Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed.
Who has not heard this famous reply of the risen Christ to the apostle Thomas? As the Gospel of St. John tells it, Thomas would not believe in the Lord's resurrection "Unless I see the mark of the nails in His hands and put my finger into the nail marks and put my hand into His side" (Jn 20:25b).
It seems incredible that someone called by Jesus Himself, who accompanied the Lord during His public ministry and witnessed His many miracles, could doubt His resurrection, even after the remaining disciples announced it. Yet this is exactly what happened.
Consider the Lord's response. Jesus did not accuse Thomas of disbelief; instead, He invited him to believe: "Do not be unbelieving but believe" (Jn 20:27b). Nor did He belittle Thomas for his obstinacy; instead, He extended His loving offer to everyone who believes without seeing.
The Events of Garabandal
Consider now the events of Garabandal. For the better part of two years (and intermittently thereafter), four young girls in this remote village experienced almost daily apparitions of the Virgin Mary. As one well-known author exclaimed, "For two years, the Virgin Mary lived in Garabandal." More than one thousand of these encounters have been recorded and attested to by the most reliable witnesses. The apparitions have been painstakingly documented, photographed, filmed, and subjected to unremitting scrutiny, both within and outside the Church. The body of tangible evidence - of which there is still more to be disclosed - is overwhelming. It is more extensive than that of any other Marian apparition in history.
Yet this is precisely why and where many are led astray!
Against the backdrop of verified phenomena of the most spectacular kind, it nonetheless is easy - so easy - to lose sight of the real point of Garabandal: its message. It must come before the apparitions. Indeed, this is something the visionaries themselves repeatedly stressed.
As humans, we are naturally drawn to the ineffable and inexplicable, but this very act should itself presage a desire to know the source and meaning of what is unknown, not to remain fixated upon its manifestation alone. As it applies to Garabandal, this can become a problem, with some peoples' interest waning upon realizing Garabandal is about much more than apparitions, warnings, and miracles, and especially the speculation surrounding the dates of future events. What Garabandal is about is living a life committed to God, through good and bad times, with a focus on the events of the present.
It is at this point - when the focus shifts from form to content, from apparition to message -- that our closest attention should be directed! This is where we are called to participate in living the Message of Garabandal, to put aside conjecture on what may (or may not) come to pass, and to direct our lives towards that which is pleasing to God here and now.
The vast majority of us were not privy to the physical events of Garabandal, and yet we believe. We believe without seeing. If we believe, let us believe the Message behind the apparitions, and not just the apparitions themselves. And let us give the Message its rightful place above the apparitions!
This is hard, no matter how solid our faith may be. We are, after all, only human. Each of us, deep down inside, wants to be thrilled by what Robert François calls "a theophany, a manifestation of God, a certain proof, before [we] believe in His existence."[François, Robert, O Children Listen To Me (trans. by author and Peter Maas). Lindenhurst, NY: Our Lady of Mount Carmel de Garabandal, Inc., 1998, p. 20]. As Fr. Garcia de Pesquera candidly notes, "At times we are more demanding than St. Thomas the Apostle himself, and we want to be continually touching the miraculous action of God in order to believe in it."[Garcia de Pesquera, Fr. Eusebio, She Went In Haste To The Mountain (trans. by Brian Miller). Lindenhurst, NY: Our Lady of Mount Carmel de Garabandal, Inc., 2000, p. 272.]
True. But as Christians, and as believers in the Message of Garabandal, we are not "let off the hook". No one ever said our journey to Heaven would be without bumps or detours. To progress to the point where we are truly living the Message, we absolutely must move beyond our fascination with the apparitions themselves, our guessing at when or whether future events will occur, our tendency to look at the form rather than the content. Garabandal is a wonderful starting place for our faith, but it is just the beginning.
Disappointment and disbelief
What happens to those who would continue to pin their hopes on the supernatural and not seek the message behind it? Think of the crowd's disappointment when the first message was read in the pouring rain on the evening of 18 October, 41 years ago. As Garcia de Pesquera tells it, "almost everyone was disillusioned
Original article by Geoffrey Groesbeck, April 2002
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