Finally the door opened inch by inch, and in the doorway stood the young girl, pale, heavily bundled up, but with her best smile for everyone. For hours . . .
« . . . she let herself be devoured by the crowd. She smiled, she wrote cards, she allowed herself to be photographed, she responded to the questions thrown at her, she promised to pray for the most diverse intentions, she tried to console the most afflicted, she embraced the children.» (L’Etoile dans la Montagne)
Mr. Poch Soler continued:
«At 2 o’clock in the afternoon of June 18th, we managed to speak with Conchita. I confess that this was the most moving moment of my career as a journalist. Never has a person filled me with such respect and confidence at the same time . . .
The interview took place in the kitchen of her home. Present were her mother and her two brothers, two strong men of the north who protected the place. She held out her hand and apologized for making me wait to get the interview.
—Are you happy? I asked.
—Very happy, Señor. I feel a great joy.
—Because today I will see the Angel and that is marvelous.
—Have you noticed the number of people who have come to Garabandal?
—I haven’t stopped thinking of them!
—And how do you feel about this enormous crowd?
— My joy is difficult to put into words . . . How happy Our Lady will be! . . . . .
—Are you sure you will see the Angel today?
—At what time?
—I cannot say, since I don’t know. I don’t know the hour, but I have a feeling that it will be rather late. . . . . .
—What do you feel when the Virgin appears to you?
—A strong constriction that comes up from my chest to my throat . . . And then there is a marvelous light.
—What do you think the Angel will say?
—I surely don’t know. Possibly there will be a message. But I don’t know; we will see.
When I went out on the street, the people closed in around me. Everyone wanted to know what Conchita had told me. French, Americans, Portuguese, they all begged me to please give them an answer. It was hard to convince them that it had been a normal interview, that the visionary hadn’t told me anything about the time or the place of the ecstasy.
After 3 o’clock in the afternoon, the concentration of pilgrims around Conchita’s house was imposing . . . The troops of the Civil Guard of the 242nd Command were in charge of maintaining order, although it wasn’t ever necessary for them to intervene with force.
The French groups and the people from the other nations gave a lesson in faith, devotion, and seriousness, that we would have appreciated in our own Spanish people.(15) At all times the initiative for prayers and petitions arose from them . . .
The climate at times was almost hysterical. Some physically covered Conchita with medals, scapulars and holy cards, hoping that she would touch them and kiss them. Others made their way toward her to ask for her autograph, to take her photograph. A woman raised a paralytic son in her arms, imploring Conchita to kiss him.»
Among the priests who had come to Garabandal, certainly the one who aroused the most interest was Father Pel . . . «the famous stigmatic, called the French Padre Pio,(16) known through all of France for his sanctity and miraculous gifts. Even though 87 years of age, he was circulating around and talking with great agility.»
But the one who showed himself the most active, and who seemed to have the best welcome in Conchita’s house, was the Spanish Fr. Luis Luna, who had come from Saragossa. He was privileged to be near the visionary for many hours that day.
Continuing now with the article of Poch Soler:
«The evening advanced, without Conchita announcing the time of the apparition. It became darker. But how sure it is that faith moves mountains! No one gave up or abandoned his post . . .(17) 8o’clock came, then 9, then 10 at night . . . They were praying without ceasing; supplications and hymns in every language rose up to heaven . . .
. . . until a trembling of emotion seized everyone: At the door of the house a priest(18) came out, and calling for silence, spoke to the crowd.
This is from Conchita: Everyone should go to the Calleja, to what is called the Cuadro, since the ecstasy will be there.»
The frenzy stirred up by these words could not be described . . . Everyone ran crazily to see if he could get the best place for observation.
Aniano Fontaneda wrote in his letter to Father Ramón:
«Everybody wanted to be the first to get there; they almost ripped my clothes off as they shoved me on all sides. Many were knocked to the ground. I lifted up Mercedes Salisachs(19) and other people who stumbled and fell going up the hill.»
Fr. Luna also described it:
«After having been together with Conchita for several hours—in order to benefit from her company when the expected ecstasy came—at the time of going up to the Cuadro, I found myself bowled over by the rush of the crowd, which carried me along in the turmoil and finally knocked me to the ground. With my back on the ground, the people passed on top of me as they ran upwards. While I was there, in the darkness of the night, two people assisted me, one on each side, and without the least effort on my part, in spite of the weight of my 80 kilos, I found myself on foot. Later I was able to guide myself on the left wall of the Calleja, where the stones are stacked without mortar.»
The dispersal of the crowd left Conchita’s house surrounded by an unusual silence. Only three or four persons still remained there at the window of the kitchen, desiring to exchange words with the young girl inside.
—What are we going to do now, Conchita?
—Go to the Cuadro, like the rest.
15. L’Etoile dans la Montagne states:
«Toward nightfall gangs of Spanish boys and girls appeared whose flippancy showed that the devil wanted to be present at the spectacle too.»
16. Referring to the Italian Capuchin Padre Pio from Pietrelcina, famous the world over for his extraordinary apostolate and mystical charisms.
Fr. Constant Pel died on March 5th, 1966, convinced about Garabandal. (The reporter errs in calling him a stigmatic.)
17. Conchita stayed at the door of her home, giving herself to the multitude.
. . «until night fell, and we didn’t know if she had time to eat anything more than a crust of bread. Shivering, she went back into the house; but in order not to let anyone down, she opened her kitchen window and across the iron gate continued to give herself to the crowd.» (L’Etoile dans la Montagne)
18. This seems to have been Father Luna from Saragossa.
19. The illustrious writer from Barcelona. Any sensible person will understand the frenzy with which the throng rushed to seize good positions. This is not meant to commend it; only to make the situation understood. The reporter Poch Soler showed he sympathized with the crowd in his article:
«The spectacle was not only striking; it instilled fear . . . A woman was dragging her five year old son between her legs; the little boy was crying, but the mother could not give him any attention because she had to find a good position at all costs. A blind American got up on top of the wall, helped by his friends. A man with two bad legs asked me to give him a hand so that he would be able to climb the rocky path. The human drama that brought all these persons to the Cuadro overwhelmed us all. Those people had their life conditioned by suffering and their admirable resignation was the greatest miracle of that night at Garabandal.»