Eyewitness Testimony: Mercedes Salisachs (Part 4 of 5)

The author from Barcelona continues her narration in describing her third trip to Garabandal.


As planned, I left Barcelona September 23, 1962, with the intention of staying in Garabandal until October 1. Two very important dates were included for me in that week: the feast of Our Lady of Mercy and the feast of Saint Michael.

Same as before, we traveled in two cars. Jose, the mechanic and his wife Mercedes took our car, a Seat (Spanish version of Fiat) while travelling in the other car with owner Lucy Vidal Quadras and her chauffeur were Nati Solano, Father Eliseo Buedo and myself. A third car with David Toribio, my husband, our fifteen-year-old son Javier, and two Dominicans: Mother Superior Maria Luisa and Sister Rosa, were scheduled to leave Barcelona on September 26 due to arrive the following day.

The two cars that left on September 23 arrived in Cosio at 1:30 the morning of the twenty-fourth. Lucy Vidal Quadras and Nati Solano, not knowing what to expect and afraid of getting stuck, chose to stop in Cosio and wait for Fidel [local taxi driver] to drive them up the narrow rough dirt road (today wide and paved) between Cosio and Garabandal. The rest of us, Father Buedo, Jose, Mercedes and I, decided to try our luck and drive up to Garabandal in the Seat. It was a clear night, the temperature was good and we wanted to arrive as soon as possible.

In the final kilometer before reaching the village, our car got stuck in the mud and Father Buedo hurried to the village for help. Mercedes and I also started walking while Jose stayed with the car. Our unexpected stroll did not tire us in the least so strong was our desire to be there again.

Ceferino's tavern was open and the lights on which meant that his daughter Mari Loli was expecting an ecstasy. Soon she came out, delighted to see us. She welcomed us with a hug, and it was clear our presence made her happy. She explained how surprised she was when, dozing off, she saw Father Buedo's cassock: "I was falling asleep in the kitchen, then I started shouting Father Eliseo! Father Eliseo! They thought I was crazy!"

She told us she hadn't slept for several nights, keeping watch, and had to sleep during the day. Ceferino was in bed with an abscess, and Julia (Mari Loli's mother) was taking on his responsibilities. She brought us up to date on what had happened in our absence. She told us the pattern of the apparitions had changed in the previous week: "The Virgin told Mari Loli that if she hadn't had the first call by 10 P.M., to go to bed." But so far only three days had gone by without a vision. Nevertheless, the girl didn't go into ecstasy until 7:00 the next morning.

This new circumstance obliged everyone to stay up. People did not understand "that change." They asked a thousand questions and there were a thousand suppositions. "Before, the girls would fall into ecstasy shortly after receiving the calls; now we have to wait all night." Also, they told us that Conchita was having apparitions four days a week, but if for any reason out of her control she missed Communion, the angel would give her the Sacred Host. Jacinta had not seen the Virgin for twenty days, and for Mari Cruz it was even worse; almost a month had passed without visions.

While Padre Buedo was busy trying to find help to get our car out of the mud, and getting Fidel to go fetch Nati and Lucy, I visited with Mari Loli for a while and then went to Conchita's house where I found her sitting in the kitchen with a small group of people. She also was happy to see me. She asked about my family and wanted to know if my husband was coming ("They told us he was coming...") and I told her my husband would be here on the twenty-seventh.


As soon as we were alone she revealed to me "that" which had been announced for me by the Virgin on my previous visit (and for which I was awaiting so eagerly), was going to happen "in awhile."

With the greatest simplicity she told me, "The Virgin again mentioned 'that' last month (August) and assured me it will happen soon." I asked if I should keep it to myself once it occurred and she said no. "On the contrary, you can tell it to everyone." The possibility of obtaining such a thing still seemed remote to me. "Don't forget to give me the proof; remember, I asked for proof of this." Conchita remembered very well. "I'll give you the proof."

It was that night when I was euphoric with happiness that I implored Conchita to ask the Virgin, "What kind of present could I give Miguel [Mercedes' son Miguel, to whom she was very attached, was killed in an auto accident several years before. His death was a shattering blow. At first, Mercedes rebelled against her religion, but over time came to a better understanding of her Faith. Miguel had lived a good life and had gone to daily Mass and Communion the week before he died, but Mercedes was still concerned about his salvation. During her first trip to Garabandal over Easter of 1962, she requested that the visionaries ask the Virgin the whereabouts of her son and Mari Loli, after much anxiety on the part of Mercedes, told her on behalf of the Blessed Virgin that Miguel was in Heaven and extremely happy. Needless to say, Mercedes experienced intense and prolonged joy.] for his Saint's day?"

When she went into ecstasy I could hear fragments of the conversation. More or less, she said something like this: "Do you know who is here?" (And she said my name. It was very noisy around us and I only could hear fragments of the conversation. She confirmed it later, however, when she came out of ecstasy.)

[Conchita speaking in ecstasy] "She [Mercedes] asked me when it's going to happen..." and she quoted in an undertone "that" announced in the famous message. "She asked for proof; will you give it to her? She also wants me to give you a hug...will you accept it? She'll be happy... I want it to happen now..." (and she laughed softly).

