The Story of Garabandal
“In those days Mary arose and went with haste into the hill country, to a town of Judah.” Luke 1:39
We are before the most beautiful story that has taken place since Jesus and Mary lived amongst us here on earth.
Where is Garabandal and what is it?
Garabandal is an isolated village with a population of about 300 people in the Cantabrian Mountains of North Western Spain. The village is imbued with supernatural serenity and beauty.
On June 18th, 1961 four girls: Conchita González, Jacinta González and Mari Loli Mazón who were 12 years old at the time and Mari Cruz González who was 11, were playing together near the village when they heard a sound like thunder. They were frightened and raised their heads to see where the noise came from. Suddenly, they saw before them the beautiful, resplendent figure of an Angel. After a few brief moments, and without a word, he disappeared. During the next few days, the Angel continued his visits, during which he looked at them in silence and smiled. The people of Garabandal began to meet with the girls in the evening to pray the rosary while they waited for the Angel to appear.
Finally, on July 1st, 1961, the Angel spoke to the girls and said, “Do you know why I have come? I have come to proclaim that the Blessed Virgin Mary will appear to you tomorrow as Our Lady of Mount Carmel.” The girls, filled with joy, cried out simultaneously, “Tell her to come soon!”
On July 2nd, in those days the feast day of the Visitation, at around 6 pm, the girls were in the calleja, (a stone path) when the Blessed Virgin appeared to them with the Child Jesus and two angels. The girls recognized one of them as the Angel who had appeared to them previously, who was later identified as Saint Michael the Archangel. The other was almost completely identical. Above the Blessed Virgin, to the right, there was an eye, which the girls called the eye of God. Without fear, the girls began to speak with the Blessed Virgin. They told her about their families and the work they did in their houses or in the fields and the Blessed Virgin Mary smiled at them. Conchita said that it was as if her own mother had been gone on a long trip and had just come home. They prayed the rosary with the Blessed Virgin, who taught them to pray the rosary well.
When the Blessed Virgin said that she had to leave, the little girls pleaded with her to stay. To console them, she promised that she would return the following day.
She did return, not only on the following day, but on hundreds of occasions, sometimes appearing several times during the day or the night.
The girls knew when Our Lady was going to appear to them thanks to what the girls themselves called the “llamadas,” or interior calls. They received three interior calls in which they experienced an increasing joy that preceded and announced the apparition. After the third interior call, the joy was so intense that they began to run from wherever they were towards the place of the apparition. They arrived almost simultaneously and fell onto their knees abruptly in an ecstatic trance.
In August of 1961, the girls began to walk during their ecstasies. With their eyes fixed upwards, they walked forwards and backwards throughout the village.
During the first apparitions, the girls offered pebbles to the Child Jesus, whom the Blessed Virgin sometimes brought with her, because they wanted to make Him laugh. The Child did not take the pebbles, but Our Mother did. She kissed them and requested that they be given to certain people after the ecstasy.
The onlookers soon began to give the girls numerous religious objects for Our Lady to kiss, or, when the girls were not present, they left the objects on tables next to the girls’ houses which were placed there for that very purpose. There was no way for the girls to know to whom each article belonged. Even so, during the ecstasies, with their faces always turned upwards and with their eyes fixed on heaven, guided by the vision, in all of the thousands of times that they returned rosaries, medals, wedding rings and other religious objects to their owners, they never made a mistake. On a certain occasion, the girls were surprised to find a powder compact among the objects to be kissed by the Blessed Virgin. They doubted whether to present to her a seemingly secular object. But when the Blessed Virgin arrived, the first thing she asked to kiss was the compact, saying that it “belonged to her Son.” When the ecstasy ended, the owner of the compact revealed that during the Spanish Civil War, the compact had been used to take the Eucharist to prisoners and to those who were about to be executed.
During the ecstasies, our little protagonists always brought a crucifix which they offered to the onlookers to venerate. They normally held out the crucifix to whomever the Blessed Virgin indicated to the girls. After an ecstasy, Conchita found out that those who had kissed the crucifix, though they weren´t dressed as priests, were in reality priests. During the ecstasies, the girls recognized priests and religious on numerous occasions, though they were dressed normally, with no way for the girls to distinguish them other than through the visions.
Little by little, as the news was spread by word of mouth, visitors began to arrive from outside of village, some from outside of Spain. 500 to 3,000 people arrived each day and joined the villagers of Garabandal in prayer as they waited for the apparition.
