Dr. Ricardo Puncernau, Neuropsychiatrist
Dr. Ricardo Puncernau was [at the time] the Vice-president of the Spanish Society of Sophrology and Psychosomatic Medicine, and the President of the Spanish Association for Parapsychological Research.
"I have taken into consideration, pondered, and carefully observed [the events], and have reached the following conclusion: There has never existed nor does there exist any acting cause for what is happening in Garabandal other than the Most Holy Virgin."
During these times, in a world marked by ecclesiastical, international, social, familiar, and personal confusion, full of injustice and egoism, we have dared to write these lines. These are a series of simple anecdotes related to the famous happenings of Garabandal as seen through the eyes of a Christian doctor.
I am obliged as a Christian to strictly tell the truth, without adornment, at least in the essence of the narration. However, I have given a faithful account not only in the essential components of the narration, but also in its adornment.
I have not consciously left out the slightest detail of what I remember. They are my personal experiences related to the story of Garabandal. They are things I have never told before, and things that I believe should be said. Next year, 1975, is the Holy Year. What better occasion to exhume events that were seemingly buried forever but, in reality, never were? It is evident that this has been written for those who already know the story of Garabandal. If not, I fear that they will neither understand nor value this testimony.
Barcelona, December 1974. Dr. Ricardo Puncernau.
Barcelona, December 1974. Dr. Ricardo Puncernau.
Why did I go to Garabandal so many times?
Well, I do not really know...Garabandal is eight-hundred kilometers away from Barcelona, where I reside and have my neuropsychiatry practice. My good friend Jacinto Maristany often urged me to go there, but I thought to myself, “I am not going to see hysterics, I already see enough in my profession as a doctor.” Nevertheless, he called me on the phone one night after dinner. He told me that Mercedes Salisachs, the renowned author, was leaving for Garabandal at four in the morning. If I wanted, she would wait for me in her car - I did not have my own at that time - at the corner of Enrique Granados and Paris. I said that I would think about it, that I would probably go, but not to wait for me if I was not there at four.
What made me get up at three-thirty to be ready by four, and go on an adventure seeking hysterical girls? When we were going to bed, I told my wife about the idea. We then knelt at the foot of our bed to pray our short nightly prayers, as was our custom. When we finished, my wife opened the closet, took out the camera, and to my surprise, gave it to me, saying, "Here… go to Garabandal and take a lot of pictures." This unusual gesture from my wife - who always accompanies me - surprised me. How strange!
"You can take Margarita along." (Margarita is the oldest of our girls. She was about eight years old then.)
"But nothing, you’re going to Garabandal."
Little Margarita was very happy about this unexpected trip. At 4 a.m., without having tried nor desired to go, we got into Mercedes Salisachs’ car and we embarked on the trip to Garabandal. It was the first of ten or twelve trips that I would later take to the town.
I still remember the hotel in Zaragoza where we stopped and where Mercedes Salisachs invited us to lunch. We ate "Arroz a la cubana," one of my favorite dishes. In the afternoon, we continued quickly on our way and we had arrived in Garabandal by sunset. The countryside was beautiful! The pure air was delightful! The road from Cosío to Garabandal was horrible!
The car skidded and slid next to the precipice that overlooks the river. It went up the very steep hill, which was like climbing up the northern side of "Naranjo de Bulnes" - that is to say the most difficult part. After going up about two-hundred meters, and since Garabandal was nearby, I decided to walk the rest of the way. The others continued in the car. I walked tranquilly, enjoying the mountain scenery, and calm after so much excitement in the car.
The road widened a little and it was in better conditions. To the left of the road, there was a small rock that stuck out of the ground in a field at a distance of more or less three hundred meters. I saw a young girl dressed in white sitting on it. She was waiting for her mother who had gone to cut or collect vegetables in a nearby garden, or something. I looked at the girl, who seemed to be more or less thirteen or fourteen-years-old, and she looked backed at me without moving. It seemed to be a special gaze. Without knowing her, I realized that this was one of the visionaries of Garabandal.
