prototypes of the massive conversions that will follow the Miracle.
Shortly after this woman found her vocation in Garabandal, the time came for Máximo Föeschler to find the Faith. (I write the word with a capital to indicate that this does not refer to a faith, but to the Faith, the Catholic religion, the only one which I consider truly authentic . . . without in any way, showing disrespect toward the others, provided that they are practiced with what we call good faith and good will).
With the best of good will, Máximo practiced the Protestantism in which he had been brought up by his devout parents. He was German by race and by birth, an engineer by profession. In 1931 he had married a Catholic Spaniard, and had spent many years stationed in Spain, but it had never occurred to him to change his religion. He devoutly lived his protestant Christianity.
Máximo was stunned by the death of Fr. Luis María Andreu, whom he had known since he was a child. For this reason, one day he decided to go up to Garabandal, with the desire to see the places and the persons that meant so much to the beloved deceased in his last days.
As we have seen in the first part of this book, on Saturday, October 14th, 1961, he arrived for the first time at Garabandal, in spite of an almost tragic automobile accident at the mountainpass of Piedras Luengas.(2) He did not come alone; his wife accompanied him, together with Fr. Ramón Andreu, Mr. and Mrs. Fontaneda from Aguilar de Campoo, and several friends. What he saw and felt on his first visit has already been described: in brief, it did not have much of an effect on him.
But after some months, as if waiting for some mysterious rendezvous, Máximo decided to return to Garabandal. Let us listen to his description:
«Fr. Ramón Andreu was beginning the Spiritual Exercises in Loyola on March 19th, 1962. He wanted me to assist at them. Frankly, I was reticent to go, and I wondered what a Protestant could do in a sanctuary like Loyola.
For that reason, I decided to return to Garabandal, hoping for some solution to this.
We came there on Saturday, March 17th, with several friends from Madrid; also with my wife and one of my children. We saw the first ecstasy —with Mari Loli— at 9 at night. And I observed that she was almost entirely concerned with my wife, my son, and also myself. To describe this in detail would be an unending story.
At six at night on the following day, Sunday,(3) we all assisted at the holy rosary, which for me was really moving.
When we went out, I found Jacinta, whom I had not seen since the early morning of the past October 14th or 15th. I asked her why she hadn't given me the cross to kiss at that time. She didn't answer me. On insisting and telling her that I knew the reason (I thought it was due to my being Protestant), she repeated that she certainly didn't know.
Then I asked when she had last seen the Virgin and she told me, with great sadness, that 5 days had passed without seeing her.
—But I petitioned during the holy rosary for you to have a vision this very night. I have to leave tomorrow morning, and I need a great sign from the Virgin by means of you.
Actually, without telling anyone, I had asked that if this were from the Virgin, that she would give me an unmistakable and outward demonstration in an ecstasy with Jacinta: that something would happen to me! And to me alone!
At 9:30 at night, Mari Loli went into ecstasy in Jacinta's house to tell her that at 12:00 at night she would see the Most Holy Virgin.
And so it was. The girl went out onto the street in an ecstatic march, and every 10 meters she gave the cross to the 8 or 10 of us who were following her. Later I left the group and the girl went toward the church, where she prayed; and there she returned to the normal state again.
Since nothing in particular had happened to me, I thought that Loyola was not my destiny.
But Jacinta announced that there was going to be another vision at 3 in the morning. And still waiting, I went there by her house. At 3 on the dot the trance began, and as usual she went out on the street. I accompanied her during her trip; but finally I separated from the group and went into Loli's house, where they had a tavern. But toward 3:30 Jacinta came in there in ecstasy, and she made her way toward me through the many people that were there, gave me the cross to kiss, and made the sign of the cross over me three times. On that occasion no one else had the good fortune of kissing the cross. For me, this was very clearly the sign that I had asked.(4)
I considered that call of the Most Holy Virgin as a definite answer. And on the evening of January 19th, I was in Loyola, beginning the Spiritual Exercises in the house of St. Ignatius.
I had come there with such feeling—having known the Most Holy Virgin for the first time— that I derived the greatest fruits from the days of retreat.
On the third day, while at the holy Mass that they had in the Chapel of the Conversion, on seeing that the others who were making the retreats were receiving Jesus (in Holy Communion), and that I was not, I broke out in tears.»
The reader can suspect what happened later. Máximo Föeschler received baptism according to the rite of the Catholic Church on March 31, 1962, and on the following day, April 1st, with great feeling he received his First Communion.
«I will be eternally grateful»—he confessed— «for all the special graces I received through the Virgin's mediation, and which actually brought me into the arms of baptism. And I don't know how to give Our Lord and the Most Holy Virgin the thanks that they deserve for the miracle worked in me.»
With his entrance into the Catholic Church, did the affairs of Garabandal end for Máximo?
«A great many things happened to me on further visits, which would lengthen this report excessively. I only wish to mention a few:
One day, after Mari Loli had come out of ecstasy, she called me aside and told me what the Most Holy Virgin had said about me. In spite of the timidity that the girls had and though they were 12 years of age at the time, Mari Loli talked a long time to me with the greatest naturalness. She told me about me life, what I had done, and what had happened to me from my early youth until the present date. Absolutely no one in the village could know those details (some, not even my wife!) and many of them came to my memory again, due to hearing them from the girl.»
It occurs to me at this point: Why do some continue to say that all this is the fruit of a game of children, of their ability to deceive, a result of the atmosphere, or mass hysteria, that in all its elements has a natural explanation? Why do they not rather proceed without delay to do a work of charity by illuminating the darkness in those who continue believing in the Miracle, convinced that this is the finger of God?
This reminds me of what St. Paul wrote in his first letter to the Corinthians:
For it is written: I will destroy the wisdom of the wise and the prudence of the prudent I will reject.
Where is the wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the disputer of this world? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of this world? (1: 19-20)
But we are not thinking evil of anyone. All of us are in need of mercy.
2. Between the provinces of Palencia and Santander. It is one of the highest mountains in the Cantabrian range.
3. Liturgically the second Sunday of Lent, as we have seen in the previous chapter.
4. Actually what was done by Jacinta corresponded exactly to what Mr. Föeschler had requested secretly in his conscience.