Mercedes Salisachs continues her narration of what happened in Garabandal during her second visit to the village
We witnessed many unusual situations in those days. One of the more remarkable cases was the conversion of a woman who came to Garabandal with a questionable past and the wrong attitude toward prodigies. (Dr. Puncernau could give more detailed information as he conversed with her.) This woman observed the girls in ecstasy and said she was not convinced that this was supernatural.
We don't know what happened to her, but something impacted her so strongly she had to be attended by the doctor. I witnessed her in tears and making public repentance for her sins. Apparently, when Conchita in ecstasy offered her the crucifix to kiss, she always refused it. Then something happened interiorly to her; she became frightened and started to go away. Conchita continued following her but the woman continued to refuse to kiss it. Conchita, pursued her and finally got Spanish author Mercedes Salisachs into a position in which she, with her free hand, pushed the woman's head forward and forced her to kiss the crucifix.
Later, when she had recovered fromher experiences, I spoke with her and. by what she said, realized there was going to be a profound change in her life.
The feast of the Visitation of Our Lady fell on a Monday. I remember this well because Conchita usually did not have apparitions on Mondays. That morning I talked to Conchita and told her, "You think you're not going to see the Virgin but I think she will come today. After all, it's the feast of her Visitation and she should visit you." The girl was not convinced and said, "The Virgin usually doesn't appear on Mondays." (I'm telling this because it may be important, to show how far the girls were from preparing these happenings.)
Later, Conchita's mother came in and I repeated to her what I had said to Conchita. Initially, she did not appear interested but then, as though suddenly remembering, said, "Did you say today is the Visitation? What date is it?" I told her the date, then she said, "It was exactly one year ago today the Virgin appeared to the children for the first time." The anniversary of the beginning of the apparitions had already passed, but people had forgotten that the Angel had appeared before this date, but not the Virgin. Conchita was not impressed and continued saying, "In my case, since today is Monday, I won't see the Virgin."
I was right and Conchita was wrong. That same afternoon when coming out of church after saying the rosary, the girls had their "call" and began to run uphill, where they fell on their knees in the cuadro [a small corral of trimmed tree trunks put up in the calleja to protect the girls from the press of the crowd].
Nobody in the village remembered that this was the anniversary of Our Lady's first apparition but she remembered it very well. It certainly seems to confirm the happenings as supernatural in spite of everybody and everything. She did not appear on any pre-determined official schedule, but had the effrontery to appear on her own unexpected timetable. The girls and villagers all wondered about the root cause of these apparitions. She showed a predilection for appearing to the girls on her own feast days and Saturdays. I think it is very significant in that it represented the concordance of Our Lady with the religious festivities proclaimed by the Church.
Obedience To Lawful Authority
At all times, and the girls repeated it over and over, Our Lady insisted on obedience to the Church and to parents first rather than to her. That is what happened when the Bishop of Santander prohibited the ecstasies from occurring in the church. From then on when the girls felt the call for a coming ecstasy, they left the church immediately and never again had a trance in front of the altar. Also, Our Lady did not appear again inside the church.
Garabandal is pure obedience to the Church and to its catechism. The submission of the girls to the Church's teachings is truly inspiring. A few days after they learned that the Bishop prohibited priests and religious from assisting at Garabandal, the girls were asked if this bothered them since they would have less of a crowd watching them. They humbly answered, "We don't care, as long as the Virgin keeps appearing."
The girls are never happier than when attending religious functions or hearing a sermon. Somebody asked Conchita if she preferred to receive Communion from a priest or from the angel. Without hesitation, she answered, "From the angel. But if I get to attend the Mass and a priest gives it to me then I would rather receive Communion from a priest."
Everything they do during their ecstasies is accompanied by the sign of the cross, and wherever they go they leave in their wake signs of complete obedience to the Church. I remembered that the first night of my second trip to Garabandal when the girls went to the Pines praying the rosary, they stopped in front of each of the nine pine trees and blessed themselves. (Many years before, each of these pine trees had been planted by a child on the day of their First Communion.)
I must confess that the way the girls blessed themselves was inspirational. The way they concentrated, the aura of respect and devotion with which they did it while in ecstasy, was a total education for me. Such solemnity seemed entirely out of character in these unsophisticated girls.
Two days after my arrival, Conchita called me to her house to give me the written message the Virgin had given her for me shortly before I went to Japan. When she gave it to me she said, "Now, I'm going to give you the secret I promised you and a 'little extra'." Apparently the Virgin had added a postscript the previous evening. I was excited and couldn't imagine what it would be, but she told me, "Don't think it's going to be something great; it's just one of those little things the Virgin says."
