Myth #1 - Garabandal has been condemned or otherwise discredited by the Church.
This has been the most persistent and - damaging - inaccuracy regarding Garabandal. As with Lourdes and Fatima before it, Garabandal has had its share of sceptics and outright hostile commentators, but never has it been condemned or discredited.
For a detailed treatment of the topic, please see the article "The Church's True Position Regarding Garabandal".
Myth #2 - Masses cannot be celebrated in Garabandal.
The many thousands who have visited Garabandal since the apparitions already know this is not the case. For a brief period, it was true that Masses without diocesan approval were forbidden in Garabandal, but this restriction has long since been lifted.
In fact, no liturgical restrictions of any kind exist in Garabandal. The late Bishop del Val removed them, and any priest is free to celebrate Mass there as long as it is held in the village church.
Myth #3 - The Virgin's messages were a warning that post-Vatican II changes in the Church would lead to its ruin.
At no time during any of the apparitions did the Virgin say or imply this. To the contrary, when Conchita asked the Blessed Mother about the outcome of the Council, the response was unequivocal. Conchita was heard to say: "The Council, is it the greatest of all?... Will it be a success?... How good!... That way they will know you better, and you will be very happy... ." [Garcia de Pesquera, O.F.M., Cap., Eusebio (trans. by Barry Miller), She Went in Haste to the Mountain, Lindenhurst, N.Y: The Workers of Our Lady of Mount Carmel de Garabandal (2000 ed.), p. 436.]
From these utterances, it is impossible to imagine that the Virgin was not indicating that the Council would be a success. In the intervening years, observers have noted - and with good reason - that not all the Council's changes had their intended effects, and further, some may even have wrought more immediate confusion than good. However, the Council itself was a marked success, and, somewhat ironically, not the least in its formulation of a coherent Marian doctrine!
Certainly there are those who still feel the post-Vatican II changes are bringing or will bring about the ruin of the Church, and they read into the Blessed Mother's words and actions a warning against the reforms of the Council. One sentence in particular, her warning that "Many cardinals, many bishops, and many priests are on the path of perdition and they take many souls with them" is cited in support of this position.
However, this should by no means be taken as a blanket statement regarding the direction the Church itself was heading in, nor was it a condemnation of the recently concluded Council. In fact, such a view flies in the face of Christ's own words, that even "the gates of Hell shall not prevail against it" [Matthew 16:18.]. The Church since its very beginning has undergone numerous changes, some better accepted or understood than others. In the case of Vatican II, there has been some debate as to the impact of some of these changes four decades on, but, on the whole, the reforms have spelt the revitalisation, not the ruin, of the Church.
Myth #4 - Pope John Paul II will be the last pope, in accordance with the so-called "Prophecy of St. Malachi".
It would appear at first glance according to Conchita's discourse with the Virgin on 3 July 1963 - the death date of Pope John XXIII - that Pope John Paul II will indeed be the final pope. However, a closer reading of Conchita's words to this effect reveal that the Virgin told her that there would be three more popes, after which would be "the end of the times".
The key phrase "the end of the times" does not necessarily signal "the end of the world" (which in any case would, from a theological standpoint, not make sense). Instead, it appears to mean that a certain "era" or "period" will expire after the passing of the third pope to follow Pope John XXIII, i.e., the current pope. Pope John Paul II, then, would be the third and final pope "of the times". Does this mean he also will be the last pope ever? We simply cannot say one way or the other. Not a little thought has gone into this matter, the best-informed of which appears in She Went in Haste to the Mountain [De Pesquera, O.F.M., Cap., op. cit., pp. 480-5.].
On the other hand, it is beyond all doubt that the so-called "Prophecy of St. Malachi" is anything more than a fabrication, and certainly the Blessed Mother never referred to it. Purported to be a prediction delivered by the eleventh-century Irish St. Malachy (or Malachi), in fact, it was devised nearly 600 years later by a Belgian monk, Arnold de Wion (or de Wyon). In any case, in these "prophecies", there are supposedly four, not three, popes to follow the one assumed to be Pope John XXIII.[See also The Last Pope: The Decline and Fall of the Church of Rome: The Prophecies of St. Malachy for the New Millennium, by John Hogue (Element Books, 2000) and Perez, Ramon (trans, by Annette I. Curot Matthews), Garabandal: The Village Speaks, Lindenhurst, NY: The Workers of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, Inc (1998 ed.), pp. 58-61.]
