as Dr. Pache says. God permitted this unique miracle to show us the tragic consequences of such apparitions."
In other words, when an innocent little girl claims that she has seen Our Lady, and thus succeeds in drawing large crowds, despite her being totally ignorant and lacking in any special ability or powers to stage a farce; when she promises a miracle six months in advance, as at Fatima, even foretelling the exact date and hour so that all may believe; when, at the appointed time, more than seventy thousand people gather—many with the idea of mocking at the failure of the prophesy—and witness the spine-chilling dance of the sun and all the other attendant phenomena; when another young girl kisses the ground and scrapes away some soil in obedience to the strange commands of the vision, and a spring bubbles forth from the spot, as at Lourdes, defying all droughts and curing the bodies and souls of hundreds of incurably sick people . . . etc.; when such things happen and are easily proved because they are recent occurrences, they do not give credence to the existence of a miracle since our reason cannot explain them. Whereas, on the other hand, what is quite plausible, easy to believe because it is in the Bible, is this prodigy of a man who died over two thousand years ago coming to life when invoked shortly afterwards by a living being whose soul had fallen into the hands of the devil. What strange powers of persuasion the Bible has over Mr. Monroy!
His attitude here, however, is such that simple logic at once refutes
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it. If, after studying each case, Monroy does not believe in the apparitions at Fatima or those at Lourdes, which are close in time to our own day and age, and are thus easily ascertained, then, logically enough, he is even less likely to believe in King Saul's vision of Samuel, even though he may claim to do so in his book. And I only say this because I believe Mr. Monroy to be capable of normal, sensible thought.
The "Myth" of the Assumption
5. — Let us see what he has to say about St. Joseph and Our Blessed Mother.
"Tradition tells us that St. Joseph died in Jerusalem and the Blessed Virgin in Ephesus. According to the Catholic Church, the Virgin ascended body and soul into heaven immediately after her death. But the Bible makes no mention at all of this assumption . . ."* Thence, he deduces that it is all an invention on the part of the Catholic Church, inspired by a certain pagan ceremony with lanterns and candles, practised by the Chinese "in honor of a mother who was rescued by her son from the power of death and the grave, this ceremony having been held in China from time immemorial."
Monroy is of the opinion that the Assumption of Our Blessed Mother into heaven is a tall story. "Mary and Joseph died, just as everyone else that is born has to die. In the presence of many witnesses, Mary was embalmed and buried. And nobody leaves the grave unless Christ commands it." He clarifies still further. "The bodies of these two saints were laid to rest in their tombs to await the glorious day of the Resurrection when, at a fanfare of God's celestial trumpets, the Lord Jesus will descend from heaven, and those who have died in Christ will rise again from the dead. Among those dead will be Mary and Joseph who, of course, are now enjoying the divine presence in that place of bliss which the Bible at one point calls Paradise, and at another point, Abraham's bosom."** And after this disclosure and concession by a man who is fully informed of all that goes on by reason of his profession as the editor of "La Verdad", the Christian reader sighs with relief, murmuring "Well! I'm glad to hear it!"
On page 40 in his book, Monroy enters into further details of the difficulties encountered by the souls of the departed in communicating with the world of the living. He ends the chapter as follows: "The dead have no means of communication with the living. The Virgin Mary died. St. Joseph died. They are both dead. And Catholic theologians tell us that the dead cannot return to this world. And since they cannot come here, the children at San Sebastian de Garabandal, at Lourdes and at Fatima, did not see the Virgin or St. Joseph, even though they may think they did. They were the dupes of the devil, as we shall have occasion to prove in due course, and the Catholic Church has served, and still is serving, as the instrument for the propagation of this piece of deception."**
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In the ensuing chapters, we shall see the ability of this "devil' to awaken piety in people, to draw crowds, to make sinners change their way of life, to make the faithful renounce the world and devote themselves to a life of prayer, sacrifice and penance. This is an amazing phenomenon of most effective apostleship; one that has occurred at Lourdes, Fatima and Garabandal, etc. But Monroy now proves to us that this splendid apostolate is not the work of God, or of the Blessed Virgin, or of the Infant Jesus, or of St. Joseph, or, for that matter, of the angels, but of the devil . . . The work of a poor devil whose every effort seems doomed to dismal failure; because, if he does not watch his step and goes on working so craftily and successfully, at this rate it will not be long before he is shocked to find colossal multitudes, totally deceived, being utterly transformed by their faith as a result of his "false apparitions" and taking the path of repentance and salvation. Blessed be an "enemy" who works in such a fashion.