Photo: Jacinta and Mari Loli in ecstasy in 1962 by the church door.
We were alone by the kitchen window; she had a yellow sheet of paper folded in half with the message written on one side. I keep that sheet of paper in an envelope together with three messages that Mari Loli gave me later. The girls told me that nobody else should know these messages. Nevertheless the "little extra" that Conchita gave me, according to her instruction, was shared with my husband and my son Javier during my third trip to the village. When this "little extra" occurs, it can then be revealed to the world. Today, looking at these revelations, it is impossible for me to doubt Garabandal.
The "little extra" message refers to something that is "about to happen." I asked her if she knew how and when it will happen. She answered that she did not know. Then I told her, "Well, when it does happen, I want you to ask..." and I gave her a question only I would have the answer to, and a correct answer would dispel all my doubts. Conchita was unconcerned, and smiled as she answered, "Well, when it happens, I'll ask. Then you will be convinced that this is true."
The conversation I had with Conchita that afternoon was delightful, and her serene intelligence showed surprising maturity in everything we talked about. She again talked to me about my son Miguel and that he was extremely happy in heaven and that the Virgin "loved him very much since he was three years old."
I didn't understand that, "What does she mean? What was so important about that age, that since then she loves him so much?" Conchita shrugged her shoulders, "I didn't understand that either when she said it, but that's what she said." It was actually while watching television some time later that I found out that the age when children reach the partial use of reason was at three years.
Later when we talked about the chastisement prophesied by the Virgin, Conchita's face became very sad and she told me, "Imagine an immense fire above and below you that burns very slowly; it's even worse than that." I asked her if that was going to be the end of the world and she said, "No. The world doesn't end." I didn't know if she understood my question, and tried to clarify, but suddenly she asked me, "Would you like to be the only one left in the world?" I said no, then I asked her the same question, and she answered, "If I had the Virgin I wouldn't care."
Her mother, Aniceta, arrived and the conversation turned to Padre Pio. I found out that shortly after I left the village the first time, Conchita had received an unsigned letter from Italy. Unfortunately the envelope had been destroyed and I couldn't see it. Thinking it was an anonymous prank, Conchita was ready to toss the letter, which was typewritten in Italian, but her mother told her to ask the Virgin who sent it. The Virgin answered that the author of the letter was Padre Pio and ordered her to answer to the address the Virgin was going to give her.
Conchita obeyed the Virgin and shortly thereafter she received a card from the Father Guardian of Pietrelcina. (as happened with anyone attempting to communicate with Padre Pio) showing that the address she had written was correct. Also, at the same time, she received another letter from Padre Pio with a message that was to be given to Don Valentin (the parish priest of Garabandal). Conchita told me she had delivered it.
During my third trip to the village, Conchita told me that she had gotten another message from Padre Pio with a message for herself. She told me confidentially this was probably the most important of all four messages.
The first time Padre Pio wrote to Conchita she didn't know who he was. This last letter I have held in my own hands, and this is what it said:
My Dear Children,
At nine o'clock in the morning, the Holy Virgin told me to say to you: "O blessed girls of San Sebastian de Garabandal! I promise you that I will be with you until te end of the times, and you will be with me at the end of the world and later, united with me in the glory of paradise."
I am sending you a copy of the holy rosary of Fatima, which the Virgin told me to send you. The rosary was composed by the Virgin and should be propagated for the salvation of sinners and preservation of humanity from the terrible punishments with which the Good God is threatening it.
I give you only one counsel: pray and make others pray, because the world is at the beginning of perdition. They do not believe in you or in your conversations with the Lady in white. They will believe when it is too late.
That note was followed up with the rules for praying the rosary of Fatima. The authenticity of these letters has not been proved.
That night I held Conchita's hand while she went into ecstasy. However, I seem to remember that she let go of my hand for a moment to perform some chore, but then offered it again to me. Together, holding hands, we walked through the streets of the town until suddenly she stopped, rose up on her tiptoes and, letting my hand go, ran at great speed into the night.
I don't remember if it was when she returned from that ecstasy or perhaps in the ecstasy after that one when I could again grab her hand and entwine my arm around hers. She offered no resistance. Father Buedo was on her other side. Both of us heard what Conchita said about the coming miracle of the Communion. "That you will do a little prodigy when the Angel gives me Communion the next time?"
When she came out of the ecstasy we told her what we had heard. Smilingly she said. "Ah, so now you know? The Virgin told me that when the Angel gives me Communion she will do a little miracle." The news spread like wildfire through the whole town. But Conchita did not know what the little miracle was going to be.
