Eyewitness Testimony: Mercedes Salisachs (Part 5 of 5)

Our Spanish author takes up the narrative of her second visit to Garabandal in September-October 1962 by explaining how Father Jacinto Aguado almost got talked out of taking the road up to Garabandal.


The second day I was in Garabandal I saw Father Jacinto Aguado, who was stationed at the Minor Seminary for the Missions at Alzola. I had met him previously at Lloret de Mar where he worked as Provisional Coadjutor. At that time I told him about the events of Garabandal and he refused to even consider them until the Church passed judgment. All my explanations did not satisfy him, so I gave up talking to him on this subject. Later on, after leaving Lloret de Mar, I received a letter from him telling me that after all I had told him he would try to visit Garabandal the same time we would be there. On his journey he met another priest who was opposed to Garabandal and who almost talked him into going back. Later he told me that by the time he arrived at Cosio he had had so many trials he had no incentive to continue and almost gave up the whole thing.

The night of September 25 he saw his first ecstasy, and he left the village on the thirtieth. I have a letter from him dated October 5, 1962. Here are some parts of it.


Photo: The road to the village in 1961.

When I returned to the seminary I was surprised as to how impressed all the seminarians were about what I told them concerning Garabandal. They all wanted to go there. The first one that asked me to take him to Garabandal was the Rector, who was amazed at everything I told him. I liked this reaction very much; at least they will be going to Garabandal with a better attitude than I did.

I must say that I went there just to please you and out of curiosity, but the Virgin used my trip to give me a strong desire to get closer to God and to her. Thinking of what I saw and felt in those days, my time there seemed so short and I felt so happy. I'm anxious to return the first chance I get.

Father Aguado's enthusiasm is easy to understand. He witnessed a beautiful ecstasy of Conchita. In his letter was a brief report of what he heard Conchita say to the Virgin.

San Sebastian de Garabandal, night of Tuesday to Wednesday 25-26 of September of 1962. Conchita's conversation with the Blessed Virgin Mary during the ecstasy from 6:08 A.M. to 6:55 A.M.

At 6:06 A.M., the Angelus was prayed, directed by a priest. As soon as the Angelus ended, Conchita fell on her knees in ecstasy. She made the sign of the cross with a crucifix and then gave it to the Virgin to kiss. After that she offered it to several people to kiss and then she went outside the church and walked very fast through the streets of the town.

After talking with the Virgin about some papers a priest had given her to ask about, and about which one could not understand what she said, she asked, "Do we eat in heaven? Then people must be very thin. Are there chairs in heaven? Ah, then people don't sit down.... then they must be very tired.... one does not walk? And how is heaven inside?.... Are there any flowers?...."

Then she talked about a question from a lady who wanted to know whether her deceased mother was in heaven or not. One could not understand the answer. She continued saying: "We cannot enter heaven even if we have a little sin? Even a very teensy sin? Well, then, if there is fire in purgatory they will come out of there all burned up. Ah, no?"

Two or three times she spoke about something the Virgin wanted to use Conchita for, some miracle or extraordinary prodigy. I could hear the following sentences. "Don't do it with me alone; they will not believe me. Do it with the other three, or all four, but not with me alone. With me you already did the little miracle, letting the Host be seen as the Angel gave it to me. Do this one with the other three. But let your will be done..."

Walking in ecstasy toward the church she was talking about the Vatican Council in this way. "It will be very great? The best of all? And very successful? Oh, good! Then they will know you better and they will love you more and you will be very happy..."

Also she was heard saying: "Why can't everyone else hear you when you speak? Then they would believe. There are many who don't believe. May many sinners come and many good people come, so that the sinners will be converted and the good become better..."

She also spoke of how difficult it is to convert a sinner, but when a sinner converted there was more joy in heaven than for many righteous entering heaven. (About this the words could not be heard very well.)

Then she began to talk of the different petitions requested by priests and other persons who were there that night: D. Luis wants to know if the gentleman that died without the sacraments repented at the time of his death... he repented? Ah, yes? Because D. Luis thought he had not repented. That the baby that was just born will become a priest. The little blind man is asking that his cousin who cannot have any children, have children. That Father Eliseo becomes a saint... for my brother Michael who has stomach pain; don't take the pain away completely but diminish it. Let him have a little pain left... For Jacinta and Mari Cruz, they are sad because you have not come to see them for a long time... Why don't you come to see Mari Cruz?... You haven't come to see her for 20 days now..."

