«We discussed this subject with Father Ramón María Andreu. The following is part of the dialogue.QUESTION: In speaking of Loli and Jacinta's ecstasy in her 'Diary,' Conchita maintains that you considered Mari Loli's gesture as a sign. Is that true?
FATHER: Yes, that is certain, but the story is a little more involved than that simple allusion by Conchita in her diary would make one think.
QUESTION: Could you give us a more definite idea of your attitude and feelings on the day you first went up to Garabandal?
FATHER: As you might imagine, during that first visit to the village I didn't have the least belief in the world that events could take place there that were worthy of close attention. The first time they asked me to go, I answered, I don't have any time to waste. I'm usually very busy. Although I finally agreed to travel to Garabandal, it was only because of my friends' insistence and the great need I had for a rest after having preached several retreats on the Spiritual Exercises one after another.QUESTION: Did your brother Father Luis believe in it?
FATHER: No, no more than I. At that time we didn't have any authentic proof. And like everyone else, we needed some minimum evidence to make an evaluation on events of this type.QUESTION: Concerning the episode mentioned by Conchita, exactly how did it happen? Can you tell us?FATHER: Gladly. It was, as I said, the first time that I had made the ascent to Garabandal. That day we had the opportunity of witnessing several of the childrens' actions and movements. At the end of the afternoon we were at the Pines. Loli and Jacinta were in ecstasy. There were only a few witnesses around the children. I myself was very close to them; I could hear them speaking to the Vision in the soft low-pitched voice that was typical of their ecstatic state. Now and then I could understand some of their words.After eight or ten minutes, I thought that this had to be a case of hypnotism. I have to admit that this was no brilliant idea and lacked originality, but it was what I was actually thinking. I looked around to find the originator of this case of hypnosis. I saw Father Valentín, Ceferino, Julia, and the other spectators. They all had such an expression of admiration and astonishment that I considered them more disciples than masters. Obviously the hypnotist wasn't there!
I had already seen both the children go into the ecstatic state and come out of it at the same time. This gave me the impression that they had only one mind. What I thought then doesn't seem to make much sense, but I was thinking nevertheless, that one of the two children would return to consciousness while the other remained in ecstasy.(6)At that exact second, Loli, who was next to me, came to, turned slightly and looked at me with a smile. I then asked her,—Don't you see the Virgin anymore?
—No Father, She answered.
—Why is that? I asked.
—Because she is gone.
Jacinta was still in ecstasy. I said to Loli: Look at Jacinta. The child looked at her and smiled on seeing her in ecstasy—for it was the first time that she had seen one of her companions in this situation, being herself out of the apparition. I asked her another question, What did the Virgin tell you?She was about to answer, when she fell into ecstasy again, throwing her head backwards. Then I heard this conversation between the two children and the Virgin:
Jacinta: Loli, why did you leave?
Loli: (talking to the apparition) Why did you go away?
Then after a short pause, Oh! It was for that. So that he would believe!
Hearing this, I rejoined my brother Luis and said to him, Be careful about what you are thinking. The transmission of thought here is lightening fast!
My brother responded: Did something happen to you?
Yes, I answered him. I'll tell you about it later.(7)
QUESTION: Father, did you believe from then on?
FATHER: Without question all this attracted my attention and made me think that it wasn't a comedy, and that there must be material here for profound study. I also took notice that we were face to face with exciting phenomena both for the doctor and the theologian.From that point to believing, there is—in spite of everything—a step that one doesn't make so easily. However, one thing remains certain: if I look back on the ensemble of events in which I have assisted with a sometimes excessive skepticism, I can testify and affirm again that we aren't dealing with a comedy or simulation on the part of the four girls.Unfortunately, saying that amounts to saying nothing at all. To present the problem is not to solve it.The question remains the same: What is the cause of the phenomena at which I have assisted as an eyewitness and of which the story that I have recounted is only the smallest part, a drop of water in the sea?How many are the persons with whom I have shared my intense desire to understand? How many times have I asked for a convincing explanation? And I am still waiting for an answer to my questions.»(8)
Thus on the 29th of July, 1961, two brothers, (9) both priests, both religious, initially skeptics in their first impressions, would enter into the history of Garabandal where they were to play a major role in the unfolding and development of that history.
6. Father thought that if all had been caused by the external actions of a distant hypnotizer, those actions should have affected the two girls in the same way at the same time.
7. «When the ecstasy ended; I began writing down what had just happened . . . While doing this, the girls entered into a trance again. Soon two nuns appeared walking from the other side of the hill. Seeing them, Father Valentín turned excitedly toward me:
—Yes, nuns, I answered, not understanding immediately.
—That's the Virgin! He shouted out very excited.
And then I understood; this was the explanation of what the girls had said in the Cuadro: that the nuns could also be near to them. Not a single nun had been seen in the village, and so Father Valentín was disturbed in the beginning. Now, after a long time, the secret guests were appearing!»
(The two nuns can be identified. They were two religious from a congregation little known in Spain: Daughters of Our Lady of the Scared Heart which at the time had only one house in Cataluña. One of the religious, a native of Santander, was staying temporarily with her family in Roiz, a village not far from the valley of the Nansa River; she was Sister María of Jesus, later Provincial Superior of her congregation in Spain.)
«The nuns arrived in time and were thrilled by the girls' ecstasy. When the girls came back to themselves, they said, The Virgin said that everyone can go up. No one took it upon themselves to give out the news, and they asked me to do so.
I went up to the edge of that little flat area by the Pines, and I saw the crowd who had been waiting so long. I made a sign to them and everyone hurried up in great confusion. The Lord obliged them with a new ecstasy by the girls, truly very beautiful.» (Father Ramón Andreu, at a conference in Palma de Mallorca.)
Following such a day, we can imagine with what sentiments the Andreu brothers left Garabandal after their first visit.
8. Journal de Conchita, Nouvelles Editions Latines, Paris, 1967.
9. We have already described one of them, Father Ramón María. The other, Father Luis, was younger; he was 36. He had made his ecclesiastic studies in Oña, Innsbruck (Austria) and Rome, and for some time he had been a professor at a theological seminary that the Jesuits had in Oña (Burgos). I say had because some years ago it was transferred to Bilbao.
Oña is a small historical city northeast of the capital of Burgos, situated between mountains covered with pines on the picturesque bank of the Oca River not far from its outflow into the Ebro. It had been the seat of a seminary of the ancient monastery of San Salvador—formerly belonging to the Benedictines— abandoned after the laws of Mendizabal in 1835. After the Jesuits vacated recently, the government officials of Burgos made the seminary into a psychiatric hospital.