After the Miracle of the Visible Host, another far greater one was predicted. The author takes up the subject of when this great Miracle was first revealed.
If the month of August during the second year in Garabandal was marked with a special Eucharistic sign by repeated Mystical Communions, the following month of September will pass into history as the month of the great prophecy. What was foretold for the future of Garabandal in that month would forevermore be the principal expectation of those who believe that the events are of supernatural origin.
The month began brilliantly. September 1 was a Saturday, the day dedicated to Mary. After the rosary in the evening, at nine o'clock (we are extracting this from Father Valentin's journal) Conchita fell into ecstasy at the doors of the church. Two minutes later Loli and Jacinta went into a trance; and two minutes later, Mari Cruz too. At this period it was very unusual for the four girls to have an ecstasy on the same day and at the same time. In the ecstatic walk, Conchita went alone; Mari Cruz went alone too; Jacinta and Loli were together; a large crowd accompanied and followed them.
First they went to the Pines, where they prayed a rosary. They continued praying on the way down, backwards. Loli, Jacinta and Conchita were together. Mari Cruz followed alone the entire time, which was for her about 45 minutes. They went to the cemetery. They circled the church more than once. All this, though interesting, was nothing outstanding and what we could call the normal routine of Garabandal. But three days later something new, of great proportion, occurred.
Recorded on Tape
September 4, 1962, was a Tuesday. According to Father Valentin's annotations, toward 11:00 in the morning Conchita fell into ecstasy at the door of the church, and there received Communion from the Angel; somewhat later, the same thing happened to Loli. The afternoon passed; the night began, and at 1:30 A.M., Conchita had another ecstasy. She went to the cemetery, passed through the streets of the village, prayed the rosary, sang the Salve Regina. On entering her home, she fell on her knees and said farewell to the Vision. As she was speaking, someone near her, not satisfied with just hearing what the girl was saying, held a microphone close to her mouth. What he recorded served afterwards to confirm what his ears had not understood well.
You say there's going to be a miracle? And the miracle is going to be that?... And the Virgin will be seen?... And when?... So far off?... With me alone... No, I don't want that... Don't do that! Perform it with the four...
Such words could not but cause repercussions, and soon began to be the foremost reason for comments and expectation. Five days later, on Sunday, September 9, Dr. Ortiz in Santander recorded in his notes on Garabandal:
My wife with her cousin, Maria Lopez-Doriga, and I were at Maximina's house and were just beginning to eat when Conchita stopped by to pay her respects. We invited her to join us and Maximina started kidding with her: "We already know your secrets... That there is going to be a miracle! You can't deny it, since it has been recorded on tape." Conchita smiled, and after a moment of silence said, "Yes, there's going to be a miracle. The Virgin told me, and it's going to be very great..."
"When will it be?"
"I don't know."
"Then none of us will see it."
"Everyone will see it who is here. And the pope, from wherever he is. And also Padre Pio. Everyday I pray that the miracle will be with all [four] of us. But don't say anything to anyone."
"Not even to Father Andreu and Father Retenaga?"
"Well, to them, yes."
On that very night of September 9, as it progressed into the early morning of September 10, Conchita was heard again (and this was also recorded on tape):
When you perform the miracles, perform them with all [four] of us. I don't want to be alone by myself. Go ahead! With everyone — you want...? You aren't telling me? Should I tell it so she knows? [I don't know to whom this could refer — perhaps to Loli who seemed destined to share many things.]
This matter was truly of interest, as if meant to alert those who believe in Garabandal and encourage them to keep watching. Naturally those who frequented the village, if they belonged to the circle that enjoyed good relations with the girls' families, soon noticed what was in the air. On September 24, from the Hotel Real in Santander, Maria Herrero de Gallardo wrote to her sister Menchu in Madrid to tell her about her last visits to the site of the apparitions:
The other day in Conchita's house, there was a very interesting conversation with two psychiatrists and three priests [Concerning the three priests, Maria Herrero states: a Jesuit, a Passion-ist, and a pastor. The notes of Dr. Ortiz say that the Jesuit was Father Argila and the pastor Father Antonio Yllensa Borras of San Cucufate. It seems that both came with Dr. Ricardo Puncernau and were considering, according to Father Valentin, "bringing information to the Archbishop of Barcelona." The Passionist had to be Father Eliseo, whom the lawyer Luis Navas speaks about in his report. Of the psychiatrists, the only one we know for sure is the previously mentioned Dr. Puncernau.] present. Father Valentin told me that Conchita, according to his words, had to tell him something under the secret of confession, because of which, he added laughing, he couldn't tell me anything about it. What I know for certain is that the next proof (of the truth of the apparitions) is going to be, according to what the girls say, much greater than the day of Conchita's visible Communion.
