with kind permission from St. Joseph Publications
from the book She Went in Haste to the Mountain
NOTE: All excerpts from Conchita's
be in extra-bold type
* * *
Three days later, on Sunday, July
28th, there came to Garabandal for the first time, an illustrious priest
from Madrid: Father Enrique Valcarce Alfayate. [A cardinal
for many years in the diocese of Madrid with important functions and duties
there, this priest came from the area of Leon in Bierzo, where his brother
was a parish priest.] He made a digest of his observations in a
report that he wrote later in Comillas and that bears the date of July
In it he describes a most remarkable
experience: his own participation in one of the girls' ecstatic marches:
«After the rosary, I
remained praying for a while in the church. Suddenly Dr. Ortiz came in
and told me to go outside if I wanted to see the girls in ecstasy. I went
out immediately. They were walking with the people behind them. I pushed
my way through and managed to join Mari Loli and Conchita, who were walking
together, holding arms. Later I was told that the other two, Jacinta and
Mari Cruz, were going in the same way with another group of people down
a different street. [On August 2nd, Maximina wrote a
letter to the Pifarre family: «Saturday (July 22) was extremely
moving. There were many people and the four girls had an apparition. They
went separated in pairs. As there were so many people, it was better that
way: some in one direction and others in another. The four girls sang the
rosary together — in different places. While we were with Loli and Conchita
at the Pines, the singing of the people going with the other two girls
through the village could be heard perfectly. All were singing at the same
rime up above and down below. Look, it made a marvelous sensation. It seemed
that I saw Dr. Ortiz singing with all his might. Good, we all sing whatever
The phenomena as a whole were
for me something tremendous and amazing. The fast walk over really rough
terrain, almost inaccessible, strewn with the worst obstacles . . . running
at times at incredible speeds, both forwards and backwards, as if the girls
had wings on their feet . . . with their heads tilted sharply backwards,
with their eyes unblinking and fixed constantly on the alleged vision ...
"tremendous and amazing"
The trip was made while singing
the holy rosary (the girls leading and the people in the village following)
except for the Our Fathers and certain ejaculations which the girls said
with great devotion, very slowly and with deep feeling. Furthermore their
singing was beautifully intoned, with dulcet voices and excellent harmony.
The walk lasted from about 10:15
at night until after 11:30. During almost all this time, I was able to
go with them, hanging on either to Loli's or Conchita's arm. By holding
on this way, I was able to follow them in spite of many obstacles, running
swiftly and with a strange sensation of security. The falls and stumbles
that I made at times always happened to me when I let go of the girls.
should be pointed out that Father Enrique Valcarce was advanced in both
years and kilograms and was not exactly in shape for an obstacle course.
Only when he was hanging onto the girls did he feel extremely light.
— Heavens, Reverend Father —
someone said — be careful on these streets at such speed, or you'll
— Don't worry — he answered
— I feel as though I have lost 40 years.]
The end of it all took place
at the church doors, which were locked. First of all Loli raised Conchita
in her arms, higher than Loli herself, and then Conchita did the same with
Mari Loli. After kneeling down and suddenly recovering their normal state,
they looked around with a smile, which later they shared with all of us.»
To these experiences on Saturday,
Fr, Enrique added those of the following Sunday, July 29th, which he also
spent in Garabandal. On Father Valentin's request he celebrated Mass in
the village at 9:00 in the morning.
And the personal impression
his experiences he wrote down in a report at Comillas: «The rivalry
displayed against Conchita by the other three didn't make a good impression
on me. [Father Enrique put down in his report:
had the good luck that the first persons whom I met were the alleged visionaries.
I had just heard that on that day, Saturday, July 28th, Mari Loli had received
Communion from the hands of an angel, and only she. Meeting then with Conchita,
I immediately told her that I had learned that Mari Loli had received Communion.
Right away she answered me with a certain air of reproach: I myself
receive many more times than anyone else; I — almost every day;
they — very few times.»
