The police chief Juan Alvarez Seco tells of the arrival of a visitor at Garabandal:
«I don’t remember the date, but I do remember what happened.(6) I was present in the village on that night and I went to the bar of Ceferino, who came out to meet me, remarking to a woman:
This is the Police Chief, who has been present first hand at many apparitions. And afterwards he brought her up to me. This woman is from Barcelona and wants someone to explain some of this to her.
Turning to the woman, I greeted her courteously. And she immediately asked me if I believed in the apparitions. I answered that I did and she recorded it on a tape recorder.
Later she did the same with a cattleherder from the village. He declared sincerely, Look Señora, I don’t know what this is that’s happening, but since I have been present at the apparitions, I don’t talk as I used to. Before I blasphemed a lot, but I don’t do it now.
The woman also questioned a priest(7) who was there, and recorded his answers. This priest stated confidentially that he believed too.»
The woman mentioned here is Mercedes Salisachs of Juncadella, known in Spain as a writer. (Some years previous to her visit to Garabandal, she had won the prize Ciudad de Barcelona for a novel.) She herself confessed her reasons for coming to the site of the apparitions during these days of April, 1962, in a report that Sánchez-Ventura quoted in his book Apparitions are not a Myth.
She began briefly explaining whom her son Miguel was, what he meant to her, and consequently, the terrible pain that had struck her when on October 30th, 1958, with life just beginning—18 years of age—the young man had met death on the highways of France in an automobile accident.
«I don’t know»—she said—«what other mothers would have felt in losing a son of Miguel’s quality. But I doubt that they could have overcome an emptiness and grief like the one that fell upon me.
His death destroyed the main reason for my life; and on losing him, I felt myself crushed by a horrible darkness.
They told me that I would adjust with time. And, although I would not forget him, his memory would fade away, to remain a pleasant remembrance. They told me that, little by little, I would become accustomed to not seeing him, to not hearing him, and accept my situation without regret.
But time passed and I continued in despair. Although I tried to hide my melancholy, especially so as not to hurt my other four remaining children, as time went by the void increased, together with despondency and suffering.
People used religious arguments to help me. They talked about Christian resignation. They reminded me of Miguel’s faith, his exemplary life, and they told me that I should give thanks to God for having taken him in conditions so conducive to the welfare of his soul. But resignation didn’t come and all these arguments struck me as inapplicable and inconsistent.
There came a time when doubts against faith revolved over me obsessively. And all that I had previously professed without effort began to waver, leaving me all the time more discouraged. I changed into a different person, without any future except the past, without any hope except to die; but with the feeling that death ended everything, that hope was a great lie, and faith a childish device for holding us in line.
But my doubts were not always strong. At times, without knowing why, hope returned. And if Miguel could see me . . . If the Communion of Saints(8) were a real thing . . .
At the time I couldn’t keep on praying. I was always smashing against a wall of doubt. On one occasion I remember my mother suggested praying the rosary together, and (I am still ashamed of my reaction!) I refused, considering it vulgar.
I needed a sign. Something that could make me realize that life could continue after death.
But the sign didn’t come; nor did I seek it. For example, my devotion to the Virgin was practically nil.
Until one day—the feast of the Most Pure Heart of Mary—I instinctively went before an image of the Sorrowful Mother, requesting her to give me a sign if Miguel were saved.
It was not long in coming . . .
From that day onward, I had no more obsessions than to return to God. And five months later, on May 4, 1958, after a general confession, I came to God finally, with the intention of never separating an instant from Him for the rest of my life.
From that time everything began to change for me. Although my enormous loneliness for Miguel continued, and solitude continued tormenting me, my interior tranquility was great. Praying the rosary stopped appearing vulgar and my devotion to the Virgin increased day by day.
Then when I heard talk about the girls of Garabandal, I thought of visiting that isolated village not only out of curiosity, but also with the intention of rendering honor to the Virgin, even though the phenomena were open to discussion.
