The vigils,(4) so well-known to the early Christians and presently almost buried in ecclesiastical use, were to come back to life in Garabandal in a remarkable way.
And here they were very active, since the girls in ecstasy were not accustomed to remain for any length of time in one location, but went from one site to the next within the village and its surroundings.
Especially beautiful among these vigils was the one that preceded the Assumption of the Virgin —August 15th—during that year of grace in 1961. On the previous day, August 14th, Monday, Father Ramón María Andreu had come to the village, having buried his brother. In the afternoon, he spoke for a long time with the visionaries, and later was a witness of the ecstasy that we are describing, and which lasted from ten p.m. to midnight. A good time to go to bed! But neither the girls nor their followers had time to get into bed.
«At 2:45 in the morning» — as Father's notes read — «a new ecstatic march of the girls began, as a vigil for the Virgin . . .
It lasted until 5 a.m. Conchita, Loli, and Jacinta were involved, since Mari Cruz had not been called by the Virgin, and had gone to sleep.
The march began on leaving Conchita's house at 3 o'clock, with the girls showing signs of great joy and asking the Virgin to remain until six in the morning. Actually, it lasted almost two and a half hours. And all this time they were marching, except for the short periods when they stopped at the door of Mari Cruz' house and at the church.
The rhythm of the march was not very rapid; but it was consistent. They marched forward; only occasionally did they march backwards.
And the general tone of this whole trance was one of joy. With this joy they prayed the rosaries, they sang many of the Hail Marys, they smiled and laughed, they conversed.
It is very difficult to understand what they are saying, since they are walking. One time they were heard to say: What a pleasure! But you must tell us where Mari Cruz' house is, since we don't see.
Then they began going back and forth to Mari Cruz' house, singing verses and other songs. Among the various verses sung by the girls, we were able to clearly hear this stanza:
since the good Virgin comes
with a bouquet of flowers
for her little girl.
From the other poems, we were only able to hear phrases and loose words, such as,
even when you are serenaded . . .
Gather up the lilies . . .(5)
They also sang the Christmas hymn Noche de paz, and several mañanitas.(6) Every time that they sang a verse, they laughed and said, How fast we learned it!
At one time, the three separated from one another, and a little later they returned to meet together in front of Mari Cruz' home. At a quarter after four, they finally said goodbye to her, Till tomorrow!
They went to the church; and asked the Virgin to continue like this until six o'clock, until eight, until nine . . .
Everything ended at 5:00 in the early morning.
They explained to me later, We went as if in the air, as if lying down perhaps. Like in another world! It was like day, with the sun. (They had to be struck by the night that surrounded them on coming back to themselves.)
When it was over, their pulses were normal and they were fresh, without perspiration; the rest of us were more than exhausted. They were not fatigued, in good humor, and hungry.»
The short resumé of this exceptional vigil brings up certain thoughts. «The general tone was joy,» Father Andreu tells us, and I ask myself, could it have been otherwise? Did not the nature of the feast that was about to be celebrated require this?
The entire liturgy of the Assumption is a repeated invitation to joy for us, her children on the earth, as the Collect from the Mass of the vigil brings out:
We pray that we who enjoy her protection, may take part in the joyful celebration of her feast.
Not only to us, but to all creation should this celestial joy radiate. The first words of the Divine Office on this feast of the Virgin indicate this:
Mary has been taken up into heaven! The angels rejoice and with songs of praise, bless the Lord.
And there is a tremendous reason for this, since she who began without stain, has finished in glorious victory.
Undoubtedly what the girls were celebrating on the dark streets of Garabandal was only a poor imitation of the prayers of the angels and blessed in heaven in honor of God’s greatest creation.
The girls and those accompanying them on foot at these untimely hours petitioned and praised God through Mary. They were performing a good deed both for themselves and for many other Christians then asleep, or engaged in worse things. They were uniting themselves mysteriously to consecrated souls in many monasteries and convents who in those same early hours were beginning a new day with the solemn prayer of Matens and Lauds of that feastday.(7)
The Matens and Lauds of the girls at Garabandal were very different, unplanned and unscheduled, and not according to a fixed liturgical rite. but does that mean that they were less efficacious for the glory of God and the welfare of the Church? Someday we will know.
4. Vigils consist in passing while watching the night or part of the night preceding some important Christian solemn feast, as a preparation for it. The faithful, gathered in a holy place, spend the time in watching, reading from the bible, religious instructions, hymns, prayers, etc . . .
5. Another verse can be found in Chapter 5.
These verses and other similar ones were sung by the girls on several occasions. In a letter on February 6th, 1970, the pastor from Barro, Father José Ramón García de la Riva wrote me:
«One day I was at Garabandal (He did not go there until August 22nd) and Loli and Jacinta had an ecstasy, chanting verses at the door of Mari Cruz, who was in bed on her mother's orders.»
The feastday of the Assumption was uniquely distinguished with something extraordinary too. The same priest wrote me in that letter:
«Actually something extraordinary always happened on the days that we can call Marian.» (Saturdays and feasts of the Virgin like the Immaculate Heart of Mary, the Nativity of Mary, the Most Holy Name of Mary, etc.)
6. Short musical compositions.
I think by las Mañanitas Fr. Ramon is referring to a Spanish song that starts:
These are the mañanitas
sung by King David . . .
7. Matens and Lauds are two important parts in the daily prayer of the Divine Office. Matens starts this prayer according to its own Latin designation Ad Matutinum, having as its proper time the early hours of the day—the early morning. Formerly in the ancient monasteries it was always recited at that time. Lauds then followed.