I do not know how I knew, but I knew. Her white dress stood out against the green grass of the field. Her appearance seemed very graceful to me that evening. It was almost twilight, and this was my first contact with someone from Garabandal. I later found out that she was none other than the most important person taking part in those strange events, which had been mentioned to me. The most curious part is that after meeting her, I told her that I had seen her in the field. She answered me in an intentional, penetrating, and surprising way, "I saw you, too…"
I thought to myself, “Careful doctor, do not let yourself be fooled.” But the truth is that her answer surprised me. “I saw you, too…”
I continued walking. I passed a curve in the road, and could make out Garabandal. Its houses were ancient and picturesque. Mercedes Salisachs’ car was parked in a type of plaza, underneath a solitary tree.
We stayed the night in one of the farthest houses from the village, it was almost on the outskirts. It was a branch of the “Puncernau’s hotel.” (I will explain later.) The village's streets were illuminated by a few weak light bulbs. They were full of mud, stones, and debris. Apart from the company of my daughter, I found myself a little lost in the village when Mercedes Salisachs disappeared. At the end of the main road in the village, I found Ceferino’s tavern. He was the village mayor at that time. One of his daughters, Mari Loli, was one of the visionaries.
Ceferino was in front of the tavern in a small square with a group of friends. When we approached the group, they looked at us suspiciously. Who are these people? I tried to strike up a conversation. When I told them I was a doctor, they became a little wary. One could tell that doctors did not have a very good reputation there.
Their reserve did not take away from their amiability and good manners. Ceferino seemed like a dignified man to me. He was a little stubborn and sarcastic, but - like the majority of people in Garabandal - he had a heart of gold. I still remember that later on, when we became friends, he would fish trout in the river - whether or not it was trout season - and would offer them to me. I have never eaten better trout than in Ceferino’s house.
After a little while, the news spread that Conchita had fallen into ecstasy, and shortly after that, Jacinta and Mari Loli did as well. Finally, Mari Cruz fell into ecstasy. In this state the four girls came together and prayed the Rosary. The people followed behind and responded.
I took a quick look at the curious procession, and I entered into Ceferino’s tavern for a Coca-Cola. Inside there was a Uruguayan young woman who worked in the “Folies Bergère” in Paris. We quickly started up a conversation. She told me that she did not believe in these supposed apparitions, nor did she believe in anything religious. She had come to Garabandal out of curiosity. After a while, I suggested that we go outside to see what was happening with the visionaries. Hidden in the shadow of a house, we saw from a distance how they were headed to the little village church while they prayed the rosary.
From where we were hidden we observed what happened. Suddenly we saw that Conchita, in ecstasy, left the procession, and started walking towards us, although we were in the shadows, leaning against the wall of a house. She walked normally, but with unusual swiftness. She carried a small crucifix in her hand. I thought, "She somehow knows that you are a doctor and now she has come to 'put on a show' for you. How could she have seen you?" But, no, she went toward my companion and pressed the crucifix to her lips one, two, three times. The Virgin Mary was also looking for one of the “Folies Bergère" dancers.
After this, Conchita (still in ecstasy) joined the other girls, and continued praying the rosary. My companion - the dancer - began to cry uncontrollably, with great, emotional, and inconsolable sobs. I thought something was going to happen to her. I accompanied her to the wooden benches that were outside Ceferino’s tavern. People gathered around us, and I tried to calm her. Finally, she was able to explain that she had "interiorly" thought in her mind, “If it is true that Our Lady is appearing, then let one of the girls come and give me sign. As soon as I had thought this, Conchita came running to give me the crucifix to kiss. I did not want it, and I held back her hand. But she gave me the cross with such force and placed it to my lips, so that I had to kiss it. Once, twice, three times. [She gave it] to me, the incredulous one, the atheist, who does not believe in anything. This deeply moved me.”
We met up, as I will later explain, in the train on the return trip to Bilbao. I afterwards found out - because she wrote me a few times - that she left the “Folies Bergère” and returned with her family in Uruguay. This was the first experience that I observed in Garabandal. My daughter Margarita came to me to say that she was tired. It was past midnight. I accompanied her to our room, and waited while she got into bed. I sat at the foot of the bed to keep her company, at least until she fell asleep. After a little while she said to me, “Dad, if you want you can go…I am not afraid.”
“Yes, don´t worry.”
I gave her a kiss, wished her a good night, and left her sleeping peacefully. I went out into the narrow streets. It was a cold, starry night. The stars were shining with an unusual light, at least for someone from Barcelona like me. I pondered whether it be true or not that Our Heavenly Mother watched over and protected with open arms the inhabitants and visitors of Garabandal. My children are not the fearful kind. Nevertheless, for an eight-year-old girl to so calmly stay by herself in the outskirts of an unknown village, did not cease to surprise me.
