Toward the end of the summer in 1961 there was a unique episode that illustrated the work of salvation that the Virgin came to perform at Garabandal.
Through a series of circumstances which many might attribute to chance or fate, but which we who have the faith attribute to Providence, a young woman from Paris arrived in the early summer of 1960 at the home of a young woman in Burgos. The young woman from Paris was 18 years old; her name was Muriel Catherine.(13) The young woman from Burgos was slightly older, and was called Ascensión de Luis. The latter informed us of very interesting details about the way Muriel Catherine providentially chose her home and why she stayed with her.
The young Parisienne came desiring to learn the Spanish customs, and at the same time to have some new experiences and explore new horizons. Her parents allowed her exceptional freedom, and so she traveled alone without restriction throughout other countries in Europe.
Ascensión de Luis was employed in a state agency and was living almost alone in her family's apartment, since she had lost her parents at an early age, and her brothers and sisters had gone to live by themselves. Because of this she had agreed to have the unknown French student stay with her temporarily. Ascensión was deeply religious, marked by an extraordinary devotion to the Virgin, whose maternal help — she was the only mother that she still had — she had sought efficaciously in the important times of her life. Living the faith was for her the most natural thing in the world; and so on the first Sunday in which the French girl stayed in her home, she spontaneously said to Muriel, What time shall we go to Mass?
Muriel accepted the invitation readily and arm in arm the two went to church. However, it did not take Ascensión de Luis long to notice that her companion was out of place there; her unfamiliarity was evident, though she tried to do as well as possible what she saw the others do.
The reason for this was soon explained, as between the two had grown an excellent mutual understanding and affection; The French girl was not Catholic. Worse still, she did not have any religion. And it was not really her fault. Her father was a Jew, her mother a Protestant; but neither of them practiced religion.
And as a result their three children, who had grown up without instruction, did not concern themselves about religion.
This discovery brought Ascensión to a greater interest and an almost maternal solicitude for Catherine. It seemed to her that God and the Virgin had confined the French girl with her so that she could open up to her the horizons of faith and hope, to introduce her to the way of salvation. Ascensión entrusted this matter to Our Lady in heaven, and set to work.
«I was quite moved when she told me that she didn't have any religion. I told her it wasn't possible to live like this, that she ought to accept her mother's religion or her father's . . . Or, since she knew me, a Catholic, she might even interest herself also in our religion, which is the most demanding, but also the most pure — the true religion! And so, comparing one with the others, she could see which would bring her the closest to God.
We began instructions right away, and we held them constantly during July and August of that year.»
As Catherine liked Spain very much and its customs pleased her, she decided to write her parents to allow her to stay there longer. They answered that she should come to get her winter clothes, and so she went. Arriving in Paris and well versed in religion, she began to tell her parents that she would turn Catholic. She thought that — since they had not given her any religion — it would not matter to them that she embraced the one that seemed the best . . . But that was not the way it was. When she told her parents what she was thinking of doing, their reaction was violent; her father shouted out, Of all things, to become a Catholic! This was considered a real dishonor to the family. Coupled with the little liking that he had for Spanish people, the result of all this was that her father did not let Catherine return.
«But I continued writing to her; and in July of the following year, 1961, many difficulties and the firm opposition of her father having been providentially overcome, Catherine arrived here again. A few days later, for the first time there came to me the news or the rumor that there were apparitions happening in a village of Santander called San Sebastían de Garabandal . . . And then it occurred to me: If the Virgin appeared at Fatima, why couldn't she appear here?
Then I thought that — if this were true, something from God — here could well be the best means for the conversion of my friend . . .
I obtained information on what was happening in the little village of the Montaña province; and we set out on the way; she had more faith than I myself.
On arriving on August 27th, a Sunday, we met a disagreeable situation: a tour group was giving all this a picnic atmosphere, as if it were more like a bazaar than a serious religious matter. We met a Salesian priest who was also upset. On observing the attitude of the crowd he had become angry, saying among other things that all this had the best indications of being diabolical.
At this point the pastor of the village passed by and approached him to calm him. You can't judge this by what is happening here, by what is seen in this crowd. Wait and see the ecstasies of the girls, which you haven't seen yet.
Nevertheless the priest was not calmed down, and I remember him being very concerned about whether they had done exorcisms on the girls . . . And if they hadn't done this, then whether they shouldn't be done as soon as possible. This priest lived in America and had planned to stay there in Garabandal two or three days to study all this better; I know that later he departed very enthusiastic.»
«On the following day, Monday, August 28th, the girls and their families were affected, and the village also, by what the Father repeated so often, that this could very well be a thing of the devil. Because of this they had prepared a small bottle of holy water to throw at the apparition the first time that it returned. The apparition should not be trusted, said the priest, since the devil is very clever and can deceive, appearing in many ways; and to deceive he begins with good appearances. The girls, very worried, would not let go of their bottle of holy water for anything.
In the evening Catherine and I, although we were rather unknown, succeeded in entering Jacinta's house. She was in the kitchen with her parents, and Mari Loli was with hers; the girls were unable to hide the worry that they had from what the Salesian priest was saying. What would happen when — on the Vision's arrival — she would receive an asperges of holy water? About eight or nine people were there, presided over the by the pastor, Fr. Valentín. When I could, I explained very briefly to the girls the situation of my companion, requesting them to petition the Virgin very much for her. And I entrusted my cherished silver rosary to them to give her to kiss.
Not much later Jacinta and Loli went into ecstasy in the stunning way that has been described so many times. And immediately we heard them speak to the Vision in that voice like a whisper, so characteristic of the trances:
A priest has come who says that she is a devil, and that they were going to throw holy water at her so that she would leave.
They said this with striking expressions of regret and fear. But soon their faces lit up with extraordinary joy and broke out in marvelous smiles, as they set down the bottle of water that they had brought to the side and behind them.»
13. For special reasons, Muriel Catherine’s last name will not be mentioned.