Sunday, September 23, 2012

Garabandal Saved My Priestly Life


by Father Richard Gilsdorf from Garabandal Mag.. July-Sept. 1990
(Father Gilsdorf, after several years of serious illness, died on May 4, 2005, and was buried at St. John the Baptist Cemetery in Howard, Wisconsin, near his father’s and mother’s tombs.

Fr. Richard Gilsdorf (RIP+)

I learned about Garabandal in 1966 and it saved my priestly life. Near the end of the Council and in the heady years following this epochal event, the lethal "spirit of Vatican II" was spawned. The letter of the Council, its genuine and orthodox interpretation, was quietly laid to rest. Few bothered to read the documents, the acta. A whole "new church," as it was ingenuously called, was conjured up by liberated lecturers and publicists. It was not only the tradi­tional ritual and devotional forms which were declared open to radical change, but the very dogmas of faith and morals were soon considered fair targets for revision and dissent.
This revolution was most acutely experienced in the seminaries and con­vents. I was an instructor in a seminary during the dawn of this bold new age. I followed the Council avidly and was elated by its progress and promise. But I was beginning to be seduced by the pseudo-spirit which was blowing all around us.
At this crucial point, in 1966,I read a brief news account about the apparitions of Garabandal in Spain. 1 sent for the pioneer account of Sanchez-Ventura. It was special grace, a gift of discernment from Our Lady of Good Counsel. I was sent away for further studies in Scripture. The need to discern became all the more urgent in a time of scholarly ferment and systematic demythologizing.

Visit By Joey Lomangino


When I returned with my doctorate, the seminary was already near dissolution and I was assigned to pastoral work. Through all these years, I kept carefully informed on the events and messages, the "words and deeds," of Garabandal. A memorable day was a visit to my parish by Joey Lomangino.
Against this briefly sketched background, I would like to note just a few of the many elements of Garabandal that have sustained and literally "saved" me during years of spiritual peril and acute interior suffering.
I was powerfully stimulated, as I said, by the announcement and progress of Vatican II. It was an unexpected joy that so early in my priestly life such a historic event should occur. If any label could be stuck on me, I was rooting for what then was tagged the "liberal" or "progressive" side.
When I learned, in 1966, about the reported apparitions in northern Spain, it struck me as more than a coincidence that the years of Mary's "residence" in Garabandal concurred with those of the ecumenical council. Just how one should interpret that fact is not easy to surmise. Perhaps Garabandal was to stand as Heaven's commentary on the acta of the Council, giving the faithful a key to the genuine meaning of Vatican II and an antidote against the "spirit" which soon would be propagated. Whatever the case, the mere coincidence sounded an alarm for me to evaluate the tides of change with utmost care.

Fatima and Garabandal
I also became convinced that the Mes­sage of Garabandal was a restatement of Fatima with an updating, interpreting what had happened before, and what lie ahead in the near future. The fact that these events took place so soon after the expected date for the revelation of the "third secret" of Fatima had passed, with the subsequent disappointment of many who, perhaps with disordered curiosity, had eagerly awaited a public disclosure, let me to see a relationship of the two visitations of Mary in our century.
The whole atmosphere of the appari­tions at Garabandal, as well as the summary of its themes in the final Message, seemed to convey what many experts believe to constitute a major part of the Fatima secret, namely, crisis within the Church, grave assault against the Holy Eucharist, the priesthood, the papacy, devotion to Mary, and the virtual apostasy which could only be made pos­sible by a divided hierarchy.
At Fatima, Mary warned that Russia would spread its errors throughout the world. Russia's errors were, by definition, a godless "dialectic materialism." I realized that, without political or military conquest, the Church in the western nations had unwittingly suc­cumbed without struggle to the "errors" of Russia.

Summit of Christian Life

The final Message recaps the major themes of Garabandal. The Most Holy Eucharist, the Mystery of Faith, is the core of Mary's Message. As the Council so magnificently asserted, this Sacra­ment is "the source and summit of all Christian life." Throughout the days and years of her visitation on the mountain, Mary directly and indirectly focused our attention on the Real Presence of her Son. "Why don't you visit my Son more often? He waits for you night and day."
The frequent reception of Holy Communion by the girls through the ministry of an angel, crowned by the "milagrucu" of the visible Host, are woven into the pattern like a mystic thread. One of the thousands of astound­ing episodes touched my heart; that of the vanity compact that had been used during the Spanish persecutions to carry the Sacred Host to prisoners for the Faith. Both the children and the crowd were puzzled when Mary asked to kiss it before all else: "It belongs to my Son." What a reminder of reverence for the sacred vessels!