Passing through the dark, solitary streets of the village, I also felt protected. As far as I know, there has never been any type of unfortunate accident there, even with the immense number of people that have gone up to Garabandal.
Once a truck full of workers fell off a precipice into the river. They all came out with no more than a few minor scratches. It should be pointed out that, at that time, the road was so bad that it could have killed many people, no matter what type of vehicle they had.
I went to continue observing the girls’ trances, but I refused to respond to the rosary. It could have been a fraud, and I did not want to take part in it [if it were so]. My role as a doctor was to impartially observe the events. But what premeditated coldness of heart could resist the heart-warming charm of Garabandal?
I found the visionaries in front of the closed doors of the little church. They stayed there for a while, as though requesting an audience to enter. Then, without leaving the trance, they turned around and extended their arms in the form of a cross.
“They're going to do the plane… they're going to do the plane.”
I heard this murmured among the people who accompanied them. It seemed like a vulgar expression. But yes, with their arms extended, they ran through nearly all the streets of the village. It was very curious because it seemed as if they hardly moved, almost like they were flying. It was like a movie in "slow motion," like a pseudo-levitation, but at an incredible speed. They went so fast that the boys of the village, who were young and strong, could not keep up with them despite their efforts.
After running through the entire village they returned to a normal pace and then smiling, came out of the trance. At this point, we should address their entrance into the trance and exit from it. They said that they experienced three calls. The first was like a “come,” accompanied by a sensation of joy. The second was a “come…run…come” with much more joy, and was much more urgent. The third call coincided with their sudden entrance into ecstasy.
The girls would say, “I have one call,” or “now I have two calls.” The time between the calls was completely irregular. Sometimes, when I knew that they already had two calls, I would talk to them, trying to distract them and make them speak about something that they liked. At times, they would suddenly fall on their knees in a state of trance in the middle of a word, despite the fact that they were interested in the conversation.
This really caught my attention. It is not the normal way of entering into a trance, especially when the person is not provoked by some sort of sign. Among those present, no one was capable of understanding this or even knowing what it meant.
More than once we went with Conchita to the pastures, to bring lunch to one of her brothers. Sometimes we would stay and eat lunch in the pastures with them. Once we were able to see Tudanca with Aniceto from the highest point of the pasture.
Once, he organized an "espantada" of wild horses [a type of provoked stampede] for our enjoyment. Meanwhile, Conchita had stayed to prepare lunch. We all went a little reluctantly on this outing. We would have preferred to stay with Conchita. Her company during the long walk was not enough for us, and we desired much more. She was such a nice girl. She was beautiful and playful, in a positive sense of the word. She was intelligent and had a great sense of humor. She was good, not self-righteous nor prissy, but completely normal. She was both funny and kind; she was an enchanting girl.
I have seen many people, men and women, including priests, who were completely amazed by her. She had great sense of decency, especially in anything that might imply the slightest trace of impurity.
Except for a few unfortunate occurrences, people were generally enchanted by her and have always behaved with great decorum. There was an atmosphere of pure and undefiled Christian love, of true love, of our Most Heavenly Mother´s love.
On the way back, we would play all types of childish games. We would laugh like fools, but I have never observed in her a trace of unhealthy mischief. Perhaps this is why she was so attractive. We would playfully throw stones at each other, and would compete to see who was taller. We would both cheat by standing on our tiptoes. However there was always a moment when she would become serious, almost as if she were absent. It was as though she had a special internal life. This was the best way of knowing the girl, better than doing exams and tests on her, even though I did those as well. I can say the same about Jacinta, Mari Loli, and Mari Cruz.
They combined a Castilian or mountain grace with a charming good nature. Once, at the beginning, Mari Loli told me that she was annoyed because people would follow her everywhere, day and night, and they would hardly let her use the restroom in peace.
Keep in mind that there was only one bathroom in the whole village. Everything was simple and normal. I never observed them attempting to “play the little saints.” And of course I will not cite the names of those disgraceful people who attempted to insinuate themselves maliciously to Conchita. Such insinuations were immediately cut off by her.
It was curious to observe, as I said before, that everyone wanted to be in the girls’ company: men and women, the young and old, priests and laypeople. Without a doubt, this love was transferred to Our Lady, with whom the girls claimed to speak and to see. In many cases, such love did not transcend, but it stayed focused on the girls themselves. This seemed very human and natural to me.
