On March 3rd, 1962, the four young visionaries, Conchita, Mari Loli, Jacinta, and Mari Cruz received an anonymous letter in San Sebastián de Garabandal. The incident has been conveyed by Dr. Celestino Ortiz, a trustworthy witness. Fr. Eusebio García de Pesquera, in his book, "She Went with Haste to the Mountain," narrates the story. He explains it as follows:
“Félix López, a former student of the Major Seminary in Derio (Bilbao, Spain) and later professor in the school in Garabandal, was gathered together with a few others in the kitchen in Conchita’s house. The girl had received a letter that she did not understand, and, therefore, asked Félix to translate it for her. It was written in Italian, and Félix, after reading it, said, «Based on his way of writing, it could be from Padre Pío».” Conchita asked if he knew Padre Pío’s address and, receiving an affirmative response, asked if he would help her write a letter responding to Padre Pío and thanking him.
Having finished the letter, they left it on the kitchen table unfolded. A short time later, Conchita entered into ecstasy and was praying the Rosary. When she returned to her normal stated Félix asked: “Did you ask Our Lady if the letter was from Padre Pío?" “Yes, and she gave me a secret response to send to him." The girl went up to her room, returning a little while later with a written note in her hand. In the presence of everyone she stuck the note in the envelope, which the professor had already addressed to Padre Pío, and then sealed it. The letter which had arrived to Conchita, without signature or return address but with Italian postage, said the following:
My Dear Girls:
At 9 o’clock in the morning, the Most Holy Virgin asked me to communicate to you the following: “Oh blessed girls of San Sebastián de Garabandal! I promise you that I will be with you until the end of time, and you will be with me at the end of the world and after, together with me in the glory of Paradise." I am sending this copy of the Holy Rosary of Fatima that Our Lady asked me to send you. The Rosary was composed by Our Lady and should be made known for the salvation of sinners and for the preservation of humanity from the terrible chastisements that the good God is threatening. I would advise you to pray and make others pray because the world is on the road to perdition. They don’t believe in you or your conversations with the Lady in White now, but they will believe when it is too late.
On February 9, 1975 the magazine known as NEEDLES had recorded an interview with Conchita, during which they asked her about this surprising letter from Padre Pio:
Q. Conchita, do you remember anything about the letter?
Conchita: I remember that I received a letter in the mail that was addressed to me and the other three: Jacinta, Mari Loli, and Mari Cruz. They asked me what it was about, but since it was not signed, I kept it in my pocket until I saw the Blessed Virgin later that day. When she appeared I showed her the letter and I asked her who it was from. The Blessed Virgin told me that it was from Padre Pío. As I didn’t know who Padre Pío was, I didn’t ask any more questions. After the apparition, I told the people about the letter. A seminarian who was there explained to me who Padre Pio was and where he lived. So I wrote to him, saying that when he visited my country, I would like very much to see him. He answered me in a brief letter, saying: “do you think I can go up the chimney?” I was only 12 years old at the time, and I had no idea what a cloistered monastery was.
CONCHITA'S VISIT TO PADRE PIO
In February of 1967, Conchita arrived in Rome with her mother, a Spanish priest, Fr. Luis Luna, Professor Enrico Medi and Princess Cecilia from Bourbon and Parma. She had been called by Cardinal Ottaviani, prefect of the Holy Office, today known as the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. It was during this visit that Conchita had a private audience with Pope Paul VI, during which only five others were present. We have the reliable witness of Professor Medi, who at the time was president of the European Association of Atomic Energy and friend of the Holy Father; he was one of the five present. As Conchita had to wait a day before her interview with Cardinal Ottaviani, Professor Medi suggested that they go to San Giovanni Rotondo to see Padre Pio. Conchita herself tells about her visit, taken from her interview in NEEDLES magazine:
We all agreed to go so we headed towards the monastery in Professor Medi’s rental car. We arrived about 9 o’clock at night and we were told that we wouldn’t be able to see Padre Pio until the next morning, after he celebrated the 5 a.m. Mass. Fr. Luna and the Professor went to the sacristy before Mass began. The Professor told me later on what had happened. He said that Fr. Luna told Padre Pio that the Princess of Spain was there to see him, Padre Pio replied, "I don’t feel very well and won’t be able to see her until later in the day." Then Professor Medi said to him, "There is someone else here to see you as well. Conchita wants to speak with you." Padre Pio replied, "Conchita of Garabandal? Come back at eight o'clock this morning." When we arrived we were brought into a small room, a cell, which had a bed, a chair, and a small table. I asked Padre Pio if this was his room and if he slept here, to which he replied, 'Oh no, you cannot see my room. This is a rich room.' At the time I did not realize what a holy man Padre Pio was, as I know him to be now. I was very young; I was only 16."
