The heart of the Garabandal matter is the Eucharist (see Bishop's Sworn Statement). Now and forever the little village is caught up into the mystery of Jesus in His guise of frail white wheaten wafer. Life a sanctuary lamp, Garabandal signals His true presence and beckons us to come closer. It can also be compared with a benediction monstrance which, set against that magnificent mountain backdrop, displays to the world the sacramental presence of Jesus, Son of the Virgin Mary. And, standing in perpetual service there, is a row of benediction candles -- those gentle pines that gaze down upon Garabandal and whisper to the wind the amazing things they witnessed.
Conchita makes it quite clear that "devotion to the Blessed Sacrament and prayer for priests" is the essence or core of the Garabandal message. In fact, these two aspects -- the Eucharistic and the sacerdotal -- practically converge and fuse into one, so interrelated are they. For what else is a priest fundamentally but a Eucharist man, someone empowered to renew Christ's redemptive sacrifice and perpetuate His presence?
It's quite remarkable, when you examine it, how the Garabandal story focuses
from start to finish on the mystery of the Eucharist. The Virgin never
tired of urging the girls to visit the Blessed Sacrament frequently. And,
to indicate the value of Holy Communion, she pointed out that to receive
it worthily is a greater grace that to see her in a vision. Then there
is the miracle of the Host (see
picture), not to forget those numerous invisible Holy Communions
the visionaries received from the hands of St. Michael the Archangel. What
Garabandal's Eucharistic orientation is the fact that the quartet of girls, even when barred from entering the church while in ecstasy, were instructed by Our Lady to make its tabernacle the magnet and home of their prayers and devotions.
In Her Second Message, the Virgin of Garabandal exhorts us to "think about the Passion of Jesus." This, too, relates directly to the Eucharist. When Mari Loli declared that Our Lady had helped her understand the close connection between the Mass and Her Son's crucifixion, she was unconsciously identifying with Bossuet's memorable words: "Every day is Good Friday; every day the scene of Calvary is enacted on our altars." Or to cite what the Imitation of Christ says on the subject: "When you assist at Mass, it should appear to you as new and as great as if, at the time, you were looking at Christ suffering and dying for the salvation of mankind."
Also in Her Second Message, the Mother of God intimates why the Blessed Sacrament is chief item in the Garabandal package. "Less and less importance", She tells us sorrowfully, "is being given to the Eucharist." So, through Her, God has given us Garabandal; its function is to provide a corrective, redress the balance, restore true perspective in Eucharistic doctrine and devotion.
Now to what, we may wonder, was Mary specifically referring when She equivalently said that the Eucharist was being devalued and played down? What particular factors and trends occasioned Her warning words?
The answer is that some fairly influential Catholic theologians had for the past few decades been flirting with ideas very much at variance with the Church's teaching on the Eucharist. With "itching ears" and "yearning for novelty" (both these prize phrases are from St. Paul) many of them had grown tired of the traditional word, "transubstantiation," and cast around for substitutes; in which process some of these theologians ended up by throwing overboard everything that transubstantiation implies. They now publicly taught Eucharistic doctrines that more or less amounted to a latter-day rehash of beliefs launched by Luther and Calvin and other Reformers in the sixteenth century.
The consecrated bread and wine, according to Calvin, do not take on a new reality and identity, that is, become Christ's Body and Blood. Rather, they merely take on a new role, a sacred signification, by being used as a memorial sign of the Lord's spiritual presence. But there is no bodily presence in the Eucharist; nor is it a reenactment of Christ's sacrificial death.
Luther, on the other hand, believed in the bodily presence of the Savior in this sacrament; however, he held that it coexists alongside or conjointly with the consecrated bread and wine, which retain their own reality and identity. In a word, the Lutheran formula was consubstantiation, not transubstantiation. He further taught that Christ's bodily presence in and with the bread and wine ceases as soon as the Holy Communion service is over. And he accordingly condemned the practice of conserving consecrated hosts in the tabernacle for our adoration and sanctification.
It was a sort of misguided ecumenism that prompted much of this devaluing or watering down process on the part of the theologians responsible for decking out the old errors in modern dress. Nor are such theologians a vanishing breed; indeed, some actually hold teaching positions today in Catholic institutes.
Anyhow, they felt that by "trimming" traditional Catholic doctrine on the Eucharist they would be able to meet non-Catholics halfway and thus help to achieve Christian unity. But it is wrong to sacrifice truth on any altar, be it of unity or anything else. Ecumenical ideals cannot be realized by slaying Eucharistic ones.
These itching-eared theologians can likewise take some of the blame for the fact that Eucharistic devotion has suffered even more that its doctrine. While it is true that the new fasting regulations have boosted Holy Communion figures, there is serious reason to doubt whether numbers of young Catholics (on both sides of the Atlantic) have been adequately instructed as to what might be termed the "conscience requirements" for receiving the sacrament worthily. Aberrant theologians are again the chief culprits. For from them, as from a polluted source, certain Catholic teachers, not excluding priests and nuns, have drawn a devalued, because distorted, theology of sin, on the one hand, and of the Sacrament of Penance/Reconciliation on the other.