When Mari Cruz did not have apparitions and the other girls did, I felt bad for her, and saw that she was sad because of this. I gave her my wedding ring so that she could give it to Our Lady to kiss, as she normally did. I stayed in Garabandal for three and a half days on that trip. She was very happy and put my ring on one of her fingers. Three days passed and Mari Cruz had not had an apparition; she had not entered into ecstasy. The night before leaving, I said, “You have to return my ring, because I am going to leave at three in the morning.”
“Let me keep it a little longer… maybe I'll have an apparition tonight.”
I left it with her. The other three girls entered into ecstasy. They walked in trance with their arms linked. Mari Cruz went near them and took one of the girls' arms. She lifted her head and walked ten or twelve steps like them to see if she would enter into ecstasy as well, but no trance occurred. She very sadly unlinked her arm, returned my ring without saying anything, and walked away with her head lowered.
I must explain that my ring had already been kissed on another occasion, in one of Conchita’s ecstasies. I only explain this to show that the ecstasies came when they came…not when the girls wanted them.
The transparent behavior of Mari Cruz could not fool anyone. I had given her the ring out of pure love towards her, because it upset me to see her sad. It was not a trap.
On one of the outings to the pastures, I stayed to eat lunch because Serafín, Conchita’s older brother, invited me. They gave my son Augusto fresh milk. Either he could not digest it, or maybe it made him nauseated, but the case is that he vomited it. He felt ill, and went down to the village where my wife Julia was at that time.
I stayed alone with Serafín, and we ate in the cow shed. After lunch, I tried to get him to talk, because people said that he knew from Conchita when the "Warning" would happen. I came to the conclusion that, if he did know, he did not want to talk about it.
The only thing that I did get out of him was that the "Warning" would be preceded by a special event in the Church. After many questions and deductions, it seemed - according to the little that he told me - that it would be some type of schism. At least I understood it as so.
He told me that in the winter they would pass entire months without going down to the village. I asked him how he passed the time. He said that he spent time thinking and reading novels.
Serafín was at the time a very kind, cheerful man. He was doubtful about what was happening to his sister. He repeated to me what Ancieta had already told me, i.e. that Conchita was very given to jokes, and sometimes took them too far.
Nonetheless, he gave the impression of being rather disoriented in the face of these unusual events. He felt like I did, and "believed for five minutes, then doubted for five minutes."
However it may be, I noticed that my religious fervor was growing. That afternoon, I went down alone towards the village through the fields. I stopped a moment where, according to Conchita someone - I do not know who - had given birth to a child, right on top of a rock.
I prayed a Hail Mary as I passed the slope where sometimes there are rock falls, forming a sort of “river of stones.” Before I crossed the creek, I spent time contemplating the harsh and wild countryside. When I passed near Ancieta’s house, there was the usual social gathering at sunset, around the wooden bench adjacent to the house. Conchita was the heart of the gathering.
Some clingy woman would always hold her by the arm, as though she were a living relic. At the gathering, you could talk about everything or about nothing at all. There were those who accepted the trivial, normal conversation. There were others, among them some priests, who would continuously pry and question, to the point of bothering Conchita. What a saintly patience! Conchita’s grandfather frequently sat on the wooden bench during these conversations. He was a kind, merry old man.
Nonetheless, Conchita knew how to free herself from impertinent visitors, and she would go up to her room or go out to play jump rope.
Considering our human limitations, what our senses allow us to grasp, and the true and correct use of the intelligence given to us by God, this report strives to tell the truth and nothing but the truth. I do not mention everything, because if I did, this story would never end.
Without any other concern, I unreservedly write about those circumstances that I remember well and clearly. I write as a Christian doctor, but more as a doctor than as a Christian. I hope that this does not scandalize any fanatics, as has happened on other occasions.
There is, however, a fact that is truly worthy of observation and study: no one ever tires of talking about Garabandal. Furthermore, these talks, which are sometimes a repetition of earlier ones, never grow tiresome. They are accompanied by a rare internal happiness for the one who tells them, and, I dare to say, for those who hear them.
My wife has heard me give more or less the same conference many, many times, and she tells me that she could continue listening to me her whole life.
She could continue listening to things that sometimes she knows better than I. I am a man that becomes extraordinarily annoyed when I have to repeat the same medical or paramedic conference. I avoid them like the plague. It is beyond my strength.
