There . . .
While this learned and inspired treatment was being carried out in Santander to cure Conchita of her visionary disease, far away in Garabandal the events continued their mysterious march.
On the day after the girl's departure,(60) three priests from the city of León came to the celebrated village: Fr. Manuel Antón, Fr. Victor López, and Fr. Geminiano García. The first was a parish priest from San Claudio (a modern church situated in the best section of León); the two others were well known for their teaching activities. The three had spent several days on vacation in the town of Barro on the beautiful coast of Llanes; there they received news of what was happening nearby and decided to go see what was going on.
They drove to Cossío and from there walked up to Garabandal. About a half hour past noon they arrived at the village and asking around, found the house of Ceferino. Father Manuel Antón, who told me these things, remembered perfectly that Ceferino was not home but at the billiard grounds, playing with other men the game of bolos of which they are such fans in the mountain villages. His wife, Julia, was cooking. Father Manuel had decided to inform himself thoroughly about what was happening there. Knowing that Ceferino's little girl Mari Loli was experiencing these things very frequently, he sought by all possible means to speak alone with her. He asked her father to permit her to come; but Ceferino, who was beginning to get annoyed by the questions, requests, and boldness of many visitors, neither paid him any attention nor stopped his game of bolos.
But Father Manuel did not give up his endeavor, letting it be known — without revealing his identity — that he was an important priest who had come with a mission, and had reasons and strong ones to accomplish it. Finally Ceferino arrived and permitted the interview with Loli.
It took place in a room of the old rustic house while the others ate on the tables in the café. Facing Loli, who was very diminutive for her age, Father Manuel tried to win her confidence by conducting himself with authority, as one who had a duty to perform. And he told her that she should explain everything, especially the beginning and how the thing had started, since he was there on behalf of someone very important and later would have to make a report.(61)
The girl, thinking herself in front of an authority who had come to submit her to an interrogation, answered the questions and gave all the explanations requested, especially with regard to the beginning of the affair on the evening of June 18th. Father Manuel, who did not know of Conchita's diary and actually hardly knew of Garabandal more than that it existed, told me what Loli had said about the beginning. I can certify that it coincides substantially with the version that Conchita has given in her diary and which I have followed in this history. There were only little differences of detail as occur with any event when there are several witnesses who give their version.
But what most impressed Father Manuel while listening to Loli was her appearance of absolute sincerity; this showed through in her eyes and resonated in her words.
Obviously in the beginning of all this there was no preparation or previous planning of any kind. The children found themselves suddenly with something about which they could never even have dreamed, and which left them in such total bewilderment that they sought shelter first against the walls of the church and then in its interior.
All this was a positive sign of great value for Father Manuel.
Loli came in her recitation to the apparitions of the Virgin. They had talked with her about many things; some of these they could tell the people, but others they could not for: It was still a secret.
Then Father Manuel interrupted her. You must tell me everything, for I have the right to know. I am an important person.
The girl stiffened in her resistance. I cannot, I cannot. The Virgin has said not to tell these things to anyone until the day comes.
But Father Manuel ultimately weakened her resistance with these words: I tell you that I have the authority to ask you, and it is the WILL OF GOD that you tell me everything. So obey.
Then the girl became nervous, and striving very hard, started to respond to what had been commanded.
«But this was astounding» — Father Manuel told me — «I was not able to understand one single sentence. And it was not that she spoke in a low voice, or that she purposely tried to speak in an unintelligible way; it was that the strangest phenomenon resulted in her speech. Up to this point she had been talking completely normal and I understood her perfectly; but at the time she wanted to tell me the secret, it was as if her lips and her tongue did not respond to her will; there was no more than stuttering and a garble of sounds that seemed to strike against each other. I could see how she was trying hard to make herself understood; but I couldn't understand a word. It was just as if suddenly she had begun to speak the most strange and unknown language.
You see? She said to me at the end with her usual clear speech. You see? The Virgin doesn't want me to tell these things.»
That day there were many people in the village, waiting for the apparition which had been announced for the evening at an undetermined hour. Time passed, which in waiting always seems longer, and with each hour that passed, more and more people became impatient. Two of the girls — Loli and Jacinta — were in the house of Loli's grandmother, playing on the second floor that has a balcony facing the plaza;(62) from there they could be seen by visitors.
The time came when impatience from waiting began to show itself and Ceferino, urged on by someone or other, went up to where the girls were to see what was going on. He was with them inside, and after a little while they were seen going out on the balcony in ecstasy. There they stayed for a while. Their attitude, gestures and movements were really admirable (as we know they always were during the ecstasies), but Father Manuel told me that some took a certain attitude of skepticism and distrust, because the coincidence of the going up of Ceferino and the starting of the ecstasy appeared suspicious to them. (63)
The best came later. already at dusk there had been a rosary in the church, overflowing with people. The two girls in their normal state were kneeling up front on a step facing the altar, so as to lead the rosary from there as they had been asked. Father Manuel managed to find a place close to them and in front of them — with the altar at his back — in order that no detail would escape him. He found a place for Father Victor López beside the girls. The rosary was being recited as usual when suddenly toward the second mystery a trembling developed in the girls, and with the typical sudden movement that many were familiar with, they became totally transported, with their heads facing upwards. Father Manuel could observe them at will, and certified that they were truly extraordinary.
Since they continued to lead the rosary while in ecstasy, he was able to make tests with regard to their insensibility, immobility, loss of normal ocular reflexes, etc. The most interesting test was this. He saw that the children did not count the Ave Marías, either by the rosary or with their fingers.
