BOOK 3 Chapter 1f
Miracle or Fraud?
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

*    *    *

    This fact cannot be denied or evaded: that a Host was seen on Conchita's tongue like those used for Communion. But is this fact enough to call it an authentic miracle?

    For some, a miracle was unquestionable from the first moment; for others, doubts began immediately and have not yet dissipated.

    As men debate about the works of men, they are inclined to debate about the works of God too. And to God this does not seem to matter, since He never takes away all the problems in such a way that disbelief and resistence to belief would be impossible. He never forces us to believe. We are merely given adequate information and sufficient leads to bring us to an attitude of faith based on good, reasonable logic.

    Whoever avoids searching into obscure areas ends up finding total security. The rich man of the parable said to the patriarch Abraham, If Lazarus, risen from the dead, goes to mv brothers, they will not refuse his testimony. The patriarch (and it was Jesus Himself who spoke through him) answered: If they do not accept Moses and the prophets, they will not accept one who has risen from the dead either.

    And so on the night of the milagruco began the doubts, the suspicions, the twisted interpretations.

    Conchita was told to remain with her tongue extended after having received the Host, until . . .

. .. the Virgin would come. And I did it like this.
And when the Virgin came, she told me;
They all still do not believe.
    The girl found out the truth of this as soon as she returned to her house, once the long trance had ended. For the trance was long; the Communion was only the beginning.

    While many were keeping watch around the girl's home, hoping for what might happen there (and these were the ones who saw, some well, some not so well, the things just described), others situated themselves in the calleja, thinking that there, at the site of so many other miraculous happenings, Conchita's miraculous Communion would transpire.

    Among these was Luis Navas; expectantly he ran to the Cuadro, seeking to secure the best observation point. But there he had to wait, although he tried to do it with resignation:

    « I expressed » — he wrote — « my resignation to the Virgin while waiting there. If we don't have the good fortune to see the miracle, at least let it be realized! I didn't want to think of the consequences that would result from the non-realization of the predicted miracle, or the methods that might be adopted by the Commission, reticent from the start to admit any possibility of the apparitions being supernatural.

    When Conchita came to the Cuadro . .. . (As we have seen, the Virgin appeared to her after the Communion. Then began an ecstatic march, whose first stop was apparently the Calleja, where the lawyer from Palencia was waiting with the other people.) ... I didn't know whether she had received Communion. But I noticed that she held her mouth open. I saw this clearly since I found myself in the advantageous position that I had secured previously in case there would take place there, as was probable, the miracle that everyone was awaiting.

    After being there some time, the visionary descended backwards toward the village, and I followed her with difficulty thru the streets, since I had lost my glasses. It was at that time that I learned that she had already received Communion, and how it had occurred. There was nothing more for me to do than ask pardon for having doubted at the last hour, and to accept not having seen anything.

    During the ecstasy, the visionary went in front of the church twice, [Luis Navas noted something that particularly attracted his attention: the « open mouth of Conchita »; but he does not give more detail. Nevertheless, there are other testimonies that speak of something very remarkable in this regard.
  Félix Gallego, a doctor from Polanco (Santander), tells how he, while going with the girl toward the church after the miracle, saw perfectly a halo of light in the back of her open mouth. That same night, on returning to his home in Polanco, he wrote down a report that days later he gave to Father Valentin for him to take, if it seemed useful, to his superiors at the chancery.

    And I myself was able to receive an unequivocal testimony from a woman from Madrid, Maria Paloma Fernández-Pacheco de Larrauri. She had come to the village in the early morning of July 18th, and was spending the day waiting like so many others . . . When Conchita finally left her house in ecstasy, this woman, who had been waiting a long time outside, could not follow her because of the commotion and the people throwing themselves on top of her. Resigned and silent, she went down another street and was walking aimlessly when she perceived, muffled and far away, the noise of those who were coming with the visionary. Soon above the noise that was breaking the silence of the night, she heard a woman shout excitedly: Oh! She's carrying it in her mouth!

