An important part of our Faith is reconciliation, both with God (through confession) and with our neighbor. In the following episode as recounted in She Went in Haste to the Mountain, the two forms of reconciliation came into play, and as is usually the case with true reconciliation, the results were salutary, and in this case, extraordinarily so. To be emphasized here is the fact that it was the Blessed Virgin herself, acting through one of the visionaries, who set the whole sequence of events in motion.
The following report was signed in Reinosa (Santander) on March 23, 1962, by one of the priests who was involved.
On Sunday, March 18, the second Sunday of Lent, two priests went up to Garabandal with a young boy who was afflicted with severe heart disease and whose days, according to the doctors, were numbered. One of the two priests - no one at the time knew who he was - was the renowned Father Jose Silva, from the Ciudad de los Muchachos at Orense. The priests were dressed as laymen. They walked behind the girls, constantly bothering them. This came to such a point that the chief of the Civil Guard had to call it to their attention several times; he also didn't recognize them as priests.
PHOTO: Jacinta in ecstasy kissing the crucifix. It may have been the same cross she gave to the two priests.
When Jacinta went into ecstasy in Conchita's house, the two priests leaned physically on the girl. They were hanging onto her, and holding their ears to her mouth, trying to understand some of what she was saying. The parents of the girls protested, and on seeing that this accomplished nothing, and that one time they almost made Jacinta fall to the floor, I could not contain myself and I gave a hard shove to the one who was to the right of the girl (this was Father Silva), thinking he was a layman although perhaps at the time I would have done the same thing even if I had seen him in a cassock.
I had no sooner pushed Father Silva when Jacinta turned around and put the crucifix to my lips. Following this, she did the same to Father Silva. The girl continued her walk, but the two of us looked at each other and we understood. We gave each other a hug and together went toward the church. There the two of us wept. I asked him to hear my confession. (We were alone, leaning against the doorway.) He told me that he didn't have faculties, but I insisted vehemently, assuring him that I had a true need. He heard my confession and asked why I had performed that act. I answered that at the time, I only thought about defending the girl who was seeing the Blessed Virgin. He gave me absolution. Later he asked me to hear his confession, since he said he had a great need, for having abused his position as a priest to go ahead of all those who were following the girl, when his position as a priest obliged him to go behind the last. He thanked me for the shove, and told me that up to then he hadn't paid attention to the actual message that the girls were giving us.
Finally, he asked me, as a favor, if I could wake up the parish priest so that he, Father Silva, could say the dawn Mass. It was not long until the beginning of the next day, March 19, the feast of St. Joseph. We weren't able to obtain permission, since there was a prohibition from the bishop that didn't allow Mass to be celebrated by visiting priests. But we could receive Communion and make the most beautiful holy hour imaginable. It was fantastic. That priest said wonderful things and thanked the girls, their parents, and everyone for having made him feel an emotion that, up until then, he didn't know existed. We prayed the holy rosary; almost everyone had their arms outstretched in the form of a cross! This is what I experienced on those unforgettable days in that fortunate little town.
Police chief Juan Alvarez Seco, who was present, adds some further details in a report of his own:
While the two priests were on their way to ask for permission to celebrate holy Mass, they stopped at Conchita's house. Father Silva spoke of making a holy hour, and the girl asked, "What's that?" Father Silva explained it to her, and it was decided to make the holy hour at 1:00 A.M.
PHOTO: Scene of the action. The Garabandal village church during the time of the apparitions.
But they didn't have the key to the church. Father Valentin was sleeping in the home of Primitiva. Mr. Matutano from Reinosa went with an attendant and myself to ask him for it, since he knew us. I talked to him but he didn't want to give us the key. We returned to Conchita's house and then Maximina said: "Let's go to the church; perhaps it's open."
About 20 of us went with Conchita and Maria Dolores [Mari Loli]. We found the door of the church open, but we didn't have the key to the sacristy, where the key to open the tabernacle was kept. In the meantime, Father Silva found the tabernacle open, although the sacristy was locked! We were able to make the holy hour, at times with our arms in the form of a cross. Afterwards almost all of us received Communion. I testify that this was marvelous. And the Marquis and Marquise de Santa Maria, Mr. Matutano and others whom I no longer remember felt the same way. Father Silva told us that Garabandal was absolutely true.
Maximina also gave a report of what happened in a letter that she wrote to Doctor Ortiz and his wife on March 21:
There were two priests. They made a holy hour at three in the morning on Sunday (Actually it was not Sunday, but Monday, March 19.
Her confusion, undoubtedly was due to the fact that Monday was also a feast day, honoring St. Joseph.) They asked if any of those present wanted to explain the mysteries of the rosary. Mr. Matutano explained the first one. The people were crying very much! The Marquis said that the emotion he felt at that moment prevented him from speaking. The priests spoke a lot, and one said, "It would be unfortunate not to meditate on the feeling we have right now caused by the apparitions." And he added, "I swear before God that I believe this is true." They spoke at length.
Let us conclude with this final excerpt from the testimony of Juan Alvarez Seco:
The next day, March 19, Mari Loli, in ecstasy, went up to the counter of the tavern in her home, took a pen from a drawer, and holding a card against the wall of the kitchen, wrote on it what the Virgin had told her: "The Virgin congratulates Father Jose." As a result of this, the priest involved was deeply moved, since he hadn't told anyone his name or that he was a priest.
This episode which began with a shove and ended with a holy hour, shows how true reconciliation is most pleasing to God.
Reprinted with permission from Garabandal Journal, November-December 2003, By Barry Hanratty