She made other petitions but it wasn't possible to understand what she was talking about. She mentioned a priest she called "the serious one" but I couldn't understand what she said about him or if she was praying for his intentions.

When she started walking toward her home she said: "And is that better than being a wife? Will I be a nun?... If you want me to... make it so they let me go when I'm fourteen... Are you leaving? Don't leave so soon! Wait a little while."

Then she went into her home, fell to her knees, kissed the crucifix, made the sign of the cross, said goodbye to the Virgin, and became normal again.

After saying farewell to me the morning of the thirtieth, Father Aguado told me he could never thank me enough for the favor I had done by talking to him about the events occurring in San Sebastian of Garabandal. But Father Aguado wasn't the only enthusiastic one among the members of our group. It is worth relating what happened to two Sisters who also came along.

Two Religious Sisters

She told me that for a long time she had been begging the Virgin never to allow her or me to go to Garabandal if the apparitions were false. In fact, the opposite occurred: the Virgin paved the way for both of us to get to the village.

I had told a great friend of mine, Mother Maria Luisa Riera, about the apparitions and on many occasions she mentioned how much she would like to visit Garabandal and talk to the visionaries. But there were so many obstacles that whenever we talked about it, she seemed to think it an impossible dream. That summer I wanted to go to the village to celebrate my saint's day, and my son's saint's day, and I went to ask her if she would like to come. She was sure she wouldn't get permission to go, but I told her it wouldn't hurt to ask anyway. She didn't want to bother her superiors with such a request, but I told her that if they said no, it would be an opportunity to offer it as a sacrifice. That finally was what inspired her to ask permission, and she assured me that although she really wanted to go, whatever answer she received would be happily obeyed.

The Provincial Mother of her Order returned from her retreat in Gerona and Mother Maria Luisa was able to speak directly to her. It happened to be on the feast of Our Lady of the Angels. Mother Provincial had no qualms in granting her permission and a few days later Mother Maria Luisa wrote to me, and among other things she told me: "I was profoundly happy to get the permission so easily to go to Garabandal. I went right away to thank the Virgin. It was so providential, and when I see you I'll tell you in detail how this happened. I saw the hand of the Virgin and your prayers in this. I also remembered how easily Father Buedo got permission to go to Garabandal. What does Our Lady want from us?"

When we met she gave me the background, which was very revealing. She told me that for a long time she had been begging the Virgin never to allow her or me to go to Garabandal if the apparitions were false. In fact, the opposite occurred: the Virgin paved the way for both of us to get to the village.

My husband and Mother Maria Luisa left Barcelona at 8:00 A.M. [September 26, 1962]. They didn't know it, but a terrible flood was taking place that early morning between the twenty-fifth and twenty-sixth. If they'd left Barcelona later than 8:00 A.M.. it would have been impossible for them to cross Molins de Rev and they would never have been able to leave Barcelona. They arrived in Santander that evening and the next day at two in the afternoon reached Garabandal. At this time they found out about the disaster of the flooding.

As happens to everybody, once they reached the village the enthusiasm they'd felt beforehand faded away. The disorientation of the long trip, the tremendous contrast between Barcelona and Garabandal. meeting the girls in person, and the worries caused by the floods caused a letdown. Mother Maria Luisa and Sister Rosa seemed distant and my husband said that when he arrived in Garabandal he would have left immediately if he could. Nevertheless, Mother Maria Luisa was still hopeful. Always obedient and attentive to the laws of the Church, she didn't want to be influenced by shallow appearances or sentimentality. Sister Rosa had completely cooled off and didn't even seem curious.


Photo: Mari Loli in ecstasy in 1962.

I think I have already said that, previous to this visit, I had given Mother a message from the Virgin written by Mari Loli in answer to my request. It was a secret message but with Mari Loli's permission I had read it. This message was so extraordinary and consoling that Mother Maria Luisa had difficulty believing its authenticity. It was obvious that these two Sisters were going to coldly analyze everything, but it was also obvious that they wanted very much to believe. I suggested that they ask for proof from the Virgin, that they give their religious rings to someone and have that person give them to Mari Loli to be kissed by the Virgin and then returned to their fingers. Although they were somewhat afraid of losing the rings, they agreed.

Mari Loli already had two other wedding rings belonging to a married couple and when she got these rings she assumed they also were wedding rings. (To this day Mari Loli doesn't know to whom she returned the rings.)

