by Arthur Policarpio
Garabandal is a small village of around 300 people located in a ruggedly beautiful, mountaineous region of Northern Spain. In the evening of June 18, 1961, four girls were playing in the outskirts of the town – 11-year old Maria Cruz Gonzalez, and three 12-year-old girls named Conchita Gonzalez, Maria Dolores Mazon, and Jacinta Gonzalez. Notwithstanding their similar last names, none of them were related. Suddenly, they heard a loud noise, like thunder, and they saw the Archangel Michael. On the following days, the Archangel appeared today in the same place, announcing to them that on July 2, they would see Our Lady.
At six in the evening of July 2, in the presence of a crowd of spectators, the girls entered into ecstasy and saw Our Lady, accompanied by two angels, one being St. Michael. The girls described Our Lady as follows:
She is dressed in a white robe with a blue mantle and a crown of golden stars. Her hands are slender. There is a brown scapular on her right arm, except when she carried the Child Jesus in her arms. Her hair, deep nut-brown, is parted in the center. Her face is long, with a fine nose. Her mouth is very pretty with lips a bit thin. She looks like a girl of eighteen. She is rather tall. There is no voice like hers. No woman is just like her, either in the voice or the face or anything else.
The girls spoke with the Virgin with the simplicity of children talking familiarly with their mother. “We were telling her,” they said, "about our tasks, how we were going to the meadows...” and “She smiled at the little things we told her.” After this first apparition, Our Lady appeared numerous times, sometimes several times each week, during 1961 and 1962. The four girls did not always experience the apparition together, sometimes Our Lady to just one, two or three of them.
When the girls saw Our Lady, they immediately fell on their knees, oblivious of the pain of their knees striking sharp rocks with a loud noise (close medical examination by various doctors showed no signs of injuries of their knees). Their facial expression suddenly changes, completely absorbed in their rapture. Doctors and various witnesses subjected them to various tests while in their state of ecstasy: they did not react to pricks, burns or blows. Attempts to distract them proved futile: powerful beams of strong light were focused on their eyes, yet they did not even flicker, blink or show any signs of discomfort – powerful light which, according to doctors, under normal circumstances would have caused permanent eye damage. On the contrary, their eyes remained wide open, with a look of profound, intense joy. These ecstasies lasted from a few minutes to up to several hours, with the girls remaining completely immobile in off-balance positions, heads tilted back, eyes looking up, kneeling on rocks and rough terrain.
Many eminent doctors have studied the events and visited the girls during the apparitions. After years of observation, a child specialist has attested that the girls were always completely normal, and that the ecstasies do not fall under any known psychological or physiological phenomena. Dr. Ricard Puncernau, a renowned Barcelona neuropsychiatrist, attests: “In the presence of these facts it is difficult for the doctor to give a merely natural explanation... From a strictly scientific point of view one cannot deny, at least thus far, the possibility of a supernatural cause in all these phenomena.” Dr. Gasca Ruiz and Dr. Ortis Gonzalez, who also studied the phenomena, declared that “to keep silence would be true scientific cowardice on our part. We do not find any convincing scientific explanation capable of explaining such phenomena.”
As with most of the modern-day apparitions of Our Lady, there were many who did not believe in the apparitions. For this reason, the four girls continuously asked the Blessed Virgin and St. Michael to perform a miracle to convince those who still did not believe in the visions.
Their request was granted. On June 22, 1962, St. Michael told Conchita that on a date designated by the Virgin, he would give her Communion and this time, the Host would be visible on our tongue. The girls have testified that St. Michael on numerous occasions since the start of the visions brought them Communion, although these were not visible to onlookers.
A few days later, Conchita learned through Our Lady that the “little miracle” of the Host would occur on July 18, and that she was to announce it 15 days in advance. When the time came to announce the expected miracle, she wrote numerous letters inviting people to come to Garabandal to witness the miracle.
The pastor, Fr. Valentin, who doubted that the phenomenon would happen, stopped her from writing many more letters. Despite this, news of the anticipated miracle had already spread far and wide, and many people from different parts of Spain began making preparations to be in Garabandal on July 18.
