On the following day, on a detailed photograph of the Pines and its surroundings, Conchita pointed out with her finger all the places where I had been and what I had been thinking there! I can assure you that she was not mistaken in anything.»(42)
Not everyone was given grace like Fr. Ramón to throw off so quickly the darkness of disillusion. While he was in the village having those ineffable experiences, the tremendous multitude was descending in hellish conditions down the difficult trails from Garabandal.
«When things ended at the Pines, my friends insisted on returning immediately and in a hurry to Santander, without staying longer in the village » — María Herrero tells us — «And so I missed something that would have been marvelous to see.
As the girls came down from the Pines with the Civil Guard protecting them from the crowds, they suddenly went into ecstasy on arriving at the Cuadro. Turning around, they began to look toward the Pines — since the Vision was coming from there — and going backwards, they went down to the village. I believe it all ended in front of the church doors. I was told that it was a real marvel.»
Conchita recorded the episode:
After reading it, (the message) we went down toward the village.
And at the calleja, in the place that is called the Cuadro, the Virgin appeared to us.
And the Virgin said to me, Now Fr. Ramón María Andreu is having doubts.
And I was very surprised.
And she told me where he had begun to doubt, and what he had thought, and everything.
Returning now to the report of María Herrero:
«I came down with the crowd, and like many others was part displeased and part stunned. I didn't hear, as on going up, the groups reciting the rosary or singing hymns.
When coming down from the village, I began to feel more afraid. An avalanche of people was coming down in a rush, full speed, sliding in the mud and pushing. So that nothing would be missing, a tempest was unleashed like I've never seen. Thunder roared, rumbling through the valleys; and lightening flashed without ceasing, blinding us with light. How many times I invoked St. Michael!
As I was slipping and losing my balance, and feared that the people were going to trample on me, I sat down on the ground at the side of the road, overwhelmed with terror. Two men, whose faces I wasn't able to recognize in the dark, each took one of my arms, and so I was able to get to Cossío. I don't know who they were; but with all my heart I say, May God repay them! I had to make the last kilometer barefoot over that quagmire of loose stones; I had torn my shoes and had to throw them away. Nevertheless, believe it a miracle or not, I didn't suffer the least injury to my feet; they remained as unharmed as if I'd been walking on top of a carpet.
When I found myself finally in my quarters at Santander at a very late hour of the night, I wept inconsolably. It seemed that Garabandal was finished forever.
I couldn't doubt the truth of the apparitions that I had witnessed; I'd have let myself die to defend them. What then happened on that disheartening October 18th? Had we let the Virgin down, and would she never return? Very probably! The thought tortured me, and thus that night was for me a real dark night, perhaps the only one with regard to Garabandal.»
The general thinking and fear that October 18th would be the death of Garabandal came to such a point that two days later, on October 20th Jacinta was heard to say in ecstasy, «No one believes us anymore, do you know? . . . So you can perform a very great miracle in order that many will believe again.» The response of the Virgin was to smile and say, «They will believe.»(43)
Dr. Ortiz expressed in a few words his experiences on that 18th of October in Garabandal:
«In spite of the climate that existed — so conducive to suggestion, since the majority of the people, under illusions, were hoping for a great miracle — I could not discover a single case of such suggestion. This is a very important fact, if one takes into account that some of my colleagues, together with members of the Commission, were maintaining that this dealt with the phenomena of group suggestion.
Many of those who had gone up to the village, when a miracle did not take place — as they had imagined it would, although it had never been foretold by the girls — left completely discouraged and even in bad moods. A woman of the village, Angelita, Maximina's sister-in-law, heard a visitor shouting with indignation:
— The girls to the butcher! And their parents with them!
— Here, here — answered the woman — You are the one that should be burned! What telegram was sent for you to come here!»
María Herrero, whose report we have used so much to give a description of that unforgettable day, ended her account like this:
«I cannot tell anything further with accuracy; but I am sure that the 18th of October was full of interesting episodes that are more or less unexplainable. But no one can doubt one thing: that the angels of the Lord watched over each one of us so that, as a psalm says, our feet would not be dashed against the stones of the roads . . . I believe everyone returned safely to his home. I at least have not known of any accident. And that seems to me to be a very great miracle.
Everything about that day has remained deeply imprinted in my memory, giving the picture of a day of disillusion and of penance, a rather pale picture of what the day of the Warning (44) could be, since everything in the atmosphere seemed there to test us. It really was a day of purification. Never has anything struck me with such fear of the Lord as what happened on that day.»
It is certain that October 18th, 1961, so long awaited, then coming with a sign so different from what was expected, is one of the stellar moments in the great mystery of Garabandal. A key date! A day that goes back to Mount Sinai. (Exodus 19: 16)
On it came the first public warning from heaven through Garabandal.
With this began a purification in the ranks of the followers, the first pruning of numerous easy enthusiasts.
October 18th, 1961 as it was in Garabandal calls to mind the writing of an ancient prophet of Israel:
Sound an alarm on My holy mountain.
Let all the inhabitants of the land tremble,
Because the day of the Lord is coming,
Because it is nigh at hand . . .
A day of darkness and gloom,A day of whirlwinds and blackness . . . (Joel 2: 1-2)
42. Fr. Ramón has told about his personal experiences on October 18th at different times with the inclusion of different details. Here is what he told the editor of the French edition of Conchita’s diary as recorded on tape:
«After that»-—he said several years later, during a conference at Palma de Mallorca—«I remained for several days with a terrible impression, like a sleepwalker . . . At the time when I felt myself the most alone in all my life, I was in fact totally known, even to my most hidden thoughts; all of my thoughts had been very easily known to the girls by means of the mysterious person that they claimed to see.»
43. On a lesser scale, during the apparitions of Lourdes, a similar disbelief occurred when the spectators saw Bernadette Soubirous, in one of her trances, begin to eat grass and to wash in the mud. Almost all thought that she was disturbed.
44. The Warning is one of the great prophetic predictions of Garabandal, one of the sealed books of this extraordinary history. We will speak about it when it comes time; now we are still recounting 1961, the first year of the events.