They trembled before the possibility of a new swarm of people, followed by a dismal disaster. October 18th was still fresh in their memories!
I wrote letters.
But Father Valentín, who doubted that the miracle would happen, told me not to write any more letters, since perhaps it might not happen.
And there was a man in the village, Eustaquio Cuenca,(26) who told me the same thing as Father Valentín, that I shouldn't write any more letters.
And I said to them that the Virgin and Angel had told me to predict the miracle.
But the people of the village didn't believe it.(27)
As can be imagined, on the days before July 18th, which in that year fell on Wednesday — as the previously heralded October 18th had fallen on Wednesday — the influx of visitors to Garabandal began. Many set out on the way, taking advantage of the previous weekend, and so many came on Saturday, July 14th. Among these was the attorney from Palencia, Luis Navas Carrillo, who this time came accompanied by his aged mother. All were able to assist on that same night at a long, very interesting, and moving ecstasy of Mari Loli . . . But they waited in
vain for one to happen to Conchita, who never missed having one on Saturday. When they retired for sleep, it was 5 o'clock Sunday morning. And they had to get up early, since the only Mass of the day, celebrated by Fr. Valentín, had been scheduled for 9 o'clock. They could take, if they were able, a long siesta to make up for the loss of sleep at night.
All Sunday long pilgrims continued to arrive. Luis Navas remembers that at 1 o'clock in the afternoon, while they were waiting for the beginning of the rosary in the church, the fine rain typical of the Cantabrian mountains was falling. In the village appeared a large gathering of people «who came from Córdoba and other places, also a priest from El Aaiún,(28) who accidentally found himself in the neighboring village of Celis.»
The following Monday, July 16th, had a special distinction, since it was the feastday of Our Lady of Mount Carmel. Luis Nava's notes for this day read:
«We celebrated the feastday of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, but without a Mass, since the Mass on that day took place in the village of Cossío. This made me think of a Communion by the Angel. Since there was no priest to distribute Communion, it could well be expected that the Angel would come as on other occasions to give Communion to the girls.
I went up early to the Pines; there I was enjoying the marvelous view and the pleasant temperature, since it was a sunny day . . . Looking down, I made out one of the visionaries, without being able to distinguish which one of them it was, seated in the Cuadro, together with two or three other persons. I supposed that she was waiting for Communion, and I went down in a hurry . . . It was Mari Loli who was praying her morning rosary; I joined devoutly in the prayer and waited . . . Nothing happened and I went down to the village. I soon learned that Conchita hadn't gone to the Pines, as I had hoped, because she had forgotten and eaten some bread; but that she would go up a few hours later, toward one o'clock.
We accompanied her there. Some clouds began to appear in the sky while we were waiting. We prayed a Station to Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament, later an entire rosary. Some birds that were flying back and forth accompanied us with their singing.
As the clouds thickened, the sun gradually faded, as did my hope of being able to see — only one time! — the extraordinary phenomenon of the Mystical Communion about which I had heard so much said. Conchita waited standing up, sheltering herself against one of the nine pines there, protecting herself from a wet breeze that began to blow, and which was turning cold. The sky became completely overcast and the Angel didn't appear, in spite of waiting until about four in the afternoon.
Rather disappointed, we went down to the village to eat. And I took a siesta, expecting that later, most probably, we would have to spend the night standing up.
The rosary in the church was not at the time for holy days, but instead at nightfall, as on working days. Hardly had the girls gone outside, when Mari Loli went into ecstasy near her house, accompanied by Jacinta.»
We are familiar with what followed since it has been repeated so many times: walks through the streets of the village, marvelous ascents and descents on the trail to the Pines (frontwards, backwards), prayers, songs, holding out the crucifix to those present . . . As almost always, the episode ended in the church courtyard, and Luis Navas tells us about the ending:
«It was a moving scene that penetrated to the depths of my heart when the girls with angelic smiles, completely transfigured by a radiant beauty, raised themselves lightly on their toes, offering their two cheeks to the Vision's kiss. And after this, alternating, each one effortlessly lifted up the other in her arms to reach the mysterious Apparition, and again kiss and be kissed.(29)
Previously during the rosary the girls had recited the Credo; and, as was their custom whenever they prayed it in ecstasy, they added to Catholic Church the words Apostolic and Roman. In a similar way, they introduced an innovation in some final invocations. In place of saying True Apparition of Our Lady, Queen and Patron of the Montaña, they said, Our Lady and Queen of all Creation.(30)
This universal title makes me feel that Our Lady is sending a call to all her children. She makes it understood that her messages here do not have a restricted or local character.»
