it seemed to me. And that the message seemed to me to be true.”
At the end of eight days, a man intervened to take me (to the village) and my mother went to find me and have me come.
His name is Emilio del Valle Egocheaga. I will remember him all my life.
Actually it was Emilio del Valle(69) who intervened to repatriate her who could be considered in some respects as kidnapped in Santander(70) — although, as it appears, kidnapped much to her liking.
While in Puente Nansa Mr. Emilio had arranged for the taxi driver Fidelín Gómez to bring Aniceta and her sister Maximina to Santander.
When they showed themselves at the house of Father Luis González everyone was surprised by the unexpected visit.
—We have come to get you, the two women said to Conchita and the reaction was vivid.
—No, no! Conchita's eyes moistened. It was seen that things were going well there; and that the vacation, so novel for her, had conquered her.(71)
Father Luis and his sister Antonina reacted with evident opposition. They became very angry that they had come to get Conchita.
—No, no, I don't want to go, repeated Conchita; but almost immediately without further protest she went to collect her things.
Then Father Luis telephoned Doctor Piñal to tell him what was happening; the doctor answered that they should all come immediately to his home.
When they came there, the doctor employed all his repertoire of flattery, promises and threats to gain victory at the last moment.
I don't know how you can be so stupid, wanting to go back to the village. Here you would be a lucky girl. We would send you to a good college. You would be a señorita. All that is needed is for you to say that all that village affair isn't true, that you made it up yourself, that you were deceiving the people. If you persist in talking about apparitions, you will be disgraced. We will declare you crazy and lock you in a mad house. And your parents will go to jail.
To add force to his words, the eloquent doctor explained to the girl that this was not the first case, that there was another person who also said she had apparitions. She had been locked in an asylum for the insane.
The speech had its effect.(72) Conchita trembling, with her eyes wide and with tears in them, ended up saying, Do you know what I say? Perhaps for myself it isn't certain. But perhaps for the others, it is.
Then Father Luis the pastor stood up very pleased and gave the girl a few paternal taps on the shoulder while saying, Good, good, Conchita! Good, good, good.
Doctor Piñal immediately took advantage of the situation:
—Do you want to sign what you have just said?
—Very well, said Conchita and wrote her name on the paper that was put before her. Should I put down my last name too?
—Yes, that would be better.
Maximina González, who would not hesitate to swear the truth of what has just happened—and she is well aware of it, since she was present— would not go so far, however, as to affirm under oath that the paper on which Conchita signed her name was en blanco.(73) But she is almost sure of it. Aniceta affirms this without any hesitation. And she thinks she recalls, although on this she is not so sure, that the signature of the girl was in red ink.
The thing went well with regard to the wishes of the Commission, or at least of one of the commissioners. The Doctor Piñal—in a better mood— said to Conchita:
—Good, now that the thing is all settled, now that we know that all this is not true, tell us the message.
—No, I am not able to tell that.
They insisted with very forceful dialogue. The young girl finally found an escape.
—The fact of the matter is that although I would like to, I am not able to tell it to you, because I can't tell what I no longer remember.
The interview was very long; only the major parts are related here. From the house of Doctor Piñal they went to the bishop.
At the entrance Reverend Odriozola was waiting for them. First he took photographs of the girl next to the car; and then instructed them on how they should act in front of the bishop: to genuflect on one knee, to kiss the pastoral ring, etc.
Once they were in the palace, the moment arrived when a priest came to meet them. Odriozola said to Conchita:
—Do you know who this priest is?
That was who he actually was. After the greetings and introductions he ordered them to be seated; he adjusted his insignia and began the conversation, or rather the interrogation.
It seems that it did not last very long. In it was a special question:
—You, what do you prefer? To be a señorita, or to remain a shepherdess?
—To be a señorita.(74)
They talked about this and the Apostolic Administrator and Father Odriozola exchanged words and plans so that Conchita might study and receive a suitable education. Aniceta and Maximina left the palace happy and began the return voyage to the village, secure about the future. A good future! And her little girl was now out of danger. It would not take them long to find out their error.
The episodes of the last day at Santander Conchita summarizes in her diary like this:
On the day that they took me back to the village, I went to Doctor Piñal to tell him that I was going.And he became very angry and said to me . . . well, many things . . . in order that I would not go.
And I told him that I was not seeing the Virgin; but that the others were, it seemed to me.
And that the message seemed to me to be true.
And he told me to sign and I signed.
Afterwards he told me that I should go talk to Bishop Doroteo,(75) and I talked to him.
They all acted very nice to me, after all this.
We now find ourselves before one of the most important and decisive moments in the remarkable events of Garabandal.
A Commission which calls itself official (and we do not doubt of its character, although no one has yet seen the episcopal document relative to its nomination and attributes) has begun to act before a difficult situation with a style and manner of procedure which has to be classified at the least as very exceptional, if not strange.