Photo: Conchita in ecstasy in 1962
What I can tell you is the other time she told me: "Mama there's going to be a little miracle." And today she told me: "There's going to be a very great miracle!"
Two weeks later on October 7, she wrote her sister another letter from Santander:
Friday, two days ago, I was back in Garabandal again. No one was there and during all the time I spent there, the girls and their mothers told me about such marvels that it seemed a bottomless well from which they were pulling up, little by little, a multitude of things. How I profited by it and how I remembered you! We went to see Conchita when she was going out for the rosary with her mother. Two women who accompanied me hung on to her and I wasn't able to ask her anything on the way to church. I took Aniceta by the arm and tried to question her about when the announced miracle was going to be.
"I don't know. Possibly Conchita doesn't know either. What I can tell you is that the other time (July 18) she told me: 'Mama, there's going to be a little miracle.' And today she told me: 'There's going to be a very great miracle!'"
And so from the information that I have been able to gather, it was in September, 1962, that the prediction of the great miracle was made for the first time in a clear and open way — a miracle which, for what later began to be said about it and because of its outstanding singularity, soon began to be called "the Miracle." The first announcements about it reported:
• That it was going to be 'very great."
• That when it happens, all.those in Garabandal at the time would see it.
• That the pope will see it from "wherever he is," and "also Padre Pio."
But Conchita, who, it seemed, was going to be the only one of the seers to have anything to do with the Miracle, still did not know the date when it would take place. And for the moment, the news of the Miracle could not be unrestrictedly divulged. We have seen what the girl said in Maximina's house in front of Dr. Ortiz and his wife, and that she told Father Valentin Mari-chalar something "under the secret of confession." But the news was not shrouded in total secrecy. Perhaps Loli's questions during her ecstasy on Monday, September 17, refer to this; and also Conchita's on September 18:
Loli: Yes, should I write today?... Blessed Virgin, then should I tell it?... When can it be said?... He's waiting for me to tell him by letter or when I see him... Good, I'll tell it... Conchita: Can I tell it to Father Valentin tomorrow?... In confession?... To whom else can I tell it?... To the bishop?... Did Loli tell it to Father Andreu?... Do I tell it to him?... No?... When?...
Perhaps the person to whom Loli communicated the announcement was Father Jose Ramon Garcia de la Riva, since among his papers I have seen a small holy card of the Virgin with these lines on its back, written in poor penmanship:
San Sebastian, October 8, 1962
To Father Jose Ramon,
The Virgin told us there is going to be a miracle.
With all my love,
Maria Dolores Mazón
The prediction of the Miracle is unmistakably confirmed by these lines from Conchita's diary: [According to my information, the girl began the diary in September of 1962, and ended it in the spring of 1963.]
The Blessed Virgin advised me of a great miracle that God, Our Lord, will perform through her intercession. Just as the chastisement will be very, very great, in keeping with what we deserve, so too, the miracle will be extremely great, in keeping with the needs of the world.
Photo: Mari Loli about to receive Communion from the Angel.
We have previously seen how Maria Herrero de Gallardo wrote in her letter of "such marvels that it seemed to be a bottomless well from which they were pulling up a multitude of things." If the Miracle was the news of September, it was not the only thing of interest in that month. I am sure that this month of 1962 was one of the most "crammed" in the astounding progression of events in Garabandal. This can be gathered from reading Father Valentin's notes for the month.
• The Visionaries' Mystical Communions. Conchita and Loli received Communion from the Angel on all, or almost all the days on which they could not receive from a priest. Senora Herrero de Gallardo wrote about one of these Communions in a letter dated September 24:
The day I was there, Conchita received Communion at 2:30 in the afternoon in front of the church door. A Jesuit from Catalonia, who saw it, told me about it. It had pleased him very much because the movements of the girl's body, hands and eyes, were completely opposite to the agitated gesticulations of hysteria. [We have another valuable observation from a specialist in the matter, Dr. Puncernau: "The entrance into and exit from the trance merit special attention. They said that they had three calls. They said, 'I have already had one call.... I've had two calls....' The length of time between these calls varied greatly. One time when I knew that they had had two calls, I managed to talk with them attempting to distract them, especially by making them talk about something that interested them. At times in the middle of a word, they fell lightening fast on their knees, into the state of trance in spite of being interested in what they were discussing as could be observed. This drew my attention. It is not the normal way to enter into a hypnotic trance, especially if the person has not been conditioned to a sign or signal. Among the spectators I was never able to find such a sign or even to know of what it could consist."]
