Not all those who are in favor of Garabandal journey without hurdles on the road to its destiny.
We have already seen what happened to Fr. Ramón when he returned to the village after the unexpected death of his brother, and what further happened to him during the somber hours of October 18th. María Herrero de Gallardo experienced the same on that day. And it was seen what Fr. Lucio Rodrigo of the University of Comillas experienced . . . But they were not the only ones. Here is a report from Plácido Ruiloba, the businessman from Santander:
«I had been struck by the first message of October 18th that spoke so seriously of the necessity of sacrifices and penance, since the cup was filling up and there would come upon us a great chastisement.
On thinking about this message — completely orthodox — my conscience was pricked, since I understood that we actually had a great need to be better . . . And I didn't lack the good will to attain this. Nevertheless, I was always attacked by doubts, and when I went up to Garabandal — a thing that I did frequently — I went in search of a possible negative aspect; not exactly because I had something against it, but in order to clear up the matter, with the purpose of evaluating the truth better.
Well then, on one of those days in the fall of 1961 — I don't remember the exact date — I came to the village greatly concerned about everything that was happening there . . . This was due to some negative thing that I had seen, and which I can't accurately recall now; I only know that it was tormenting me . . .
I came to the village at night — the days had shortened considerably — and on my arrival the girls were walking in ecstasy. I stayed purposely at a distant place, a place that was not accustomed to be the path of the girls' usual ecstatic marches. And constantly tortured by doubts, I began to say mentally, Most Holy Virgin, the number of people who are coming to see this can be seen! And to think that, if it were a lie! . . . How much harm it could do! Our Lady, so that I can see that all that is happening is from you, while being far away as I am, I request that one of the girls come from where she is to give me the crucifix to kiss.
From the place where I had positioned myself behind the fountain, I could observe — without being noticed — many of the things that were happening. And so I noticed that the girls' ecstasies had ended, with the exception of Conchita who continued in ecstasy, whom I could see going toward her home, near the location of my hiding place. I saw perfectly how she went into it . . . And at the time I felt a tremendous disappointment in seeing that my prayer hadn't been heard, and that as a consequence my doubts had a basis.(7)
I was pondering over this bitterly, when suddenly I saw that the people who had entered the house were beginning to come out rapidly and behind them was the girl still in ecstasy. That surprised me, but I was having an intuition of what could be the reason. Conchita actually came right toward me, as always holding her head incredibly tilted backwards, which completely prevented her from seeing what was in front and around her. She came to the place where I was hidden; she stopped in front of me, and she gave me the crucifix to kiss three times!
The response was so clear that all my doubts disappeared . . . at least for a while.»
Mr. Ruiloba does well in adding that final remark, since it seems that doubts and questions continued to plague him for the slightest reason, although he had come to be more than most others a witness of the countless astonishing things at Garabandal.
«On another day — I remember that it was a foul night with torrential rain — Jacinta fell suddenly into ecstasy, and I volunteered to accompany her alone. I thought that I would have an occasion that way to make new and useful tests. A woman from the village had lent me a big umbrella. I opened it over Jacinta's head, and the two of us continued alone through the muddy streets . . . The arm with which I supported the umbrella was wrapped around the girl's shoulders, leaning lightly on them. I seemed to have her completely at my mercy, and thus she presented me with the best opportunity to make new tests about the reality of those trances, concerning which the most diverse doubts were assailing me.
I set out with the intention of leading her; I was not going to permit her to lead me. This seemed rather easy, since the girl couldn't see where she was walking because of the position of her head, the dark night, and the umbrella that I held low in order to block her view. On repeated occasions, using the arm that I had put around her shoulders, I attempted to lead her in this or that direction . . . It was all useless; without any violence it was she who irresistibly led me. It was obvious that, with her gaze upwards, in spite of the night, the rain and the umbrella, she continually saw something that I wasn't able to reach or prevent, something wondrous that held her and led her . . .