On the day of the event, Conchita Gonzalez knelt in a village street amid a large crowd of pilgrims who had made their way to Garabandal to witness the promised miracle. Suddenly, a shining white Host was seen to suddenly appear on the girl’s outstretched tongue. The event was captured on film. Pepe Diez, the village mason, was a close-hand observer and was among those who gave a first-hand testimony to the miracle:
I did not take my eyes off the girl (Conchita). She started to speak, to pray, and then she smiled and while smiling she opened her mouth and put out her tongue very naturally. She extended her tongue, not just a little bit, but quite a lot, and as I saw that tongue so perfectly bare, I had a terrible feeling of disaster…I was scarcely 18 inches away from her face and the sight of her tongue, protruding and bare, gave me a terrible feeling of failure, I, who was hoping for so much! Conchita kept her tongue out like that for about a minute. And as I stood there, my eyes riveted on that tongue so hopelessly bare, something incredible happened! Without moving my eyes for a fraction of a second, suddenly a neat, precise and well-formed Host appeared miraculously on Conchita's tongue. I can attest to the fact that from the moment Conchita put out her tongue, she did not make a single move, either with her mouth or with her tongue; not a single muscle in her face moved.
The tongue was well out and bare and all of a sudden the Host was there! I did not see how it came. It was instantaneous! I can't even say it arrived in a split second. It was just there!
The first formal message of Our Lady was given to the girls on July 4, 1961, and publicly announced to the people on October 18. Below is the message:
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 second formal message was given much later toward the end of the apparitions. The Blessed Virgin told Conchita on January 1, 1965, that the archangel Saint Michael would appear on June 18th, and would deliver a message in her name. The message was as follows:
As my message of October 18 has not been complied with and has not been made known to the world, I am advising you that this is the last one. Before, the cup was filling up. Now it is flowing over. Many cardinals, many bishops and many priests are on the road to perdition and are taking many souls with them. Less and less importance is being given to the Eucharist. You should turn the wrath of God away from yourselves by your efforts. If you ask His forgiveness with sincere hearts, He will pardon you. I, your mother, through the intercession of Saint Michael the Archangel, ask you to amend your lives. You are now receiving the last warnings. I love you very much and do not want your condemnation. Pray to us with sincerity and we will grant your requests. You should make more sacrifices. Think about the passion of Jesus.
One cannot help but see the striking similarity of the formal messages of Garabandal with the messages of Our Lady in the Church-approved apparitions of Akita, Japan. On April 22, 1984 Bishop John Shojiro Ito, local bishop of the region of Akita, Japan, declared the Marian apparitions of Our Lady Akita to be of supernatural origin. Below is the exact text of Our Lady’s messages in Akita:
As I told you, if men do not repent and better themselves, the Heavenly Father will inflict a great punishment on all humanity. It will definitely be a punishment greater than the Deluge, such as has never been seen before.
Fire will plunge from the sky and a large part of humanity will perish... The good as well as the bad will perish, sparing neither priests nor the faithful. The survivors will find themselves plunged into such terrible hardships that they will envy the dead. The only arms which will remain for you will be the Rosary and the sign left by My Son (Eucharist).
Each day recite the prayers of the Rosary. With the Rosary pray for the bishops and priests. The work of the devil will infiltrate even into the Church. One will see cardinals opposing other cardinals... and bishops confronting other bishops. The priests who venerate me will be scorned and condemned by their confreres; churches and altars will be sacked; the Church will be full of those who accept compromises and the demon will tempt many priests and religious to leave the service of the Lord.
In her messages in Garabandal, Our Lady foretold three great supernatural events: the Warning, the Great Miracle, and the Great Chastisement. Of the three (3), the Great Chastisement, as with Akita, is conditional.
Conchita was advised by Our Lady at the pines on January 1, 1965 of a divine Warning that would precede the Great Miracle. The Warning will be seen and experienced by all people all over the world, and will be a direct, supernatural work of God. It will take place before the Great Miracle at a date unknown to Conchita, and its purpose is give people a chance to amend their lives. Conchita wrote:
The warning comes directly from God and will be visible to the whole world and from any place where anyone many happen to be. It will be like the revelation of our sins and it will be seen and felt by everyone, believer and unbeliever alike irrespective of whatever religion he may belong to. It will be seen and felt in all parts of the world and by every person.
In an interview in 1973, Conchita further describes the Warning:
The most important thing about the warning is that every person--everyone in the whole world--will see a sign, a grace, or a punishment within themselves. In other words, a warning. They will find themselves all alone in the world, no matter where they are at the time, alone with their conscience right before God. They will then see all their sins, and what their sins have caused.
