This display of small miracles favoring fervent participation in the Holy Eucharist must have had a telling effect in the setting of an ancient Christian village where Holy Communion had been, since time immemorial, something too serious to be received frequently. And much less, every day!(2) Here the Blessed Sacrament was treated more with reverence than love; and the inhabitants, although believing and religious, ordinarily maintained a respectful distance toward It. The people still remained in Domine, non sum dignus—Lord I am not worthy.
The people had to be brought, even if through miracles, toward a greater living of the great Sacrament of our faith. The Word of the Lord has been insisting on this since the beginning: Amen, amen I tell you, that if you do not eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink His blood, you will not have life in you. (John 6:53) And besides this, we Christian should not neglect another great reason for reception of the Eucharist mentioned by St. Paul (1 Corinthians 11:28), Every time that you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the immolation of the Lord, until He returns.
Until he returns. The Eucharistic promotion coming forth through Garabandal has another extremely important purpose: the imminence of difficult times, the eschatological days when, less than ever, can the faithful remain alone in the face of peril . . .
We can do no more than list them.
* Concerning the location of the extraordinary Communions, we can state that the places where they most frequently—but not exclusively—were received by the girls were: at the Pines, before the doors of the church, next to St. Michael's Stone in the Campuca.(3)
* Concerning the time, it was as if the Angel were scrupulously complying with the regulations then existing in the Catholic Church (at that time evening Communion was considered an exception); the morning hours were almost always mentioned by the girls.(4)
* Concerning the ritual, we have seen that Conchita tells us in her diary, and Fr. Valentín in his notes, that it followed the usual form: praying the I confess, the reception of the sacred Host, thanksgiving, and the prayer Anima Christi (Soul of Christ).
There is one fact worth noting. It was observed during these Communions that the Angel always acted as an accessory performer; that is, he acted as an extraordinary minister, to make up for the absence of a priest who could ordinarily give Communion. This absence was very frequent in Garabandal since the pastor lived in Cossío, and it was there that he celebrated Mass most of the time. Although he went up to San Sebastián on almost all the afternoons after the phenomena began, at the time—as has already been indicated—it was not the
normal custom to distribute Communion during the evening hours. And sometimes it happened that even though there was a Mass in the village, the girls could not assist at it since they had to go work in the fields. Nor did the many visiting priests provide a solution to the difficulty, since they almost always arrived past noon.
From the manner in which the angel acted, it becomes clear once again that—according to the designs of God—there is no reason to expect a miraculous intervention to obtain something that we ourselves can procure the ordinary means at our disposal.
Many examples could be mentioned here to illustrate what has just been said, but the following one should suffice.
Fr. José Ramón García de la Riva, states in his Memorias:
«I was able to prove that the Angel didn’t give Communion to the girls if the parish priest, or another priest with faculties, was present and exercising this ministry in Garabandal. This I noticed as a result of a study that I completed and things that I repeatedly observed. It can be used as an answer to those who ask the question: How is it possible that an Angel acts in a ministry that isn’t his own?»
In continuing on, Fr. de la Riva explains a very interesting proof, which will not be put down here, but will be put down later, since it merits being reported completely and with special care.
The daughter of Ramón Pifarré, who ran a pharmacy in Barcelona and was one of the best witnesses of the many happenings at Garabandal, related to me how they had witnessed one of Conchita’s mystical Communions in June of 1962.
The girl’s ecstasy was much the same as usual in these cases. However the spectator’s attention was sharply attracted on seeing the girl, some minutes after receiving Communion, but still in ecstasy, laugh . . .
It was necessary to ask her what happened, and the girl explained:
—Before leaving, the Angel said to me, You see, I came early today, so that you don’t say that I kept you hungry. (At that time the Eucharistic fast was still long and rigid.)
Mrs. Asunción Pifarré told me that it was a little after eight in the morning, and the girl’s mother Aniceta had collected the sheep that were to go up the mountain with Conchita, since that day she had to be a ‘shepherdess’.
«I recall that sometime later Fr. Valentín came to Maximina González’ home where we were staying. He came from Cossío, and asked for Conchita. I told him that she had left. And he was irritated, saying that he didn’t understand this, how an Angel could come to give Communion, knowing that he was going to come and that he could very well give It himself. But I think that the Angel’s attitude in coming early couldn’t have been more thoughtful, looking out for the welfare of the girl who was awaiting a long burdensome day.»
