BOOK 2 Chapter 6d...
Easter Joy
Reprinted 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.»

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    The woman mentioned here is Mercedes Salisachs of Juncadella, known in Spain as a writer. (Some years previous to her visit to Garabandal, she had won the prize Ciudad de Barcelona for a novel.) She herself confessed her reasons for coming to the site of the apparitions during these days of April, 1962, in a report that Sanchez-Ventura quoted in his book Apparitions are not a Myth.
 
    She began briefly explaining whom her son Miguel was, what he meant to her, and consequently, the terrible pain that had struck her when on October 30th, 1958, with life just beginning — 18 years of age — the young man had met death on the highways of France in an automobile accident.

    «I don't know» — she said — «what other mothers would have felt in losing a son of Miguel's quality. But I doubt that they could have overcome an emptiness and grief like the one that fell upon me.

    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.]

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    Once in the village, Mercedes was able to establish contact with the visionaries and their families, perhaps through the services of the Police Chief Juan Alvarez Seco to whom, as we have seen, she was introduced by Ceferino at his tavern. She was also helped by the Marquis and Marquise of Santa Maria who were staying there again.
 
    «That same night» — continued Mercedes — «I handed Jacinta some objects for her to give the Virgin to kiss, and I made the same request to her that I had made to the other three, When you see the Virgin, ask her about my son.
    I think Jacinta asked, And what happened to your son? PHOTO: "When you see the Virgin ..."
    I answered, He died.
    Everyone had gathered at Mari Loli's house, waiting for the apparition. I gave her a paper, written on both sides, and while giving it, I said to her: I don't expect an answer. The only thing that interests me is knowing where my son is. I didn't give his name.

    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."

    At first glance, nothing that the girls do seems to have a meaning: their movements, their oscillations, their swift runs, their low-pitched conversations, their insistence on presenting the crucifix to be kissed ... In summary, everything from the beginning causes wonderment because of its incongruity and appearance of being something without much depth. (There is a priest who, in his report, states that all this is "not very serious" probably being oblivious of the "not very serious" things that happened at Lourdes too.) Nevertheless, one finishes by suspecting that everything that is occurring there has a meaning. The bad part is that, in order to understand it, one has to live in the village at least three days. As soon as one familiarizes himself with some of the apparent incongruities, everything becomes clear; the explanation, immediate or delayed, always comes.
*    *    *
    In my case. I have to confess that, although I desired much, I expected little. I had envisioned my voyage as one should envision a pilgrimage: ready to face hardships and obstacles.
 
    Waiting, as I said, at Loli's house, we were not long in hearing the characteristic thump of the fall in ecstasy; it came from the upper floor. This caused a general silence, and a little later we saw Mari Loli coming down the stairs, holding the hand of another girl, looking upward with an enraptured expression. I don't think the greatest actress could imitate that expression.
    Mari Loli went up to the table that held the objects to be presented to the Virgin, and began to give them to be kissed. I saw how she took my paper, lifted it up, turned it to the other side, and set it down again on the table. Later she went out into the street holding a cross.»

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    In order to better understand this, it should not be forgotten that this was Good Friday, celebrated in such an extraordinary way in Spain. Loli's ecstasy took place at nightfall after an afternoon sanctified first by liturgical services, at which the whole village had assisted, and afterwards, by the way of the cross that many people had made. And Loli's going out on the street coincided with the hour on which, through all the towns of Spain, the traditional processions of Good Friday were in progress, accompanied by tambourines and music from the best orchestras. In Garabandal during that year the processional marches had a very different sign. There were no marching steps, no music, no gatherings; but certainly it was lived like no other. Through one or another of the girls, the people participated in the mystery that the other processions could only recall.
 
Mercedes continues:
    «The girl's step was light, rhythmic, regular. It appeared that she was walking on smooth and flat pavement; for her there did not exist all the things that we had under our feet: ruts, gravel, stones, rubbish.
 
    As well as I could, I clung onto the arm of the girl that Loli held; but when, after stopping at the door of the church, the visionary undertook the ascent up the hill, I had to let go. I couldn't follow them; I had the feeling that my heart, which was racing, was going to stop at any moment. The slope going up to the Pines was so steep! Exhausted, I rested halfway up the hill waiting for them to come down.
    I began to think. The night [It was the night that for centuries had been consecrated to the solitude and sorrows of Mary, who had just seen the death and burial of the most perfect of Sons.] up until then, had not been too pleasant for me. Whenever the girl had given the crucifix to kiss, she had obviously avoided my lips. The suspicion that, if this were true, it was the Virgin who was refusing my kiss, hurt me deeply.

    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?

Yes, she read it.
 
    Father Corta was there, and on noticing my dejection, asked the girl if the Virgin would return. Yes, at 2 or 2:30, Then Father recommended that I come back to talk about the matter of my son.
 
"Mari Loli ... joined with Jacinta, also walking in a trance through the street."
    At the hour foretold, Mari Loli fell again into ecstasy; she went out of her house and immediately joined with Jacinta, also walking in a trance through the street. They presented the crucifix to be kissed by all those who were there; but again they passed over me, as if avoiding my lips.
 
    And the worst was what they told me on waking up. Both Jacinta and Loli gave me this answer: The Virgin has answered me; but I can't tell it to you.

