«The bells of the church brought us together for the rosary. Three of the girls were present there among the other children. (Jacinta was in bed with a sore throat.) I watched them and saw nothing extraordinary; they were similar to the other girls.
The rosary ended and the church was closed, as the bishop had ordered. At 10 o'clock at night the ecstasies began with Mari Loli in a trance.»
A series of observations then followed, certainly interesting, but which we already know, since they have been repeated many times. Two things in particular attracted Fr. Julio's attention.
(1) The strange movement of her clothes while the girl was falling to the ground.
(2) The girl's expressions and postures.
Concerning the first he says:
«Her clothes slid downwards in a movement that was not natural, as if an invisible hand were guarding the most complete modesty of the girl. All diabolical intervention has to be ruled out.»
Concerning the second:
«Loli fell slowly as though someone were lowering her to the ground: she was as if struck by a ray of light. I observed her closely; she had a truly angelical face; it didn't seem to be the same face.»
It was probably during this ecstasy(17) that the girl, on the request of the pastor who had spoken with Father Julio about the feasibility of proposing certain questions «that would be unusual and difficult to answer,» asked the apparition among other things:
«What is it that the Virgin urges the Spanish people for amending their lives?
Answer: That they confess and receive Communion.
What sacrifice does she principally request from Spain?
Answer: That it would aid the other nations to be good.
What is the sin of parents that offends her the most?
Answer: That they fight among themselves: their quarrels and arguments.
Certainly it was at that time that «at the request of the parish priest,» once more the pointed question was also asked: «Why do these things occur at nighttime?»(18)
The answer did not come in words . . . the Virgin's expression «filled with sadness.» And not only sadness: «The Virgin became serious,» Loli said later.
It is easy to understand this response . . . I ask myself: Could there be any other reaction from a mother toward children who show distrust, who come to her with an attitude of suspicion and doubt? And so enclosed in this silent response is a hurt reproach: For months I have come giving signs —the pure of heart understand —that it is I who am here among you, I who act, I who impart the intimate consolations of which many speak, I who give secret answers to many of your questions . . . And now you make this remark? Do you not have sufficient reasons to recognize me, and see that, though you don't understand them, there certainly are reasons for what I do and the way I act.
Those who find a cause for suspicion and rejection in the nighttime idea, would not react better before the proofs of the daytime, of which there are a great number. Would their attitude have been any different if they had not found the stumbling stone of the nighttime? An episode from the gospels casts some light on this:
They are like children sitting in the marketplace,
who call to their companions and say:
We played wedding music for you and you have not danced;
we have sung funeral songs and you have not mourned.
For John came, neither eating or drinking,
and they say: He has a devil!
The Son of Man came eating and drinking and they say,
Behold a glutton and wine drinker,
a friend of tax collectors and sinners!
But the wisdom of God is justified by its works.
(Matthew 11: 16-19)
If you do not see continuous signs and prodigies,
you do not believe.
(John 4: 48)
No, Father Abraham,
But if someone from the dead goes to them . . .
If they do not heed Moses and the Prophets,
they will not believe even if someone rises from the dead.
(Luke 16: 27-31)
Only she knows all the reasons for the ecstasies occurring at night. However some explanations have occurred to us.
«Never» —we read in Fr. Ramón's report— «have the visions and phenomena of Garabandal encouraged a big crowd; rather they have strongly encouraged the opposite. In fact, the most interesting manifestations have taken place when the mass of spectators had left.»
Thus the fact that many of the phenomena occurred at night had a purpose of elimination. Since it was not pleasant to wait hour after hour to attain these things, after a disagreeable night, awake and almost sleepless,(19) many abandoned the scene and left the village, especially those who had come as if on a tour to entertain themselves with a spectacle never seen . . . On the other hand, those who were seriously interested remained: persons who sincerely sought something and wanted to know what this was about. And so a gathering small in number, but continuingly renewed, could better observe and associate with the mystery that the girls experienced, a gathering that was physically much reduced in size.
