In order to better understand this, it should not be forgotten that this was Good Friday, celebrated in such an extraordinary way in Spain. Loli’s ecstasy took place at nightfall after an afternoon sanctified first by liturgical services, at which the whole village had assisted, and afterwards, by the way of the cross that many people had made. And Loli’s going out on the street coincided with the hour in which, through all the towns of Spain, the traditional processions of Good Friday were in progress, accompanied by tambourines and music from the best orchestras. In Garabandal during that year the processional marches had a very different sign. There were no marching steps, no music, no gatherings; but certainly it was lived like no other. Through one or another of the girls, the people participated in the mystery that the other processions could only recall.
«The girls step was light, rhythmic, regular. It appeared that she was walking on smooth and flat pavement; for her there did not exist all the things that we had under our feet: ruts, gravel, stones, rubbish.
As well as I could, I clung on to the arm of the girl that Loli held; but when, after stopping at the door of the church, the visionary undertook the ascent up the hill, I had to let go. I couldn’t follow them, I had the feeling that my heart, which was racing, was going to stop at any moment. The slope going up to the Pines was so steep! Exhausted, I rested halfway up the hill waiting for them to come down.
I began to think. The night,(11) up until then, had not been too pleasant for me. Whenever the girl had given the crucifix to kiss, she had obviously avoided my lips. The suspicion that, if this were true, it was the Virgin who was refusing my kiss, hurt me deeply.
When the descent finally came, I saw Mari Loli running backwards—her gaze always looking upwards— avoiding the obstacles and obstructions as if she had eyes on the back of her head.
On arriving at the village, she joined Jacinta. They laughed on meeting, and later they presented the crucifix to be kissed, and they walked onwards, holding arms.
Jacinta woke up at the door of the church, but Loli continued to her home still in a trance.
Then I went to search for Jacinta and I questioned her about Miguel. She told me that the Virgin had not answered her question. Dismayed, I went to the place where Loli was, who told me the same.
—Did she at least read my paper?
—Yes, she read it.
Father Corta was there, and on noticing my dejection, asked the girl if the Virgin would return. Yes, at 2 or 2:30. Then Father recommended that I come back to talk about the matter of my son.
At the hour foretold, Mari Loli fell again into ecstasy; she went out of her house and immediately joined with Jacinta, also walking in a trance through the street. They presented the crucifix to be kissed by all those who were there; but again they passed over me, as if avoiding my lips.
And the worst was what they told me on waking up. Both Jacinta and Loli gave me this answer: The Virgin has answered me; but I can’t tell it to you.
That outdid everything. I didn’t deserve that the Virgin notice me; and Miguel, in spite of everything that I supposed, was in a place . . . That it would be better not to know!(12)
I still had the courage to ask Mari Loli whether the Virgin’s answer was good or bad. She was evasive: I can’t . . . I can’t . . . And the expression on her face was truly impenetrable.
Again Fr. Corta tried to help me. (He saw my defeated look, and undoubtedly had pity on me.) He asked the girl, Could you tell her tomorrow? Loli shrugged her shoulders and limited herself to answering, Perhaps.»
Her first day in Garabandal was really becoming a day of testing for Mercedes Salisachs, an actual Good Friday, with its sorrows, its humiliations, its confusions, almost with its agony.
«When I awoke (undoubtedly in the early hours of the morning),(13) I had the impression of being changed into a block of ice. The suspicion that neither God nor the Virgin were on good terms with me left me as defeated as the thought that Miguel could be undergoing punishment . . . although it seemed illogical to doubt Miguel’s salvation.
Before going to sleep, I reviewed one by one all the phenomena that I had witnessed during the hours of the day and later throughout the night. And I wanted with all my heart to find some error that would show its falseness; something that would make me see that all this affair at Garabandal was pure superstition. But the more I thought over the events, the more authentic
everything seemed. I had to be the one in error! For that reason, undoubtedly, the crucifix hadn’t been given to me to kiss.»