Loli and Conchita saying the rosary.
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Loli and Conchita at 16 (August 1965).
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THE BEHAVIOR OF THE VISIONS
6.—"It is curious," says Monroy, "to note the nature of the instruments employed by the visions to achieve their ends. These instruments are invariably children between five and twelve years old." He adds: "Mary visited Bernadette at Lourdes and gave the Miraculous Medal to a charming little girl in Paris."
Before writing about apparitions, the first thing to do is to read up the case history of each one. If Monroy had taken the trouble to digest a little information, he would have seen that he was skating on very thin ice, because the "charming little girl" of Miraculous Medal fame was neither charming, in the ordinary sense of the word, nor a little girl. She was Sister Catherine Labouré, a Daughter of Charity aged twenty-one. Her vision took place in the chapel of the Daughters of St. Vincent de Paul in Boulevard Saint-Germain, Paris. In this case, the visionary was a physically and spiritually healthy nun with a normally developed intellect, and she was unlikely to fall into errors arising out of childish inexperience or, for that matter, out of hallucinations due to old age.
With a few exceptions, however, the fact is that the best known apparitions have been seen by young children. Why? Far be it from me to explain why Our Blessed Lady more often than not prefers children to adults when she wishes to give a message to mankind. In principle, I can see nothing contradictory in this fact. Nor do I find her choice in any way inappropriate.
In the first place, children have the advantage of their innocence, which makes them better prepared to receive so singular a grace. What is more, they transmit her message more accurately because, in their ignorance, they act automatically without their own intellect leading them to add or omit any detail of what they have seen or heard. Fr. Peyramale, the parish priest at Lourdes, did not believe in Bernadette's visions until, at his bidding, the child asked the Vision's identity. Bernadette came back with the answer: "She told me she was the Immaculate Conception". The young girl had never heard this expression in her life before, and, so that she should not forget it, she repeated it to herself over and over again, all the way back from the grotto at Massabielle to the parish priest's home.
On the other hand, adults sense the outcome of these events better, and realize the comment that they are bound to arouse. Experience has shown that adults are more cowardly when it comes to accomplishing the mission entrusted to them, afraid as they are of laying themselves open to public ridicule and scorn.
This is confirmed by the forerunner of the Marian apparitions. It took place on May 3rd, 1491, when the Blessed Virgin appeared to Thierry Schoere, a blacksmith at Orbey. Enveloped in a brilliant light. Our Lady held in her right hand three ears of wheat proceeding from a single stalk, while in her left hand there was an icicle.
The next few paragraphs are taken from "Estigmatizados y Apariciones". Here, before Monroy even took up his pen, was the reason why Mary's visionaries are generally children.
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When Our Blessed Mother appeared, she addressed the blacksmith, saying: "My child, through their innumerable sins the people of these parts have aroused the divine wrath against themselves. The icicle which you see glistening in my left hand is a symbol of the hail storms, disease, famine and other punishments that are about to befall them. Nevertheless, my prayers have met with very special mercy and have thus far restrained the arm of my Son, already raised to punish them."
"If those who are to blame mend their ways and do penance. God will forgive them and bestow His Blessing and abundance on the land. This is the meaning of the stalk with three ears of wheat that I am holding in my right hand."
"In the name of these two symbols, go to Morwiller and tell the people what you have just seen and heard. Exhort them to flee from sin. Let them pray and, in turn, enjoin others to conversion. Otherwise, the heavenly punishments will not be long in coming."
The blacksmith then spoke to the Blessed Virgin. "My beloved Mother, I do not think these wicked people will believe my words."
"Most of them will believe your words". Our Lady replied, "if you make known to them the meaning of the icicle and the ears of wheat." The vision disappeared.
