In Spain the students look forward to March 7th, since it is a vacation day commemorating the feast of St. Thomas of Aquinas, the patron of students. In 1962 that day also had a strong penitential significance for all the faithful, since it was the beginning of Lent: Ash Wednesday.
The girls had to apply themselves with greater intensity at that time to what the Virgin had told them both for themselves and for others: There must be much penance . . . There must be many sacrifices . . .
And the lenten days of Garabandal were permeated with penance during that year of grace, 1962. But in the almost daily ecstasies, there was also a place for the many other things, great and small, that comprised each girl's life.
For example, Loli met again with the departed Fr. Luis Andreu(19) on March 12th and talked to him for a long time:
«What joy it gives me to talk with you! It's like when you were alive. I'm very happy when you come. It's been a long time since we've seen you!
How sad you would have been if we had gone to school, because we wouldn't be able to see the Virgin anymore!
Look, I want something . . . Do you know what? Perform a MIRACLE, so that they
may see that we are speaking with you and the Virgin . . .»
These remarks by Loli were taken from the notes of Fr. Valentín, who also wrote down what happened to Mari Cruz:
«At 11:37 at night, I was in her house. She had received a letter from a priest from Villaviciosa (Asturias),(20) in which the priest said that he would pay for her board and tuition in a school in that city, under the condition that she would not see the Virgin again, something that could cause problems with the archbishop of Oviedo. The girl hadn't read the letter; but her mother had, who put the letter back in the envelope and told the girl to ask the Virgin what she should reply.
Mari Cruz didn't want to do this, and it disagreed with her to take the letter. Hardly had she taken it in her hand, when she went out to the Calleja, knelt down at the usual place, took the letter — in ecstasy — and held it up. Looking at the envelope upside down, she asked, What should I tell her? That I'm going to continue to see you? That it's a good place? For a long time now, I haven't been seeing you with the other three . . .»
We can only guess what the Virgin told the girl; however, it is clear that plans for taking the girls from the village were not coming solely from León.
And it is also clear that Mari Cruz was hurt because she was not included in the ecstasies with the other three girls.
On March 14th, it was Conchita who presented a scene worthy to be filmed because of its elegance. Fr. Valentín reports again:
«At 6:30 in the evening, Conchita wanted to be alone and went behind the laundry building, where she was in ecstasy. From there she went up to the Pines, and holding one of the albarcas (wooden shoes) that she was wearing, began speaking,
Take the albarcas in your hand, the little shoes with the worn-out laces . . . Go find a donkey? Where is one? In the Cuadro? (She wanted to bless herself.) With the albarca in her hand, she smacked herself in the face many times. Later she exclaimed, How good it is today! It is night and the sun shines. And also it snows to make saints (snowmen) and go sledding.»
In the girls' ecstatic conversations on March 14th came out again the old request that the Virgin perform a great miracle as a sign and finale to everything.
Jacinta asked her:
«Come! Perform a miracle! That way the people will believe.»
A letter from Maximina González to Asunción Pifarré, dated March 7, reads:
«The other night, Jacinta and María Dolores asked for a miracle as usual. Please, perform a miracle . . . Please! Are you going to perform it? Please, let light shine. Please, since the people don't believe. Perform a miracle so that everyone will believe . . .
When the ecstasy was over, we told them what they had said to the Virgin. And they said she smiled when they asked for a miracle.»
The girls would surely not have insisted so often upon the same request, if they had not repeatedly heard from above that there would finally come a great sign to end all doubts about the supernatural truth of the events. «They will believe. They will believe» was the prophetic-toned response of the mysterious apparition.
If it were not for this, the statements that Loli made two days later, on March 16th, would not be comprehensible.
On that day she was requesting insistently for the cure of a woman whose sight was failing, and according to the judgment of the doctor, would be lost completely. The girl kept on imploring, finally exclaiming loudly, «Come! Cure this woman, Alicia's mother, who already does not see out of one eye, and will not see the MIRACLE THAT YOU WILL MAKE IN THE SKY!»(21)
True penance, presupposing a change from within, spontaneously leads to the sacrament of confession. An interesting episode illustrating this happened on the night that ended on March 19th, the feast of St. Joseph.
The report of it was signed in Reinosa (Santander) on the 23rd of March, 1962, by a priest who went up to Garabandal with Mr. Matutano:(22)
«On Sunday, March 18th, the second Sunday of Lent, two priests came to Garabandal with a young boy who was afflicted with severe heart disease, and whose days — according to the doctors — were numbered.
One of the two priests — no one at the time knew who he was — was the renowned Father José Silva, from the Ciudad de los Muchachos at Orense. The priests had come disguised as tourists. They walked behind the girls, constantly bothering them. This came to such a point that the Chief of the Civil Guard had to call it to their attention several times — he also didn't recognize them as priests.
When Jacinta went into ecstasy in Conchita's house, they leaned physically on the girl. They were hanging onto her, and holding their ears to her mouth, trying to understand some of what she was saying. The parents of the girls called their attention to this, and on seeing that this accomplished nothing, and that one time they almost made Jacinta fall to the ground, I could not contain myself and I gave a hard shove to the one who was to the right of the girl (this was Father Silva), thinking he was a layman . . . Although perhaps at the time I would have done the same thing, even if I had seen him in a cassock.
During this action Jacinta turned around, and put the crucifix on my lips. Following this, she did the same to the one that I had shoved. The girl continued her walk, but the two of us looked at each other and we understood . . . We embraced each other, and together went to the church. There the two of us wept.
And I asked him to hear my confession. (We were alone, leaning against the doorway.) He told me that he didn't have faculties, but I insisted vehemently, assuring him that I had a true need. He heard my confession and asked why I had performed that action. I answered that at the time I only meant to defend the girl who was seeing the Most Holy Virgin. He gave me absolution.
Later he asked me to hear his confession, since he said he had a great need, for having abused his position as a priest to go ahead of all those that were following the girl, when his position as a priest obliged him to go behind the last . . . He thanked me for the shove, and told me that up to then he hadn't paid attention to the actual message that the girls came to give us.
Finally, he asked me as a favor to wake up the parish priest so that he — Father Silva — could say the dawn Mass. It was not long until the beginning of the next day, March 19th, the feast of St. Joseph. We weren’t able to obtain permission, since there was a prohibition from the bishop that didn't allow Mass to be celebrated by visiting priests. But we could receive Communion and make the most beautiful Holy Hour imaginable. It was fantastic. That priest said wonderful things, and thanked the girls, their parents, and everyone for having made him feel an emotion that, up until then, he had thought didn't exist.
We prayed the holy rosary! Almost all of us holding arms.
This is what I experienced on those unforgettable days in that fortunate little town.»
19. A previous chapter has been dedicated to the death of this Jesuit priest and the first conversations that the Garabandal seers had with him shortly after his death.
20. The Carmelitas de la Caridad also had a college in this city in Asturias. The priest's letter certainly refers to this college.
21. All the previous material was derived from Father Valentín's notes.
22. Mr. Matutano was mentioned in an earlier section of this book.