Conchita Gonzalez Keena, does not grant interviews today and this is understandable. What could she add, at this late date, to what she has already said? But what Conchita has said on previous occasions is still of interest and we begin our series of former interviews with excerpts from one conducted by Dr. Jeronimo Dominguez in May 1973.
Doctor Dominguez: What did you feel when you saw the Virgin? Were you afraid or was she like a friend?
Conchita: Whenever she came we felt a great joy. It was as though she had been away on a trip and had just come back.
Dr Dominguez So how did you feel toward her as to a friend?
Conchita I felt toward her as to a friend, or just as if she were my mother.
Dr Dominguez Did she always appear with a white dress and blue mantle or did she sometimes appear dressed another way?
Conchita She always wore a white dress and blue mantle. I remember once we asked her why she dressed this way since the statues we were used to seeing of Our Lady of Mount Carmel showed her dressed in brown. On the next day, or perhaps it was several days later, I don't remember exactly, she came dressed in brown. After that she always appeared with a white dress and blue mantle.
Dr Dominguez Did the Virgin wear the scapular on her wrist all the time or just sometimes?
Conchita Always! She always wore it.
Dr Dominguez Do you remember if the Virgin asked you to bring religious objects for her to kiss?
Conchita Yes, she used to ask us to bring her religious objects so she could kiss them. She said that those who wore these objects would do their purgatory here on earth. She also said that through these objects miracles or prodigies would be performed. I think she said prodigies not miracles.
Dr Dominguez Do you recall any miracle or prodigy that resulted from a rosary that the Virgin kissed?
Conchita I remember one regarding a medal. A little girl was in a coma and everyone was just waiting for her to die. A lady brought the girl a piece of pine from the tree where the Virgin appeared, and the medal. The girl was completely cured between that night and the following morning. She is now married, has children of her own, and is completely normal.
Dr Dominguez Did the Virgin ever talk about the rosary?
Conchita Every time we saw the Virgin we would say the rosary with her. She taught us how to say it.
Dr Dominguez How did she teach you? Did she take the lead in praying it?
Conchita Yes, she would lead us in praying it and we would repeat her words.
Dr Dominguez Did she pray it slowly or quickly?
Conchita Slowly, very slowly.
Dr Dominguez Is that the right way to say it?
Conchita We thought it was the right way at the time.
Dr Dominguez Do you remember the rings? Did the Virgin ask for wedding rings to kiss?
Conchita Yes. People would give us wedding rings for the Virgin to kiss. Sometimes we would have rings on every finger, then when we saw the Virgin we would give them to her to kiss. She would tell us to put each ring on each owner's finger. She would say: "This ring is for this person." We wouldn't see the rings or the persons, but we followed her directions.
Dr Dominguez That's unusual because you are in ecstasy looking up. How could you tell if you had the right ring since yours hands were full of them?
Conchita She would say to us, "not this ring but the one on your little finger" and so on. Let me tell you of a case involving the rings. A couple gave me two rings for the Virgin to kiss. I presented them to the Virgin, but she didn't kiss them. Instead, she gave me a message to be delivered privately to the couple.
Dr Dominguez What was the message?
Conchita The message was that they were not married, but just living together. When I told them they cried. Later they got married.
Dr Dominguez (Showing Conchita a picture of herself in ecstasy giving the crucifix to a man.) Do you remember these events such as this one with you holding out the crucifix?
Conchita I do remember very well that we held out the crucifix for people to kiss. I never knew the people who kissed it. The Virgin would say, "Extend your arm" and the crucifix would be kissed by whomever the Virgin wanted.
Dr Dominguez Wasn't there something that once happened with a small crucifix?
Conchita Yes. One day a man gave me a very small crucifix about the size of a fingernail. When I went to give it to the Virgin to kiss, it fell to the ground and I lost it. When the man came to ask me for the crucifix I told him that I'd lost it, but not to worry because I would ask the Virgin to help me find it again. Several nights later I found it. [During an ecstasy] the Virgin said to me, "Bend down and pick up that object." So I bent down and picked up something that was covered with mud, and it was the crucifix that I had lost.
Dr Dominguez What did you do with it?
Conchita I gave it back to the man.
Dr Dominguez What do you remember about priests during the time of the apparitions?
Conchita I remember that many priests came to the village [to see the events] and many were dressed in civilian clothes. I don't know how, but we always knew who the priests were even if there were a lot of people. One night in particular when we were seeing the Virgin there were a lot of people present. The Virgin told us to hold out our arms [with the crucifix] which we did. When it was over, we learned that all those to whom we had given the crucifix to kiss were priests dressed in civilian clothes.
Dr Dominguez (Showing Conchita a picture of the girls in ecstasy at the village church closed door) How come you were at the church door?
Conchita In the beginning [of the apparitions] we used to enter the church. But then because of the disturbance made by people who wanted to be first when we held out the crucifix for veneration, the bishop said we could no longer go inside while in ecstasy. From then on, the Virgin never led us inside.
Dr Dominguez You mean from then on the Virgin only led you up to the door?
Dr Dominguez Was this her way of saying the bishop had to be obeyed?
Conchita Yes, I think it was an example of the obedience we owe to the bishop and also to each person to whom we owe obedience.
Dr Dominguez At what time of the day did the Virgin appear, when there were people present?
Conchita She appeared at all hours of the day or night: 11:00 or 12:00 at night, or 1:00 or 5:00 in the morning. There was no definite time. Sometimes there were many people even at five in the morning, or just a few. Sometimes she appeared to us when we were alone with no one else there.
Dr Dominguez How did you know when she was going to appear at night?
Conchita She would alert us by three calls, but please don't ask me about them. It's something I have never been able to understand; that's all I can say.