Aniceta, Conchita’s mother, who can tell us so many interesting things, has a good recollection of something that she experienced personally.
It occurred during the summer season when she had much work to do in the fields . . . In the morning she set out with Conchita, prepared for a long day’s labor; but before going to the place of work , they went up to the Pines, since Conchita had been advised to go there to receive Communion from the Angel. Withdrawn and silent, they waited in that unforgettable site. Time passed and the Angel did not come. The mother, always in a hurry, began to get impatient. She was not used to spending time without doing anything . . . And then she began to get upset, since there was so much that had to be done! Finally, she said to Conchita, Well, let’s go. I think that we’ve waited long enough. We are wasting time and today we have a lot of work to do.
The girl implored: Wait a little longer, mama! The Angel always does what he says. I don’t know why he is late today . . .
The mother agreed reluctantly. And while waiting she glanced down toward the village, and with the excellent vision of a country woman, she clearly distinguished the shape of a frail Franciscan knocking at the door of her home. She turned quickly to her daughter, saying: This explains everything. We are not going to waste any more time here. Look down below. You have someone to give you Communion. That’s the reason the Angel isn’t coming!
They went down in a hurry, approached the priest, and accompanied him to the church, where they received Communion from his hands.(5)
On several occasions these Communions through the ministry of the Angel were means of important lessons for the girls.
Jacinta will never forget the lesson she received early in the apparitions . . .
One day she, Loli, and Conchita were called to the same location. The three knelt down in a row in front of the Angel; Jacinta was in the middle.
And everything began as usual: some introductory words from the Angel concerning what they were going to do, the “I confess" by the girls, This is the Lamb of God . . . Lord I am not worthy.
The Angel gave Communion to the first girl in the row in the usual way. In the meantime, Jacinta, next in line, raised her head, opened her mouth and held out her tongue in preparation to receive. But the Angel—not in the usual way, but as if she were not there—passed by her with the Body of Our Lord to the third girl . . .
Noticing this, the little girl’s eyes opened wide and tears began to stream from them. Everything within her asked a distressed Why? Why? She did not understand why the Angel had refused her Communion like this.
The explanation (and the lesson) came immediately. Did she not remember the argument that she had had with her mother? What had the Virgin told them so many times? She had to do more to conquer that fault, that lack of submission, that way of speaking . . . She could not receive the Lord in such a state.
Jacinta, weeping, recognized her fault. How could she do otherwise? She had to resign herself to the punishment of remaining without the Eucharist, so painful under those circumstances.
When she returned home, her mother knew immediately that something had happened to the girl. She had come back so different from the other times!
—What happened to you?
—The Angel didn’t want to give me Communion. (and tears filled her eyes again)
—And why is that?
—Because of an argument that I had with you, one that I can’t remember.
The mother could not remember either; but things do not pass by so easily before God. Sins do not disappear by a simple forgetting, but by a sincere repentance of the past—strictly necessary for mortal sin—by the sacrament of Penance.(6)
—The Angel —Jacinta said— won’t give me Communion again until I confess.
Good lesson! We can be sure that her fault did not enter into the category of mortal sin; and consequently, there was no strict necessity for confession. But Communion requires very much, especially in persons highly favored with gifts of grace; these cannot abandon themselves to carelessness, to an attitude of being good more or less; from them is demanded an amendment and a serious effort to be better.
In the light of this episode, which the visionary will never forget, it is not difficult to understand how God looks on certain attitudes or doctrines that today are gaining vogue among so many here on earth. There is no relationship between sacramental Confession and the Eucharist . . . One can receive Communion without going to Confession. This makes sense only in the very rare case of the worst sins, but in ordinary life . . . The necessity of innocence in order to receive Communion must not be exaggerated . . . and in any case, the general absolution, which is given at times in the liturgy, is all that is necessary; anything else is an excess. It can be observed that from the moment in which the Mass is looked upon predominately as an assembly of the people of God, and Communion as a symbolic meal among brothers, the necessity for such interior purification will not be recognized.
In this point as in so many others, Garabandal comes to the Church in preview, mercifully and salutarily offering beforehand admonitions from heaven for deviations on earth. Is this not the main reason that it has encountered great hostility?