    She rushed toward the sound and found there, at the entrance of the church, a spectacle that she will never be able to forget. Within the churchyard in the middle of the people who had arranged themselves in a wide circle, or perhaps rather a rectangle, Conchita was moving in ecstasy. Flashlights were converging on her with their beams of light, but surpassing that light was another light which shone from the mouth of the girl with an unusual resplendence.

    Mrs. Paloma succeeded in situating herself well on the left aide of the courtyard and was able to observe perfectly, for some minutes, this extraordinary phenomenon in front of her. «It was »she said—« as if in the center of her wide-open mouth, on the tongue of the child, there were a host or "forma " of concentrated light, around which radiated a little halo of light of a different kind. »
    This phenomenon was definitely observed by other persons too, some of whom did not want to talk about it for fear of being considered hysterical or subject to hallucinations.] prayed the rosary through the streets , [Conchita wrote, And she told me to pray the rosary, and I prayed it.] visited the cemetery, and on returning from there, had barely passed over the little brook when she knelt down and advanced in this position about 50 meters. Finally she sang the Salve and went to conclude the vision where it had begun almost two hours previously, but not before offering the many articles placed on the kitchen table to be kissed.»


"All still do not believe."

    It was at this time that the girl began to see evidence of what the Virgin had mentioned when she appeared to the girl after Communion: All still do not believe.

    She was ... as anyone would be after an extraordinary favor from heaven. We know this thru reliable testimony. The Commission had asked in its questionnaire:

«Is it true that Conchita, on returning home, smiled and avoided questions? Was she agitated?»
Fr. Etelvino answered:
«She was calm when I saw her . . . She spoke calmly and happily.»

    Among the people in Conchita's kitchen at the end of the ecstasy was Dr. Ortiz's wife. She remembers that they were telling the girl:

How happy you must be, Conchita! Finally the miracle has come.
Yes, but the Virgin told me that many, in spite of seeing it, do not believe . . . And I think one of these is Placido.

    At that moment, Placido arrived. The girl smiled broadly and said to him:
You, you don't believe?
Not much — the man replied, trying in vain to smile. [According to a witness' report, Placido said then to Conchita: «Liar! You've deceived us!» Undisturbed, the girl replied with a smile: «The Virgin told me: In spite of everything, some do not believe!»]

    Plácido Ruiloba had been pushed away by the crowd and could not see the Host with his own eyes. Afterwards the Franciscan Fr. Justo, who had seen it and was full of doubts, relayed to him what he felt . . .

    Dr. Ortiz's wife heard Fr. Justo speaking to Fr. Bravo:
I was tempted to take the Host with my hand, to see if it was real. . .
Didn't that seem to be tempting God?

<>    A Franciscan father, Father Justo, didn't believe what he had seen.
    And he said to the people that he hadn't seen it, that it was a lie, that it was I who had done this . . .

    In the writings of Luis Navas are these lines:
    «In the days prior to July 18th Conchita had expressed her concern that many people would not witness the event, and as a consequence wouldn't believe it ... This prediction was verified because some didn't expect it (the presentation of the miracle seemed too much to them), because many didn't see it, and because for other reasons the people in general were rather cold . . . And I think that during the time before the miracle was accomplished everyone doubted, more or less, that it would take place.»
    Soon the Commission at Santander was deluged with a flood of comments, suspicions, and questions, all coming from the unconvinced.

    And it was not hard for the Commission to think that there had been no miracle.

    But something had definitely happened, because of which there was no other way out than to seek to offer explanations. The Commission members thought that by seeking evidence against Garabandal they were fulfilling their duty; but the rest of us might think that they did not accomplish another duty, a first and more important one: to be there at the place of the event, following everything that was occurring from the best point of observation.

    The Commission members assert their right to speak out publicly and express their opinions on the events. That being the case, the least that could be asked of them would be to be there in the forefront of everyone else in following, observing, and studying the events. It was not this way!

