Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Memoirs of a Spanish Country Priest (Chapter I)

PICTURE: Father Jose Ramon contributing his
"very little" in helping with the work of harvesting.


Opening Statements and the Contradictions
I am very familiar with the apparitions of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel and St. Michael the Archangel in the small village of St. Sebastian de Garabandal, in the province and diocese of Santander.
I was a witness by eye, by ear also, of approximately 200 ecstasies. I heard the thoughts of the visionaries during the time of their tests, which followed the period of their absolute certainty. I have kept many letters that they wrote to me, especially at the beginning of the events. What I’ve seen, heard, and sometimes touched with my own hands, I now give public testimony with the humble and devout loyalty of a priest.
It is a well-known truth that God has His time and His affairs with men, even though in reality even when using them, God Himself does everything. At Garabandal, the work of God is clearly visible if one gives attention above all to the totality of the events and the persons who are involved in them. The events follow one after the other; human beings reveal their true — character and allow us to observe their special roles. Everything and everyone involved accomplish a divine work in a manner complex and at the same time simple.
I might say that God acts, as in a marionette theatre, not to entertain, but to instruct and teach us. He directs the marionettes according to a plot He has designed, and He manipulates them according to His pleasure, depending on their submission. At times, or even frequently, men refuse to play their parts, obstruct or disturb the plot, with or without malice. Fortunately, it is always true that Providence writes straight with curved lines to portray the works of men and especially those of God.
These recollections encompass the eight years from 1961 to 1968. And so they embraced a period after 1966 — the period of the visionaries tests in regard to the truth of their apparitions. I am not going to speak at length about this, but I want to say some words here to show that God has not changed his way of writing the story of man.
In 1961, two months after the events started, the young girls in ecstasy said to the Virgin, whom they were seeing, to whom they were speaking: “How could we say one day that we have not seen you, since we are seeing you?” That was plain and logical.
Then would come the time of denials, or to be more accurate, the time of contradictions. It appears that even at the periods of their return to certainty, mysterious darkness still tortured them, in spite of their apparent peace. I have written “the time of contradictions” for at least as far as Conchita, Loli, and Jacinta are concerned — examining their answers carefully — there has never been a question of definite, absolute denial.
Who could understand this test without referring it to the mystery of Providence?
Especially if one considers what I am going to add by way of example, staying within the limits of my knowledge of the subject.
In the middle of the period of denials, or rather “contradictions” Conchita was staying in her school at Burgos and Loli in her school at Balmori, my district. Father Morelos, a priest who was Mexican and therefore spoke their language, presented to each one a picture of our Lady of Garabandal painted by an artist from his country named Octavio. Separated the one from the other by many kilometers, their response was identical. “This picture does not look like the One we saw. Our Lady does not have a crown resting on her head like this one, but a diadem of 12 stars forming a circle behind her head, starting at the bottom of her ears. She did not have her head bowed. Her hair fell on her shoulders. She did not have a waistband. On her right wrist, she carried a scapular in the form of a maniple; the bands of this were longer than those of your picture. On one side there was a mountain; on the other side a cross.”
I was present at the conversation in Balmori. When she finished, I asked the visionary a question: “Did you see her, yes or no?” She blushed and with a smile that was both embarrassed and exquisite, she answered as usual, “Well! At least that is who we say we have seen!”
That was in 1967.
One year later, on the evening of August 18, 1968, I was in Garabandal. I read a letter dated on that day which Conchita had written to a woman from Santander, in which she gave her opinion about a picture of the Virgin painted by a foreign artist. “No,” she said. “I don’t like the Infant Jesus at all. He does not resemble Him in anything. His eyes were dark brown in color. His face was not so round. His arms were more outstretched and pointing downwards.”
With regard to the Virgin, she noted: “I like her better than the one painted at Barcelona. Her face is more human and true to life, although one can never paint the Virgin the way she really is.”
At that time, if I would have asked Conchita the same question as Loli in Balmori, would I have received the same answer? It is quite possible.
I leave these matters to whomever (in the face of the apparent contradictions of the visionaries) would want to make an extensive study of the events of Garabandal.
In addition, with the sole purpose of filling in spaces in the other reports and writings, I am going to recount simply, by pen, what I have seen, what I have heard, what I have been able to testify to, having observed these things during my numerous and frequent trips to the village.