TOWARDS THE END
It was the Miracle that was beginning to appear as the finale of the whole process. On the one hand, it would come to put a definite seal of authenticity on the origin of so many and such extraordinary phenomena; on the other hand, it would come to give the last opportunity for salvation before the great catastrophe.
With the Miracle in sight, one could begin looking for a final outcome, since certainly no one could think that these phenomena would continue like this indefinitely.
And so the Miracle was being discussed more and more in the statements of the girls and was increasing in importance in the hopes of the pilgrims.
The winter of 1963 began on the heights of Garabandal without an interruption in the normal march of the apparitions. The three girls who remained — Jacinta, Loli, and Conchita — were accustomed to have their ecstasies individually. But at times the three joined together, and the ecstatic march that resulted was singularly beautiful. In Fr. Valentín's notes of December 3rd, 1962, there is this excerpt:
«Today our attention was attracted by their way of walking. A total synchronization of movements was observed. The three held their step perfectly, in the manner of a military march. They only lost the rhythm when they had to avoid some difficult obstacle, or on the rare occasions when they stumbled; but immediately they regained the cadence. Loli attracted the most attention because she has a natural tendency to walk with shorter steps than the other two, probably because she is much smaller.
On this day, Conchita came out of ecstasy before the other two;(1) and it was observed that, while the other two continued in their rhythmic step, perfectly synchronized, Conchita began to walk in her normal way. There was also another unusual thing on this day. We had always seen that when the three girls marched in ecstasy, Conchita infallibly occupied the center position. Today it was not this way; she constantly occupied a position on the side. Jacinta went in the center, Loli at the left, and Conchita at the right.»
December 6th was a Tuesday, the day before the vigil of the Immaculate Conception. Long before dusk had settled, toward 5:30, Conchita had an ecstasy that lasted 90 minutes. When it was over, the girl made two important announcements concerning the Miracle:
1) One day, a little before the Miracle will be performed, something will happen that will cause many people to stop believing in the apparitions of Garabandal. The doubts and desertions will not be due to an excessive delay of the Miracle.
2) On the day of the Miracle, the note that she signed in Santander (stating the apparitions were not authentic) would disappear.(2)
Two days later came the feast of the Immaculate Conception, the most solemn Marian feast and the one best observed in Spain. Furthermore, it was Conchita's nameday. Almost at the beginning of the day, at 3 o'clock in the morning, the girl was favored with an ecstasy. Part of what she said in conversation with the apparition was recorded on a tape recorder. Some of her phrases had an astounding childishness, if it is taken into account that she was approaching
her 14th birthday. For example with regard to the Infant whom the Virgin brought this time:
«Today they brought an infant to me that doesn't seem like the one that you bring . . .(3) And how long since you've come with the Infant! He hasn't grown at all! Look, He's the same as He was . . . Where has He been? Where has He been? . . . Oh! When the Infant doesn't come where does He stay? In heaven! In a cradle? . . . Oh! But you can't be here and there!»
Interspersed with these childlike remarks and other unintelligible expressions, there also were heard words obviously related to the Miracle. But they did not spell out anything new, leaving up in the air any explanation that might have been given by the mysterious conversationalist.
The same kind of thing occurred in the ecstasy that Jacinta had almost immediately afterward. There were similar childish questions as:
«Do you sometimes shiver there when snow comes like this? . . . But the snow comes from there up above.»
Together with these remarks, there were other points of interest that could not be completely understood:
«I want that day to come, to be part of it . . . You know why I want that day to come? My father doesn't believe . . . Oh! After the Miracle comes, will the people believe? . . . A week is enough? . . . when will the people see you?»
The topic of the Miracle filled the air in Garabandal in those final weeks of 1962. Fr. Valentín's notes, which end during these days, give as almost the last piece of information:
«On this day of December 15th, Conchita told Mercedes Salisachs that a totally paralyzed man would be cured on the day of the Miracle, wherever he was.»(4)
In an atmosphere like this, what produced the tremendous crisis that abruptly dashed the hopes and annihilated most of the enthusiasm?
1. In Garabandal during these December days was a man from Barcelona named Francisco Clapes Maymó, who was kind enough to send me a copy of his notes from this period. In the notes pertaining to the night between December 2nd and 3rd, I see Fr. Valentín's statements confirmed:
«Conchita ended the ecstasy first, and she continued holding the arms of Jacinta and María Dolores (Loli).
María Dolores had an expression of sorrow.
Ceferino, who was listening beside María Dolores in ecstasy, said that from what he had heard this was diabolical, and they were discussing this . . .
Conchita said the meeting that they had in ecstasy in a room of her house was not diabolical, but from the Virgin.»
This meeting took place on the previous afternoon, December 2, and we know of it from the testimony of this same Mr. Clapes Maymó:
«At 6:20 in the afternoon Conchita fell into ecstasy while playing, and on seeing her, María Dolores and Jacinta had an ecstasy too.
They didn't say the rosary. They made tours through the village, coming to the church several times. At the beginning of the ecstasy the three entered Conchita's house, went up to her room, making signs so that no one would follow them.
They were upstairs for a while. We don't know what they did or said.» (It might be asked whether this private audience might not have been for the Virgin to reveal the date of the Miracle.)
2. This refers to the paper that she signed — on pressure from Dr. Piñal — when she was taken to the capital at Santander at the end of July, 1961. (See chapter VI of Part One.)
The information about December 6th was taken from the notes of Fr. Valentín.
Mr. Clapes Maymó gives his version as an eyewitness:
«Conchita had an ecstasy that went from 5:35 to 6:40 in the morning . . .
When she was normal again, she said that the paper the doctor in Santander had made her sign — stating that the apparitions were false and that she was insane — would disappear by the Virgin's command.
She said too that just before the Miracle almost no one would believe in Garabandal . . .»
3. A young woman from Madrid, Paloma Fernandez- Pacheco, was present on that day in Garabandal with her husband Mr. de Larrauri. She wrote me several observations:
«The infant about whom Conchita talked in ecstasy was the Infant Jesus of the Nativity that I brought. I myself took the reel of tape that recorded the conversation to the NO-DO laboratories. It was rather long, and at times the Virgin's voice seemed to be heard. At NO-DO they told me that the tape had two voices on it. But that they were not at the same volume, as they were very different in tone and pitch. (I don't remember well the technical words they used.) They were amazed . . .»
4. Clapes Maymó also confirms this information. On the morning of December 10:
«Conchita had an ecstasy between 5:27 and 5:37 (ten minutes). Accompanying her were Mrs. (Mercedes) Salisachs, a lady friend, Felix (An ex-seminarian from Bilbao), a young child from Colunga (Asturias) and Mrs. Salisachs' chauffeur . . . She said that a paralyzed child — known by this woman — for whom she had asked Conchita to pray, would be cured wherever he was» (on the day of the Miracle).