The first time the angel spoke to the girls in Garabandal was on July 1, 1961. He did so to announce: “the Virgin of Carmel will appear to you tomorrow, Sunday.” The girls exclaimed full of joy: “May she come quickly!”
And so it happened. When that first visit of Our Mother had ended, the girls said that the Virgin appeared to be 17 years old. She wore a white robe and a blue mantle and had brown hair parted in the middle. They said that she wore no veil but had a crown of twelve stars and in her right hand she carried a brown scapular. What was surprising is that the Our Lady of Carmel who they described was not like the Our Lady of Carmel that they -and all of us- know, that is, dressed in brown with a white cape and veil. What they did not know at the time is that the Virgin had appeared in the exact same way she is venerated in Mount Carmel itself, in the Stella Maris Carmelite convent that was built over the grotto of the Prophet Elijah in Haifa, Israel. There, in the Holy Land, Our Mother is dressed exactly as she appeared in Garabandal, wearing a white dress and a blue mantle.
But why did the Virgin manifest herself in Garabandal as Our Lady of Carmel? The response to this question could fill an entire book, but there are some insights that we can share. The Carmelite spirituality is characterized by a life of great intimacy with Our Blessed Mother, to the point that it can be summarized in a single phrase: “Carmel belongs entirely to Mary.” And if there was something that characterized the apparitions of Garabandal, it was precisely that: It was like another life of the Virgin on earth, allowing us to enter into a greater intimacy with her. She lives with us to show herself as a Mother full of tenderness and concern for her children, who whispers to us: “I love you and I desire your salvation.”
The tireless apostle of Garabandal, the Belgian priest, Father Materne Laffineur, some three months before his death, wrote the following reflection that can help us to penetrate into the relationship between Garabandal and the Carmelite spirituality: “The ascent to Mount Carmel is always like this, just like it is always that way in Garabandal. There is no other life, no other path than the one of penitence, sacrifice, and humiliation. Because Garabandal shares in the solitude of Mt. Carmel…it is the solitude of St. John of the Cross, it is the solitude of St. Teresa of Avila, and it is also the solitude of St. Therese” (August 26, 1970).
Carmel belongs all to Mary, but in Garabandal Our Mother also asks us to belong entirely to her, so that we may fully belong to Jesus. How can we reach this goal? We must follow the solid spirituality proposed in her messages which are imbued with Carmelite spirituality, as Father Laffineur correctly identified: penitence, sacrifice, humiliation and the “Eucharistic solitude” that allows us to become souls of deep prayer.