PASSES . . .
My love, my dove,
My beautiful one, and come.
For winter is now past,
The rains are over and gone.
Flowers have appeared in our land;
Time for pruning is come;
The song of the dove is heard in our land.
And it was during the winter…
The first part of our story has brought us up to the first winter in Garabandal — a long cold winter of official suspicion and distrust, drenching rain and freezing snow.
The weather itself, joining with everything else, seemed to stand in the way of the mysterious and marvelous visits to the village — not in the way of the Visitor, but in the way of those at her destination. Her presence continued there, but in a reduced way, not according to the rhythm of the good days of before; but as if waiting for something to happen . . .
Characteristic of this first winter were the prayers of penance at inconvenient times, especially in the early hours of the morning, as has already been seen. Following her comments on the Communions from the hands of the Angel, Conchita consigned to her diary:
The Virgin told the four of us, Loli, Jacinta, Mari Cruz and myself, to go pray the rosary at the Cuadro.Some days we went at 6 o’clock (in the morning) and on other days, later.
Jacinta and Mari Cruz went at 6 in the morning and at 7; and Loli at no definite time.
Later, since it was not convenient for Mari Cruz to get up so early, she went at 8 o’clock.
And at 6 o’clock like us, Jacinta continued alone, with her mother and people from the village.
During Holy Week, the Virgin told me to go at 5 o’clock in the morning.
And so I went, since the Virgin always wants us to do penance.The last days of 1961 were sanctified with these penitential prayers; and with them the first weeks of 1962 began to be sanctified.
On January 3rd, Jacinta wrote to the pastor of Barro, Fr. de la Riva:
«At this time, Mari Cruz and I go to pray the rosary to the Virgin. Yesterday we had bad weather in the morning. So much water came down the calleja that we almost couldn’t kneel down . . . Now, since there is no snow, everything is going well.»
With her maladroit expression, the girl meant to say that her dawn rosary in the dark reveille of the second day of the year had been accompanied by a heavy downpour. The rain had fallen so heavily on the mountains that the water cascading down the calleja hardly left place for those saying their early morning prayers to kneel down.(1)
What a picture of penitential morning prayer! What a rosary that was, accompanied by the monotonous drumming of raindrops.
And thus, while winter passed — the harsh winter of the high mountains — the sacred flame of hope remained smoldering in the hearts of the people.
To keep the flame burning in the new year (which was coming with so many unknowns), on its inaugural day, the 1st of January, something happened that could well have served as a sign of the future. Dr. Ortiz(2) of Santander recounts it:
«In the city I met Margarita Huerta,(3) who had come from Madrid with a group of people. Three of the girls went into ecstasy. And while they were walking together through the street above the plaza, in the direction of the church, it occurred to one of the people who was following them at a distance: If this is supernatural, let the girl in the middle come now to give me the crucifix to kiss.
The girl instantly withdrew from the others and came to give the crucifix to her to kiss. Only to her! She told us about it later, very excited.»
During those icy wintry days of January, an interesting episode occurred. Aniceta described it without remembering the date.
One night, her son Cetuco,(4) who had been detained by his fiancee’s family, came home very late. Conchita had already had the calls; consequently the girl’s ecstasy could be expected at any moment . . . Aniceta never left her alone under these circumstances, especially at night; but on this occasion she could not wait up. She asked her son at the time not to go to bed but to remain with his sister because of what might happen. The young man agreed, although perhaps not with the best grace.
Toward 2:30, Conchita fell into ecstasy and left the house. Cetuco took a flashlight and followed her.
It was a white night — because of the heavy snow — and bitterly cold.
Skimming over the snow, Conchita made the difficult path to the Pines in haste . . . Cetuco forgot the cold in his efforts to follow her.
Sometime later, Aniceta warmly bundled herself up and went outside to see if she could join her children. The coldness was stunning; but still more stunning was the complete silence amid the faint brilliance of the snow . . .
When she finally arrived at the Pines, breathing heavily, the woman was struck speechless by the scene before her eyes: there on their knees in the snow were her two children praying. Conchita, absorbed in her vision, was leading the rosary;
Cetuco was devoutly responding. What else could Aniceta do but join in their prayer?
After awhile, the girl showed signs that she was getting up to walk. The mother then went ahead on the way down to clear out the path, pushing away the snow in the difficult spots . . . It was a useless precaution, since the girl — on her knees and
backwards — slid down over the white surface, as if following an invisibly marked path.
The extraordinary ecstatic march ended behind the mother’s house in the street or alley that — months later— would be the scene of the much discussed little miracle of the visible Communion.
The signs of penance, piety, and sacrifice that characterized the first winter in Garabandal were not destined to be a temporary thing . . .
On a summer day in 1970, Fr. José Laffineur(5) was speaking to Jacinta in Garabandal:
Fr. Laffineur — Jacinta, on November 30, 1961, Mari Cruz wrote the pastor of Barro, I go to the Cuadro every day at 6 in the morning to recite the rosary. Jacinta accompanies me. Conchita goes out at 6 o’clock, and Loli at 8:30, but they pray it in the church . . .
Jacinta — That’s true, Father.
Fr. Laffineur — Were you all four faithful, during such a cold winter in Garabandal, in spite of the rain, the snow, the ice?
