by Santiago Lanus, Co-ordinator - Argentina
Franciscan Priest Father José María, is an eyewitness to the apparitions of the Virgin Mary in Garabandal. Both his mother and grandmother lived there. He is also a close friend to the visionary Conchita and as per
his own testimony he owes his Priesthood to the apparitions of Our Lady in Garabandal.
Before starting this chronicle I would like to let you know that Fr José has been invited to spend a few days in Buenos Aires – Argentina during the last week of May.
As a highlight on that day, Father José will offer the medal kissed by Our Blessed Virgin in Garabandal and given to him by Conchita to be venerated by the crowd. We are all aware of the promises by Our Blessed Mother, “Through this Kiss I have given, my Son will do wonders”.
Father José begins with his first programme titled “Town of María” by telling us that his mother lived in Garabandal until she married and that his father was from Seville in southern Spain. When his parents married
they went to live in Seville. The Cardinal of Seville is related to them.
Going to Garabandal for Fr José was like returning home. Not just going back to his mother’s house but also to the house of his heavenly mother. His mother’s house still exists and some of his relatives still li
“Garabandal is the one piece of land that Our Mother Mary blessed in this area of Cantabria. She came down and blessed each and every one of the houses and each and every rock that we have there. That touches me tremendously because I understand that my priestly vocation happened due to the appearances of the Blessed Virgin. Mary’s arrival saved me from the world, and I don’t mean it in a negative way, but she rescued me for herself so that I would be hers constantly and continuously”.
I would like to add that Father’s words remind me of Pope Paul VI words: “It is like the second life of the most Holy Virgin on earth and there are no words to thank her. It is the most beautiful story of humanity since the birth of Christ”.
Father continues saying that for him Garabandal is special.
“I was in Garabandal during the apparitions of 1961 - 1963. I used to go back to Garabandal during the summer months because the Friary allowed us seminarians to go home during that period. I never lacked obedience because I used to literally go home to see my grandmother, my aunts … when I say to lack obedience I mean that at the time the Church was against me being present at the place of the apparitions, but I simply went there to visit my family. Once I was there I saw the events, the gifts that the Holy Virgin gave us”.
So I asked Father, What did you see? Do you still remember that first day you were in Garabandal during the apparitions?
“I remember it as if it was today and many years have already passed! I remember seeing the girls with their heads tilted backwards or walking over the rocky ground. I would see them running backwards and they would not trip or fall. I remember the day the Archangel Saint Michael gave Holy Communion to the girls. For me that was very important because I think that Jesus is very present in the life of every Marian apparition and He was there present in the Eucharist. And the reason why He had been present in the Eucharist during the apparitions was for us not to abandon the Eucharist, for us to always be aware of the Eucharistic Adoration. That is very important. Our Most Holy Virgin wanted to put Eucharistic Adoration in the hearts of all those present. With these precious apparitions and these beautiful manifestations, the Most Holy Virgin wants us to
be aware that Her Son is there for us”.
I mentioned to Father and wondered how it would have been to find this sort of “spectacle” in his town, a town that he knew since his childhood. I asked him if he believed that the town was predestined for these apparitions as many people believe because it maintained a very Christian “culture”.
“That’s it. To this day the community in the town, the people and the entire village gather to pray the Ángelus, gather for the Eucharist, gather to pray the Rosary as a whole community. To this day that culture still exists in our town and is hardly ever seen in Spain”.
Fr José continues by telling us about the great project that he has for the town of Garabandal:
“Our Order has given us permission to have a guest house for pilgrims in the town of Garabandal to use for retreats so that people can learn about the Most Holy Virgin, for Marian education and for the constant message of the Blessed Virgin to be known. For some time now I have been asking the Most Holy Virgin to gather the people she wants so that together we give fruit to her work”.
Father continues talking about a house that is located just in front of the place of the apparitions that started with the visions of Saint Michael the Archangel prior to those of the Blessed Virgin. The house belongs
to Paquita (Conchita’s sister-inlaw) and faces the Pines. Up until now Paquita has worked very hard receiving pilgrims but now due to her age, she can no longer continue. Paquita does not want to sell the house because it is a special place. Father has asked her if she would sell it to the Order and she has agreed. But then Father was thinking, “What are we going to buy it with? Imagine a poor friar with such a project and without a single cent” and he laughs ... although he does not worry about it because he knows that the Lord Who has planned it all and knows everything will know how to go about it all. For the meantime Father José is asking for many prayers for this project.
“One must dream! Imagine if we could not dream. Besides it is all for our Blessed Mother. For many years now I have asked my superiors to give me permission to do the project. And some Bishop friends of mine have encouraged me to do so. So I hope that with the grace of God it will eventually happen”.
Father was asked how he received these gifts from Our Lady of Garabandal in his heart.
“I was a young priest at the time of the apparitions and I believe I was in as much “ecstasy” as the girls because for me the presence of Our Mother fills me with so much and gives me great joy which is the greatest thing we can ever experience. It filled my heart with an extreme happiness to the point that at home, they almost had to force me to leave when it was time for me to go because I did not want to leave the town. I could have become a hermit in those little mountains. Staying there to praise and bless the Most Holy Virgin Mary would have been my joy”.
I interrupted to say that I have experienced the same thing ever since I visited Garabandal. I still consider it as “my little town”. It is just that Garabandal remains in your heart even when you have not witnessed any of the apparitions.
Then Father continues saying: “Padre Pio, who never went to Garabandal, always told the pilgrims that visited him to go to Garabandal”. And it is the same Padre Pio who encouraged Joey Lomangino (the great blind Apostle of Garabandal) to go to the town. He told him literally, THE BLESSED VIRGIN IS IN GARABANDAL.
Father draws a comparison of what was lived in the 12th century during the times of St Francis of Assisi and the theology of being “crazy for God”. And that is the sort of craziness that I want. We can say that it will all happen again with the help of the Warning and the Great Miracle.
We then asked Father to join our next programme again on Monday 9th March and he replies humbly, “provided you invite me, I am always at your service, to serve God’s people, each and every one of you, all my brothers and sisters”.
I asked him if he knew Padre Pio and he said yes, that as a young priest he used to accompany his father for confession with Padre Pio. “I went with him about three times. I used to also accompany both mum and my sister, a Franciscan of Mary nun, who was killed in Rwanda during the revolution of 1996."
I asked him how other priests view “Garabandal”.
“All the priests in this friary are in love with Garabandal. Last October I went to the Diocese of Alaska to preach at the priest’s retreat and the first thing I talked about was Garabandal. I played a DVD with a documentary on Garabandal and the following day they were all asking me about the apparitions. Then the Bishop of the Diocese asked me to take a group of priests to Garabandal”.
“The Alaskan Diocese is a Diocese of sacrifices and much work and it is only through prayers and with the help of Our Most Holy Virgin Mary that we can evangelise over there. The Bishop has realised how important is Our Blessed Virgin and wants priests to fall in love with Her. I will ‘introduce’ them to the Most Holy Virgin there in Garabandal. The Bishop was so taken to learn that the Blessed Virgin had come to the remote “country side”, a very humble place. He wants his priests to know the area and to fall in love with that place and to learn the messages of the Blessed Virgin. Imagine how happy I am to take them there!