Fr. José María Alba Cereceda, S.J.
He is founder of the Missionary Society of Christ the King, the Secular Union of Saint Anthony Mary Claret, the Association of the Immaculate and Saint Aloysius Gonzaga, the School of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, and the Association of Mary, Queen and Mother. He is also the Co-founder of the Association of Priests and Religious of Saint Anthony Mary Claret and the Brotherhood of Spanish Priests of Saint John of Avila. He passed away on January 11, 2002 at the age of 77.
Fr. Jose Maria Alba Cereceda wrote a report dated on August 22, 1962 concerning some of the events that had taken place in San Sebastián de Garabandal. "According to the medical evaluation, a psychological or abnormal explanation is unthinkable; neither is it feasible to entertain the possibility of commercial, propaganda, or fraudulent interests on behalf of the family members or of the village as a whole."
The psychological reactions of the girls are entirely normal. There is nothing fictitious or superimposed. According to the rules used by the great spiritual masters for the discernment of spirits, there is no indication of a possible diabolical influence. Furthermore, one can perceive a spirit of humility and poverty, of piety, austere simplicity, a great sense of belonging to the Church, and of obedience. Finally, in Fr. Alba’s opinion, “There are sufficient grounds to believe in the truth of the apparitions of the Blessed Virgin Mary to the four girls in San Sebastián de Garabandal.”
Complete text of the report by Fr. José María Alba Cereceda, S.J.
Considerations concerning the events of San Sebastián de Garabandal for Dr. Puncernau, Barcelona, August 1962.
My personal findings concerning the events at present are:
The Hierarchy of the Holy Mother Church is the only one who can give us complete certainty concerning the religious significance of San Sebastián de Garabandal. She either gives her permissive approval or disapproval (as she does frequently), or her positive approval. The Church, very wisely, does not make hasty decisions and awaits the passing of time. We can help and facilitate the process of the Hierarchy’s decision with our well-intended efforts. Our deviations or errors will have no greater consequence than that of a personal opinion. It is necessary on our part to risk considering and forming our own judgment in a reasonable manner. We can then expose our personal points of view, and this will often be demanded of us out of charity.
The evaluation of the medical data collected by Dr. Ortiz, a Child Specialist from Santander, convinces me that any psychological or abnormal explanation is unthinkable. He studied the girls during a period of 22 consecutive days and then presented his report to Fr. Valentín.
All types of commercial, propaganda, or fraudulent interests on behalf of the family members or the village as a whole have been ruled out as well. This will become apparent for anyone who spends a few days there.
The spiritual life of the girls, along with their psychological and religious reactions, is in agreement with what is normally expected for children of their age. There is nothing fictitious or superimposed in them.
The religious phenomena that the girls experience are all very well-known. They have occurred many times throughout the history of the Church. Many saints have experienced them even from early childhood. Spiritual authors make reference to such phenomena as a concomitance of contemplation. In this sense, any priest who has procured a basic knowledge in this subject of spirituality will find nothing surprising about it.
The fact that we are dealing with four simple girls from a village lost in the mountains does not present any difficulty. Indeed, there are reasons to believe that God reveals Himself in such cases.
The rules for the discernment of spirits presented to us by the great spiritual masters give no indication of a possible diabolic origin in the case of San Sebastián de Garabandal. No trace of a worldly spirit, vain honor, greed, or pride has been noticed in the girls.
On the contrary, one perceives God's special providence. One notes [in the girls] a spirit of humility and poverty, of piety, austere simplicity, a great sense of belonging to the Church, and of obedience.
Wise and religious men, who are both prudent and virtuous, have visited San Sebastián de Garabandal and are inclined towards a supernatural interpretation. Some of the most distinguished theologians that we currently have in Spain are among them.
The attitude of the village as a whole also has great value. Their reactions have been those of profound Christian wisdom. Their belief in the events has been enlightened and put to the test over a long period of time. The common opinion of hundreds and thousands of Christians, priests, and lay people from every province of Spain and every social class is quite convincing as well. Enlightened by theology, this attitude is a significant confirmation. Everything takes place in an atmosphere of spontaneity and of simple familiarity with the supernatural.
The following observations lead me to positive conclusions about the supernatural reality of the events: the conversations I have had with the girls and their answers [to my questions]; everything that I have directly ascertained about the character of their contemplation; the clarifications of the message; the events leading up to the spiritual trances (“the interior calls” or interior locutions, their resistance to this grace, and reminiscence afterwards); a type of infused knowledge they have received; the spiritual habits of the girls.
The message given to the girls by the Blessed Virgin Mary on October 18 has a very simple structure. Sacrifice, penance, visits to the Blessed Sacrament, and an authentic Christian life (being good and practicing charity) are asked of us. A conditional great chastisement upon the whole world is also announced, if, of course, we do not return to God and lead a holy life. The messages given by Our Lady at Lourdes and Fatima come quickly to mind because they seem to all follow the same line.
On the other hand, there is a perfect agreement with what the Magisterium of the Church has taught repeatedly for more than a century. John XXIII (echoing Pius XII's words) has remembered that our times are exceptional in the history of the Church. The message's spiritual content that many consider generic is in perfect agreement with the religious tradition of the Church, which traces back to the prophets of Israel's preaching.
