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
News of Garabandal being the site of amazing phenomena was spreading throughout the world, and new visitors were coming ceaselessly to the secluded little town.
Everyone wanted to know what had happened first hand, through the visionaries themselves. The girls could not always acquiesce to the people's wishes; either because the flood of inquisitive people was at tunes overwelming, or because the girls had duties which they could not neglect, or because their parents placed obstacles in the way of the persons who came.
But usually the visionaries tried to please everyone. Obviously they could not put down what they knew in writing for all. However there was an exception in the case of William A. Nolan, an American from Illinois.
This man made his appearance at Garabandal in March, 1965, and wanted to learn from Conchita everything that had happened. He was not able to converse with her in words, since neither did he know Spanish, nor she, English. At the time the young girl agreed to write to him, something that was hard for her. In order that it would not serve as a precedent, she put as a postscript:
«I'm doing this for this man, as we don't understand each other, and he wants to be informed. I'm doing this for him, but I can't do it for everyone. And he, with an interpreter ...»
«On an evening in June of 1961, at San Sebastian de Garabandal, the Archangel St. Michael appeared to four girls, of whom I am one . . . The first time that we saw him, he didn't say anything — until the 1st of July. Before the 1st of July, he carried an inscription underneath his feet, and we didn't understand well what it said ...»
«The Virgin came on July 2nd and she appeared very beautiful to us, with the Child Jesus in her arms and two angels dressed alike, one on each side. The first thing that she said to us was, Do you know the meaning of the inscription that the Angel carries? And we said no.
It is a message that you have to tell the world on October 18th of this year, 1961. It is the following . . . Besides the message, the Virgin told us many more things; she also told us that there would be many contradictions among us ... She continued appearing to us like this until 1963, and she told us many very beautiful things, which it would require many days to write all down.
In the past two years we haven't had apparitions; but the Most Holy Virgin has spoken to us interiorly, without words, and we understand her very well. These are called locutions. I like very much to see the Virgin; but I like even more for her to speak to me interiorly, because she seems to be inside me.
The Virgin has also predicted thru my intercession (thru me), a great miracle for the whole world; it is more important than any other, as the world needs now. For the world now there is the message ----- for the people to fulfill it, and make others fulfill it ...»
Three days later, Loli took an interest in the same man, writing this letter:
«For my good believer in Christ, William A. Nolan,
I thank you very much for your trip to Spain, and for your visit to this village, lost in the mountains, where Our Most Holy Mother has shown herself one more time to demonstrate the love that she feels toward the whole world. As a mother she pardons us everything, if we ask her with faith. Show this letter in your town.
I also tell you this, that in
order to avoid the Chastisement, we have to make many sacrifices and penances,
to pray the family rosary every day; this is what Our Most Holy Mother
requests of us. Also, that we should love one another, as Our Lord loves
us. We have to love; the whites must love the blacks; and the blacks, the
whites, since we are all brothers ...»
''We have to make many sacrifices and penances."
Not a bad letter! Brief and simple, but with material for extended meditation.
These two writings carry a breath of the Divine that acted in Garabandal; but there is also much of the human acting there, even the too human . . .
We know from Placido Ruiloba, that toward May llth of that year 1965, uncharitable comments and rumors concerning the bishop were being noised throughout Santander: [Eugenio Beitia Aldazábal had come to Santander as the bishop of the diocese in 1962; because of his age, education and deportment, a fruitful episcopate was expected. Unexpectedly in 1962 he presented his resignation, which the Holy See accepted. His state of health was given as the official reason for the resignation. Bishop Beitia retired to Bilbao, his native land, and there continued working, especially in collaboration with the press.] that he was being obliged by his superiors to resign . . . that he was thinking of going to North America . . . that at the time it was said that Pajares and Tobalina [For many years Fr. Francisco Pajares and Fr. Agustin Tobalina governed the diocese of Santander: the first from his position as chancery secretary, and the second as vicar general.] were waiting to be rid of him, in order to finish once and for all with the bothersome matter of Garabandal . . .
The atmosphere that had descended on the mountain village was lamentable; it was described by the French witnesses in L'Etoile dans la Montagne: «Dissensions, arguments, criticism, distrust, indiscretions, and insults concerning the Celestial Visitor . . . The more or less disguised waiting for the famous rendezvous . . . It will be seen what will happen — since for the past two years nothing has been seen.»