Nevertheless, I do not grow weary of Garabandal. I like speaking about it, and it even gives me an unusual joy. I feel overwhelmed with joy, not only during the conferences, but also in meetings or social gatherings. I have to be careful because it has occurred that I continue talking about Garabandal until three or four in the morning.
The strange part is that I always speak about the same things. It is a very curious fact. The devil tried to get his share in as well, because a type of unhealthy jealousy came about by this. Some tried to prove that they had been the first to know something, that they enjoyed a more intimate friendship with the girls, or that they had some secret that was unknown to the others - which was generally not the case.
Such presumption and jealousy were so foolish, that they could only be the work of "the Tempter." What is certain is that I have given about ninety conferences on Garabandal - most of them in collaboration with David Clua for the graphic design - without ever tiring of the subject.
I always had to cut them short, because if not, I was afraid that the conferences would become unending and overwhelming. I would limit myself, as I have done in this document, to the most important facts. This love for everything that has to do with Garabandal extended spontaneously to all Garabandal believers, except in the case of about half a dozen fanatics who, surely in all goodwill, often overstep the boundaries.
Once, on a brief essay that I wrote, I happened to leave a small ink stain on top (of course to demonstrate the "little appreciation" I had for Our Mother's things). I received ferocious letters, improper of Christians, which I still have. All this in the name of Our Lady...!
Apart from this little group of fanatics, the rest of the Garabandal believers seem to me to be very sensible and good people who honor the events without a doubt. More so the people from the village, who, in spite of their suspicions (“no one is a prophet in his own land”) and doubts, are such good people that I would have been happy to live among them.
Later, Dr. Sanjuan Nadal also helped us in this task of promoting Garabandal.
I went to Garabandal the second time with my wife and oldest son Augusto. My wife felt deceived about what she had seen in Garabandal because it seemed trivial to her. My son Augusto, who was very serious and absorbed in his thoughts, hardly said anything.
My wife Julia gave her wedding ring to Mari Loli while she was in ecstasy, so that the child could give it to the Most Holy Virgin to kiss. Since her finger was swollen and the ring would not come off, the girl took Julia's hand and turned it so that Our Lady could kiss the wedding ring where it was.
As I said, it all seemed childish and meaningless to her. Nevertheless, in one of the “races” that the girls used to have to the Pines, (and of which I will speak about later,) they came to a stop in front of the Church door, as they usually did. It occurred to Julia to touch one of girls' cheeks (I think it was Mari Loli). Though we were all sweating and tired, according to my wife, Mari Loli’s cheeks were like “a peach that had just been taken out of the fridge.”
I was alone the first time I went [to Garabandal], accompanied only by young Margarita. On the train ride between Santander and Bilbao, we met up with the same girl from the “Folies Bergére.” We sat together and began to chat about trivial things. During the course of the conversation, since it was very warm, she offered me a paper tissue full of cologne to freshen my arms and forehead.
Even though I do not like perfumes very much, I accepted it and I passed it over my arms and hands. We said goodbye in Bilbao, exchanged addresses, and began to write each other about Garabandal. My daughter and I had a three hour wait before taking the express to Barcelona. We decided to go for a small walk in Bilbao.
At the scheduled time, we boarded the overnight train and went to eat in the dining car. Everything was new to Margarita, and she enjoyed it greatly. I think it was during dinner that I began to notice a certain fragrance. It seemed to come from my left arm and hand.
At the beginning, I attributed it to the cologne from the “Folies Bergére” dancer, and I did not think much about it. In our compartment, I noticed the smell again. It was then that I realized that it would come and go in gusts. It was very intense, like sandalwood. It only smelled on the left side. It would last for about two minutes, and then disappear entirely. It did not have fixed intervals.
I told myself that it was my imagination and therefore did not say anything to Margarita. In one the gusts, I realized that it was coming from the ring that the Blessed Virgin had kissed. At least that is where it smelled the strongest. Interiorly, I was ashamed for letting myself get carried away by this idea like a hysterical person.
I did not say anything to anyone, but the gusts of sandalwood fragrance (at least that is what it seemed to be) came very intensely every now and then, in the least expected moments.
