The Year of the Eucharist proclaimed by Pope John Paul II provides us with the ideal time to focus on Garabandal's great emphasis on the Holy Eucharist. Why there was such a Eucharistic emphasis during those prophetic events became apparent after the close of Vatican II when Eucharistic devotion was deemphasized and the doctrine of the Real Presence itself came under attack. Our Lady anticipated the impending crisis which has continued until today.
Mention of the Blessed Sacrament was there at the very outset of the Garabandal events, on the sign beneath Saint Michael's feet when he first appeared on June 18, 1961. The sign, actually the first Message, apparently was in Latin and not understood by the visionaries. On July 4, 1961, just two days after her first appearance, Our Lady explained the text of the Message to the visionaries which said among other things, that we "must visit the Blessed Sacrament frequently."
This mandate of Our Lady to visit the Blessed Sacrament reminds us of our responsibility in that regard. The word "must" does not imply a suggestion but rather an obligation. In Saint Matthew's gospel chapter 25, Our Lord warns that Heaven can be lost to souls not only because of the wrong they've done but because of the good they have failed to do ("[I was] in prison and you did not visit me"). Jesus truly is a prisoner in the tabernacle; He can't leave, and we should visit Him, especially since He's there for our sakes and not for His.
In visiting Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament, we are the great beneficiaries. I'm confident that if you asked anyone who visits the Blessed Sacrament on a regular basis as part of their devotional practice, they will tell you they wouldn't give it up for anything. I knew one man, ninety years old and still driving a car, who spent between four and five hours a day before Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament.
"I asked the girls why they went to the church so often, since it was dosed (they were not allowed to enter it in ecstasy), and they answered candidly:
BECAUSE THE VIRGIN LIKES TO GO NEAR THE PLACE WHERE HER SON JESUS IS."
- Luis Navas, eyewitness
PHOTO: Mari Loli receiving mystical Communion from Saint Michael in 1962.
At Garabandal, Our Lady encouraged frequent even daily Holy Communion and we know this from a letter dated April 22, 1962, written by Conchita's Aunt Maximum to the Pifarre family of Barcelona. She writes: "Yesterday, Tuesday, they talked with the Virgin for a long time. We didn't hear them, but they looked very happy, and it was because the Virgin told them that every day they didn't have Mass, the Angel would come to give them Communion."
Why did Our Lady recommend frequent Communion for the visionaries and by extension for all of us? Didn't saints of former times communicate less often? There are several reasons. First, since it was the great Saint Pius X who advocated frequent Communion, Our Lady in doing so, was only reinforcing what that supreme pontiff had already expressed under the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
Secondly, Jesus desires it as He said to Saint Faustina: "My great delight is to unite Myself with souls. Know, My daughter, that when I come to a human heart in Holy Communion, My hands are full of all kinds of graces which I want to give to the soul."
The third reason is that we live in an intensely materialistic world that tries to lure us into accepting its maxims, and we need the strength and protection provided by a worthy reception of the Holy Eucharist to ward off temptations to sin or to compromise our faith.
A fourth reason might have been for the benefit of people in villages like San Sebastian de Garabandal who only communicate once or twice a year. One villager who took this message to heart was Conchita's mother, Aniceta. Since Mass was not celebrated in the village church every day, Aniceta used to walk down to Cosio, a round trip of about seven miles - she was the only villager who did this - to attend Mass and receive Communion. Having been present at one of those weekday Masses of Father Valentin's when Aniceta was there, I can attest that she was the only one to receive Communion other than visitors like myself. The few village women from Cosio who assisted at Mass did not receive.
Before the visionaries of Garabandal got to the point of receiving Communion from Saint Michael, they underwent a long period of orientation that began the previous year as Conchita tells us in her diary:
At the beginning of the apparitions, the angel Saint Michael gave us un-consecrated hosts. We had eaten shortly before, but he gave them to us just the same. He did this to teach us how to receive Communion.
One day he asked us to go to the pines in the morning without eating anything and to take a little girl with us. We took along a little girl and did what he asked us to do. When we reached the pines, the angel appeared to us with a goblet that looked like gold. He said to us: "I am going to give you Holy Communion but this time the Hosts are consecrated. Recite the 'I Confess'." We recited it and then he gave us Holy Communion. Afterwards, he told us that we should give thanks to God. When we had done this, he told us to recite with him the prayer "Soul of Christ." This we did also. Then he said: "I will give you Communion again tomorrow." And he went away.
