By Father Francois Turner, O.P.
According to Conchita, Our Lady stressed above all “devotion to the Blessed Sacrament and prayer for priests.” There is a correlation between the Eucharist and the priesthood, both in themselves and in the Messages of Garabandal.
The Council teaches that the fundamental function of the priest is to be minister of the Eucharist (Presb, Nos. 2 & 5).
The Blessed Virgin often spoke about priests to the visionaries. She said that if they met an angel and a priest, they should salute-venerar-the priest first, because he consecrated, while the angel did not.
The priests are also responsible for instruction, and that is why she told the girls to ask them the meaning of the word “sacrifice” which they did not understand (Memor, p. 23;G I, p. 164). This suggests that the Blessed Virgin was perhaps also hinting that a good priest is sacrificed, consecrated, “eaten”, as the Cure’ of Ars would say. If such is the case, we can understand why she so often talked about them, encouraging the girls to pray frequently for priests. She expressed a special concern for priests, notably in the Second Message, because if they do not give a good example and demonstrate qualities of leadership, some of the faithful might be tempted to venture on “the road to perdition.” Their task is to help us to live saintly lives, each of us in our own individual state of life and calling.This special concern of the Virgin, and of God who sent her, is absolutely positive. On July 20, 1963, Our Lord told Conchita, “May they make Me known to those who ignore Me, and may they make Me loved by those who know but do not love Me.”
The Second Message recommends us all to pray for priests, bishops and cardinals.
It is well known that the Virgin gave the visionaries the power to recognize priests in lay or military attire, thereby hinting that they were marked with an invisible “character” or “seal” as taught by Catholic theologians.
We are now able to understand why the visionaries treated priests with a special consideration, even thought some treated them badly or questioned them indiscreetly. For example the girls questioned the Blessed Virgin about them with an eagerness close to anxiety. No subject seemed to preoccupy them more, except their own vocation. Conchita once asked the Virgin if all priests were good, and she was quite surprised to receive a negative answer (G II, p. 57). Mari Loli often prays for them, especially for those who wish they were no longer priests. She went so far as to ask the Virgin in a locution, for a cross to carry for them. Whence came these thoughts and feelings of Mari Loli? She confided once to a priest, “The Blessed Virgin told me to make sacrifices for priests, because if there are
many saintly priests, many more souls are led to Christ and to love God.She told me to pray especially for those who want to abandon the priesthood…that a priest continue to at least celebrate Mass, because he is priest forever.” The notion of the indelible “character” of the priest is found anew in these last words.
In order to let guests use her beds, Conchita’s aunt, Maximina, had put her two boys-aged five and four, on a straw mattress laid on the floor. In order to hide it, she had surrounded the mattress with chairs covered with sheets. Conchita entered the house in ecstasy, crossed the beds, and left. She went down a few steps, her head drawn way back, her hand holding the crucifix. She began to laugh, seemed to speak to someone, then came back,
walking up the steps backwards, reached the spot where the children were hidden, removed a chair, knelt and, without looking at the little boys, uncovered their feet, crossed them and said to one of them: ”Oh! … This one will be a priest?” This was seen and heard by many people amongst whom was Maximina who does not hide the confusion she felt at that time, whenever she narrates this episode (LVP, p. 122).
A pious, ascetic priest was Conchita’s first confidant regarding the miracle of the Host, and she notes his name in her Diary: Fr. Jose’ Ramon Garcia de la Riva. Another priest who was reputed to be saintly, Fr. Luis Andreu, S.J. was the only person to see the great Miracle beforehand, except Padre Pio, and the only one except the visionaries to see the Blessed Virgin at Garabandal.
At the time of the apparitions they often counted the priests who came to Garabandal and looked at the friars’ habits. When they were asked whom they would prefer to see coming, they answered “the priests”. Many came from the villages of the district. At the beginning, Pepe’ Diez counted as many as fifty. They discussed the events heatedly, even in public. They were far from seeing eye to eye. The girls were very sensitive to the way the priests celebrated Mass, and they noticed that the Andreu brothers said it very well.
After the time of the apparitions it was possible to observe that this lesson on priests had been fully assimilated by the visionaries.
At Burgos in 1966-67 Conchita often spoke of the priests and would pray that they try to be saintly. During her holiday at Garabandal on July 29, 1967, Conchita jotted down for a priest from Melun in France, on three pages of her notebook, what we consider is a little charter for the priests of our time. Rather than a revelation from Heaven, we see it as the fruit of her
reflections on the priesthood.
What the Blessed Virgin wants from the priest first of all is his own sanctification.
He should fulfill his vows through *love of God, and lead many souls to Him through example and prayer, for in our time it is difficult otherwise.
May the priest be sacrificed through love of souls in Christ!
May he retire from time to time in silence to listen to God who speaks to him continually.
May they think a lot about the Passion of Jesus so that their lives be more united to Christ the priest and thus invite souls to penance and sacrifice, and also make more tolerable to them the cross that Christ sends to us all.
To speak of Mary who is the surest one to lead us to Christ, and also speak about and cause people to believe that there is a heaven, so too there is a hell.
I believe that is what Heaven wants of the priests.
*The author has a facsimile of the original, from which the translation was made;Conchita underlined the word love.
At Burgos, Conchita wrote: “Let us pray much for priests who are the salt of the earth and the beloved of Christ.
