This final interview with Conchita in our series was conducted by Father Francis Benac, S.J., in June of 1978.
Characteristics of the Ecstasies
Father Benac How high was the Virgin when she appeared to you?
Conchita At times we could give her the crucifix to kiss, but we always had to look up to see her.
Benac In some photographs you are seen lifting one another.
Conchita Yes, because sometimes we couldn't reach her when she was above the level of our faces.
Benac Were you aware of what you were doing?
Conchita Yes, we were quite aware and when doing this the other one was weightless.
Benac Is it true that Our Lady kissed you before her departure? Did you feel her kissing you?
Conchita Surely we felt it, just as one feels when kissed by another person.
Benac Our Lady often appeared to all four of you at night. Do you think she chose that time for any special reason?
Conchita I would say that there was no special motive other than, as she said, it was during the nighttime that so many sins were committed.
Penance and Sacrifice
Benac Did Our Lady ask all four of you to offer sacrifices?
Conchita For us, we were already making sacrifices. We had to work the whole day in the fields, and then when it came time for bed, we couldn't sleep because the Virgin had already given us the Hamadas [call that preceded her appearances]. It was the same for all the people in the village and our own families. Surely those were years of much sacrifice, laboring by day and spending the night waiting for Our Lady.
Benac Regarding penance, did she refer to anything specific?
Conchita I remember the first day I put on a penitential belt; she told me that this was not what she wanted, but rather that we should accept daily all things as they came to us and offer them up with love and faith, especially with regard to the obedience we owed to our mother and all other things, you see, which children are expected to do.
Benac During Our Lady's many visits, what did she request most frequently from the four of you?
Conchita She always insisted that we pray for priests. We couldn't understand why. It sounded so strange to hear her make this request because one day she had told us: "If you ever see a priest and an angel, greet the priest first and then the angel." It was by this, that we understood that it was God [represented by the priest] who came, and so we could not understand her persistent request for prayers for priests.
Father Luis Andreu
Benac When did you know that Fr. Luis Andreu had a sort of share in your ecstasies and the vision of the miracle?
Conchita (in a soft voice) I don't remember.
Benac But you said later that the Virgin had told you that he had died of joy?
Conchita I know she said this, but I don't remember when.
Benac Is it true that Our Lady told you that Fr. Luis (after his death) would come with her and that he would talk to all four of you?
Conchita Yes, and we could hear him speak in his natural voice.
Benac Did he tell you anything personal for his brother Ramon?
Conchita I don't remember. What I do remember is that he taught us the Hail Mary in Greek. We immediately repeated it and the people heard us say it.
Benac Do you still remember it? Can you recite something?
Conchita (Without hesitation, Conchita recited the first sentence of the Hail Mary) Hcdre Maria Keharitomene, O Kirios Metasu eulogemene... I don't remember any more.
Benac You have also been quoted as having said that Fr. Luis Andreu's body would be found incorrupt after the Miracle.
Conchita Yes. The Virgin said that after the Miracle Father's body would be found incorrupt. I know that when his grave was opened to transfer the remains to Loyola, the body was decomposed.
Benac What was your reaction to that?
Conchita Let me say again that it was the Virgin who told me that after the Miracle his body would be found incorrupt. Now how that will happen I don't know.
Photo: Conchita waiting up for the Vision.
Benac But, when Our Lady said this, she would have known that the body had already decomposed.
Conchita Yes, for she knows everything. Perhaps his brother [Father Ramon Andreu] knows more.
Visit to Rome
Benac Regarding your visits to Rome, who called you there the first time?
Conchita I don't quite remember, but I'm sure it was Cardinal Ottaviani. I know that some messages were delivered to our house saying that I had an invitation from Rome. I think the invitation was from Cardinal Ottaviani.
Benac So, you met Cardinal Ottaviani in Rome?
Conchita I think it was Cardinal Ottaviani and other bishops, but I don't remember exactly.
Benac There has been much speculation about your meeting with the Holy Father and I have the words of Canon Porro about it. Could you tell us if his statement is accurate?
Conchita I cannot speak about that [Note: Conchita was sworn to secrecy about what was discussed in her meeting with Paul VI.].
Benac On the cover of Sanchez Ventura's book, THE APPARITIONS OF GARABANDAL, Pope Paul VI is quoted as having said: "I bless you and with me the whole Church blesses you." Are those words correct?
Conchita Oh yes! He said exactly those words.
Benac Could they be heard all around?
Conchita Oh yes. Everyone around us could hear them.
Benac Was any cardinal or bishop close to the Holy Father when he passed in front of you?
Conchita Yes, there was a bishop by the name (N.N.) who I felt did his very best to prevent the Holy Father from coming close to me. As we stood watching the Pope advance on his gestatoria (chair mounted on two parallel, horizontal poles carried on the shoulders of men), the Holy Father noticed a friend of his standing by me, but that bishop tried to stand between the Pope and us. Eventually he did come closer to us and then spoke those words to me.
Benac Regarding the Pope, I understand that Our Lady said he would see the Miracle from wherever he was. Is that correct? Did she refer to the present Pope?
ConchitaNo. When I said that, Pope John XXIII was reigning. She did not say which Pope, just simply "the Pope."
The Second Message
Benac Referring to the Second Message, where did you receive it and when did you write it down?
