Tuesday, September 6, 2011
Memoirs of a Spanish Country Priest (Chapter IX)
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Jacinta Points Out the Priest’s Presence
Among the people who went up one day with us to Garabandal was a Military Air Force Chaplain. He was wearing only the insignias of his rank of Captain and he asked the priests present not to tell the girls that he was also a priest. His desire was carefully respected.
That night Jacinta fell into ecstasy and the pastor, Father Valentín, as was his custom, asked her how many priests were present. The girl gave the correct number of those in cassocks and added, “And one of those who go by plane. This is his name.”
Returning home with us at 4 o’clock in the morning, the chaplain could not stop telling me of his astonishment and emotions.
Conchita and the Dedicated Photo
One day, during the month of September, 1961, I was in the grocery store of Primitiva González. Through the window that overlooked the street, I could distinguish Conchita in a group of people. I went over to the crowd and told the girl, when she was finished with the visitors, to come into the kitchen. She rejoined me right away.
I had in my hand 5 or 6 photographs of the girls that I had taken on my first trip to Garabandal on the preceding August 22, 1961.
— “Conchita, do you know these children?”
— “Yes,” she answered teasing, “They are some girls from Cosío.”
— “Since it is of you, you can keep them. And you can give one to Mari Cruz since she also is in the photograph.”
— “Thank you, Father.”
Then becoming suddenly excited, she excused herself, saying, “I have to go.”
And she disappeared. (At the time I still was unaware of the “calls.”)
Then I remembered that one of the pictures that I had given her was dedicated and addressed to a priest from Burgos whom I had accompanied to Garabandal on the previous August 22nd.
I asked the daughter of Primativa, if there was a way to send her child to find Conchita, in order to ask her to give back the dedicated picture in exchange for another one. But Conchita was already in ecstasy. Her mother had tried to take the 5 or 6 pictures from her hand and was able to take all except the one Conchita held in the same hand throughout the duration of the ecstasy.
When I learned that Conchita was in ecstasy, I went to find her in order to take some pictures. It was 5:30 in the afternoon. Not having a flash unit on my camera, I had no pictures of an ecstasy — at that time, those occurred during the night when I was in the village. I took some photos and when the film was used up, I sought a place in the shade to change rolls. When this was done, the visionary had returned to the normal state.
Someone came up to me.
— “Conchita is looking for you. The Virgin has given her a message for you.”
— “Where is she?”
She could not answer me.
I went then to her house and there I saw her surrounded by some of my parishioners who had accompanied me on that day. Leaving the crowd immediately, she came up to me.
— “Father, the Virgin told me to give you back this picture, since you gave it to me by mistake.”
My jaw dropped, not knowing what to answer her. Then I got a hold of myself.
— “I think that is just what I wanted to tell you myself.”
I gave her a gift of a similar picture that was not dedicated. And Conchita departed to go back to the crowd she had left.
Loli Photographs the Virgin
Here is an account of a photograph of which I was likewise an eyewitness. Permit me to recount the details for without knowing them some readers might be puzzled.
On the 12th of September, 1961, I was present in Conchita’s house during a very long ecstasy of Loli and Jacinta, lasting from midnight until four in the morning.
It is already known that among the spectators many were the men and women who gave the children (before the arrival of the Virgin) religious articles to be presented when the time came for them to be kissed by Her lips. I myself had confided all that I had at hand to be kissed and to this day I cannot explain what motivated me to give my camera to Conchita during the ecstasies of Loli and Jacinta.
(Notice that Conchita herself was not in the ecstatic state, and I repeat that one could not communicate with the visionaries in ecstasy unless it was through one of them who was not.)
Loli received the camera although Conchita did not tell her what it was.
Immediately, without hesitating, Loli placed the camera before her eyes and it was heard:
— “I am going to take your picture.”
Then there was reflection.
— “What a funny apparatus. I don’t see you.”
But right away, as if she had received instruction from the Vision:
— “Oh, I have to push a button?” (The camera was in its case)
She searched for the latch with her fingers and opened the case.
— “Now I see you good.”
It could be seen that she had received instructions again, since she stated,
— “Oh I have to push another button?”
(My camera was a pocket Kodak with a bellows. The bellows had to be pulled out to use the camera.)
She pushed the button, pulled out the bellows, and again brought the camera to eye level.
Everything was done without haste, very calmly. Her head held backwards, Loli kept her eyes fixed on the Vision, never looking at what her hands were doing. It was obvious that she was following mysterious instructions.
— “Oh, I must wind the spool?”
Her fingers searched on the right side, at the bottom of the camera for the film advance lever, and wound the film, unaware, obviously — for she knew absolutely nothing about cameras — that without this operation, there would be a double exposure.
After that came the instruction to lower the device in order to operate the camera. She did this, but not immediately. It can be seen that if all these operations were done correctly, she should have taken some time.
Everything finished, without forgetting to snap the shutter, she restarted the series of actions necessary to take two more pictures. This time, it was with greater dexterity and without receiving new instructions. Loli operated the camera rapidly, as if she knew it perfectly, like one accustomed to its use.
I did not pay much attention to these photos taken by Loli. It was sometime later that I sent the film to be developed. My first impression was, as would be expected, that there would not be a positive result. And that for two main reasons. First of all, Loli had taken the pictures inside Conchita’s house without a flash, with standard film, by the light of the small bulb that illuminated the kitchen. Besides, cameras are made only for filming things or persons naturally visible.
When the film was returned, I sent the pictures by letter to Loli, writing in jest, “Since you have taken the photographs yourself, when you see the Virgin, ask her why they didn’t come out better, since I see nothing there.”
