Of all apparitions of the Blessed Virgin, the one in Garabandal stands apart because of the long duration of time during which they happened, the number of times apparitions occurred and the sheer urgency of heeding to the messages she gave to the whole world from this remote village. It has been fifty five years since the last apparition happened at San Sebastian de Garabandal, a small village in the Cantabria province in Northern Spain. But the warnings and prophecies as narrated by those four young schoolgirls – Mary Loli, Jacinta, Mary Cruz and Conchita- are more relevant today.
Though Garabandal with around 300 households had a small church, there was no resident priest stationed there. Holy Mass was celebrated on Sundays only, by a priest coming from a nearby town.
Mary Loli, Jacinta, Mary Cruz and Conchita were around 11-12 years of age and all belonged to poor families. On June 18, 1961 while they were playing in the outskirts of the village, the girls heard a sound like that of thunder. It was Michael, the Archangel standing before them. The angel visited them again on many occasions and told them that on July 2 they will see the Lady. He was preparing the girls for that great event.
On the appointed day, the Blessed Virgin appeared to the girls in a white robe and blue mantle and introduced herself as the ‘Lady of Mount Carmel’. She was wearing a golden crown of twelve stars and holding a brown scapular in her hand. It was the beginning of the second phase of Garabandal story which would in the coming four years see hundreds of apparitions of the Mother of God. Occasionally she gave them certain messages too. Going by what she revealed, we should rather call them warnings instead of messages.
First message was on October 18, 1961:
“Many sacrifices must be made… Much penance must be done… We must pay many visits to the Blessed Sacrament… But first of all we must be very good… Already the cup is filling, and if we do not change we shall be punished”. This message was received by all four seers at the same time.
Second Message was received after eight months on June 19, 1962. Jacinta and Mary Loli were selected to receive this message.
In Jacinta’s words. “The Virgin told us a message for the whole world and it is this: The Virgin has said to us that we are not awaiting the chastisement (because we are disregarding Her first message by the way we live)…but without awaiting it, it will come because the world has not changed…. and now with this message She has said it twice and we do not heed Her because the world is worse and must change much but has not changed at all. Prepare yourself with confession for the chastisement will come soon. The world continues the same and I think that the world has not changed at all. What a pity that it does not change. Soon the great chastisement will come if the world does not change”.
Third message was also given to Mary Loli and Jacinta on June 23, 1962
“The Virgin has told us: The world continues the same…That it has not changed at all. Few will see God. They are so few that it causes The Virgin much sorrow. What a pity that it does not change. The Virgin told us that the chastisement is coming seeing that the world is not changing. The cup is filling up. How sad the Virgin was although She didn’t let us see it because She loves us so much and She suffers alone. She is so good! You who are good should pray for those who are bad. Let us pray to God for the world for those who do not know Him. Be good…be very good, everyone”
Our Lady’s apparition of June 18, 1965 was special for one reason. Unlike previous apparitions, prior intimation about this apparition was given to the girls as early as January 1965. As a result around two thousand people were gathered there to witness the apparition. They were from France, Italy, Poland and of course Spain. But strangely the number of Spaniards was less in comparison to those from neighboring countries. French journalists, teams of Italian television and cameramen of Spanish Documentary News Programme had reached there to cover the apparition, because by then the Garabandal story was well known. Apart from the large gathering of people from different countries the prominent feature of this apparition was the seriousness of messages given to Conchita there.
‘Since my Message of October 18, 1961 has not been complied with and has not been made much known to the world, I will tell you that this is the last one. Before, the chalice was filling; now it is overflowing. Many Cardinals, many bishops and many priests are on the path of perdition and they take many souls with them. To the Eucharist, here is given less and less importance. We should avoid the wrath of God on us by our good efforts. If you ask pardon with your sincere soul, God will pardon you. It is I, Your Mother, who through the intercession of St. Michael, wish to say that you amend, that you are already in the last warnings and that I love you much and do not want your condemnation. Ask us sincerely and we will give to you. You should sacrifice more. Think of the Passion of Jesus”.
So the message is clear. It is the same as those of other Marian apparitions. Msgr Venancio,who was the Bishop of Leiria that includes the Marian apparition site of Fatima, once said that the messages of the Virgin at Garabandal was an update of the messages of Fatima.
Now let us have a quick recap of what the Virgin wanted to tell us through the seers of Garabandal.
– Sin is increasing in the world
– It is time to repent and return to God
– Many among the consecrated are on the way to perdition
– They take many others also along with them
– We need to do penance and acts of reparation
– Nobody heeds the calls of the heaven to convert
– The cup of God’s wrath is overflowing
– Due respect and importance is not given to Holy Eucharist
– We are living in the period of last warnings
– Our Mother does not want our condemnation
– It is time to do works of sacrifice, meditating on the passion of Jesus
– Unless the humanity converts, God will permit a chastisement
– This is allowed for our purification.
