If the illustrious priest from Madrid left Garabandal without knowing the cause of it, or without venturing to express his opinion, it was not the same with two visitors who arrived in the village at the very time he was leaving. Their names should be mentioned, since they comprise part of this enigmatic story. They were Dr. Ricardo Puncernau, a distinguished neurologist from Barcelona, and Fr. Luis López Retenaga, a professor of theology in the diocesan seminary at San Sebastián.
I cannot give the exact dates of their arrivals; but certainly they were in Garabandal in the early days of August, 1962; and for the neurologist, it was not the first visit, although perhaps it was the first for the priest.
The attorney Luis Navas left Garabandal on July 23rd and was not planning to return until Saturday, August 11th, to be there for the feast of the Assumption. But he returned a week earlier as he explained:
«I was with my in-laws in Santander. I aroused their curiosity first, and then their interest in Garabandal, in such a way that we agreed to return there on Saturday, August 4th. On that day, after having enjoyed a beautiful and sunny morning at the beach, we ate and set out for San Sebastián de Garabandal.
I was very happy to renew friendships there that had been formed during the apparitions. Dr. Puncernau was there, having come from Barcelona, this time with his wife and oldest son. I single him out from the rest because of his position as the neurologist who prepared a complete report for the pastor about the visionaries’ irrefutable normalness before and after their ecstasies. Also, I met many priests and religious there, among whom was one from the province of San Sebastián who had the intention of informing the bishop of his diocese about all these things.»
This priest from the Basque province of San Sebastián undoubtedly was Fr. Luis López Retenaga, although Mr. Navas does not mention his name.(11)
«As on other occasions, the people had hardly gone outside after the rosary on that Saturday, Our Lady’s day, when Conchita and María Dolores were in ecstasy at the very door of the church. I was very happy about this since I had not seen them together in ecstasy since that famous October 18th of the previous year, the day of the message; although on that occasion, the four girls had been together.
They went out holding hands, as if Mari Loli were letting herself be docilely led by her older sister, obeying the suggestions of the Vision.»
What the attorney goes on to narrate coincides with what Fr. Enrique Valcarce wrote in his report about the happenings of the previous Saturday. From this we can see that within the almost continual variations of the phenomena, there was a certain uniformity of procedure.
From the pastor Fr. Valentín we have some brief notes that complement those of Luis Navas and Maximina González, helping us to better re-create in our minds the atmosphere at Garabandal during the early days of August, 1962:
«August 3rd. At 4:00 in the morning, Loli went into ecstasy in her home. There were many people from Barcelona, Madrid, Santander . . . a diocesan priest, a Claretian Father and a Jesuit. She gave the articles to be kissed to the Vision, and afterwards she returned them to their owners. She didn’t leave her home.
August 4th. At 9:30, after the rosary, the four girls went into ecstasy. They went toward the cuadro. Later they went to the Pines praying the rosary. During the Hail Mary, they said, Hail Mary, Mother of God and Our Mother.(12)
They descended backwards toward the church; they walked around it. It lasted about an hour. There were two professors from San Sebastián, a Claretian priest, a Jesuit — Father Alba, from Barcelona — and Father José Ramón.»(13)
And so at the beginning of the second August of apparitions in Garabandal we see that the phenomena continued without eclipse. And the questions continued . . . without answers. The inquisitive came and went, but also those who seriously sought to understand the reasons and the explanations for all these things.
The memory of July 18th lingered on, the day of the Miracle of the Host.
Now we see better that the unequivocally predicted miracle or milagrucu came mainly to call attention to the most important treasure that we have in our Christian and ecclesiastical heritage: the actual presence of the God-man among us as our daily nourishment.
However, as so often occurs in the affairs of God, this served also as a test, as a means for the fall and for the rise of many. (Luke 2:34) Some believed more than ever; others doubted more than ever. Some became fervent; some lost interest; and some took on a spirit most opposed to the Eucharist: that of discord, hostility, jealousy.
The hidden mystery, in spite of everything, continued onward. The expectation of its final outcome did not die with the defections in the ranks of the first followers; soon new disciples came forth from those called at the last hour.
11. I do not want to pass over the appearance of Fr. Luis Retenaga in Garabandal since he was to assume an important role in the observation and judgment of these phenomena. Perhaps it could be said that he was for the events of 1962 what Fr. Ramón María Andreu was for those of 1961.
He was soon able to capture the confidence of the seers and their families, which assured him a privileged place for following the events near at hand.
As a result of his observations and reflections, he composed a long three part report addressed to Eugenio Beitia Aldazábal, the bishop of Santander at the time. The first part was completed in San Sebastián on December 18th, 1962; the second, in the same city on April 6th, 1963; and the third on April 9th of the same year. We will refer several times to this report in what is still left of our story.
12. Fr. Valentín was struck by the addition of our Mother to the recitation of the Hail Mary. And he was not the only one—Luis Navas, the lawyer from Palencia, who was present that day, wrote:
«We had never heard them say it this way, Mother of God and our Mother. The village priest took note of this very interesting detail that so much reflects the maternal character of the Virgin. The visionaries’ way of speaking, with their even-pitched, soft, delicate, melodious voices filled our souls with tranquility, as though we were feeling Our Lady above our heads.»
We can understand Mr. Navas’ sentiments. But if the new form of the Hail Mary was a novelty to him, certainly it was not to Fr. Valentín, unless it was due to the tone and the persistence of the girls, since Mother of God and our Mother was heard for the first time in Garabandal on August 1st of the previous year, as has been mentioned.
13. We already know one of these two professors at San Sebastián: Fr. José Ramón, the pastor of Barro. As for the Jesuit from Barcelona, Fr. Alba, it could be said that he was a distinguished apostle, deeply appreciated in religious and spiritual circles in the city of Ciudad Condal. Who then was the Claretian father that Fr. Valentín mentions? Certainly it was the missionary father spoke of in Maximina’s letter; in another report the name of Fr. Ellacuria has been seen.
As can be seen, a fine contingent of visiting priests.