Amidst conflicting opinions, the events continued
The day of the Miracle of the Host did not pass without having its effect, leaving in its wake a lengthy trail. For some, their suspicions about Garabandal only increased - we have already seen the opinion adopted by the Commission - while others believed all the more. Now for the first time, or at least with an intensity previously unknown, a regrettable thing came about. The village divided into opposing groups, and the visionaries' parents confronted one another even to the point of open antagonism.
Photo: Mari Loli in ecstasy holds up religious articles for the Virgin to kiss.
Concerning the days that followed immediately after July 18, we have a valuable store of information in the notes taken by the lawyer from Palencia, Luis Navas Carrillo. Although he speaks with great prudence and delicacy, it is not hard to detect the attitude of the village in his remarks:
After 11:00 on the morning of Thursday, July 19, a sunny and warm day, I left for Torrelavega to take my mother, sister and another woman to the train. Loli's father was waiting for me at the Hostal Gloria, where we had dinner before returning together to the village. In Torrelavega we also met the pastor, Father Valentin, who was going to Santander to report to the bishop everything that had happened on the previous day.
We got to Garabandal at nightfall in sufficient time to be present at the first and only apparition of the day, involving Ceferino's daughter [Loli]. She kept us up until after 4:30 in the morning. And at six o'clock, when I had barely fallen asleep, Jacinta's father called me to pray the rosary at the calleja. The girl was waiting there, seated on the rocks. We prayed the rosary in the solitude and silence. Then we went to the church and in front of its still locked doors, we said the prayers for a visit to Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament. Then I understood the sacrifice that was entailed for a girl like Jacinta to get up every day at six in the morning to go to the cuadro and pray the first rosary of the day there. Although in the beginning this had been a command from the Virgin, it had not been repeated for months, and still the girl continued going just to please the Lady in blue and white.
Among the various things that Mr. Navas wrote down in his notes on July 20, Friday, I do not want to omit these:
During the day, while discussing with the people her unfulfilled hope of receiving Communion that day from the hands of the Angel, Conchita said: "How unfortunate that the Angel didn't come!" And responding to people about the reason for her receiving Communion more frequently than the others, she replied, "Because I'm the worst of all." They told me that this answer was given to her by the Angel when the girl had insisted on knowing the reason for the difference.
Saturday passed without notable episodes, until 1:00 at night when the first ecstasy occurred. It was Loli's, in the kitchen of her home. The lawyer from Palencia described it:
It was something marvelous. I couldn't imagine anything comparable. The silence was absolute and the attention complete. The girl offered the Vision whatever had been deposited on the table for this purpose. I had put there a collection of holy cards with the titles of the litany, which I had bought in Cabezon de la Sal. With greater dexterity than a card player, the girl gracefully opened the holy cards in a fan and held them up that way to be kissed by the Vision; Loli was completely transfigured. Her face was radiant and full of light; the expression didn't belong to her, but to an angel. It seemed as if she were radiating a supernatural halo and we were all immersed in a sensation of serenity and peace as if being under the gaze of Our Lady.
Concerning Conchita's ecstasy, which followed Loli's, Luis Navas writes:
She went out of her house and through the various streets of the village; she made a complete circle around the church; she went to the cemetery and knelt at the gate. We went with her to the cuadro, and from there she descended backwards in a marvelous ecstatic dance. The rosary was recited and later we sang the Salve Regina. The voice of the visionary didn't belong to this world. There were still other trips through the village. The girl constantly smiled in an ineffable way, very different from the almost ironic way she often smiles when not in ecstasy.
Photo: Conchita in 1962.
Toward the end, when she began giving back the chains and medals, she noticed she had dropped a medal. She asked the Vision about it and was astonished at the response she received, since she was heard to say, "But how could I lose it near the church if I haven't gone out of the house?" After the ecstasy she was also astonished in seeing us all perspiring, while she had no sign of exertion or fatigue. And the affair had lasted until 4:30 in the morning! We went to bed happy since the Virgin had presented us a night which for me was happier and richer in the interior life than July eighteenth itself.