We do not know if Mercedes made it to sleep that night; but we do know that the next day did not bring her much consolation.
The calendar read: April 21st, Holy Saturday.
Liturgically it was a day full of quiet peace, of holy waiting. The prayer that was recited at each hour of the Divine Office beseeched: Almighty God, while we piously await the resurrection of Your Son, concede to us, we pray you, to be participants one day in the glory of His resurrection.
For assisting us in difficult times, there is nothing like the support of holy hope, of expectation based on faith.
But for the unfortunate woman from Barcelona, this seemed to have ended:
«Holy Saturday was no better. In spite of the cordiality that the marquis and his wife, Father Corta, Father Valentín, the Police Chief, and even the mothers of the girls lavished on me, everything in the village seemed hostile. It was undoubtable that all this courtesy was due to the pity and suspicion stemming from the isolation to which the Virgin had sentenced me. But what the people thought mattered the least to me; what hurt me the most was perceiving the continuing disdain coming from above.
Finally I began to have a premonition that what was happening had some relation with the significance of the days that we were celebrating. Could all this have a liturgical meaning? I almost dared not think it, for it seemed too far-fetched.
But what was certain was that after that premonition, the anxiety left me. I resigned myself to everything and submitted myself to the will of God.
That night I ate dinner early, alone in the tavern. Afterwards the Chief of the Civil Guard took me to Conchita’s house. Her mother received me politely, and offered me a place next to her daughter.
The heat of the fireplace was stifling, and my physical state was getting worse; but my moral state was improving as each hour went by.
We talked of a thousand things. The most striking thing about the girls is their naturalness in the current of everyday life. They accept the supernatural with a simplicity bordering on the unbelievable. Seeing the Virgin seems to them to be within the reach of everyone; and what is happening seems normal to them.
What really concerns them is observing the incredulity of the people. They ask this question endlessly, Do you believe? Do you believe that we really see the Virgin? They probably think that upon this belief depends whether the Virgin will perform the great miracle that they have been predicting since the beginning. Outside of this, they always show signs of great certainty concerning theological matters. In spite of their evident lack of education, the knowledge with which they give out comments is astounding.
When Conchita fell into ecstasy, I had gone out of the kitchen (because of the unbearable heat) and so I couldn’t observe exactly how the phenomenon occurred. Nevertheless, on going out on the street, I could observe well what happened to Mr. Mándoli,(14) a recent arrival at Garabandal. Although a man of faith, he didn’t accept the apparitions. Soon I saw Conchita detour from her path and come right toward us (Mr. Mándoli was at my side) to present him the crucifix. But the man, either embarrassed or as a test, evaded it. Conchita, always with her head thrown backwards so as to make it impossible for her to see what was ahead, pursued him tenaciously with the cross until she managed to have him kiss it.
Turning then toward me, Mr. Mándoli admitted with feeling that he had petitioned the Virgin that, if this were true, Conchita would seek to make him kiss the crucifix. If my memory doesn’t fail me, on that night also, she didn’t give it to me to kiss.
Later Conchita joined the other three girls who were walking through the village in ecstasy too. All four held hands and with their customary light step made their way through the streets, followed by the crowd with flashlights.
I remember that other apparitions (Lourdes and Fatima) had been stationary and quiet. And it seemed as if the actions or movements in the ones which were now presenting themselves could have something to do with the characteristics of our times. It was as though the Virgin, just like John XXIII,(15) wanted to adapt her mercy to the restlessness of modern needs. Ecstasies like those at Lourdes or Fatima could have appeared incongruous in our times. The people needed another style. And what the girls of Garabandal demonstrated was well adapted to our ways.
The apparitions were accessible through the girls; everyone could, keeping a distance, participate. Each person, if he took the trouble, was able to take part, although indirectly, in the dialogues that the visionaries held with the Apparition. From the beginning—according to the girls—the Virgin showed signs of wanting to approach the spectators; she allowed them to ask questions, answered their prayers, accepted articles to kiss . . . Certainly this gave the impression of wanting to break down barriers.
