The story of the “Visible Host” has a long and almost unnoticed introduction. From June 18, through July 17, 1961, there were four weeks of apparitions that included, on July 4, the pronouncement of a “message” (the Message of October 18, 1961) that was to be kept secret for three and one-half months.
Then there was the separation of the girls with Conchita being in Santander for a few days, during which time, on July 28, 1961, she experienced an apparition of Our Lady in that city at the same time the other three visionaries in Garabandal were seeing the Virgin who told them that Conchita was also seeing her.
For some, these experiences were enough to convince them that God was indeed manifesting His power at Garabandal. But for many, especially the official representatives of the diocese, some priests, doctors and psychologists, and the curious public, these events were too intangible, unconvincing and even charged to be the fictitious inventions of the four youngsters, This atmosphere immediately led to the visionaries beginning to plead that the apparition perform a miracle so the people might believe. The earliest this request was made seems to have been July 30 while Conchita was still in Santander.
The Miracles Had Already Begun
But the reception of invisible hosts had taken place perhaps as early as July 11, 1961; unconsecrated wafers in the beginning, consecrated Hosts subsequently, all of which apparently had been obtained by Michael, the Archangel, from the tabernacles of unidentified churches. When these Hosts were offered to the girls, the Eucharistic wafers were invisible. The miracles had already begun.
Beginning on July 30, 1961, through June of 1962, the youngsters frequently asked for a miracle to be performed. During this period, the apparition, now identified as Our Lady, had conceded that a great miracle would indeed occur at Garabandal, but did not identify the date. On August 8, 1961, Our Lady showed the ‘great’ miracle which was to happen at Garabandal, to Father Luis Andreu, who, with the girls, was participating in an ecstasy*. Early the following morning at about 4:00 o’clock, on his way back to his religious duties, this perfectly healthy priest died of joy. On the 16th of that August, the four girls experienced their first locution with Father Luis, the first of perhaps ten or more locutions.
The expectations were great, the rising excitement strong as the time for the first “message” approached. The 18th day of October 1961 was a rainy and dismal day, the rain extending into the night, when the “message” was announced. Simple, unexceptional, and a request for penance and reparation, the “message” struck no spark in the community, or the diocese. In spite of the marvels that had been happening, the message was thought to be a disappointment, and as the apparitions continued with decreasing frequency in the fall of 1961, interest fell off as well.
The “Little Miracle”
The apparitions increased in the winter and the spring without manifestly important “messages”. The girls continued to ask for a miracle and this insistent request resulted in St. Michael’s announcement on June 22, 1962, of Conchita’s milagrucu (little miracle), that one of the invisible Hosts that he had been giving to Conchita would become visible.
The following week Conchita was told the date of the event, July 18; she was instructed to release this information 15 days in advance of the event. She followed her instructions by a timely announcement to the villagers and by writing several letters—one to the Bishop himself.
The “littleness” of the milagrucu was emphasized by the speed with which Conchita at last went into ecstasy at a time thought to be too late to correspond with the foretold date; Then followed by a large crowd, she moved quickly to the street behind her home, fell to her knees in the rocky street, opened her mouth and received the Visible Host.
The suddenness of the appearance of the Host disturbed even those who were directly in front of Conchita. Indeed the disappointment of many of those present who could not ‘see’ the event because of their inconvenient locations in the crowded street, mirrored again the incredulity of the unbelievers who for so long had been denigrating Garabandal, and gave impetus to criticism, complaint and disbelief.
A whole year had elapsed since the beginning of the Garabandal events; over 200 apparitions had occurred; a great and special miracle had been promised, and a “forevision” of it had been granted Father Luis Andreu, whose, publicly voiced wonderment verified that he had seen the miracle. Conchita’s milagrucu had also been promised and now had indeed happened. Strange and inexplicable things had come to pass, but for many people, doubt remained unconquered.
This carries a lesson about ourselves that we should learn well; we are not very perceptive about God’s graces, nor can we recognize His beneficent action, even when repeated before us. So we continued through the year to look for a ‘miracle’, missing the miracles that were being performed.
The incident of the Visible Host was certainly one of the outstanding definitive events of the Garabandal story; and the witnesses are many. Of these, Pepe Diaz, Benjamin Gomez (now deceased)*, Sr. Alejandro Damians with his borrowed movie camera, are the firmest, clearest and most unshakable in their convictions about what they saw.
Pepe Diaz’s testimony seems to be the fullest oral witness. It contains specific elements that identify the Visible Host in its initial instantaneous appearance as a “normal Host similar to the ones the priest gives us.” And that in fact is what it was. In the next two minutes it grew in volume, also attested to by Benjamin Gomez, while to Pepe it seemed to sparkle and move as though imbued with life. The photographs (actually a film clip) taken by Sr. Damians, who had been delayed a little by his surprise at the sudden appearance of the Host and his unfamiliarity with his borrowed camera, also show a Host somewhat thicker than what Pepe saw the instant it appeared. There are elements relevant to this strange event that should give cause to wonder at our inordinate expectations and our errant self-deceptions.
