I learned about Garabandal in 1966 and it saved my priestly life. Near the end of the Council and in the heady years following this epochal event, the lethal "spirit of Vatican II" was spawned. The letter of the Council, its genuine and orthodox interpretations, was quietly laid to rest. Few bothered to read the documents, the acta. A whole "new church," as it was ingenuously called, was conjured up by liberated lecturers and publicists. It was not only the traditional ritual and devotional forms which were declared open to radical change, but the very dogmas of faith and morals were soon considered fair targets for revision and dissent.
This revolution was most acutely experienced in the seminaries and convents. I was an instructor in a seminary during the spawn of this bold new age. I followed the Council avidly and was elated by its progress and promise. But I was beginning to be seduced by the pseudo-spirit which was blowing all around us.
At this crucial point, in 1966, I read a brief news account about the apparitions of Garabandal in Spain. I sent for the pioneer account of Sanchez-Ventura. It was a special grace, a gift of discernment from Our Lady of Good Counsel. I was sent away for further studies in Scripture. The need to discern became all the more urgent in a time of scholarly ferment and systematic demythologizing.
When I returned with my doctorate, the seminary was already near dissolution and I was assigned to pastoral work. Through all these years, I kept carefully informed on the events and messages, the "words and deeds," of Garabandal. A memorable day was a visit to my parish by Joey Lomangino.
Against this briefly sketched background, I would like to note just a few of the man elements of Garabandal that have sustained and literally "saved" me during years of spiritual peril and acute interior suffering.
I was powerfully stimulated, as I said, by the announcement and progress of Vatican II. It was an unexpected joy that so early in my priestly life such a historic event should occur. If any label could be stuck on me, I was rooting for what then was tagged the "liberal" or "progressive" side.
When I learned, in 1966, about the reported apparitions in northern Spain, it struck me as more than a coincidence that the years of Mary's "residence" in Garabandal concurred with those of the ecumenical council. Just how one should interpret that fact is not easy to surmise. Perhaps Garabandal was to stand as Heaven's commentary on the acta of the Council, giving the faithful a key to the genuine meaning of Vatican II and an antidote against the "spirit" which soon would be propagated. Whatever the case, the mere coincidence sounded an alarm for me to evaluate the tides of change with utmost care.
I also became convinced that the Message of Garabandal was a restatement of Fatima with an updating, interpreting what had happened before, and what lie ahead in the near future. The fact that these events took place so soon after the expected date for the revelation of the "third secret" of Fatima had passed, with the subsequent disappointment of many who, perhaps with disordered curiosity, had eagerly awaited a public disclosure, led me to see a relationship of the two visitations of Mary in our century.
The whole atmosphere of the apparitions at Garabandal, as well as the summary of its themes in the final Message, seemed to convey what many experts believe to constitute a major part of the Fatima secret, namely, crisis within the Church, grave assault against the Holy Eucharist, the priesthood, the papacy, devotion to Mary, and the virtual apostasy which could only be made possible by a divided hierarchy.
At Fatima, Mary warned that Russia would spread its errors throughout the world. Russia's errors were, by definition, a godless "dialectic materialism." I realized that, without political or military conquest, the Church in the western nations had unwittingly succumbed without struggle to the "errors" of Russia.
The final Message recaps the major themes of Garabandal. The Most Holy Eucharist, the Mystery of Faith, is the core of Mary's Message. As the Council so magnificently asserted, this Sacrament is "the source and summit of all Christian life." Throughout the days and years of her visitation on the mountain, Mary directly and indirectly focused our attention on the Real Presence of her Son. "Why don't you visit my Son more often? He waits for you night and day?
The frequent reception of Holy Communion by the girls through the ministry of an angel, crowned by the ""milagrueu""of the visible Host, are woven into the pattern like a mystic thread. One of the thousands of astounding episodes touched my heart: that of the vanity compact that had been used during the Spanish persecutions to carry the Sacred Host to prisoners for the Faith. Both the children and the crowd were puzzled when Mary asked to kiss it before all else: "It belongs to my Son." What a reminder of reverence for the sacred vessels!
NEXT INSTALLMENT: Part Thirteen - Garabandal: For whom the Bells Toll! The Fruits of Garabandal part two