The ecstasy lasted a long time. The streets were hard to travel, and there came a time when I was extremely exhausted and could barely hold up the umbrella. Then I closed it, although it continued to rain. But I didn't have the courage to leave the girl by herself . . . Shortly after closing the umbrella, I felt myself completely drenched, and water even oozed out of my shoes. On passing under a little light bulb — they had the smallest ones in the village streets — it appeared to my observation that the girl was completely dry. Amazed, I passed my hand three times over her shoulders and hair. True enough she was completely dry under the rainstorm, so that I dried my hand passing it through her hair, although the hand was very cold and wet.
I could swear the truth of this in front of the Holy Evangelists. And no one can suggest that I suffered a hallucination at the time . . . because I am much more susceptible to doubt than to delusions, of which I don't remember having had a single one during my life.»
This same man, so hard to satisfy with regard to believing unreservedly, was then able to witness another marvel. The weather continued bad — «the village was all mud» — and he went on the trail of an ecstasy that Jacinta, Loli and Conchita were having together. Conchita was marching between the other two and suddenly the crucifix, which she was carrying in her hands over her chest, fell . . . Nevertheless, the march of the three girls continued for some 25 or 30 meters farther on; then Conchita was heard to say, «Oh! What should I pick up? Will you tell me where it is?» Without changing their attitude, the three girls backed up to the point where the little crucifix had dropped.
«Conchita, while continuing to look upward, began to stoop down with her arm extended downwards. She stopped this movement when her hand was about a half meter from the ground . . . And all those who were there were able to see, overwhelmed with excitement, how the crucifix came out of the mud and rose up to the hand of the girl. She grasped it, and lifted it again to the level of her chest, holding it there devoutly in her two hands. Afterward they began their march, again.
As soon as the ecstasy had ended, I looked closely at Conchita's hands; and I was able to verify that neither in her hands nor on the crucifix could be found the slightest trace of mud.
I am willing to testify to this anywhere; and I think there are others willing to testify besides myself since there were several other people there who saw it as I did. I remember specifically a woman from Los Corrales in Buelna (Santander) named Daniela Cuenca.»
Speaking about all these things many years later with a friend from Santander, Mr. Ruiloba said this:
«Many were the signs that the Virgin gave me to dissipate my doubts; nevertheless, as you know well, and as Conchita predicted to me, I came afterwards to doubt more than ever, even to the point of not going up anymore to the village.»(8)
At times we are more demanding than the Apostle St. Thomas himself, and we want to be continually touching the miraculous action of God in order to believe in it.
And the words of God, in spite of all their clearness — at times at least, if not always — have confusing matters so that we do not lack meritorious tests.
One of the obscure matters or negative signs that contributed to the skeptical or opposed attitude against Garabandal were the feigned ecstasies.
7. Psychologically the actions and attitude of Mr. Ruiloba are easily understandable; but we ought to be aware, that not having received the sign that he desired, he could not conclude against the truth of what was happening there. We are certainly free to ask for signs from God . . . But He has no obligation to respond to our petitions, regardless of how reasonable they appear to us. If He does respond, He is to be thanked; if He does not, we should put our trust in Him without being upset.
In one way or another, by one means or another, we will not lack what is necessary to know what we should accept.
In Garabandal there was seen to a tremendous extent that attitude of mind that Jesus mentioned in His public life: Unless you continually see signs and prodigies, you do not believe. (John 4: 48)
8. This alludes to a period of doubts and general confusion, even denials — all the visionaries included — with regard to the events of Garabandal . . .
Conchita foretold it:
At the beginning of everything the Virgin told the four of us, Loli, Jacinta, Mari Cruz and myself,
— that we were going to contradict one another,
— that our parents would not get along with one another,
— and even that we would deny that we had seen the Virgin and the Angel . . .
It surprised us very much, obviously, that she said these things to us.
We have these words from Father Ramón Andreu, recorded
«Even at the beginning they — Loli and Jacinta — told me one day, Listen Father, what does this mean that the Virgin told us, that there would come a time in which we would doubt that we had seen her and the Child . . .
And furthermore that we would contradict one another, and that we would deny, that is, that we would say that we hadn't seen either the Virgin or the Child?»