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
On December 28th, Maximina wrote to Eloisa de la Roza Velarde, the sister-in-law of Dr. Ortiz. Together with complaints about the absence of liturgical services for Christmas, [«On Christmas Day, we didn't have a midnight Mass or a dawn Mass; that is, we had none, either at night or during the day. So we didn't know it was Christmas. Fr. Valentin didn't come up because of foul weather.» But if the celebration of Mass was missing on Christmas Day for the townspeople of Garabandal, the special favor of God was not missing, and it came through the seers.
«The apparitions continue as usual; but we haven't learned more about the miracle.» (She mentions the sentiments of two people from Asturias who were staying in her house because of a sign that they received, and then she continues.) «This caused no effect on those who are here since we have done all this. We hope to see something greater and I don't know when we'll see it, since it seems that the girls don't say anything about the miracle. It seems, according to what we have heard, that Loli and Jacin-ta's miracle is going to be this year. But it remains to be seen if it will be this year. The main thing is that it will be! Since we are afraid that it will not be. Conchita says that hers won't be delayed ...»
From these lines and from other
references of this period, it can be clearly seen that at the end of 1962
rumors were circulating of two predicted miracles. One miracle was being
forecast by Conchita in her statements; another, by Loli and Jacinta in
their remarks, foretelling a different miracle. [It is certain
that in the last months of 1962 the people were waiting for two miracles
that had been predicted separately: one — more immediate — that of Loli
and Jacinta; the other, that of Conchita.
Jacinta and Loli spoke definitely of their miracle; but there are reasons to question whether it had initially been their idea.
I finally was able to speak with Jacinta in Santander on November 10th, 1973. I questioned her on the matter, and from her words, these things were brought out clearly:
1 } The Virgin had never clearly promised her a miracle. Whenever she had petitioned the Virgin «so that the people would believe », as an answer she had only obtained silence and a vague « They will believe. They will believe. »
2) That it was Conchita who put in her mind and Loli's the idea of an imminent miracle in which the two of them would take part. And in this sense and because of Conchita's words they spoke of their miracle.
It is hard to explain what Conchita sought in staging this.]
It appears that Loli and Jacinta were talking about their miracle as if it were to be very near; and the people, either because they heard this, or because they misunderstood, were convinced that the miracle would happen before the year ended. [From October to December, Maximina's frequent letters to the Pifarré family touch time and again on the subject of « Jacinta and Loli s miracle » ... It was presented as being so imminent — from what the girls said — that Maximina repeatedly expressed her fear that she would not be able to warn them in time to make the trip from Barcelona to Garabandal. (At the time there was no telephone in the village that she could use. ) At times she even held back mailing the letters she had written during those days, thinking the girls might tell her the date at any moment . . .]
But the year did end and what was hoped for did not materialize. Oppressive dejection and bitter disenchantment began to descend on the parents, the townspeople, and the pilgrims. Not only because the miracle had not been performed on the date that they expected, but also because of the fear that it would never be performed. «The main thing is that it will be!» — we have heard Max-imina say — «Since we fear that it will not be.»
And this was the beginning of the great crisis of the winter of 1963.
I have tried to bring it clearly into the open; but this has not been possible for two reasons:<>1) Because of the lack of sufficient testimonies and written reports.
In February of 1963, Fr. Luis López Retenaga made another visit to Garabandal lasting three days, from the 22nd to the 24th. Afterwards he dictated a report for the prevailing bishop of Santander, Bishop Beitia Aldazábal (the visit to the site of the apparitions had been made with the bishop's express authorization), and in that report we find some very valuable information:
«This is the fourth time that I have visited the mountain village . . . During my previous visit, in the final months of the past year, I heard of rumors that were circulating with regard to the realization, rather imminent, of a miracle predicted by Loli and Jacinta.
It was not possible in those circumstances to check personally on the accuracy of such predictions. But I know that at the beginning of the month of January of the present year, seeing that the hoped-for miracle predicted by the two girls was not crystallizing into reality, the hopes of many people were seen to fall. Not only the families but also the majority of the villagers felt themselves cheated and humiliated.
Subject to the rough manners and the extreme attitudes that are characteristic of the masses, the people changed the admiration that they felt for the girls into an attitude of rejection and distrust, converting them into a continuous object of their complaints. Such an attitude was directed principally against Conchita, who always has been considered as the most responsible, or culpable of the four . . .»
These lines help us to understand the feeling in the village at the beginning of 1963; but we would also like to know how such a situation came about. And this is what Fr. López Retenaga says:
«Conchita mentioned to me that on returning one day from Cabezón de la Sal, Loli and Jacinta were speaking of a miracle that had occurred to them and which consisted in burying a statue of the Virgin in order to tell the people later when they were in ecstasy, Dig here and you will find a Virgin.
