The Gathering Crowd
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
* * *
Throughout June 17th, pilgrims
Pilgrims waiting for the apparition.
The same was happening during Friday
the 18th, well into the evening. Persons from foreign countries were numerous.
The L'Etoile dans la Montagne mentions: «200 Frenchmen,
10 Americans, 6 Englishmen, 4 Italians, and an occasional representative
of the other countries of Europe and America.»
There must have been many priests,
but there were only a dozen visible in cassocks.
Vehicles with the most varied license
plates inundated the village and its surroundings. Attention was especially
drawn, and not only because of their size, to the vehicles of the technical
crews for Spanish NO-DO, " [NO-DO (Noticiario-Documental)
was the governmental agency of news pictures. Its importance has diminished
with the development of television. The presence of NO-DO at Garabandal
was due to the activities of a young woman from Segovia, Paloraa Fernández-Pacheco
de Larrauri, This woman, who already knew the village well, was there again
for June 18th with her sister Fuencisia.] and Television Italiana.
In the latter group, the famous actor Carlo Campanini was particularly
What was the attitude of the crowd?
Fr. Laffineur tells us in L'Etoile dans la Montagne as a witness
of the scene:
«In general, it was exemplary.
Pious, modest, penitent. Almost all those who composed it had received
Communion at one of the three Masses [Aniano Fontaneda
from Aguilar de Campoo wrote on June 26th to Fr. Ramón: «I
was at Garabandal on the 17th and 18th and I saw your friends and a great
number of acquaintances. You missed a great day since everything turned
out magnificently. Although Fr. Valentin told me that there would be no
Masses in the village unless the priests came with written permission to
celebrate Mass, we actually had several Masses, with more than 1,500 Communions.
I can say no more than that the Hosts were exhausted on two occasions.»]during
the morning ...
Occasionally there could be
found a face that was there only to spy on the events and activities, to
gather information to utilize in favor of a cause that he represented or
served . . . the emissaries from the Commission of San-tander, obviously;
members of some foreign agencies also, and even someone representing the
ridiculous ex-priest Collin.» [We have already
spoken about him during his visit to Garabandal on August 22nd, 1963.]
How did the crowd pass the interminable
hours of waiting? Certainly with less difficulties and hardships than the
congregation that waited on October 18th, 1961. This time there was not
such a great gathering and the weather was much better. But opportunities
were not lacking to exercise patience, and practice penance. Mr. Poch Soler,
the reporter sent by the Barcelonian weekly, Por que?, wrote an
interesting article: [This article was not published in the
weekly paper until April, 1966. Its introduction went like this: «In
writing about this, we have tried at all times to avoid the frivolousness
and journalistic lightness that at times we are accustomed to use for other
subjects of the street. We have limited ourselves to reporting the facts
as we have seen them, transcribing everything that we have heard and all
this with the greatest objectivity possible.»]
«From Cossio we made
the trip on foot, 7 kilometers, always heading upwards, arriving at Garabandal
after 2 in the morning of June 18th. Unplanned and spectacular! The monumental
task of sheltering hundreds of pilgrims in a small town of no more than
40 houses had already ceased when we arrived. The people were sleeping
in the doorways, in the stables, on the porches, in the kitchens, in the
middle of the streets ... In our nocturnal walk thru the uneven and rocky
streets, we had to step with the greatest attention, avoiding the many
people who were sleeping, stretched out on the ground, under the feeble
illumination of a dozen light-bulbs scattered throughout the village.
One of the two bars or taverns
in Garabandal remained open all night, although its small capacity could
barely shelter 12 or 15 people. There we settled ourselves down to write.
To our one side two English people were sleeping peacefully, slumped over
the table on their elbows. On the ground, two French priests were praying
the rosary in a hushed voice. Others were drinking beer and later went
outside to walk in the streets beneath the clear moon illuminating that
night in Garabandal.»
The French correspondent from Le
Monde et La Vie agreed with this, and said further that well
into the night, in scattered sectors of the village, there rose up prayers
and devout hymns in Spanish, Latin, and French . . .
As day dawned, the influx of people
increased, creating a boisterous commotion in the streets. The French reporter
«The morning passed rather
well. Everyone was using the time the best that he could. They were praying,
singing, taking photographs, speaking with the villagers, asking a multitude
of questions about the girls and their ecstasies.»
PHOTO: "They were praying."
Conchita's house naturally was
the principal magnet of attraction. Only she was going to be the protagonist
of what everyone was awaiting. Only she could name the time and the place.
The youthful 16 year old girl was slow in appearing to the crowd because
her mother rightly did not let her get up until well into the morning.
The reporters were the ones most importune in their desire to see her.
Poch Soler wrote in his article:
«Conchita inspired all
the press reporters with profound respect. My colleagues from Paris, Portugal,
Madrid, the crew from NO-DO were waiting impatiently, but without irritation,
for the time when they would be able to speak to her.
You have to have a little
patience, her mother told us. Understand that the girl is tired.
Yesterday she was still sick with a 40 degree temperature. She wants to
talk with everyone, embrace everyone. I am the one who doesn't want her
to go outside on the street.»
"She let herself be devoured by the crowd."
Finally the door opened inch by
inch, and in the doorway stood the young girl, pale, heavily bundled up,
but with her best smile for everyone. For hours . . .
«... she let herself be devoured by the
crowd. She smiled, she wrote cards, she allowed herself to be photographed,
she responded to the questions thrown at her, she promised to pray for
the most diverse intentions, she tried to console the most afflicted, she
embraced the children.» (L 'Etoile dans la Montague)
Mr. Poch Soler continued:
«At 2 o'clock in the
afternoon of June 18th, we managed to speak with Conchita. I confess that
this was the most moving moment of my career as a journalist. Never has
a person filled me with such respect and confidence at the same time .