Luis Navas used Sunday, July 22, to speak at leisure with the four girls:
They were the ones who brought up the subject of the miracle on July 18. I noticed that some of them, especially Jacinta, had still not spoken about it to their companion, Conchita. And I was surprised at the attitude that was then adopted. Jacinta, a timid girl, soon showed herself harsh, always taking the initiative and displaying in her speech a series of judgments and opinions that surely were those beginning to be circulated through the village. And so I learned something of what the people were thinking and what they usually were careful not to mention in the presence of strangers.
While Jacinta was stating the remarks that were circulating through the village concerning the disputed Communion of the Angel, she gave me the impression that she was identifying with those remarks, or at least partially accepted them, since she took on a very personal tone in what she said. Loli hardly opened her mouth. Mari Cruz enclosed herself in her habitual silence. And Conchita merely smiled before these absurdities that reflected the bad disposition and bitterness of ignorant people inclined to suspicion. And all this, even though some of the villagers had been close enough to the Communion so as not to leave them room for doubt.
It pained me that these open fissures in the friendship between the families of the visionaries existed, and were coming to the surface like this, and that they were also having an effect on the girls themselves. Several times I mentioned in the houses there that the Virgin wanted the four girls to be united, and that they couldn't be separated.
They were humanizing the realm of the supernatural that was emerging from the apparitions with proofs and signs more evident each day. It brought to mind the scene in the Gospel where the mother of the sons of Zebedee asked Christ to reserve the first two places in His kingdom for her sons. Here also, each family was endeavoring to make their daughter stand out as if distinguished by special signs as proof of the predilection of the Vision and the people for her. Perhaps Jacinta was irritated by the distinction that this supposed for Conchita, if the event of the miraculous Communion is regarded with the eyes of the flesh, and not those of the spirit and faith.
Luis Navas ended this dialogue, which he said was "characterized by a sharpness that was unusual in Jacinta," with words that were conciliatory and Christian in sentiment. This episode is revealing, not only for showing the atmosphere existing in the village after that memorable day, but also for illustrating once again the co-existence of high divine gifts with low human weaknesses. These must displease God, but He has infinite patience, waiting for souls to overcome their faults.
The multitude of supernatural favors that the visionaries at Garabandal received from God did not substantially change their human nature, strongly influenced by the bad inclinations that we call "vices" or "capital sins." Their failures should have urged them to a moral fight against their inclinations. The girls were certainly not free from them, and sprouts of their weak human nature would inexorably appear on more than one occasion. We should not then be surprised that a certain feeling of envy was shown with regard to the marked distinction that Conchita had on July 18. And making it worse were the parents' rivalries and their neighbors' malicious comments.
Of Monday, July 23, Luis Navas writes:
After 10:00 in the morning I was sitting at the door of Mari Loli's house. She told me that right after the visit that she had made following her morning rosary, she had received Communion from the Angel near the church door. I was surprised because for some time only Conchita had been receiving Communion like that. She also told me she had asked the Angel why he had not given Communion to them too on July 18, since the people of the village had commented that "surely it had been due to their having been bad." The Angel answered that it wasn't so.
Jacinta arrived shortly afterwards, and Mari Loli told her about the Communion. My attention was drawn when Jacinta didn't answer and continued into the interior of the store in search of bread, leaving her best friend deserted.
Photo: Mari Loli receiving mystical Communion from the ange! on the Church portico.
Of the things that Navas Carrillo next writes, I am only putting down those that have the greatest interest for us:
Observing the ecstasies of the girls produces different effects in people. While it makes some more fervent, it almost scandalizes others, confirming their disbelief.
I have been informed of another very meaningful episode that occurred some time later. Loli's newest little brother had just been born. One day she fell into ecstasy near him and was heard to speak about him, showing astonishment at one time. "What? So little and already in mortal sin?" She didn't put the crucifix on his lips until he was baptized. One day, while speaking about the sins that most offend God, the girls put in second place those that were committed in marriage. They used words whose significance was certainly beyond their rudimentary education.