Due to secularism and the loss of awareness of sin in our time, the urgency to rediscover an authentic Christian life is greater than ever. This is a truth that speaks for itself.
The message could be - for all who receive and embrace it with a sincere heart - the starting point for a change of life or for a determined step forward along the path of Christian sanctity and of love for God.
I consider that there are sufficient grounds to believe in the truth of the Blessed Virgin Mary's apparitions to the four girls in San Sebastián de Garabandal. We can arrive at an adequate moral certainty about them from the overall knowledge of the positive and negative data. Both the subjective and objective criteria for discernment - we focused mostly on the “phenomena” - lead to the same certainty. It is, therefore, reasonable to believe in the apparitions and to act according to them and to the message of October 18, 1961. As things are today, this will not appear as imprudent.
Viewpoints that May Help Clarify Some Things
The supernatural events that we observe in the girls do not follow exactly the ordinary process of mystical evolution.
This is not surprising if you consider the circumstances and the fact that we are dealing with several simple village girls. As far as it seems, these events - well known in the mystical life - have not followed the ordinary ascetic path. Grace has simply entered into their souls. It is a mystical grace called “gratis data,” or “freely given.” From this point onwards, it seems likely that a mystical evolution could begin.
The "ecstasies," as they are commonly called, seem to have the characteristics of a rapture. They begin suddenly, the girls' faces light up, and they end with a smooth transition back to normality. The other phenomena that occur can be explained because they are associated with the state of rapture. All of the apparitions are imaginative and the girls' senses are suspended during the rapture.
The apparitions' extraordinary frequency is truly remarkable. As well as this, the Blessed Virgin shows a maternal attention to the simple petitions made by girls and others present. Our Lady has a special relationship with each person, and personal signs of affection for them.
One has the impression that the girls have just started out on a path that will lead to a greater fulfillment. Time and the girls' fidelity to grace will allow us to see more clearly.
Many of my viewpoints coincide with those of Fr. Luis López Esténaga, an expert on the events of San Sebastián de Garabandal and current spiritual director for the diocese of Guipúzcoa's seminary. I learned many useful lessons from him.
All of those who go to San Sebastián de Garabandal return home with a greater zeal and faith, eager to serve God and the Blessed Virgin, and with the desire to return to the place where they received these interior gifts.
There are quite a few cases of conversions. Some of them are well known in the entire village, and outside of it, because they have been made public.
Seldom are the cases of those who have not received an interior reply from the Blessed Virgin or a special sign of her predilection, either during their stay in Garabandal or after returning home.
These few exceptions bear little weight.
Assuming that the most important thing is the message given by the Blessed Virgin, we must not expect anything else, but must put it into action. We priests should urge Christians to look beyond the superficiality of things and to lead a life of greater austerity, of reparation, and of Eucharistic Adoration.
The visit to the village should be done with an authentic Christian spirit. The whole time spent there should be a true pilgrimage. This way, the Santander town can irradiate a Eucharistic spirit and a life of penance. We must permeate our daily life and surroundings with this spirit as well.
I insist upon the fact that the announced chastisement is conditional. It depends on an authentic reform of one’s life. It must not be presented as something inevitable, deforming the message's meaning. The cities of the Dead Sea would have been saved if Abraham had found only 10 just men. Our salvation is what the Blessed Virgin desires.
It is true that the girls lack spiritual direction. God, in His providence, can supply for their needs with special graces. He can lead them towards perfection and help them to avoid errors in the difficult path that they are called to follow. They have not discovered, nor perhaps even suspect, many aspects of spiritual life and of perfection. We must help them insistently with our prayers in order that they may be faithful to the grace which has begun to shape Christ's image within their souls. If God, in prevision of their future fidelity, has granted them such graces now, may our prayers achieve for them faithful humility and surrender to God's will throughout their lives. In this way, the work which God has begun in their souls may be brought to fulfillment.
I have omitted two names for obvious reasons. The first is Fr. Valentín, parish priest of Cosío and of San Sebastián de Garabandal. His position is very prudent, precise in every regard, and entirely opportune in light of the difficult circumstances in which he finds himself.
The second is Fr. Luis Andreu, a Jesuit who died on August 9, 1961. He continues to play an important role in the events of Garabandal from Heaven. The girls frequently allude to him. The episode concerning Fr. Andreu in this issue is another affirmative fact.
Due to the absence of an official committee that systematically works and directly studies the events, some have had the idea to gather all of the individual studies concerning San Sebastián de Garabandal. This seems very opportune to me. It should also be possible for individual groups to have mutual knowledge of the work being done.
It would be unfortunate if the lack of coordination or precise information led to varying or personal interpretations of the events, without an objective or true vision of them. Not gathering the information and linking it to its sources could cause annotations, additions, or pious legends that, with the best of wishes, would harm the very events that they seek to exalt. Recent messages have suffered many attacks for this very reason. It is true that God can complete His designs without any of this. However, on our part, we must work as though everything were in our hands and later place all our trust in God.
Moreover, this work would extraordinarily facilitate the task of the Committee which will have to investigate the events.
Barcelona, August 22, 1962