Taking advantage of the absence of my family, who had gone to Suiza, I left Barcelona on Holy Thursday in 1962,(9) accompanied by José, my driver, and his wife Mercedes.
We arrived at Cossío at noon on Good Friday, and there I met the pastor of Garabandal, Fr. Valentín Marichalar. While we were waiting for a vehicle to take us to the village, I used the occasion to converse with him. In spite of his understandable reserve, he finally admitted to me that he was basically convinced that the phenomena occurring there were supernatural, and that the girls were the proper persons, because of their innocence, to receive the Virgin’s visits.
It was already two in the afternoon when the car appeared that would transport us to Garabandal. Its driver, Fidel, informed us that Fr. Corta (a Jesuit priest who had come to help Fr. Valentín with the services of Holy Week) would give Communion up there, and that the whole village was congregated in the church.»(10)
Once in the village, Mercedes was able to establish contact with the visionaries and their families, perhaps through the services of the Police Chief Juan Alvarez Seco to whom, as we have seen, she was introduced by Ceferino at his tavern. She was also helped by the Marquis and Marquise of Santa María who were staying there again.
«That same night»—continued Mercedes—«I handed Jacinta some objects for her to give the Virgin to kiss, and I made the same request to her that I had made to the other three, When you see the Virgin, ask her about my son.
I think Jacinta asked, And what happened to your son?
I answered, He died.
Everyone had gathered at Mari Loli’s house, waiting for the apparition. I gave her a paper, written on both sides, and while giving it, I said to her: I don’t expect an answer. The only thing that interests me is knowing where my son is. I didn’t give his name.
I didn’t yet know how the visions took place.
Although it had been explained to me, it was difficult to picture them actual happening. Now, after having been in Garabandal several times and having seen so many ecstasies, I still feel that there can be no possible way of describing either the falls of the visionaries, their expressions and motions, or the attitude of respect that, in spite of the character of some of the visitors and the customs of the village, occurred whenever an apparition came.
At first glance, nothing that the girls do seems to have a meaning: their movements, their oscillations, their swift runs, their low-pitched conversations, their insistence on presenting the crucifix to be kissed . . . In summary, everything from the beginning causes wonderment because of its incongruity and appearance of being something without much depth. (There is a priest who, in his report, states that all this is “not very serious" probably being oblivious of the “not very serious" things that happened at Lourdes too.) Nevertheless, one finishes by expecting that everything that is occurring there has a meaning. The bad part is that, in order to understand it, one has to live in the village at least three days. As soon as one familiarizes himself with some of the apparent incongruities, everything becomes clear; the explanation, immediate or delayed, always comes.
In my case, I have to confess that, although I desired much, I expected little. I had envisioned my voyage as one should envision a pilgrimage: ready to face hardships and obstacles.
Waiting, as I said, at Loli’s house, we were not long in hearing the characteristic thump of the fall in ecstasy; it came from the upper floor. This caused a general silence, and a little later we saw Mari Loli coming down the stairs, holding the hand of another girl, looking upward with an enraptured expression. I don’t think the greatest actress could imitate that expression.
Mari Loli went up to the table that held the objects to be presented to the Virgin, and began to give them to be kissed. I saw how she took my paper, lifted it up, turned it to the other side, and set it down again on the table. Later she went out into the street holding a cross.»
6. It was on Good Friday of 1962: April 20th.
7. Perhaps this was a Jesuit who is mentioned later in the woman’s narration.
8. The Communion of Saints is one of the most beautiful dogmas of Catholicism. Catholics believe by this that there is an ineffable communication between those who have gone, and those who still remain; and also a mysterious interchange between them, in Christ and for Christ, in the Church and for the Church.
9. In Spain, half the day of Holy Thursday, and all of Good Friday are observed as feastdays, and are government holidays.
10. In Garabandal as in so many other villages in Spain (at least at the time), Holy Thursday and Good Friday were days consecrated to the observance of religious devotions; no one missed the liturgical services.
Good Friday services took place at one o’clock in the afternoon, seeking to correspond with the time in which Jesus expired His last breath.