Soon, many priests and doctors approached the girls during the ecstasies with the intention of judging whether the apparitions were genuine. Some of the first to arrive in the little mountain village were prestigious theologians, teachers, diocesan priests, and religious, some of whom held important positions in the Church… They carried out their theological and doctrinal investigations and examined the girls’ lives. They concluded that the girls were perfectly healthy and well-balanced; they did not crave attention, though at the same time they had not completely overcome their childish ways, which emphasizes the fact that they were completely normal. They verified that in the months of the apparitions, the girls did not neglect their educational obligations, household chores or labor in the fields, though during the apparitions the girls sometimes stayed in vigil until early in the morning, suffering the harsh weather: rain, cold, and snow. The Blessed Virgin often repeated to them that they should be obedient to their parents. She also encouraged them to make sacrifices, especially for the holiness of priests, and so that those priests who waver might persevere. She taught them to detest sin and helped them to form their consciences by responding to the thousands of questions the girls asked her. The girls affirmed that after seeing the Blessed Virgin Mary they yearned to love Jesus and Mary more and to tell everyone about the Lord and his Most Holy Mother. The simple and trusting relationship that the little girls had with their Heavenly Mother was truly exceptional. In certain occasions, she played with the girls and she often said good-bye to them with a kiss.
The doctors were astonished to see the strange physical phenomena that accompanied the ecstasies, during which they had absolutely no sensitivity to pain, even when people poked them with needles or burned them with cigarettes. Their bodies acquired extraordinary weight which made it impossible to pick them up or even to force them to make the slightest movement. Their eyes were completely open as they contemplated the apparition, yet when cameras flashed or onlookers shined powerful lights into their eyes, their expressions did not change. They ran towards the site of the apparition and got there before everyone else, including the strong and healthy young boys. And, while the rest of the people arrived sweating and out of breath, the girls arrived without any signs of physical fatigue. They fell hard onto their knees on the stones without hurting themselves. They walked forwards and backwards during the ecstasies on the poorly paved streets of the village, or even cross-country, with their heads completely raised, and their eyes constantly fixed upwards. Though they were totally unable to see where they were going, they never fell or tripped. None of this has a natural explanation.
Amongst the many priests who went to Garabandal to study the events was Father Luis María Andreu, a Jesuit. He and his brother, also a Jesuit, Father Ramón Andreu, moved more out of curiosity than out of a hope to find something serious, visited Garabandal . They were convinced by what they saw that the girls were telling the truth. On August 8th, 1961 Father Luis María Andreu made a second visit to Garabandal. That night, when the girls fell into ecstasy, he approached them to observe them closely. Suddenly, those who were with him saw that an indescribable enthusiasm invaded the Priest. His face changed and tears began to fall down his cheeks. He suddenly cried out, “Miracle! Miracle! Miracle! Miracle!” In the car, as he returned to his residence that same night, his companions were impressed by the joy that overwhelmed him and by his complete surety as he spoke of the events of Garabandal. He repeated enthusiastically, “I’m so happy! The Blessed Virgin has given me an immense gift! We’re so lucky to have a Mother like her in Heaven! There is no doubt in my mind that the visions are true. Today is the happiest day of my life!” After that last phrase, there was silence. “Father, what’s wrong?” Father Luis María Andreu had died. He was still a young man and had no known illness. The Blessed Virgin Mary told the girls that on August 8th Father Luis María Andreu had not only seen her, but he had also seen the Great Miracle that would come.
What did the Blessed Virgin mean when she said “Great Miracle”?
In October of 1961, the Blessed Virgin Mary revealed to Conchita the Great Miracle. Later, she also told the other three. Conchita says that it will be a Thursday at 8:30 pm and will last 15 minutes, but a visible sign will remain in the pines until the end of times. It will coincide with a great event in the Church. The sick who are in Garabandal will be cured, the sinners will convert and the unbelievers will believe. Conchita will announce the date of the miracle eight days in advance. In order to prepare us for the Great Miracle, a supernatural warning, coming directly from God, will occur. The Warning will appear in the sky and will be visible to the whole world. It will be understood by everyone at the same time, regardless of their state of life or knowledge of God. It will be a terrible experience, but it will be for the well-being of our souls because we will see interiorly, in our conscience, the good and the evil we have done. God desires our salvation; the purpose of the Warning is not to cause us to fear but to bring us closer to Him and to increase our faith.
If the world does not change after the Miracle, a chastisement will come. Conchita says, “If we do not change, the Chastisement will be horrible. Loli, Jacinta and I have seen it, but I cannot say what it consists of, because I do not have Our Lady’s permission.”