He gave Father Victor the task of precisely counting the number of those they recited to see if the Gloria came exactly at the end of each decade. Meanwhile he did everything possible to confuse them; at various times during the mysteries, he would lean toward them and shout in their ears, Gloria! Gloria! Say the Gloria, since there are already ten Ave Marías!
«The efforts were ineffective» — he told me — «They said all the Glorias at the right time, without a single mistake.
All this, together with Loli's confessions, left me very thoughtful. And I left Garabandal convinced there was something happening there, something that would be very difficult to explain with purely human and natural elements.»
In the days that I was at Santander there were in the village two Jesuit priests: Father Ramón María Andreu and Father Luis María Andreu.
They had come like many people without believing anything; and one ofthose days . . .
These names are already known to us since I have already mentioned things ahead of this day. It was in the final days of July 1961, on July 29th to be exact, that two religious brothers entered on the scene. These two religious brothers had an important part to play in the action and the history of Garabandal. Soon we will fix our attention on the second of them. We will leave this to the coming chapter, in order not to extend too much the recounting of what occurred on that illustrious day of July 29th. It will suffice here to summarize what was happening at Garabandal during the time that the Commission at Santander was thinking it had found the solution for this affair with its treatment to cure Conchita.(64)
On July 30th the girls were persisting in their petition to the Virgin that she give a real proof in order that all might believe. «That she would make night into day.»
When they said this it was already night; but not to the girls who were immersed in total light. On another occasion they said, «Even though it be only a very small miracle, like our flying.»
Father Royo Marín who was present there exclaimed, To call flying a very small miracle, what those girls must be seeing!
«The Virgin became serious(65) when we asked for a miracle», they said later.
That day Mari Cruz had one of her ecstasies alone in the house of her grandmother. «Why do you come here, where nobody sees us?» Undeniably she and her companions wished that all these things might radiate out toward others so that they would believe and take advantage of them.
On July 31st the people could see for the first time the way the girls traveled graciously on their knees during the ecstasies. The apparition drew away and its power of attraction made them advance without changing their posture and without getting up off the ground. On the same day there occurred in Loli the first oscillations: a movement or balancing of the body as if it were to fall, but without causing a fall.
On August 1st, Tuesday(66) there were ecstasies near the Pines at three different times: 10:45 a.m., 12:15 p.m. and 5:40 p.m.
During one of these, at noon, the hour of the Angelus, the girls were heard clearly to pray the Ave María with a charming modification and addition: “Holy Mary, Mother of God, and our Mother, pray for us."(67) This seemed acceptable to the Virgin; but she indicated that they should not employ this formula ordinarily as it was not authorized by the church.(68)
On August 3rd, the ecstatic falls occurred for the first time as has already been mentioned. It was certainly on this date that the parish priest from León, Father Manuel Antón went up for the second time to Garabandal. I say certainly, although he does not remember precisely, since it coincides with the arrival of a well-known political figure. Sánchez-Ventura writes that on August 3rd there was in the location of the apparitions an official from Madrid, from which I draw the conclusion that it was on this day that Father Manuel was in Garabandal for the second time. And this time he was alone. One of his two priestly companions, Father Victor López, had preferred to travel on that day to Santander to learn the opinion of the Apostolic Administrator, Doroteo Fernández.
On that August 3rd, Tuesday, Conchita's stay in Santander concluded, and so closed one more chapter in the history of the events, a chapter that has to be considered as a bad scene in the mystery of Garabandal.
60. Father Manuel Antón, the person who informed me of this, thought that it was on the 28th of July, although he was not certain. With the notes from Father Valentín in front of me, I believe it had to be Sunday, July 30th.
61. Father Manuel told me that he had tried very hard to learn accurately how the events had begun, since in these matters it is only necessary to see their origin to be able to judge whether they are a fraud or really come from something external and unknown.
62. This balcony extends the whole length of the front of the building and is always facing as much as possible the noonday sun. It is used by the members of the house to get some air or sun, to view the street and the fields, and to hang farm products to dry or cure.
63. The same person told me that this did not make a good impression on him. And that was the first thing that he saw. Although this was a negative sign for him, he said «Later I obtained many proofs of a completely opposite type.»
I do not think it is hard to find a good explanation for this coincidence of Ceferino going upstairs and the commencement of the ecstasy, considering what has been said.
64. I took this information from Sánchez-Ventura's book on Garabandal.
65. We cannot completely understand the reasons for the seriousness on the part of the apparition; but some of it is explainable. Garabandal was living a daily miracle: the young children neither exhausted nor shaken by such a profusion of trances, the astounding reality itself of such trances, the personal and certain signs that happened every day for someone or another. And the people continued to ask with an attitude of hard resistance or with a disordered thirst for marvels, that they be given a spectacular sign so that they could be certain and convinced!
66. From Father Valentín's notes of July: «They said that on Tuesday at the Pines . . .» On these dates, Mari Cruz almost always had an apparition apart from the others, very frequently on the rustic balcony of her home.
67. Right here is one of the most significant moments at Garabandal.
It cannot be doubted (all the time we are made more aware) that the essence of the Garabandal events was precisely this: that we would live fully the reality that the Virgin Mother of God is also truly our Mother.
The girls, who were experiencing this daily in a supernatural way, came to express what they felt with that spontaneous addition to the great Marian prayer.
68. Although the reason for the Virgin's recommendation can be understood, it can also be understood that this does not prevent us from praying privately as the girls did.