    That outdid everything. I didn't deserve that the Virgin notice me; and Miguel, in spite of everything that I supposed, was in a place . . . that it would be better not to know! [In spite of the present policy of not preaching about hel! in the churches, its existence hangs inexorably over every Christian's future, with the possibility of a final fall into absolute disaster.]

    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.»

*    *    *
    Her first day in Garabandal was really becoming a day of testing for Mercedes Salisachs, an actual Good Friday, with its sorrows, its humiliations, its confusions, almost with its agony.
 
    «When I awoke (undoubtedly in the early hours of the morning), [We know that the nights of Garabandal were not made to give pleasure, nor for restful sleep. Ordinarily they consisted of penitential vigils, long periods of prayer, waiting without sleep, and marches with their inconveniences.]I had the impression of being changed into a block of ice. The suspicion that neither God nor the Virgin were on good terms with me left me as defeated as the thought that Miguel could be undergoing punishment . . . although it seemed illogical to doubt Miguel's salvation.

    Before going to sleep, I reviewed one by one all the phenomena that I had witnessed during the hours of the day and later throughout the night. And I wanted with all my heart to find some error that would show its falseness; something that would make me see that all this affair at Garabandal was pure superstition. But the more I thought over the events, the more authentic everything seemed. I had to be the one in error! For that reason, undoubtedly, the crucifix hadn't been given to me to kiss.»
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    We do not know if Mercedes made it to sleep that night; but we do know that the next day did not bring her much consolation.

    The calendar read: April 21st, Holy Saturday.

    Liturgically it was a day full of quiet peace, of holy waiting. The prayer that was recited at each hour of the Divine Office beseeched: Almighty God, while we piously await the resurrection of Your Son, concede to us, we pray you, to be participants one day in the glory of His resurrection.

    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:

    «Holy Saturday was no better. In spite of the cordiality that the marquis and his wife, Father Corta, Father Valentin, the Police Chief, and even the mothers of the girls lavished on me, everything in the village seemed hostile. It was undoubtable that all this courtesy was due to the pity and suspicion steming from the isolation to which the Virgin had sentenced me. But what the people thought mattered the least to me; what hurt me the most was perceiving the continuing disdain coming from above.
 
    Finally I began to have a premonition that what was happening had some relation with the significance of the days that we were celebrating. Could all this have a liturgical meaning? I almost dared not think it, for it seemed too far-fetched.

    But what was certain was that after that premonition, the anxiety left me. I resigned myself to everything and submitted myself to the will of God.

    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.»

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    The woman's reaction, although not perfect, is easily explainable. What had happened was not what she had expected when she had set out on her pilgrimage.
    We do not know at what time the ecstatic processional march, led by the group of visionaries, came to an end; but it must have been before 11:30, since at that hour the solemn pascal vigil services began in the church.

    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:

    «The women of the village, following an ancient custom, began to sing the rosary in the streets. [This custom seems absolutely admirable to me. Hopefully it will not be abandoned, but rather spread to other areas! Could there by anything more indicated than a rosary at dawn to celebrate and relive that unique dawn of our history when the Son of Mary came forth from the sepulcher?] In spite of my exhaustion, I felt impelled to follow them. The devotion that one sensed in the atmosphere was really moving. I cannot remember experiencing a more fervent Easter than that one!

    The night seemed to get clearer as the rosary went on. The tile roofs shone in the darkness almost like the moon and the stars.

    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.»

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    This must certainly have been a gripping scene since years later the chief of the Civil Guard mentions in his memoirs:
    «The scene that occurred around the lamppost was imprinted on my heart, and I think that it will never be erased. The same had to happen to the others who were there at the time.»
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    «The rest of the rosary»— continues Mercedes — «was like an ascent to heaven. I remember that I handed my cane to Rosario Santa Maria and seized Mari Loli's arm; never in my life have I felt so light and so secure. Still crying, we continued with the rosary, walking forward, onwards into the early morning. I think that I prayed more with my eyes than with my lips, since Mari Loli kept repeating, Don't cry, don't cry. But it was impossible for me not to; I had so many reasons for crying!

    I didn't need a flashlight, nor did I look at the ground; holding onto Mari Loli's arm and full of faith in the Virgin, I walked the remainder of the time looking only upwards. Never have I seen a sky so full of stars and so clear! Each star was a smile.

    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 ...»

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    It is easy to understand the reason for this statement. Heaven's response to Mercedes Salisachs' tremendous worry had to be too complicated, in effect, too intermeshed with the liturgical season, to be attributable to the inventive genius of an uneducated young farm girl.

    During Good Friday and Holy Saturday, the time of the suffering and annihilation of Our Savior, and also of Mary, the co-redemptorist, this woman had to pass through long hours of humiliation and darkness . . . And only after the liturgy proclaimed the first alleluias of the Easter morning Mass, in the most sacred night, did she receive the gift of that unexpected and wonderful joy.

PHOTO: "The girl fell into ecstasy again."

    «After that moment» — continued Mercedes — «everything changed for me. Soon the girl fell into ecstasy again. To demonstrate that the game of silence of the previous days was concluded, she immediately came to me and applied the crucifix on my lips, once, twice, three times . . . Then making with it the sign of the cross on my forehead, on my lips, and on my chest, she gave it again to the Virgin to kiss. And to definitively seal everything that she had just confirmed, she offered it to me again. Afterwards, without offering it to anyone else to kiss, she went out on the street.

PHOTO:
Ceferino outside his home.

    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.»

Chapter 6e continues ... Encounter with Mystery
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