The same French people to whom we are indebted for the previous reports, help us again with some brief notes to understand better how the exceptional mystery was lived in Garabandal during the days of November, 1962:
«When the Virgin announced her visit like this (by calls), neither the parents nor the visionaries went to bed. We passed the evenings with Conchita, her mother, her brother Serafín, and other visitors . . . Who could describe the charm of those evenings, of those nights of waiting, interspersed with prayers, hymns and conversation, as each one thanked the Virgin for her infinite kindness.»
It is easy to understand why the vigils caused great joy in those who experienced them as an isolated and amazing novelty in their lives. But the people for whom the vigils were intermixed with the routine of daily life for a long time, felt fatigue increase night after night . . .
As an aid to understand better the penances entailed in these nights at Garabandal during that season, here is an excerpt from a letter that Maximina wrote on November 22nd to Dr. Ortiz’ sister in-law Eloísa de la Roza Velarde:
«On Saturday we went up to the Pines, praying the rosary in pouring rain . . . Later we went to the cemetery, and there we were stuck in mud up to our ears. On Sunday, the same thing: we went up to the Pines. Everything was covered with snow; the people were sliding and rolling down, but they went up anyhow! Later the girls went down backwards on their knees, through all the snow and the roughest places; later, to the cemetery, under the hail and with a bitter wind . . . On Tuesday, the same thing, and through the same places. On Wednesday it was a better night, but freezing cold . . .»
Dr. Ortiz confided to me what the daughter of Tiva (Primitiva), a resident of Garabandal, told him:
«On the night of December 1st, I had a very painful toothache, on account of which I had not gone to bed. On that night at 3:00 in the morning, I heard a noise in Jacinta’s house. I looked out and saw the girl go outside in ecstasy on an infernal night of ice and rain. I felt sorry for her and went down to keep her company. When I got there, her mother, María, was going out of the house in a very bad mood, while saying, A night like this, another one like this . . . I’m not going to allow her again. I’ll barricade the door shut . . .
In the street we met María Dolores, in ecstasy too, and completely alone. Then I went to tell her mother, Julia. The two girls joined together with the three of us behind them. We went up to the Pines twice, praying the rosary; as usual we ran through the village . . . The night was really stormy and María’s mood didn’t leave her. Julia tried to calm her, Woman, what are we going to do? These are the affairs of God . . . Today I have to console you; other times you have consoled me . . .»
The penitential aspect that these charming vigils in Garabandal had acquired could not be denied. Conchita wrote to Fr. José Ramón, the pastor of Barro, on November 29th:
«I have just received your letter, which I’m going to answer, although I didn’t think I would be writing to you now, since I have to sleep! Yesterday I had two apparitions and the last one was at 4 o’clock in the morning; and so I didn’t sleep at all.»
It was no wonder that the girls occasionally made minor complaints such as that which Luis Navas heard from Conchita:
«Why don’t you let me eat? Before you prevented me from sleeping, now also from eating. In heaven, obviously, it isn’t necessary to eat . . . with seeing God! . . . But since I don’t see God I have to eat.»
Although the visionaries certainly were practicing penance, miraculously the penance did not affect their physical or psychological health in the slightest way. Doctor Ortiz wrote at the end of September:
«I am amazed by the girls, that in spite of spending the majority of nights without sleep— as a consequence, without sufficient rest for the body— their general and psychological state is better all the time.»(20)
In the autumn of 1962, important matters for the Church were happening in the Council at Rome. But perhaps more important for the Church were those that were happening in poor Garabandal of the apparitions.
Only God can measure things that are immeasurable by human standards.
20. Maximina, in a letter to the Pifarré family on December 27th, also describes this fact:
«Look. If this isn’t true, how do the girls do everything that they do these days when the weather is very bad and freezing? And up to now none of them has become sick. How is it possible that night after night for more than a year now they have been able to endure such cold and loss of sleep?»
We can picture those winter nights at Garabandal from Maximina’s letter to the Pifarrés on December 13th:
«This morning at 5:15 I heard a knocking on the door of the house. I got up and went out. There was Conchita in ecstasy with her mother, her brother, and three other women . . . We went outside; we went through the whole village praying the rosary. Then we sang the Salve and several songs as usual. Look, our lips were freezing. I carried an umbrella, but I couldn’t hold it up because of the cold and the weight of the snow. It was a terrible morning, snowing with thunder and a wind that blew snow into our faces and on our legs, making us shiver.»