As has already been shown, when the Virgin was the one who was going to appear, the ecstasies were always preceded with three mysterious calls . . . We find observations about these calls in Fr. Valentín's notes on September 6th:
«The children were accustomed to wait until 10:30 at night. If by that hour they hadn't received the first call, they went to bed. However, if they received a call before going to bed, then they would wait up for the apparition until the time it came, even though they fell asleep. They didn't want to go to sleep, since the Virgin had told them that they should wait up and make sacrifices . . . In other things, they each led a normal life at home and helped their mothers.»(5)
On the night of September 5th, Fr. Valentín told Loli that it was very late, that it would be better not to wait for an apparition. But she answered that the calls were unmistakable, that the apparition would come, and that because of this, although she was half asleep, she did not want to go to bed. And so the penance of waiting night after night was no small one, either for the girls themselves or for their families and those who accompanied them.
Evidently, the wonderful phenomena of Garabandal were not given as free entertainment . . . In Fr. Valentín's notes (Monday, September 24) appear these lines:
«The girls led a life of true sacrifice. Conchita's mother told me that her daughter slept better on a chair than in her bed, because she spent the night sitting down, waiting for the apparition like all of us. She slept with her head leaning on the wall. And the next day she didn't fail to walk to work. The four girls worked, swept, cleaned, went to the river to wash, and did everything like the other girls. Because of this, they were seen very little on working days; but on Sundays they played in the streets like the other young children in the village. In spite of the little that they slept and rested, they looked strong and healthy . . .»
Besides the marvelous normalness that extended throughout September, there were some days that had their own particular note.
For example, there was the night that bridged September 5th to September 6th, Wednesday to Thursday. There were many people from Barcelona, Madrid, Bilbao, Santander, and Seville. But probably the person with the most special invitation from heaven was an English Protestant (Anglican), who had been there once before. She was watching the ecstasy that Loli was having in her home when suddenly the girl, in a very special way, gave her the cross to kiss several times, and one of the times she left it applied to her lips for some time.
«Barbara» — read Fr. Valentín's notes — «was blanched white, very excited. When the ecstasy was over, I spoke to her. She was sure that all this was the work of the Virgin, and she was already disposed to becoming a Catholic.»
That night when she passed by the English woman in ecstasy, Conchita also stopped very significantly and gave her the cross to kiss.
On the night of September 7th to the 8th, Loli had an apparition alone, toward 3:45 in the early morning. During the ecstasy, among other things she was heard to say, «Is it the feastday of the Virgin of Health? Is it your feastday?» The village had a little chapel dedicated to Mary under the title of The Virgin of Health, and its celebration (like so many other of Mary's titles and appelations) was on September 8th, the feastday of the Nativity of Our Lady.
«When Loli's ecstasy ended» — as we read in Fr. Valentín's notes — «we met Jacinta and her brothers who were going to the Sanctuary of the Virgin of Light, which is six hours of hiking by foot on trails across the mountains.(6) They carried a flashlight for illumination. The first thing that they did was to pray a rosary in the Cuadro. (Jacinta prayed there every day at six in the morning.) Jacinta was full of joy, and was making the sacrifice of getting up early in the
morning and the long hike to ask the Virgin to return to see her soon . . . She and Mari Cruz are the ones who see the Virgin the least. Later I learned that Mari Cruz also had gone to another sanctuary to request the same . . .»
September 16th, Sunday, was memorable and instructive. We read in Fr. Valentín's journal:
«There was a man in the village who was half-crazy, and he was doing ridiculous things that could have been very wrongly interpreted by the visitors who didn't know his mental condition. He had been in an insane asylum for a year, and now he was staying here. This was causing trouble and annoyance, and he had to be sent away.
During the ecstasy on that day, Loli and Conchita went to the house where this disturbed man called Alfonso was. And with a crucifix they made a cross there on the pillow on his bed. And while passing by him, they gave him the crucifix to kiss several times. The disturbed man was struck to his knees.
That night Fr. Anzizu(7) commented: What a lesson in charity the girls gave us. Everyone who had been talking about the necessity of throwing the insane man from the village was touched; above all, the Cardinal's secretary, Fr. Guillermo Hausschildt, who had thought of refusing him Communion. He said: It is clear the Virgin wanted to give us a lesson.
Conchita was asked why she had gone to the place where the deranged man was and had repeatedly given him the crucifix to kiss. And she answered, The Virgin told us: “you despise him; but I love him."
A response like this put us down, making us see our great lack of charity.»
Perhaps the words that Conchita was heard to say during the ecstasy had some relation with this unforgettable lesson from the Mother of God: «When you come down here to earth, why do you come? To save the world?» Surely mental cases are not the only ones who need salvation; nor are they the cases that need it the most.
The neuropsychiatrist from Barcelona, Dr. Puncernau, who had carefully studied the girls previously, continued his studies and examinations during these days. He discussed his findings with a colleague, the pediatrician from Santander, Dr. Ortiz, who wrote:
«Jacinta's father asked me to please be present; and it was no wonder, since they had had enough of doctors' inquisitions.
I asked Puncernau for his conclusions.
He answered, I have no doubt about the complete normality of the girls; since the facts can't be attributed to any illness. With regard to this matter, this is the third time that I have come to Garabandal with the intention of studying the visionaries. If I would have seen anything suspicious, I would have said it immediately.
In that we were in agreement.»
On several of these days, the girls' words and phrases were recorded on tape. Although many of the words had only insignificant meaning, at times others came forth of greater scope:
«Most Holy Virgin, let me not abandon you! Let me love you all my life! Oh! That I may never leave you. That I may love you always, always, until death. Most Holy Virgin, do not refuse us help.»
5. God never calls any of those on earth — a time for merit — to a life of easy convenience.
6. This hermitage or sanctuary of Mary was on the other side of the Peña Sagra Mountains, on the slope facing Liébana.
7. The two priests mentioned here came from Argentina, accompanying Cardinal Caggiano (Archbishop of Rosario, who was journeying at the time to Rome to participate in the coming Ecumenical Council). These priests took advantage of their passage through Spain to take a trip to Garabandal. The impression that they received there could not have been better, especially for Fr. Anzizu. He openly declared his intention of speaking in Rome about the extraordinary phenomena.
8. It seems clear that Conchita was asking to be able to enter the convent at 14 years of age. And she was asking for a special grace, since she had learned that there was nothing that could be done until 16 years of age, as someone had told her. Canon Law fixes this age of 16 years as the minimum for being able to take religious vows.
The brother about whom she speaks in this last petition was Aniceto —familiarly called Cetuco—who was suffering from the pains of an illness that a few years later would bring him to his death, an exemplary death at the hospital in Burgos, lovingly cared for by his only sister, Conchita.