A magnificent opportunity, prior to the coming epoch of the final times, will be the Miracle that is being foretold more and more.
Fr. Retenaga, in composing his second report in April, 1963, resumés what he has heard on the topic like this:
* That she knew about the miracle since October, 1961.
* That the Virgin first told it to her alone; but that she told it to the other three later.
* That it will be on Thursday, at 8:30 in the evening, and will last about a quarter of an hour.
* That on that day there would be an ecclesiastical event, and the miracle would come after that event, on the same day.
* That she would announce the miracle to the world eight days in advance.
* That, besides those that were in the village, the Pope and Padre Pio (36) would see the miracle. The Virgin did not specifically say which Pope.
* That the sick who were there would be cured, including sinners, since according to the Virgin, they were her children too.»
There is a tape recorded by Plácido Ruiloba in Garabandal on January 16th, 1963. He was questioning Conchita about a letter that the girl had written to the Bishop:
«— Did you write down the date of the miracle?
— No, since at the time I didn't know it.
— Since when have you known it? Since the past week?
— No, since this week. I told the Bishop about what it was going to consist, and other things . . . But not the date.» (37)
I admit that I do not know the exact meaning of Conchita's remark about not knowing the date. The reader can make his own judgment from another passage of the recorded conversation:
«And what does your brother Serafín say about this?
— He says that if the Miracle is not sure, that I should clearly say the truth; that he will take me away from here and bring me wherever I want. But how could Serafín think like this since I told him the date yesterday?
— Well — responded Serafín who was present there — you didn't tell me anything like the date. You told me a thing, a happening, which if it occurs will let me know the Miracle is coming.»
Serafín himself, after reading about this in the first edition of this book, gave me some clarifications when we were in his little hotel in May of 1976.
During the winter of 1963, (the time of the crisis discussed in Part Two, and prior to the denials of the other girls), he felt that as the eldest brother and the man of the house, he should take a stand concerning Conchita.
So one night while the family was in the kitchen of the house, he said to Conchita, You will have to tell us once and for all what this is all about; we can't go on like this. And don't be afraid of what will happen . . . I'm ready to take you away from the village and bring you anywhere you want. If you want to go to school, we can arrange that too . . . But we have to know the truth. All these things about the apparitions: Are they true, or are they something that you made up?
Conchita replied that it was true, that she had seen the Virgin, that it wasn't something that the girls made up, and that there was no reason to leave the village . . .
The matter remained that way during the night.
But the next day, while Serafín was in the kitchen and his sister upstairs, he heard her call him, Serafín! Come up a minute.
The man told me he felt as if his heart missed a beat as he thought, There it is! She has finally made up her mind. She must have thought about this all night long and is going to tell me that it has all been a fraud.
— What do you want? He asked her on arriving upstairs.
— So that you can see that all this is true, the Virgin has told me to tell you this . . .
And she talked to him about the Miracle, and explained in what it was going to consist. Later Conchita wrote it down briefly on the back of a holy card of the Child Jesus, which Serafín keeps concealed and which none of the family has seen. And she told him that it would occur when a definite event in the Church took place, and she also explained it to him. Only in this way does Serafín know the date of the miracle.
Later Serafín and I discussed the following excerpt from a leaflet written by Dr. Puncernau:
«During one of my trips to the pastures, I was alone with Serafín and we were eating in the barn. After eating, I tried to draw him out since it was said that he knew from Conchita when the Warning would be.
I drew the conclusion that if he knew, he didn't want to say. The only thing that I got definitely from him was that it would be preceded by a special happening in the Church. After many questions and answers, it seemed clear to me from his vague remarks that it would be something like a schism. That is the way I understood it.»
— And what do you say about Dr. Puncernau's opinion? I asked Serafín.
— He is free to think what he wants. But I don't think I gave him reasons for such an opinion.
— But will this happening actually be a schism in the Church?
— I have nothing to say.
During that May of 1976, I spoke also with Jacinta's mother, María. She told me that she had heard repeatedly from her daughter that affairs were going to go very bad for the Church, that the Eucharist would constantly be given less importance, that many priests would become worse and worse, and that wickedness would spread everywhere.
It can be noticed that Dr. Puncernau does not speak of the Miracle, but of the Warning. Is this a mistake? Perhaps not.
On a day in September of 1963, some French people were invited to eat dinner with Conchita in a house near the girl's home. She was devouring pastries with the healthy appetite of girls of her age. Someone jokingly asked her about the sacrifices and penance mentioned in the message. Conchita accepted the joke in good humor and laughed. But suddenly she became quiet and seemed to concentrate; her face lit up; and with her hands joined on her chest, she began to speak:
«The Miracle will be on the feastday of a young martyr of the Eucharist, a boy who carried Communion to persecuted Christians. His companions, on seeing him pass by, wanted to force him to stay and take part in their games. Infuriated by his resistance, they ended up hurling stones at him until he was left almost dead. Later a Christian soldier came, who recognized him and carried him in his arms.
One of those present exclaimed: Oh, that's St. Tarcisius!»
Conchita, without saying a word, as if she hadn't heard, turned back to her pastries.
After dinner ended and Conchita had left, those at the table exchanged their impressions. The oldest in the group concluded: It seems that Conchita saw this scene in an ecstasy, but without understanding what martyr it was. I don't think she even knows his name. (L'Etoile dans la Montagne)
Many think that this description of the young martyr adequately points out the day on which the Miracle will occur; and that it is only a matter of glancing at the calendar. However, since Conchita did not tell us the date clearly, she obviously seeks to keep it a secret. By industriously sifting through material and searching through files, we will not be able to discover it. The mystery will never be revealed by mere human ingenuity. The important thing is to know how to wait and be prepared.
36. After Conchita’s prediction, Padre Pio’s death in September, 1968 caused great dismay among the Garabandalistas, since they all counted on the famous Capuchin from Pietrelcina being alive and present on the day of the Miracle. Many explanations have been given attempting to correlate Conchita’s prediction with the fact of his death.
Now we have some reliable information on this matter. Conchita was dismayed also by the notice of the death of Padre Pio, who was expected to «see the miracle». But several weeks after his death, as dusk settled at Garabandal on October 16, 1968, a telegram from Lourdes arrived, carrying the name of a woman in Rome whom Conchita knew. The telegram urged her to depart immediately by car to receive something on behalf of Padre Pio . . .
Fr. Combe, a French parish priest from Chazay d’Azergues in the diocese of Lyon and a great promoter of the cause of Garabandal, was in Garabandal that day. He and his inseparable collaborator B.L. Ellos took Conchita and Aniceta in their car and set out that night for Lourdes. There on the morning of October 17, Conchita received «on behalf of Padre Pio» a short written message and a large section of the veil that had covered Padre Pio’s face after his death. Carrying these presents was the Italian Capuchin Fr. B. (surely Fr. P. Bernardino Cennamo). Fr. B. had been very close to Padre Pio and his secretary Fr. Pellegrino who had signed this message that Padre Pio spoke to him a month before his death. In the message appeared the date «August 22, 1968»
Conchita took advantage of this meeting to ask, «Why did the Virgin tell me that Padre Pio would see the Miracle?»
Father B: «Padre Pio saw it before his death. He himself told us.»
These and other details about the connection between Conchita and Padre Pio can be seen in the French leaflet Conchita Parle du Padre Pio that Fr. Combe published.
37. I found this information in one of Maximina’s letters to the Piffaré family, dated December 15:
«Look, Asunción, don’t tell this to anyone. But today Conchita came to my house and told me, Look, Aunt, don’t tell this to my mother, but today the Angel told me the date of the Miracle. No one except she and her oldest brother know this.»