with kind permission from St. Joseph Publications
from the book She Went in Haste to the Mountain (Book 1)
NOTE: All excerpts from Conchita's Diary will be in extra-bold type
The police chief Juan Alvarez Seco tells of the arrival of a visitor at Garabandal:
«I don't remember the date, but I do remember what happened. [It was on Good Friday of 1962: April 20th.] I was present in the village on that night and I went to the bar of Ceferino, who came out to meet me, remarking to a woman: This is the Police Chief, who has been present first hand at many apparitions. And afterwards he brought her up to me. This woman is from Barcelona and wants someone to explain some of this to her.
Turning to the woman, I greeted her courteously. And she immediately asked me if 1 believed in the apparitions. I answered that I did and she recorded it on a tape recorder.
Later she did the same with a cattleherder from the village. He declared sincerely, Look Señora, I don't know what this is that's happening, but since I have been present at the apparitions, I don't talk as I used to. Before I blasphemed a lot, but I don't do it now.
The woman also questioned a priest [Perhaps this was a Jesuit who is mentioned later in the woman's narration.] who was there, and recorded his answers. This priest stated confidentially that he believed too.»
His death destroyed the main reason for my life; and on losing him, I felt myself crushed by a horrible darkness.
They told me that I would adjust with time. And, although I would not forget him, his memory would fade away, to remain a pleasant remembrance. They told me that, little by little, I would become accustomed to not seeing him, to not hearing him, and accept my situation without regret.
But time passed and I continued in despair. Although I tried to hide my melancholy, especially so as not to hurt my other four remaining children, as time went by the void increased, together with despondency and suffering.
People used religious arguments to help me. They talked about Christian resignation. They reminded me of Miguel's faith, his exemplary life, and they told me that I should give thanks to God for having taken him in conditions so conducive to the welfare of his soul. But resignation didn't come and all these arguments struck me as inapplicable and inconsistent.
There came a time when doubts against faith revolved over me obsessively. And all that I had previously professed without effort began to waver, leaving me all the time more discouraged. I changed into a different person, without any future except the past, without any hope except to die; but with the feeling that death ended everything, that hope was a great lie, and faith a childish device for holding us in line.
But my doubts were not always strong. At times, without knowing why, hope returned. And if Miguel could see me , . . If the Communion ofSaints [The Communion of Saints is one of the most beautiful dogmas of Catholicism. Catholics believe by this that there is an ineffable communication between those who have gone, and those who still remain; and also a mysterious interchange between them, in Christ and for Christ, in the Church and for the Church.] were a real thing . . .
At the time I couldn't keep on praying. I was always smashing against a wall of doubt. On one occasion I remember my mother suggested praying the rosary together, and (I am still ashamed of my reaction!} I refused, considering it vulgar.
I needed a sign. Something that could make me realize that life could continue after death.
But the sign didn't come; nor did 1 seek it. For example, my devotion to the Virgin was practically nil.
Until one day — the feast of the Most Pure Heart of Mary — I instinctively went before an image of the Sorrowful Mother, requesting her to give me a sign if Miguel were saved.
It was not long in coming . . .
From that day onward, I had no more obsessions than to return to God. And five months later, on May 4th, 1958, after a general confession, I came to God finally, with the intention of never separating an instant from Him during the rest of my life.
From that time everything began to change for me. Although my enormous loneliness for Miguel continued, and solitude continued tormenting me, my interior tranquility was great. Praying the rosary stopped appearing vulgar and my devotion to the Virgin increased day by day.
Then when I heard talk about the girls of Garabandal, I thought of visiting that isolated village not only out of curiosity, but also with the intention of rendering honor to the Virgin, even though the phenomena were open to discussion.
Taking advantage of the absence of my family, who had gone to Suiza, I left Barcelona on Holy Thursday in 1962,[In Spain, half the day of Holy Thursday and all of Good Friday are observed as feastdays, and are government holidays.] accompanied by Jose, my driver, and his wife Mercedes.
We arrived at Cossio at noon on Good Friday, and there I met the pastor of Garabandal, Fr. Valentin Marichalar. While we were waiting for a vehicle to take us to the village, I used the occasion to converse with him. In spite of his understandable reserve, he finally admitted to me that he was basically convinced that the phenomena occurring there were supernatural, and that the girls were the proper persons, because of their innocence, to receive the Virgin's visits.