    The letter in which Conchita invited them to be present at Garabandal on the 18th of July may or may not have been inspired by God; nevertheless those called had a serious obligation not to lose an occasion (that could well have been of great importance) to bring more light on the complete study that was entrusted to them. Instead of this, initially they showed no concern. Later when collecting information from witnesses, by design they sought only witnesses from whom they expected unfavorable testimony.

    What would have happened if the responsible persons in the diocesan chancery had been at the appointed spot on the day fixed by God?

    God can perform things very well without man; but the History of Salvation shows us how certain divine designs have gone astray because of lack of human cooperation. God does not have to yield to our desires . . . How often He could say to us: Since you attempt to come to the light through your own ways, and not through Mine, you will remain in the darkness!

    On July 18th, 1962, a thing that could have decisively clarified the mystery of Garabandal ended by leaving it like it was, or perhaps even more obscure. Whose fault was this?

*    *    *
    It seems that the official Commission in San-tander first of all doubted the actuality of the fact of the Host on Conchita's tongue, attributing it to suggestion, madness or the collective hysteria of those who saw it. Afterwards, in the face of irrefutable proofs, especially the photographic pictures that had been taken, they maintained a hypothesis of fraud: Conchita, aided by others, had put this over with great talent . . .

    In the questionnaire presented weeks later to Fr. Etelvino González, there is a collection of questions from which it can be seen that the Commission took seriously the many things that were said about the peculiar circumstances around the miracle. Their questions themselves clearly reveal this:

«Is it true that Conchita and her cousin Luciuca Fernández González didn't stop laughing nervously and playing with their hands?
At midnight did you see her write some words to her uncle Elias González Cuenca?
Is it true that on the back of the paper she drew two feminine figures?
Did you identify them as Luciuca and Conchita?
Is it true that on the drawing Luciuca brought her hand to Conchita's mouth?
Is it true that Conchita avoided being accompanied by the priests present there?
At 1:20, did her mother tell her to change her dress?
With regard to this, did Conchita go upstairs?
Who were the persons there upstairs?
What purpose could her going upstairs have?
How long did she delay in coming down?
On coming down, did she go back into the kitchen?
Did she come down in rapture?
Did she have her mouth closed?
Did she cover it with the crucifix?
Did you notice anything strange in her mouth?» [Naturally, I do not criticize the Commission for trying to bring all the hidden elements out into the open; I criticize their actions for not being open, actions which have given reason to think that they were only interested in confirming adverse points, only calling for testimony and accepting it from those who were able to present something unfavorable.]
    We do not know the answers to any of these questions. Fr. Etelvino answered only the ones we have previously mentioned, and refrained from responding to these with excellent reasons:
    «I don't know because at the time I was absent from the house. At that time I didn't hear anything about the writing or the drawing; I heard about it days later from people who said they had heard it discussed by a priest.»

    The last question of the Commission was this:
«Could the possibility of fraud be considered?»

    The Dominican father answered simply:
«I think that's not impossible.»

    But we can well think that the Commission, with all these questions, had determined not just the simple possibility, but the actual probability that the alleged motions of Conchita had been designed to stage the miracle with the aid of her uncle and cousin. Taking advantage of some of her comings and goings, the girl had secretly put what she had prepared in her mouth, and thereupon the ecstasy began . . .

    What is it that they could have prepared? A question from the Commission puts it down specifically:

    «The "host," could it have been a piece from, a game of Bristol, a wafer made from flour, a pharmaceutical product?»

    Fr. Etelvino answered:
«I've never seen a Bristol piece so thick, but it well could have resembled a wafer made of flour»

*    *    *
    So many and such labored allegations can be easily torn down, since it was shown that at the moment of the Communion, when the girl opened her mouth and held out her tongue, the tongue appeared completely bare, and then . . .

    Several premier witnesses say something overwhelming in this regard; but the Commission has never called them to testify or given any credence to their testimony.

