BOOK 3 Chapter 1b
An Unforgettable Holiday Weekend
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


*    *    *

    Among the many people who came was a lawyer from Palencia named Luis Navas Carrillo. Not satisfied merely with devoutly living those days, he also made a report of them, which now serves us well for that period of the year 1962:

    «After passing through the mountain pass at Piedras Luengas and from there viewing on the left the fantastic panorama of the Picos de Europa mountains, we took the narrow and tortuous highway that went down to the rapids of the Nansa River. And it was well into the afternoon when we came to Cossio. It was June 29th.

    We began the ascent to Garabandal. The temperature was pleasant and the sky clear. During the way up, I couldn't put out of my mind the memory of another day that was very different — the dark and stormy October 18th that I had experienced in the same place. Today the soft mountain breeze purified our lungs and prepared our spirits for the possible beneficial actions of the Virgin Mary.


"The girls were walking through one of the streets, already in ecstasy."

    In the village, we had time to rest about an hour and a half. Afterward, at nightfall, they told us that the girls were walking through one of the streets, already in ecstasy. We easily found them and joined a group of people who were following them toward the Pines. We lost them from view a little beyond the Cuadro since — according to the instructions that had been given by the Most Holy Virgin, as they said — we all were to stay at a distance [It may have been during the ecstasy at the Pines that Conchita heard the voice that was foretold, telling her the date of the milagrucu (little miracle); or it may have been during the day while she was walking alone through the area.]. There we were waiting, a little anguished, since some heard, or thought they heard, faint shrieks,

that in the silence of the night and darkness had to remind many of the screams on the night of Corpus Christi.
 
    After a while the girls appeared and they came down toward us. And they stayed rather close; sufficiently close so that with illumination from a powerful flashlight we were able to observe how they fell and how they got up off the stony ground. The beams of light from the flashlights that the girls themselves carried, and with which they had gone out of their houses to come to the rendezvous with the Virgin, lent a special charm to the scene. Not far from them, Mari Loli's father and Jacinta's mother could be distinguished slightly in front of the others.
 
    The silence, which seemed a strange echo on that serene and starry night, helped us to meditate. [The affairs of Garabandal always brought those who were watching them, and who were not too frivolous, to this attitude of respect, silence and meditation.]

    After the ecstasy had ended, the girls showed tears on their faces and serious and sad expressions that contrasted with the joyful countenances that they usually had.

    The impressions from that first day tempered my spirit so as to understand better this array of things that were beyond reason and the senses, that only could be comprehended by opening wide the eyes of faith.

June 30th, Saturday

    This was the most moving of the three days that I spent at the time in Garabandal.

    At the beginning of the evening, we were waiting in Conchita's house. Her mother told her to put on her boots, sensing that the time was drawing near. A little later the girl fell into ecstasy, went out from her home, and drawing with her all the strangers and many from the village, went praying the rosary thru the streets and alleys. Some of the decades were recited, others were sung. The voice of the girl in ecstasy, so musical, so full of real, sincere and profound piety, penetrated into us, and immersed us in a sensation of well-being and serenity.

    I had never seen the girls walking backwards; but I had heard talk about it, and actually with a certain repugnance bordering on ridicule. Now I can testify that that by its harmony, by its grace and rhythm, appeared to be a thrilling celestial dance.

    

   On the way, the seer came up to Fidelin's car. She stopped, and made the sign of the cross on the hood and windshield. It occurred to me that perhaps the Virgin wanted to bless and show her approval this way to the only taxi driver who, at the time, was taking the risk of bringing people over those dangerous roads.

    Not long afterwards, the visionary went to search for Mari Cruz. The door of her house was locked. Conchita knocked on it forcefully and persistently until it was opened. Then she went up the steep staircase, came to the place where her companion was, and put the crucifix on her lips. It appeared that Conchita didn't forget Mari Cruz even during her vision, asking the Virgin to appear to Mari Cruz with the same frequency as with the others.

    Afterwards, to my great surprise, she took us to the cemetery, through those solitary and somber trails. In front of the gate, she stopped for a while and solemnly made the sign of the cross toward the inside, as if imparting a blessing upon the graves. [Christians realize that the dead are not in the tombs. The dead in the essential part of their being — their soul or their spirit — are in another location. What is in the grave is not the person but his remains or dust, which deserve great care, and from which afterward will come the restoration and the life after the resurrection.]

    On returning, she entered the house of her aunt Maximina. And finally came the time for the race, which for me was a genuine novelty. Before starting it, she stopped and extended her arms slightly; she went like a wind through the winding path, without touching the walls, the fences, or the stones that were scattered everywhere — without forgetting the low balconies, against which one could bang his head, as happened to me. We couldn't follow her, much less catch up to her.