The nighttime, the occasion so often propitious for sin, was marked in Garabandal with a sign of penance, prayer and expiation. Those who conscientiously united themselves with the heavenly walks of the visionaries, finished by experiencing the joy and the harshness of vigil hours that ordinarily left them physically exhausted and depleted. The testimonies that we can gather give an unending list of these things.(20)
The nights at Garabandal, whatever the perverse and malicious may think of them, were not nights of sin, but rather of expiation for sin and prayer for sinners.(21)
They were a practice of that which had been said by the angel to the shepherd children of Fatima:
You must pray much, speaking like this: “My God, I believe, I hope, I adore and I love . . . and I ask pardon for those that do not believe, do not hope, do not adore and do not love . . ."
Because of this, those nights have left indelible impressions on many hearts. From the rugged and hard trail that led up to the village, to the difficult path up to the Pines, all was a symbol of the penitential and ascetic role that had to be followed by whoever wanted to enter in the march —frequently perturbing— of the phenomena.(22)
Are the dark nights of Garabandal something new in the experience of Christians? Do we not well know that the nighttime hours appear in the History of Salvation as hours chosen for the admirable commercium between God and man? We can recall some well-known facts. It was at night that St. Joseph was made aware of Mary's great secret, on which our survival depended. In the middle of the night occurred the coming into the world of the Son of God and the Son of man; and the hours of the night were later those that He preferred to dedicate to prayer during His public life . . . In the secret of the night the mystery of the Incarnation, the summit of all history, and especially the History of Salvation, was realized. The Mass of Sunday in the octave of the Nativity starts solemnly with the words of the Book of Wisdom:
and the night was in the middle of her course,
Your mighty word leapt down from heaven,
from Your royal throne.
The hours of darkness should not be so readily connected with the action of the power of darkness. It appears unfounded and unreasonable to try to find in this nighttime a sign of evil proceeding from the affairs of Garabandal. Besides anyone seeking darkness as a cloak for his wickedness does not have to search for it here; there are plenty of shadows and nights everywhere to cover the shame of an unworthy life.
Let us correspond with the exhortation of the apostle and leave the work of darkness to put on the arms of light. (Romans 13: 12) However, it is to be understood that this does not have any connection with the presence or absence of the sun on the horizon.
17. I have seen later from the notes of Fr. Valentín that these questions that passed from Conchita to Loli, who had gone into ecstasy in Conchita’s home, were not asked on the night of September 8th, but on September 9th.
18. The question took place in an ecstasy on September 8th.
19. In Garabandal one could not lodge in a rooming house, much less a hotel! Sometimes the village people offered or rented rooms to persons who merited special consideration; but ordinarily the people had to pass the time without sleep, or sleep as well as they could in their cars.
20. Fr. Julio Porro says of his first night in Garabandal:
«At 4 o’clock on the morning of September 9th, I left the village. A vigil like this wouldn’t be worth the inconvenience, after traveling the very long trail to arrive at such an unknown mountain hideaway, if there hadn’t been something very remarkable to be present at and witness.»
21. What we already know about the happenings during the nights at Garabandal is confirmed by what Fr. Julio says about the night of September 8th-9th that he experienced. Following what he says about Loli’s trance, he relates:
«A series of ecstatic phenomena on the part of her and of Conchita followed . . . In the houses, through the streets . . . In the most diversified positions: standing, on their knees, completely prostrate facing the sky, seated with their arms in a cross and moving in this position through the streets, stuck in the mud and passing over the stones . . . I saw them come down the stairs in Mari Loli’s home while sitting, with their arms in a cross and their gaze fixed on the heavens, without lacking in modesty in spite of their difficult posture . . . They visited the sick, praying the rosary, and in that way entered into the house of Jacinta who was in her room with a throat infection.
It was exactly 2 o’clock in the morning; the Virgin told them to recite the rosary again . . . They said it perfectly.
Everything ended with the kissing of the Vision by the girls and of the girls by the Vision, and the Christian way of saying goodbye, Until tomorrow, if God wills. The girls finally embraced, and everyone started to retire. It was past 3 o’clock in the morning. We had been in a constant dance from about 10 o’clock. The visionaries were not tired; we were completely exhausted and drowsy.»
It seems to me that we have here a good example of what those nights were, the nights of Garabandal that some persons look upon as suspect.
22. Narrow is the gate and straight the way that leads to life, and few there are that find it. (Matt. 7:14)