Trembling with excitement after his moving experience, the blacksmith made his way to Morwiller. He meditated on all that he had seen and heard, and on what he had to do. But, no sooner did he find himself in the presence of his neighbors than his courage failed him. He could not bring himself to mention his vision. Nobody would believe him; they would all laugh at him. Frightened at this thought, he prepared to make his escape while the going was good. He purchased a sack of corn and saddled his horse. About him were some of his neighbors. But, at that moment, a new prodigy took place. When he attempted to pick up the sack of corn, he found that he was unable to lift it. The bystanders laughed, and a few friends stepped forward to help him, jesting at his discomfiture. But, by this time, the sack had become so heavy that, strive as they might, they could not shift it an inch. All together, they made a final effort, but to no avail. The laughter died away. A strange foreboding took hold of them in the presence of the supernatural. Realizing the meaning of this second miracle, the blacksmith fell to his knees in their midst and confessed his guilt. So it was that he was forced by Our Blessed Mother to go through with the mission which his cowardice had led him to abandon. Perhaps this is why, from that time onwards, Mary discarded adults for revealing her messages and made use of children whose pure, unblemished souls were better able to accomplish difficult missions. All the children chosen as visionaries by Our Lady have done her bidding with heroic fidelity, even in face of those who seemed veritable executioners demanding the sacrifice of their lives. Such was the case with the children at Fatima, when threatened with death by the mayor of Ourem. This is the marvelous power of souls in a state of grace when confronted with seemingly insurmountable obstacles!*
* Account quoted from "Estigmatizados y Apariciones", page 107 onwards.
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The first message was essentially the same as those of Our Lady of Paris (1830), La Salette (1846), Lourdes (1858), Pontmain (1871), Fatima (1917), etc. Even the wording was the same. "My prayers have thus far restrained the arm of my Son . . ." These were the same words given to the children of Fatima and the other visionaries, all of which only goes to prove that there is not, and never has been, anything contradictory in the contents of the Marian messages. Indeed, in spite of the variable circumstances of time and location, they fully concur in their fundamentals and even in the expressions used.
Little "Messiahs" . . .
7.—Monroy sees a contradiction in the spirit of penitence which the Blessed Virgin impressed on the children, and which they actually practised by offering up their sacrifices for the salvation of sinners.
"The children at San Sebastian de Garabandal," he says, "Bernadette at Lourdes, and the two girls and the little boy at Fatima, were all quite convinced that they had to suffer for the sake of sinners; in other words, that their physical and moral sufferings would be of benefit to the godless. They considered themselves little Messiahs, modern-age redeemers with vicarious sufferings in store for them. How ridiculous!" Here, as usual, Monroy has the Bible in mind where it says that "each of us shall account to God for himself", whence he claims that the offering of one soul to do reparation and suffer for another goes against biblical precepts. He then contradicts himself, saying that Christ has already "suffered for us", because, if nobody can suffer for the sake of another according to the Bible, then Christ could not do so for the sake of sinners. But Monroy sets aside the Bible at this point to take the easy way out. My sufferings are of no use to a fellow being because the Bible precludes it; Christ suffered for my sake, and this remission, on the other hand, is valid. Therefore, I need not bother my head about others any more than I need worry about my own salvation, which is guaranteed by the sufferings of the Saviour.
What a pity it is that this comfortable, convenient doctrine has not been approved by the Church; it would get an enthusiastic reception!
But, Monroy indignantly resumes his train of thought. "The visions told the children that they should suffer for the sake of sinners. But God tells us in the Bible that this is not so, and that you cannot suffer for me any more than I, let alone those babes, can suffer for you; the reason being that Christ has already suffered for us; He suffered for all of us, for all time. So, where does the truth lie? Can twentieth century visions contradict Eternal God? Good heavens! How blind these priests are!"*
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The Humility of the Virgin Mary
8.—Let us continue with what Monroy calls contradictions.