The last evening of this trip was very emotional. Our Lady finally answered two petitions I had requested and thought she wasn't going to answer. One was for my mother and the other was for Mother Maria Luisa Riera, Superior of the Dominicans of Barcelona.
When Mari Loli went into ecstasy, she again asked these questions of Our Lady. When she came out of ecstasy she went searching for several holy cards and wrote on them what the Virgin had answered. But she did not limit herself to the two previous answers, but on three more holy cards wrote messages in which the Virgin asked something from me. I consulted with Father Buedo about this. After some hesitation he told me to do what the Virgin asked. Now I don't worry any more about that petition of the Virgin.
That afternoon before all this happened, we had been in the country watching the peasants gathering hay. Father Buedo and Alfonso decided to help, to the great amusement of Mari Loli who kept playing jokes on them.
We were having a picnic on the hill when we saw two women arrive. They had climbed to Garabandal from Cosio on foot. By their accent I knew they were from Andalucia. One of them had an unconvincing mystical air. The other one looked like a rural schoolteacher.
At that time there were only a few tourists in Garabandal and when these women saw me they came to ask me about the girls. Since I was ignorant of their intentions I left to find the four visionaries. The first one I found was Man Loli. I watched them talking, but I was too far away to hear what they said. It looked like an animated conversation and Mari Loli seemed very interested in them.
The other girls gradually returned from working in the fields; I began to introduce them to the two visiting women. These women, who were acting strangely, wanted to speak to the girls alone.
The first girl that gave the alarm was Conchita. She told us, "Those women are telling us that one of them sees the Virgin." Then Mari Loli said, "One of them says she sees the Virgin but she tells me the Virgin doesn't talk to her." I don't know how Jacinta and Mari Cruz reacted, but Conchita and Mari Loli told me that they felt frightened when they heard them saying this. Nevertheless, at the insistence of the two women, Conchita and Mari Loli promised that in the next vision they would ask the Virgin if the visions of this woman were real and what did the Virgin expect from them.
The scene was deplorable. When Conchita fell into ecstasy and approached the supposed visionary to give her the crucifix to kiss and bless her with the sign of the cross, the woman became completely hysterical.
After the ecstasy the women asked what the Virgin had said, and Conchita answered, "She won't give her answer until tomorrow." But privately to us, she said that the woman was not going to be pleased since Our Lady had told her that she was not seeing her.
Conchita's reserve must have put them on guard, because when we reached the tavern to await Mari Loli's ecstasy, these women came and in a threatening tone warned Mari Loli that if Conchita didn't change what she'd said, she was going to "see the devil."
Mari Loli was frightened when she came to tell me what had happened. These women realized what was going on and began to complain loudly. One of them, the supposed visionary, began to swear by the Blessed Sacrament that she had been seeing the Virgin for several months and that the vision had ceased and that she had come to Garabandal to find out what to do. Her argumentative bearing and obvious nervousness left no room for doubt [that whatever she was experiencing wasn't from God]. It was in complete contrast with the calm and peace of the Garabandal children.
On my third trip. I was told that these women had returned to Garabandal to make amends, and confessed that whatever it was that happened to them had been just a dream.
Photo: Conchita by her house in 1962 with her mother, Aniceta, by the door.
Whatever else went on, the fact is that when Mari Loli fell into ecstasy she gave the crucifix to kiss to everyone present but the two women. However, perhaps to ease their disappointment, before coming out of ecstasy she returned to them and gave them the crucifix to kiss. But also, after coming out of ecstasy, she gave them the same answer that Conchita had given them. Some people speculated that these women had gone to Garabandal to test the veracity of the girls' visions. To me it seemed that they were just two hysterical women.
Several days after I returned to Barcelona, Paquita Subietas, (very devoted to Garabandal) called me to tell me that Conchita had written her telling her that the miracle of the visible Communion had been announced for July 18, precisely ten days after the date of the letter.
Paquita sent me a copy of the letter. It said:
Just two words to tell you that the Angel told me that God was going to give a proof the eighteenth of this month. When I receive Communion from the angel the Host will become visible for anyone to see.
"Give a kiss to Toni and another to Maria Antonia, and receive an embrace from this one who does not forget you.
- Conchita Gonzalez"
Unfortunately, I could not be present when the prodigy of the Visible Host occurred, but a hundred other people were, and apparently photographs and movies were taken of it. So, collective suggestion was ruled out.
