The people who were looking out for her welfare thought that this would provide her with both an isolated retreat and an education.
As a retreat it would serve to isolate and shelter her from the indiscreet attention and curiosity that surrounded her in the village; and it would serve also to educate her since she was behind in her schooling and spiritual instruction.
While here Conchita was under the care of a young religious: the directress of the college. Her name was plain: María Nieves García, but her personality was not. She did not know much about Garabandal, except for the episocopal «Notas» that said No. Nevertheless, she set out to help the new student whom she sensed to be out of the ordinary.
To be helpful, she put herself completely at Conchita's service, disposed to receive and hear her anytime. Conchita responded well to that attitude and soon an excellent spiritual relationship grew between them, with many periods of prayer, confidential words, and animated conversations.
The writings that the sister preserves from those times begin like this:
Feeling herself strange to everything, Conchita came to the college in such a bad state that she had to struggle very hard. And furthermore she constantly had to hide her identity. She needed a friend in whom she could confide everything that she was holding inside, to whom she would be able to unburden her worries and speak of “everything that had happened” naturally and simply. Because of this, I told her that she could come to see me in my free hours whenever she wanted to. I left this completely to her preference; I never called for her myself . . .
From the statements of the former child visionary, I am only going to mention here the ones that refer to the apparitions, which even then seemed to be far away — and not only because of the passage of time. From time to time her memory would flash back to the events, inspiring her to speak out.(1) It should not be forgotten that all the conversation recorded in Burgos was occurring when the girl was beginning a period of great darkness, that is in the full phase of doubts and denials. Because of this, Sister María Nieves never openly broached the subject of what had happened during those exceptional days at Garabandal.
October 19, 1966
Finally they brought Conchita to me. My impression was excellent: simple and candid, with an unusual and penetrating look; I was pleased.
Her mother talked to me alone, and informed me of certain things . . . She was worried about her daughter's vanity and lack of piety. She urged me not to let anyone see her except six people.
Two days later, on the 21st, confidential conversations began.
I was with Conchita for some time. Her conversation was confidential, simple, frank. We discussed several matters. I told her about her excessive spending; she recognized it and accepted it well.
Because of something that Conchita had discussed during the course of the interview, Sister said to her:
— How could you have said that you put the host on your tongue, if it were not true?(2)
— When I said it, it was because at that time it appeared to me that way. If not, how could I have said it?
— I love the Virgin as if she were my mother. One can talk with her about everything . . . I remember that one day she told us: Be very clean; I took care to be that way too, when I was living on the earth.
The sister showed photos of a picture painted by an American who wanted her opinion:
— I don't like it.
— Why not?
— The expression is very different from the one she had. She wasn't wearing a crown, only stars. her hands — not so stretched out. The hair was parted in the center and not so wavy. The head wasn't bowed down; she moved it, but she didn't hold it like that. When she carried the child, she didn't hold His robe, although He wore it without a clasp . . .
Everything — the Sister noted — was said with the greatest simplicity and spontaneity, without stopping to reflect.
A long interview. At one time Conchita stated:
— What should I do so as not to have empty hands? I examine myself and I see that I don't do bad; but . . .
— It is not only not doing bad, but also practicing good.
— That is just what the Virgin said to me!
I heard — said the Sister — that the Virgin called you prior to our falling into ecstasy. What were those calls?
— The first was a sudden feeling of mild joy. The second was a stronger joy. The third made us go outside, overwhelmed with joy.
What it was like to live in those times when we were seeing the Virgin so often! Although we had to remain without sleeping, it didn't matter to us. We were so happy!
— Did the people from the village harass you?
— Yes, but it didn't matter to us. We were so happy that we didn't suffer.
Also a long interview. Conchita spoke at length about the times when the Virgin was appearing to them . . .
Certainly — the Sister stated — the Virgin prefers to appear to children. Since they don't have human respect, they'll transmit her messages better.
— I think that I would have done the same even if I had been an adult. One day when I had finished speaking to her, the Virgin told me to turn toward a couple who were behind me and tell them, You aren't living right. I did this, although it embarrassed me. I know that they were moved, since they began to cry and went to confession on that same day. She told me many things like that . . .
What do you think the Angel was like? An adult? No, he was about 9 years old, with a blue tunic and rose-colored wings. We didn't see his hands, except when he gave us Communion.
Many times the Virgin didn't look directly at us, but farther away at the people who were behind us. Sometimes she changed her expression; but she didn't stop smiling. I asked her, Whom are you looking at? She said to me, I AM LOOKING AT MY CHILDREN.
We talked to her about everything, even about our cows . . . She laughed very much. We also played together. How happy we were then! We didn't suffer a thing, although some of the people bothered us.
She seemed to be about seventeen. Because of this, I was pleased when a retreat master said that we would see the Virgin about this age.
I like to hear the Virgin talked about. I've heard only a few priests speak about her. One of them told me one day, If these things about Garabandal aren't true, I won't put faith in anything. Do you think that's good? it troubled me.
— How nice it was to be with the Virgin! She was really like a friend; just as if she were living with us. And she called us by our nicknames like the people did. She didn't say María Concepción, but Conchita; not María Dolores, but Loli.
Now we get weary in our periods of prayer; but then we didn't feel weary, or sleepy, or anything. We saw her so many times!
— I learned many things in my village since the people confided their problems to me. Some of them were tremendous. The ones that made the biggest impression on me were those of priests; these troubled me!
A confessor told me to ask the Lord for the desire of suffering, and also to accept pain with joy. I couldn't speak to the Lord like that, since it doesn't come from me. I'm afraid of suffering!
— I understand; but we ought to trust in Him, and know that we ought to serve for something in His Hands. God wishes to take us as little instruments, perhaps as "tapers for lighting the large candles."
—That's true. We are instruments; people shouldn't notice us. In the village they shoved us, they pulled on our clothes . . . They sought after us. And although so many went up to the Pines, not all of them approached the tabernacle.
1. Though not all the facts mentioned here occurred in 1961, what is stated can help to understand better what happened during that year.
2. This refers to the little miracle (milagrucu) on the night of July 18th, 1962, which will be discussed in future chapters.