The next day, the strange fragrance came back at irregular intervals. It was very strong. When we arrived home, we had just enough time to prepare our things and then get on a train to Caldetas, where my family usually spent summer vacations. Finally, I secretly told my wife about the fragrance. Naturally, she thought I was crazy. Nevertheless, that same night, when we were already preparing to go to bed in our room, the fragrance came again. I put my hand next to Julia and I said, “Look, smell it now…”
She took my hand just to make me happy, convinced that I was crazy. She put the ring to her nose and when - according to her - she was about to say, “I don’t smell anything," I saw her become as pale as the white wall in our bedroom. She was unable to say anything because she was so overcome with emotion.
"Well, yes…yes, it smells…like sandalwood."
The next day, when we were on the beach, the fragrance returned stronger than ever. I was surprised that people did not come to ask me what it was. My son Augusto was at the edge of the water with me.
"Take this and smell it."
He answered with his normal seriousness.
"It smells…I don’t know of what, but it smells very strongly."
He did not pay any more attention to it and went into the water. That was the last time I perceived the strange fragrance. After that, it never happened again. In spite of the fragrance, my wife continued with her doubts until an unusual phenomenon happened, which I will explain later.
My wife Julia only went to Garabandal once. On that occasion Fr. Alba, my son Augusto, Mr. Serra (a magnificent driver), and Mr. Pedro came with us. Fr. Retenaga never came with me, nor did Dr. Ortiz ever observe any medical evaluation or exam that I performed on the girls.
I want to make clear that Dr. Celestino Ortiz Pérez has always had my respect, confidence, and sympathy. The only thing I would say is that he is excessively emotional. Such emotion is a product of his natural goodness.
Julia returned disappointed from that journey. It seemed a mere child’s game to her, something without the least importance, as it also did later to the famous Bishop Puchol. The rest of the family was in Caldetas for the summer. Julia immediately went to Caldetas without making a stop in Barcelona. I went up the following Saturday.
I was very surprised when I found her completely changed with respect to Garabandal. She told me that the afternoon before, she was strolling through the lush municipal park in Caldetas, with its hybrid banana trees, when she unexpectedly felt absent from reality and moved to relive everything concerning Garabandal. It was as though she were sleepwalking, and the people and things in the park seemed unreal to her. She experienced all of this, and also a great certainty concerning Garabandal. It caused her love of the Blessed Virgin to grow immensely. She felt very sure [about Garabandal] and touched [by this event].
She said to me, “I have always loved the Blessed Virgin, but what can I say… now…” This state lasted only a few instants in real time, but much more in internal and psychological time. From that moment on, she was convinced about the truth of Garabandal and everything that it means and conveys. She was convinced and she continues that way. She always has been; she has never doubted, never.
In addition to this, there was a notable increase of spiritual love in our marriage. This was accompanied by a strange sensation of internal happiness, which I dare to qualify as supernatural.
There is only one point that I would like to emphasize here. I have taken into consideration, pondered, and carefully observed [the events], and have reached the following conclusion: There has never existed nor does there exist any acting cause for what is happening in Garabandal other than the Most Holy Virgin. She is the Most Holy Virgin Mary for believers, or non-believers. Therefore, there is no human cause, no-one that could even be such.
At the time I am writing this, I am the Vice-president of the Spanish Society of Sophrology and Psychosomatic Medicine, and the President of the Spanish Association for Parapsychological Research. So, I do understand something about these events.
In Garabandal, apparently, humility is obligatory. [Once], I had arrived in the village in the afternoon. I had the intention of examining Conchita, not only from a neurological point of view, but also from a psychiatric point of view.
I went to Conchita’s house during the later part of the afternoon since that was the time in which she was usually there. I thought that if I was not able to perform the exam, I would at least be able to schedule it for the next day.
Everyone has the right to be in a bad mood sometimes. I entered the kitchen to explain my idea to Conchita. But as soon as I began to talk, her mother Aniceta suddenly told me to leave. I was quite taken aback and left.
Nothing like this had ever happened to me. Aniceta and of course Conchita had always treated me with very good manners. As I will explain later, I had already examined the other girls and had spoken with Conchita about later examining her as well.
I went to have dinner, with the usual "tortilla" and sausage. I then went back to the “Puncernau hotel,” as I jokingly called the house [where I stayed]. It was the first house on the right when you enter on the Main Street. It belonged to two brothers who were very kind and sincere.
I cannot deny that after the fiasco with Aniceta, I was in a bad mood. Later, I calmed down a bit. I thought that if everything was from God and it would helpful to examine Conchita, then I would be able to do so. If not, the exam would not make any difference.