Conchita I received the Message at la calleja [the sunken lane leading up to the Pines where the first apparitions took place]. After St. Michael gave it to me, I went home with all the people following me. While everyone waited outside, I went in and I don't think it took me more than a minute to write it down. I would like to add something here. At the time of our denials [the Blessed Virgin told the visionaries in advance (1961) that they would doubt and deny their visions once they stopped seeing her] I remember when I met with the bishop to tell him that the apparitions were not true, I did tell him: "I am sure the Message was given to me by the angel." Even when I felt the apparitions were not true, the Message was engraved in my mind.
Benac Do you remember this very well?
Conchita Oh, yes! It's what impressed me most even after the denials, when I would ask myself: If the apparitions weren't true then who gave me that Message?
Benac I understand there are two versions of the Message. How many copies did you make?
Conchita In the first version I wrote "many priests are on the way to perdition."
Benac Why didn't you mention cardinals, bishops and priests?
Conchita For me to add cardinals and bishops was too strong and I didn't dare say it. As I was writing the Message, I said to myself: I don't feel that I am disobeying the angel since bishops and cardinals are priests. Later, when I wrote out the Message again, I felt I should write it as St. Michael told me, with cardinals and bishops as well. I know I made two copies, but on the first one I only wrote "priests."
Benac I understand that Father Marcelino Andreu made the first translation into English. Did he write the complete version or did he say only priests?
ConchitaI don't know, but I feel that he wrote only priests and I think Father Luna made the translation into French.
Benac Do you recall any ecclesiastical authorities reproaching you because of that sentence?
Conchita Oh yes, many, but only individually and not officially. One priest told me I would be canonically excommunicated for having spoken about priests that way.
Benac But an ordinary priest obviously has no power to do this.
Conchita Perhaps he said it to frighten me. And well, yes, it was terrible since the people in my village used to identify a priest with something divine. When one came to the village it was as if God Himself came. This was how we thought of our priests and it was hard for me to write that [part in the] Message. Back in the village in those days, nothing of what is happening with priests today was heard of. This is why they called me a liar and said they were going to kill me.
Benac Did the Blessed Virgin, or Saint Michael on her behalf, specifically ask you on any occasion to spread the Message?
Conchita As far as I'm concerned, this is the only reason for the apparitions: the Message - for me and for everyone.
Benac Wasn't that why the Virgin complained at the beginning of her second Message that her first Message had not been made known?
Conchita Yes, exactly.
Benac Then, could we say that this is your special mission, to practice and help others to practice the Message?
Conchita Surely, otherwise why would she have come from heaven to earth.
Benac Are you happy to hear the news of the extraordinary way the Message is spreading all over the world in spite of so many difficulties?
Conchita Yes, and I receive very encouraging letters from people saying how they practice the Message and try to spread it.
Saint Michael's Chapel
Benac There is one delicate question I would like to ask you and it's about the chapel in honor of St. Michael. Did Our Lady ever ask for this?
Conchita Yes, Our Lady told us that she wanted a chapel to be built at the Pines but after the Miracle. Perhaps Our Lady may not have been pleased at the present chapel which was put up before the Miracle [Note: the present pre-fabricated structure was literally put up over night around 1968].
Photo: Conchita and Patrick on their wedding day, May 26, 1973, with Dr. and Gladys Dominguez and sons.
[Young Jerome, on the right, later became a New York Police Department special units officer and died heroically on September 11, 2001, saving the lives of others during the Trade Center disaster.]
Benac Did Our Lady ever ask, as she did at other apparitions, that a shrine be built in her honor?
Conchita No. She only asked that a chapel be built in honor of St. Michael.
Benac How would you interpret this gesture of Our Lady?
Conchita I didn't interpret it in any way. I always accepted all that she said, but now I realize and think that because St. Michael is God's defender against Satan, the Blessed Virgin thinks people should have much devotion to him - but I really don't know.
Benac Did the Virgin ever tell you anything about your future?
Conchita No. I often asked her but she never spoke to us about our private lives. If I asked her any questions in that regard, she did not answer. I repeatedly told her that when I became 15 years old I would go to the convent and become a nun at 16, but she never answered me or the other girls.
Benac But you did feel an urge to join the religious life.
Conchita Yes, I wanted to enter a convent thinking that after having seen the Virgin the normal thing to do was become a nun (here she smiled sweetly).
Benac How was it then that you followed a different course?
Conchita After a locution with Our Lord [at a convent school in Pamplona], I don't remember the entire locution, but I do remember Him telling me that I was there doing my own will and not His. From this and the rest of what He said to me then, I thought my vocation was not in a convent. After that, thinking that perhaps Our Lord meant that my place was not there at that particular convent, I thought of joining some cloistered nuns. I used to go for 15 days or even a month for recollection and had felt a strong attraction to that way of life. Strangely however, each time I thought of joining, an afterthought followed telling me that, I would not be able to persevere.
Conchita I would presume that because I did not have a true vocation as Our Lord had indicated.
Benac After this did you feel attracted to the married life?
Conchita No, I never thought of marriage either.
Benac You told me that Patrick, your husband, has helped you a great deal in your spiritual life. How is that?
Conchita I can think of no other person in the world who has given me such a fine example. And I'm not saying that just because he's my husband but because he is that.
This interview was filmed by Harry Daley and is printed here with kind permission.
Reprinted with kind permission from Garabandal Journal, January-February 2004