Photo: Pope John Paul II with Garabandal visionary Mari Loli Lafleur and her family, July 23, 1988
On Saturday, July 23,1988, in St. Peter's Square during a special General Audience (special because General Audiences are usually held on Wednesdays), Garabandal visionary Mari Loli LaFleur and her family were introduced to Pope John Paul II by a special priest. West Point graduate and convert to the faith, Father Robert Francis Lee Graves III, was a descendant from the legendary Captain John Graves of the first American settlement in Virginia in 1608.
Holding Maria Dolores, the youngest of the LaFleur children in his arms, Father Graves said to the Pope: "Your Holiness, a special blessing for the smallest of the children that come in the name of the Blessed Mother, the Virgin of Garabandal." The Holy Father exclaimed with admiration, "Garabandal!" He then proceeded to kiss Maria Dolores, and taking her thirteen-year-old brother Francis by the arm, blessed him. Next he reached out for Melanie, the third child, and embraced her.
When Loli asked the Pope for his blessing and prayers for her family and herself, the Holy Father put his hands over her head and blessed her. Frank, her husband, kissed the pontiff's ring and then the Pope, extending his arms, embraced Mari Loli and her whole family together. Maria Saraco who was present, gives testimony to this event.
Loli, who previously had met John Paul II, was concerned about the consequences this personal encounter with the Pope could have, since she was known as one of the visionaries of Garabandal. But after meeting with Juan Antonio del Val, Bishop of Santander (home diocese of the apparitions) she was put at ease and accepted the meeting as the will of God.
Reprinted with kind permission from July-August 2004
Excerpted from Los MILAGROS o FAVORES DE NUESTRA MADRE DE GARABANDAL and translated from Spanish by Dr. Edward Serrano