The Blessed Virgin said to the heavenly emissary who announced the mystery of the Incarnation: "Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it done to me according to Thy word." These are words of sincere humility and are very revealing as to Mary's character. According to Monroy, this spirit of simplicity, submission and self-effacement is not in keeping with the language used by the Virgin when speaking to her visionaries, to whom she commonly gives directions in a somewhat authoritative tone. "It is incredible that people should be so blind as not to realize that the Virgin's words are highly presumptuous, and quite alien to the language of the Gospels; above all, these continual references to her Immaculate Heart. The real, one and only Mother of Jesus never said that she had been born 'immaculate,' says Monroy, on page 47 of this book.
There has undoubtedly been a great transformation in Mary, from the day when the archangel announced the Lord's choice, to what she is today as the Mother of God. In a pure, simple soul, her words of surprised submission at that moment were as logical then as it would be absurd, today, for her to appear to mankind and say that she was a nobody. It would be equally absurd for her, now, to speak without the authority proper, in heaven and on earth, to one who sets aside the laws of nature, becoming visible to human eyes at God's behest in order to deliver a message and issue instructions for our salvation. Jesus Christ Himself, fully aware of His identity and powers, did not hesitate to say: "I am the Way, the Truth and the Life . . ."; and He said that no-one could come to the Father except through Him. Nobody with a minimum of faith in the divine nature of Him who said these words would dream of denouncing them merely because they convey a certain authority which is incompatible with Monroy's concept of holy humility.
"And, as if this pack of lies were not enough," he goes on, "The vision at Fatima attributed to itself powers that belong to God alone. 'My Immaculate Heart will be your refuge and the path that will lead you to God . . . '; 'For your salvation, the Lord wishes to institute throughout the world the devotion to my Immaculate Heart . . .' Enough of this! Since when has the Virgin Mary been the refuge of sinners and the path leading sinners to God? Where does it say, in the Bible, that one can be saved through devotion to the heart of Mary? Does such a series of aberrations really come from the Virgin? Poor Mary!"*
Monroy is uncompromising in his interpretation of the Bible. He adamantly closes his eyes to the fact that two thousand years have elapsed; that God can complete His "official" revelations with other private ones; that the manifestations which He has since used to assist mankind are perfectly compatible with the authenticity of the Bible. He does not appear to see that the co-redemption by the Blessed Virgin gives her a leading role, and more than entitles her to take an
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active part in the salvation of the human race in such sad, difficult times. Since ancient times, there have been clear references to this epoch of exceptional Marian apostolate. Our times were foretold by the prophets. We have always known that Mary would crush the serpent's head, and that a certain period in history was reserved for her, when she would intervene in person to show mankind the true road and save us from eternal damnation.
We live in the twentieth century. If Monroy wishes to meditate in all sincerity, he should cease his arbitrary interpretation of the Bible, and avoid the critical attitude he adopts in seeking a prefabricated, rational explanation for everything. In doing this, he does not hesitate to twist the facts themselves. He should simply contemplate those facts and, above all, expound them in all honesty. He should set aside the causes, which are far beyond our poor comprehension, and judge by the results. Then, he will see the prodigious, inexplicable, miraculous part of it all, and see the truth in the advice and messages, which are far from absurd or contradictory. There is certainly nothing absurd or contradictory in the Mother of God co-operating with her Son for the salvation of the world, and saying such simple things as these: "You must make reparation for your sins, which are disobedience of the laws of God, by means of repentance, prayer, penitence . . ." Fundamentally speaking, this is the sole content of all her messages. It is logical; the relationship between an infringement of the law and the ensuing punishment is a principle that automatically exists, even in Nature itself. In the words of Donoso Cortes: "It has been given to Man to bring society to its knees, to raze the strongest walls to the ground, to sack the most opulent of cities, to overthrow with a crash the farthest-flung empires, to bring horrifying ruin upon the most advanced civilizations, to behead kings or to defy reason. What has not been given to him is the power to suspend for a single day, for a single hour, for a single instant, the inescapable fulfilment of the fundamental moral and physical laws that constitute order in Mankind and in the universe; what the world has never seen, and never shall see, is Man, who flees from order through the gateway of sin, returning to order other than through the gateway of punishment and sorrow, that messenger from God who reaches all of us with His missives."*
There is nothing contradictory in Mary's messages. In fact, lest anyone should doubt that the message actually comes from her and think it a hallucination or the fruit of hysteria, in every case there have been extraordinary happenings to bear it out. Each message has been stamped with the divine hallmark of miracles. At Fatima, the miracle was announced six months in advance so that everyone should believe. And, at the appointed hour, the sun departed from its normal celestial path and fell earthwards within view of 70,000 spectators. Monroy would doubtless do well to consider this prodigy and then strike his breast and simply admit: "I cannot understand it because it is not in the Bible; but, in the light of what I have seen, I humbly believe . . ."