Three months later, Loli admitted to me that she had never remembered to talk to the Virgin about the photos. Finally she did so. Here is what she stated:
— “The Virgin assured me that she was well-photographed and she showed me where she was on the picture. When I asked her why she could not be seen better, she answered, “Because, even if the picture had come out perfectly, they would still not believe.”
In regard to these pictures, I know a person who later made an experiment. In a pile of holy cards, she slipped in the one they had the custom of calling “The Virgin’s Photograph.” Obviously Loli knew nothing about it. She went into ecstasy, taking it together with the other articles, placed on the table by the spectators. She started to present the holy cards for the Virgin to kiss.
Coming, without knowing it, to “The Virgin’s Photograph,” she was seen to hesitate. The she spoke:
— “Oh it’s the picture where you found yourself?”
In my opinion, this story of the photograph has a special interest of technical character, one might say.
Before the episode in Conchita’s kitchen, Loli was absolutely incapable of using any camera, especially mine. And eight days after the brilliant result in that kitchen, she became absolutely incapable of repeating it in her normal state. I verified this myself at her home, in the presence of her father, Ceferino, by placing my camera in Loli’s hands. She no longer knew anything at all about it.
An experience of a technical character. Yes. On instructions from the Virgin.
The young girl — she was 12½ years old — had done everything exactly as she had to do it. The first time, with the length of time necessary to execute the instructions received; afterward she had worked with the rapidity of a professional.
Five operations in total: taking the camera out of the case, advancing the film, extending the bellows, cocking the shutter, and releasing the shutter.
Why had I handed my camera on that night to Conchita so that she could give it to Loli? I still do not know, I have said. On the other hand, I remember as if it were yesterday that on the very same night, Loli revealed to the spectators my complete identity. First of all, my last name, following that my first name, then my second name, while indicating that it comprised three words. She even added that my parish church was dedicated to Mary.
All of this was absolutely accurate. On that day in September, 1961, Loli could not talk about me that way through human knowledge.
Conchita and the Glass of Milk
One day Conchita was eating near the elevated kitchen fireplace on a small stool where she usually sat.
Suddenly Loli came inside in ecstasy and said to her:
— “Conchita, the Virgin says you should finish quickly, since she is going to come to see you.”
Conchita sped up her motions a little, and then as she lifted her glass of milk, to everyone’s surprise, she fell into ecstasy, the glass of milk in her hand. She came down slowly from the fireplace, and at the doorway of the house, she started running swiftly toward the church. She stopped abruptly in front of the portico. There they were able to take the celebrated glass of milk from her hand. To everyone’s surprise, not a drop had been lost.
I was present at this ecstasy in the kitchen, but I did not leave to follow the child to the church.
Loli Forces my Hand
After August, 1961 the children started to carry a crucifix with them.
From the first ‘call’ they went to their homes to get it and they hid it in their clothes. At the third ‘call’, the ecstasy very near, they put it in their hands. The ecstasy having begun, their first gesture was to offer it to the Virgin to kiss. Sometimes they themselves kissed it and then presented it to the lips of the spectators, not always to everyone. Furthermore it happened that they made the sign of the cross on one or another.
We were in Conchita’s kitchen and Loli was in ecstasy. Outside the open window, she held out a crucifix to be kissed by the persons who were outside of Anecita’s house. The owner of the crucifix, a woman, was with us in the kitchen. For her — it would not be understandable otherwise — it was a veritable relic, and above all she was afraid of losing it.
— “My crucifix. My crucifix,” she repeated like a spoiled child.
Conchita, who was not in ecstasy, got upset.
— “What an impertinent woman! Give it to her once and for all.” And coming up to Loli, she carefully took the crucifix from her. Finally satisfied, the woman went away with her treasure.
Loli herself remained without a crucifix, facing the open window, her hands together on her chest, in front of those who were looking in from outside.
A few seconds later, she was heard to say:
— “Conchita, the Virgin says to ask something from Father.”
At that time I was the only priest present in the kitchen, near the entry door, my hands in my pockets.
My interior reaction was immediate, and I thought secretly;
— “Loli, if you yourself do not ask me for it, I will not give it to you. I require this proof from you. I am waiting for you.”
Here are some details which appear useful to comprehend what happened. I did not have the custom of carrying a crucifix on my person. By chance, on that day I had one in the right hand pocket of my cassock and I was holding it tightly clenched in my hand. It would be seen what was going to happen. In any case I waited as long as it was necessary, looking from afar at the visionary who had her back turned to all of us.
Had not Conchita heard or understood Loli’s question? Perhaps, since she did not ask anything from me.
Then Loli, still in ecstasy, turned herself half way around, came toward me and stopped in front of me. With an amazing motion of her right arm, with a astonishing suppleness and an unbelievable agility, she introduced her right hand into the right hand pocket of my cassock. She reached my hand firmly closed on my crucifix, opened it in spite of me, leaving my hand in my pocket and withdrawing the crucifix from its hiding place.
Another important detail: the opening to this pocket allows me to affirm that with my hand placed where it was, it was not humanly possible to introduce another hand, even as small as hers.
When I recall the scene, I believe the cinema has never filmed anything that could be compared to the superhuman beauty of Loli’s movements on that occasion. That beauty and superhuman strength of the child amazed me so that with my hand unclenched and my crucifix gone — overcome — I told her, “Take it. Take it. That’s enough proof for me.”
One last remark. At times the hands of the seers did not have their normal temperature. At the moment when Loli, in a naturally inexplicable way, put her hand into the pocket of my cassock, the temperature was normal.