The interview took place in
the kitchen of her home. Present were her mother and her two brothers,
two strong men of the north who protected the place. She held out her hand
and apologized for making me wait to get the interview.
— Are you happy? I asked.
— Very happy, Señor. I feel a great
— Because today I will see the Angel and that
— Have you noticed the number of people who have
come to Garabandal?
— I haven't stopped thinking of them!
— And how do you feel about this enormous crowd?
— My joy is difficult to put into words .
. How happy Our Lady will be!
* * * * *
— Are you sure you will see the Angel today?
— Very sure.
— At what time?
— I cannot say, since I don't
know. I don't know the hour, but I have a feeling that it will
be rather late.
* * * * *
— What do you feel when the Virgin appears to
— A strong constriction that comes up from
my chest to my throat . . . And then there is a marvelous light.
— What do you think the Angel will say?
— I surely don't know. Possibly there will
be a message. But I don't know; we will see.
"a marvelous light"
When I went out on the street,
the people closed in around me. Everyone wanted to know what Conchita had
told me. French, Americans, Portuguese, they all begged me to please give
them an answer. It was hard to convince them that it had been a normal
interview, that the visionary hadn't told me anything about the time or
the place of the ecstasy.
After 3 o'clock in the afternoon,
the concentration of pilgrims around Conchita's house was imposing . .
. The troops of the Civil Guard of the 242nd Command were in charge of
maintaining order, although it wasn't ever necessary for them to intervene
The French groups and the people
from the other nations gave a lesson in faith, devotion and seriousness,
that we would have appreciated in our own Spanish people. [L'Etoile
dans la Montagne states: « Toward nightfall gangs of Spanish
boys and girls appeared whose flippancy showed that the devil wanted to
be present at the spectacle too.»] At all times the
initiative for prayers and petitions arose from them . . .
The climate at times was almost
hysterical. Some physically covered Conchita with medals, scapulars and
holy cards, hoping that she would *> touch them and kiss them. Others made
their way toward her to ask for her autograph, to take her photograph.
A woman raised a paralytic son in her arms, imploring Conchita to kiss
Among the priests who had come
to Garabandal, certainly the one who aroused the most interest was Father
Pel . . .«the famous stigmatic, called
the French Padre Pio,
to the Italian Capuchin Padre Pio from Pietrelcina, famous the world over
for his extraordinary apostolate and mystical charisms. Fr. Constant Pel
(adjacent picture) died on March 5th, 1966, convinced about Garabandal.
(The reporter errs in calling him a stigmatic.)] known
through all of France for his sanctity and miraculous gifts. Even though
87 years of age, he was circulating around and talking with great agility.»
But the one who showed himself
the most active, and who seemed to have the best welcome in Conchita's
house, was the Spanish Fr. Luis Luna, who had come from Saragossa. He was
privileged to be near the visionary for many hours that day.
Continuing now with the article
of Poch Soler:
«The evening advanced,
without Conchita announcing the time of the apparition. It became darker.
But how sure it is that faith moves mountains! No one gave up or abandoned
his post . . , [Conchita stayed at the door of
her home, giving herself to the multitude . . . «until night fell,
and we didn't know if she had time to eat anything more than a crust of
bread. Shivering, she went back into the house; but in order not to let
anyone down, she opened the kitchen window and across the iron grate continued
to give herself to the crowd.»(L 'Etoile dans la Montagne)]8
o'clock came, then 9, then 10 at night . . . They were praying without
ceasing; supplications and hymns in every language rose up to heaven .
. . . until a trembling of
emotion seized everyone: At the door of the house a priest [This
seems to have been Father Luna from Saragossa.] came out,
and calling for silence, spoke to the crowd.
This is from Conchita: Everyone
should go to the Calleja, to what is called the Cuadro, since the ecstasy
will be there.»
The frenzy stirred up by these
words could not be described . . . Everyone ran crazily to see if he could
get the best place for observation.
Aniano Fontaneda wrote in his
letter to Father Ramón: «Everybody wanted to be the first
to get there; they almost ripped my clothes off as they shoved me on all
sides. Many were knocked to the ground. I lifted up Mercedes Salisachs
[The illustrious writer from Barcelona. Any sensible
person will understand the frenzy with which the throng rushed to seize
good positions. This is not meant to commend it; only to make the situation
understood. The reporter Poch Soler showed he sympathized with the crowd
in his article:
was not only striking; it instilled fear ... A woman was dragging her five
year old son between her legs; the little boy was crying, but the mother
could not give him any attention because she had to find a good position
at all costs. A blind American got up on top of the wall, helped by his
friends. A man with two bad legs asked me to give him a hand so that he
would be able to climb the rocky path. The human drama that brought all
these persons to the Cuadro overwhelmed us all. Those people had
their life conditioned by suffering and their admirable resignation was
the greatest miracle of that night at Garabandal.»]
and other people who stumbled and fell going up the hill.»
Fr. Luna also described it: «After
having been together with Conchita for several hours — in order to benefit
from her company when the expected ecstasy came — at the time of going
up to the Cuadro, I found myself bowled over by the rush of the crowd,
which carried me along in the turmoil and finally knocked me to the ground.
With my back on the ground, the people passed on top of me as they ran
upwards. While I was there, in the darkness of the night, two people assisted
me, one on each side, and without the least effort on my part, in spite
of the weight of my 80 kilos. I found myself on foot. Later I was able
to guide myself on the left wall of the Calleja, where the stones are stacked
The dispersal of the crowd left
Conchita's house surrounded by an unusual silence. Only three or four persons
still remained there at the window of the kitchen, desiring to exchange
words with the young girl still inside.
— What are we going to do now, Conchita?
— Go to the Cuadro, like the rest.