Witness – David Toribio


Reprinted with kind permission from Garabandal Journal / July-August 2020

■ Sr. Beatriz Liano, Servant Sister of the Home of the Mother

Translation from Spanish by Rev. Deacon Andrew Usera

On April 15, 2020, David Toribio, one of the most important witnesses of the apparitions of Garabandal died at age 85. With what patience David repeated the events he had witnessed to each one of the hundreds or perhaps thousands of pilgrims who asked him through the years. With what vigor he declared that “each day I am more convinced that it was true, each day more so.” But David did not always speak with the same certainty of the supernatural character of the Garabandal apparitions. In order to understand him, we need to go back to the days of the apparitions.

David was twenty-six years old when on June 18, 1961, St. Michael the Archangel began appearing to the four girls, Conchita, Jacinta, Mari Loli and Mari Cruz, preparing them for the Virgin’s visit. The following day, he was sitting with several young men at the village entrance when Conchita passed by. One of the young men asked Conchita, the oldest of the visionaries, with a sarcastic tone: “Hey, how was the angel dressed? Did he carry a bag? Did he carry a rod? What did he look like?”

David said, “Conchita distanced herself feeling ashamed at the comments of the young men who continued mocking the girls, but that lasted until they saw the first ecstasy. At that moment, their initial skepticism evaporated.” David confessed that “we stayed… because the girls were no longer themselves. Everything had changed on them, their smile, their way of talking. We did not recognize them. It was a very overwhelming sensation.” David could not contain his emotions when he recalled the relationship between the girls and the Virgin. “It was a very intimate relation, one of the greatest love. They were so happy. They said to the Virgin, ‘are you leaving already? You have only been here for a minute.’ They wanted to be with her. Their relationship was incredible.”

During that first summer in 1961, almost all of the ecstasies occurred at a place called the calleja, a rocky path on the outskirts of town which goes up to the Pines. After a few days, when word got around, each day a growing number of strangers surrounded the girls in ecstasy. Young men had to come forth to protect them from the crowds. With a few posts sunk into the ground and some saplings, the young men prepared a space which they named the cuadro. Only the girls could be within that space, and next to them doctors and priests authorized by their families. What they underwent was a lot, David recalled. “When the girls were kneeling in ecstasy, the doctors would poke them in the legs and burned them. They did barbaric things to them!” When the girls came out of the cuadro and traversed the streets of the village in their “ecstatic marches,” the young men tried to follow and protect them. The day of the Virgin’s first message, October 18, 1961, they were also there forming a human chain to surround them and preventing them from being crushed. 

From that privileged vantage point, David saw incredible things that marked him profoundly. “But afterwards,” as he explained, “comments were made by learned men and you found yourself sitting on the fence.” When he went down to the cattle fair at Torrelavega where the cattlemen from other towns blurted out mockeries and jokes when they learned he was from the village of the apparitions, leaving him confused. He would read in the newspapers that what happened at Garabandal “was child’s play” or a problem “involving four hysterical girls.” David thought: “But how is it possible for the newspapers to say such things? How is it possible for people who say that, people who know better, to say they understand? And one day, I do not know if it was Angel, Victoria’s son, who asked whether that which we saw with our own eyes was more important or what people say or write is? We answered: ‘Come on man! What we see is much more important! They say one thing and we see another.’” He added, “these were difficult times. It was an odd time.”

The poor Bastians, as the folks from Garabandal were known, suffered a lot in those days. But afterwards they would once again see the overwhelming display of signs that were inexplicable to science, the accumulation of ecstasies, and once again hope would sprout in their hearts. An example that impressed David occurred one day “when the girls went up to the Pines and the whole village after them. And as the girls looked up to the Pines where the Virgin image is now, in an instant they went backwards, backwards and backwards into town. But there was a rock about three meters high along the way, and yet they went over it backwards. It is totally impossible. How did the girls go down from there? No one seemed to have seen them. Someone must have brought them down. Someone. Otherwise it is impossible.” David was convinced that the someone who brought the girls down the slope unscathed was the Virgin. That is why he repeated the comment made by the writer Mercedes Salisachs who said that “if these girls do not see the Virgin, if it is not the Virgin who carries them, they need to have eyes on their feet because they never trip nor fall in the mud puddles.”

After a couple of years of witnessing how Heaven came down to his village each evening, David left to work out of Spain. After he returned years later, everything had ended. For a long time he remained at the margins of the pilgrim flow. This was until one morning, some thirty years ago, “when the lightning bolt occurred at the Pines.” That day David’s attitude radically changed.

What happened? He said, “One night there was a huge storm. I was awakened by very loud thunder. The house shook and I thought to myself that a lightning bolt must have hit the town.” The fact was that when he went outside he found that the lightning bolt had not hit the town. David had a sort of premonition that it had hit the Pines. That was indeed the case. The lightning had hit one of the pines, precisely the second pine as one goes up from the calleja. “I went up to the Pines, and before reaching the top I saw what occurred. I hallucinated! It had been an impressive miracle.” At that time on that pine tree there was a small image of Our Lady of Mount Carmel on some iron supports. Some folks from Valencia had put it up the same year of 1961 and it remained there ever since, although later another image of the Virgin was placed in a niche before which folks would come and pray. David explained, “When a bolt of lightning hits a tree, it is like a conduit and the bolt needs to go down the tree until it is extinguished on the ground or in water. The bolt hit a long branch and it went to the trunk that was very thick. It went down the trunk and upon reaching the image, it disappeared. It made an arc and jumped over to the first pine up there. The bolt broke the branches of the first pine. I was dumbfounded. If it had continued, if the arc had not occurred, the Virgin [statue] would have been crushed and totally destroyed. That image has been taken down, although one can still see the supports upon which there was a steel plate. But one can still see how the lightning bolt did not keep going.”

For many of us who are city folk, it may be that this anecdote does not impress us much. But a man like David Toribio, born and raised in the mountains, who communed with the laws of nature and knew that these were immutable, understood that he had witnessed a miracle, a new supernatural sign. The lightning had been detoured from its normal route to avoid damaging the image of the Virgin. “That day I stayed there.. .I was crying there, because for us who know the mountains and know how these things work, this was incredible. That day I remembered things that I have lived during the times of the apparitions and I promised the Virgin there, on my knees, that my change would be total, as it had to be. It had to be!”

In the last years of his life, it was frequent to find David at sunset in the calleja, the place where he had witnessed so many occurrences. He walked in silence, lost in his memories, and his recollection turned into prayer, because for him to recall what he had lived in that place was to enter into dialogue with Our Heavenly Mother. If one happened to find him in one of those moments, he would murmur in a soft voice: “Do you know? Do you know what happened here?” And one would come away with a gift of having shared the precious history that was lived in those mountains between Our Lady of Mount Carmel and the four village girls.

We pray for the soul of David, (1935-2020) wishing with all our heart that this good man who possessed the wisdom of simple souls who open themselves up to God, is already in Heaven gazing upon the face of Our Mother. □

■ Sr. Beatriz Liano, Servant Sister of the Home of the Mother

Translation from Spanish by Rev. Deacon Andrew Usera

Reprinted with kind permission from Garabandal Journal / July-August 2020

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