If the report of
Father Enrique reproduces faithfully the words and tone of Conchita,
it should be recognized that the girl was still far from perfection, like
Jesus' disciples who, even at the time of the Last Supper, were disputing
among themselves which of them was the
greatest. (Luke 22:24)] Nor the prefixing of the time
for the ecstasy; nor the fact of the walks, seemingly senseless [At
the time of making his report, it seemed this way to Father Enriqiie; but
it should be pointed out that he had different feelings when he was taking
part in these things.] around the church, to the Pines from the
church, and from the church to the Pines or the cemetery, through the streets
of the village, time and time again. [It is easy to answer
these and the other difficulties of Father Enrique, understandable in someone
with only brief experience with Garabandal. Those who have attentively
followed it from the beginning can certainly see clearer in the matters
that were obscure to him.]
PHOTO: "The facts do not have a natural explanation."
Nevertheless, taken as a whole,
everything that I have tried to describe was truly exceptional and amazing.
It is certain that it is not a product of disease, either psychiatric or
organic. It seems to me, therefore, that the facts do not have a natural
"expression of great beauty"
The girls show an expression
of great beauty when they are in ecstasy, an expression frequently angelic
(for example, with Mari Loli). But in the normal state, they are quite
withdrawn, and very taciturn.
The remarks that I have just
made should not be taken out of proportion. The very matter of the rivalry
that I thought was found between Conchita and the other girls is a good
proof that this is not an act concocted by the four girls together. What
leaves me the most confused is the matter of the senseless walks, which
seem to be without basis.
But I recognize that I lack
material for judgment so as to take a definitive position. I would have
to go many times to the village and observe everything more minutely.
Therefore, if no medical explanation
can be found for these phenomena, I consequently reject the explanation
saying it was an act concocted either by the girls themselves, or by third
parties. But I don't go so far as to say it is a supernatural phenomena
due to Our Lady.
Then, what is it? I don't
If the illustrious priest from
Madrid left Garabandal without knowing the cause of it, or without venturing
to express his opinion, it was not the same with two visitors who arrived
in the village at the very time he was leaving. Their names should be mentioned,
since they comprise part of this enigmatic story. They were Dr. Ricardo
Puncernau, a distinguished neurologist from Barcelona, and Fr. Luis López
Retenaga, a professor of theology in the diocesan seminary at San Sebastián.
I cannot give the exact dates
of their arrivals; but certainly they were in Garabandal in the early days
of August, 1962; and for the neurologist, it was not the first visit, although
perhaps it was the first for the priest.
The attorney Luis Navas left Garabandal
on July 23rd and was not planing to return until Saturday, August llth,
to be there for the feast of the Assumption. But he returned a week earlier
as he explained:
«I was with my in-laws
in Santander. I aroused their curiosity first, and then their interest
in Garabandal, in such a way that we agreed to return there on Saturday,
August 4th. On that day, after having enjoyed a beautiful and sunny morning
at the beach, we ate and set out for San Sebastian de Garabandal.
I was very happy to renew
friendships there that had been formed during the apparitions. Dr. Puncernau
was there, having come from Barcelona, this time with his wife and oldest
son. I single him out from the rest because of his position as the neurologist
who prepared a complete report for the pastor about the visionaries' irrefutable
normalness before and after their ecstasies. Also I met many priests and
religious there, among whom was one from the province of San Sebastian
who had the intention of informing the bishop of his diocese about all
This priest from the Basque province
of San Sebastian undoubtedly was Fr. Luis Lopez Retenaga, although Mr.
Navas does not mention his name. [ I do not want to pass
over the appearance of Fr. Luis Retenaga in Garabandal since he was to
assume an important role in the observation and judgment of these phenomena.
Perhaps it could be said that he was for the events of 1962 what Fr. Ramon
Maria Andreu was for those of 1961. He was soon able to capture the confidence
of the seers and their families, which assured him a privileged place for
following the events near at hand.
As a result of
his observations and reflections, he composed a long three part report
addressed to Eugenio Beitia Aldazábal, the bishop of Santander at
the time. The first part was completed in San Sebastián on December
18th, 1962; the second, in the same city on April 6th, 1963; and the third
on September 9th of the same year. We will refer several times to this
report in what is still left of our story.]