When we told this to the people, some didn't believe, especially the priests because they said that an angel can't consecrate. When we saw the angel again, we told him what the people had said and he answered that he took Hosts already consecrated from tabernacles of the earth.
During this period when the visionaries were receiving the Eucharist from Saint Michael, there was a hard lesson for one of them on being prepared to make a good Communion. This excerpt is taken from SHE WENT IN HASTE TO THE MOUNTAIN:
One day Jacinta, Loli, and Conchita were called to the same location [to receive Communion from St. Michael]. The three knelt down in a row in front of the Angel; Jacinta was in the middle. Everything began as usual: some introductory words from the Angel concerning what they were going to do, the "I Confess" by the girls, "This is the Lamb of God... Lord I am not worthy." The Angel gave Communion to the first girl in the row in the usual way. In the meantime, Jacinta, next in line, raised her head, opened her mouth and held out her tongue in preparation to receive. But the Angel, not in the usual way but as if she were not there, passed by her with the Body of Our Lord to the third girl. Noticing this, the little girl's eyes opened wide and welled up with tears. Everything within her asked a distressed, Why? Why? She didn't understand why the Angel had refused her Communion like this.
The explanation (and the lesson) came immediately. Did she not remember the argument that she had had with her mother? What had the Virgin told them so many times? She had to do more to conquer that fault, that lack of submission, that way of speaking. She could not receive the Lord in such a state.
Jacinta, weeping, recognized her fault. How could she do otherwise? She had to resign herself to the punishment of remaining without the Eucharist, so painful under those circumstances. When she returned home, her mother knew immediately that something had happened to the girl. She had returned in such a different state from other times!
"What happened to you?"
"The Angel didn't want to give me Communion" (and tears filled her eyes again).
"And why is that?"
"Because of an argument I had with you, one that I can't remember."
The mother couldn't remember either, but things do not pass so easily before God. Sins do not disappear by a simple forgetting, but by a sincere repentance, and by going - strictly necessary for mortal sin - to confession.
"The Angel," Jacinta said, "won't give me Communion until I confess."
Features of the Mystical Communions
Where: The angel gave the visionaries Communion either at the Pines, at the campuca (a small meadow near the calleja), or on the church portico.
Time: The usual time was in the morning and the angel told them to go to the designated spot without eating. At the time of the apparitions, the Eucharistic fast was three hours, having been reduced "from midnight" by Pope Pius XII. Later Pope Paul VI reduced it to one hour.
Form: The angel's Communion service began with an introductory statement that is food for meditation: "Reflect on WHOM you are about to receive." The visionaries then recited the confiteor before receiving the sacred Host. Afterwards they made a thanksgiving and then recited the Anima Christi (Soul of Christ). Since Loli said that Saint Michael did the same as Father Valentin, the village pastor, we can assume the angel said while distributing Communion: Corpus Domini nostri Jesu Christi custodial animam tuam in vitam aeternam. Amen (May the body of our Lord Jesus Christ preserve thy soul to life everlasting. Amen).
PHOTO: Conchita in ecstasy in 1962, ready to receive Communion from Saint Michael.
In all the pivotal events of Garabandal, we find the Blessed Sacrament. In the first Message we have Our Lady telling us that we must visit the Blessed Sacrament frequently.
The "nights of screams" of June 19 and 20, 1962, when the visionaries saw scenes of the communist tribulation and the threatened Chastisement, came on the two nights that preceded the feast of Corpus Christi, which could hardly have been a coincidence. One month later on July 18-19, 1962, there occurred the Miracle of the Host when the usually invisible Communion Conchita received from Saint Michael on that night became visible on her tongue.
In her second and final message at Garabandal of June 18,1965, the Virgin complained that "less and less importance is being given to the Eucharist," a statement that has proven to be only too prophetic.
Then in Our Lady's last appearance at Garabandal on November 13, 1965, she again made r eference to the Blessed Sacrament just as she did in her first Message. This time she said to Conchita: "You should visit my Son in the tabernacle more often. Why do you let yourself be carried away by slothfulness so as not to visit Him? He waits for you day and night."
With the Holy Eucharist being such an integral part of Garabandal, will It have anything to do with the great prophesied events? We don't know, but what we can hope for is that after the Warning and Miracle, the reverence, respect, and place of honor in our churches will again be restored to the Blessed Sacrament, God's greatest gift to His Church.
Reprinted with kind permission from Garabandal Journal March-April 2005 by Barry Hanratty