Jacinta — Yes, Father.(6)
Fr. Laffineur — Then why haven’t you continued doing it until the present?
Jacinta — Because the Virgin told us to obey our parents.
What comes out from this conversation concerning the parents’ influence — legitimate, of course — on the visionaries with respect to their practices of penance and piety, is corroborated by another confession which was recorded from the lips of Mari Cruz’ mother Pilar on July 25th, 1964:
«Look. When Father Amador(7) was present here, he told me that Mari Cruz shouldn’t go to pray in the calleja. And one morning I told my daughter this, that she shouldn’t go to pray at 6 o’clock — that Father Amador had said that she could go, if she wanted, at another hour.
One day I didn’t let her go any more; and she stayed in her bed upset . . . And afterwards she said to me, Mama, I’m not telling you to go with me. If you don’t want to go, don’t go. You are not obligated. But I HAVE TO GO.
On the following day I went to find Fr. Amador, who had just returned from a trip. And I said to him, Look Fr. Amador, this is what’s happening to me with the girl. She told me that if I don’t go, she would go alone . . .
He answered me, Let her go, let her go.»
It is evident that the girls were clearly conscious of what was being asked from them; but that they were encountering difficulties in carrying it out.
They were at the time also adequately instructed about the primary end of their practices of piety and penance. Here is what Dr. Ortiz of Santander, an astute eye-witness, reports:
«During one of those days, I asked María Dolores after the ecstasy: What did the Apparition tell you?
She responded, The Virgin told me:
— to make sacrifices for the sanctity of priests, so that they may lead many souls on the road to Christ;
— that the world is worse each day and needs holy priests, in order that they may make many people return to the right way.
Previously, the Virgin told me to pray specially for priests so that they may want to remain, so that they may continue to be priests.»
The true meaning of these last words surely escaped the girl, since in those days there was only a faint beginning — which she could not have known from her village — of what was soon going to develop into a massive clerical betrayal . . .
Vatican II (which, with its changes and loose atmosphere, would come to be the occasion of this betrayal) was at the time only an expectant dream of a beautiful future for a Church that had decided to update through a thorough renovation. John XXIII’s optimism had spread everywhere; and in order to aid him, everywhere there was prayer and work for the success of the great enterprise.
The news had come to the girls at Garabandal too, and they joined as well as they could in the common prayer . . . On January 11th, 1962, Mari Cruz wrote in her scribbly penmanship to the pastor of Barro:
«I know that the Virgin wants us to be very good and to visit the Blessed Sacrament. I wish that you would pray to the Virgin so that I may be better every day. When I saw the Virgin, I told her what you wrote to me, so that the Pope and those who are with him succeed well in the Council; also I gave it to the others to read, so that they may do likewise.»
1. Dr. Ricardo Puncernau, a renowned neuro-psychiatrist from Barcelona, writes in his recent leaflet Psychological Phenomena of Garabandal:
«Ceferino was a rather rough man due to his straightforwardness. He told me the following:
"It was during the winter. There were no visitors in the village. There was a light snowstorm and it was freezing cold. About 3 in the morning, I heard Mari Loli get up and get dressed.
— Where are you going now?
— The Virgin called me to the Cuadro.
— You are crazy, being cold as it is.
— The Virgin called me to the Cuadro . . .
-—To see if a wolf will leap on you . . . Do what you want . . . But your Mother and I won't come with you.
Mari Loli finished dressing, opened the door of the house and went to the Cuadro, about 200 meters from the village. If I had been sure it was the Virgin, I wouldn't have left my bed . . . The Virgin would have taken care of her . . . But since we weren't sure, my wife and I got up and we made our way toward the Cuadro.
We found her in the middle of a snowstorm, on her knees in a trance.
It was hellishly cold.
Expecting to find her frozen, I slapped her cheeks. They were warm, as if she had never left the covers of her bed.
We were there more than an hour, suffering in the cold while she remained very happy, speaking with her Vision. To see it her parents had to do penance."
That is essentially what Ceferino told me one night while we were sitting on a bench in his tavern.»
2. This name should be familiar to the reader because of the many times that it has been mentioned in these pages.
3. This woman who was a government worker in Madrid would later become one of the most effective proponents and spreaders of the cause of Garabandal.
4. Cetuco (a nickname of Aniceto) was the second son of Aniceta. He was to die in early youth — with an exemplary death — in a hospital at Burgos in 1966.
5. This Belgian priest who lived in France was discussed in a previous footnote.
6. Jacinta is accurate according to her father Simón, an honest man of few words. In 1976 he told me:
«For 6 months we continued going to the calleja to pray the rosary every day at 6 in the morning. I accompanied the girl with an umbrella.»
7. As shown in the second chapter of Book Two, Fr. Amador was the priest whom the diocesan chancery officials in Santander assigned to the village of Garabandal in the autumn of 1961. He was their substitute for Fr. Valentín on whom they had imposed a vacation with the intention of curing him of his supposed inclination in favor of the apparitions.
When did Fr. Amador arrive? I cannot give the exact date. In the notes of Fr. Valentín, there is an intermission that goes from the last days of October, 1961 until January 27, 1962.
The day after that, January 28th, we have a note from Dr. Ortiz saying «Conchita, in her ecstasy at 7:10, was heard to say, Fr. Valentín asked me if the village wants him.» This can be seen as a very human question after his exile.