I will tell you about Our Lady's apparitions at Garabandal, Spain in 1961.
An elderly nun from Bathurst, who had actually taught me when I was in Kindergarten in Dubbo in 1939, lent me a book about Garbandal, in about 1966.
Before then I had never heard of it.
Because the book was so interesting, I couldn't bear to part with it, and so I kept it for many years, which is a terrible thing to do. Books are very precious, and if borrowed should always be returned promptly to their owner.
The events at Garabandal so inspired me that I often said to Beverley that I would love to go to Garabandal, but I never heard or read of any pilgrimages going there, and looking at it on the map, it seemed as though I would need to fly to London, and then where? Certainly there would be no direct connections to Garabandal, which was a tiny mountain village in the north of Spain, well away from any major city.
Then in 1994 I read of a pilgrimage trip to Fatima and Lourdes and Rome, and we decided that we would go on that trip, because they were places I had often hoped to visit also.
Our Bus rolled along heading north from Avila, where we had visited the Convent of Saint Therese of Avila, and for a number of miles we travelled parallel to a swift flowing river which was on our right side, and lower down. Then the Bus slowed, we took a right hand turn, crossed a bridge over the river, and began to slowly grind up the mountain leading to San Sebastian de Garabandal.
Arriving at the top, just on dark, we turned into the village, a tiny village of some 70 houses, all built from local stone, many of them two-storey buildings with animal shelters beneath the main house. Apparently at night time the body heat of the cows and other animals kept underneath the houses helped to keep the living quarters upstairs a bit warmer.
Immediately on our right as we turned into the village was a large Restaurant, where we were to have our evening meal, so we all piled out there, and got our luggage and then were assigned to our accommodation. We were staying at a private home (Posada San Miguel) which was directly opposite the Restaurant, some 50 yards away across the village square.
We checked in, carted our luggage upstairs to our bedroom, and returned to the Restaurant. I remarked to Beverley how traditionally Spanish was the décor - Archways everywhere, heavy timber tables and bench seats with red cushions,Stuccoed white walls, tiled floor, and paintings of Bullfighters on the walls.
Then I suddenly realised that the reason it was in such traditional Spanish style was that we were actually in Spain! - not in say Sydney, with artificial Spanish architecture.
I had left my camera in the bedroom, and wanted to take some photos of the interior of the Restaurant, so I left to go back to our house. It was just on dark, but I could easily make out the dark shape of the Mountain just behind the village, the mountain which has on it the nine pine trees where Our Lady had often appeared to the four young girls. There were two path ways leading up to the top of the mountain, and we were due to go up there the following day. Half way up the left-hand track I could see very clearly a statue of Our Lady, which appeared to be luminous, but not lit by a floodlight, it was more as though it was transparent and the light was inside.
It kept my attention for a few moments because of the way it seemed to be lit, with a slightly greenish tinge like luminous watch faces, and the fact that I could see it so clearly, making out the features of the face, even though my eyesight was far from perfect at that distance. Then I said to myself, "Well, tomorrow when we are going up the mountain, I'll take the left-hand path, and get some photos of it then." Then I dismissed it from my mind and carried on to the house to get my camera. Coming back to the Restaurant I never looked again in the direction of the statue, which was now behind me, and never thought of trying to photograph it then.
Next morning we went up the mountain, - but there was no statue or anything of that kind in the position where I had seen it so clearly the previous night.
I told Beverley all about it, but no one else.
What Happened in Garabandal?
It was a Sunday, 18th June 1961, and four young girls, ages 11 and 12, decided to have a bit of fun by pinching some apples from the school headmistress's gardens. It was about 8.30pm but still daylight, in the little mountain village of San Sebastian de Garabandal, known simply as Garabandal.
Garabandal was about 2000 feet up in the heart of the Cantabrian Mountains, about 55 miles from the city of Santander.
The girls jumped the low wall, and helped themselves to the apples, then took off down a sunken lane, where they stopped to enjoy their treats.
Suddenly Conchita froze on the spot, and her companions thought she was having some sort of a seizure.
"Look!", she cried, "look over there."
They all looked in the direction she had indicated, and were astonished to see a bright light which did not dazzle their eyes.
