Thus October was going to be the month of the great day. But October already had a certain grandeur. Its clear Marian significance, as the month of the rosary, ranked it with May, the month of flowers and the other month of Mary, and distinguished it religiously among the months of the year.
Because of this, during this era at Garabandal, with the debut of October, prayer seemed to be imbued with new fervor; and crowns and bouquets of spiritual roses,(5) blossoming on the lips of children, were being offered to the Virgin more than ever. At the time all could say:
For every Hail Mary
Our lips pronounce with love,
A smile is sent to heaven.
With the first Saturday of the month, October 7th, came the liturgical feastday of the Most Holy Rosary, and there were thus Marian reasons why on that day there should be a great vigil in Garabandal.
The Church, in her official liturgical prayer on that feastday, honored the Virgin Mother with exceptional beauty:
Who is this beautiful as a dove, like a rose planted by the brooks of water?
It is the mighty Virgin, like the tower of David, a thousand shields hang upon it, all the armor of valiant men.
Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with you, blessed are you among women.
The Lord has blessed you by His power, because by you He has brought our enemies to naught.
The daughters of Sion saw her adorned with the flowers of roses, and declared her most blessed(6)
Neither the girls nor the people in Garabandal could celebrate the feast of the Blessed among Women like this; but they celebrated it the best that they could according to their knowledge and understanding. And how well it came off! The rosary of that first Saturday of October 7th was certainly the most beautiful of the year. It had everything that there could be in a prayer to make it perfect: vocal prayers (measured and rhythmical — we know how the children prayed in ecstasy!) and meditation on the mysteries . . . songs of prayer sung more from the heart than the lips. The rosary of the feastday lasted two and a quarter hours. But no one felt the length to be burdensome; and certainly not the girls who were enraptured in heavenly contemplation.
While all this poor but deeply felt homage of love and devotion rose up to her, the ancient and prophetic words of the Creator of the Universe had to resound with new force in her Heart:
And your inheritance in Israel,
And take root in my elect.(7)
Had she not come to Garabandal for no other reason than to advance this program? A new Israel of God(8) was awaiting her coming in order to gather around her and trust in her aid.
I do not know how that unique rosary of October 7th, 1961 ended; but I think that there must have been a devout priest there to lead in prayer all the people in Mary's village and present the rosary finally to God with the official prayer of the feastday.
Oh God, whose only begotten son, by His life, death and resurrection, has purchased for us the rewards of eternal life; grant, we beseech you, that meditating on these mysteries of the most holy rosary of the Blessed Virgin Mary, we may imitate what they contain and obtain what they promise.
On October 7th, the new arrivals celebrated the Marian feastday by going with the village people to the evening rosary in the church. On leaving the church the girls went into ecstasy, and Doctor Ortiz was once again impressed by the phenomena in which «they gave the impression of walking slowly, although whoever accompanied them had to go in a hurry, if not in a forced march, if he wanted to follow them.»
Doctor Ortiz noted three details that attracted his attention:
— The visionaries, in a sitting position, with their legs stretched out in front of them, their hands joined in front of their chests in an attitude of prayer, and with their heads tilted backwards, slid over the stony ground as if they were on top of a soft carpet. When the trance was finished, he was able to observe that the girls did not have the slightest sign of a scratch or cut.
— After a swift run, the girls in ecstasy fell on top of a pile of wood, which was near the house of the indiano forming «a marvelous sculptural design with such an expression of happiness on their faces that the most consummate artist would not have been able to copy it, even remotely.»
— A man from Madrid, who wished to follow the girls in those marches, lost the cane that he carried, and lamenting the impossibility of finding it in the darkness, went to sit down in front of Ceferino's door, complaining loudly of what had happened, since «it was a borrowed cane, and furthermore, a souvenir of the war . . .» Not much later the onlookers saw Conchita appear walking toward them in ecstasy. The girl came up the man who was complaining, handed him his cane without looking at him, and continued onwards.
Arriving on the scene with an air of importance and arrogance were three men who later were discovered to be reporters from the daily newspaper La Gaceta del Norte. One of them, short and stout, had a famous reputation in Spain; however, no one there recognized him, and no one was able to identify him as a priest, since he came as a layman in a short-sleeved shirt (the temperature was very warm) with an open collar, etc.. By his external appearance, one of the witnesses said later, he would be thought to be anything but a priest. This was Fr. José Luis Martín Descalzo.
Toward evening the members of the press came up to Conchita's house. They found her in the little kitchen waiting for an ecstasy, as she had already received calls. Several people were with her, among whom was Dr. Ortiz' wife, who was seated at her side near the fireplace. The new arrivals stayed at the door, observing the girl closely . . . Conchita, who seemed to be listening to something, leaned toward Dr. Ortiz' wife and whispered in her ear:
— Ask that man to sit down. (In the kitchen only one very low stool was unoccupied.)
— But which man? There are three . . .
— That one, the one in the middle.
The woman began to blush, since everyone's glance was turned upon them while they were whispering like this. She raised her voice in the direction of Father Martín Descalzo:
— The girl says that you should sit.
— Who? . . . Me?
— Yes, yes, Conchita intervened — you.
— But . . . me?
— Yes, you!
With an attitude of astonishment and misgiving, almost opposition, the man went to occupy the empty stool. Why this distinction? Because of his being a priest? . . . Who there would know this?
The reporters, either because they were tired of waiting or for some other reason, went out on the street shortly afterwards. Dr. Ortiz was arriving at the time and while passing by heard one of them say, I would like to stay to see this; but it is getting late, and I have to be in Bilbao at least by six in the morning.
The reporters took the trouble to come inside and say good-bye. And then Conchita said very softly to the distraught Martín Descalzo, Come, stay a little longer . . . They hesitated and remained; and a little while later the ecstasy came. As on so many other occasions, the girl went out on the street in ecstasy and held out the crucifix to be kissed by the reporters from The Gaceta . . . It can be supposed that they have not forgotten.
After the trance, Fr. Valentín, Dr. and Mrs. Ortiz, and several other persons were discussing things in Aniceta's kitchen, when an agitated Fr. Martín Descalzo went up to Fr. Valentín.
— I hear around here that the girls receive Communion from the hands of an angel . . .
— They say that at least — replied Fr. Valentín calmly.
— Well that cannot be! Because an angel can't consecrate.
Fr. Valentín kept quiet, and then Dr. Ortiz butted in.
— That reason isn't worth much, since Our Lord could permit an angel to take consecrated hosts from any tabernacle.
The combative priest was taken back, but he recovered fast and asked Fr. Valentín:
— Did you count the hosts in the tabernacle to see if they were missing?
— I was never concerned about counting them.
— Well you should do it.
— And why is it necessary — again Dr. Ortiz came into it — that the hosts be from the tabernacle of this church? They could have come even from China since for God there are no distances or difficulties.
Fr. José Luis Martín Descalzo whirled around and left with his companions. It seems that he departed from Garabandal in a bad mood; we do not know if that was because he did not like the village or because his arguments had been torn down by the observations of a layman.
5. Rosary come from the word rosa and means etymologically a bouquet of roses. The roses are the Hail Marys.
6. Antiphon from the first Vespers of the feastday.
7. Words from the book of Ecclesiasticus (24: 11) that the Church applies repeatedly to the Virgin.
8. St. Paul in his epistle to the Galatians contrasts the Israel of God with the Israel by race.