On that Monday, July 23, Luis Navas said farewell to Garabandal. He expressed the result of his stay in this way:
Fortified by pure air, both spiritual and material, my continued meditations led me to accept with internal joy the troubles of this life, and also to look without excessive fear at death, which, at the end of everything, is no more than a frontier.
I felt a burning desire (and I petitioned the Mother of God and Our Mother many times) to be truly good, not halfway - for example, correcting my brusqueness, my stubbornness, my obstinacy, which together with a frankness that is sometimes excessive, are the origin of much discourtesy and many disagreements. Trying to defend the truth, I haven't always been charitable. And I need to be convinced that if charity is given, sanctity is earned.
It would be magnificent if every pilgrimage to Garabandal produced the same effects!
On the following Wednesday, July 25, all over Spain there was a big celebration: the feast day of its patron and father in the faith, the Apostle St. James. It was the second time during the apparitions in Garabandal that this holy day took place. Would something happen on this day? Leafing through a mixed-up stack of references and testimonies referring to this time, I found this statement from Maria Herrero de Gallardo, who wrote down what she heard from Father Valentin months later:
You see, Señora, that at times I tell you things that I don't tell anyone else, since I know that you receive them well and think about them, while many others find them ridiculous. For example, I remember the feast day of St. James the Apostle. It was almost midnight and about twenty people were watching the girls in ecstasy. At times I looked at the sky, a beautiful summer sky covered with stars, with here and there a little white cloud drifting by. Suddenly - I saw this with my own eyes, and the persons I mentioned also saw it - our patron St. James appeared on a beautiful white horse, like the tradition described in Spanish history. For a few minutes he seemed to make a path across the sky, disappearing at times behind white clouds and reappearing again. It was really wonderful.
I find no great difficulty in accepting that this happened. And I would point out further how opportune would be a new appearance and intervention of the Defender of the Spanish Main, when once again it is the hour of a great battle for the faith of its people against many enemies within and without. If he was needed so much in the days of horses and swords, he is needed much more today against enemies wielding more sinister weapons in the heart of the land dedicated to the apostle called the Son of Thunder (Mk 3:17).
Three days later, on Saturday, July 28, there came to Garabandal for the first time, an illustrious priest, Father Enrique Valcarce Alfayate. who served in the diocese of Madrid for many years with important functions and duties there. He made a summary of his observations in a report that he wrote later in Comillas and that bears the date of July 30, 1962. In it he describes a most remarkable experience: his own participation in one of the girls' ecstatic marches:
After the rosary, I remained praying for a while in the church. Suddenly Dr. Ortiz came in and told me to go outside if I wanted to see the girls in ecstasy. I went out immediately. They were walking with the people behind them. I pushed my way through and managed to join Mari Loli and Conchita, who were walking together arm in arm. Later I was told that the other two, Jacinta and Mari Cruz, were doing likewise with another group of people down a different street.
I would like to interrupt Father Valcarce Alfayate's narrative to insert what Conchita's aunt Maximina wrote about this night to the Pifarré family of Barcelona: "Saturday (July 28) was extremely moving. There were many people and the four girls had an apparition. They went separated in pairs. As there were so many people, it was better that way: some in one direction and others in another. The four girls sang the rosary together in different places. While we were with Loli and Conchita at the Pines, the singing of the people going with the other two girls through the village could be heard perfectly. All were singing at the same time up above and down below. It was thrilling. I seem to remember seeing Dr. Ortiz singing with all his might. Good, we all sing whatever we can."
Now back to Father Valcarce:
The phenomenon as a whole made a tremendous impression on me; I was astounded. The fast walk over really rough terrain, almost impassible, strewn with the worst obstacles, running at times at incredible speeds, both forwards and backwards, as if the girls had wings on their feet - with their heads tilted sharply back, with their eyes unblinking and fixed constantly on the alleged vision...
The trip was made while singing the holy rosary (the girls leading and the people in the village following) except for the Our Fathers and certain ejaculations which the girls said with great devotion, very slowly and with deep feeling. Furthermore their singing was beautifully intoned, with sweet voices and excellent harmony.