Garabandal, in its eminent Eucharistic dimension, mysteriously foreshadowed the actual state of Catholicism today. It holds out with striking force the eternal doctrine of our Mysterium Fidei, a doctrine which is being attacked by a dangerous crisis, a doctrine whose defense required new documents from the Supreme Magisterium, to culminate in the Credo of the People of God that Paul VI proclaimed to the world on June 29th, 1968:
We believe that just as the bread and wine consecrated by the Lord at the Last Supper were changed into His Body and His Blood, which was to be offered for us on the cross; likewise the bread and wine consecrated by the priest are changed into the body and blood of Christ enthroned gloriously in heaven. And we believe that the mysterious presence of the Lord— under what continues to appear to our senses to be the same as before— is a true, real, and substantial presence.
The unique and indivisible existence of the Lord glorious in heaven is not multiplied, but is rendered present in the sacrament in the many places on earth where Mass is celebrated. And this existence remains present —after the sacrifice— in the Blessed Sacrament in the tabernacle, the living heart of all our churches.
And it is our very sweet duty to honor and adore in the blessed Host which our eyes see, the Incarnate Word Whom they cannot see, and Who, without leaving heaven, is made present before us.
I have chosen these high points of our history — the threshold of the second year of the events — to speak of the Eucharistic dimension of Garabandal. Although this dimension was manifested openly during 1961, it came to the forefront above all in 1962 to such a degree as to give the second year a special characteristic, one that for centuries has been described in the ancient axiom of the early Christians:
2. The case of Garabandal in this regard is not unusual. I have known many other small towns in sections of León and Castille where the frame of mind was about the same. I could name a little village in Burgos that had the most devout practices, where no one missed Sunday Mass or the rosary that followed it, where at specified hours of the day there was prayer in all the houses, where there was never heard a blasphemy. Nevertheless, its inhabitants, as the most natural thing in the world, received Communion only once a year to fulfill the Easter Duty.
3. Fr. De la Riva, the pastor of Barro, seems to indicate in his Memorias that there was a period in which the Angel gave Communion solely to Conchita and Loli. He wrote:
«Conchita received Communion at the Pines, at the Cuadro, near the courtyard of the church; Loli, in the same places, but not at the Pines (at least to my knowledge).
I watched and took photographs of several Communions of this type with Loli, and one with Conchita when she was against the door of the church.
These ecstasies with Communion ordinarily didn’t last more than ten minutes.»
4. And sometimes at extremely early hours corresponding to the early morning prayers of the ancient monks. The report that I heard from Loli’s mother Julia is worth noting. One night the girl had an apparition in her home when her parents were in bed but not asleep. After a while the girl got up, went to the door, and began to descend the stairs . . .
It was about three in the morning. It was hard for her mother to get up because she was tired and sleepy, but she could not leave her daughter alone. She got out of bed, got dressed, and went outside after her.
In ecstasy Loli went to the church and in the courtyard fell on her knees to receive the Communion that the Angel came to give her.
It had snowed and it was very cold. Julia confessed that on seeing her alone at such an hour of the night, surrounded in complete silence by the dull splendor of the snow, alone at the side of her little girl, that she was out of this world! She felt a strange mixture of emotion and fear.
5. This seems to have taken place on the morning of June 20th, 1962, since among Dr. Ortiz’ papers I found a brief note written on June 19th by Eloísa, his sister-in-law:
«On the following morning we accompanied Conchita to the Pines where she waited to receive Communion from the Angel. We prayed while we were waiting . . . A long time dragged by. Her mother went to the side of the hill at the time, and saw a person who appeared to be a priest in front of her home. He seems to be wearing white cords, she said.
On hearing this, Conchita hurried down, and we followed her.
Actually it was a Franciscan priest, Fr. Féliz Larazábal, now deceased. He was then superior of a Franciscan house in San Pantaleón in Aras (Santander). We went to the church; he celebrated Mass and gave us Communion. Aniceta commented, That is the reason we have waited so long. Whenever there’s a priest in the village to give Communion, she doesn’t receive it from the Angel.»
6. This was confirmed for me recently by Jacinta’s father, Simón. He noted that on another occasion he had personally observed as an eyewitness of the Mystical Communions of the three girls—Jacinta, Loli, and Conchita—that the Angel left one of them without Communion. This could be seen by the girl’s gestures and actions and it was a punishment for some fault that she had committed.