The First Message

While the first Message (October 18, 1961) admonishes us to "...visit the Blessed Sacrament frequently." the fina! Message (June 18, 1965) transmits the heartrending verdict of Heaven: "Less and less importance is being given to the Eucharist,"
This came at a time when the waning of Eucharistic faith with the consequent neglect, doubt, denial, contempt, abuse, and sacrilege had scarcely commenced. For centuries the Church had nurtured a protective hedge around her most precious Treasure, the Eucharist, inaestimabile donum—the Gift beyond price.
Yet, in the past few chaotic decades, this hedge has been dismantled piece by piece until now the Sacred Species stands exposed to the whims and foibles of everyone. The doctrine of this Mystery of Faith has been all but lost 10 most of our generation. The practical results: few visits, few signs of reverence, let alone of adoration, for what is often casually treated as mere bread and wine, impotent symbols more of secular themes than of sacred realities.
Here the Message in a few words res­cued my conscience. The loss of Eucharistic adoration has become a constant and increasing suffering in my priestly life. All pastors are commissioned to be custodians of the Eucharist. I find myself engaged in a daily front-line combat to protect Our Lord and keep my people in their instinctive reverence and faith. I have been blessed with deeply devout people who give me much consolation.
Yet the general atmosphere they often meet elsewhere, and the dis-edifying example of some visitors, is perplexing to them. The Message itself seems to be negative, but taken as a verdict from Heaven, it has confirmed my own assessment of what is perhaps the gravest threat to Catholic life.

Priestly Dignity

And the Eucharist can never be sepa­rated from the priesthood. This is another major motif of Garabandal—deep concern for priests. Conchita remarked that almost every day, Mary spoke of priests. While many priests were agonizing over an "identity crisis," in a remote village, Heaven was proclaiming, in words and deeds, the grandeur and dignity of the priestly character, its true identity.
Mary showed a personal maternal love for all priests because they are her sons, other Christs. I cannot here elaborate on what most readers know so well. I will mention only the fact that the angel distributed Holy Communion to the girls only when the Priest, the ordinary minister, was not in the village. When Conchita, prompted by observers, asked how the angel obtained Hosts, since only priests could consecrate, the angel confirmed that indeed only priests could consecrate. The Hosts were taken from earthly tabernacles.
Mary repeated to the girls that tradi­tional admonition: if they met a priest and an angel at the same time, they should first reverence the priest.
But after all this, we hear the shocking lines of the final Message: "Many cardi­nals, many bishops and many priests are on the road to perdition and are taking many souls with them." We can under­stand the reluctance of Conchita to divulge these words. Had not Mary herself formed the girls in loving reverence for priests?
There was even a pious temporary evasion on Conchita's part. The first version mentioned only "many priests," When the bishop asked her whether this was exactly what the Archangel said, she then added: "Many cardinals, many bishops... " When asked why she had not included this fuller formula, Conchita replied, "Aren't they also priests?"

Two Divergent Roads

How can we reconcile the contrast? The words of the Message give us the very reason why the sublimity of the priesthood needs to be emphasized and why the faithful must pray fervently for the shepherds of their souls. While the words are so indicting and seem so nega­tive, they rendered a special service to me. I, too, had experienced the reluctance of Conchita. In the early days, I struggled to explain the drift of so many brother priests in matters of doctrine and discipline. Was I misjudging after all?
But then the bitter realization: priests were now divided into two groups traveling along two divergent roads. And despite accumulating evidence, it was several years before I could force myself to the fuller truth. Indeed, cardinals and bishops were also priests, and like their priests, they too, were divided on the two roads: allegiance or alienation.
Throughout the apparitions, Mary, Mother of the Church, underscored the supreme unifying authority of the papacy. The two roads we have spoken of, in the final analysis, are those of allegiance to the Pope or alienation from him. The Pope is the rock, the key-bearer, the vicar, the universal shepherd, and all who dissent, even the highest pastors, are "on the road to perdition..."
It is this defection that is mainly responsible for the phenomenon of confusion which Mary foretold would intensify until the time of the Miracle. When the shepherds are stricken, the flock will be dispersed. The mysterious "countdown" on the recent popes ending with John Paul II, will signal el finale de los liempos, literally "the end of the times" but variously interpreted. This prophecy does, however, give us consoling notice that the present anarchy will not endure. There will be a time limit to Satan's illusory triumph.