This Jesuit priest must have been Father Argila, whom Dr. Ortiz mentions, and he must have come from Barcelona with the pastor of San Cucufate, Father Antonio Yllensa Borras, and the neuropsychiatrist Dr. Ricardo Puncernau. Father Valentin calls him P. Aguilar in his notes and says that on Saturday, September 22, he saw a Mystical Communion for the first time, and that "he was very much impressed."
Luis Navas, the lawyer from Palencia, tells us of the same effect it had on him when he was finally able to view a Communion of this type on October 2, after ardently longing for it:
A little before 6:30 in the morning, we set out for the church. It was still dark. A meter and a half from the doors, Loli fell on her knees and entered into ecstasy. This was something that impressed me more than anything else I have seen in the visionaries: the devotion in making the sign of the cross; the drama of the tongue extending and then withdrawing; the movement of the throat as if she were swallowing something; the prayer of thanksgiving. Everything seemed so dramatic to me, as if deserving the greatest respect.
Speaking of this type of Communion, Father Valentin wrote in his notes on September 10:
The ecstasy usually lasts only a few minutes, but it is moving. The girl falls on her knees, very quietly says the Confiteor, makes the sign of the cross, joins her hands on her chest, holds out her tongue; and it is seen perfectly how she swallows. She makes the sign of the cross again, and is heard to say in a low voice, "Soul of Christ, sanctify me..." Once again she makes the sign of the cross and is back in the normal state. It seems the prayers after Communion are said by the Angel.
What the pastor notes on September 22 is interesting:
Until the hour they receive Communion the girls always keep the fast according to the old custom (without eating or drinking anything after 12:00 midnight).
• Waiting for the Ecstasies. As has already been shown, when the Virgin was the one who was going to appear, the ecstasies were always preceded by three mysterious calls (llamadas). We find observations about these calls in Father Valentin's notes on September 6:
The girls were accustomed to wait until 10:30 at night. If by that hour they hadn't received the first call, they went to bed. However, if they received a call before going to bed, then they would wait up for the apparition until the time it came, even though they fell asleep. They didn't want to go to sleep, since the Virgin had told them that they should wait up and make sacrifices. In other things, they each led a normal life at home and helped their mothers.
On the night of September 5, Father Valentin told Loli that it was very late, that it would be better not to wait for an apparition. But she answered that the calls were unmistakable, that the apparition would come, and that because of this, although she was half asleep, she did not want to go to bed. And so the penance of waiting night after night was no small one, either for the girls themselves or for their families and those who were with them.
Evidently, the wonderful phenomena of Garabandal were not given as free entertainment. In the notes of Father Valentin (Monday, September 24) appear these lines:
The girls led a life of true sacrifice. Conchita's mother told me that her daughter slept better on a chair than in her bed, because she spent the night sitting down, waiting for the apparition like all of us. She slept with her head leaning against the wall. And the next day she didn't fail to walk to work. The four girls worked, swept, cleaned, went to the river to wash, and did everything like the other girls. Because of this, they were seen very little on working days; but on Sundays they played in the streets like the other young children in the village. In spite of the little they slept and rested, they looked strong and healthy.
Besides the marvelous normality that extended throughout September, there were some days that had their own particular note. For example, there was the night that bridged September 5 to 6, Wednesday to Thursday. There were many people from Barcelona, Madrid, Bilbao, Santander, and Seville. But probably the person with the most special invitation from heaven was an English Protestant (Anglican) who had been there once before. She was watching the ecstasy of Loli in her house when suddenly the girl, in a very special way, gave her the cross to kiss several times, and one of the times she pressed it to her lips for some time. Father Valentin noted: "Barbara was blanched white, very excited. When the ecstasy was over, I spoke to her. She was sure that all this was the work of the Virgin, and she was already disposed to becoming a Catholic." That night when Conchita was in ecstasy, she passed in front of the English woman and stopped very significantly also to give her the cross to kiss.
It is clear the Virgin wanted to give us a lesson.
On the night of September 7-8, Loli had an apparition alone, toward 3:45 in the morning. During the ecstasy, among other things she was heard to say, "Is it the feast day of The Virgin of Health? Is it your feast day?" The village of Puentenansa had a little chapel dedicated to Mary under the title of the Virgin of Health, which title was celebrated, like so many other Marian dedications, on September 8, feast of Our Lady's Nativity. We return to Father Valentin's notes:
When Loli's ecstasy ended, we met Jacinta and her brothers, who were going to the sanctuary of the Virgin of Light, which is six hours of hiking on trails across the mountains. They carried a flashlight for illumination. The first thing they did was to pray a rosary in the cuadro. (Jacinta prayed there every day at six in the morning.) Jacinta was full of joy, and was making the sacrifice of getting up early in the morning and making the long hike to ask the Virgin to return to see her soon. She and Mari Cruz are the ones who see the Virgin the least. Later I learned that Mari Cruz also had gone to another sanctuary to request the same.
