Monday, June 16, 2014

Memoirs of a Spanish Country Priest (Chapter V)


August 23rd, 1961
Pastor for a Day at Garabandal

The next morning, while leaving the portico after celebrating Mass, I saw Father Valentín about 30 meters away, conversing near a small bridge that, at that time, crossed over a narrow creek. The dear pastor left Father Ramón Andreu and immediately came up to me.
— “By order of the Commission, you must leave the village.”
— “I know that already.” I responded calmly, “And I also know that you and Father Ramón have to leave, too.”
— “No?”
— “Yes. I heard it yesterday night from the mouth of one of your two confreres. Personally, I really regret having to leave, because I had the intention of staying a little longer here. I must say that I really like this place.”
Then Father Valentín rejoined Father Ramón and the two spoke for a few seconds. He returned to me:
— “Listen. We’ve considered something else. I consider it a duty to leave to make a report to the bishop about the events of these last days. Today you will take my place as pastor. Here is the key to the church of Garabandal.”
View of the parochial church in San Sebastián ...
View of the parochial church in San Sebastián de Garabandal, Cantabria (Spain)]] (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I was not only very happy to be able to stay another day longer, but before the trust of this priest, who did not know me, I felt a great peace come over my sacerdotal heart. Other impressions both very strong and very gentle — unforgettable — penetrated my soul.
Father Ramón — we also did not know each other — came near. I took the occasion to tell him:
— “Father, I’m disposed to writing directly to the Apostolic Administrator, Bishop Doroteo.”
— “Why?”
— “To inform him of the very poor impression that this Commission has made on me.”
— “I myself was in the church last night with five or six priests from outside the diocese. We saw and heard everything. We talked about the attitude of the Commission after its departure, and even while it was acting. You are right; follow your idea. It appears good to me.”
As I said previously, on returning to Barro, I did what I had planned.
I repeat again: this day of August 23rd, spent as an interim pastor in Garabandal, remains unforgettable for me.
At nightfall, Father Ramón took me aside:
— “Father Valentín is not coming up from Cosío today. However, he brought back from Santander a decision from the bishop: the church door should be kept closed during the children’s ecstasies. No more ecstasies in the church from now on. What are you going to do?”
— “I will obey.”
And so, without expecting it, it was I, a priest from the archdiocese of Oviedo, who for the first and last time closed the door of the house of God to the young girls in ecstasy. Yes, I had to forbid them never to enter when they were seeing the Virgin, the Mother of the Jesus really present in the Tabernacle. This also was part of my unforgettable memories.
Permit me to relate something which seems particularly important. Not only was I an eyewitness, but I participated actively in an event that I can recall as if it were yesterday.
It was still the 23rd of August, 1961. After the recitation of the rosary, as was the custom, the girls fell into ecstasy under the portico. Two by two, they went through the village. In accordance with the decision from Santander, I locked the door behind me, remaining in place, waiting for what would happen. After some time, Loli and Jacinta, in ecstasy, returned to the church to enter it and pray as usual. Suddenly, apparently due to a compelling command received from someone, they stopped — abruptly, I might say — in front of me.
I was then in front of the locked door, my back turned toward it. Loli and Jacinta were in front of me, five meters away, at the entry to the outside portico. They were completely unaware, by human knowledge, of what I had done, since it was known only by the Apostolic Administrator or the Diocese Commission who had given the order, Father Valentín, Father Ramón Andreu and I myself.
Loli began speaking very distinctly and furthermore, not in a the low voice, very low, that the visionaries always had in speaking to their Vision:
— “Why is the church closed to us? . . . But we are not coming to do anything bad . . . Well! If it is not open to us, we will not enter it any more . . . ”
Convinced that they certainly would not hear me, since I was not participating in their ecstasy, I responded nevertheless:
— “You are right my children, but it is necessary to obey . . .”
Loli and Jacinta, still in ecstasy, made a half turn in a docile manner, and I heard one of the persons who accompanied them:
— “Father, you are doing your duty.”
Everyone could observe that from that August 23, 1961, the seers, when they were in ecstasy, never again entered the church, strictly obeying the order from Santander, not knowing whether it came from Bishop Doroteo or the Commission alone. When their ecstatic journey brought them to the church, they went around the walls with those who were accompanying them while singing the Salve Regina or reciting their very stirring rosary. There was a time when they fell violently on their knees, risking breaking them on the threshold of the closed door. Then occurred the exquisite ceremony of the exchange of kisses with the Virgin and the end of the group ecstasy.
Then after this interdiction, Conchita and Loli, in ecstasy, never received Holy Communion in the church from the hand of the angel. He gave It to them under the portico.
I stayed another day, the third, at Garabandal. The hours didn’t just pass; I felt they flew.
After that Garabandal has always revived my spirits. At that time it was most unexpected and sudden as lightening in the sky.
Also after that I used all the opportunities that presented themselves to go up again to that cherished little village where I have passed, where I still pass, the best days of my priestly life.