The Host was in fact a real material object. It did exist independently of St. Michael by his own admission and along with Pepe we have seen such Hosts in the hands of priests throughout the world raised before us for our loving adoration. Seeing the Hosts is no miracle because the natural laws of physics operate regularly to present the evidence that these Hosts exist to our eyes without creating concurrent doubts.
These laws always work if not interfered with somehow. If you held a mirror before your face, you would expect to see your reflection in it. This would not be a miracle, would it? But suppose in broad daylight you looked into that mirror and you didn’t see your reflection—your image was totally missing—and all you saw reflected were the objects near and behind you! Now that would take some explanation, wouldn’t it?
Suspension of Natural Laws
St. Michael had been taking real, physical Hosts from tabernacles elsewhere to provide the youngsters with the Eucharist. Those Hosts were therefore material, touchable, seeable, and unleavened bread wafers, with width, height, thickness and color. They were not spiritual; they were not illusory; they were not fantasized nor hypnotically contrived. They had been taken out of actually existing tabernacles, carried to the place of reception, and given to the children, placed upon their tongues by the hand of St. Michael, out in the open, frequently in the view of many witnesses—but the Hosts were not seen! By definition, this is an interference with and suspension of the natural laws of physics—by God.
All those invisible Eucharists were miraculously hidden from our view. But once, soon after midnight, on July 19, 1962, these natural laws were permitted to operate normally, and the Host was indeed seen by several. That we didn’t see the angel is accepted by all as ‘normal’ because the angel was a purely spiritual being, and not detectable by our senses.
God has taught us once again that His ways are not our ways. Because we did see a Host on Conchita’s tongue, we believed that this was miraculous—when all the time it was the concealment of the Hosts that was miraculous and in which we did not believe. All that time, the unbelieving had no faith in the messenger of God; and even after seeing the Host, many argued against its reality, or said it was something Conchita had contrived. The irregularity of the timing of the incident—our measurement was midnight of July 18 instead of before midnight—is used as reason for denying the fact of the delivery of the Host by the angel. There is no compatibility in this reasoning, for the timing of the event has no bearing on the substance of the event.
In fact the attempt to determine that the angel used a different mode of time measurement, sun time for example*, would not change the substance of the event either. The Host was there even thought at first unseen, and God dissolved the veil that had hidden the Host from view. This action had been promised; this action did take place in the view of several witnesses, and in the presence of many. What more has to be said?
We Still ‘Miss’ The Miracle
With all the year-long prologue and the stubborn non-recognition of the wonders that Garabandal was experiencing, the Visible Host occurring with its peculiar and almost ironic irregularity of timing, and in spite of the firm testimonies of Pepe Diaz, Benjamin Gomez, Alejandro Damians and his camera, doubts and denials still hold sway. Are our ways so different from God’s that we cannot approach or accept His thoughts or ways? Yes, ours are different because we limit ourselves to our own capabilities instead of joining God by faith in His Infinitude. We fear becoming ‘lost’ in that Infinitude, an Infinitude which is in fact the final goal toward which we instinctively strive, an Infinitude in which our capacities would become perfected—nay, even more that perfected—enlarged, enhanced, enthralled in the possession of God.
We see God in the Eucharist weekly, daily—we see His Infinitude compressed in this little unexceptional wafer, the visible Host. But we show little wonderment when the miracle occurs at the Mass; we have no feeling of awe. Poor young Conchita, like us all, didn’t think seeing the Eucharist was much of a miracle; that is why she called it a milagrucu. We all missed the miracle of its invisibility at Garabandal, and even today we are not recognizing the miracle that has enfolded Infinite Majesty, Power and Goodness in each visible Host. We do not burst with wonderment that Almighty God had deigned to feed us with Himself!
Yet in our incomprehensible illogic, we call seeing the Host on Conchita’s tongue a miracle- but was its nine-month invisibility an angelic trick? How can we complain about God’s not attending to our prayers when we make no effort to understand His Presence in the miracles He performs before our very eyes? One minute of a Visible Host we believe in-nine months of invisible Hosts we ignore; almost twenty centuries of accepting God in the Eucharist into our deepest hearts—and we seem to be no better today than we were when we crucified Him?
*This was the only time anyone else ever saw Our Lady during the events at Garabandal.
**The testimonies of Pepe Diaz and Benjamin Gomez are reported in depth in Garabandal—The Village Speaks, a book devoted to account of the apparitions as told by eye- witnesses to the events.
***The reason the miracle took place after midnight was that Conchita had gone to Mass earlier that day (July 18) and had received Communion. Church law at the time did not permit reception of Holy Communion twice in the same day. St. Michael obviously was aware of this and therefore waited until after midnight to give Conchita the Host.