On August 22nd, Tuesday, the octave of the Assumption and then the feast of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, a young priest from Asturias made his way for the first time up the route that follows the Nansa and Vendul rivers to Garabandal; this priest will be forever closely linked with the village. From him we have a valuable book published: Memorias de mis subidas a Garabandal (años de 1961, 62, 63, 64, 65, 66, 67, y 68) "Recollections of My Trips to Garabandal from 1961-1968." His name was Father José Ramón García de la Riva, the parish priest of Our Lady of Sorrows in the village of Barro, in the archdiocese of Llanes of the archbishopric of Oviedo.
Father José Ramón put down his memoirs in writing with the sole intention of filling any possible gaps in the information obtained up to then as an aid to anyone taking on the important work of investigation.
After explaining in his introduction how he had attempted to make all his trips to Garabandal licitly, he begins to describe his first one:
«I was aroused by a conversation held with Father Manuel Antón, a parish priest from San Claudio in the city of León. This pastor was then spending some days in Barro (Llanes, Asturias). I had just come to this parish, and I did not have the slightest idea of the events that were happening 57 kilometers away in the neighboring diocese of Santander. Those events had begun on the 18th of June, 1961, and I took possession of the parish of Our Lady of Sorrows in Barro on August 10th.
In this conversation my curiosity was stirred up . . . »
The desire to know the truth about what was happening brought Father José Ramón to Garabandal on August 22nd, a day of great Marian significance, as we have already stated.
He came with his father on a motorcycle, and the first question that he asked in the village was about the time of the apparitions. «At nightfall, after the rosary in the church; the girls are accustomed to go into ecstasy on leaving the church.» This information caused a problem for the new arrivals since they both could not remain till such a late hour. They decided that the priest's father would go down from the village, and return home in a taxi that was there ready to leave with other persons who also could not wait.
Father José Ramón continues:
«I set out walking through the village with a priest from Burgos who had come from Lora. The streets and lanes were crooked and rocky. Little by little I became acquainted with the visionaries. The first, Loli, I came upon near to her home next to a jeep.» (Her home was then at the entry to the Calleja.) «Later I came upon Conchita and Mari Cruz who at the time were accustomed to walking together. I didn't see Jacinta until night — in ecstasy. The girls gave me the impression of being normal, playful, pleasant, lively; but rather timid . . . I took some pictures, which I still possess.
I was surprised on seeing them with rosaries, gifts, and medals hanging from their necks. Later I learned that these were carried in order to present them to the Vision to kiss during the ecstasy, and that they belonged to the numerous persons who came up to San Sebastián, brought there either by curiosity or faith. Then I also learned that in the beginning of the apparitions the girls had presented small stones to be kissed, which they picked up beforehand from the ground, and later gave to certain persons at the request of the Virgin. I didn't get to see this, since at that time they were only presenting religious articles and marriage rings to be kissed.
At nightfall on the 22nd of August, I went to the church; it was simple and congenial . . . At that time there was an altar rail that separated the sanctuary from the main body of the church. I took a place on the left, kneeling on the first step; and I made the following reflection, If this is from God, the best part will surely be seen in the church. And I told my feelings about this to a woman who questioned me concerning the location for the apparitions. I began to pray with
devotion, and I implored the Lord to soon clarify the meaning of these events. It did not happen like this: the judgments of God are different from those of men — and have their way and hour for being realized.
On that day in Garabandal, I met five priests from Asturias, all belonging to the archdiocese of Llanes, and also a canon from the cathedral at Oviedo, besides other priests who were walking around the visionaries.
The holy rosary was recited, led by Fr. Ramón María Andreu, a Jesuit. I recall that before beginning he told us from the sanctuary that the events were very worthy of observation, and that there was a field of study here for theologians, mystics, psychologists, psychiatrists, etc. He didn't say in public that this was supernatural, as some have falsely attributed to him.»