—Conchita Gonzales, November 15, 1967”
A year later in October 1968, she was asked by a theologian if she still thought that “many priests were on the road to perdition.” She answered that she did, and that to those priests she would say: Imitate Christ in the Eucharist. This sounds theologically excellent, as Jesus in the host is perfectly consecrated to God and entirely eaten by men.
Of the many things the Blessed Virgin said, Jacinta remembers most vividly her words about priests: “I think that this was what impressed me most of all, and it leaves in my soul an esteem and a veneration for them that I am at a loss to explain.”
On November 21, 1968, a group of visitors was taking leave of Mari Loli. They told her that they were going to pray for her at the pines. She protested and told them to pray first for priests.
In December 1968, Conchita was operated on for appendicitis. While under anaesthetic she was heard to say, “We must pray for priests…let us pray for priests…how we must pray for priests!” which shows it was one of her major preoccupations.
In the Autumn of 1969, in an answer to a question sent to her, she explained that Our Lady asked her and her companions to pray for priests…because the faithful would follow their example.
In 1970 Mari Loli wrote to an author of books on Garabandal that she would “ask the most Holy Virgin that you be a holy priest.”
The frequent visits to Conchita by the Virgin, her numerous retreats, her life of prayer, her deep intuitive intelligence, perhaps a special charismatic gift, gave her the ability to provide profound and judicious answers. Mr. Walter J. Kushion and a group of Irish visitors asked her on September 13, 1970, “Why are priests leaving the Church today?” She replied, ”Because they do not have a love for the Blessed Virgin.” Whoever loves Mary faithfully, loves her Son faithfully and the Church that He loves (Eph. 5:25). Conchita considers that we are all responsible: “Let us pray a lot for priests. We ourselves are to blame for many priests who are on the road to perdition, because we do not pray enough for them, because we do not sacrifice ourselves, and also because we should be giving an example to those priests who are consecrated to the Blessed Virgin… We have to help those priests…that they may rise and pursue their course” (message of August 7, 1971 to American Garabandal workers, in OL, p. 221). Other such words and writings could be quoted.
This prayer for priests became contagious, particularly in the village when Conchita’s aunt and godmother, Maximina, began to pray daily for priests.
Since she learned that the Blessed Virgin asked us to pray for priests, Señora Julia Mazon, Mari Loli’s mother, has never spent a day without praying for them, for their sanctification, while milking the cows or when she takes the animals to graze. She declared this to Mrs. Maria Carmela Saraco who published it in her periodical The Vigil.
This example is followed to a great extent in the United States where friends of Garabandal promote vigils of prayer for priests, and adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. The Holy Father [Pope Paul VI] knew of and approved them.
Through his sacerdotal prayer (John 17), Jesus meant to consecrate his apostles for a ministerial priesthood:
“Consecrate-hagazio (set apart for a sacred purpose)-them through Thy truth: Thy word is truth. As Thou has sent Me into the world, even so have I also sent them into the world. And for their sakes I consecrate Myself, that they also may be consecrated through the truth” (John 17:17-19). As underlined in a note on these verses in the Ecumenical Translation of the Bible into French, to ‘consecrate’ or ‘sanctify’ a being is tantamount to separating it from the profane to introduce it entirely and forever into God’s sphere of existence.
The apostles were thus fully conformed to Jesus, Priest and Victim of the new cult of the New Covenant, “in truth” (John 4:23-24), that is to say in conformity with the divine revelation given by Jesus. That is also to say: in Jesus, Truth (see John 14:6), through the operation of “the Spirit of Truth who will guide them into all truth” (John 16:13).
This consecration of the apostles to the ministerial priesthood of the New Covenant receives a compliment at the end of the gospel: “As My Father has sent Me, even so send I you.” And when He had said this, He breathed on them and said: ”Receive ye the Holy Spirit. Whose ever sins you remit, they are remitted unto them” (John 20:21-23) 1
These ministerial priests will have successors who receive “a gift-charisma-of God by the laying on of hands” (II Tim. 1:6), conferred by the College of Presbyters:
“Reading, preaching, instruction, let these be thy constant care” wrote St. Paul to Timothy. “Do not neglect the gift that is within thee, which was given to thee by prophecy with the laying on of the hands of the presbytery…Continue in these things: for in doing this thou shalt both save thyself and them that hear thee” (I Tim. 4:13-16).
The priests are “ministers of Jesus Christ, with God’s gospel for their priestly charge, to make the nations an offering worthy of acceptance, consecrated by the Holy Spirit” (Rom. 15:16). This verse indicates the end, the goal of the ministry of the New Covenant.
Such is the teaching of the Council: “God … wanted … to consecrate priests who would share Christ’s priesthood in a special fashion… Through the celebration of Mass, they offer sacramentally Christ’s sacrifice” (Presb, No. 5).
This ministerial priesthood differs in essence and not only in degree from the common priesthood of the faithful (LG,No. 10).
“Set apart for God’s gospel (Rom. 1:1) …, they are totally dedicated ‘to the work to which’ the Lord ‘calls them’ (Acts 13:2)” (Presb, No. 3).
1.Cf A. Feuillet, Le Sacerdoce du Christ et de ses Ministres, Edit. De Paris
1971, pp. 177-188.
2.That is to say by those possessing charismatic gifts speaking in the name
of God under the guidance of the Spirit (see Bible of Jeruselum, Note on