In July of 1961, Conchita Gonzalez was taken to Santander, where she stayed for several days. Authorities thought that by removing the one they thought to be the ringleader from the scene of the action, the events would cease. That did not happen, and the author picks up the narrative at the time Conchita, her mother and Aunt Maximina were returning to the village from Santander.
Picture: Mari Loli and Jacinta in ecstasy in the village church, 1961.
From the beginning, Jesus Christ was a sign of contradiction among men. "And Simeon blessed them and said to Mary His mother: 'Behold this Child is set for the fall and for the resurrection of many in Israel, and for a sign that shall be contradicted. And your own soul a sword shall pierce, that out of many hearts thoughts may be revealed'" (Lk 2:34-35). From this prophecy the great historical synthesis of the fourth Gospel can be better understood. "The world was made by Him, and the world knew Him not. He came unto His own, and His own received Him not. But as many as received Him...He filled with good things," commencing by opening to them the possibility of becoming children of God (Jn 1:10-12).
The Virgin Mary also was to be a sign of contradiction. Many save themselves and are saved through Her. Many collide and collide with Her and always in a mysterious way, extremely difficult to understand.
Those who really seek Her at Garabandal—in contrast to others who remain in suspicion and malevolence— She also fills with good things through phenomena requiring great humility and simplicity of heart. Conchita's denials in Santander caused no lessening in the favors of the Virgin Mother, and She even appeared to extend Herself more than ever for Her chosen village. And thus, on the same day that Conchita denied the apparitions, on August 3...
The First of the Ecstatic Falls
Also touring the village, as we mentioned, was the parish priest from Leon, Father Manuel Anton. He gives us the following account:
At nightfall, Loli and Jacinta left Ceferino's house, where they had been playing upstairs. The whole crowd that was waiting in the plaza began to move. And I took great care to get a place up close, hanging onto Loli by her coat, determined to remain near her. In front of us a lieutenant from the Civil Guard was walking without hurry, with his arms extended so that no one could get ahead of him. Thus he held back the girls who were following directly behind so they could not go into the swift walk with which everyone was familiar, and which had already left the Director General and his wife far behind.
I didn't let go of Loli's coat until we got to the Pines. There the girls placed themselves in the center, and the guards spread the people in a wide circle, as in a corro de aluche [a Spanish sport] so that everyone could see better. Inside the corro or circle, stood the girls, and at their side only Mr. Carlos Arias Navarro, his wife and myself.
One of the girls started the rosary. Everyone was kneeling on the grass. And I remember that many young men had climbed onto the limbs of the pine trees, but I can testify that their attitude and manners did not detract in any way from the general atmosphere of profound reverence and respect.
After the third or fourth Hail Mary of the first mystery, the rosary dropped from the hands of the young girl leading the recitation. And as if with one voice, the two spoke out "Ah!" in a whisper, going suddenly into the ecstatic position with which so many were acquainted.
What began then was something, the beauty and feeling of which cannot be put into words. It was clearly seen that the girls were in an animated conversation with someone. Continuing to look upwards, at times they would trace little circles, little crosses, and other signs and figures on the ground; there they put the articles prior to holding them up in their hands as if offering them to be kissed.
I could not catch what they were saying during all these activities, but I heard what they began saying later, "Come down. Come down." And they held out their arms as if desiring to receive something in them. To me it was evident that they were asking the Virgin to come down and hand them the Infant. They had such longing in their eyes and in their requests.
Seconds later, they gave the impression that they were holding in their arms what they so much desired, since they lowered their gaze and leaned gently toward something that seemed to pass from the arms of one to the arms of the other. Meanwhile they repeated, "Oh how beautiful! How pretty! But how beautiful You are!" I can testify that they said this in a way that would impress you; in their words and in their gaze they showed souls full of love and joy.
From their gestures I could follow the time of returning the Infant to the Mother, etc. Then I heard them say: "Don't go! How long? Three quarters of an hour already?" I hadn't noted the time but nearby I saw a priest—later I learned he was the priest from Aguilar de Campoo—and showing me his watch, he assured me it was the exact time they had been in ecstasy, since he had looked at the time when it had started. The thing didn't stop there. Later we had a second scene that thrilled us even more. As they told me later, it was the first time that something like this had happened: the girls fell on the ground in ecstasy—but with what gracefulness, and what poise!