October 18th, 1961 was a day of great importance in the history of the apparitions of Our Lady of Garabandal . It was the day that the Blessed Virgin Mary gave the girls permission to announce the first message. The heavy rain that did not cease during the entire day did not discourage the thousands of people who arrived in Garabandal that day. As the evening fell, the girls read the text of the message in the pine trees: “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.” With the simplicity of a mother, Our Lady gave her children the advice that they needed to hear, for the good of their own souls. If we don’t choose the way of the Cross, if the Eucharist is not the center of our lives each day, if we are not good, if we do not convert, the Lord will have no choice but to intervene to make us understand the importance of what is at stake: our salvation.
After the girls had proclaimed the first message, they often asked the Blessed Virgin to perform a miracle that would help the people to believe in the apparitions. When there was not mass in the town, Saint Michael the Archangel would bring the Eucharist to the girls so that they would not miss communion. One day, Saint Michael told Conchita that on a certain occasion, he would bring her communion, and the host would become visible on her tongue. Conchita did not think it was a very impressive miracle, because she thought that the host was always visible to those who were present. Conchita announced the date of the miracle 15 days in advance. When the awaited day arrived, there were hundreds of people in the village. The miracle took place on July 19th, 1962 at 1:30 am. One of the main concerns of the Blessed Virgin in Garabandal was to help us to grow in our love and veneration of the Eucharist. In that sense, it is fitting that the miracle was precisely a Eucharistic miracle. One of the witnesses was able to record on video the brief seconds in which the white host appeared in Conchita’s mouth.
During the first two years, the heavenly manifestations constantly increased in number. But, starting in 1963, the girls had fewer apparitions, and sometimes Our Lady, or occasionally Our Lord Himself, chose to speak to them through interior locutions. Despite all of this, pilgrims continued to come to Garabandal in great numbers, and many of the pilgrimages came from outside of Spain. The little village in the mountains received visits from important Church figures, reporters from important news agencies, diplomats, entrepreneurs, writers, etc. Notable conversions and healings, both of a physical and spiritual nature, took place in Garabandal. Our Lady of Garabandal is specialized in healing hearts and souls.
The second message of the Blessed Virgin Mary came on June 18th, 1965, only a few months before the end of the apparitions. Saint Michael was sent by the Blessed Virgin to impart the message to the Conchita. As Saint Michael spoke, tears began to stream down Conchita’s face. “As my message of October 18th has not been fulfilled and has not been made known to the world, I tell you that this is my last message. Before, the cup was filling up. Now, it is overflowing. 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 for His forgiveness with sincere hearts, He will forgive 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. Meditate on the passion of Jesus.”
The message, though brief, is rich in content, and describes the painful situation that the Catholic Church was living at the time, as the Second Vatican Council was about to come to a close. Several months after this message was proclaimed, Pope Paul VI published the encyclical Mysterium Fidei in which he expresses his grave concern for the doctrinal confusion regarding the greatest treasure that the Church possesses: the Eucharist. However, on June 18th 1965, Conchita could not have known about this, because the doctrinal and liturgical crisis that had begun in the heart of the Church had barely reached Spain, and certainly had not reached this village lost in the mountains. Either way, the great crisis which occurred among the priests was unthinkable. Soon, however, it became reason for a new and profound affliction for the successor of Peter and for the entire Church.
November 13th, 1965 was a bittersweet day for Conchita. She walked alone to the Pines as the rain fell down on her. The Blessed Virgin Mary appeared again to the young woman. She came with the Child Jesus, who was all smiles, but this would be the last time. Addressing Conchita, the Blessed Virgin Mary said, “Conchita, tell me, tell me about my children. I have all of them under my mantel... I love you all very much and I desire your salvation… give all you can and we will help you… This will be the last time you see me here, but I will be with you always and with all my children. Conchita, you should visit my Son more often in the Tabernacle. Why do you let yourself be led by your laziness to not visit him? He is waiting for you all, day and night.” Conchita responded to the Blessed Virgin, “How happy I am when I see you! Why don't you take me with you right now?” She answered, “Remember what I told you on your saint's day. When you present yourself before God, you must show Him your hands filled with the good works you have done for your brothers and for the glory of God; in this moment, your hands are empty.”
Those words marked the end of the visible manifestations of Our Lady in Garabandal. The happy moments the girls had spent with their Heavenly Mother had come to an end, but they continued to feel her presence and the impression she had made on their souls. Conchita said that the apparitions “left my soul full of peace and joy and gave me a great desire to overcome my defects and to love the Lord and His Most Holy Mother with all of my strength.”
Our Heavenly Mother wants to leave that same impression on all of our souls: the certainty that we have a Mother who is close to us and who looks after for us; the desire of conversion that is born in our souls through meditating on the Passion; love and veneration for the Eucharist, the greatest gift that the Church possesses. The Blessed Virgin Mary will forever be with all of her children. She promises to us the same thing that she promised to Conchita in the last apparition: “We will help you. I will be with you always and with all of my children.”