* Donoso Cortés. "Complete Works. Historical Sketches"; Vol. II, page 15.
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Did Bernadette eat grass?
9. — Another of Monroy's arguments is that the vision has occasionally given the children strange commands. The apparition at Lourdes, for instance, "ordered Bernadette to go and 'drink and wash at the spring, and eat the grass that you will find there.' This is rather a strange message," says Monroy. "Anyone that thinks that God wastes His time telling little girls to eat grass has not the slightest idea who God is. And the story goes that the child obeyed these commands to the letter!!!"
But, that is not the story. Let us see what Bernadette herself had to say on the subject. On returning to the grotto, the day of the second apparition (February 14th), upon the advice of some of her neighbors, she went provided with holy water, in case it was an evil spirit. Bernadette was accompanied by Madame Millot and Madame Antoinette Peyret, their pencils and paper at the ready to note down whatever the vision had to communicate to them, for they thought it might be the soul of Madame Latapie, President of the Children of Mary, who had died recently. Our Lady smiled when asked to speak.
"It is unnecessary for you to write down what I have to say to you. Simply do me the kindness of coming here every day for the next fifteen days."
"What must I do?"
"Pray. Pray for sinners, for this troubled world. Do penance, penance. Tell the priests that I wish a chapel to be built here. I want them to come here. . . . Now, go to the spring and wash in it."
Bernadette's own account goes on: "As I could not see a spring, I went in the direction of the river Gave. The Lady called me and beckoned me to go to the grotto on my left. I obeyed, but I could not see any water at all. Not knowing where to get water from, I scooped away some earth and water began to flow from the spot. I allowed it to clear a little; then, I drank some and washed in it."
"Several times She repeated personal things to me, and told me they were for my ears alone, and that I was obliged to keep these things secret."
"I do not promise to make you happy in this world, but in the next," Our Lady said at one point.
"When she asked me to pray and do penance, she asked if I would not find it excessively unpleasant and tiring to climb the slope on my knees', kissing the ground. I replied, 'No'. Then, I embraced the ground . . ."
"Why?" they asked her.
"To do penance for myself and for others," she answered.*
From this version given by Bernadette, some have concluded that the child ate grass at the Virgin's orders. But this was not so. The Blessed Virgin wanted to leave behind on earth permanent evidence of her presence, namely, the miraculous spring at which so many pilgrims drink with total faith; the water in which the sick bathe, in which the viruses of an infinite number of diseases all mingle together without a single case of contagion being known, which is a miracle in
* "Estigmatizados y Apariciones", page 133 onwards.
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itself. It is true that the Virgin commanded her to drink from a spring that she alone knew existed, and when the child could not find it, inspired her to scrape at the soil. It is certainly true that the water bubbled forth suddenly and the visionary drank from the spring, smearing the mud over her face. It is also true that the skeptics who witnessed the scene were disappointed at the triviality of this seemingly pointless procedure. I will even go so far as to allow what some other authors have stated, namely that Bernadette ate grass, and even that she did so at the command of the Virgin. In this way, the Virgin was able to put the visionary's spirit of obedience to the test. But the surprising part is not that she should have eaten grass or smeared her face with mud, or her embracing the ground as a sign of penitence. The true miracle lies in the fact that, when an ignorant child obeyed these orders, there issued from the hollow a trickle of water that grew and grew until, today, it produces 29,000 gallons a day. The miracle lies in the fact that this water has never ceased to flow and that it neither runs dry nor becomes brackish. And the cures . . .
