At the end of July, on the 29th, Our Lady told the visionaries to forsake the cuardo and to come to the Pines half way up the verdant sloping mountain. From that point on Our Lady established the pine-grove as the main area for her apparitions to the Garabandal visionaries, although she continued to appear to them in their homes, on the streets, in the cemetery area, in front of the village church, even sometimes inside the church and at locales away from the village when the visionaries were traveling; again, very similar to the Medjugorje apparitions.
Itís most interesting to consider how Our Lady responded to how her prayer - the Hail Mary - was recited by one of the girls. It reveals Maryís respect for Her Divine Sonís Church and the established liturgy. As one of the visionaries was saying the prayer she added after "Mother of Godí the words "and our Mother..." Our Lady thanked them for their enthusiasm and spontaneous prayer, but asked them not to use that formula again unless approved by the Church. In the same vein, on September 5, 1961, the visionaries went to Fr. Marichalarís little village church while in the state of ecstasy. Because the Bishop of the Diocese of Santander had forbidden any apparitions in a church, Fr. Marichalar had to obey his leaderís mandate and so he announced to the girls, "On orders from His Excellency the Bishop, you are to leave." Instantly the four young girls came out of their euphoria and marched out into the open air. They had been obedient as Our Lady always requests, even though it was only natural to be near the Blessed Sacrament for Our Lady had told them to go to the church, perhaps to test theirs and Fr. Marichalarís obedience. They all passed with flying colors.
The same possibly may not be said of the Bishop of Santander Monsignor Eugenio Beitia Aldazabal, for like the former Bishop of Mostar Monsignor Paveo Zanic, he was not favorable to the reported apparitions and sought to have them suppressed even censoring and transferring Fr. Marichalar, accusing him of perpetrating the "hoax" in Garabandal. Despite volumes of documented accounts, first-hand witnesses and inexplicable happenings that defy all finite logic, Bishop Aldazabal maintained that no apparitions had occurred and that all phenomena were explained by natural causes.
Sadly, this deduction is too often the catch-phrase many bishops hide behind to evade the possibility that Our Lady could truly be appearing and imparting heavenly messages from God for the Almighty is all-powerful and all-knowing. Many believe the controversy which arose over this played a role in Pope Paul VI abolishing Canons 1399 and 2318. In recent years, with a new Bishop in Santander - Monsignor Juan Antonio del Val Gallo - the investigation of Garabandal has been reopened and the accounts, miracles and fruits are ample evidence that soon this site will be fully approved by the Holy See.
When the Warning does occur, as well as the subsequent Miracle there will be no doubt as to the authenticity of Our Ladyís visits and her vital messages there. Until then, all should continue to treat Garabandal the same as Medjugorje, always recognizing that the final authority regarding apparitions, locutions and prophecies rests with the Holy See of Rome to whose judgment all should humbly submit. As Our Lady has said often, "Obedience bears the greatest fruit."
This obedience can often cause great consternation such as was the situation with Fr. Marichalar who had to be obedient to his Bishopís directives, obliged at times to speak sternly of the apparitions to his parishioners who, in the face of all the miraculous events and conversions taking place in this little village, felt he was being unfair. At the same time Fr. Marichalar confided to more than one that he truly believed. This is a "Catch 22" that many priests find themselves in today. If they proclaim what they believe in their hearts theyíll not only be ridiculed and persecuted by their cohorts but also find themselves in the local ordinaryís "dog house" or worse yet either drummed out of their diocese or stripped of their faculties. On the other hand if they go along with the ecclesiastical "party line" they may suffer tremendous guilt within, knowing they are being hypocrites and may, by their silence or aversion, be responsible for confusing many souls who truly believe. Over the years we have come across many of the latter, but we have also been blessed in our apostolate to encounter several dedicated priests, religious and committed lay persons who willingly take up their cross daily and follow Christ by proclaiming their belief and reverent devotion regardless of the corporal reprimands castigated on them by higher clerics. These steadfast souls who face the accusations of perfidy have one thing in common: They are faithful and obedient to the highest cleric - The Vicar of Christ. No wonder Our Blessed Mother constantly asks all of us to pray for her priest-sons and her faithful remnant which is dwindling as the times get tougher and the persecutions increase. The Second Message of Garabandal stresses this.
One reason for the depletion in the ranks is that many are looking for the spectacular. Many are expecting exact messages which will outline precisely what they are supposed to do. Theyíre looking for a blue-print in which theyíll then have control of their future. Our Lady doesnít work that way. Jesus, the Son of God was not born in a magnificent castle, but in a crude, out-of-the-way stable. He didnít gather armies to follow Him, but a motley crew of twelve apostles who had nothing in common but faith and who, if they had to take one of those psychological apitude tests so prevalently administered today, would fall miserably by the worldís standards. No, God works in wondrous and mysterious ways that the finite mind cannot fathom and when we try to get inside Godís intellect rather than His Heart - thatís when we really get in trouble! This craving for the spectacular has caused many to become discouraged with Our Ladyís messages for they are simple and child-like, established in Scripture. Should we be surprised? Didnít Jesus say "Unless you become as a little child, you cannot enter the kingdom of Heaven" (Matthew 18:3)? Doesnít Our Lady constantly address all Godís messengers and those who would respond to the messages as her "children"?
This obsession with sensationalism in the messages could easily have doomed Garabandal for thousands gathered on October 18, 1961 to hear the message that Conchita had promised would be revealed on this date per the Virgin Maryís behest. Many weathered an all night rain without sleep to grab the best viewpoint and listening garrison to hear the message and perhaps see a miracle, or even Our Lady. There were audible groans after one of the visionaries read the message, signed in witness by all four girls. The majority grumbled. "This is the end of Garabandal." To paraphrase a well-known Peggy Lee song of that era - "is that all there is?" As Fr. Pascual writes in his narrative of the event, "There was nothing very extraordinary about it, nothing spectacular. No miracle was forthcoming. The works of God are always simple, and sometimes even elementary." In truth all of us want to see something, to experience a phenomena, to be convinced that what we believe is really worthy of belief.
NEXT INSTALLMENT: Part Four - Garabandal: For whom the Bells Toll!