The Bells of the
It was to be called Vatican II because of the site of its celebration; it was to be the most ecumenical of all those celebrated until then, both by the number and by the variety of its participants.(2)
The proceeding had enormous expectation; it was being accompanied with enormous hope . . . And so anticipation for the Council was resounding throughout the world long before the heavy bronze bells of St. Peter’s rang out their symphony over Rome on the morning of October 11th.(3)
Garabandal could not withdraw from the impact of such an event. Because of this, attention to what was being prepared in Rome intertwined at the mountain village with the course of its own proper affairs that were so marvelous all the time, so unusual from time to time. From the latter, we know some particularly intriguing happenings which still have not been made clear.
In a letter that María Herrero wrote to her sister on September 24th, this sentence can be read:
«I told you on the phone about the fire; they have taken the earth to analyze it.»
From this brief remark, we have no idea what she was referring to; but fortunately this woman used the occasion to send a report in French to the Holy Office at Rome about information that she had heard from Fr. Valentín:
«One day there were many people in Garabandal. Some of the visitors made a fire under the Pines to cook or keep warm. They left, thinking that they had put out the fire. Days passed, and that fire could not be extinguished, in spite of doing everything that was possible to put it out.
I myself, on coming to the village during those days, could notice the strange brilliance that was there above the Pines. It was because of this that I asked the pastor about it. And Father Valentín explained to me the origin of the phenomenon and what had been done to end it. He added that the thing had lasted for weeks; and that seen from afar, it seemed during the day to be a column of smoke and during the night a diffuse of brilliance.
There were not lacking the learned in geology — he concluded, smiling with a certain gracious slyness — who were determined to give an explanation for the phenomenon. We will see. For the moment, they have taken some samples of this earth that burns to examine them in the laboratory.»
This is all that I can say about this undeniable and curious phenomenon; and this is rather little, since I was not able to obtain more information.
Some passages from the bible come to mind here:
By day in a pillar of cloud, and by night in a pillar of fire:
that He might be the guide of their journey day and night.
There never failed the pillar of cloud by day,
nor the pillar of fire by night, before the people.
and on earth blood and fire and columns of smoke.
Every person can have his own considerations about this . . . One thing is certain: in Holy Scripture, the column of smoke and the column of fire, the dark cloud and the devouring flame, are always used in connection with manifestations of the Divine Presence.
And I might add that these were not the only cases of unexplainable fire reported in Garabandal. The people there speak about what had mysteriously happened to a man in the village on a night that he was passing by the Pines; and also about what happened to the son of Simón and María on an early morning before dawn when he was going down toward Cossío to catch a bus.
Mrs. Herrero de Gallardo was speaking with Mr. Illera (a person well known in Santander) in the Hotel Real of that city, on September 2nd, 1965. From his lips she heard this utterance:
«I’m not the person to say if the events of Garabandal are true or false; that’s the task of the Church. But I’m able to give testimony of what I’ve seen, since I followed the things that were happening there in 1961 and 1962 with great interest. What I’m going to tell you now took place in 1964, when the apparitions had already ended.(4)
I had gone up to the village and was walking back and forth when suddenly, in a completely clear and cloudless sky, a very thick black cloud came forth and hovered above the Pines. I was looking at it, very astounded — not knowing how to explain where it had come from. The cloud seemed to grow bigger, became darker, more threatening . . .
I was looking at it, very astonished on my part, when suddenly the cloud broke in half. And as if coming forth from within it, appeared a little brilliance, or if you will, a little white cloud, very bright, which increased in size and increased in size again, until it engulfed and made the imposing black cloud disappear. For a length of time that I could not say for certain— several minutes anyhow—the brilliant white cloud stayed there, crowning the Pines; and suddenly, unexplainably, disappeared, leaving a sky as blue and transparent as though nothing had passed through it.»
The fact seems undeniable, and it could be a basis for many comments and interpretations. Was all this a prophetic announcement of something that was going to happen? And if so, to whose future was it referring? That of Garabandal, so despised by some clerics, so rejected by many bishops? Or the Church after the Council, according to some revealing words of Paul VI that we will quote later.(5)
Concerning this enigma, only God can give satisfactory answers.
1. On the 25th of January, 1959, in the basilica of St. Paul outside the walls of Rome, John XXIII publicly announced his proposition to convoke a new Ecumenical Council. Then he immediately began with the preparations—preparations that were foreseen to be long and complicated.
There was first a period anti-preparatory, which lasted a little more than a year. Following this on June 5th, 1960 began the preparation properly called, with the formation of Commissions, Sub-Commissions, and Secretariats. Finally on December 25th, 1961, the Apostolic Constitution Humanae Salutis convoked the Council for the fall of 1962. The exact date of the opening was fixed a little later for October 11th, the feast of the Maternity of Mary.
2. Approximately 3,000 Fathers of the Council, bishops for the most part, came to Rome — men of every race, language and condition. Without the spectacular development in the means of communication during the past decades, the assembly of such a widely dispersed congregation would not have been possible.
3. It has already been mentioned that the solemn opening of the Council took place on this day.
4. The apparitions did not end until November of 1965; but an almost complete eclipse occurred after the winter of 1963.
5. Homily on the feastday of St. Peter, given in the Vatican basilica on June 29th, 1972.