This idea of a worldwide warning, an “illumination of consciences”, are likewise found in other private revelations, in particular, the Diary of Saint Faustina. In an except from her diary (n. 83), she reveals the following message from Jesus:
Before the day of justice arrives, there will be given to people a sign in the heavens of this sort: All light in the heavens will be extinguished, and there will be great darkness over the whole earth. Then the sign of the cross will be seen in the sky, and from the openings where the hands and the feet of the Savior were nailed will come forth great lights which will light up the earth for a period of time. This will take place shortly before the last day.
Likewise, in the “interior locutions” received by Fr. Stefano Gobbi from Our Lady, as contained in the book “Our Lady Speaks to Her Beloved Priests”, Our Lady foretold a “Second Pentecost” (message given October 2, 1992):
What will come to pass is something so very great that it will exceed anything that has taken place since the beginning of the world. It will be like a judgment in miniature, and each one will see his own life and all he has done, in the very light of God.
Furthermore, in her June 28, 1990 message to Fr. Gobbi:
The Second Pentecost will come like a river of grace and of mercy which will purify the Church and make her poor and chaste, humble and strong, without spot or wrinkle, all beautiful, in imitation of your heavenly Mother…The Second Pentecost will come like a dew upon the world and will transform the desert into a garden, in which all humanity will run, like a spouse, to meet her Lord, in a renewed covenant of love with Him.
Finally, in a message to Fr. Gobbi on May 22, 1994, Feast of Pentecost:
The triumph of my Immaculate Heart will coincide with the great prodigy of the Second Pentecost. A new fire will come down from heaven and will purify all humanity, which has again become pagan. It will be like a judgment in miniature and each one will see himself in the light of the very Truth of God. Thus sinners will come back to grace and holiness; the straying, to the road of righteousness; those far away, to the house of the Father; the sick, to complete healing; and the proud, the impure, the wicked collaborators with Satan will be defeated and condemned forever…open your hearts to hope, because there is about to come upon you the greatest prodigy of the Second Pentecost.
When will it happen? In the book “Garabandal – the Finger of God”, author Albrecht Weber narrated a conversation he had with Conchita as to when the Warning could possibly happen. Conchita told the author: “When communism comes again everything will happen.”
The author responded: “What do you mean by comes again?” “Yes, when it newly comes again,” she replied. “Does that mean that communism will go away before that?” “I don't know,” she said in reply, “the Blessed Virgin simply said ‘when communism comes again’.”
Conchita has clearly said that Our Lady has promised a Great Miracle in Garabandal – a tremendous prodigy which, in the words of Conchita, “will be the greatest Miracle Jesus has ever performed for the world.” In a location with Our Lord dated July 20, 1963, the Lord Jesus told Conchita that the Miracle is going to take place “to convert the whole world.” A concise summary and description of the miracle was narrated by Conchita to author Francisco Sanchez-Venture and published in his book Las Apariciones No Son Un Mito:
I am the only one to whom the Blessed Virgin spoke of the miracle. She forbade me to say what it will consist of. I can't announce the date either until eight days before it is due to occur. What I can reveal is that it will coincide with an event in the Church and with the feast of a saint, martyr of the Eucharist; that it will take place at eight thirty on a Thursday evening; that it will be visible to all those who are in the village and surrounding mountains; that the sick who are present will be cured and the incredulous will believe. It will be the greatest miracle that Jesus has performed for the world. There won't be the slightest doubt that it comes from God and that it is for the good of mankind. A sign of the miracle which it will be possible to film or televise, will remain forever at the pines.
While the Warning and the Great Miracle are events that will definitely occur as prophesied by Our Lady in Garabandal, the third great event, the Chastisement, is conditional and can be averted by mankind’s repentance. Conchita describes it as follows:
I cannot reveal what kind of punishment it is except that it will be a result of the direct intervention of God, which makes it more terrible and fearful than anything we can imagine. It will be less painful for innocent babies to die a natural death than for those babies to die because of the punishment. All Catholics should go to confession before the punishment and the others should repent of their sins. When I saw IT (the punishment), I felt a great fear even though at the same time I was seeing Our Blessed Mother. The punishment, if it comes, will come after the miracle.
In his book The Apparitions of Garabandal, Francisco Sanchez-Venture y Pascual includes the following note written by Conchita about the Chastisement:
The Chastisement is conditional and depends on whether or not mankind heeds the messages of the Blessed Virgin and the Miracle. If it should take place, I know what it will consist of because the Blessed Virgin told me about it, but I am not permitted to say what it is. Moreover, I have seen the Chastisement. I can assure you that if it comes, it will be worse than being enveloped in fire, worse than having fire above and beneath you. I do not know how much time will elapse between the Miracle and the Chastisement.