Nevertheless, I found myself at the time so disconcerted by the ostensible disdain that the Vision was showing toward me that—without thinking of the unquestionable generosity that she was demonstrating to others—I made up my mind definitely not to ask any more questions, or to expect the least sign from the girls.»
The woman’s reaction, although not perfect, is easily explainable. What had happened was not what she had expected when she had set out on her pilgrimage.
We do not know at what time the ecstatic processional march, led by the group of visionaries, came to an end; but it must have been before 11:30, since at that hour the solemn pascal vigil services began in the church.
The streets were then deserted, as were most of the houses; the villagers and visitors had gathered in the sacred precinct to participate in the beautiful liturgy that concluded the Mass of the first pascal alleluias.
When the people left the church, the most beautiful Sunday of the year had begun, the day that celebrated the Resurrection, the true Day of the Lord.
There was not much time to rest, at least for this woman. Let us return to Mercedes:
«The women of the village, following an ancient custom, began to sing the rosary in the streets.(16) In spite of my exhaustion, I felt impelled to follow them. The devotion that one sensed in the atmosphere was really moving. I cannot remember experiencing a more fervent Easter than that one!
The night seemed to get clearer as the rosary went on. The tile roofs shone in the darkness almost like the moon and the stars.
We must have been on the third mystery when the unexpected happened. Someone tapped me lightly on the shoulder. On turning around, I met the marquise of Santa María who was holding Mari Loli’s arm. She spoke to me confidentially, Mari Loli says that she has something to say to you.
At the time I was confused. It didn’t occur to me what this could be for. I already had many disappointments and I wasn’t expecting anything.
But Rosario Santa María added, This concerns something that the Virgin told the girl yesterday, with the request not to mention it until after one at night (that is, until after the pascal vigil).
Mari Loli repeated somewhat bashfully, Later, later I will tell it . . .
Bewildered and intrigued, I did not know what to say. But Rosario—who had been with me during my bad times—intervened, Not later. You are going to tell it right now. You aren’t going to let this woman worry like this any longer.
Then Mari Loli and I went apart from the group. I leaned toward her and she whispered a message in my ear, but in a very clear voice: The Virgin says that your son is in heaven.
What I experienced afterwards, I can’t describe. Everything, absolutely everything dissolved in that wonderful statement.
I only remember that I embraced Mari Loli as if I were embracing Miguel. Later I found myself in the arms of Rosario; she was crying too, and was telling me so many things that I couldn’t understand. The people gathered around me, and in the throng I vaguely saw Father Valentín, Father Corta, Eduardo Santa María, the chief of the Civil Guard . . . All were looking at me, astonished and excited. Conchita’s mother also came, alarmed by the commotion, and wanting to help, exclaimed, Tell that woman, that if she is crying because she hasn’t received the crucifix to kiss, that she shouldn’t be disturbed, that during the whole night it hasn’t been given to me either.»
11. It was the night that for centuries had been consecrated to the solitude and sorrows of Mary, who had just seen the death and burial of the most perfect of Sons.
12. In spite of the present policy of not preaching about hell in the churches, its existence hangs inexorably over every Christian’s future, with the possibility of a final fall into absolute disaster.
13. We know that the nights of Garabandal were not made to give pleasure, nor for restful sleep. Ordinarily they consisted of penitential vigils, long periods of prayer, waiting without sleep, and marches with their inconveniences.
14. This man is completely unknown to me.
15. It should be taken into consideration that Mercedes Salisach’s report was written in the spring of 1962, a period when the popularity of the Pope at the time, John XXIII, had reached its apogee due to innumerable demonstrations of his good-natured personality and by the appearance of speed with which he was preparing the second Vatican Council.
16. This custom seems absolutely admirable to me. Hopefully it will not be abandoned, but rather spread to other areas! Could there be anything more indicated than a rosary at dawn to celebrate and relive that unique dawn of our history when the Son of Mary came forth from the sepulcher?