Conchita, on the other hand, showed herself more certain than ever. On May 23rd, the Sunday before the Ascension, Mr. Ruiloba once again was walking through Garabandal. He met Fr. Valentín, who was very worried about some plans attributed to Pajares and Tobalina, and from the priest he learned that Conchita was continuing to repeat that the Angel would definitely return on the date announced: June 18th.
—But are you really sure?—that pastor had said to her— That it is not a lie or something that you imagined?
—Do you think that the Virgin would lie?
—No. Of course not.
—Well, the Virgin told it to me.
Mr. Ruiloba was constantly wavering between belief and disbelief. Every street, almost every corner of the village, had to bring back memories to him of things experienced very personally;(7) nevertheless, the man could not overcome his vacillation. And on the night of May 25th, Tuesday, being with Ceferino in the latter’s house, he began again to bring out the negative things that he thought he had seen in the apparitions and in the girls. Ceferino, who in this matter was never far behind, broadly seconded him. And the two were talking in such a way that there came a time when Julia(8) could not endure it anymore and interrupted the conversation to remind them of some things of a very different character, which neither of the two could deny. Her husband had no other solution than to assent, and even on his own part added some marvelous signs that he himself had received; but as if he were ashamed of them, he made Plácido swear never to tell them to anyone.
As with so many others in the village, it seemed that Ceferino took a strange pleasure in destroying hopes. On June 6th, Pentecost Sunday, when again Ruiloba and his wife came to his house, Ceferino received them with these words, My friend Plácido, everything is finished. This is nothing but a farce . . . And what Conchita is going around predicting . . . pure lies. I have already pointed it out, as I have always done. I went once again to talk about it to the bishop . . . If the people come here on June 18th, let them. I am going to play billiards.
His daughter Loli, who was present there, joined in the conversation, with words and attitudes that were almost as ridiculous as those of her father.(9)
And up in those remote mountains, that is the way things were going during those last weeks before the great date.
Conchita had remained alone as the center of everything. And as a result, she was the occasion and the cause of the jealousies that surfaced in some, of the distrust that tormented others, and of the expectation of many others.
And Conchita, on June 13th—the Sunday before the date so awaited and feared—caught cold . . . Right at the wrong time. She awoke on June 14th with a bad case of flu that elevated her temperature to 39 degrees. For three days she was confined to bed with chills and fever.
June 17th, Thursday, was the great feast of Corpus Christi, and Garabandal, like so many other ancient towns in Spain, put its best piety and enthusiasm into celebrating the feast.(10) But Conchita could not follow the celebration more than from afar, from her bed of sickness. As the procession passed around her house, she could hear clearly the songs of the crowd accompanying Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament, Most High Lord . . . Let us sing to the greatest of all loves . . . God is here, let us adore Him . . . Heaven and earth, bless the Lord . . .
In the street next to the house, her mother Aniceta had constructed a small arch of triumph made from branches adorned with flowers; she had also draped a banner on it with the colors of the national flag and an inscription that read, Long Live Christ the King! What more could the simple woman do? It was a deeply felt homage that she offered to Our Lord in her own name and that of her children, especially for the daughter who could only accompany the procession in spirit.
The sudden illness of Conchita was the object of the most varied comments. A good way of preparing an “out" if on Friday nothing happens! said some. The things of God in this world never come without some tribulation, said others. Those who still hoped could do no more than ask with a greater or lesser degree of concern, Will she be on her feet for the call of the Angel?
The situation did not look good, since, although the illness had improved much during the day of Corpus Christi, the doctor had prescribed that she remain in bed, or at least not leave the house, for the next six days.
7. This same Plácido mentioned one day to Doctor Ortiz that at the beginning of the apparitions, after an ecstasy, one of the girls spoke of the state of his conscience as though she were reading it. And his wife, Lucita, added that from that time on her husband had changed very much.
8. Ceferino’s wife and Loli’s mother.
9. Ceferino’s doubts, or his changing from belief to disbelief in what had happened, remained to the end. But finally in his last days he seemed to receive a clear light, which must have comforted him in passing away.
He died on June 4th, 1974 at 56 years of age, about to complete the 13th year from the beginning of those phenomena in which he has been so closely entwined. Two days before his death on June 2nd, a group of pilgrims came to Garabandal with an image of the Virgin of Fatima. They were singing the Salve and other songs in the plaza, and Julia opened the doors and windows of the house so the prayers and songs could come in better to the room of her dying husband, at times almost unconscious; then she leaned against the window weeping and praying . . .
When the songs ended, she asked one of the youths from the group to give her a flower from those decorating the image. She went to place the flower on the crucifix that hung over the head of the dying man. Ceferino then came out of his lethargy and began to look from side to side as if he were searching for something, while he said, The sign! The sign! Julia brought the crucifix with the flower. He took both with great devotion and remained with the flower in his hand, full of peace and joy, as if the flower had been for him the proof that finally was given to him on this matter that had worried him so profoundly . . . Julia, for whom the early death of her husband was a hard blow, now believes in the apparitions more than ever.
10. They thoroughly swept, cleaned and decorated the streets for the procession of the Blessed Sacrament that would be carried through them. The people of the village assisted en masse at this procession, the most solemn of the year; those who were not able to participate in it knelt at their doors, windows and balconies for the passage of the Lord.