Q: Who was in the room with you?
Conchita: It was just my mother, Fr. Luna, and a priest from the monastery who spoke Spanish and took a lot of pictures. I don’t remember the Princess or the Professor being their.
Q: Can you tell us what was said during your visit with Padre Pio?
Conchita: I only remember a little. I do remember that the priest who had been taking the pictures asked permission from Padre Pio who responded, “You have been taking them since you arrived.” I remember that I had the crucifix that Our Lady had kissed and I said to Padre Pio, “This Cross was kissed by the Blessed Virgin. Would you like to kiss it?” Padre Pio took the crucifix and placed it in the palm of his left hand, over the stigmata. Then he took my hand and placed it over the crucifix, and closed his fingers around my hand. Then with his right hand he blessed my hand and the crucifix. He did the same with my mother when she asked him to bless her rosary that had also been kissed by the Blessed Virgin. I was kneeling the whole time I was with him, he held me by the hand, together with the cross, while he spoke to me.
PADRE PIO AND THE MIRACLE
One of the reasons why Padre Pio became involved in the events of Garabandal was because he was granted the privilege of seeing the Miracle. The only other person who received this privilege was Fr. Luis Andreu S.J. The night of August 8, 1961, he had a vision of the Miracle while the girls were in ecstasies in the pines. The following day, Fr. Andreu passed away while he was on his way home.
One of the prophecies of Our Lady of Garabandal concerning the Miracle is that the Holy Father will see it from wherever he is at the time, as well as Padre Pio. When Padre Pio passed away in 1968, Conchita was perplexed; she asked herself why the prophecy apparently had not been fulfilled. A month later she was consoled by a precious gift she had received.
On October 16, 1968, Conchita received a telegram from Lourdes, from a lady that Conchita had met in Rome. The telegram requested that Conchita go to Lourdes in order to collect a letter from Padre Pio. Fr. Alfred Combe and Bernard L’Huillier, from France, were in Garabandal at the time and agreed to take Conchita and her mother to Lourdes. They left that same night and they were in such a hurry that Conchita forgot her passport. When they arrived at the border they were detained six hours, and were only able to cross the border thanks to a special passport signed by the Military Governor of Irún.
In Lourdes they had an interview with the Padre Pio’s representatives from Italy, among them Fr. Bernardino Cennamo O.F.M. Fr. Cennamo wasn’t really from San Giovanni Rotondo, he belonged to another monastery, but he was well known by Padre Pio and Fr. Pellegrino. Fr. Pellegrino took care of Padre Pio in the last years of his life and it was he who wrote the letter that Padre Pio dictated to Conchita.
Fr. Cennamo told Conchita that he hadn’t believed in the Garabandal apparitions until Padre Pio asked him to give the cloth that would cover his face after his death to Conchita. When he gave Conchita the cloth and the letter she asked, “Why did the Blessed Virgin tell me that Padre Pio would see the Miracle, if he has died?” Fr Cennamo responded, “He saw the Miracle before he died, he told me himself.”
When Conchita had returned home she decided to write about the incident to a friend in Madrid. We will make reference once again to Conchita’s interview in NEEDLES magazine in 1975:
"I had the cloth in front of me while I wrote the letter when all of a sudden the room was filled with a fragrance. I had heard about the fragrances from Padre Pio, but I never paid any attention to them. The whole room filled with such a strong smell of perfume that I began to cry. It was the first time I experienced this, it happened after his death."