Myth #5 - The Warning will cause many to die.
The Warning (el aviso, in the original Spanish) itself will not cause many to die, although, as Conchita clarified, the psychological shock from receiving it possibly may cause some to die of something akin to fright.[Laffineur, Materne and le Pelletier, M. T. (trans. by Service de Traducion Champlain, ENR), Star on the Mountain, Lindenhurst, N.Y: Our Lady of Mount Carmel de Garabandal, Inc. (1992 ed.), p. 59.] In her own words, "it is a sort of a catastrophe. It will make us think of the dead, that is, we would prefer to be dead rather than to experience the Warning."
One needs to be particularly careful when weighing the obvious trauma that will accompany the Warning, against the mercy and magnitude of God's love for all His creatures. The purpose of the Warning - as has been made abundantly clear from the start - is to purify, warn, and prepare mankind for the Miracle to follow [Ibid., pp. 57-9, 77, 109. See also Sanchez-Ventura y Pascal, Francisco (trans. by A. de Bertodano), The Apparitions of Garabandal, St. Michael's Garabandal Center for Our Lady of Carmel, Inc. (1997 ed.), pp. 179, 182.]. By so doing, it offers yet another chance for mankind to set itself right before the Lord. Its purpose is not to kill or frighten.
It would be well to remember here the words of Christ Himself in His apparition to St. Maria Faustina of 22 February 1931: "Before coming as the just Judge, I shall come as the King of Mercy."
Myth #6 - The Warning will be preceded, marked, or followed by a three-day period of darkness.
There was no mention by the Blessed Mother or any of the visionaries of a three-day period of darkness in relation to the Warning or any other future event. This erroneous belief stems from a false synchronising of the predictions offered at Garabandal with those of other supposed prophecies. This is not to say that a three-day period of darkness therefore cannot occur, but that it was not predicted at Garabandal.
On the other hand, there have been occasional pronouncements by several people - including some recently canonised individuals - that something akin to a three-day period of darkness will occur at some point [http://www.enddays.ws/darkness.html], presumably as we approach the "last days". None of these comments have been addressed formally by the Church, and they should be accepted cum grano salis. Even if this event were to happen, it would happen only after the Warning.
Myth #7 - The worldwide punishment is inevitable.
This is a particularly distressing misconception, as it borders on fatalism and rejects the truth that God can alter events to suit His plan. As awful a state as the world is now in morally, we cannot assume that the Chastisement will ipso facto occur. That decision is entirely in the hands of God, Who is both just and merciful. We need only read Genesis 18 to know that God is capable of altering His plans.[See Gen. 18.]
We may well think this punishment is inevitable, but to do so is to assume that God will act as we think that He should act. In our limited understanding - which is even more limited when applied to the workings of the Divine Will ~ we easily can imagine that God would allow this punishment because the world seems so horribly awry. But we must remember that our conjectures, especially those that focus upon the future, are at best subjective guesses.
The Blessed Virgin told Conchita during the final apparition that "Jesus does not send you the Chastisement to discourage you, but to help you and to rebuke you for not paying attention to Him."[Laffineur and le Pelletier, op. cit., p. 109.]
An excellent overview of the visionaries' comments regarding the conditional Chastisement can be found in Ramon Perez's Garabandal: The Village Speaks, pp. 55-8. Of particular interest as well is a statement made by Jacinta in 1979, in the course of an interview given to Garabandal magazine: "If we do the things that are good and follow the commandments of God, then the Chastisement will not come. All that the Virgin wants is that we love Jesus very much." [Garabandal (Jan. - Mar. 1980), pub. by The Workers of Our Lady of Mount Carmel (Lindenhurst, NY), p. 4.]
Myth #8 The four visionaries now deny the events of 1961-5.