There was still more as the night of July 16th wore on. Navas Carrillo terminated his notes like this:
«I came to the conclusion that mere curiosity, if it could well be the initial reason for making the trip to Garabandal, soon dissipates, since it does not have its proper place there. What is felt here brings one little by little to prayer and sacrifice, to taste the peace and serenity of this little Mount Tabor.»(31)
On July 17th, Tuesday, the arrival of pilgrims took on an accelerated pace, as would be expected, and everyone's thoughts were on what was going to happen on the next day . . . according to Conchita's prediction . . .
Our lawyer from Palencia seems to have dedicated the hours of this day to reflecting on the unusual normality of the girls who for more than a year had been plunged into the daily abnormality of most unsettling phenomena:
«I spoke to the pastor of the village, and he told me that he had just received a report, completely favorable in this regard, from Doctor Ricardo Puncernau, a psychiatrist from Barcelona. This doctor had associated with the girls for several days, both individually and collectively. He had taken walks with them. He had expressed his impressions and doubts to them, which they always received with friendliness and good nature.
My study was limited to observing them, especially when they played with the other girls. I was pleased at the way Mari Cruz fought with a girl who was bothering her. Actually, she fought with a certain mildness, and only insofar as was necessary to stop the girl's annoying attitude.
In the prayers that they said in the normal state, I didn't notice anything special. I even had the impression that Conchita, for example, did not pronounce the words clearly, especially the Ave Marías, and she reminded me of some persons who pray from the pulpit as if they were in a hurry to finish. With regard to punctuality, that was not a quality that characterized them. Many times I saw them come late to church, sometimes one, sometimes another. I assisted at two of Jacinta's rosaries in the Cuadro at 6 in the morning; and besides the great sacrifice that could be supposed for a girl of her age to get up so early, her prayer had nothing special about it; frequently she opened her mouth and yawned.(32)
26. It has already been said that this man was an indiano of the village, and different from the others by his better economic situation.
27. The attitude of firm resistance that the people of Garabandal had against the girls’ phenomena has been shown enough; their hearts were too hard to believe in the truth of those things.
On July 14th, 1962, Luis Navas set out to take down impressions throughout the village «from the greatest number of persons possible.» He spent a long time with Mari Cruz’ mother who made this revealing statement: «I believe my daughter when she says that she sees the Virgin; but I’m not so sure that she actually does see the Virgin.»
In September of 1963, Jacinta’s mother, María, said to Fr. Laffineur: «I certainly believe when I see an ecstasy; when the ecstasy is over, I don’t believe anymore.»
28. A small town on the African coast. It was the capital of Spanish Sahara.
29. These positions, which undoubtedly were due to the Vision being elevated in front of them when they wished to reach her to give the final kiss, are seen in several photographs taken by the spectators.
30. From the days of the holy bishop of Santander, José Eguíno Trecu (†1961), there had been established in the diocesan churches the practice of concluding the rosary with the invocation Our Lady of the True Apparition, Queen and Mother of the Montaña, pray for us. This invocation was repeated three times, followed each time by a Hail Mary.
It is due to this bishop that Mary, under the title of La Bien Aparecida (The True Apparition) was proclaimed patroness of Santander, a territory covered with Marian sanctuaries. The sanctuary of Our Lady of the True Apparition is perched on a gorgeous hill overlooking the valley of the Asón River with views of Udalia and Ampuero, and is cared for by a community of Trinitarian fathers. The statue was taken from Santander during the last years of Bishop Eguíno Trecu’s episcopate to be solemnly crowned in the sanctuary.
31. Mount Tabor in Palestine is considered the mountain of Our Lord’s Transfiguration, where His glory was shown to three of His apostles.
32. As already was pointed out in another place, only those unfamiliar with the life of the spirit would be scandalized by the girls’ weaknesses. A basic tenet in theology is Grace does not destroy nature. It does not destroy it, nor does it change it . . . suddenly. And the condition of our nature is rather pitiful. The special graces that a soul receives (even those very special graces that could be expected in Garabandal) certainly create a necessity or requirement to change, to go on from better to better; but they do not cause it . . . and souls can respond with various degrees of fidelity. Some might say, If the apparitions were truly authentic, the girls, after such a long time of close contact with the Virgin, would have to be different than they are.
Actually, the apostles were in close contact with Jesus for a longer period of time — three years — and at the hour of His death, what were they like? If anyone does not know, the Gospel tells the story.
I do not pretend to make saints out of the visionaries since they unquestionably have many faults. I only mean to say that their real and apparent faults and weaknesses cannot be used as a proof against the ecstasies which they said they had, and which so many others were able to observe.