by Jim Dunning
(This article was originally published in "Irelands Own" magazine. The webmaster would like to gratefully thank the author, Mr. Jim Dunning, for his kind permission in reprinting it here.)
The Vatican has not given official recognition to the apparitions that occurred at Garabandal. There is nothing sinister about this, since the Church has always erred on the side of prudence, and it may be that its attentions have been focused on Medugorje where apparitions are said to continue to occur. The established policy is to rely on the advice given by bishops who have a responsibility to check on what is going on in local areas and make their own recommendations. It is perhaps unfortunate that some bishops have seen the reports of apparitions as a challenge to their own authority and therefore something to be vigorously opposed.
It has to be admitted that the apparitions at Garabandal have caused more controversy than similar events elsewhere. There are parallels to be seen, but also many differences. If one compares Garabandal with Fatima, for instance, at both places Our Lady chose to appear to young children and in each case selected one of the group to be the major player. At Fatima it was Lucia dos Santos, at Garabandal, Conchita Gonzalez.
Lucia was given ‘secrets’, to be divulged at varying dates, whereas Conchita was told of a great Miracle that would take place at a specified date in the future, a date she could only divulge eight days before it was to occur. She was allowed to reveal that it would take place on a Thursday at 8.30 in the evening on the feast of a martyr dedicated to the Holy Eucharist. It would be visible to everyone in the area of Garabandal at the time and it could be photographed and televised, but not touched. Moreover, a permanent sign of the Miracle would remain in the pine grove where the first apparitions had taken place in June, 1961.
This contrasts, of course, with the famous ‘Miracle of the Sun’ which occurred at Fatima in October, 1917, before a crowd of more than 70,000 people. It lasted for only a matter of minutes. Significantly, television did not exist at that time, communications generally were limited during the first World War, and the event was soon forgotten.
The ‘Great Miracle’ was not the only prophecy received at Garabandal. Two other future events were also announced. One concerned a ‘warning’, the other the threat of a ‘chastisement’ if the warning were to be ignored. Naturally, there were those who poured scorn on such reported revelations. And just as Lucia had urged Our Lady to produce a miracle to prove that she herself was telling the truth, so did Conchita and her companions plead with their heavenly Mother to create a miracle that would justify their reports.
They had to wait almost a year before their pleas were answered. In June, 1962, while their parish priest was temporarily absent, they received Communion ‘invisibly’ from an angel. Onlookers witnessed them opening their mouths, but did not see the hosts. On the 22nd June the angel advised Conchita that in her case the host would be made visible for all to see. She responded that this would be a ‘milagrucu,’ a tiny miracle, which caused the angel to laugh. Our Lady confirmed the angel’s promise and named the date when this would happen as the 18th July. Conchita announced this news to the people of the village on the 2nd July, which resulted in several thousand people crowding into Garabandal on the 18th to witness the event.
Conchita’s mother had asked a friend named Pepe Diez to accompany and protect her daughter from the crowd. This he did and late that night was rewarded by seeing a ‘neat, precise and well-formed Host’ appear on her tongue. It remained visible for about three minutes, during which she remained kneeling on the ground in a state of ecstasy. Others in the crowd saw the same thing and reported that the host increased in brightness as they watched. The event was both filmed and photographed.
The predicted ‘Warning’ related to an urgent plea from our heavenly Mother for a general conversion and a turning away from sin. When Our Lady appeared to the four girls for the third time on 6th July, 1961, she gave them a message which was to be announced publicly on 18th October.
Since the diocesan commission set up by the Bishop of Santander to investigate the apparitions objected to the girls reading out such a message from the steps of the church, the parish priest, Fr. Valentin Marichalar, undertook to read it out for them at the pines to an assembled crowd of about five thousand. He paraphrased the Virgin’s message as follows : ‘We must make many sacrifices, perform much penance and visit the Blessed Sacrament frequently. But first we must lead good lives. If we do not, a chastisement will befall us. The cup is already filling up and if we do not change, a very great chastisement will come upon us.’
The nature of the chastisement was not revealed at the time, but the following year, on 19th and 20th June, 1962, the girls experienced two frightening visions which caused them to cry out in terror. Unlike the children of Fatima, they did not receive a brief vision of Hell, but one of the girls, Mari Loli, gave a vivid description of what happened. She said : ‘We were absolutely terrified. I cannot find words to explain it… We saw the rivers turn to blood. Fire was falling from heaven. And something worse still, which I cannot reveal at this time.’