«Plácido went up to Garabandal, and Maximina relayed the conversation that she had with Conchita in which she had been told that a sign (the Warning) would come before the miracle.»
Ceferino, the father of Loli
Conchita, on the other hand, showed herself more certain than ever. On May 23rd, the Sunday before the Ascension, Mr. Ruiloba once again was walking through Garabandal. He met Fr. Valentin, who was very worried about some plans attributed to Pajares and Tobalina, and from the priest he learned that Conchita was continuing to repeat that the Angel would definitely return on the date announced: June 18th.
— But are you really sure ? — the pastor had said to her — That it is not a lie or something that you imagined?
— Do you think that the Virgin would lie?
— No. Of course not.
— Well, the Virgin told it to me.
Mr. Ruiloba was constantly wavering between belief and disbelief. Every street, almost every corner of the village, had to bring back memories to him of things experienced very personally; [This same Placido mentioned one day to Doctor Ortiz that at the beginning of the apparitions, after an ecstasy, one of the girls spoke of the state of his conscience as though she were reading it. And his wife, Lucita, added that from that time on her husband had changed very much.] nevertheless, the man could not overcome his vacillation. And on the night of May 25th, Tuesday, being with Ceferino in the latter's house, he began again to bring out the negative things that he thought he had seen in the apparitions and in the girls. Ceferino, who in this matter was never far behind, broadly seconded him. And the two were talking in such a way that there came a time when Julia [Ceferino's wife and Loli's mother.] could not endure it any more and interrupted the conversation to remind them of some things of a very different character which neither of the two could deny. Her husband had no other solution than to assent, and even on his own part added some marvelous signs that he himself had received; but as if he were ashamed of them, he made Plácido swear never to tell them to anyone.
As with so many others in the village, it seemed that Ceferino took a strange pleasure in destroying hopes. On June 6th, Pentecost Sunday, when again Ruiloba and his wife came to his house, Ceferino received them with these words. My friend Plácido, everything is finished. This is nothing but a farce . . . And what Conchita is going around predicting . . . pure lies. I have already pointed it out, as I have always done. I went once again to talk about it to the bishop . . . If the people come here on June 18th, let them. I am going to play billiards.
His daughter Loli, who was present there, joined in the conversation, with words and attitudes that were almost as ridiculous as those of her father. [Ceferino's doubts, or his changing from belief to disbelief in what had happened, remained to the end. But finally in his last days he seemed to receive a clear light, which must have comforted him in passing away.
And up in those remote mountains, that is the way things were going during the last weeks before the great date.
Conchita had remained alone as the center of everything. And as a result, she was the occasion and cause of the jealousies that surfaced in some, of the distrust that tormented others, and of the expectation of many others.
And Conchita, on June 13th — the Sunday before the date so awaited and feared — caught cold . . . Right at the wrong time. She awoke on June 14th with a bad case of flu that elevated her temperature to 39 degrees (C). For three days she was confined to bed with chills and fever.
June 17th, Thursday, was the great feast of Corpus Christi, and Garabandal, like so many other ancient towns in Spain, put its best piety and enthusiasm into celebrating the feast. [They thoroughly swept, cleaned and decorated the streets for the procession of the Blessed Sacrament that would be carried through them. The people of the village assisted en masse at this procession, the roost solemn of the year; those who were not able to participate in it knelt at their doors, windows and balconies for the passage of the Lord.] But Conchita could not follow the celebration more than from afar, from her bed of sickness. As the procession passed around her house, she could hear clearly the songs of the crowd accompanying Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament, Most High Lord. . . Let us sing to the greatest of all loves . . . God is here, let us adore Him . . , Heaven and earth, bless the Lord . . .
In the street next to the house, her mother Aniceta had constructed a small arch of triumph made from branches and adorned with flowers; she had also draped a banner on it with the colors of the national flag and an inscription that read, Long Live Christ the King! What more could the simple woman do? It was a deeply felt homage that she offered to Our Lord in her own name and that of her children, especially for the daughter who could only accompany the procession in spirit.
The sudden illness of Conchita was the object of the most varied comments. A good way of preparing an "out" if on Friday nothing happens! said some. The things of God in this world never come without some tribulation, said others. Those who still hoped could do no more than ask with a greater or lesser degree of concern, Will she be on her feet for the call of the Angel?
The situation did not look good, since, although the illness had improved much during the day of Corpus Christi, the doctor had prescribed that she remain in bed, or at least not leave the house, for the next six days.