With these statements, Conchita thought she was performing her last services for the cause of Our Lady of Garabandal prior to her entrance into religious life, where she would have to keep silent and remain in seclusion.
She was impatiently looking forward to this time. But at the same time it seems she felt an instinct of foreboding for the future.
Two days after the meeting with the Americans, she wrote to Fr. José Ramón de la Riva.
She deliberately used for her letter a piece of paper on which the message of June 18th was photocopied, and she wrote:
«San Sebastián de Garabandal 9-16-1965
Dear Father José Ramón,
Just a few lines to tell you that I found out that you were here a few days ago. That made me feel bad since I wanted to speak with you for a few minutes, if not longer . . .
You know that within a few weeks, or perhaps a few days, I’ll enter the convent. I want to enter soon in order to do —or try to do— what the Virgin wants.
I don’t know if I have a true vocation. I think I do, although I have some doubts. The Virgin didn’t tell me to enter.»
These last lines are revealing. They show that there is something deeply troubling Conchita. She does not know God’s plans for her. Up to now, during the ecstasies and locutions when she had asked personal questions about her future, she had so many times been left unanswered, or else had been answered in words that clearly evaded the question.
And the day would come on which she would clearly feel herself not chosen by Jesus to form part of what the Church considers His spouses. This would be for her a cause of great suffering and a perilous spiritual crisis.
But as summer ended in 1965, she was counting on leaving immediately for the convent at Pamplona to begin her religious life. The day of departure had even been set: September 29th, the feast of St. Michael, the Archangel. Could she have chosen a better date?
But that day came, and Conchita had to stay in Garabandal while, with tearful eyes, she saw her friends and companions, Loli and Jacinta, leave for Saragossa on September 30th.
Fr. Luna had arranged everything so that the two girls could enter free of charge as boarders in the college of the Charity Sisters of St. Ann in the Aragon town of Borja.
Jacinta and Loli were 16 years old at the time, in the flush of youth. They had never lived outside of San Sebastián de Garabandal, and the parting from the village on that day, even with their eyes on the future, must have been nostalgic. While saying goodbye before leaving, Loli soaked two handkerchiefs with her tears.
Understandable sorrow! Beside the pain of separation, could it have been due also to the ending of the most unforgettable period of her life?
Perhaps she was beset also with the premonition that her way would soon turn into a most narrow and difficult one.
Almost on the night before leaving, she had a locution, and heard from the Virgin: «Loli, if in the future I do not appear to you again, it is that your hour of suffering has come.»
Actually both young girls, Loli and Jacinta, suffered considerably in the school at Borja. I know this expressly from Jacinta’s admission that she kept a painful remembrance of the school year there. All the blame could not be put on the religious teachers. According to Fr. Luna, the principal cause of their unfortunate troubles were certain Garabandalistas of the first rank, who could not resign themselves to the girls being outside of their presence and control.
Jacinta probably cried less than Loli at the time of farewell. Not because she was less sensitive, but because she had a different character, less prone for expansion.
Before Fr. Luna could arrange for her to stay at school, Jacinta was talking about entering into a convent of cloistered Carmelites. Fr. Luna himself requested her admission to the Carmelite convent at Saragossa; and the community, by a secret vote, accepted the request. Why then, didn’t she go?(7)
Perhaps the one who was most pleased by this change was her mother, María; it seemed that she would lose her daughter much less this way. Not surprising. Nothing is more difficult than complete generosity toward God.
On that September 30th, 1965, as Jacinta and Loli went down toward Cossío, the dispersal of Garabandal began. As they turned the bend in the road to cast a last look at their village, their minds could not fathom all the things that they were leaving behind.
Still in the village, keeping her suffering to herself, was the one who had looked forward with such longing to September 29th, the day set for her leaving to be a novice in the Discalced Carmelite Missionaries: Conchita.
Her mother, who had given her consent originally, later changed her mind, refusing to allow her daughter to leave before . . . Before what?
It had been mentioned to Aniceta about the possibility and feasibility of Conchita going to Rome, to be interviewed by the highest hierarchy of the Church, and to see perhaps, if it were possible, the Holy Father himself. And Aniceta came to the conclusion that this had to be done before anything else, and the sooner the better; therefore, before the girl shut herself in the convent. In August, it had seemed a simple matter to finish the trip before the middle of September; and thinking along that line, she gave her consent to Conchita to leave for the convent on the feast of St. Michael. But complications delayed things.
Fr. Laffineur wrote:
«On September 8th at Torrelavega, Conchita announced to me her departure for the convent of the missionary sisters of the Discalced Carmelites at Pamplona. The departure should have taken place on the 29th of that month. During the same period Loli and Jacinta were to leave for the province of Saragossa to stay with the Sisters of Charity.
Why was the end of September chosen? Because Conchita and her mother had good reason to believe that their voyage to Italy would have taken place well before the date fixed for the inauguration of the Council’s last session, that is to say, before September 14th. But complications developed and after September 29th the two of them had to pass some extremely difficult months.»