It was already two in the afternoon when the car appeared that would transport us to Garabandal. Its driver, Fidel, informed us that Fr. Corta (a Jesuit priest who had come to help Fr. Valentin with the services of Holy Week) would give Communion up there, and that the whole village was congregated in the church.» [In Garabanda] as in so many other villages in Spain (at least at that time), Holy Thursday and Good Friday were days consecrated to the observance of religious devotions; no one missed the liturgical services. Good Friday services took place at one o'clock in the afternoon, seeking to correspond with the time in which Jesus expired His last breath.]
I didn't yet know how the visions took place. Although it had been explained to me, it was difficult to picture their actual happening. Now, after having been in Garabandal several times and having seen so many ecstasies, I still feel that there can be no possible way of describing either the falls of the visionaries, their expressions and motions, or the attitude of respect that, in spite of the character of some of the visitors and the customs of the village, occurred whenever an apparition came.
"Mari Loli went up to the table that held the objects to be presented to the Virgin."
When the descent finally came, I saw Mari Loli running backwards — her gaze always looking upwards — avoiding the obstacles and obstructions as if she had eyes on the back of her head.
On arriving at the village, she joined Jacinta. They laughed on meeting, and later they presented the crucifix to be kissed, and they walked onwards, holding arms.
Jacinta woke up at the door of the church, but Loli continued to her home still in a trance.
Then I went to search for Jacinta and I questioned her about Miguel. She told me that the Virgin had not answered her question. Dismayed, I went to the place where Loli was, who told me the same.
— Did she at least read my paper?
I still had the courage to ask Mari Loli whether the Virgin's answer was good or had. She was evasive: I can't. . . I can't. . . And the expression on her face was truly impenetrable.
Again Fr. Corta tried to help me. (He saw my defeated look, and undoubtedly had pity on me.) He asked the girl, Could you tell her tomorrow?
Loli shrugged her shoulders and limited herself to answering, Perhaps.»
For assisting us in difficult times, there is nothing like the support of holy hope, of expectation based on faith.
But for the unfortunate woman from Barcelona, this seemed to have ended:
That night I ate dinner early, alone in the tavern. Afterwards the Chief of the Civil Guard took me to Conchita's house. Her mother received me politely, and offered me a place next to her daughter.
The heat of the fireplace was stifling, and my physical state was getting worse; but my moral state was improving as each hour went by.
PHOTO: ''What is happening seems normal to them."
We talked of a thousand things. The most striking thing about the girls is their naturalness in the current of everyday life. They accept the supernatural with a simplicity bordering on the unbelievable. Seeing the Virgin seems to them to be within the reach of everyone; and what is happening seems normal to them.
What really concerns them is observing the incredulity of the people. They ask this question endlessly, Do you believe? Do you believe that we really see the Virgin? They probably think that upon this belief depends whether the Virgin will perform the great miracle that they have been predicting since the beginning. Outside of this, they always show signs of great certainty concerning theological matters. In spite of their evident lack of education, the knowledge with which they give out comments is astounding.
When Conchita fell into ecstasy, I had gone out of the kitchen (because of the unbearable heat) and so I couldn't observe exactly how the phenomenon occurred. Nevertheless, on going out on the street, I could observe well what happened to Mr. Mandoli [This man is completely unknown to me.] a recent arrival at Garabandal. Although a man of faith, he didn't accept the apparitions. Soon I saw Conchita detour from her path and come right toward us (Mr. Mandoli was at my side) to present him the crucifix. But the man, either embarrassed or as a test, evaded it. Conchita, always with her head thrown backwards so as to make it impossible for her to see what was ahead, pursued him tenaciously with the cross until she managed to have him kiss it.
Turning then toward me, Mr. Mandoli admitted with feeling that he had petitioned the Virgin that, if this were true, Conchita would seek to make him kiss the crucifix. If my memory doesn't fail me, on that night also, she didn't give it to me to kiss.
Later Conchita joined the other three girls who were walking through the village in ecstasy too. All four held hands and with their customary light step made their way thru the streets, followed by the crowd with flashlights.
I remember that other apparitions (Lourdes and Fatima) had been stationary and quiet. And it seemed as if the actions or movements in the ones which were now presenting themselves could have something to do with the characteristics of our times. It was as though the Virgin, just like John XXIII, [It should be taken into consideration that Mercedes Salisach's report was written in the spring of 1962, a period when the popularity of the Pope at the time, John XXIII, had reached its apogee due to innumerable demonstrations of his good-natured personality and by the appearance of speed with which he was preparing the second Vatican Council.] wanted to adapt her mercy to the restlessness of modern needs. Ecstasies like those at Lourdes or Fatima could have appeared incongruous in our times. The people needed another style. And what the girls of Garabandal demonstrated was well adapted to our ways.