Mari Loli's house in Garabandal during the time of the events was a busy place.

After her own personal colloquy, she then asked about my gift for Miguel; unfortunately it became noisier and noisier and I have only a vague remembrance of that moment.

She spoke also of "the great Miracle" that the Virgin has announced. "Please don't let me be the only one; let it be the other three, or all four..." She was asking the Virgin to allow all four girls to announce the Miracle. In her silences we understood that the Virgin was speaking. "If you perform the miracle will there still be a chastisement?"

After several sentences that I could not understand, she asked, "So, we should consult with Father Eliseo about this?" After that she referred to Dr. Puncernau, but I could not understand the message for him.

When Conchita came out of the ecstasy I asked her what answer was given about the gift I should give my son for his Saint's day. The Virgin did not answer, but smiled. When I asked Conchita if she had given the Virgin the embrace I sent her, she said yes, and that she accepted it very happily. (Three days later, when I no longer expected an answer to the present for Miguel, I got the answer in an unexpected way.)

Lucy and Nati had attended the most recent ecstasy of Conchita. Providentially, the apparitions didn't begin until the two arrived. However, Nati, worn out and tired from the trip, very uncomfortable and unable to adapt herself to the rustic town and muddy streets, felt she'd been deceived. She couldn't understand why the girls were running all over in ecstasy. She thought it ridiculous that they not stay in one place.

On top of all this, that night Conchita did not offer her the crucifix to kiss, and her misery from that point on continued to get worse. She tried to follow the girl in ecstasy but Conchita's speed and Nati's inability to run through the muddy places stopped her from following. Depressed, she stayed in the kitchen with Conchita's aunt wailing for the girl to return. Both of them started to pray the rosary.

Suddenly they saw Mari Loli, followed by a group of people, pass in front of Conchita's house. When Nati saw the beatific expression of the child and the way she walked, she was profoundly moved. This was not something of this world. Nati told me later that seeing this had been all she needed to believe in the apparitions. The next day, however, she received even more concrete proof. She was saddened by the way the girls in ecstasy ignored her. She suspected (as I had in my first visit, and I believe happens to a majority of the people who go there in good faith), that perhaps she was not completely free from sin and that was the reason why she was not offered the crucifix to kiss. She prayed to the Virgin that if she was in a state of grace, as she thought she was, to give her a sign, otherwise she would go to confession.

I was a witness to what happened next. We were in Mari Loli's kitchen the night of the twenty-fourth to twenty-fifth. Mari Loli went into ecstasy in front of Nati. She stood up, gave the crucifix to kiss to those who were across from Nati. Then suddenly she turned and resolutely went over and stood in front of Nati, who was kneeling. She first offered the crucifix to Our Lady to kiss and then put it to Nati's lips, and held it there for a long time. She then took it away, raised it again for the Virgin to kiss, and again, as in a solemn ceremony, pressed it against Nati's lips. It was the answer to her prayer. From then on the seers always offered Nati the crucifix.

The night we arrived was an "action" night. The first thing Mari Loli did was go out into the street and bless our car. (The mark appeared on our windshield.)

As I was worn out, when Conchita's ecstasy was over, I went to bed and waited for Mari Loli's second call. At five o'clock that morning they told me it had come, but the ecstasy wasn't until 7:30. After it was over, we went to the church. Don Valentin had just arrived to celebrate Mass. When they heard the church bells the girls came to the church, except for Conchita. She had gone to bed late, didn't know that Don Valentin had come to celebrate Mass, and therefore she missed Communion. (At that time Father Buedo didn't have permission yet to celebrate Mass in Garabandal.) That afternoon at 3:30 while the rest of us were still sleeping, Conchita was sitting down to eat when she felt the call of the angel. She ran out of the house toward the church where she received Communion from the angel at the door.

This was the last time she received the Blessed Sacrament from the angel. The next day Father Buedo received permission from Don Valentin to celebrate Mass in exchange for four seminars on the Council. Three days later (the twenty-seventh) when I had forgotten about Conchita's angelic Communion and my own petition, she came to me and answered my question. She told me that after receiving Communion, the angel gave her a message concerning the gift. "The angel told me that what Miguel wants is that you pray much for the Holy Souls in Purgatory; that is the gift that would please him the most."

It took awhile for me to react. I couldn't understand why the answer was so long in coming. Now I know that the Virgin wanted this "gift" to begin on Friday the twenty-eighth and finish up on Saturday the twenty-ninth, the feast of Saint Michael the Archangel. However, it was obvious that these dates were not significant to Conchita.


Photo: Conchita in ecstasy on the church portico about to receive mystical Communion from the angel.

By the time I found out what my son wanted, his Saint's day was very close. But I decided from that very moment to use every possible means to give him a great many prayers. I also didn't know where this was going to lead me. I supposed this petition of my son was logical; like every blissfully happy soul he wanted to bring to others the joy of possessing God and he needed help to do it. I didn't suspect at that time the "secret" behind that request.