A second message, conveyed to Conchita in 1965, spoke of a further warning, which would be the last since the earlier one had been ignored. It declared that the cup which had been filling up was now overflowing. There was some criticism of the clergy. Too little importance was being attached to the Eucharist. All would have to strive to turn away the wrath of God. If they asked God’s forgiveness with sincere hearts He would pardon them. Mary loved them very much and did not want to see them condemned. If they prayed sincerely their requests for mercy would be granted. They should make more sacrifices and think about the passion of Jesus.
In the autumn of 1965 Conchita gave notice of an event that was yet to come. It would amount to a form of chastisement that could be seen as a final warning from God. She said that although it would be short-lived and cause mental rather than physical suffering, ‘this experience will involve every person in the world…It will be like an interior realisation of our sins. Believers, as well as unbelievers, wherever they are at the time, will see and feel it.’
This warning would precede the Great Miracle (probably by about a year, according to Mari Loli), but if people did not convert after these events God would send a Chastisement proportional in its severity to the severity of the sins of the world. This, one imagines, was reflected in the visions of the girls when they reported being terrified.
At an early stage of the apparitions the Blessed Virgin advised the four girls that the time would come when they would deny these experiences and contradict each other. Thus, when they began to issue their denials in the spring of 1963, it came as no surprise to believers who saw this merely as the fulfilllment of the virgin’s prophecy. Later, Conchita, Mari Loli and Jacinta ‘returned to reality’ and reaffirmed their supernatural experiences, while Mari Cruz continued to deny them.
Before that happened, however, the Bishop of Santander gratefully accepted the retractions of the girls, regretting the encouragement they had been given. He ended by saying that the words of the Gospel, the Pope, the Councils and the ordinary magisterium of the Church were the only reliable means of transmission for the ‘real messages from heaven.’ This statement infuriated supporters of the apparitions. As Sandral Zindars-Swartz recounts in her comprehensive coverage of the story of Garabandal, ‘Encountering Mary’, the supporters criticised members of the Bishop’s Commission for not investigating the matter thoroughly, and in some cases failing to even visit the area. The parish priest of Garabandal was reportedly offered a holiday during the investigation so that he would not be able to influence the outcome! As Canon Porro, a member of the clergy supporting the believers, put it : ‘This is the absurdity of it all, that five commissioners should be infallible, whereas thousands of others must admit to being ignorant, deluded or insane.’
In the case of Garabandal, the importance of the evidence of witnesses cannot be overstated. Testimonies have been, and still are, provided by them of the extraordinary behaviour of the four seers. They tell of how, during their ecstasies, their faces were transformed, becoming serene, happy and beautiful. Moreover, they became so heavy that even strong men could not lift them off the ground. Doctors who examined them while they were in these states tried pinching and pricking them with pins without producing any reaction, though the marks remained on their legs afterwards. Many of the onlookers were amazed at the speed with which the girls moved when making their way to the site of the apparition. Eighteen-year-old boys accustomed to running up steep mountain paths could not keep up with them. Nor did the girls ever perspire or show signs of being out of breath.
Further proof that the girls were not guilty of collusion, whereby they might have agreed on what they saw or heard, is provided by their description of the interior ‘calls’ they reported receiving whenever the Blessed Virgin was about to appear. The truth of their claim was tested by physically separating them to discover whether they all received their ‘calls’ simultaneously. Invariably, they all turned up at the site of the apparition at the same time.
It remains to be seen whether the predictions of the main character, Conchita, are fulfilled. There is not much time. She is over the age of sixty, living in America with her children. Also living in America is a blind man by the name of Joey Lomangino. According to Conchita, Our Lady promised that his sight would be restored on the day of the Great Miracle. Joey is already over eighty years of age.
Let us hope he will not be disappointed.
Click here to go to Part 1 of this article, Fr. Luis Andreu -The Priest who died of joy
-'Encountering Mary’ by Sandral Zimdars-Swartz
[Editors note: The alleged heavenly apparitions at Garabandal referred to in this article have not thusfar been officially approved or disapproved by the Catholic church, therefore Catholics are free to discern and form their own judgements concerning them.]