In the light they saw an angel. He appeared to be a very strong boy about 9 years of age, and he was wearing a long seamless blue robe, and had large pink wings.
He just stood there for a few moments, and then vanished into thin air.
He did not say anything, nor did the girls say anything.
Very frightened, the girls began to run to the church to say some prayers, and on the way they bumped into another young girl, who stopped them and asked what was wrong as she could see how scared they appeared to be.
"Where have you been?" she asked.
"Stealing apples", they replied candidly. "And we've just seen an angel!"
Then they hurried off to the church, and the little girl told everybody in the village square what she had just been told.
When they got to the church, they dared not go in, and hid around the back and began to cry. Some other children saw them, asked what was wrong, and the girls told them that they had just seen an angel.
"Is it really true that you have seen an angel?" she asked.
It was just on 9.00pm and Conchita told her mother why she was late getting home.
Her mother was dismayed - Conchita was normally a very truthful girl yet here she was saying that she had just seen an angel.
"Go to bed, we'll discuss this in the morning" she said.
And she decided to keep quiet about Conchita's story.
The next day was Monday the 19th June, and the news had spread like wildfire around the small village. The four girls all went to school and told their story there. At one o'clock, classes over, they all headed for home, and the Parish Priest from Cosio caught up with two of the girls, Jacinta and Mary Cruz, and questioned them closely about what he had heard. Then he saw Conchita and questioned her also. He told her, "If you see this angel again, ask him who he is and what does he want."
Then he went on to Mary Loly's house, the fourth visionary, and was astonished when all the answers to his questions were exactly the same as the other three girls.He decided to keep it all quiet for a couple of days to see what else might happen, before making a report to the Bishop at Santander.
Conchita asked her mother for permission to go to the sunken lane and pray.
Her brother was dead against that, saying, "Do you want us all to be made a laughing stock." Then the other three girls turned up and all wanted to go to the sunken lane and pray, so Conchita's mother gave in and gave her permission.
On the way to the lane, they met up with some friends. "What on earth are you going to the lane to pray for, haven't we got a perfectly good church to pray in?"
"Yesterday", the girls replied,"we saw the angel there and we're going to pray there to see if he comes again."
When they knelt down in the lane, some passers-by and some children who had followed them began to laugh and heckle them.
One group of youngsters began throwing stones at them. Jacinta, Mary Loly, Conchita and Mary Cruz all protested, and begged to be left alone to pray the Rosary in peace.
The sky was threatening and a strong wind began to blow. Perhaps this, plus the stoning was the reason why the angel did not appear to them that evening. Then they went to the church to pray a decade of the Rosary to the Blessed Sacrament. On the way they met up with the School Mistress. "Have you been up the lane?" she asked.
"Yes, but we didn't see anyone."
"Don't worry, he'll come tomorrow" said the School Mistress, who by now fully believed that the children had indeed seen an angel.
It was 6.15 when they entered the Church and said their prayers. After that they went home.
"Did you see the angel today?" their families asked.
"No, we didn't see anybody today."
They then did their homework, had supper and each went to bed in their respective homes. At about a quarter to ten., Conchita recalls, she had just started to say her prayers, when she distinctly heard a voice say, "Don't worry, you will see me again"
This happened to each of the four girls all at the same time, each in their own bedroom.
Frightened by this strange occurrence, the girls each began to pray very fervently until they fell asleep.
The next day Conchita again had difficulty getting her mother's permission to go to the sunken lane. She had devised a special plan which would allow her daughter to go, but hopefully not be the subject of ridicule. The other three were to go on without her, and she would later creep around by a different way to where they were.
So once again all four were there in the sunken lane together and they knelt down and prayed the Rosary. When they had finished the angel had still not appeared so they stood up with the intention of leaving for home. Suddenly a bright shining light barred their way and they screamed in terror. Then the light dimmed a bit so that they could see all around again and they set off down the lane to the village church. Realising that others would not understand, at first they decided to tell no one about the light.
But next day they remembered that the Parish Priest had told them that if anything else happened he was to be informed immediately.
They needed to go down the mountain to Cosio to tell the priest, but their parents would not let them go. Eventually they had to tell their parents about the light and get them to pass it on to the parish priest.
