The Apostolic Administrator, Doroteo Fernández, must have had a very high opinion of them since in his first note about Garabandal that appeared in the Official Bulletin of the Diocese, dated August 26th, 1961, the Monsignor states,
«We have named a Commission composed of persons of well-known prudence and doctrine in order that they can inform us with a complete guarantee of objectivity and competence about these happenings.»
We are going to see their first activities. But before this, let us consider the situation.
And to do this, we will return to Conchita's diary.
Two months before the message (which was in October, as will be seen) they took me to Santander by means of a priest named Father Luis.
She refers to Father Luis González López, who years before had been a parish priest first at Garabandal, then at Celis in the same diocese of Rio Nansa, and finally had ended up at the parish of Our Lady of Consolation in the capital of Santander. Father López had connections with San Sebastián de Garabandal not only because of his years as a priest there, but also by family ties, since he was related to Conchita's mother through marriage between mutual relatives.
But why was it planned to bring Conchita to Santander?
They wanted to take me to Santander, because they said it was I who was influencing the others.
The Commission would have to think this and so would everyone else. Father López, who had been present at some of the events, and Father Valentín Marichalar saw the usefulness of making tests. Conchita's mother was not overly concerned since everyone had complete trust in Father López as a priest, and it was right in his house that the child would rest during her stay in the capital.
Everyone was very concerned about what was happening in the village, and the concern was increasing each day. Those who felt themselves responsible, while rejecting any possibility of bad faith on the children, had to ask frequently where this affair was going to end; and if there might be any means that might be taken to clarify what was happening so as to guide themselves in the right way. Could it be that Conchita, who was showing herself as the strongest personality and the leader, was influencing the rest of the group?
And furthermore was she not also staying in the surroundings created by the events? It appeared advisable to make a test, and take her away from those surroundings.
The initiative must have come from the Commission, and Father López would be the perfect intermediary . . . (37)
But Aniceta did not take to all these things. For the first time the daughter over whom she watched so carefully was going to be taken away from her side, and her maternal instinct sensed certain risks. Because of this she wished to have some assurance from above.
The night before going to Santander,( 38) there were many people (in the
village) and among them a priest with a white habit.
And it surprised me very much that he came with a habit of this color. I had never seen anything like it.
On that day my mother had told me to ask the Virgin if she should let me go to Santander, and I told her that I would ask her.(39)
In Sánchez-Ventura's book Apparitions are Not a Myth, Chapter VI, more details are given about what Conchita is starting to narrate. These details are given by an eyewitness who fills in from his observation the things the girl remembers from her personal experience.
It was July 26th, 1961.(40) In the morning the girls already had a vision, and then announced another for the afternoon. Before the day is over, they said.
Some six hundred persons had assembled in the village; among them six priests and a Dominican Father from the labor college in Córdoba.
It was 6:00 in the evening when the four of us had already received two calls.
A father had brought us a box of caramels; his name was Alfonso Cobián.(41)
He had given them to the four of us.
And when we were eating them, the third call came.
And we dropped the caramels on the road.
How we would have liked to eat them!(42) But we liked more, much more, to see the Virgin.
And besides the third call is a thing that takes us, and we don't know how.
We were going to the place called the Cuadro; but we did not have time to get there, and she appeared to us before we arrived there.
It was approximately eight o'clock in the evening, still daylight during the days of July. The girls began running toward the calleja; but before they were able to get inside the wooden barriers, they plunged on their knees, two in front and two behind. Conchita held her head upwards in an extreme position most of the time; the other three looked in front of them with their eyes firmly fixed up above. Mari Cruz was crying. The expressions on their faces were very gentle. At times they smiled, and at other times they laughed freely.
Then at the same time they all took the medals and rosaries that they wore around their necks in order to give them to the vision to kiss. One of them said, This is from a man who told me you should kiss it very hard.
Jacinta started one of those oscillatory movements which were to become, sometime later, one of the most striking phenomena in Garabandal— the ecstatic falls.(43) There are some very interesting photographs of these falls — especially with regard to Loli and Conchita. Mari Cruz, while in the trance, extended her arm to support Jacinta who had just fallen halfway to the ground.
Conchita said to Mari Loli, Cross my arms right, you have crossed them backwards.(44) (It can be recalled, as already has been mentioned, that during the ecstasies only the girls were able to easily move one another; to all other persons their arms and legs had such a rigidity that it was almost impossible to budge them. A similar thing occurred with their weight and the effect of gravity. They could lift each other up with the greatest ease; while two strong men could barely manage to move one of them.)
37. A reliable priest, Father José Ramón García de la Riva later informed me about this, writing «the voyage to Santander was a trick of the Commission (Father Odriozola) on Father Valentín and Aniceta. he assured them that it was solely a visit with the bishop. But it was already arranged with Father Luis to hold the girl in the capitol, well away from the atmosphere of the apparitions.»
38. That is, on July 26. There is something strange and unsolved from the previous day, July 25, a big day in Spain because it is the celebration of the feast of its patron, St. James the Apostle. «On that day»—said Juan Alvarez Seco—«I had stationed a pair of guards in the calleja, and another pair in front of Conchita's house. The four visionaries were playing in a field near by; it was a beautiful afternoon and the sky was completely clear of clouds. Suddenly, toward 6:30, a very black cloud gathered on top of Peña Sagra, and from it a striking ray of lightening shot out from on high to below. The girls fell on their knees extremely frightened. The thunder which followed shook us all. But they remained then with a look of ecstasy, gazing toward above . . . I remember that I had to calm down the shouting of Mari Cruz's mother. All remained several minutes in silence. Then there was someone who told me later, very seriously, although without giving it more importance, that he had seen on top of the cloud, one or two figures that looked like the Holy Father.»
39. Aniceta's question shows that, in spite of the doubts and fears that assailed her at times, deep down she was almost sure that her daughter was not inventing this or pretending.
40. I am almost sure that this is the date and not the 27th, as Sánchez-Ventura writes in his book.
41. Pastor of Ribadesella (Asturías), as already has been mentioned.
42. There is a significant revelation in Conchita's exclamation. Almost all young girls have good appetites, and we would expect this would be stimulated in those poor girls from the village, so little accustomed to fine things. Grace does not destroy nature.
43. The falls which are mentioned here, should not be confused with the falls of the girls on their knees in the beginning of the ecstasies or in the middle of an ecstatic march. These falls we are describing were a swaying of the girl in ecstasy, gradually increasing more and more until she was as though lying on the ground. They occurred rather often at Garabandal, and always the girls' falls drew attention by the decorum and the grace of their faces. The spectators could not but be brought to admiration and respect.
44. It seems to me more acceptable, because it is more understandable, what Father Valentín wrote in his notes: «Conchita was rigid, and with her arms held out forward, and Loli said to her,
—Put your arms down lower.
—You put them down, Conchita answered.
And Loli lowered one arm. Then I attempted to lower the other; but it was completely rigid. Following this, Loli lowered it.»