I mentioned them point by point because each and every line reminds us of same or similar messages from other Marian apparitions. Now some might ask; ‘What about the approval of the Church?’ Well, it is neither approved nor condemned. In the initial years the Church authorities were sceptical about the apparition story. But they never had anything against the messages. Even Bishop Eugenio Beitia Aldazabal (January 1962 to January 1965), who was sceptical about Garabandal apparitions, did not condemn what was taking place and affirmed, “we have not found anything deserving ecclesiastical censure or condemnation either in the doctrine or in the spiritual recommendations that have been published as having been addressed to the faithful, as they contain an exhortation to prayer and sacrifice, Eucharistic devotion, devotion to Our Lady in traditional and commendable ways, and a holy fear of God who is offended by our sins.”
Bishop Juan Antonio del Val Gallo (December 1971 to August 1991) was the only Bishop of Santander who had seen the visionaries in ecstasy. It was he who lifted the ban on priests visiting the site and allowed them to celebrate Mass in the village church. You should not miss the word ecstasy. It was the hallmark of all four girls when they were face to face with the Virgin. Wherever they were, they instantaneously knelt down at the moment of apparition, be it on stones or bushes. They remained there for minutes or even hours. Their eyes were fixed at something beyond this world. They never blinked or flickered. When, during apparition, strong beams of light were directed towards their eyes, even they failed to make their eyes blink or flicker. They never reacted to pricks, burns or blows during those heavenly moments. But once they came out of that divine experience they started feeling the pain of pricks and burns. Do we need any more proof to establish the supernatural character of what happened in Garabandal?
Two great saints of our times, Padre Pio and Mother Teresa of Kolkata have expressed their positive opinions about Garabandal apparitions. As for the views of the Holy See, the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith has not yet announced a decision on the matter but clarified that it should first come from the local bishop. We can wait in the hope that one day the Church will come out with its approval. Needless to say, it takes long periods of investigations and examinations for the Catholic Church to approve any kind of apparitions. Here it is worth remembering the words of the seers. They said that there will be much difficulty in getting the approval of the apparitions from the Church. It is no reason for us to disregard the apparition and related messages as the local bishop has already given a positive opinion about the doctrine and spiritual recommendations connected to Garabandal.
As mentioned earlier the village Church didn’t have a full time priest to offer Holy Mass every day. But Conchita wanted to receive the Lord in the Blessed Sacrament as often as possible. Her desire to receive the Eucharist was so great that the Eucharistic Lord blessed her with something that very rarely happened in history. Conchita used to get a consecrated Host miraculously placed by an angel on her tongue and sometimes it happened in full public view too! This happened on many occasions. ‘Those who search Him will certainly find Him’.
Now we need to know something more about Garabandal. It was here that the Mother of God warned that a Great Warning, a Great Miracle and a Great Chastisement in that order are going to happen, the chastisement being linked to the conversion or non- conversion of humanity. Since we have already posted an article on Great Warning, we do not go further into its details. But we should keep in mind the words of the Virgin that the warning will take place when the time is worst. Warning will be followed by the miracle which should happen within twelve months of the warning. According to some accounts, the miracle will happen at 8.30 pm on a Thursday which is the feast day of a saint martyred for Eucharist, not being the feast days of our Lord or the Blessed Virgin. It will also coincide with a great event in the Church. Conchita knows the date, but she has no mandate to reveal it until before 8 days of the miracle. Warning is an opportunity for the entire humanity to introspect and convert. It is revealed that many of the sick will be cured during the miracle. Conchita says that after the miracle a permanent sign will be left near the pines of Garabandal where the miracle is to happen. This sign can be seen and photographed but cannot be touched.
Our Lady lamented in 1965 that nobody heeds to her calls made four years ago. Another fifty five years have passed since our Mother wept for her children moving fast in the path of perdition. Now she seldom weeps, instead she sheds tears of sorrow. Often we hear about statues of the Virgin shedding tears of blood. She is crying at the thought of millions and millions of her children simply keeping their ears closed to what she says.
Fr Luis Marie Andreau, a young Spanish Jesuit was one who kept his ears open to our Lady’s message. He was there at the apparition site on Aug 8, 1961. When the seers were in ecstasy at the vision of the Virgin, and when many others around were standing as mere onlookers, he cried; “Miracle, Miracle”. His eyes were opened to the blessed vision, we understand. At the same time the young seers heard a voice telling him; “You will soon be with me”. We do not know whether he heard the message or not. But we know one thing for sure. On the same night he left this world in peace and joy to be with the Lord!
Let me conclude with what Jesus told the great crowds gathered around him while he was sitting beside the sea; ” Let anyone with ears listen” ( Mt 13:9). To listen to what our Lord and the Blessed Virgin say, we should tune our ears to that particular frequency, which means turning off all other voices coming from the world to distract us. When we consider the reward, is it not a sacrifice worth taking because we are to be soon with HIM?