The first night Mari Loli had a tranquil ecstasy and did not offer Our Lady any of the rings to kiss. The two Sisters were still hopeful but so far they were also unimpressed. The girls offered them the crucifix to kiss but did not carry out any extraordinary acts capable of convincing the Sisters. As is usual with newcomers to Garabandal, it appeared that it was also necessary for the Sisters to go through the "doubts" phase. They saw how Mari Loli placed around my husband's neck his chain and medal that had been combined with many others. They saw how the girls did the same with my son Javier and with another person. They also saw how, while Mari Loli was in ecstasy, Ceferino (her father) asked my husband to lift the kneeling girl from the ground and my husband could not budge her. Next day when she was not in ecstasy, he easily lifted her.

Of our group the only one who immediately accepted these events as supernatural (perhaps because of his youth) was my son Javier. He is a boy with cool logic and seems remote, but since the first ecstasy he has not once doubted the authenticity of the apparitions.

Friday night (September 27) in front of a large group of people, after giving the crucifix to kiss to most of the people who were there, Mari Loli fell on her knees in front of Mother Maria Luisa, offered her the crucifix to kiss, took from her pocket Mother Maria Luisa's ring, offered it to the Virgin to kiss, then offered it to Mother to kiss, and then replaced it on her ring finger. Mother Maria Luisa could hardly believe what was happening. She checked the ring, broke into tears, and trembling, said: "It's mine."

The girl on her knees continued over to where Sister Rosa was and repeated the same procedure. A photograph exists of this second phenomenon. Sister Rosa still wasn't convinced, and doubted that it was her ring. "It can't be," she repeated, but after she confirmed that indeed it was her ring, she began to suspect that someone (maybe me) might have informed the girls that those were their rings. "Maybe YOU told her these were our rings," she insisted. She didn't understand that once the girls were in ecstasy they lost contact with their surroundings.

But Our Lady had something in store for her in payment for her doubts. It happened two days later on the thirtieth and it happened when Conchita was in ecstasy. (Unfortunately, my husband wasn't there to see it as he had already left.)

Sister Rosa, who was gradually coming around to belief but not totally convinced and wanting further proof, asked Conchita to hold her crucifix during her next ecstasy. Conchita agreed, and that night she had in her hand Sister's crucifix when the trance started. Sister Rosa had previously asked the Virgin that if she were truly appearing, the girl would use it to. make the sign of the cross over her. However, Conchita did something even more remarkable.


Photo: Conchita walking in ecstasy (1962).

She left the house and offered the crucifix to be kissed by the people outside, then returned to the kitchen. (It was during this short but sweet trance that she asked: "Does Mercedes' husband believe yet?") Sister Rosa, either out of humility or to test Conchita further, had hidden herself behind everybody so that between her and Conchita there was a wall of people.

Conchita made her way through the people until she was in front of Sister Rosa and fell to her knees in front of her. As I have said before, when the girls were in ecstasy their weight increased to such a degree that it was impossible for a strong man to lift them from the ground; they appeared to be made of stone and felt as hard.

She offered Sister Rosa her own crucifix to kiss and stood up again. Then, coming forward until she was so close to her that they almost touched, she fell on her knees with all her extra heavy weight - right on the foot of Sister Rosa. The pain must have been agonizing. She stifled a scream and shuddered, and tried to pull her foot out from under Conchita's knee but it was impossible. Conchita gave the crucifix to the Virgin to kiss, then pressed it against the lips of Sister Rose for an extended time. The next step was somewhat unusual; she simply returned the crucifix a few minutes before the trance ended. That night she ended her ecstasy without a crucifix in her hands. Later, Sister Rosa confided to me that she could see drops of blood under the nail of her big toe. Also, she has no doubts now.

Shortly after returning to Barcelona, the newspapers reported the prohibition of the Bishop of Santander. Mother Luisa also saw in this the hand of Providence. She remembers how hard she prayed to Our Lady not to let her go to Garabandal if the apparitions were false. If she had not gone at that time she would have thought the prohibition was the answer to her prayers and would then never have gone, and would have thought that the apparitions were false. Our Lady let us go and come back before the prohibition started.

This prohibition has upset her. "I would like to believe with all my soul that what is happening there is the result of natural phenomena, but I can't. Of course, I will respect the order to not return to the village, and of course I hold the Bishop in the highest esteem. But not to believe in it?" She prays every day that the mystery clears. Like everyone else who has gone to Garabandal, she feels in the depth of her soul the inescapable fascination with the increase in fervor that has taken place, and the absolute certainty that the miracle announced by Conchita will take place soon.

Reprinted with kind permission from Garabandal Journal, May-June 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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