BOOK 3 Chapter 3b:
Expert Witnesses
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

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    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 30th, 1962.

    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 we can.»]

    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. [It 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 kill yourself.

— 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 of 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: «I 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 explanation.

"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 know.»

    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 these things.»
    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 together.

    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 of procedure.

    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 home.

    August 4th. At 9:30, after the rosary, the four girls went into ecstasy. They went toward the cuadro. Later 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. The 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.]

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    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.
NEXT Bk 3 Chapter 3:  The Unsearchable Ways of God