The only one who seems to have cared for Alfonso was the Virgin.
September 16, Sunday, was memorable and instructive. We read in Father Valentin's journal:
There is a man in the village who is half crazy and does stupid things that could be very wrongly interpreted by the visitors who don't know his mental condition. He had been in an insane asylum for a year and now has decided to stay here. This is causing trouble and annoyance, and he will have to be sent away.
During the ecstasy on that day, Loli and Conchita went to the house where this disturbed man, Alfonso, was staying. And with a crucifix they made the sign of the cross on the pillow of his bed. And while passing by him, they gave him the crucifix to kiss several times. The disturbed man froze on his knees. That night Father Anzizu [The two priests mentioned here came from Argentina, accompanying Cardinal Caggiano (Archbishop of Rosario, who was journeying at the time to Rome to participate in the coming Ecumenical Council). These priests took advantage of their passage through Spain to take a trip to Garabandal. The impression they received there could not have been better, especially for Father Anzizu. He openly declared his intention of speaking in Rome about the extraordinary phenomena.] commented: "What a lesson in charity the girls have given us." Everyone who had been talking about the necessity of throwing the insane man out of the village was touched — above all, the Cardinal's secretary, Father Guillermo Hausschildt, who had thought of refusing him Communion. He said: "It is clear the Virgin wanted to give us a lesson."
Conchita was asked why she had gone to the place where the deranged man was and had repeatedly given him the crucifix to kiss. She answered, "The Virgin told us:
'You despise him, but I love him.'" A response like this put us down, making us see our great lack of charity.
One cannot enter into heaven even with a very little sin?
Photo: Conchita dozing while waiting up for the vision.
Perhaps the words Conchita was heard to say during the ecstasy had some relation to this unforgettable lesson from the Mother of God: "When you come down here to earth, why do you come? To save the world?" Surely the mentally retarded are neither the ones nor the only ones who are most in need of salvation.
The neuropsychiatrist from Barcelona, Dr. Puncernau, who had carefully studied the girls previously, continued his studies and examinations during these days. He discussed his findings with a colleague, the pediatrician from Santander, Dr. Ortiz, who wrote:
Jacinta's father asked me to please be present, and it was no wonder, since they had had enough of doctors' inquisitions. I asked Puncernau for his conclusions. He answered, "I have no doubt about the complete normality of the girls, since the facts can't be attributed to any illness. With regard to this matter, this is the third time that I have come to Garabandal with the intention of studying the visionaries. If I had seen anything suspicious, I would have said it immediately." In that we were in agreement.
On several of these days, the girls' words and phrases were recorded on tape. Although many of the words had only circumstantial importance, sometimes others were of greater scope:
Blessed Virgin, may I never abandon you! Let me love you all my life! Oh! That I may never leave you. That I may love you always, always, until death. Blessed Virgin, don't abandon us.
-Loli, on the night of September 12-13
What is heaven like?... In heaven there are no chairs?... Do they walk there?... Is there fire in purgatory?... Do they come out burned?... One cannot enter into heaven even with a very little sin?... How come they paint you so ugly since you are so beautiful?...
- Conchita, September 25
Does the conversion of sinners cost much?... I pray so that many come and be converted, and the good become better.... Is it better to be a nun or a wife?... If you wish, make it so that I may be at 14 years — they say that at 16, one cannot.... [It seems clear that Conchita was asking to be able to enter the convent at 14 years of age. And she was asking for a special grace, since she had learned that there was nothing that could be done until 16 years of age, as someone had told her. Canon Law fixes this age of 16 years as the minimum for being able to take religious vows.] My brother suffers from a bad stomach. Don't take all the suffering away but ease the pain. [The brother about whom she speaks in this last petition was Aniceto, familiarly called Cetuco, who was suffering from the pains of an illness that a few years later would bring him to his death, an exemplary death at the hospital in Burgos, lovingly cared for by his only sister, Conchita.]
- Conchita on the same date
(to be continued)
Reprinted with kind permission from Garabandal Journal, March-April 2006
Excerpted from SHE WENT IN HASTE TO THE MOUNTAIN by Eusebio Garcia de Pesquera, O.F.M., Cap. ©St. Joseph Publications.