The raging waves of the great disillusion that were dashing against Garabandal during the winter of 1963 reached also, as we have seen, the one who seemed the most secure of the four: Conchita. Not only with regard to the truth of what had occurred, but also with regard to the fulfillment of what she had predicted.
I also doubted a little that the Miracle would come.
And one day, while in my room, doubting if the Miracle would really come, I head a voice that said:
Conchita, do not doubt that my Son will perform a Miracle.
I felt this inside; but as clear as if it came through my ears; or even clearer.
It was without words.
It left me a peace . . . A joy!
More than when I see Her.
And the first person to whom I told this was Plácido.(6)
And later he told it to the others.
They are called locutions.
And they could be called a voice of joy, a voice of happiness, a voice of peace.
And then, I didn't doubt anything again.
But the days passed.
And the voice didn't return.
That made me suffer.
But I understand: how could God go on giving me such happiness so often, without meriting it?
The locutions did me much good.
Much, very much.
Because it was as if the Most Holy Virgin were within me.
I prefer the locution more than the apparitions, since during the locution, I have her in my very self.
Oh! What happiness, with the Most Holy Virgin within me!
And what a shame, to be so bad!
But that is the world.
These sentences were almost the last in Conchita's unfinished diary. They bring out new(7) phenomena that came to supplant and extend the apparitions. They differed from the apparitions not only in content, but also in frequency: the locutions occurred on few occasions.
The first locution — which Conchita mentions in her diary — took place at the beginning of Lent in March of 1963. There was a month lapse before another occurred.
At the end of the month, again I heard that voice of interior happiness without words, in the church.The adolescent girl — having just had her 14th birthday — was at that time living a period of special fervor. In Maximina's letter of February 11th, it can be read:
«Conchita, when she is home, (that is, not working in the fields) spends almost the whole day in church. In the morning she goes there to pray a rosary and some women go with her; in the afternoon she goes to spend most of the day there. She doesn't know what it is to get weary. The other day I asked her, What do you like most: to play or to be in the church? And she said to me, I like both things very much.»(8)
An interval of one month between locutions seemed to become routine,(9) since on November 28th of that same year, Conchita wrote to María Herrero de Gallardo:
«You say that I should tell you things about the Virgin. What am I going to tell you, if I don't see her now? Only that I talk to her once each month. I still haven't spoken with her this month. Tomorrow or the day after, she will speak to me.»
María de Gallardo added a note that said: «On the following day, November 29th, she had the locution that she was expecting.»
But we are indebted to Fr. Retenaga for the best information on the Garabandal locutions. Quoting from his third report, finished in September of 1963:
«I traveled to Garabandal to aid the parish priest during the past Holy Week.(10) In Santander, I had already heard rumors that were circulating among the people concerning Conchita's and Loli's new and extraordinary phenomenon.
Julia González, Loli's mother, talked to me about a conversation she had in March with her daughter concerning the new phenomenon that Loli didn't know how to explain.
During Holy Week, the girls talked to me repeatedly about the internal visions that they appeared to be having. I was able to examine Conchita and Loli separately, and I came to the conclusion that this concerned locutions, as later I informed Bishop Beitia of Santander in a conversation with him on April 17th.
Conchita told me that the new phenomenon had already happened to her several times. On asking her to explain it better, she told me, I hear something; yet I hear it without hearing.
The new phenomenon began in March, when she had been suffering since the past January due to the absence of the Virgin. Assailed by many people's doubts, she also had begun to waver. And one day on her knees at home, with considerable anguish, she heard the Virgin say (without speaking): Do not doubt that my Son will perform a miracle. After that time her confidence with respect to the miracle (11) was evident in the unalterable peace that she now enjoys. She confessed to me that at the same time she heard without hearing other things for the good of her own soul and souls of others.
The mystics have described their difficulties in explaining the high spiritual communications that they receive from God. In Conchita and Loli the matter was complicated by their poor vocabulary. Their education was very limited, especially with regard to religion. During the time of the apparitions, they still asked what the word council meant; and several times they asked me about words that seemed very ordinary to all of us. Living without a resident priest in
the village had made it difficult for their religious formation. Today, the minds of the girls are much more enlightened than previously; but they stumble with great difficulty in describing their interior experiences.
In my first investigation I noticed that Conchita didn’t know that the same phenomenon had been given to Loli. (And likewise Loli didn’t know about Conchita). But both, when separated, coincided with each other in their answers to me. Both insisted that neither their feelings nor their imagination had played any part in what had happened to them.
Not satisfied with the first examination, on returning from Garabandal to my quarters, I composed a list of questions and took advantage of Conchita's trip to Lourdes(12) to complete my information. Later (in the month of July) I continued questioning her; and afterward, apart from her, I questioned Loli.»
6. Plácido Ruiloba, a businessman from the capital of Santander, whose name comes up many times in this story.
7. New in the affairs of Garabandal; but very ancient in the course of Catholic mysticism.
8. A sincere and most human answer, which reveals how normal Conchita was. What 14 year old girl would not like to amuse herself, with the world just beginning to spread open before her? Merit is in knowing how to renounce at times the desire for pleasure out of higher motives, so as to attend to matters that are more important, although less pleasurable. Here again is seen the theological axiom that grace does not destroy nature, but perfects it.
9. This was affirmed by Maximina’s letter of July 7 to Mrs. Asunción Pifarré:
«I don’t know if I’ve told you that Conchita and Loli have locutions — which is something like talking to the Virgin without seeing her . . . They told me that they feel a great joy when they have these locutions. I think that they have them once a month.»
10. In that year it fell between the 7th and the 14th of April.
11. A letter that Conchita wrote to Father Odriozola in the early days of May ended this way:
«I am certain also that the Miracle will come, since the Virgin told me, and also the date of the Miracle, and in what it will consist . . . I am as certain that the Miracle will come as I am that two and two equal four.»
12. This trip, arranged by Fr. Retenaga, had its story. On May 9th Conchita wrote to Fr. José Ramón, the pastor of Barro:
«I still don’t know if we are going to Lourdes. My mother thinks we won’t go, since she prayed that if this were true, that we would go; and if it were a lie, we would stay. And she thinks that we won’t go.»
Seven days later, on May 16th, another letter was addressed to the same person:
«Yesterday I received your card, and I am responding to tell you that today I am leaving (for Rentería or San Sebastián to join there with the pilgrims from the diocese of Guipuzcoana) to go on Saturday to Lourdes.»
We have the testimony of Father Retenaga on Conchita’s attitude during her first visit to Lourdes:
«Among the 1,300 Spanish pilgrims who were wandering enthusiastically in the locale where the apparitions had taken place, amid the religious emotion aroused in them by being near the grotto during the baths for the sick, before the devotion felt during the Benediction of the sick with the Blessed Sacrament, before the striking spectacle of the candlelight procession, etc., I can assure you that Conchita, though 14 years old, was the person who gave me the greatest impression of equilibrium, prudence and calmness, with a piety based more on the tranquil security of faith and virtue than on passing fluctuation of emotion. If she were afflicted by any psychiatric illness, as had been said on occasion and repeated, could she have remained like that? Would she not have fallen inevitably into an ecstasy?»