The members of this Commission had gone at times, although only a very few times, to the location of the events. But they did this with a secretive attitude, without showing their faces, with a certain attitude as if ashamed, without putting themselves in the best places for observation and examination, without every proceeding to seriously interrogate the visionaries and the most qualified witnesses. As an example of this, they have never asked the parish priest for his opinion; they must have considered anything that he could say as of very little value to them with their degrees and doctorates.(76)
Many of those devoted to Garabandal have the impression that the Commission members, rather than bringing out into the open the possibility of the fact of an intervention from heaven, were searching for proofs against this possibility. They pried into everything that seemed to be a negative sign; and they approached in preference those who doubted or denied, looking for secretive and whispered testimony rather than open declarations. Because of this, the Commission's position was soon strongly anti. From this position they first proceeded with Conchita's sojourn in Santander and then with other things that will come out in this history. They have never occupied themselves in proceeding with a process according to the rules of authentic Canon Law.
The result of the experience at Santander, with the disappearance of Conchita's ecstasies and her ambiguous final denials, confirmed the Commission members in their attitude. In the future they would present these results as an argument that could not be rebutted, as an absolute judgment against Garabandal.(77)
And has the Commission — or rather some of its members — always acted in good faith? With a holy and genuine desire to clarify these things with the light of God? I do not wish to doubt this; but there are certain matters . . . Fr. Julio Porro Cardeñoso, Canon of Tarrangona, speaking about a letter from Conchita that did not get to the hands of Father Eugenio Beitia Aldazábal, bishop at the time, writes, "This will not be the first time that material on Garabandal has vanished. I could cite a definite fact which a member of the Commission had used for prevarication. Likewise, I could show the discordance of his statements with the most reliable testimony of the parish priest, written down in his diary." (The Mystery of Garabandal in Catholic Theology.)
Incalculable consequences have resulted from the position and procedures of the Santander Commission. It might be asked what course would the mystery of Garabandal have followed if it had encountered official investigators who were more responsible and more unbiased.
Perhaps we will know some day. Perhaps we will never know.
69. A man from León, very well-known in that city and province, a businessman with interests in the coal mines of Santa Lucía (León) where one of Conchita's brothers worked for a time.
Later Conchita stayed at León with this man's family.
70. All the expenses of the trip were paid by Mr. Emilio since at the time Aniceta had some financial problems. In order to be more presentable on the journey to Santander, she had to borrow one of Maximina's coats.
71. For those who cannot understand this, for those who are let down, who imagine that persons favored by God are immediately changed into souls completely above and beyond all weakness or deficiency, I would like to reproduce here the writing of St. Therese of the Child Jesus, an angelical saint if there ever was one.
She was speaking of the pleasant voyage that her father had given her to recover after a serious and painful illness:
"Then I began to know the world. Everything was joy and happiness around me. For two weeks I found nothing but flowers on the path of life. The Book of Wisdom is right in saying that the wandering of desire overturns the innocent mind. (4:12) I admit that this life attracted me." (Story of a Soul, Chapter 4)
72. Who would expect anything else? The simple village girl was before an important man from the magnificent city of Santander, so different from her Garabandal; a man who spoke with authority, who had the power to accomplish everything he said. What incalculable consequences would result for her and her friends from the attitude that she then adopted.
73. What an important document with what they would later write on this paper! One of the decisive proofs against Garabandal that are kept in the Archives of the Commission!
74. Here is something that shows the meaning of that answer from Conchita's tongue:
On returning to Garabandal, she was talking one day with Father Andreu who had heard something of what had happened in Santander. «In questioning her»—recounted the priest —«Whether it pleased the Virgin that she would be a señorita, she answered:
—And why shouldn't it please the Virgin that I learn?
—And how are you going to learn?
—Well, like the others!
—I don't understand this very well. What does it mean to you to be a señorita?
—To go to school.»
75. Bishop Doroteo Fernández was not bishop of Santander but Apostolic Administrator of the diocese, after the death of Bishop José Eguino Trecu.
76. Nothing written here is set down lightly. In the succeeding chapters the proofs of this will become apparent. I wish, however, to point out comments found in the French book L'Etoile dans la Montagne, published with the imprimatur of the bishop of Bruges on October 19, 1966, concerning the fourth «nota» of the chancery at Santander, which we will see further on. «The Commission, in four years, has never had the time to investigate in the required method, either the visionaries or the members of their families, or the parish priest. Inconceivable, the French say and all those who know the history of Lourdes and Fatima. Inconceivable, but unfortunately true.»
The Commission was satisfied to send emissaries, some of whom we have known, as is known the harm that they caused in this little village, abandoned to itself in the middle of events that were infinitely beyond it. A particular name might be mentioned, and we would be forced to admit that the main activity of the man with that name was to be a betrayer and a spy to Garabandal.
77. It is easy to judge the worth of denials so obtained, resulting from such procedures.
And every unprejudiced person can see that such denials do not make a convincing argument against the truth of facts seen by hundreds of witnesses. All that can be concluded is that Conchita in that difficult hour did not exactly act like a heroine.
And as for her responsibility, God alone knows.