In an interview in April 2006, Marie Cruz, referring to the Chastisement, she said that “the Virgin never was threatening, it was a warning- like a mother who advises a son, be he takes a bad road.”
The Blessed Virgin Mary told me before that Jesus does not want to send the punishment in order to distress us but in order to help us and reproach us because we pay no attention to Him. And the warning will be sent in order to purify us for the miracle in which he will show us His great love, and in order that we may fulfill the message.
The Church has a very strict and precise terminology for judging alleged apparitions (very few apparitions are officially approved). According to the norms of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, alleged apparitions are classified in one of three categories:
So where does Garabandal stand? In a clarificatory letter (English translation published in the EWTN website) dated June 8, 1993 written by Jose Vilaplana, Bishop of Santander (the local Diocese to which Garabandal belongs), the Bishop wrote the following:
All the bishops of the diocese from 1961 through 1970 asserted that the supernatural character of the said apparitions, that took place around that time, could not be confirmed. [no constaba].
Based on the above, Garabandal is classified in the 3rd category – it is not certain that the events are of supernatural origin. The Bishop did not say “it is certain that the events of Garabandal are not of supernatural origin”, which constitutes a condemnation of the apparition. Rather, based on the above note from the Bishop, the Church is not certain of the supernatural nature of the events – which means that the Church is leaving the door open for a possible positive declaration in the future, pending further investigation.
In a letter written by Bishop Eugenio Beitia Aldazabal dated July 8, 1965, he clearly wrote that “we have found no grounds for ecclesiastical condemnation.” Bishop Jose Cirada Lachiondo, in a declaration published June 1970, wrote that the messages of Garabandal “do not contain anything contrary to traditional Church teaching on Faith and Morals”.
The first commission which studied the Garabandal events, while stating that they found no phenomena which would authentic the supernatural nature of the events, clearly did not condemn the apparition and the messages, declaring that “we have not found anything deserving of ecclesiastical censure or condemnation either in the doctrine or in the spiritual recommendations that have been published as having been addressed to the faithful.”
The bishop who called the second commission, Bishop del Val, upon retiring from office stated in an interview that the message of Garabandal was “important” and “theologically correct.”
In light of the above, even though the Church has not given official approval yet, a Catholic may in good standing believe in the events at Garabandal. The local ordinaries have been very clear to avoid condemnation. In fact, the Bishops allow private pilgrimages to Garabandal – a typical practice when an alleged apparition has not yet been approved or condemned.
Contrary to various negative reports on Garabandal, therefore, the fact is that the apparitions have never been officially condemned by the Church, particularly by several of the local bishops under whose jurisdiction the apparitions fall. Although the apparitions have not been officially approved, they have not been officially condemned either. This is particularly because most of the important parts of the message – the prophetic messages foretelling the Warning, the Miracle and the Chastisement – can only be validated or invalidated upon their actual occurrence. We will never know if the prophesied events are true or not – until they actually happen.
Perhaps the Church will never be able to declare, with finality, whether the Garabandal apparitions are “certainly of supernatural origin”, or “certainly not of a supernatural origin.” This because the only real way to prove or disprove the apparitions is to validate and experience the actual occurence of the spectacular, prophesied events. In the meantime, we individual Catholics simply have to read the facts, reach a decision privately, and more importantly, let the message of conversion, prayer and repentence change our lives.
In our continuing discernment of the Garabandal apparitions, it may help to know that Mother Teresa and Padre Pio, two of the greatest saints of the 20th century, actually believed in the Garabandal apparitions. If we are to believe in the apparitions, as they did, then we cannot help but marvel at the apparitions’ great message of hope, love and Divine Mercy.
It is a message of hope for a world submerged in a sea of darkness and suffering – rampant killings of millions of babies, wars and massacres, corruption, moral degeneration. The world is seemingly at the edge of a precipice; the Church, seemingly on the brink of total collapse. And yet, the message of Garabandal assures us that God is in control, and that God has a plan for rescuing poor humanity from the clutches of Satan. It is a plan that involves a dramatic, direct intervention of God to bring all men of good will back to Him. And if indeed the apparitions are true, then what a marvelous plan it is!
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