    The stonemason of the village, José Diez Contero familiarly called Pepe Diez, enjoyed a privileged position for minutely following the Communion, since he was at Conchita's one side, holding her arm and protecting her, while her brother Miguel was on her other side. And Pepe Diez never tires of explaining — with remarkable forcefulness — how he illuminated the girl's mouth with his flashlight very carefully during the time before and after she opened it:

    «When I saw that she held out her tongue, and that there was nothing at all on it, I had, I think, the worst moment in my life. Oh heavens! — I said to myself— This is terrible. Nothing is seen here! And on saying this, I lit up the whole interior of her mouth with my flashlight. Suddenly without the girl moving her tongue in the least — in a most unexplain-able way — there appeared on top of it, as if suddenly coming forth, a white, round thing, which seemed to grow ... I don't know how long it lasted; perhaps two or three minutes.»

    Conchita's brother Miguel, who was on the other side of the girl, was able to make the same meticulous observations that Pepe Diez made. Serafin, her older brother, could not come to Garabandal on July 18th, but he returned a few days later. Miguel went to greet him, and as soon as the two brothers met, the question came up:

What happened with the miracle of the Host?
— I swear it's true. I saw it. I saw perfectly how she held out her tongue, bare without anything on it, and without putting it inside, a white Host suddenly came forth.

<>— Are you really sure?
— Completely. I swear it was so.

Well, it's enough for me that you say it,

    A long time later, during one of Fr. Laffineur's stays [This Belgian priest who lived in France is already well known to the reader; he died on November 28th, 1970.] in Garabandal, he and Serafin were speaking about the miracle of the Host, and of its closest witnesses . . .

FATHER LAFFINEUR — For me, the real witness is Pepe Diéz.

SERAFIN — I'm not going to argue about it; but for me, the real witness is Miguel, my brother. Perhaps you don't see it that way, since he's Conchita 's brother , . . But look. Out in the fields, in the places where we had to go to work, Miguel and I spoke about this miracle many times. He has always told me that he saw it perfectly; that the miracle was true. He held Conchita by one arm and Pepe Diez held the other when she fell on her knees for the Communion.

    The whole family's honor is at stake in regard to the truth of this happening. Miguel knows it, and considering his character, if he holds it with such firmness against the opinions of so many people, it's because he's very sure there was no fraud. [Father Laffineur's statement was given in a conference at Saragossa on December 8th, 1968.]

    In spite of this, neither Miguel nor Pepe Diez made a report to the bishop's Commission. Two other of the witnesses did not make a report either: a farmer from the neighboring country, Benjamin Gomez; and an industrial worker from a distant city, Alejandro Damians.

    The first of these, Benjamin Gómez, was not given to religious fervor as he admitted; [Benjamin Gómez has spoken many times with almost the same words about his extraordinary experience at Gara-bandal. Here we are following the report that was recorded on a tape recorder by a man in Santander.]

    «Prior to being in Garabandal, I was not what I am now. Let us not say that I didn't believe in God, since sometimes I thought about those things; but I put it aside, as if it had no importance. Was it my age? Was it my weak head? The fact is that now I feel differently. And this change began here. [The event of July 18th left a definite mark on Benjamin. His religious life prior to this could be well described by what he himself said: «I went 23 years without going to confession ... I didn't concern myself with God except to blaspheme Him ...»] In my opinion, things have happened here that are divine ----- that are not of this world.»
    Benjamin Gómez was a native of Liebana; but he had lived for years in Pesues, downstream from Puenta Nansa. News had soon come to him of the unusual things that were happening in San Sebastian de Garabandal. And one day he finally decided to go up to the place. At the beginning, he did not attract attention by doing this — there were so many who were going there! But it did not take long until the townspeople began to talk about his devotion and started making jokes about him, and at times harassed him — even the pastor, who was opposed to Garabandal.

    Garabandal attracted Benjamin. But that did not change the deficiency in his practice of religion:

    «In spite of coming, I was still holding back, and missing Mass on Sunday didn't matter to me . . . until it came to July 18th.

