By Rev. Joseph A. Pelletier, A.A.
The facts that I share with you in this issue of NEEDLES are perhaps less exciting than those shared in previous articles. But they are most instructive in terms of why Our Lady came to Garabandal.
She came to draw us closer to her divine Son. One of the means she recommended to achieve that was the rosary– not the rosary said hurriedly and distractedly, but the rosary said slowly and attentively, thinking about what we are saying. And Our Lady used the girls of Garabandal to teach us how to pray in that way. She made the children recite the rosary in ecstacy so that people could be inspired by the way they said it. That she achieved her purpose is precisely the point to be made in this article.
The events to be described come to us once again from the Spanish Capuchin, Eusebio Garcia de Pesquera. 1 These events started on June 29, 1961 and have to do principally with a simple native of the Garabandal area, a peasant from the nearby village of Cosio, Faustino Gonzales.
Faustino was a farmer who had a piece of land near Garabandal. The green hills around Garabandal are used mainly for grazing cattle and raising hay, and only secondarily for producing vegetables. Small stone barns or shacks (called invernales) dot the pasture- land of the lush hill country. They are used to house the cattle and the hay and as shelters for the farmers and cattlemen when the weather is bad or when they spend the night with the herds.
Faustino, who had a herd and field barn on his pasture- land near Garabandal, was obliged to go to the village frequently. Word of the apparitions reached him and other farmers and cattlemen of the area. Their interest was piqued. And so it was that on June 29 some 10 or 11 of these men set out to see for themselves what was happening at Garabandal. They were simply curious, and not too disposed to believe that any good could come out of that hidden little village and the four families concerned.
At sunset, the people gathered as usual in the sunken lane leading up to the pines in Garabandal. Faustino and his friends got themselves a good place from which they could clearly observe everything. The seers arrived and took their places within the small fenced area in the lane. An old lady started the recitation of the rosary. As time went on and nothing happened, the men tired of praying and began laughing and making fun of the old lady as she continued to lead the people in prayer.
Suddenly their laughter froze on their lips-for the seers’ heads had snapped backwards and they were in ecstasy. The men completely forgot the old lady and their eyes became riveted on the unbelievably beautiful sight that unfolded before them. As Faustino later told Dr. Ortiz of Santander:
“To see that transformation, to contemplate those faces, touched us so deeply that tears came to our eyes. And we are hard nuts to crack-y eso que nosotros somos duros de pelar!”
The men were truly chastised by their experience. They spent that night together in a field barn and all they could do was talk about what they had seen and heard. They couldn’t sleep. At one point one of the men suggested that they stop talking and say the rosary in the spirit of atonement for the scoffing they had so lightheadedly engaged in before the apparition. The suggestion was warmly received and carried out by these men who still felt caught up in something that was beyond them and that spoke to their hearts of God and His love.
Experiences like this were not just fleeting things, soon forgotten and with no lasting effect. Over a month later, when Dr. Ortiz, the psychiatrist from Santander, 2 was again visiting Garabandal, he encountered some of those farmers and herdsmen in the village. He saw them with their heads respectfully uncovered, saying the rosary as they accompanied the girls through the village streets. He was so impressed to see men openly manifesting such a deeply religious attitude that he questioned one of them:
“Those of us who care for the herds in the hills, “ the man stated, “come down to the village on Saturday to say the rosary with the girls. We care for the herds more quickly than on other days, because we can’t afford to miss out on rosaries like these. They are worth a thousand times more than those we used to say in the church.”
“Wouldn’t there be just a little exaggeration in this?” Dr. Ortiz inquired.
“No, doctor, no. In church, we are often distracted praying, we think.”
Jesus said: “You can tell a tree by its fruit” (Matt 7:20). In terms of this criterion that Jesus gave us for judging the spiritual value of things, these facts involving Faustino Gonzales and his friends throw considerable light on the authenticity of the Garabandal event.
1 Fr. de Pesquera writes under the pen name of Dr. Robelas. The events described in this article are from his work, SE FUE CON PRISAS A LA MONTANA (SHE WENT IN HASTE INTOTHE HILL COUNTRY), Vol. I, pp. 63-65.
2 Dr. Ortiz visited the village many times, at regular intervals, during the years of the apparitions.