Their parents did so and the news spread," But now", Conchita writes, "people are beginning to believe a little. "
On the 21st June, and the four children felt that they should have some adults accompany them to the sunken lane. They asked a neighbour, Clementina, and she at first declined, because she did not believe their stories of the angel and the light. She asked a friend of hers for guidance and the two of them then agreed to go together with the children.
As they wended their way to the lane, they were seen by various other neighbours who all decided to join in, and so it happened that there were several villagers there that afternoon to pray the Rosary with the four visionaries.
They said the five decades of the Rosary but nothing happened. The first snickers were heard, the first wisecracks, and smothered laughter etc.
"Let's say another decade and see"
Then as they ended this decade, a most remarkable thing happened.
As one, the four girls seemed to be suddenly frozen to the spot.
Kneeling there, all looking in the same direction, their heads were thrown back at a surprising angle, their unblinking eyes staring straight up at the heavens.
One of the girls asked the question that the priest had instructed them to ask. "Who are you? Why have you come here?"
But the angel did not answer.
The chuckles and wisecracks stopped immediately.
The onlookers were suddenly gripped by a real fear of the supernatural.
Clementina, the doubter, began to cry.
"It's true, it's true an angel has really appeared to these little ones."
As suddenly as they had entered their rapture, the four emerged from it, perfectly normal and smiling.
People swarmed around them, hugging and kissing them, and plying them with question after question. The parish priest of Cosio heard all about these happenings, and was anxious to report to his superiors. He was however advised to wait a bit longer, and so it was that on the following day he as well as several other villagers were present with the girls, Together they all said the Rosary and the very instant it was finished, the girls all went into a state of ecstasy. While in that state the girls were completely impervious to pain or any outside stimuli. They were pricked heavily with sharp pins, had bright lights shone in their eyes with no reaction whatever, but as soon as they came out of their rapture they would instantly shut their eyes and complain of the bright light.
Often they would suddenly fall to the rocky ground on their knees with a bone jarring thud, but were unhurt. At one stage Mary Loly fell to the floor, hitting her head on a concrete step with a loud thump, but she remained on the floor, smiling and happily chatting to the Virgin Mary. Later when she had emerged from her ecstasy there was a large lump on the back of her head.
Other strange phenomena related to the girls in their ecstasies were that sometimes they would run backwards at breathtaking speed, down the rocky lane in the dark, without ever once stumbling or falling. Adults who were with them could not catch up to them. At other times, and this has been noted in other mystics as well, when they were in ecstasy their bodies became so heavy that grown men had great difficulty in trying to lift them, and yet one of the other girls also in ecstasy at that same moment had no trouble lifting them up with one hand.
Further visions of the angel took place over the next few days, and the crowds grew larger as more news of these unusual happening spread throughout country.
On Saturday July 1st there was a great crowd present, including many doctors, priests and people from all walks of life. The apparition occurred very early, at about 7.30pm and lasted for two hours. The angel told them that the next day Sunday, the Virgin Mary would come. As at Fatima, the children were being prepared by the angel for a visit from the Virgin Mary. At Fatima the angel identified himself as the Angel of Peace. At Garabandal he identified himself as St. Michael the Archangel.
Conchita recalls that they spoke to the angel of many things that day. Some of their questions made him smile. He departed promising that he would return the following day accompanied by the Virgin Mary who would appear as Our Lady of Mt Carmel.
The Mass on Sunday 2nd July was celebrated with great solemnity.
The Rosary was said in the little church at 3.00pm
The village streets were jammed with strangers.
Just before 6 o'clock, with a multitude of people behind them, the girls set off for the "cuadro", a rough stone enclosure built on the spot where the angel had appeared to them, in order to save the girls from being crushed by the crowds.
They had not yet arrived at the "cuadro" when all of a sudden Our Lady appeared to them, accompanied by two angels, who looked like twins. One was St Michael the Archangel, and the other one did not identify himself.
The visionaries spoke to Our Lady at length, of very simple ordinary things that were happening in their village at the time. Our Lady laughed at some of the things they told her.
She gave them a message, and it appears as though the message was actually given to them over a series of apparitions, and not always verbally, but sometimes in a visual way. "The cup is filling" is a well-known expression in Marian terminology, and when Our Lady repeated this at Garabandal, she did so in a very low sad voice, and showed them a large chalice into which drops of blood or tears were falling.