    I remember' it well. After midnight, many people began to leave; I was glad they left, since it would be easier to see. It was well past one o'clock, and I was waiting near Conchita's house when the young girl came out. A little later she fell on her knees in ecstasy, and I was able to be very near to her, and to see everything at leisure.

    The young girl opened her mouth, but in no hurry. She was in no hurry for anything there. She opened her mouth, I say, and I set myself to watch with all my attention. I committed the rudeness of not allowing others to see. I recognized this, but I wanted to check everything well ... I looked into her open mouth again and again; and neither on the top of her mouth, nor beneath her tongue, nor in any part of her mouth could anything be seen. There was nothing there at all!

    The tongue was like this, without anything; and then the Host appeared suddenly, and was seen by everyone for some time, sufficient time so that all who were there could see, I saw it well.

    The color could not be compared with anything. It seemed most like snow when the sun rises and gives it splendor in the blinding light. But it was not quite that way; it was white, like I have never seen anything whiter ... I stayed still and continued to watch. Finally she closed her mouth and left the place still in ecstasy.

    I swear before God and all the saints that what I say is true.»

    We have what Alejandro Damians from Barcelona experienced and put down in writing. First of all he tells about thte unusual cicumstances on starting out on his journey, which only was decided on at the last hour on Monday, July 16th. Concerning these circumstances, Mr. Damians says there was . . .
    «... a detail which was destined to be of the greatest importance. Before leaving Barcelona, my cousin lent me a friend's movie camera, giving me brief instructions on how it should be operated, since my knowledge in these things was absolutely nil.

    I passed almost all of July 18th near to Conchita's house with my wife, a friend, several priests, and some other people.

    Two circumstances joined together to cause doubt as to whether or not the hoped-for prodigy would take place: the atmosphere of fiesta that reigned in the village and the presence of priests. (It was known that normally the Angel did not come to give Communion if there were priests in the village who could do it.)

    And so, between doubts, wishful thinking, boredom and hope, the long day went by. The discouragement and the lack of belief were general when we saw that, by the clock, July 18th had ended without anything happening. But toward 1:00 at night, after some had started to leave the village, there spread the news that, according to the solar time, the day would not end until 1:25 in the morning. [It seems that there has been excessive attention put on determining if the moment of the miracle fell or did not fall within the chronological limits of July 18th. Those who are in favor of the miracle have made some distinctions between official time and sun time. Those who are opposed, like the Commission, saw the hour as one more proof of deceit. In the questionnaire sent to Father Etelvino González, there was a double question: «What hour was it? Had July 18th already passed?» I would ask if it had not occurred to the Commission that this difficulty of the time, rather than being opposed, speaks in favor of the authenticity of the miracle. If the affair had been staged by the girl and her accomplices, they would have taken great care to keep within the limitations of the announcement so that no one could have anything to criticize, and the scene would have occurred definitely within the time predicted. The actual happening shows that neither the will of the girl, nor the impatience of those who surrounded her, had any effect.

    In this episode at Garabandal, similar to what has so often occurred in the Bible, things and sayings have to be understood according to common opinion. And in the understanding of people who do not live by a clock, the days are separated simply by the night; the day itself begins with getting up in the morning and lasts until going to bed again.]

    A little later they asked those of us who were in Conchita's house to leave, and I stayed at the door in company with a friend of the family to prevent the entrance of other people. From my place of watching I held in my view the kitchen and the stairway that led to the upper floor, where Conchita was.

    There the ecstasy took place; but we didn't learn about it until we saw her coming down the stairway with that classical attitude in which her features are softened and embellished in an extraordinary way.

    As she stepped out the door, the waiting crowd opened just enough space to permit her passage, and immediately closed in around her like an overflowing river. I saw people fall on the ground and get stepped on by the others. To my knowledge, no one was injured. But the sight of that fantastic multitude on the run, pushing one another, couldn't have been more terrifying. [In this near riot, the Commission wanted to find further proofs against Garabandal, as another question of their questionnaire shows: Was the climate of shoving, rushing, jostling, etc. proper for a Eucharistic event?
    Fr. Etelvino responded without much perspective: «No. It seems to me it would be rather improper for several reasons.»