Therefore, I humbly accepted whatever God wanted and I slept well. After my breakfast of coffee with milk, I set out on a walk around the village, without a fixed route. On one of the streets, I ran face to face into Aniceta.
“What did you want last night?”
“I just wanted to examine your daughter.”
“Come with me. I think she’s at home now.” We went to her house.
“Conchita…Conchita, Dr. Puncernau wants to examine you. It is probably better in your bedroom… down here people won't leave you alone. Go up, doctor.”
Conchita placed two chairs facing each other beside her bed. We left the door open.
Aniceta rummaged around the house and came upstairs every once in a while to look for something and to watch what we were doing. She did not say a word.
"First of all, take off your shoes and sit on the bed."
She quickly rid herself of the canvas sandals that she wore. I would like to point out that her feet were very clean, her feet and her legs. I examined her reflexes, her balance, her external and intraceptive sensibility, her motor and cerebellar systems, her cranial nerves, etc.
Then I had her sit on the chair, and finished the neurological exam. Afterwards, I did a Koch test and a Rorschach test. Everything came out perfectly.
[Conchita] did the Rorschach test at a great speed and gave more than 70 completely logical answers, which included a lot of movement. She had a vivid imagination with a tendency to inventiveness. The Wechier-Bellvue test showed a level of superior intelligence.
To my delight we were there in her room for more than two hours. During a moment of silence, she asked me, "What are you thinking about, doctor?"
I answered in a spontaneous manner, "I was thinking… that it is wonderful to be here with you."
In my answer there was not the least shadow of an incorrect thought. I simply answered with the truth, and I do not regret it. Her eyes, a little playful and joyful seemed to say to me, “Don’t take it so seriously, doctor.” The truth is that it was a pleasant experience being there, very pleasant.
All Garabandal followers know about the visionaries' doubts and denials, which had been foretold. How should one then proceed when studying this?
The first problem that we should consider is if the [following] explanation - presented in simple terms- is possible:
a) It had all been a simple child’s game.
b) The girls repented of their game and finally confessed the truth.
The first affirmation is unacceptable due to the medical studies. Even in the case that the girls could have added “something” of their own making, it is very improbable that ALL of it was a child’s game.
The doctors of the assigned Commission, in my understanding, have sufficient scientific expertise to be able to discover a childish trick from the first moments [of the events].
The states of ecstatic trance, with sensibility and sensory loss, the lack of photomotor reflexes and blinking, the muscular plasticity evidenced, the resistance to fatigue, the exact changes of emotional expression on the girls' faces at once (without any communication between them), etc., etc., cannot be considered a child's game.
The historical medical authenticity of the events at Garabandal is incontestable. There is an abundance of photographs, videos, etc.
On another of my trips, I was in Santander with the kind secretary of the Commission. We spoke for ten hours and we went over everything that he considered to be negative with respect to Garabandal. As a result of this study, we decided to see the Bishop’s representative (the Bishop was participating in the Second Vatican Council), in order to request the formation of a new Commission. The Vicar general promised us that he would communicate our petition to the Bishop. However, as far as I know, a response was never received.
During one of my visits to Garabandal, I asked permission from Mari Loli and Jacinta’s parents to lift the girls during the trance. They had no objections. I lifted Mari Loli and Jacinta separately. They were kneeling and I lifted them holding them under their bent elbows.
I noted a marked plasticity of their muscles. I had been told before that when the girls were in a trance, no one could move them or lift them, even though people of considerable strength had tried. I have an ordinary amount of strength, tending to be lesser than average. Nevertheless, I lifted them about fifteen inches off the ground with great ease.
Perhaps it is because your mind tends to play tricks on you in those situations, but I would have sworn that the girls weighed less than in their normal state. Once they returned to their normal state, I asked them to maintain the same posture. I had the impression that it took much more effort than when they were in a state of trance. I could assure that they weighed considerably less during the trance.
Now, I should confess that I used a small trick. Without losing my medical rigidity and lucidity, I prayed a Hail Mary with all of my Christian fervor before my attempt to lift them. That was my trick.
On another occasion, I asked Conchita’s family if I could accompany her the entire time if she were to start walking while in ecstasy. They had no objection. That afternoon, I had announced to Conchita my intention of examining her. It seemed that she was a little worried.
