Upon Many Minds
Certainly only the publication of the message had been announced for that October 18th, and the imagination of spectacular prodigies was strictly the people's idea. But what might have happened if everyone had abided exactly by the instructions of the Apparition? What might have happened without the most prudent urgings of the Commission that forced Fr. Valentín and the girls to proceed in a way not in accordance with the directions received? It is not for men to impose their standards on God.
No one plays games with the Almighty.
Oh, you men who ridicule humble compliance and docility, and think yourselves to be more intelligent than the Virgin! How you burden yourselves with ideas that you consider prudent!
The descent from the Pines, made under the lash of the rain and tempest wind, accompanied with bitter disillusion, was even harsher than the ascent. What María Herrero describes must have been felt by all the three thousand present:
«Confused and in a foul mood, I went down that hill of mud, stones and ruts without seeing anything, helping as I could any person in difficulty, under a rain that came back relentlessly.»
One of those who most felt the effects of the test on that night was Father Ramón María Andreu. He had been favored more than others, and so he was also tested more.
For a long time he made his way from one spot to the next — through the water that gushed down the hill in torrents everywhere — amid the crowd going up and down; he was drifting like a shipwreck:(39)
«Suddenly, violently, an intense bitterness swept over me. It was a mixture of painful impressions and depressing feelings. It seemed that everything had come apart. As if everything had collapsed on me. I had just gone into a moral desert. The past swarmed over me . . . All that remained clear and definite was the death of my poor brother Father Luis a little more than two months before.
Afterwards, with what had happened at the Pines, my state of mental agony got worse. I believe that never during my whole life have I known such desolation . . . I felt a violent desire to go away. Far away! To America! And I said to myself, What are you doing here? These girls are nothing more than poor sick children. And all this is a pathetic comedy of backward villagers.
I stopped for a few minutes. Looking up, I searched the heavens. I would have cried out for the production of the great miracle that the girls had certainly never predicted for that October 18th. Nothing was happening . . . And my disillusion was complete.
I changed locations, and again I remained stationary for a length of time and I cannot recall. I was as if unconscious; I was only aware of the continual footsteps of the crowd about me, who passed around me on one side or the other; the flashlights came and went in the darkness . . . Suddenly someone flashed a beam of light in my face. A friend(40) who was coming down had just recognized me and wanted to give me his impression right away, This is marvelous . . . It's astounding . . .
I let him speak, answering in my mind, You'll understand later! His enthusiasm hurt me; it almost made me angry.
We went down to the village together. I think that I had stayed on the side of the hill at least an hour, seeing flashlights going up and down like a nightmare.
I sheltered myself for a while in a house so as not to get wet. But I felt so discouraged that everything was bothering me. Because of this I went outside and directed my steps to the house where they were waiting for me. I had a need for familiar faces in order not to feel so desolate . . . A little after that Loli's sister Amaliuca, somewhat younger than she, arrived.
Signaling to me and two other persons,(41) she said, Loli says that you should come. You . . . you . . . and you . . .
I had no desire or intention to go. Finally I decided, thinking, Well, to visit the sick is still a work of mercy. I assure you that though I went, it was with the idea of saying a final goodbye to her and this whole thing.
We came to Ceferino's house and we went upstairs. There were about a dozen people there. Loli, in the midst of them, appeared happy — I would say almost joyful. I looked for a place and began thinking about the inconsistency of that young girl and the näivety of those surrounding her . . .
Then she came toward me and said smiling, Sit down.
She pointed to some kind of hamper. Like a robot I obeyed and she came over to sit beside me. I believe that I will never in my life forget the confidential conversation that followed . . .
— There is one among you who doesn't believe . . . Do you know who he is?
— Yes, I know. Do you know too?
— Certainly. The Virgin told me.
— A little while ago, when we were coming down from the Pines.
— Well, tell us who it is.
— No, I don't dare. If it were one of the other two . . .
— It is I all right. I don't believe in anything.
An understanding smile shone in Loli's childlike eyes:
— The Virgin told us, “Father doubts everything, and suffers much. Call him and tell him not to doubt anymore — that it is really I, the Virgin, who is appearing here. And in order for him to believe better, tell him: When you went up, you went up in joy; when you came down, you came down in sorrow."
I was astounded, staring at the girl.
She added, She spoke much about you to Conchita.
I got up. I saw in a confused way that the time for farewells had not yet come . . . I took the arms of my two friends who looked at me without comprehending and asked me, Hey, what's this she said? What's going on?
I pushed them toward the door, saying, Let's go right now to Conchita's house!
In spite of the lateness of the hour, Aniceta welcomed us.
— Can I be with Conchita?
— She is already in bed; but you can go up if you want.
I went up with my two friends. Conchita was in bed with her cousin Luciuca, a year younger than she. As soon as she saw me, without waiting for me to speak, she said with a smile:
— Are you happy? Or are you still sad?
— I hardly know. Loli told me that the Virgin talked at length to you about me.
— At least for a quarter of an hour.
— And what did she say?
— I don't know what I can say.
— Then I will be the same as I was before.
Conchita smiled. Well, there is something I can say. When you went up, you went up with joy; when you came down, you came down in sorrow . . . She told me everything that you were thinking . . . And the locations where you were thinking those things. And that you were thinking, “Now I'm going to America." And at another location you were thinking, “I don't want to know more about so-and-so or about so-and-so.” And you were suffering much. She told me to say this to you and to advise you that all this has happened so that in the future, remembering all this, you won't doubt again.
As anyone might surmise, I was speechless.
41. These men were Mr. Fontaneda and Mr. Fontibre, friends of Fr. Ramón, from Aguilar de Campoo.38. «All those who came that day expected to see a great miracle, like the miracle of the sun at Fatima. It was not that way, but a general message, that today has much importance. At least, I so understand it and believe it.» (Juan Alvarez Seco)
39. It seems that the test had already begun before the reading of the message, when the multitude was gathering around the Pines:
«Midway in that painful ascent, I felt myself truly lost. In the night, in the middle of that mountain covered with shadows, a tremendous pain came into my soul, an unsupportable feeling of solitude and a conviction of the ridiculousness that all this represented.» (Fr. Ramón)
40. This was one of the Fontanedas, the family from Aguilar de Campoo with whom Fr. Ramón had come so many times.