    I would remind both him and the members of the Commission about what so often occurred around Jesus; for example, in the episode of the woman with the hemorrhage. (Luke 8: 33-45)  Certainly reverence and proper decorum are required for a proper relationship with God; but this is not easy to be maintained when strong feelings pull on people. Fortunately God is more understanding than men.]

    I also had intended to follow Conchita; but five or six meters of heads were between the two of us. From time to time I distinguished her by the light from the flashlights, but without good visibility. She had barely gone outside when she turned to the left. Then she swerved to the left again. And right there in the center of the street, which is rather wide, she fell suddenly on her knees.

    Her fall was so unexpected that the thrust of the crowd, by the force of inertia, pushed the people several meters beyond her. Thus, unexpectedly, I saw myself suddenly to the right and less than half a meter from her face. I firmly withstood the shoving of those coming from behind, and I succeeded in not being displaced from the privileged place in which I had fallen.

    There was a relative calm. I should point out that, slightly before the middle of the night, the clouds previously covering the sky dissipated. And a multitude of stars began to shine around the moon. By their light and the numerous flashlights that lit up the street, I could clearly see Conchita with her mouth open and tongue extended, in the normal position for receiving Communion. She was more beautiful than ever! Her expression, her gestures, far from provoking laughter or being ridiculous, were of impressive and moving mysticism.

    Soon, without being able to say how, without Conchita having changed her position or expression in the least, the Sacred Host appeared on her tongue.

<>    It is impossible to describe the sensation that I felt at that moment! And that I still feel today on remembering it. It was something that engorged the heart in the chest, overflowing it with sweetness, and that made the eyes water with an almost uncontainable need to cry. [I recently heard the impression of another qualified witness: Pepe Diez.
    He told me that what he has always described about the miracle of the host is the actual thing that he personally observed very close up ... But he also said that whenever he described it, it seemed that what he said did not actually correspond to the reality, since everything that he could say did not come close to what there was; it was only a pale reflection. He could find no words to express what he had experienced. While observing the thing on that night, he was neither nervous nor excited, but in control of himself and engaged only in observing with the greatest attention. It was only when it was all over that he feh a tremendous sensation: the thrill of experiencing something that could not be repeated in his lifetime.]

    Later they told me that Conchita had been immobile some two minutes, with the Sacred Host on her tongue, until she swallowed it normally. And then she kissed the crucifix that she carried in her hand.

    I was unaware of the time that passed by. I only remember, as if in a dream, the voices that were shouting for me to stoop down. And I also remember feeling a hard whack on my head.

    Then I remembered that I was carrying the motion picture camera around my neck. And without paying attention to the complaints, I remained standing, focused the camera, pressed the trigger, and filmed the last moments of Conchita's Communion. I had never before taken a picture; I barely remembered my cousin's instructions. It seemed doubtful that anything would result from this. And furthermore, there was — I noticed this later — the fact that the visibility was totally inadequate, since I had to operate by light from flashlights.

    When the roll came back from being developed, I found myself with almost a new miracle: on the film appeared 79 photographs filming the scene. The shoving of the people surrounding me had caused me to be unsuccessful in centering the picture well on many of the frames; but several had taken the picture with complete accuracy. [Some of these pictures are well known since they have appeared in various publications about Garabandal.]

    I don't know what most people think of all these things, nor the decision that the Church will adopt. The only thing of which I can be sure — and I hold this without any kind of doubt — is that on July 18th, 1962, in San Sebastian de Garabandal, two miracles occurred. The first, Conchita's Communion, displayed a supernatural character of enormous proportions; the second, very small, showed proof of the infinite condescension of the Virgin toward me, because only through her condescension was I able to be present so close to the prodigy and have it clearly impressed on my film.»

NEXT Chapter ... 3-01g) God is Here!

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