"We have to be very good ..."
"Above all, we must be good"
These words of the Virgin Mary, spoken for our present world through the visionaries of Garabandal, sum up the Garabandal event itself. It reminds us of the saving message of the scriptures. John the Baptist said the same when he cried: "Repent, repent", as Jesus said "You must be perfect, as the Father in Heaven is perfect".
In October 1961, about four months after the apparitions began in the tiny village of Garabandal, Spain, many people that day waited in the rain and wind to hear the first message of Our Lady. After hearing the message, people were disappointed by the simplicity of the words: "... they must be very good."
All the phenomena that took place in Garabandal, such as ecstasies, levitations, discernment, prophecies, conversions, miracles, were all related to the main objective of Our Lady during the four years she appeared in this village of Cantabria: to remember that God expects us to have good lives.
For example, Our Lady told us in the message of 18 June 1965 to pray sincerely, to visit the Blessed Sacrament frequently and to ask God for forgiveness with a sincere heart. It is easy to see that prayer, praying in the presence of the Most Holy, gives us the graces we need to live a life with holiness. And since we will continue to sin throughout our lives, at least, it is evident that "asking for forgiveness with sincere hearts" will always be necessary for us to move towards perfection.
Our Lady also told us to "make sacrifices, perform more penance" and to "think more about Jesus' passion." We humans tend to neglect these powerful aids for our sanctification. Because we cannot see the relationship that exists between them. However, all Saints, God created them so that they could serve as models so that we could all imitate them and, thus, try to reach the content of the phrase "we have to be very good". All of them (the Saints) did penance and reflected on Jesus' passion, an important point in their lives. They considered all of these practices to be powerful spiritual instruments. If we only consider prayer, it can be compared to a hand saw. But, if we combine prayer with penance and sacrifice, then there will already be a power saw with more power and strength. While with a hand saw we can only do a few jobs, with the electric saw we can do more jobs more efficiently. Therefore, praying only allows us to do certain spiritual works, but if we add sacrifice and penance to prayer, then there we may be able to do more arduous and difficult works, such as overcoming certain sins and obtaining the conversion of the greatest sinners.
The example of Padre Pio
How was it possible for Padre Pio to do so many wonderful things, such as special graces, conversions or healings? Because he prayed a lot, yes, but suffering and sacrifice were also present with the prayers. He was constantly in pain. Some of these sufferings were voluntary on his part, for example, the rigorous practices of penance that he assiduously imposed on himself, or at the time when he asked God to transfer some suffering to him for all those who came to him with the weight of your problems.
But much of Padre Pio's suffering was what God gave him and which he happily accepted. Great was the suffering that he accepted when receiving the wounds of Christ, the stigmas that he endured in his body and that were visible for 50 years of his life. Great was the pain that resulted from his mysterious physical weaknesses, high temperatures that suddenly dropped abruptly, gastric problems. Great was also the suffering caused by the successive attacks and diseases of the devil, as well as verbal attacks by some of his colleagues and his Capuchin superiors. In addition, Padre Pio suffered considerable moral and psychological suffering when he was prohibited from making confessions, holding the Holy Eucharist, etc.
Finally, there was the torture and boredom that were part of his daily work, as was the case with the confessions he performed for 18 hours on the same day. He really had a life lived on the cross of suffering.
Padre Pio was connected to the events that took place in Garabandal through Our Lady. God used it to make this Capuchin's life an example for our time. The mission of this stigmatized Capuchin was to remind the world that suffering, pain, have a redeeming value and are an essential ingredient in the Christian life.
The two things that Our Lady most asked for were prayer and sacrifice. She made it very clear that she was not looking for extraordinary penances, such as wearing chains, etc. She asked for the same thing she asked for in Fatima, namely, to accept the unpleasant and difficult things that are part of our daily tasks and to accept them always willingly: not to be irritated in traffic, and other everyday situations. Be patient and always listen with love. All the details of our daily life offer us blessed opportunities to suffer and perform penance, and these are the sacrifices that Our Lady asked for in Garabandal. In our morning prayers, we must know how to offer Him all the precious occasions of suffering that we may have during that day. These actions represent enormous potential for our own spiritual growth and also for receiving special blessings for our loved ones, in the Church and in the Priests, and around the world.
Thinking about Jesus' passion
The Passion of Jesus casts its luminous rays throughout the life and work of Our Savior. This life and work were all done with love and that love reached its greatest peak during his Passion and on the cross. Much of the mystery of God's love had to do with His greatness. In relation to this, we as humans cannot reach it. However, God wants us to make every effort possible so that we can penetrate His mystery of love. The best way to do this is to think about the passion of His divine Son, Jesus. Jesus came into the world to reveal the love of God and the revelation of that love was accomplished through the Passion, the enormous suffering that Jesus endured for each one of us.
That is why the Holy Spirit inspired the Church to adopt the crucifix and introduced devotion to the way of the cross (via crucis). This is because the devil knows well that it is in this way that we can reach the mystery of the love of God, he is fighting a battle to lead us away from the love of God. Like well-intentioned people, he does not stop a direct attack, he proceeds in a subtle way suggesting some partial truths, bringing to our mind the human rationalism that obscures our faith. And what a huge success this great deceiver has had in today's world!
We have to go back again and start worshiping the crucifix in our homes. It is the sign of the devil's defeat and triumph and the guarantee of Jesus' blessing and protection. We have to go back and make the way of the cross, especially on Fridays, especially during Lent. And we also have to remember some things related to the way of the cross. This devotion was originally introduced not only for the purpose of gaining indulgences, but to encourage people to take advantage of that time to think about the suffering of Our Savior and to reap the benefits that we can derive from these same reflections.
Our Savior's passion is portrayed in the way of the cross. The paintings and images found on the walls of our churches and the meditations we can find in the various prayer books can help us in our own reflections when we stop at each of its stations. Let's go back to the original intention of the Church. We will see in the way of the cross an opportunity to think about the Passion of Christ, in the reflection of the great love that Our Savior shows us on several occasions in many different ways. He did it willingly for all of us. If you do not have time to pray or say the prayer in each season, do not make it an impediment to doing this practice.
One last suggestion in relation to what was said earlier, one does not have to go to a Church to do the way of the cross. Remember, what you should really look for is to learn more and more about the love of Jesus. You can get all of this when you use a prayer book in your home and think for a while to reflect on the special mystery of suffering and love that is appropriate for each season.
Prayers, visits to the Blessed Sacrament, penance, sacrifice and the use of the crucifix and the way of the cross (Via crucis) to think of Jesus' passion - all these are the means for the fulfillment of what Our Lady exhorted in Garabandal in the sense of have good lives.