The apparitions were accessible through the girls; everyone could, keeping a distance, participate. Each person, if he took the trouble, was able to take part, although indirectly, in the dialogues that the visionaries held with the Apparition. From the beginning — according to the girls — the Virgin showed signs of wanting to approach the spectators; she allowed them to ask questions, answered their prayers, accepted articles to kiss . . . Certainly this gave the impression of wanting to break down barriers.
Nevertheless, I found myself at the time so disconcerted by the ostensible disdain that the Vision was showing toward me that — without thinking of the unquestionable generosity that she was demonstrating to others — I made up my mind definitely not to ask any more questions, or to expect the least sign from the girls.»
The streets were then deserted, as were most of the houses; the villagers and visitors had gathered in the sacred precinct to participate in the beautiful liturgy that concluded the Mass of the first pascal alleluias.
When the people left the church, the most beautiful Sunday of the year had begun, the day that celebrated the Resurrection, the true Day of the Lord.
"walking through the village in ecstasy"
There was not much time to rest, at least for this woman. Let us return to Mercedes:
We must have been on the third mystery when the unexpected happened. Someone tapped me lightly on the shoulder. On turning around, I met the marquise of Santa Maria who was holding Mari Loli's arm. She spoke to me confidentially, Mari Loli says that she has something to say to you.
At the time I was confused. It didn't occur to me what this could be for. I already had many disappointments and I wasn't expecting anything.
But Rosalio Santa Maria added, This concerns something that the Virgin told the girl yesterday, with the request not to mention it until after one at night (that is, until after the pascal vigil).
Mari Loli repeated somewhat bashfully, Later, later I will tell it...
Bewildered and intrigued, I did not know what to say. But Rosario — who had been with me during my bad times — intervened, Not later. You are going to tell it right now. You aren 't going to let this woman worry like this any longer.
Then Mari Loli and I went apart from the group. I leaned toward her and she whispered a message in my ear, but in a very clear voice: The Virgin says that your son is in heaven.
What I experienced afterwards. I can't describe. Everything, absolutely everything dissolved in that wonderful statement.
I only remember that I embraced Mari Loli as if I were embracing Miguel. Later I found myself in the arms of Rosario; she was crying too, and was telling me so many things that I couldn't understand. The people gathered around me, and in the throng I vaguely saw Father Valentin, Father Corta, Eduardo Santa Maria, the chief of the Civil Guard . . . All were looking at me, astonished and excited. Conchita's mother also came, alarmed by the commotion, and wanting to help, exclaimed, Tell that woman, that if she is crying because she hasn't received the crucifix to kiss, that she shouldn't be disturbed, that during the whole night it hasn 't been given to me either.»
Toward 3 in the morning, we went into the tavern of Loli's father, talking about the things that had occurred on that memorable night. Still bewildered by what had happened to me, I saw that Rosario was whispering to Loli ... A little later she came toward me, Mari Loli says that the message she gave you is not complete; but since you started to cry so soon, she wasn 't able to continue telling you about it.
Then the girl confided to me what was missing, and what left me still more perplexed.
She also told me that your son is very happy, most happy, and that he is with you every day . . . I know that your son is in heaven! I found this out yesterday when the Virgin told it to me. But I had to keep quiet about it since she said to me, "Do not tell it to the woman until after the Easter Mass tomorrow."
Certainly such finesse could not have come from the young girl ...»
PHOTO: "The girl fell into ecstasy again."
Outside the house, Ceferino, the girl's father, waved for me to come near. She was talking about you with the Virgin, he told me. Briefly, this is what she said: "I told her that she shouldn 't cry, that she had to be happy . . . But she didn't pay attention , . . And if she cries again when I tell her about it?"
As soon as the ecstasy was ended, Mari Loli came toward me and whispered that she had another message. She waited until we were alone and then said to me:
— While I was speaking now with the Virgin, I saw that she was laughing very much; and that she was looking upward. On asking her why she was laughing so much, she answered me, "that at the same time in which she was speaking to me, he was looking at you. And that his joy was great."
— Mari Loli, to whom are you referring? About . . .
I didn't get to pronounce his name, for she interrupted:
— Yes. Miguel. The Virgin told me, "Above all, tell the woman that while I am speaking with you now, Miguel is looking at her, and that he is very happy; he is pleased, very pleased."
— Tell me, Mari Loli! How did you know that his name was Miguel?
— Because I asked the Virgin, "Who is Miguel?" And she answered me, "The son of that woman."
When this all ended in the early morning, our return to the house where I lodged was like walking on a cloud . . . The village nestled under a sky full of stars. The sun was rising on the other side of the mountain.»