Why did complications arise? Fr. Luna undertook against wind and sea, as a true man from Aragon, to bring Conchita to Rome, in accordance with Cardinal Ottaviani who then was still the head of the Supreme Congregation of the Holy Office. But the chancery at Santander, as soon as it learned of the project, deployed all its connections in Rome and outside of Rome to crush the matter. The chancery must have been afraid of something.
Let us see how Fr. Luna himself recounts this in the introduction of a book he wrote about another site of apparitions:
«In September we got our passports in order. However . . .
Toward the end of August, I offered my services to the new Bishop of Santander, Bishop Puchol, so as to put him in direct contact with the girls. He told me that he didn’t consider it necessary, or even wise, to know them.(8) He assured me that he was already well informed, and he confided to me his plan: to put a young priest(9) in charge of the village and “the girls should remain there."
I answered that it seemed an excellent idea to send a well-chosen priest; but with regard to the girls, neither he nor I had authority to determine whether or not they were to stay. Aniceta had already authorized the admission of her daughter at Pamplona, and the parents of Loli and Jacinta had also consented for them to leave for Borja.
—Yes, Your Excellency. Yes, in writing. I have signed authorizations.
I have always kept my principle of respecting the hierarchy, but also I have required respect in return. I have conscientiously been courteous before whoever represents God; but not weak.
On that same day, I said to Bishop Vicente: I don’t want to do things behind your back. For that reason I offered to bring the girls to you. Today I’m going to tell you a secret: A person of high station is working in Rome for the girls to be received by the Pope. The bishop smiled broadly, as if dubious . . . We were alone, seated in a room on the first floor of the seminary at Santander. I then took two telegrams out of my briefcase, and unfolded them for him to see.
—Are you from Aragon?
—From Saragossa, Your Excellency!
The news got out and the departure was delayed . . . until, in the middle of December, I received a telephone call from Santander, announcing the arrival of a person from Rome with a letter from Cardinal Ottaviani that read: With the permission of the bishop, or without it, bring the girls.
I asked the person who spoke to me to take the letter to be read secretly and personally by the bishop. But he lacked the patience and enthusiasm not to be overcome by the defenses at the bishop’s door! And my envoy didn’t have sufficient rank; the copy of the letter remained in the hands of the vicar general.(10) On my return from Rome in the winter of 1966, when I was with the bishop, he assured me that he hadn’t received it. I think he was sincere.»
7. It appears that the decision that stopped Jacinta from entering into the Carmelite convent came from her father Simón. The good man was categorically opposed at the final hour, believing that it was a barbarous thing for his 16 year old daughter— who had never left her house or had the least experience with the world and life— to forever commit herself like this in something so difficult.
Actually Jacinta was not sure of her vocation. During the time of the ecstasies, whenever she had talked about, or asked about his particular thing, the Virgin had never given her a definite answer.
8. Why would Bishop Puchol need to know the girls and thoroughly study the matter if he were fully set on the progressivist theory that apparitions and revelations are superfluous for the Church?
Shortly after his «Nota» of Sunday March 18th, 1967 (which was given the maximum publicity, even television exposure), by which he thought to definitely bury Garabandal, Bishop Puchol went up to the village to see if he could effectively and smoothly liquidate it.
He was eminently educated and eloquent. It was a Sunday and the entire village attended his Mass. It was expected that his sermon would clarify the matters that were preoccupying everyone. But the bishop avoided the main subject, and all had the impression that he had limited himself to talking about the Gospel. Nevertheless Aniceta, who was very attentive and watchful not to miss anything, caught this, which later she confided to me as absolutely sure: The bishop at one time during his speech, lowering his voice in an off-hand remark, came out with this: We know that after what Jesus Christ brought, there can be no more apparitions or revelations.
A gross imbecility, much repeated today, which gives us an idea of the bishop’s poor theological background. It is obvious that this is not in communion with the Supreme Magisterium which has told us: "From heaven Christ always looks with great affection at His spouse (the Church) exiled in this world, and when He sees it in danger, either through Himself, or through the means of His angels, or through the intercession of the one whom we call Help of the Christians, or through other intercessors, takes it away from the tempest waves . . . and consoles it with that peace which surpasses all knowledge."
(Enc. Mystici Corporis Christi, 1943)
9. The priest assigned was Father José Olano, who had recently finished his seminary studies. Thus a novice priest was sent to Garabandal, a man almost without experience, as if nothing were happening there, and as if it were simply a parish without special problems.
But if the new priest came without proper pastoral experience; he came well provided with instructions. It did not take long for the effects of the instructions to show themselves.
It seems that the bishop’s viewpoint was this: The problem of Garabandal would resolve itself if the girls and the villagers were indoctrinated (brain-washed), and the visitors were treated with a firm hand. The new priest came with this program.
A remark might be made about the way he said goodbye to his parishioners from the valley of Polaciones before going to Garabandal. A man from the town who was present at his farewell Mass on that Sunday noted the things that were said and the remarks made by Fr. José Olano in his sermon. After the Mass, Father’s friends from the place joked with him about the stories about Garabandal that were going to end soon.
10. Bishop Puchol had brought with him to Santander, as his vicar general, a priest from Navarra, also a late vocation and a man rather arbitrary in his actions: Bishop Javier Azagra. Later he was auxiliary bishop of Cartagena-Murcia.