We were all very frightened, fearing that something serious might have happened. The mother of one of the girls—I don't know which one—came up to hold her daughter, crying with great distress. All excited, almost shouting, I began to say, "Is there a doctor in the crowd who can help in this extraordinary affair? Is there anyone here?"
Father Valentin, the parish priest who was in the crowd, then interrupted the general worried silence, saying in a grave voice, "This affair has always been extraordinary. What is happening is that we are men of little faith." I admit that the ending impressed me, and even many years later I still remember it as if I were hearing these things right now.
After a while, as if coming out of a wonderful sleep, the girls returned to themselves and became again so natural, fresh, smiling.
We can imagine the people's feelings and comments as they came down from the Pines. But the day still had not ended. In Garabandal during the early days, everything concluded in the church before the Blessed Sacrament. It was a daily living of the ancient Catholic maxim: To Jesus through Mary. And in the church there would be new communications.
When I arrived at the village from my trip to Santander, many people and several priests came to meet me because Loli and Jacinta had said in the course of an apparition that I was coming up the road at the time, which was true. They were in the church when the Blessed Virgin told them this.
— Conchita's Diary
We have more information on this than what Conchita writes so briefly. When the three travelers arrived at Cosio, some young girls, including the daughter of the school teacher at Garabandal, were awaiting them. Aniceta, who had arrived upset and was becoming more uneasy after she saw them, kept asking, "What do those girls want? What do they want?" When they approached, she went nervously up to the school teacher's daughter. "Where are you coming from? Is there a fiesta in Garabandal?"
On arriving at the village, Aniceta said to those who questioned her, "I'm satisfied. There's nothing to this. We've been to the bishop and there's nothing to this." For the simple woman, the bishop had to be absolutely infallible.
They went directly to their homes and shut themselves in; Aniceta was in no mood to talk to people or give explanations. But Maximina wanted to see what was going on and was able to witness some of the last scenes. She heard that Loli and Jacinta, during an ecstasy in the church, had asked the Vision about Conchita, and then had asked, "Is she coming now?" And minutes later, "Oh, she's in the house now." Maximina closely watched what was still going on during that memorable evening and then went home.
When on that same night Father Manuel Anton arrived at his residence in Barro (Llanes), he talked with Father Victor Lopez, who had just returned from Santander.
"What!" asked Father Victor, "Do you still believe in Garabandal?"
"Now, more than ever after what I've seen today."
"Well, I personally have no belief. I've spoken to Bishop Doroteo and he told me..."
Naturally he related his interview with Conchita on that same day and what Odriozola and Pinal had said. Garabandal was beginning to be marked by a great sign of contradiction. "Whoever kills you will think that he has done a service to God" (Jn 16:2).
Our Lady's Voice
The following day, when coming down from the pastures, my mother and I met my aunt Maximina Gonzalez, who was very excited and told us, "Do you know that the Virgin's voice has been heard on a tape recorder?" And I asked her, "What did She say? And She..."
— Conchita's Diary
We have additional details about this episode that Conchita mentions but did not witness, since she had to go far away from the village to the pastures to earn with difficulty her daily bread. It should not be imagined that the life of the visionaries had been changed into a continual celebration of wonders, or that due to the ecstasies they had been dispensed from all work and trouble. It was rather the contrary, and after many sleepless nights in vigils that could exhaust the strongest, they had to begin the new day very early during the summertime and work like all the other village girls.
In her diary entry, Conchita is alluding to the following episode: On that August day, Mari Loli and Jacinta had another apparition in the morning at the Pines. They were presenting medals and rosaries to kiss as usual, oscillating back and forth and falling. Then on their knees they were carrying on a dialogue; in it Jacinta was heard to say: "Conchita has already come. They cut her braids in Santander. She's very pretty and tanned from going to the beach." When they came out of the ecstasy, they answered questions from the people around them. And one of the crowd, who had brought a tape recorder, let them hear some of the things recorded on the tape; among these were phrases that they themselves had spoken in ecstasy. The girls were amazed since they had never heard anything like this. The stranger explained how the recorder worked and did some demonstrations during which he handed them the microphone. "If you see the Virgin again, tell Her to talk through here."