«As on other occasions,
the people had hardly gone outside after the rosary on that Saturday, Our
Lady's day, when Conchita and Maria Dolores were in ecstasy at the very
door of the church. I was very happy about this since I hadn't seen them
together in ecstasy since that famous October 18th of the previous year,
the day of the message; although on that occasion, the four girls had been
They went out holding hands,
as if Man Loli were letting herself be docilely led by her older sister,
obeying the suggestions of the Vision.»
What the attorney goes on to
narrate coincides with what Fr. Enrique Valcarce wrote in his report about
the happenings of the previous Saturday. From this we can see that within
the almost continual variations of the phenomena, there was a certain uniformity
From the pastor Fr. Valentin
we have some brief notes that complement those of Luis Navas and Maximina
González, helping us to better re-create in our minds the atmosphere
at Garabandal during the early days of August, 1962:
«August 3rd. At 4:00
in the morning, Loli went into ecstasy in her home. There were many people
from Barcelona, Madrid, Santander . . . a diocesan priest, a Claretian
Father and a Jesuit. She gave the articles to be kissed to the Vision,
and afterwards she returned them to their owners. She didn't leave her
August 4th. At 9:30, after
the rosary, the four girls went into ecstasy. They went toward the cuadro.
they went to the Pines praying the rosary. During the Hail Mary, they said,
Hail Mary, Mother of God and Our Mother: [Fr.
Valentin was struck by the addition of our Mother to the recitation
of the Hail Mary. And he was not the only one-----Luis Navas, the lawyer
from Palencia, who was present that day, wrote: «We had
never heard them say it this way, Mother of God and our Mother.
village priest took note of this very interesting detail that so much reflects
the maternal character of the Virgin. The visionaries' way of speaking,
with their even-pitched, soft, delicate, melodious voices filled our souls
with tranquility, as though we were feeling Our Lady above our heads.»
We can understand Mr, Navas' sentiments. But if the new form of the Hail
Mary was a novelty to him, certainly it was not to Fr. Valentin, unless
it was due to the tone and the persistence of the girls, since Mother
of God and our Mother was heard for the first time in Garabandal on
August 1st of the previous year, as has been mentioned.]
"Hail Mary, Mother of God and Our Mother."
They descended backwards toward
the church; they walked around it. It lasted about an hour. There were
two professors from San Sebastian, a Claretian priest, a Jesuit — Father
Alba, from Barcelona — and Father Jose Ramon.» [We
already know one of these two professors at San Sebastian: Fr. Jose Ramon,
the pastor of Barro. As for the Jesuit from Barcelona, Fr. Alba, it could
be said that he was a distinguished apostle, deeply appreciated in religious
and spiritual circles in the city of Ciudad Condal. Who then was the Claretian
father that Fr. Valentin mentions? Certainly it was the missionary father
spoken of in Maximina's letter; in another report the name of Fr. Ellacuria
has been seen. As can be seen, a fine contingent of visiting priests.]
* * *
And so at the beginning of the
second August of apparitions in Garabandal we see that the phenomena continued
without eclipse. And the questions continued.... without answers. The
inquisitive came and went, but also those who seriously sought to understand
the reasons and the explanations for all these things.
The memory of July 18th lingered
on, the day of the Miracle of the Host.
Now we see better that the unequivocally
predicted miracle or milagruco
came mainly to call attention to
the most important treasure that we have in our Christian and ecclesiastical
heritage: the actual presence of the God-man among us as our daily nourishment.
However, as so often occurs in
the affairs of God, this served also as a test, as the means
for the fall and for the rise of many. (Luke
2:34) Some believed more than ever; others doubted more than ever.
Some became fervent; some lost interest; and some took on a spirit most
opposed to the Eucharist: that of discord, hostility, jealousy.
* * *
The hidden mystery, in spite
of everything, continued onward. The expectation of its final outcome did
not die with the defections in the ranks of the first followers; soon new
disciples came forth from those called at the last hour.