    When she returned, we all went toward the church, and in the churchyard itself a remarkable rosary concluded what had lasted so long and contained so many incidents. There the Salve was sung and the Credo recited. My attention was certainly attracted when the girl, after Holy Catholic Church clearly added Apostolic and Roman. They told me that she only did this when she recited the Credo in ecstasy. [The Credo that is ordinarily said outside the Mass is more brief than this; in speaking of the Church, it only says: / believe in One Holy Catholic Church, without the Apostolic and Roman, Perhaps the child, inspired from above — and therefore not comprehending the reason — was warning in advance against certain ecumenical attitudes that were going to come and which would lead the Church into confusion.]

    Mari Loli had the second vision of that Saturday night. I was there to see the beginning in her home. She went up some almost perpendicular stairs; she began going through different rooms, and right away her father sensed that she was looking for her rubber sandals. He put them near the girl's feet. She had hardly put them on when she fell violently on her knees, and leaned backwards till she struck her head smack against the floor. Her father, Ceferino, told Jacinta, who was present, to ask her: [As has already been mentioned in the early chapters, the girl in ecstasy was not able to establish communication with anyone except another visionary in the normal state.]

What did that smack on your head do to you?

    We all saw the girl in ecstasy open her lips in a slight smile and answer:

— What smack?
 
    A little later, Jacinta went into ecstasy too. The two went into the street and began their march toward the Pines while saying the second rosary of the night. On the hilltop they fell on their knees. Afterwards, they went backwards . . . By their attitude they gave the impression that the weight of the world was lying upon them and crushing them.
 
    The descent from the hill, backwards, was amazing. Instead of coming down by the regular straight way, they took a transverse shortcut, without following any trail, after going over an almost vertical cliff of considerable height. It seemed to me that the figure that they were seeing was moving quite gradually, so that they could glide slowly toward the village.

    And down below, I don't think there was a street or alley that didn't see the passage of the night rosary procession. Even the young men singing and drinking in a tavern couldn't avoid it, since the girls entered the tavern and gave them the crucifix to kiss; they certainly took on an attitude of complete respect. [The young men's attitude is not unexpected. Rather negative toward the practice of religion as all those of that age and environment are inclined, they were furthermore habituated to the things that were happening in their village every day; perhaps also, a little tired of them. How could they be expected to renounce all their leisure time!]

    During these marches back and forth, Mari Loli lost one of her sandals; a little later, she began to retrace her way back, while walking backwards, until her bare foot touched against the lost sandal. Without lowering her head and without using her hands, she put it on her foot.

    Seconds later, graciously raising her arms, she began to run at dizzying speed, avoiding all types of obstacles. Suddenly she stopped beside a stranger of elegant appearance: this was Concepción Zorrilla, a member of the cast of a foreign theatrical company that had performed in Madrid several days previously. This woman, before returning to her native Uruguay, had detoured from the route to Paris, desiring to go up to that remote spot on the Spanish map in search of ...

    What she was searching for — certainly an answer to her doubts and worries — she must have found when the girl in ecstasy, with her gaze upwards and without turning her head toward her, held out her arm, giving her the crucifix to kiss. She refused it two times, but had to give in to the sweet persistence of the girl and put her lips on the sacred image, while big tears ran down from her eyes. She herself confessed later that, if she had held back from the crucifix, she had done it only because she considered herself completely unworthy to give it her kiss.

    On the day she left, I had the opportunity of taking her photograph with Mari Loli, and I sent it to her so that she could forever remember, in her distant native land, the unforgettable moments of her visit to Garabandal. [Dr. Puncernau, the neuro-psychiatrist from Barcelona, described his experiences in this case in the pamphlet, Psychological Phenomena of Garabandal, but he puts Conchita in the place of Loli:  «In Ceferino's tavern there was a young woman from Uraguay who worked in the Folies Bergere of Paris. We soon started up a conversation. She told me that she not only didn't believe in these supposed apparitions, but she didn't believe in anything about religion. She had come to Garabandal simply out of curiosity- After a while I suggested going outside to see what was happening with the visionaries.

    We saw them at a distance (being hidden ourselves in the shadows of the house) as they headed toward the little village church, praying the rosary. From our hidden observation point we saw what was happening.
    Soon we saw Conchita, in a trance, detatch herself from the procession and make her way — walking normally, but with an unusual swiftness — toward us, who were staying hidden in the shadows, leaning against the wall of the house.
    She was carrying a little crucifix in her hand.
    I thought, She has found out that I am a doctor, and now is coming to make something of it. But how could she have seen me?
    But, no. She headed toward my companion and put the crucifix very forcefully on her lips so that she kissed it once, twice, and a third time.
    The Virgin Mary was for the dancers of the Follies Bergere too.
    Afterwards Conchita, still in the trance, joined the other girls and continued praying the rosary.
    My companion, the ballerina, was weeping unstoppably, with deep heartfelt sobs, so inconsolable that I thought she was having an attack. I accompanied her to the wooden benches propped against the outside wall of Ceferino's tavern.
    The crowd gathered around. I tried to calm her down.
    She was finally able to tell that she had thought in her mind, "If it is true that the Virgin is appearing, then let one of the girls come to give me a sign."
    — Hardly had I thought this when Conchita came running toward me to give me the crucifix to kiss. I didn't want to kiss it, and I held her hand back. But with exceptional strength she forced the crucifix against my lips, and I had no other choice but to kiss it once, twice, and a third time ------ I, the unbeliever, the atheist, who believed in nothing. This shook me intensely.
    We met days later on the train back to Bilbao. And I know, since we wrote each other several times, that she left the Folies Bergere and went back to her family in Uruguay.»]
 