To put it as plainly as possible, none of the visionaries deny the events of Garabandal. Each and every one in her own way has done a great deal to promote the messages of Garabandal in the intervening four decades.[See Francois, Robert (trans. by Peter Maas), O Children Listen To Me, Lindenhurst, N.Y: The Workers of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, Inc. (1998 ed.), pp. 189-90.] Conchita has consented to several interviews, as have Mari Loli and Jacinta, who also have attended international Garabandal congresses, and Mari Cruz - the remaining visionary who lives in Spain - has been a constant visitor to the village and makes herself available to all as often as possible.
One should remember that for these four women, life has been irrevocably altered since leaving the village. The visionaries knew their lives would not be similar to those of other people. Both Conchita and Mari Loli received locutions in which they were told that "the remainder of your life will be a continual suffering", and that they "would have much to suffer in this world and would endure many inner ordeals." [Ibid., p. 98.]
True, all are married with children, and each strives to lead as "normal" a life as possible. However, a typical life is all but impossible, given the unremitting scrutiny and publicity each is subjected to on an ongoing basis. All too often the visionaries have had their words twisted to suit subjective agendas and their motives questioned. As a result - and in conformity with their obedience to the Church's authority - they do not speak publicly without episcopal approval.
This has led some to conclude mistakenly that the visionaries have changed their minds regarding Garabandal, or that they now deny them outright. Again, nothing could be further from the truth. Ultimately, what is most important is not whether the visionaries are willing to speak regarding Garabandal, but what they have said to date, which has never changed.
Let us remember, too, there is the increasing risk of forgetfulness. As Fr. Pelletier, author of Our Lady Comes to Garabandal, points out in the preface to the English-language translation of Conchita's diary: "As time goes by, it can be expected that she [Conchita, and by extension, all the visionaries] will forget an increasing number of the less important facts and conversations, even those involving Our Lady herself." [le Pelletier, M. T., Our Lady Comes to Garabandal, Lindenhurst, N.Y: Our Lady of Mount Carmel de Garabandal, Inc. (1971 ed.), p. 10.]
Time and time again they have reminded us that it is the messages - not the events - of Garabandal that are so vitally important. Everything else is secondary. As Fr. Jose Ramon Garcia de la Riva, an expert witness and authorof Memoirs of a Spanish Country Pastor wrote: "We must accomplish the Message. That is the most important thing." [Perez, op. cit., p. 108.]
Myth #9 - All Catholics are obligated to believe in Garabandal.
The Church has taken great pains to point out that apparitions ~ approved or otherwise ~ are private revelations and do not alter or add to in any way the teachings of the Church. All approved apparitions, including the well-known ones of Lourdes and Fatima, are matters of individual belief. No one is obligated to accept them as fact.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church notes that:
"Throughout the ages, there have been so-called "private" revelations, some of which have been recognized by the authority of the Church. They do not belong, however, to the deposit of faith. It is not their role to improve or complete Christ's definitive Revelation, but to help live more fully by it in a certain period of history. Guided by the Magisterium of the Church, the sensus fidelium knows how to discern and welcome in these revelations whatever constitutes an authentic call of Christ or his saints to the Church." [Catechism of the Catholic Church, Pt. 1, Ch. 2, Art. 1:III, 67.]
The exact wording of the Church's position on private revelations is taken from the document S.A.S. 58 1186, published by the Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith (italics added for emphasis):
"Upon the approval of Pope Paul VI, on October 14, 1966, with the abolition of previous Canon 1399 & 2318 of the former Canonical Code, publications about new appearances, revelations, prophecies, miracles, etc., have been allowed to be distributed and read by the faithful without the express permission of the Church, providing they contain nothing which contravenes faith and morals. This means that no Imprimatur is necessary when distributing information on new apparitions not yet judged by the Church."
Of course, great care must be taken when applying this ruling. Garabandal, more so than any other apparition to date, has been researched, reviewed, and questioned from every conceivable angle, by detractors and promoters alike. In the end, the words of Pope Paul VI to Conchita sum it up best: "I bless you and with me the whole Church blesses you."
Reprinted with kind permission from Garabandal International, October-December 2003
Written by Geoffrey A.P. Groesbeck