Edward R. Benet
the visions of garabandal - part ii
In part 1, we saw that there are powerful reasons for accepting the authenticity of the apparitions of Garabandal. We deliberately avoided the subject of the prophecies associated with the visions, since these have become the source of controversy over the years. Some of the websites dedicated to the visions have no shortage of speculation as to when and how the prophecies will be fulfilled. However, at this point, it is essential that we mention these prophecies as they are a fundamental part of the overall message.
The prophecies of Garabandal
Our Lady foretold three happenings by which God will move the world to a deep conversion. These consist of a Warning, a Miracle and the Chastisement. The Warning involves the direct enlightenment of the conscience of every person in the world at the same time. The event is to last a number of minutes during which each of us will become aware of our sinfulness and need for God’s mercy. The Miracle will happen at Garabandal in the same year as the Warning. After the Miracle, a supernatural sign will be left at the area of the village known as “the Pines” where many of the original apparitions occurred. This sign will be indestructible and will remain until the end of the world. The Chastisement consists in a time of terrible tribulation for humanity, ultimately directed towards our conversion. It can still be averted if we turn back to God in time. Our Lady revealed to Conchita the exact date of the Miracle. Conchita, in turn, will announce it to the world eight days in advance.
Why the extraordinary manifestations?
Let us return to our question: what do the prodigies of Garabandal signify? Why did so many extraordinary things happen there, both in variety and in number? As with everything that happens in our lives, the Lord expects us to use our reason, guided by faith, to contemplate such mysteries. So much of the ink wasted on Garabandal in the past fifty years has tried to predict the dates of the Warning and the Miracle! The real message of Garabandal is something much more urgent and personal than the revelation of a future event. It is something that was as relevant in 1965 as it is in 2020, even if the foretold events are indeed now immanent.
i) The occurrences were dramatic because the need is urgent
The fundamental message of Garabandal is identical to the basic message proclaimed in the Gospel: repent for the Kingdom of Heaven is near. Unlike Medjugorje with its regular messages, there were only two main announcements in Garabandal. Like Medjugorje, both call for sorrow for sins, penance and renewed devotion to the Blessed Sacrament. Both announcements say that humanity will suffer the consequences if it does not turn away from sin. Given that the overall message is relatively simple, we might wonder at the exceptional nature of the signs that accompanied the message.
In the Gospels, the miracle stories of Jesus give us a vital clue. The meaning of the signs is always to facilitate reception of the message, from the very first miracle that the Lord performs: “This, the first of his signs, Jesus did at Cana in Galilee, and manifested his glory. And his disciples believed in him” (John 2,11). At Garabandal we have been given a wealth of signs so that we will believe in the message, repent of our sins and become devoted to the holy Eucharist. The convincing supernatural character of the signs is a powerful indication that the message too has a supernatural origin, that it too comes from God.
If the signs were unusually dramatic in this isolated Spanish village, then that is an indication that we are being encouraged to repent in a dramatic fashion. People have looked with scepticism on Garabandal and said, “What a circus! It was all over the top!” But supernatural signs never point to themselves. They point to a deeper spiritual reality, and how can deeply spiritual realities ever be “over the top”? The fantastic drama of Garabandal, the urgency and energy of the ecstasies, are a call to urgent conversion on the part of the faithful. This is as true today as it was in 1965. The striking heavenly aspect of the occurrences is telling us: Turn away from sin and turn back to God! Do so completely and do it now!
ii) The prodigies were remarkable because the date of fulfilment of the prophecies was relatively late
It is highly instructive to look objectively at what has happened to some former devotees of Garabandal. Many people were convinced of its supernatural origin and put much energy into trying to discern the dates of the Warning and Miracle. Using reasoning that was more or less enlightened, they began to speculate that the events ought to happen on such and such a date. When the predicted date came and went, these devotees (in some cases) then revised their reasoning and fixed on a new likely date for fulfilment. After numerous expectant waits of this sort, all of which ended in disappointment, some people became disenchanted with Garabandal. It should be clear, however, that such an approach is simply wrong-headed from the start. Am I to become sceptical of the heavenly origin of the events just because a foretold future sign does not happen on the date that I deem to be most fitting? Garabandal was chock-full of supernatural signs from the outset! Anyone who doubts its authenticity must have a reason that is more convincing than the mundane fact that the prophecies didn’t materialize as they expected.
Having said all that, it is understandable that even the most patient of people might begin to wonder if the foretold events are going to happen at all. Almost sixty years have passed. This fact, as mentioned above, may help explain the dramatic character of the visions. The relative delay in the fulfilment of the prophecies was always going to lead to growing scepticism. Therefore, heaven deemed it essential from the beginning that the truth of the apparitions be obvious. And so they were: the most spectacular ecstatic walks and falls ever recorded; privileged knowledge of consciences, histories and ownership of objects; levitations, healings and a succession of other prodigies that can be consulted in any of the books on the subject. The evident supernatural origin of the visions should be sufficient to sustain our faith - even until 2020 - that heaven visited Garabandal.