Monroy should have dwelt on this point. After all, what would he say if he wrote an article in praise of Miguel de Cervantes, and I were to launch an indignant refutation of the author's fame, claiming that praise of Cervantes was absurd, because he had scrawled all over a few pieces of paper with a rude quill, getting his fingers inky in the process . . . An ignorant reader might come to the conclusion that I was right. But, my case would not, in fact, be valid, since I would have omitted the whole of the second part. And the second part is that Miguel de Cervantes scrawled with a quill-pen and smudged his fingers, but in doing so he left to posterity a work called "Don Quixote", which is considered a unique literary monument. His merit does not lie so much in getting ink all over his fingers, but in writting "Don Quixote". The difficulty in Bernadette's ease was not so much her eating grass, or smearing mud over her cheeks, but in her scraping away a little soil and bringing to light a spring that now produces 29,000 gallons of water a day, and survives all droughts and has hundreds of inexplicable cures to its credit.
If Monroy feels really ravenous one day and likes to try eating grass, and if, by so doing, he comes up with a similar achievement, let him notify me at once and I solemnly promise to write a book extolling his praises and to withdraw this work of mine from circulation.
Monroy lets fly
10.—In the next few chapters, Monroy claims that Purgatory is non-existent. This leads him to conclude that the apparitions at Lourdes and Fatima could not be real since the children spoke of a vision of Purgatory. He declares the emphasis on recitation of the rosary to be yet another contradiction, because the rosary is a pagan practice. He is struck by the fact that the Virgin should have taken part in the recitation of a rosary in her own honor,* making out that the Virgin of Garabandal seems to have been sent by the Vatican rather
* At Garabandal, the Vision said the rosary with the visionaries to teach them how to pronounce it properly. But, according to the children, when She herself took part in the prayers, she only said the "Glory be to the Father."
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than from heaven; he speaks of the confessional as an offence against morals and juvenile candor. He describes the making of statues as a profanation of the laws of God, forbidden by the Bible; he gives an estimate of the number of medals manufactured, and the profits earned by this practice; he considers the references of the Virgin of Fatima to a possible conversion of Russia to be an invention on the part of Pope Pius XII in his anti-communist policy; he makes out the Blue Army of Our Lady of Fatima to be a mere political party, and one which invests millions of dollars in its publicity campaigns; he affirms that, out of gratitude for his declaring the dogma of the Immaculate Conception, Our Lady of Fatima ceremoniously addressed the Pope as "Holy Father"; he gives the Virgin's difference of apparel, as reported by the visionaries, as further evidence of fraud and fantasy, he says that a woman who has suffered greatly and died in her old age cannot appear young and beautiful; and so on.
I think all comment would be superfluous. The book is clearly nothing but a ferocious, savage, sacrilegious attack, packed with dire hatred and ill-will towards the Church, the Pope, the Virgin Mary, the angels, the Infant Jesus, the Holy Eucharist, Confession, the lot. The only thing that has come through unscathed so far is the Bible.
As for his language, he says in his prologue that it was not meant to be insulting. Yet, when speaking of the visible miracle of the Holy Communion administered by the angel to one of the visionaries at Garabandal, Monroy comments on the case in terms that the most daring pen would hesitate to reproduce.
Let this suffice. We could speak of celestial bodies and of why it is logical for the Blessed Virgin to appear younger than at her death; we could also explain why it is not absurd for Our Blessed. Mother to appear in different garb, just as nobody questions Monroy's own identity simply because he changes his overcoat from one day to the next. We could likewise show that the visionary at Fatima referred to the Holy Father using the common term that she customarily used for him, without this necessarily meaning that the Virgin herself employed it—although there would not be anything very extraordinary in her descending to the intellectual level of the visionaries so that they could understand her properly. Indeed, a thousand arguments could be used to refute Monroy's case. But, what would be the point?