Soon the girls fell into ecstasy again and Mari Loli, who was still holding the microphone in her hand when the ecstasy overtook her, began to converse with the Virgin: "A man came with a thing that takes down everything, everything that is said. Why don't You say something so that everyone can hear you, so that the people will believe? Go ahead, say something. Yes, talk. Say something. Not for us— so that the people believe."
Eventually the ecstasy ended. What the girls had said to the Apparition was played back on the tape recorder for them to hear. And at the moment where they stopped telling her to speak, an ineffable voice was heard— the witnesses classified it most sweet— that said: "No, I will not speak." Loli and Jacinta exclaimed together, "Oh! That's the voice of the Virgin!"
Everyone was very excited. As Maximina said to Conchita, "The people cried because they heard the Virgin's voice." This is something exceptional. The owner of the tape recorder (Angel Dominguez Borreguero, director of the Psychiatric Hospital of Salamanca) shouted, "I will send this to the pope!" Naturally the people wanted to hear the marvelous voice again so they played the tape again, but at the proper place they heard nothing.
They came down from the Pines somewhat bewildered, talking of what had happened. They replayed the tape in Mari Cruz's home. And once again everybody could hear the mysterious voice. And again the girls said the voice was the Virgin's. She was not heard after that. But the witnesses of that unique experience have not forgotten. All kept in their heart what one of them expressed while coming down from Garabandal, "I will go to the grave with the conviction of having heard the Virgin's voice." This occurrence cannot be taken lightly since there are twelve signed witnesses to it.
We would all be overjoyed to be able to hear the truly unique voice of Our Lady. But we must recognize that that would be too much of a gift for our sinful ears, which are ordinarily so open for voices and words opposed to those of the Virgin. Now we should live with hope and a desire to give a spiritual resonance to the beautiful supplication that the liturgy teaches us to direct to the Virgin with words from the Song of Solomon (2:14): "Let me hear your voice, for your voice is sweet, and your face is comely."
PICTURE: From left: Mari Cruz, Conchita and Mari Loli being questioned by a priest.
August 4 was profuse with wonders. If the tape recording had occurred in the morning, in the evening occurred another series of remarkable phenomena beginning at 8:00 P.M., first at the Pines and later in the church. Again Loli and Jacinta were the participants. Conchita and her mother, Aniceta, who had been working from early morning harvesting hay far from the village, returned straight home to rest awhile and finish their housework. At a late hour Maximina went to see them. When she arrived, Aniceta was saying to her daughter, "You troublemaker! Don't you see that your apparitions aren't true? Why hasn't the Virgin called you today like the others?" The child answered very seriously, "You want me to tell you all about the ecstasies of the other girls?" "Yes," exclaimed Maximina, "tell us about them. Tell us about them since I've just come from seeing them."
Then Conchita explained in detail everything that had happened, with the stops that the visionaries had made and the things they had done. On hearing this, Maximina said, "My hair is standing on end. Oh! This is fantastic! That's exactly how it happened." Maximina later related more details:
Then Aniceta said to me, "But Conchita has been with me all this time shut up in the house." She turned to Conchita and asked her, "How can this be?"
"This is how," Conchita replied. "While I was in the front room, I felt the Virgin calling me by my name, and She told me everything that the others were doing and where they were walking. And I know more, what the others don't yet know, what the Virgin told me. She told me that we would hear a voice, and then we were to go where it took us."
"Oh heavens," said Aniceta, "and if it takes you over a steep cliff?"
"The Virgin would never do that," answered Conchita. "The Virgin would never take us to a bad place. She also told me that the time would come when we ourselves would deny, for we would come to doubt everything. And almost everyone would come to doubt."
And so during the evening of August 4, 1961, when she had barely arrived back from her stay in Santander, Conchita would receive the first secret and confidential communication about something that no one could then have possibly imagined, and which afterward would descend terribly like a weight of darkness on the mystery of Garabandal: the denial of its visionaries and the falling away of a great number of its followers. (to be continued)
Excerpted from She Went in Haste to the Mountain by Eusebio Garcia de Pesquera, O.F.M., Cap.
Edited for Garabandal Journal by Irene Dutra
Reprinted with permission from Garabandal Journal, July-August 2002