Photo: In ecstasy by the Church door, Conchita lifts Mari Loli so she can kiss the Virgin.
The walk lasted from about 10:15 at night until after 11:30. During almost all this time, I was able to go with them, hanging onto either Loli's or Conchita's arm. By holding on this way, I was able to follow them in spite of many obstacles, running swiftly and with a strange sensation of security. The falls and stumbles that I made at times always happened to me when I let go of the girls.
(It should be pointed out that Father Enrique Valcarce was advanced in both years and weight and was not exactly in shape for an obstacle course. Only when he was hanging onto the girls did he feel extremely light. Someone said, "For heaven's sake, Father, be careful going so fast on these streets or you'll kill yourself." "Don't worry, I feel as though I'm 40 years younger," he answered.)
The end of it all took place at the church doors, which were locked. First of all Loli raised Conchita in her arms, higher than Loli herself, and then Conchita did the same with Mari Loli. After kneeling down and suddenly recovering their normal state, they looked around with a smile, which later they shared with all of us.
To these experiences on Saturday, Father Enrique added those of the following Sunday, July 29, which he also spent in Garabandal. On Father Valentin's request, he celebrated Mass in the village at 9:00 A.M. And the personal impression of his experiences he wrote down in a report at Comillas:
The rivalry displayed against Conchita by the other three didn't make a good impression on me. Nor the fixing in advance the time for the ecstasy; nor the fact of the walks, seemingly senseless, around the church, to the Pines from the church, and from the church to the Pines or the cemetery, through the streets of the village, time and time again.
Nevertheless, taken as a whole, everything I have tried to describe was truly exceptional and amazing. It is certainly not a product of disease, either psychiatric or organic. It seems to me, then, that the facts do not have a natural explanation. The girls show an expression of great beauty when they are in ecstasy, an expression frequently angelic (for example, with Mari Loli). But when normal, they are quite withdrawn and taciturn.
The remarks I have just made should not be taken out of proportion. The very matter of the rivalry that I perceived between Conchita and the other girls is a good proof that this is not an act concocted by the four girls together. What leaves me the most confused is the matter of the senseless walks, which seem to be without basis. But I recognize that I lack material for judgment so as to take a definitive position. I would have to go many times to the village and observe everything in greater detail. Therefore, if no medical explanation can he found for these phenomena, I consequently reject the explanation saying it was an act concocted either by the girls themselves or by third parties. But I don't go so far as to say it is a supernatural phenomenon due to Our Lady. Then, what is it? I don't know.
It is easy to answer these and the other difficulties of Father Enrique, understandable in someone with only brief experience with Garabandal. Those who have attentively followed it from the beginning can certainly see more clearly the matters that were obscure to him.
If the illustrious priest from Madrid left Garabandal without knowing the cause of it, or without venturing to express his opinion, it was not the same with two visitors who arrived in the village just as he was leaving. Their names should be mentioned, since they comprise part of this enigmatic story. They were Dr. Ricardo Puncernau, renowned neuropsychiatrist from Barcelona, and Father Luis Lopez Retenaga, a professor of theology in the diocesan seminary of San Sebastian (Guipuzcoa). I cannot give the exact dates of their arrivals, but certainly they were in Garabandal in the early days of August, 1962; and for the neuropsychiatrist, it was not the first visit, although perhaps it was for the priest.
The attorney, Luis Navas, left Garabandal on July 23, and was not planing to return until Saturday, August 11, to be there for the feast of the Assumption. But he returned a week earlier, as he explained:
I was with my in-laws in Santander. I aroused their curiosity first, and then their interest in Garabandal, in such a way that we agreed to go there on Saturday, August 4. On that day, after having enjoyed a beautiful and sunny morning at the beach, we ate and set out for Garabandal.