The surprising thing about Monroy is that, after expressing himself in such terms as we have seen, he does not deny the existence of "supernatural" visions. What he denies is that such visions are the work of God. He considers the devil to be the prime originator of all apparitions, Lourdes, Our Lady of the Pillar at Zaragoza, Fatima, Garabandal and elsewhere. "The existence of the devil," he states, "cannot be denied if we simply reason a little. It would be the same as saying that evil does not exist, a statement that nobody would go so far as to venture. Nor can the devil be called a Christian invention. He is not; although the devil in Christianity is a being with his own personality, morally responsible for his own actions and totally different from the evil gods of ancient mythology, nevertheless, the belief in a negative force at work in the world is as old as the world itself."
"It is the devil who deceives the visionaries, who blinds the intellect in order to make it impossible to distinguish between the truth and
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falsehood. It is he who lays the foundations for apparitions. Once he has done the main share of the work, he stands back to let people's naiveness, religious ignorance and the interests of Catholicism finish the job."
"All catholic authors with any sense of responsibility in their writing who have dealt with the subject of Lourdes concur in admitting the presence of the devil, although they hurriedly go on to give explanations which, far from clearing the matter up, simply serve to confuse the issue further."*
If this is so, how does he explain the devil's interruption during Bernadette's conversations with the Blessed Virgin? It is recounted in works on Lourdes as follows:
"During this apparition, all the witnesses could see how the visionary's face suddenly showed anxiety. Bernadette turned her head to the right, her gaze directed over the river Gave. She heard screams and sinister howls that seemed to proceed from the bowels of the earth. One of the voices shrieked: "Run away, run away!" The frightened young girl looked at the Virgin, who sadly turned her eyes towards the Gave and frowned. This sufficed to put the army of demons to flight."**
But, I should also like Monroy to clear up another point, for, to judge by his book, he has all the answers. Why does the devil disguise himself as the Blessed Virgin to convert sinners? Can the crowds that visit the shrines day and night, praying with their utmost faith, receiving Holy Communion, doing penance and seeking sanctity at all costs, be the fruit of a diabolical apostolate? If so, the powers of evil must have lost their wits; unless, of course, they are sick and tired of Hell and are trying to wangle their way into Heaven instead.
11.—I can quite understand indifference to apparitions. I quite understand many people not believing in them. I respect the attitude of those who are reluctant to admit what their reason cannot grasp. What I can not understand is that, after an objective study of the apparitions of the Blessed Virgin, anyone should reach the conclusion that they are preternatural phenomena brought about by the spirit of Evil against God's will. The whole theory is hairbrained. It was Jesus Christ Himself who said in the Gospels: "By their fruit you will know them."
Let us forget about Monroy's book for the time being. We have studied and answered his main assertions and that is enough. We shall now look briefly at the apparitions approved by the Church and see how, in each case, there is something to show our reasoning minds as men of this world the "pointer" to belief. This will serve to comfort and bring added life to our faith. Afterwards, without definitely asserting or denying anything, we shall see what has been occurring in San Sebastian de Garabandal, the quaint hamlet in the province of Santander over which there hangs a giant question mark. Will Garabandal be a Spanish Fatima? For the time being, some of its episodes are being studied at length. Far be it from me to affirm or deny them. That is not my business. Judgment lies with Heaven.
** "Estigmatizados y Apariciones", page 136
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A summer picnic:
Conchita with her mother and her brother.
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Mari-Loli and Jacinta with Father Luna,
leaving the Basilica of Our Lady del Pilar in Saragossa
Significant Lines of Conchita's Prayers
January 1, 1967
LORD, I pray for
those who are spreading the message,
For those who do not accomplish the Message
For those who completely refuse the Message
Lord, I ask that your Message be spread,
Always, and more and more.
1967. . . The four young girls will remain in the village for the summer until the beginning of October. Conchita had expressed the wish to return to school in August, but her mother prefers that she spends her vacation at home. Conchita suffers from ulcers, Jacinta, from tuberculosis of the lungs and Mari-Loli's condition is not too good.
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In Rome January 13th 1966. Fr. Luna, Princess Cécile
of Bourbon, Conchita and her mother.
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NUMERICAL INDEX Continued
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Neither sleepy nor tired
NUMERICAL INDEX Continued
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Comments on the children