As the crisis deepens, it becomes increasingly evident that the prophetic elements must be the solution. When nothing on earth can avail, then Heaven will intervene. And of all possible forms that intervention could take, the sequence of Waming-Miracle-conditional Chas­tisement seems to mirror most perfectly the mercy and justice of God.
The Warning, "a correction of the con­science of the world," an anticipation in time of our individual judgment in eternity, is surely the ultimate appeal of God's mercy. I have often noted the connection of these events with the rev­elation of Divine Mercy to Sister Faustina.
The great Miracle will be an out-pour­ing of the healing love and cleansing mercy of Christ's Heart to those who have responded to the Warning. Will the Cross of Christ, appearing in the skies and illuminating the earth, as foretold to Sister Faustina, be somehow linked to the Miracle? In this age of electronic and satellite communication, the impact of the Miracle on the world will be such that God can say: "What more could I do that I have not done."
The Chastisement is conditional. We wonder how would it be possible that anyone could resist the persuasion of God's mercy? Yet we all have confronted the spiritual blindness, the closure of hearts and minds to the supernatural. We can only pray that the apocalyptic scenes of the "night of screams" will yet be averted. Nevertheless one understands the misgivings of Conchita. For justice as well as mercy are equally attributes of God.

The Simplicity of Garabandal

As I first read the spellbinding history of Garabandal, I felt transported into a realm of goodness and innocence. The simplicity of this blessed hamlet and its humble people, so childlike in faith, became for me a spiritual refuge to which I have had recourse when the smog of sophistication, the tangle of "new theol­ogy," the web of bureaucracy, the "mature" Catholics propagating their "new church" became suffocating and terrifying.
What Mary did in this village during her visitation of four years created a rarefied atmosphere of heaven on earth.
Here, the Mother of the Church demonstrated the genuine renewal which the Council intended for the whole world. From its inception with four little girls pilfering fruit from an apple tree, Garabandal offers us the promise of a new Garden of Eden, Paradise Regained, to be spread into every city and village where human souls have made their homes.
As the content of the Message of Garabandal unfolded, I began to marvel at the profundity, orthodoxy, and coherence of its "theology." Difficult questions were frequently posed to the children from a variety of observers for a variety of motives, some no doubt to entrap the youngsters in errors which would discredit their claims.

In Accord With Catholic Doctrine

But always the responses were phrased in complete accord with Catholic doctrine. (This is, of course, a basic criterion for authenticity.) The children of­ten would consult with Mary or the angel before producing answers which seemed to confirm their heavenly sources by their sublime simplicity.
What God has hidden from the learned and the clever, He has revealed to the merest children. Other questions originated from the children themselves, spontaneously seeking explanations of matters of faith. The examples are too nu­merous to cite here. Depending, then, on the dispositions and motivations of the questioners, the responses brought consolation, confirmation, and peace, or confusion, disquiet, and frustration.
In the latter case, these colloquies re­mind us of the questions posed in the Gos­pel to ensnare Jesus in His speech, and the stunning reversal of the schemes of His enemies by terse but clinching replies.
Modernism attempts to sap the essence of the Church of transcendence, grace, the supernatural. The best means to combat this apostasy (for it is not merely heresy or schism) is for us to make known the miracles, the prophetic messages, the heavenly visitations which have been lavished upon us. Garabandal, and the related witness of Padre Pio, is an eminent example. What could refute secularism with more finality, we might add, than the first words of Mary to the children at Fatima: "1 have come from Heaven."

Never Doubted the Authenticity

In conclusion, I will state that I have never doubted the authenticity of what occurred at Garabandal. The convergence of external and internal evidence is over­whelming. It was, then, with unexpected delight that I was invited to write this ar­ticle. The news of the new investigation kindles a hope that soon we priests will feel more encouragement to announce this liberating Message to our long-suffering and imperiled faithful.
We pray for the fulfillment of the promises of Mary: conversion of Russia, conversion of sinners, conversion of the whole world, the time of one fold and one shepherd.
Our Lady of Garabandal has sus­tained my priestly life all these years. With joy and gratitude I present my testi­mony. We are now living through a suspenseful moment, when the triumph of the Church depends on a timely revelation of the merciful intercession of the Mother who opened her heart to us, in a special way to priests, on the cobblestones and among the pines of a mountain paradise. Soon, dear Mother!