Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of January 17, 2005
The children shall lead them
Our Lady, Archangel Michael visited three Spanish youngsters
St. Sebastian — January 20
By TED FITZGERALD
Special to the WCR
San Sebastian de Garabandal, Spain
People seeking the church of San Sebastian may be forgiven if they believe that they're at the end of the road when they reach tiny Cosio in the Cantabrian mountains of northern Spain.
Unfortunately, there are another several kilometres of hair-raising sidehill twists and turns to reach tiny Garabandal, the actual road end and site of the church.
Remote and secluded at an attractive valley junction, the hamlet of San Sebastian de Garabandal, in Spain's northern region of Cantabria, is at an elevation of 600 metres, 88 kms from the provincial capital of Santander.
The little church of San Sebastian, until recently was, by virtue of its squat bell tower, the tallest building in town. From the mountainside overlooking Garabandal, it is barely recognizable in a compact, tiny sea of red corrugated tile roofs.
The sparingly-adorned interior draws the eye to the altar with its statue of the patron.
Pure and innocent Sebastian
Sebastian, since early times, has been a popular subject for church artists, a portrait of purity and innocence. He was said to be a popular officer in the legions of the third century Roman Emperor Diocletian.
Working to aid persecuted Christians in Rome, he was discovered to be one himself, was tied to a tree and used for arrow practice. In reality, it is thought that he was beaten to death in about 288 AD.
He is a patron of archers, athletes and doctors and is invoked to ease gout and the plague.
Despite the apparent tranquility of tiny Garabandal, the village has another irregular life. Beginning in 1961, the community was the venue for a series of apparitions to four school girls that attracted worldwide attention and turned local life upside down for awhile.
Our Lady appears
First the girls, Conchita, Mari-Loli, Jacinta and Mari-Cruz, were visited by the Archangel Michael, then on many occasions by Mary, manifesting herself as Our Lady of Mount Carmel.
Although the appearances were "witnessed" by thousands of people attracted to the village, Our Lady, carrying the child Jesus, conversed freely with the girls, but was not visible to others. Principal indications of her presence were the ecstasies enjoyed by the 11- and 12-year-olds and the profound peace and joy they exhibited.
By the time of the last apparition in November 1965, Our Lady had asked them to be good and to encourage the world to mend its sinful ways, predicting dire consequences if society didn't listen to her messages.
Today, the 300 resident Basteanos are gradually adjusting to an irregular influx of pilgrims seeking the sites of the apparitions. Most will ascend the mountainside above the town via the new Way of the Cross to reach the grove of pine trees that was a major place for appearances. Beyond the pines, they can climb higher to follow a trail marked by the mysteries of the rosary.
A couple of new, small hostelries have been built in town since accommodation was almost non-existent in the days when any visitor was probably the Cosio parish priest, toiling upwards for his regular Sunday Eucharist at Garabandal.
Fortunately for the residents, the place is still so remote and inaccessible that between buses their home can lapse into a semblance of the serenity once enjoyed here. For brief periods they are content to share their village with just Our Lady of Mount Carmel, Sts. Michael and Sebastian, and wait for a formal recognition by Rome of the amazing events that transpired here.
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