    As previously with Conchita's rosary, this one also ended in the courtyard of the church with the singing of a Salve Regina.
 
    My curiosity led me to ask why the girls in ecstasy came so often to the church, knowing that for them, in those circumstances, it was always closed. The answer had been given sometime before, through the voice of the girls themselves:

    The reason is that the Virgin likes to go near to where Jesus is.»

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    In days like these, the presence of priests and religious could not be missing. With regard to their presence, Luis Navas says in his report:

    «I was greatly pleased to see the deference that the girls held toward priests; it was worthy of St. Teresa of Jesus. There were four priests there in the village on that Saturday, June 30th; and the Virgin had to be happy since, according to the girls: The Virgin likes priests and people without faith to come. [As in so many other points, Garabandal was coming in advance to warn about the imminent crisis of doctrine concerning the priesthood. The furious desacralization, that soon would show itself in the clergy, could not at that time be foreseen.]


Dr. Puncernau with Mari Cruz and Loli at the Pines

    During Loli's vision in her home, a Passionist Father and a Carmelite Father stayed respectfully on their knees. The girl gently lifted both of them up, making them stand on their feet. On the following day the Passionist Father told me, I weigh 78 kilos and on top of that, I used force to make myself stay down; nevertheless, the girl raised me to my feet with the greatest of ease. [Maximina writes about, this in her letters to the Pifarré family; but she says Conchita was the one in ecstasy, similar to the misnaming of the visionary in the case of the woman from Uruguay.] The Carmelite Father edified me with his humility and silence. He had come that very afternoon from Burgos and he spent almost his entire stay with the people, distributing and investing scapulars. I felt nostalgic, recalling the month of May in my student years at the Institute de Burgos.»

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    On Sunday, July 1st, much the same history took place as on the two previous days. Luis Navas tells of it:

    «On this day we had a longer wait. The first apparition, which was Conchita's, began at ten at night. The people had left her home, thinking that nothing would happen. I had the good fortune of going out at the time to seek a paralytic girl, whom I had advised to remain at Conchita's house until the people came to pick her up. There I met Doctor Puncernau from Barcelona. [This doctor, an eminent neuro-psychiatrist, who practiced and taught in the capital of Cataluna, tenaciously studied the affairs of Garabandal and came to the conclusion, repeatedly expressed by him, that «from the medical and scientific point of view, I have found no satisfactory physiological or psychological explanation for these events which have produced such extraordinary phenomena.»] Conchita fell violently on her knees and began the vision. She offered the crucifix to us to kiss; when the doctor's turn came, the girl did something different: with a single movement of her extended arms, she gave it to him three times to kiss.

    Before the vision began, I had complained to Conchita that she had never offered me the crucifix. Because of this, I felt a considerable consolation on seeing how she presented it to me, since I well knew that the girls don't act by their own volition in giving the crucifix to kiss or in holding up holy cards and rosaries toward the Vision; they do it according to the directions of the Virgin. This helped me to understand something that I had read about Padre Pio, Many times God makes me forget certain people for whom I had intended expressly to pray, and He presents others to me for whose salvation I should intercede.

    The doctor had handed Conchita a letter in order that she might ask the Virgin for the cure of a patient. On the following day, I saw the girl write the answer she had received; later she gave it to the doctor with the request not to open the letter until he was in the presence of the sick person, who was dying of an incurable illness according to what I heard.»

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    From what Luis Navas described of the second apparition which concerned Loli, this is what seems to have the greatest interest:

    «The time for giving the crucifix to kiss was thrilling. Kissing it themselves first, as was their custom; then, giving it first to the Virgin and then to the person . . . When it came to the time for eight persons who had come that day from Cadiz, I was really edified by the reverence and faith with which they kissed the crucifix.

    Loli's ecstasy had lasted an hour and twenty minutes. Eighty minutes that seemed to me to be ten! Something very strong must have held my attention to lose the notion of time like this.

    After a clear, moonlit night, I awoke to a magnificent dawn. It was the day of departure. I made up my mind once again to keep the resolution made on the previous trip: to recite daily the holy family rosary, remembering in difficult times and lukewarmness the words transmitted from the Virgin by the visionaries: Hail Marys are the flowers that please her the most.

    With a farewell to the Passionist priest and a great desire to return again, we ended our stay at San Sebastian de Garabandal on Monday, July 2nd, 1962.»

NEXT... BOOK 3 Chapter 1c - The News Spreads; Expectation Mounts

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