Also relevant to our theme is the tendency, which began before Garabandal, to overemphasize the role of public liturgy and group-prayer -- at the expense of private devotions in general and of visits to the Blessed Sacrament in particular. But not by liturgy and group prayer alone does man live. Besides being a social being he is very much of a private, personal self. And nothing caters better for this side of him than time spent before that tabernacled Divine Person of whom St. Theresa of Lisieux wrote: "Do you realize that Jesus is there in the tabernacle expressly for you, for you alone? He burns with the desire to come into your heart."
Just as aptly another French saint could have been quoted in this context. "What is Our Lord doing in the tabernacle?" he asks. And he also gives the answer: "He is waiting for you there." These words occurred in a sermon by the patron saint and model of all priests, the Cure of Ars. He also practiced what he preached and spent hours before the tabernacle. Undoubtedly one of the main reasons why "less and less importance is being given to the Eucharist" is that so many priests, the author included, don't preach as much as they should about devotion to the Blessed Sacrament, let alone practice it. And, believe it or not, one reason why we are poor at practicing it is human respect; we are loath to be labeled "Holy Joe" or "Pious Pete," especially by our fellow priests. Thus does our fallen human nature assert itself in presbyteries and religious houses! The point is, however, that Eucharistic devotion is waning among the faithful for lack of encouragement --and, above all, the inspiration of example -- from the pastors.
How Can We Promote
Speaking of the Mass, Vatican II says: "The Eucharistic action, over which the priest presides, is the very heartbeat of the faithful." As for the Blessed Sacrament, to quote this same source, "it contains the Church's entire wealth, that is, Christ Himself, our passover and living bread."
Small wonder, then, that the Virgin of Garabandal so extols and emphasizes the Eucharist. In the first place, therefore, and to the maximum possible degree, we should go to Mass, receive Holy Communion, and pay visits to the Blessed Sacrament.
Have you ever realized that these visits can just as easily be made from outside the church as from within? This obviously applies to those occasions when circumstances make a personal visit awkward if not impossible. Quite as effortlessly as the risen Jesus entered the Upper Room through locked doors can the human spirit reach out towards and commune with Him from any distance and through any physical barrier whatsoever -- church walls, tabernacle fabric, or anything else.
So you have an astonishing power, a wonderful privilege, at your disposal! You can unite yourself with Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament (that is, make a spiritual communion) at any time of the day or night. And you can do so wherever you may happen to be -- at the top of a skyscraper, in the middle of a job, or at the bottom of a stairway. Never strain after feeling and emotion; just think your prayer, be it ever so brief; and the Eucharistic God, Who misses nothing, will read your thoughts. Thus on the wings of thought-prayer you will speed your way to the Presence in the tabernacle. Or, as Hopkins expressed it, you will travel "with a fling of the heart to the heart of the Host."
If possible, of course, make a visit in person to the Blessed Sacrament. And, should time allow, say your rosary (or at least part of it) there; we have been encouraged to do so by Pope John, among others. if you can manage to spend an hour in that magnetic field of grace which the Eucharist generates, all the better. By the way, never forget Our Lady's insistence on prayer for priests, to whose sacramental ministry we all owe so much, not least the fact that through their consecratory words in the first place we have in our tabernacles what Newman has called "a treasure unutterable" -- Emmanuel-made-Eucharist, the Son of the Virgin Mary.
Greatly to be commended, too, are "Holy Hours" held on a weekly basis (Friday seems to suit most people best) in people's homes. Eucharistic prayers feature in the program as do devotions to the Sacred Heart, the rosary, and prayer for priests. If any readers could see their way to organizing a Holy Hour on the above lines, let them be assured that they will contribute greatly thereby towards complying with the wishes expressed by Mary at Garabandal.
What about Perpetual Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament? If you can get hold of the June 1984 issue of Catholic Digest, you'll find a most informative and inspiring article dealing with the subject. It relates how the practice has spread in recent years to some 200 churches in the USA and continues to catch on. The spiritual fruits are proving quite remarkable. One pastor is quoted as saying: "This is one of the greatest things that has happened to me in my priesthood."
It is reassuring to read that so far not a single act of vandalism has occurred in any of the churches that stay open for perpetual adoration.
The Shape of the
It is beyond doubt that in the post-Miracle era Garabandal is destined to become a major Eucharistic center as well as a shrine of Mary. Indeed, in this respect it could even bid to out-Lourdes Lourdes.
Think if the million-fold graces due to be given there through the Blessed Sacrament to those tens of thousands of pilgrims coming from near and far. Contemplate those innumerable Masses and Holy Communions and Holy Hours and Benedictions and Torchlight Processions...
This exciting prospect should in the meantime feast our faith in Our Lady's
Message and fuel our zeal to share it with others. Come to think of it,
when this beautiful dream comes true and the permanent Sign becomes part
of the Garabandal scene, those graceful pines will witness many, many more
holy things to add to their store of memories.
For GARABANDAL MAGAZINE write to : "The Workers of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, P.O. Box 606, Lindenhurst, New York , 11757-0606 or phone 631-226-4408
To read more about Garabandal, click Garabandal Information at left