During the course of a long trance, walking through the streets of the village, I clearly heard her murmur my name.
“Is it [something] good about Dr. Puncernau? Well… but that will be of little importance.”
This was part of the conversation that she had during the vision and that I overheard. When she came out of ecstasy (there were many people), I asked her to tell me what the Blessed Virgin had said about me. It was something out of my control. I thought to myself, “What if she begins telling all of my sins.” Conchita, as if she had guessed my fears said, “The Virgin never reveals anyone’s sins.”
In a relatively calm moment, on the back of a holy card, which I kept of course, she wrote the following: (textual copy) “The Virgin told me that she was very happy with you because you are giving much glory to God. What you are studying will happen and you will succeed. Conchita.”
The superlatives she employed called my attention. “This must be something that the girl added.” But, what Mother does not see the best in her child regardless of whether he be renowned or shameless?
Another detail that I want to relate is the following. Frequently during their ecstasies, the girls took off their shoes and walk through the streets, which are full of mud, stones, holes, glass, animal droppings, etc., etc.
Although I did not personally witness it, people assured me that the girls passed barefoot over a pile of burning coals that were spread out upon the ground. That day, when I found out that Conchita had already received two “calls,” I asked her to let me examine her feet. She took her old sandals off both feet. I especially observed the bottom of her feet. They were clean, and there was no mud on them. They seemed cleaner than they should have been considering the mud in the streets, or perhaps she had just finished washing them. I do not know.
She had a long trance, lost a sandal in the middle of it, and continued walking with one bare foot. After a short time I observed that, in ecstasy, she removed the other sandal. She walked through the streets of the village for quite a while. She passed through the mud and other debris in her bare feet. She finished the trance barefoot her kitchen. Immediately, I asked her to let me see her bare feet. I looked for a scratch, a cut, a contusion on her feet. There was nothing. She put her sandals on again when I finally tired of examining her.
It was not until later, that I realized one essential fact. Her feet were as clean as they had been before she had walked through the muddy streets. I knew she could not have cleaned them. I am sure, because she did not leave my sight. Her feet were not even dirty.
There are many, many things to tell about Garabandal. The majority of them are found in numerous books and pamphlets, which have been written about Garabandal and its protagonists. As I said before in this short report, I have tried to separate what affects me as a medical doctor from what affects me as a Christian who loves the Blessed Virgin Mary. They are two separate aspects.
A few days ago, I learned of Ceferino’s death. May he rest in peace. He was a man who could be a bit rough sometimes in his sincerity. He was the one who told me the following:
“It was winter. There were no visitors in the village. There was a snow storm, and it was very cold. Around three in the morning, I heard Mari Loli get up and get dressed.”
"Where are you going now?"
“The Virgin is calling me to the 'cuadro.'”
“Are you crazy, in this cold?”
“The Virgin is calling me to the 'cuadro.'”
“What if you run into a wolf? Do what you want, but neither your mother nor I are going to accompany you"
“Mari Loli finished dressing, opened the door of the house and went toward the 'cuadro,' about two hundred meters away from the village. If I had been sure that it was the Blessed Virgin, I would not have gotten out of bed. The Blessed Virgin would take care for her, but since we weren’t sure, my wife and I got up and walked toward the 'cuadro.'"
"We found her in the middle of the blizzard, on her knees in ecstasy. It was freezing. I thought she would be as cold as ice, so I touched her cheeks. She was very warm, as though she’d never left the sheets of her bed. She kept us there for more than an hour, frozen to death while she continued speaking with the Vision. Apparently, we were the ones who had to do penance...”
More or less, this is what Ceferino told me one night when we were sitting in his tavern. I repeat that if I had to write everything I lived in Garabandal, it would be a book the size of Dr. Zhivago. This is not my objective. The majority of events in Garabandal have been abundantly recorded in the national and foreign literature that has been published.
I only wanted to mention a series of events that are very personal and I that I have not mentioned until now, except to very few people in my family. I have waited fifteen years.
Naturally, thanks to God, I am a man who has Faith. It is a faith that is rooted, among other things, in the observation of history. Each time that a theory arises and seems to destroy the roots of Religion, I have observed that with a little time and patience, a new theory comes about to eradicate prejudices.
I have to say that I would have preferred to write these pages from the perspective of a faithful Christian, but this is not the role that has been assigned to me. I have written them with all possible detachment and above all, with absolute sincerity.