The Virgin taught them how to say the Rosary slowly, and not rush it.
When the Virgin departed, "vanished into thin air" was the way the girls described it, they usually bade her farewell with a little wave of the hand.
As the usual time for the apparitions approached, the girls became impatient, fidgety and excited. "It's time", their parents pointed out to them, "Why don't you run along and pray in the sunken lane?"
"She hasn't called us yet", they replied.
This was the first time they had mentioned being called. It was a kind of a wordless warning, which nevertheless they heard or felt quite distinctly. There are three calls, a considerable time between the first and the second, but the third following on quite quickly.
An investigator quizzed Jacinta about the calls. "When the Virgin calls, just she say Jacinta?"
"The first time", Jacinta explained, "she just says Jacinta. The second time she says "Jacinta, come" and the third time she says "Jacinta, hurry, hurry, hurry, hurry"
One day the Parish Priest decided to put these calls to the test. He separated the girls, keeping Mary Loly and Jacinta at Mary Loly's house, and Mary Cruz and Conchita at Conchita's house. The children indicated when they heard the first call and also the second. The instant the third call came all four of them dashed from their two houses, and met up together at the same time at the sunken lane.
There Our Lady was waiting fore them holding the infant Jesus in her arms. The Virgin and the infant were smiling. When one of the girls asked where St Michael the Archangel was, Our Lady's smile broadened.
She allowed the children the incredible favour of nursing the infant, who looked to be barely a year old, and onlookers noted how they assumed the positions of someone nursing a baby.
Early in July, the girls were noticed picking up pebbles and holding them up high for Our Lady to kiss, then giving them to various friends.
It wasn't long before the pebbles were replaced with religious articles, Rosaries, medals holy cards, and wedding rings.
On one occasion a husband and wife gave their wedding rings to one of their friends, who then passed them on to another friend, who finally gave them to one of the girls for Our Lady to kiss. When she had kissed it, the girl unerringly wended her way through the crowd of onlookers, in the dark, and returned the rings directly to the wife and to the husband, who stood apart.
Wedding rings in that part of the world are normally worn on the right hand, and on one occasion a stranger had passed her wedding ring to one of the girls for Our Lady to kiss. When she returned it she started to put it on the right hand, then suddenly stopped and said "Oh no, you wear it on your left hand don't you"
It turned out that the woman came from Valencia, where wedding rings are traditionally worn on the left hand.
Non- religious objects such as powder compacts are never kissed by Our Lady, but one evening the girls held up a powder compact to Our Lady and she took it and kissed it. That puzzled the girls until Our Lady explained to them that that powder compact had once held the body of her son in the form of a consecrated host.
Later it was confirmed that indeed the powder compact had once been used as a Pyx to hold the Blessed Sacrament, for delivery to some soldiers fighting in the battle fields during the Spanish Civil War.
On July 29th the little girls had an ecstasy under the close supervision of a doctor, who examined tem and diagnosed them as normal.
They said, "The Virgin says we are to go up to the Pines, and that our parents and the priests and the Civil Guards can come too. But they must remain at a distance. The rest may come too, but they must stay further back.
They all climbed the hill to the Nine Pines, and everybody followed the girls' instructions to the letter. Our Lady told them the others could watch, but could not hear.
The visionaries confirmed that it was Our Lady's voice, but that was the last time it was heard.Playing the tape again, over and over, Our Lady's voice had completely disappeared forever.
If all this is true, then Our lady virtually lived at Garabandal for two years, appearing almost daily, and some days on multiple occasions, to the four young girls.
So what is the Church's official position on Garabandal?
There was an official statement made saying in effect that the Commission of investigation could not confirm the supernatural events alleged to be occurring at Garabandal. However the later Bishop of that area has confirmed that he is not in agreement with that decision, and that there may well be a further Commission appointed to re-examine the whole situation. The Church always moves slowly in these cases, remember that the Fatima apparitions were not finally approved until 13 years afterwards. One of the main reasons that I can see for the reluctance to do much about the matter is that at Garabandal there was a message given about an event which is to happen some time in the future. It would seem prudent to wait until this event happens and if it does, as and when it has been foretold to happen, then that will be final proof that all the apparitions at Garabandal were truly from God.