Therefore, the next morning I had no other intention than to fulfill his will, offering all for the Holy Souls. I began by going to church, attending Mass and praying many rosaries and prayers. The pilgrims that came and joined me prayed for the same intentions. Those who were awaiting the ecstasies also came and their prayers also went for the same intention. Mother Maria Luisa also joined me on several occasions, so she also contributed to Miguel's present. That night of Saturday the twenty-ninth when I saw Conchita, I told her, "Miguel will be very pleased," and I told her how many rosaries we had prayed and dedicated to him as his gift.

When Conchita next went into ecstasy I believe I heard her talking to the Virgin about this, but there were so many visitors in town that it was impossible for me to get near her.

Conchita was walking in the street of the town praying the rosary and the tone of her voice and the way she pronounced the Hail Marys was what convinced Mother Luisa. She said it was not possible to pray that way without supernatural help. A short time before she heard Conchita praying in a normal state and could not believe this was the same person.

Penance And Sacrifice

As always, the recently arrived priests and the curiosity seekers that followed the children did not understand all this walking around and, between prayers, complained and wanted to know the "why" of all this action. They were unable to see the intention of the Virgin. These painful nocturnal walks and the long waits in the girls' kitchens made them uneasy. They had already forgotten the message of the Virgin, when she asked for "penance and sacrifice."


Photo: Mercedes with her son Miguel

One night Padre Buedo wanted Mari Loli to ask the Virgin why she kept us waiting for her so long. Did it bother her that instead of praying we were just talking to each other? When she came out of ecstasy, she said the Virgin not only was not disturbed by our conversation, but she would be happy with a single rosary. But if she kept us up all night it was so we could do penance. Actually, the question was unnecessary. The night before I had a very clear sign from the Virgin indicating what she wanted. Seeing that there was considerable time between "calls," I decided to go to bed and have someone come to tell me when the second call came. Just as I was leaving the tavern, Mari Loli came and whispered in my ear, "I just received the second call." It was around eleven o'clock. So we waited. The ecstasy didn't come until twenty minutes to eight the following morning. Our Lady's intention couldn't have been clearer. She wanted us to keep vigil.

The people in town understood from the beginning the necessity of performing penance. I will not forget the lesson that I learned from the three women who owned the house where I was staying. One early morning, at about five o'clock, I was going to my room for something when I found them and their three daughters seated in the kitchen. I asked them why they weren't in bed, since they weren't with the seers. The answer was irrevocable. "Because it's Saturday, and we must make some kind of sacrifice. After the girls have their vision we'll sleep." Actually, they weren't staying up "to see the girls in ecstasy," but they were happy to be united with the girls in the penance of staying up with them. These subtleties were not perceived by the visitors to Garabandal even by those whose intentions were exemplary.

When Conchita, after saying the rosary and having dragged the people through rocky paths, fields and mud holes returned home, I was observing the people coming into the kitchen. I saw my husband, exhausted and impressed but unable to understand what was happening. My son Javier was there (he had received his proofs and was convinced that Garabandal was true). I also saw the two nuns, and I seem to remember Father Buedo also being present.

When Conchita returned to normality, all she did was look at me and I knew she had something to tell me. "The Virgin has given me a message for you. She told me that Miguel is very happy, because thanks to your prayers, two of his friends who were in purgatory went to Heaven today."

"What friends? The ones who were with him in the accident?"

Conchita almost didn't let me finish, saying, "Those... those... no others..." I almost couldn't breathe from the emotion. She continued, "That is why he asked you to pray for the souls in purgatory. He wanted them with him in heaven." The puzzle pieces were finally fitting together perfectly. It was a Saturday, the feast of Saint Michael... Conchita had taken her time in telling me; the Virgin hadn't answered her when she asked... The Angel had answered, as a messenger.

That night, still overwhelmed by what Conchita had told me, I asked Mari Loli to thank the Virgin for what she had done, and the answer was the most perplexing and improbable of all that I'd received: "The Virgin says that it should not be you who gives her thanks, but she to you for how much you have prayed."

As the days go by the memory of this episode, far from fading away, grows ever stronger in my mind. At first glance, it could seem to be my own personal incident, with no other purpose than to make me happy thinking about it. However, without a doubt, it has a more transcendental meaning for everyone. It shows the power of prayer and how effective it is in delivering souls from purgatory; the value of our penances, the continuation of friendship beyond matter, the difference between dying "prepared," as my son was or dying "by surprise," as did Miguel's friends (who were good people).

It seemed to me that my husband had difficulty in believing what Conchita was saying, even though he had witnessed prodigious events that had left him wondering (one of them being the reaction of the two nuns). He could not fathom all that happened.

Perhaps this was the reason that, the night before he was to leave for home, Conchita forced him to kiss the crucifix three times, each time leaving it longer than usual. This was her last ecstasy of the evening, and she seemingly wanted to reinforce his faith in the apparitions. Earlier, Conchita was heard asking the Virgin "Make Mercedes' husband believe like she believes."

My husband still has doubts, but cannot find any explanation for what happened there.

Reprinted with kind permission from Garabandal Journal, March-April 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

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