Conchita took it for a joke, and continuing in the same line of jesting, [Conchita has always shown a good sense of humor.] she spoke of some magic powders that had the power to suspend whoever took them up in the air ... The three girls then tried the marvelous powders, which were nothing more than dentifrice. [What Fr. Retenaga says here is confirmed by some lines from Conchita's letter to the daughter of Eloisa de la Roza, on February 18th: «You know what has happened . . . Well there's trouble here now. Some of those who believed in the apparitions now believe nothing, due to the problems there have been lately. And furthermore, do you know the cause of this mess? Because of some toothpowder that I gave Loli and Jacinta, telling them it would raise them up in the air . . .»] Only Loli, perhaps because of the mixture of the marvelous and ingenuousness in which she had been involved for the preceding year and a half, seemed to take the thing seriously, and tried the powders with the hope of seeing herself suspended in the air.
Conchita assured me that her involvement in this incident was no more than this: a practical joke.» [Fr. Retenaga records Conchita's version like this, giving her a better appearance than her companions. But I was finally able to record Jacinta 'a version, and according to it the affair was somewhat different. She told me that Conchita was the real inventor of the plan to bury a statue, etc., in the accomplishment of which she wanted to drag in the other two, remaining herself very clearly on the sidelines. And if Loli and Jacinta did not carry through with the plan, it was due to fear of the possible presence or intervention of the devil. And with regard to the powders, I am afraid that this was not such an innocent joke as Conchita wanted Fr. Retenaga to believe . . . Anyhow the other two took it so seriously that Loli got sick to her stomach due to the repeated doses that she ingested with the hope of rising up into the air.]
But the joke, as has been pointed out, brought many disagreeable consequences.
It is difficult to understand the whole affair with proper perspective. But if we can accept the matter of the dental powders as Conchita's practical joke (to which the other girls did not catch on), we cannot be so indulgent before the matter of burying the statue . . .
How could these girls calmly think up such a deceitful scheme?
Objectively: They had to recognize their actions were not upright and honest, if not absolutely reproachable.
Subjectively: What degree of culpability did they have?
It is impossible for me to say, because of insufficient information for judgment.
But I am inclined to think that, at least on the part of Loli and Jacinta, it was another display of the regrettable and almost unconscious frivolousness that they had shown in the previous year with their faked ecstasies.
Fr. Luis López Retenaga seems to think the same way in his report: «I have to point out, that whoever judges the psychology of the girls, basing it on the maturity of judgment and reflection proper to an adult, well-educated person, will encounter many problems. I have already noted in my first report, as a general appraisal, the noticeable psychological backwardness of the girls as compared to girls of the same age from our industrial towns and cities. Together with their candid and ingenuous psychology, the girls have for a year and a half been presenting to the Vision things varying from the most puerile pranks to the most serious and urgent problems brought by the spectators. The spectators were seeking more to find the marvelous and striking than to adhere to the demands of the message proclaimed by the girls . . . And I think that in the mixture of these two psychological worlds, that of the girls and that of the crowds, is the explanation as to how there could come about things ranging from jokes up to the expectation of a great miracle.»
Together with the constant pressure made by the crowds on the subconscious state of the girls — habituated to experiencing the supernatural as something of everyday life — there were also other pressures that disturbed the pure flow of the events at Garabandal.
Fr. Retenaga adds something further here: «A certain long standing antagonism between the families of the girls. »
This was the situation. Conchita was coming, little by little, but progressively more each day, into the forefront of attention. Perhaps the families and the friends of the other girls — because of village envies which we know about — were annoyed in a thousand ways, bringing them unconsciously to a certain desire not to be less: If Conchita had her miracle, why should not they likewise have theirs?
To this should be added, it seems to me, the urge to find an end or conclusion to all this. The families had to feel rather tired of the unending series of phenomena that had already lost much of their first excitement, but which were continuing to be a constant reason for preoccupation during the day and for loss of sleep at night. How and when was this going to end? For it seemed to be coming to the time when it was going to end. And that it should terminate in something that was worth the trouble.
«To those who are here» — remarked Maximina in her letter — «this doesn't make any impression, since we have done all this. We hope to see something greater ...»
Perhaps at the time, the children thought to confront the situation by the announcement of a miracle. Since the Virgin had given them to understand with her repeated, «They will believe, they will believe, » that something marvelous was going to occur, why not speak about it with her (and even put pressure on her) by predicting a prodigy which could not wait? [It appears that talk about the proximate miracle began during the second half of October, since on October 25th, Maximina wrote to Dr. Ortiz' sister-in-law: «It is seen that there is going to be a miracle: that of Loli and Jacinta. They already know the date, but have not told us yet. It's going to be very soon, and I believe it's going to be that they will be raised up in the air ... Conchita's is going to be — if it is true what they say — something very great. Everyone in the village will see it. Conchita's miracle may take place in the sky.»]
I do not seek to justify the girls, but only to clarify the circumstances that could have lessened, perhaps substantially, their responsibility in a procedure that merits being condemned.
Well then, if what they sought was to force an outcome, they obtained it. However the outcome that came was certainly very different from what they would have imagined.