On Easter Sunday, Don Valentin asked the Lord to give him a sign to see clearly, once and for all, whether the apparitions were true or not.
As proof, he asked that one of the children should come to him in ecstasy, that very night when he was asleep, wake him up, make the Sign of the Cross over him several times, and give him the crucifix to kiss. And so, at about 2.00 am one of the visionaries came in a trance to the door of the house where he was staying that night, and started to knock on the door.
As everybody was in bed asleep, nobody answered at first, but her knocking was so loud and insistent that eventually somebody got up and let her in.
Don Valentin was still asleep, unaware of any of this.
Without hesitation the girl went directly to the priest's bedroom, still in a trance, put the crucifix against his lips to kiss, and as he woke with a start, she made the Sign of the Cross over him several times. Then she smiled sweetly at him and left the room, returning to her own home.
Now I'll tell you about the message and the events which it foretells.
Conchita had announced that Our Lady had given them a message, which they were to make known on 18th October 1961.
The news spread rapidly all over Spain, so that on that day pilgrims arrived in their hundreds, expecting a sensational revelation.
Like Fatima on the day of the great miracle of the sun, rain had been pouring down for hours. Whilst they were supposed to read the message, signed by all four, in the church, some members of the Commission told them instead to read it at the 10.00pm up in the Nine Pines area.
Obedient to that direction, the girls and a large crowd of pilgrims struggles their way up the steep mountain to the pinegrove.
In the dim light of a torch, one of the girls read the message. It was later re-read by one of the pilgrims, who had a louder voice.
The message reads -
People's disappointment was understandable.
Many had come to hear some spectacular news, and here was a message which was pretty much the same message as that of Fatima, almost 50 years earlier.
Then there was the miracle prophesied, and it is this miracle, which when and if it happens, will be undoubted confirmation of the truth of all the apparitions of Garabandal.
Conchita knows the date that the miracle will happen, but Our Lady has instructed her to tell no one, until just eight days in advance, when she can reveal the exact date to the whole world.
The miracle will happen at 8.30 pm on a Thursday coinciding with an event of great importance to Christendom. We know that it will fall on the Feastday of a Saint who is indirectly connected with the Holy Eucharist, and that the miracle will be seen by everybody who is in Garabandal or its surrounds at that time. We know that the Pope and Padre Pio will see the miracle from wherever they happen to be. Conchita did not say which Pope, and we have had two Popes since the time of the apparitions, so I presume that a reference to "the Pope" will be to whoever is Pope at the time. I originally thought that the miracle would have to occur during the lifetime of Padre Pio, but he died in 1968, so he will see the miracle from where he is - in heaven. Since Conchita must announce the date of the miracle eight days in advance, I presume that it must happen during her lifetime, and now she would be approx 60 years of age.
Sick people who are present will be cured, sinners will be converted, the miracle will last for about 15 minutes, the Bishop will raise his prohibition beforehand, so that priests may be present on the day, and a permanent sign will be left as proof of the miracle. It will be possible to photograph and to televise the miracle.
It will be the greatest miracle that Jesus has worked for the whole world, and there will not be the slightest doubt that it comes from God and is good for mankind.
If the punishment comes, it will come after the miracle.
Speaking of our trip to Garabandal,
Another day, we had been in the Church for probably 10 minutes or more praying the Rosary, when a soldier in his full army uniform stood up to leave. He had been in the church for at least as long as us, because he was there when we arrived. He walked towards the door, then spun on his heel, stood to attention for a few moments, then knelt down on both knees and bowed his head towards the Tabernacle. Then he stood, stiffly to attention for a few moments, then snapped off a soldier's salute towards the Tabernacle, spun on his heel and marched out. It may have been routine for him, but it was the first time I had seen a soldier salute his God in the tabernacle, and I thought it was a marvelous gesture. A wave of emotion swept over me.
Walking around the little village one day, we came across a small shop - really it was the front room of the owner's house - and in there I spotted the identical book which the Nun had lent me. I bought a copy immediately, so that I could finally return her copy to her. Besides giving her the book I also included a small handful of pine needles, which I had picked up on the ground beneath the Nine Pines on top of the mountain where Our Lady appeared many times to the children.