But how Father Odriozola and Dr. Piñal would have been surprised if they had known that while they were questioning and insulting Conchita in the church rectory at Santander, the people in Garabandal were completely aware of what was happening on Alta Street! And not by means of a telephone.
While Conchita's ecstasy was taking place, the other three girls still in the village had an apparition at the Pines; and during it the Virgin told them that Conchita was also seeing her at the same time. The girls told this then to the people, and the chief of the Civil Guard(55) was able to determine soon afterwards — by a telephone call from Puente Nansa — the complete exactness of his information.
For the Virgin had informed the girls at the Pines in Garabandal about what had happened at the same time ninety kilometers away. Father Valentín Marichalar, the parish priest, is one of the reliable witnesses who can guarantee the truth of this fact.
The next day they took me to the doctors( 56) to see if I was ill.
They took me to one whose name was Morales and several others.
And they all told me that I was well, and that these apparitions were a dream.
And they said that I should stay there in Santander to amuse myself, so that I could forget everything, and not go back to have more apparitions.
As can be seen, the Commission began immediately to observe and study the case of Conchita with close attention. But no matter how carefully they examined the constitution and psychology of the young girl, they could not find anything on which they could base a diagnosis of illness or abnormality. But they had to say something since they would not admit that the things that were happening were unexplainable. And also they had to do something. They said that things like these were unreal: fantasies, dreams, hallucinations. And they did do something: they made a plan of treatment. Conchita would remain in Santander and be exposed to an environment that would distract her so that soon those strange ideas would leave her head.
The attitude and the words of the consulting doctors impressed themselves on Aniceta's mind.
Then my mother, as she was so convinced that there was nothing wrong (with me) because everything that the doctors told her, left me (in Santander) and went away.The treatment to cure Conchita was very appropriate.
Some nieces and sisters of Father Odriozola came every day to pick me up at the house in order to go to the beach and the fairs, which up to then I had never seen.(57)
We can imagine the dazzling and disturbing effect of which up to then I had never seen, or even imagined and would cause in the young girl reared in the poverty of a secluded mountain village, at the beginning of adolescence, with her sensibilities stirred up after being suddenly uprooted from her native rural surroundings, so simple and austere. She had to be enticed by the resorts and beaches crowded with lounging, pleasure-seeking, semi-nude bathers, by the booths at the fair(58) and the shows, entertainments and novelties never seen in the mountain villages. A diocesan priest informed me in a letter that they even took Conchita to a fortune teller's booth.
How could the young girl from Garabandal not be overwhelmed when suddenly plunged in such pleasurable dissipation? Being hurled like this into so many and such unaccustomed experiences, it would have required a miracle to maintain her spirit serene and pure so as to be capable of receiving influences from on high. And it seems that a miracle did not come.
And neither did the apparitions . . .
If from this the Commission drew its conclusion that what the child had undergone before was not showing any guarantee of proceeding from God, this shows the measure, the poor measure, of their size as experts in mystical and spiritual theology.
The actions of God do not ordinarily come about with an easy plan that crushes all resistance; nor do the designs of God unfold independently of human correspondence and cooperation. Even God's grandest plans can fail if on the part of the recipients there is an obstinate lack of attention, openness or docility. Who has ears to hear, let him hear.
And since I went every day to the beach, the Virgin did not appear to me.(59)
Father Ramón Andreu wrote in the first edition of his notes:
«The girl mentioned to me that in Santander they showed her photographs and had her experience other things, without doubt a form of testing . . . The purpose of this seemed to be to remove her from the environment in which she had lived and which thus influenced her visions. Without my asking her especially about that period of her life, she told me in front of some other people, The Virgin stated that she had not come to see me more because I was going to the beach. But now I have confessed.»
55. On July 27th, the Chief of Police, Juan Alvarez Seco was in Santander, unaware of Conchita's trip. Before setting out, he assigned guards to observe carefully what happened that day in Garabandal in order to give him a report later. On returning in the afternoon, he called the two who had been on guard, and from them received the information that «at 1 o'clock in the afternoon, the angel had appeared to MariCruz, Jacinta, and María Dolores . . . that they had said that they were not very happy because that day, when the Virgin appeared, Conchita was not coming there to see her . . . and then the angel assured them that Conchita was also seeing the Virgin, at the same time in which they were seeing her in Garabandal.»
Juan Alvarez Seco quickly verified by an official telephone call to Officer Crescencio from headquarters in Santander, the truth of what the guards had informed him. The amazement had to be mutual . . . Someone reported that when the officer in Santander began saying Listen, do you know what this girl Conchita has done here? the officer in Puente Nansa answered, Yes, I already know.
—But who could have told you this?
56. The visits to the doctors must have lasted several days. On one of these days, the cutting of Conchita's braid took place. This is an interesting episode.
The Commission decided on this haircutting apparently for two reasons:
1. In order that the girl would not be easily recognized in the streets of Santander, since many persons had already gone up to Garabandal, and many others were familiar with the photographs of the visionaries.
2. To eliminate a possible cause of these unusual phenomena. It is hard to believe this last reason, but I have heard it and read about it several times. And here is the straightforward testimony of Father Julio Porro Cardeñoso, a Canon of Tarragona, one of the best-informed persons on the Garabandal events, in his manuscript The mystery of Garabandal in Catholic Theology: «Members of the Commission had aired their views that Conchita's braid was the origin of a mysterious fluid that held her companions in control.»
It appears more believable what Father José Ramón García de la Riva wrote me, after gathering information in the village, «They took her to a beauty shop. The beautician noticed something unusual in the braid, namely that it was difficult to cut. From this, they said the hair had an unusual force over the other girls.» The second edition of the story of Samson; and in this life surprises never end.
57. In treating Conchita by way of distractions, not only did the sister and nieces of Father Odriozola collaborate, but also Antonina González López, the sister of Father Luis.
I am sure that those women acted with good will, persuaded that they were doing a good work. However, I do not accept so easily the good faith of those charged with curing Conchita. One of the methods of treatment was to take the girl away from the practice of religion. Aniceta, who remained some days with Conchita in Santander, was worried and irritated in seeing that not even on one day—perhaps not even on Sunday—was the young girl given an opportunity to assist at Mass.
58. Santander had to be exceptionally wild on those days since, apart from the summertime in full activity, at that time the fairs of St. James were being held. The feast of St. James, a holy day of obligation in Spain, falls on the 25th of July.
59. This does not mean that going to the beach is a sin in itself. It means only that such an atmosphere, frequently so full of sensuality and stimulation, poses a serious obstacle to a special communication with a supernatural world.
With respect to Conchita, it appears that the selection of a bathing suit was not carried to the extreme of decency.