Dr Dominguez Was it something you felt inside?
Conchita I have never been able to explain it. It was like an immense joy that brings you to a place without your knowing where you are going, only that you have to go there.
Dr Dominguez During all these spectacular events there were messages. There was one in 1961. Can you repeat what the Virgin said in that first Message?
Conchita Yes. The words of the Virgin are: "We have to do much penance and make many sacrifices. We have to visit the Blessed Sacrament often. Above all, we must be very good. The cup is already filling up. If we don't change a great punishment will come upon us." This is the way I understand it, although the Virgin didn't say it this way. With respect to penance and sacrifice, penance is what we impose on ourselves; sacrifice is giving up things as a situation suggests. For example, when a person scolds us, not to answer them back. Or if we receive a blow, to offer it to God. For me this is self imposed penance and sacrifice.
Dr Dominguez On the subject of penance and sacrifice, wasn't there an incident regarding a piece of gum?
Conchita Yes. The day of the last apparition on November 13, 1965, I had a piece of gum in my mouth. The moment I saw the Virgin, I stopped chewing it and lodged it against the inside of my cheek. But she said, "Why don't you get rid of that gum and offer it as a sacrifice for me?" [Note: In an account of this apparition much closer to the actual event itself that Conchita wrote for Father Jose Maria Alba, S.J., on December 10, 1965, the words of Our Lady are more accurately recounted: "Why don't you get rid of your chewing gum and offer it up as a sacrifice for the glory of my Son." So I took the gum out of my mouth. I understood from this that the Virgin was not asking for big sacrifices, but small ones so that we can continually offer them out of love for her.
Photo: Conchita in 1964 with village children on the church portico.
Dr Dominguez So little sacrifices are good when made in the presence of God. After all, gum is not bad, right?
Conchita Not at all, but giving it up is an act of love for God.
Dr Dominguez The Virgin also said in the Message that above all we have to be good. What do you think she meant by that?
Conchita I don't know what the Virgin meant. I understand it to be a life lived moment by moment offering everything to God. Living like a Christian the way our conscience tells us is what I think she meant.
Dr Dominguez So everyone can be good.
Conchita Sure. Everyone in the practice of their religion, in their environment, in their family, their job, knows how to be good because each person has his own conscience and God speaks to each one through their conscience.
Dr Dominguez Each man and woman knows what is right or wrong whether it's here [in New York] or a little village like Garabandal.
Conchita I am sure that each person knows when they do something good or bad.
Dr Dominguez The Message then was the important thing in all these apparitions. What have you done or what have you tried to do to live the Message?
Conchita What would give the Virgin great happiness is a very difficult thing for me. That is to live each moment of the day doing everything for God.
Dr Dominguez Do you think you and I are living the Message?
Conchita I think I am, but you have to answer for yourself.
Dr Dominguez [Note: At the time of this interview, Conchita was a nurse in Dr. Dominguez's clinic in New York.] You work as a nurse. Do you fulfill the Message in that capacity and if so how?
Conchita I try to by doing my work to the best of my abilities and by treating the patients the way I should.
Dr Dominguez How about a housewife with three or four children who is busy all day? Can she fulfill the Message?
Conchita Surely, according to the perfection in which she accomplishes her duties offering all her actions to God.
Dr Dominguez Offering to God all the little things she does during the day. So it's not what you do but how you do it.
Conchita How you do it, that is true.
Dr Dominguez How about a person working in an office?
Conchita You can fulfill the Message anywhere. You can always be good and offer praise to God.
Photo: Conchita in 2000.
Dr Dominguez One of the things you have done in New York is give out scapulars. Why do you do that? Do you like giving out scapulars in the office and on the streets?
Conchita Ever since I was a little girl I've worn the scapular. It's a devotion my mother taught me. But more than that, I wear it because whenever the Virgin appeared, she had the scapular on her wrist.
Dr Dominguez All that you have said so far deals with the first Message. Wasn't there another Message on June 18, 1965? Can you tell us about that one?
Conchita Certainly. The Virgin's Message delivered by Saint Michael said: "Because my Message of October 18, 1961, had not been fulfilled and that the world didn't know about it, I'm telling you that this is the last one. Before the cup was filling up. Now it is flowing over. Many priests, bishops and cardinals are on the road to perdition and are taking many souls with them. Each day less and less importance is being given to the Eucharist. You should use all your efforts to avoid God's wrath. If you sincerely ask for pardon, He will forgive you. I your mother, through the mediation of Saint Michael the Archangel, ask you to correct your ways. You should sacrifice more. Think of the passion of Jesus.
Dr Dominguez What do you think about the statement that cardinals, bishops and priests are on the road to perdition?
Conchita I think every day the Virgin appeared she mentioned priests and that we should pray for them. We never understood why. For us priests were like saints because we never had many come to our village. It was considered a privilege whenever one came. Regarding bishops and cardinals, we thought it very strange, but we would repeat it the way she said it.
Dr Dominguez (Showing Conchita a picture of her receiving Communion from Saint Michael) Here you are, but we are not able to see the Host. The angel brought you Communion many times, isn't that right? Do you remember how many times?
Conchita Not that many, maybe forty times. Usually there was a priest in the village and the angel only gave us Communion when there was no priest. Regarding Communion, the Virgin taught us the value and the importance of the Eucharist. After the apparitions started, we never missed a day without receiving.
Dr Dominguez Since only priests can consecrate, did you ever ask the Virgin where the angel got the Hosts?
Conchita Yes, we did ask because a priest told us to. The Virgin said that the angel took the already-consecrated Hosts from tabernacles on earth.
This interview was filmed by Harry Daley and is printed here with kind permission.
Reprinted with kind permission from Garabandal Journal, January-February 2004