Here is a paragraph copied from a letter David Toribio received from his fiancee, Maria Teresa Ruiz, who signed the letter July 19, 1962, the day after the occurrence of the prodigy.
They saw Conchita leave her house and, in the little street in front of Matilde's house, she knelt and opened her mouth. They saw her tongue clearly, and in an instant the Host appeared on her tongue. She kept her mouth open for a minute and a half. The Host was the size of the ones we take for Communion but thicker. I was not fortunate to see it, for I had just gone home, but many people saw it, among them Don Juan (a priest born in Garabandal), Pepe, Clementina, Raimundo, Emiliano, Mari (daughter of Mr. Cuenca) and Paco, my sisters, Estela and Celina, and several priests. It was wonderful. It happened at 2:00 A.M. Manin, the professor, was also present. He saw it all perfectly. He said it was the most impressive moment of his life. He could not go to sleep that night and spent all night long writing to his family. I am so very sorry not to have seen it, but I'm happy that so many others did. Nevertheless, you can find people that saw it and still don't believe it. I heard that a Franciscan priest said she was carrying the host hidden in her mouth, that her uncle Elias had given it to her. Can you believe that? The things that one hears! Anyway, I think all this should alert the Church to take these events more seriously and keep an eye on them. Don Valentin (the parish priest) went today to see His Excellency the Bishop to inform him of the events.
This same girl (Maria Teresa Ruiz) several days later (August 5) wrote another letter to David, her fiance. She again mentioned the Franciscan priest, saying, "Remember the Franciscan priest that I told you about July 18? Well, he has written to Conchita asking forgiveness and he sent four of his companions to visit Conchita in her village. They returned home very happy. I also have a cheerful and enthusiastic letter from Don Valentin dated July 22:
Very Dear Dona Mercedes,
I'm going to tell you what happened the night of the eighteenth in Garabandal. You already know that Conchita had announced that the Angel was going to give her visible Communion. There was great expectation in the village, and it kept building up from the middle of the afternoon on.
When night came my nerves were shot since nothing had happened. I remembered what happened to you that Good Friday. One A.M. came and nothing happened but I still continued believing in what the girls had said. Two o'clock in the morning arrived [when the prodigy occurred] and the happiness was beyond description. Everyone who had seen the Host on Conchita's tongue was running around looking for me. They wanted me to take down their testimony as witnesses. There were about fifty of them, including two Dominicans and one Franciscan and two parish priests. How I thought of you! Soon I'll have the happiness of talking about this with you in person. May Our Lady help us! Greetings to your family.
Yours in Christ,
Father Valentin Marichalar
Father had sent this letter to Barcelona and when he discovered I was out of town, he wrote again. About ten days later I received the following letter:
My distinguished friend,
A few days ago I wrote you in Barcelona, telling you what happened on the eighteenth in Garabandal. Truly this was something magnificent: the Host was seen by several priests, (two Dominicans, a Franciscan, two priests) and all swear that they saw a pure white host, slightly larger than usual. Only Conchita took Communion, and although Mass had been said that morning only the other girls took Communion then.
There were many people there, and besides the priests some fifty others (all that would fit in the street) also saw this. They were shouting, "Miracle! Miracle!" They were all driving me crazy, wanting me to take their testimony as witnesses.
Well, let's see if we have the good fortune to talk about this some time, calmly, because I think it's worth it.
Greetings to your daughter and her fiance.
Affectionately yours in Christ,
Some days later I found out about the Mari Cruz contradiction. It made a big ruckus at the time, but was not of excessive importance. For purely infantile reasons Mari Cruz let herself be overtaken by jealousy and, without assessing the possible extent of the damage, said that the prodigy of the Visible Communion was a trick produced by Conchita and that she had discussed it with all of them. Conchita received this attack with great serenity and humility.
I wrote to Conchita consoling her and asking her not to give any importance to these accusations. I didn't get her answer until I returned to Garabandal. She had written the wrong address twice, and they had returned the letter, which was returned to her the day I arrived. She gave it to me without opening.
In one of the paragraphs she said, "Mercedes, you said that I must be very hurt by the insult of Mary Cruz. I don't pay any attention to it. I forgave her. She will continue being my friend and I'll continue loving her the same." Soon after, I learned that Mari Cruz made a public retraction of her accusations.
Reprinted with kind permission from Garabandal Journal, January-February 2006
Excerpted from LOS MILAGROS O FAVORES DE NUESTRA MADRE DE GARABANDAL by Maria Josefa Villa de Gallego
Translated from Spanish by Dr. Edward Serrano