Thus, the dramatic supernatural aspect of Garabandal was already a clue that the foretold events would not happen quickly, that forbearance and faith would be needed. If the predicted events were due to happen within a few short years, then no miracles would have been required during the visions: the events themselves would have provided confirmation before too long. The very drama of Garabandal was an implicit pointer that its fulfilment lay some distance in the future.
iii) The dramatic supernatural aspect of Garabandal is a reminder that God’s ways are not our ways
As a college student, when I first saw images of the visions of Garabandal on a friend’s computer, I was struck by their “otherworldly” aspect - the unnatural angle of the girls’ heads as they looked upwards during the trances, the peculiarity of the ecstatic walks, the look of strange joy on the faces of the visionaries. Though struck by these features, I was not impressed or convinced. Something about these images seemed “weird” or just plain “wrong”. Now, after an interval of more than two decades, I have become convinced through consideration of the basic facts that these girls were in communication with heaven, with citizens of a kingdom that is “not of this world”. For the past fifty years there has been a concerted effort on the part of many to conform the teachings of the Church to the spirit of this world. We see this particularly in the case of teachings on marriage, abortion and euthanasia. When we look at the behaviour of the girls during the visions in Garabandal, it is all too apparent that what was happening was not of this world. The seers’ gaze seemed to indicate that they were looking out of this world completely, looking into something that transcended material reality. In that sense, the otherworldly aspect of the visions is in perfect harmony with the message of Garabandal and that of the Gospel itself: “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect” (Romans 12,2).
Garabandal’s importance today
On the internet, there is no shortage of speculative posts about the date of the Warning and the Miracle. Much of this material has little to do with the real message of Garabandal, although it is understandable that people have a tendency to be preoccupied with events of an apocalyptic sort. Looking coldly at the situation, if the fulfilment is going to happen, then it seems that it must happen soon. Mari Loli has already died (in 2009), whereas Conchita is now seventy-one years of age, and it will be her task to announce the Miracle eight days in advance. Next year is the sixtieth anniversary of the first visions and the fortieth anniversary of Medjugorje. With these significant dates on the immediate horizon, it is perfectly natural that expectations will already be mounting in some quarters. But the real message of the visions is much more urgent than the discernment of the date of the Miracle! Humanity was visited at Garabandal with prodigious signs and wonders so that we would turn back to the Lord with all our hearts. Are we to ignore the meaning of these signs and wonders as we speculate idly about the details of a future sign? The future Miracle will have its function and value, but let not the function and value of the original prodigies go to waste!
The world’s rejection of the 1961 message
It is very revealing to examine what happened in Garabandal on October 18th 1961. On that evening, the girls promised to announce the first message that had been given to them for the world. Hundreds of people arrived from Spain and further afield. Some of them expected a miracle. Others thought that they might see Our Lady. The general expectation was that something remarkable would happen. At 10pm, up at the pine trees in driving rain, Conchita read the message to the huddled assembly in a weak voice. The anti-climax was enormous. There were general groans and grumbles. Some people said aloud, “This is the end of Garabandal!” What was the message which provoked such disappointment? It was a condensed form of the Gospel, a call to repentance, theologically flawless, scrawled on a grubby scrap of paper and poignantly signed by all four children with their ages written beside their names.
As we can see, already in October 1961, just a few months into the series of visions, the message of the Gospel was being made secondary to the thirst for miraculous events. And the great irony of this situation is that genuine miraculous events were not in short supply! Contact with the supernatural was manifest on a daily basis in the behaviour of these girls from the very onset. Today, we have the benefit of hindsight, of twenty-twenty vision. We can observe that the message of Garabandal, which was nothing other than a distilled version of the Gospel call to conversion, was set aside on October 18th 1961 as the public hankered after something more titillating, and it has been set aside many times since. There is nothing titillating about the Gospel, but it alone will lead us to salvation.
Let us repeat it again. For no less than four years, a mountain village in the middle of nowhere was the scene of a startling manifestation of the supernatural. It is not something easy to admit. This author, for one, would prefer to maintain a sober distance from eccentricities of this kind, but the events speak for themselves. In fact, the very stones of Garabandal cry out. Any objective examination of these occurrences points to the direct participation of heaven in what happened. Let us never forget, however, that alongside the extraordinary prodigies was a simple message of repentance and conversion. Why were the events so extraordinary? So that the message would be embraced wholeheartedly and with urgency. And the prodigies were even more marvellous so that the message would continue to be embraced for the long vigil of sixty years while the world waited for the fulfilment of the promises of Our Lady. The wonders of Garabandal, surely, are all directed to one thing and one thing only: the reception of the message. Let us look at the events with the eyes of faith, heed the message and turn back to the Lord!
"Even now", declares the LORD, "return to me with all your heart, with fasting and weeping and mourning" (Joel 2,12).
A more elaborated version of this article can be found at the author’s blog: