FAREWELL IN THE
What was predicted for this date? We do not know; or at least, I do not know.
We do know that on July 2nd, the fourth anniversary of the Virgin’s first apparition, she condescended to visit the young visionary. She came by way of a locution.
Conchita had another locution on the 18th of the month, which was the village feastday and the third anniversary of the Miracle of the Host.
It might have been thought at the time that the events would hold their usual course; that everything was going to continue as before.
But the most astute observers soon could not avoid the impression that June 18th had come as a finale or end, to public manifestations at least, of all that had taken place at Garabandal.
The events would not be repeated. The seers had changed. The circumstances had changed too.
And the girls no longer had a reason to remain in the village, waiting for interventions from heaven. It was time for them to think of their futures, to try to arrange their later lives.
The most singular things that they had experienced would remain only in their memories—confused, at times—leaving them with the obligation of showing a conduct shining before God and man.
As if his departure were also necessary for the new phase that was to be experienced by Garabandal, on August 16th Bishop Beitia left Santander forever. The feast of the assumption with its liturgical celebrations, its bouquets of flowers placed at the foot of the Virgin’s statue as it is carried in front of the cathedral, was his last day in the diocese that he had headed for three years. Two days later, on August 17th, Bishop Vicente Puchol Montís was installed as his successor.
With the new bishop, many felt a great euphoria. He was young, with a late vocation,(1) extremely personable. Others could not avoid feeling wary and uneasy. The Spanish Church had already begun to experience in a dramatic way the confusion of mentalities and ideologies that would burst out later in violent confrontations. Although the new bishop appeared to be opposing the innovators, it was said of him that he was the initiator, if not the author of the complete change — some spoke of an actual revolution — that was happening in the diocesan seminaries.
With regard to Garabandal, the future did not augur well with the new bishop. As soon as his nomination was known, a priest in Madrid, a former student at Comillas, notified Father Lucio Rodrigo:
«Walk cautiously. I know Vicente Puchol, and I know that he is against Garabandal. He is a declared enemy of the apparitions . . .»
Although the one thing that had nothing to do with the other, on the day after Bishop Puchol’s installation, Conchita wrote to Fr. Laffineur, to communicate her great joy:
«My mother has allowed me to enter into the convent. For me, it is a great thing to be able to consecrate myself completely to Christ like this — from my 16th year — for the rest of my life . . . Pray for me, so that I will be able to go as soon as possible to the Missionary Sisters of the Discalced Carmelites.»
Thinking perhaps that Conchita’s departure was imminent, Fr. Laffineur arranged another trip to Spain, to obtain certain clarifications from her. The meeting took place in Torrelavega (Santander) on September 8th, the feast of the Nativity of Mary.
With Fr. Laffineur were some travel companions who served as witnesses; at Conchita’s side, as usual, was her mother Aniceta. Fr. Laffineur submitted 45 questions to the young girl and carefully recorded her answers. Part of these have been published in the L’Etoile dans la Montagne; the rest have been reserved for the future.
These are the most interesting of the ones that have been published:
—«Yes, I wrote the date of the Miracle to the bishop. (It seems that this letter never came into the hands of Bishop Beitia.)
—I had a locution on July 2nd. I already explained it to you by letter. And I had another on the 18th of the same month; I gave that in writing too.
—My companions and I thought about the convent from the first days of the apparitions. No priest put it into our minds.
—The Pope will see the Miracle, wherever he is; Padre Pio will see it too.
—Yes, the Council will have an extraordinary outcome.
—After Paul VI, there remain only two popes. Following that, the ‘end of times,’ which is not the same as the ‘end of the world.’ I do not understand this well, but the Virgin told it to me like this.
—My leaving Garabandal is no obstacle to announcing the date of the Miracle. I’ll be able to tell the date to my superior, and if necessary, also to my spiritual director . . .
—After the miracle, a chapel will be built in honor of St. Michael the Archangel. (2) I would prefer that it would not be done as at Lourdes, which I got to know in May of 1963; I would like it to be more simple and unadorned.
—The greatest danger for the village of Garabandal is pride.
—Mari Cruz certainly saw the Virgin. Her denials today are due to the mysterious work of the devil. After the Miracle, she will reaffirm the truth of her ecstasies.
—The best time to go to Garabandal will be when the four of us have left the village; then it will be solely for the Virgin.»
Two days after this meeting in Torrelavega, on September 10th, there was another meeting in Garabandal itself. It occurred under the awning of a tent that a French family had pitched a few steps from Conchita’s house. Conchita went to visit a woman there with the two smallest of her eight children.
—«You are fortunate to set up your tent here; it was right here that Mari Cruz had an apparition with the Virgin.(3)
—You are certainly the fortunate one in having been specially chosen by her.
—When the Virgin appeared to me, her look didn’t stay fixed on me; it roved from one side to the other, over the mountains, taking in the whole world, and her face seemed to smile at all the universe. She didn’t come for me.
—You have a large picture of the Virgin in your house. It’s very beautiful. Does it resemble your vision?
—Oh no! That’s nothing. It’s less than wax to the real thing. There’s no way of copying the Virgin’s beauty . . . You know about Fatima?
—Only a little. I have heard talk about the miracle of the sun.
—The miracle of Fatima is nothing in comparison with what will happen here. This will be much, much greater.
Then the interpreter, Eloísa Deguía, whispered to the French woman: “Perhaps the Virgin herself will be seen in person." Conchita, overhearing this, replied vigorously:
—No, no! It won’t be that . . . If it were that, then it would be an apparition, not a miracle.
Lifting up her arms and spreading them out, Conchita continued:
—The Miracle here will be much greater, more tremendous than Fatima. It will cause such an impression that none of those who see it will be able to leave with doubts. It would be well if all the world were here, since that way there surely would be no chastisement, since everyone would believe.
—Will all the sick who come be cured?
—The Virgin didn’t tell me “all" or “some," but: “The sick will be cured."
The Virgin smiled, she smiled very much. She didn’t inspire fear!
—Then she is very kind. Kind like a mother.
—No, much more than a mother! She is kind like one who, besides being a mother, is a best friend, for we could tell her everything that came to our minds. And she understood us and helped us.
She laughed and even played with us. One
day, she even handed down her crown to Loli, so that Loli could amuse herself by putting it on her head, although Loli was afraid of burning herself on the flaming stars.
With a mother one doesn’t feel so free and confident as with the Most Holy Virgin. No one confesses his own faults to his mother, nor does he reveal his secret defects.»(4)
1. A late vocation refers to those who did not begin study for the priesthood in early youth.
After the bloody Spanish Civil War, in the fervor of the Catholic reconstruction that followed, there were many of these late vocations. They came to be overestimated, as if from them could be expected much more than from the others. Time has gone by and in the face of the end results the special esteem for those vocations has declined.
2. Obviously this has nothing to do with the chapel built by some people below the Pines in September of 1967.
3. We have already spoken about this rather notable apparition in chapter VIII of Part One.
4. Conchita speaks from her own situation. In Aniceta she had a very strict and demanding mother, although one full of solicitude for the welfare of her daughter.