I was very happy to renew friendships there that had been formed during the apparitions. Dr. Puncernau was there, having come from Barcelona, this time with his wife and oldest son. I single him out from the rest because of his position as the neuropsychiatrist who prepared a complete report for the pastor about the visionaries' irrefutable normality before and after their ecstasies. Also I met many priests and religious there, among whom was one from the city of San Sebastian who had the intention of informing the bishop of his diocese about all these things.
This priest from Guipuzcoa (a Basque province) undoubtedly was Father Retenaga, although Mr. Navas does not mention his name.
As on other occasions, the people had hardly gone outside after the rosary on that Saturday, Our Lady's day, when Conchita and Maria Dolores were in ecstasy at the very door of the church. I was very happy about this since I hadn't seen them together in ecstasy since that famous October 18 of the previous year, the day of the Message; although on that occasion the four girls had been together. They went out holding hands, as if Mari Loli were letting herself be docilely led by her older sister, obeying the suggestions of the Vision.
Photo: Village pastor Father Valentin Marichalar, left, with Father Retenaga.
What the attorney goes on to narrate coincides with what Father Enrique Valcarce wrote in his report about the happenings of the previous Saturday. From this we can see that within the almost continual variations of the phenomena, there was a certain uniformity of procedure. From the pastor, Father Valentin, we have some brief notes that complement those of Luis Navas and Maximina Gonzalez, helping us to better recreate in our minds the atmosphere in Garabandal during the early days of August, 1962:
August 3. At 4:00 in the morning, Loli went into ecstasy in her home. There were many people from Barcelona, Madrid, Santander, a diocesan priest, a Claretian Father and a Jesuit. She gave the articles to be kissed to the Vision, and afterwards she returned them to their owners. She didn't leave her home.
August 4. At 9:30, after the rosary, the four girls went into ecstasy. They went to the cuadro then later to the Pines praying the rosary. During the Hail Mary, they said, "Holy Mary, Mother of God and our Mother." They descended backwards toward the church; they walked around it. It lasted about an hour. There were two seminary professors from San Sebastian, a Claretian priest, and Father Alba, S.J., from Barcelona as well as Father José Ramon.
Father Valentin was struck by the addition of "our Mother" to the recitation of the Hail Mary. And he was not the only one. Luis Navas, the lawyer from Palencia, who was present that day, wrote: "We had never heard them say it this way, 'Mother of God and our Mother.' The village priest took note of this very interesting detail that so much reflects the maternal character of the Virgin. The visionaries' way of speaking, with their even-pitched, soft, delicate, melodious voices filled our souls with tranquility, as though we were feeling Our Lady above our heads."
We can understand Mr. Navas's sentiments. But if the new form of the Hail Mary was a novelty to him, certainly it was not to Father Valentin, unless it was due to the tone and the persistence of the girls, since "Mother of God and our Mother" was heard for the first time in Garabandal on August 1 of the previous year, as has been mentioned. (Note: Our Lady told the visionaries that she liked it very much but told them it should not be used publicly unless it was approved by the Church.
And so at the beginning of the second August of apparitions in Garabandal we see that the phenomena continued without eclipse. And the questions continued - without answers. The inquisitive came and went, but also those who seriously sought to understand the reasons and the explanations for all these things.
The memory of July eighteenth lingered on, the day of the Miracle of the Host. Now we see better that the unequivocally predicted miracle or mila-grucu occurred mainly to call attention to the most important treasure that we have in our Christian and ecclesiastical heritage: the actual presence of the God-man among us as our daily nourishment.
However, as so often occurs in the affairs of God, this served also as a test, as the means "for the fall and for the rise of many" (Lk 2:34). Some believed more than ever; others doubted more than ever. Some became fervent; some lost interest; and some took on a spirit most opposed to the Eucharist: that of discord, hostility, jealousy.
The hidden mystery, in spite of everything, continued onward. The expectation of its final outcome did not die with the defections in the ranks of the first followers; soon new disciples came forth from those called at the last hour.
(to be continued)
Excerpted from SHE WENT IN HASTE TO THE MOUNTAIN by Eusebio Garcia de Pasquera, O.F.M., Cap.
Reprinted with kind permission from Garabandal Journal November-December 2005