"But As Many As Received Him"
From the beginning Jesus Christ was a sign of contradiction among men. And Simeon blessed them, and said to Mary His mother: Behold this Child is set for the fall and for the resurrection of many in Israel, and for a sign that shall be contradicted. And your own soul a sword shall pierce, that out of many hearts thoughts may be revealed. (Luke 2: 34-35)
From this prophecy the great historical synthesis of the fourth Gospel can be better understood. The world was made by Him, and the world knew Him not. He came unto His own, and His own received Him not. But as many as received Him . . . He filled with good things, commencing by opening to them the possibility of becoming sons of God. (John 1: 10-12)
The Virgin Mary is also a sign that shall be contradicted. Many save themselves and are saved in her. Many ruin themselves and are ruined through her. And always in a mysterious way, extremely difficult to understand.
Those who really seek her at Garabandal — in contrast to others who remain in suspicion and malevolence — she also fills with good things, through phenomena requiring great humility and simplicity of heart. Conchita's denials in Santander caused no lessening in the favors of the Virgin Mother; and she even appeared to extend herself more than ever for her chosen village. And thus, on the same day in which Conchita denied the apparitions, on August 3rd . . .
A large crowd had gathered, and there were more guards than ever. Was trouble feared? No. It was simply that the Director General of Security( 1) had come up to the village on that day, not on an official visit, but like so many other people out of easily understandable curiosity; it was not every day that one could witness marvels so far beyond what men could stage.
Also touring the village, as we mentioned, was the parish priest from León, Father Manuel Antón. He gives us the following account:
«At nightfall, Loli and Jacinta left Ceferino's house where they had been playing upstairs. The whole crowd that was waiting in the plaza began to move. And I took great care to hold a place up close, hanging onto Loli by her coat, determined to remain near to her.
In front of us a lieutenant from the Civil Guard was walking without hurry, with his arms extended so that no one could get ahead of him. Thus he held back the girls who were following directly behind so that they could not go into the swift walk with which everyone was familiar, and which had already left the Director General and his wife far behind.
I didn't let go of Loli's coat until we came to the Pines. There the girls placed themselves in the center and the guards spread the people in a wide circle, as in a corro de aluche,(2) so that everyone could see better. Inside the corro — at the side of the girls — remained only Mr. Carlos, his wife and myself.
One of the girls started the rosary. Everyone was kneeling on the ground. And I remember that many young men had climbed onto the limbs of the pine trees, but I can testify that their attitude and manners did not detract in any way from the general atmosphere of profound reverence and respect.
After the third or fourth Hail Mary of the first mystery, the rosary dropped from the hands of the young girl leading the recitation. And as if with one voice the two spoke out Ah! in a whisper, going suddenly into the ecstatic position with which so many are acquainted. What began then was something whose beauty and feeling could not be put into words, even when giving the best possible description.
It was clearly seen that they were in animated conversation with someone. Continuing to look upwards, at times they would trace little circles, little crosses, and other signs and figures on the ground; there they put the articles prior to holding them up in their hands as if offering them to be kissed.
I could not catch what they were saying during all these activities, but I heard what they began saying later, Come down. Come down. And they held their arms as if desiring to receive something in them. To me it was evident that they were asking the Virgin to come down and hand them the Infant. They had such longing in their eyes and in their requests.
Seconds later, they gave the impression that they were holding in their arms what they so much desired, since they lowered their gaze and leaned gently toward something that seemed to pass from the arms of one to the arms of the other. Meanwhile they repeated, Oh how beautiful! How pretty! But how beautiful you are! I can testify that they said this in a way that would impress you; in their words and in their gaze they showed souls full of love and joy.
From their gestures I could follow the time of returning the infant to the mother, etc. Then I heard them: Don’t go! How long? Three quarters of an hour already? I hadn’t noticed the time; but nearby I saw a priest—later I learned that he was the priest from Aguilar(3) de Campoo— and showing me his watch he assured me that was the exact time that they had been in ecstasy, since he had taken care to look at the time when it had started.
The thing didn’t stop there. Later we had a second scene that thrilled us even more. As they told me later, it was the first time that something like this had happened: the girls fell on the ground in ecstasy; but with what gracefulness and what poise!
We were all very frightened, fearing that something serious might have happened. The mother of one of the girls(4)—I don’t know which one—came up to hold her daughter, crying with great distress. All excited, almost shouting, I began to say, Is there a doctor in the crowd who can help with this extraordinary affair? Is there anyone here?
Father Valentín, the parish priest, who was in the crowd, then interrupted the general worried silence, saying in a grave voice, This affair here has always been extraordinary. What is happening is that we are men of little faith. I admit that the ending impressed me; and after years I remember it as if I were hearing these things right now.
After a while, as if coming out of a wonderful sleep, the girls returned to themselves, and became again so natural, fresh, smiling.»(5)
But the day still had not ended. In Garabandal during the early days, everything ended in the church before the Blessed Sacrament. It was a daily living of the ancient Catholic maxim: To Jesus through Mary.
1. Carlos Arias Navarro. This man had been governor of León in the 1940’s. There he met his wife, María Luz del Valle, daughter of Emilio del Valle.
In 1965 he left his position as Director of the Department of Security to become mayor of Madrid. Later he was Minister of the Republic, and finally President of the Republic (1974- 1976), the last president under Franco and the first under King Juan Carlos.
According to the testimony of the Chief of the Civil Guard, previously mentioned so often, Emilio del Valle was also in Garabandal on the date with his daughters. «Don Emilio’s daughters gave me several medals for me to give to María Dolores so that she could give them to the Virgin to kiss.»
2. The aluche is a sport played in León and Santander. The games are always played in the open air in fields or meadows. Spectators gather around in a big circle, leaving the center free for the competitors of the match — from this the popular name of corros for these competitions.
3. A city famous for pastry in the north of the province of Palencia on the left bank of the Pisuerga River.
4. From some notes written by Father Valentín concerning the 3rd of August:
«In the evening an ecstasy started about 9:00. Loli and Jacinta were praying the rosary; at the first Our Father, they went into ecstasy. They spoke with the angel, they sang the hymn to St. Michael . . .
Then a strange thing happened: the girls fell backwards. Jacinta’s mother held her up, and the Director General of Security held Loli. They were fallen down for about ten minutes. Later the girls asked who made them fall.»
5. «I remember something very unusual about this apparition: María Dolores (Loli) was found lying on the ground in ecstasy with her face upwards, speaking with the Virgin and the angel, and saying, If you don’t help me, I won’t be able to move. Soon after, I saw Loli hold out her arm as if to take the hand of someone who wanted to help her, and little by little, she was lifted up until she was in a sitting position.» (Juan A. Seco’s notes)