Garabandal, Spain.

Four young girls - Conchita, Jacinta, Mari Loli and Mari Cruz - claimed that the Virgin Mary appeared to them hundreds of times, beginning in the year 1961. The messages from the Blessed Mother, according to the visionaries, were urgent pleas for conversion so as to avoid a global chastisement. The local bishop doubted the apparitions, but the case has yet to be closed by the Catholic Church.

Spain possesses a tumultuous past, where Catholicism has survived since the apostle James first preached it here following the death of Christ. It was in Spain that James experienced the first recorded apparition of Mary, which helped him persevere in his mission to spread Christianity among the native people. Even during the Moorish invasion that threatened to overtake all of Spain, the Church survived and eventually retook its lands and peoples.

Not far from the site of the first Marian apparition, tucked away in a mountain valley reminiscent of other apparition sites like Medjugorje, sits the remote village of San Sebastian de Garabandal.

Although quiet and peaceful in appearance now, Garabandal was once the site of an event that drew people from all over the world. Four girls began claiming that an angel, later identified as St. Michael the Archangel, was appearing to them in preparation for what he called "The coming of the Blessed Virgin Mary under the title Our Lady of Mount Carmel."

Church history teaches that the Blessed Mother appeared to Saint Simon Stock at Mount Carmel, introducing the scapular to the world as an important sign of devotion. Later in history, another Catholic figure, Saint Dominic, would report that the Virgin appeared to him with a message. "One day through the rosary and scapular I will save the world."

Will this tiny Spanish village one day help fulfill Saint Dominic's prophecy and play a role in Mary's plan to save the world? Despite opposition, the four visionaries believe the answer is yes.

But for whatever reason, if indeed the Virgin did appear at Garabandal, the fruits of this apparition have not been numerous. The visionaries, however, claim that the Blessed Mother prophesied a general disbelief in Garabandal as something that would precede the fulfillment of her secrets.

During the apparitions, the seer Conchita foretold this lack of belief. "A time will come when few people believe in the truth of our apparitions… We ourselves will one day deny them. When the great majority of people no longer believe, then the great Miracle will come."

In fact, just as was prophesied, the four visionaries came to have doubts as to whether or not the apparitions were real. At the present time, however, they affirm that the Blessed Mother truly appeared to them and entrusted them with secrets that will change the world.

The secrets of Garabandal contain four events with global significance, set to take place before what the Blessed Virgin called "The End of Time." The final part of these secrets involves a global chastisement, sent directly by God as a punishment. The visionary Mari Loli described this dreadful event. "We were absolutely terrified…I cannot find words to explain it…We saw the rivers turn to blood…Fire was falling from Heaven…And something worse still which I cannot reveal at this time."

According to the visionaries, God will give mankind several chances to change before He sends the chastisement. The first such chance is referred to as the Warning. According to the seer Conchita, this experience will involve every person in the world. "The Warning which the Blessed Virgin will send us is like a chastisement to make the good draw closer to God, and to warn the wicked… It will be like an interior realization of our sins. Believers as well as unbelievers, wherever they are at the time, will see and feel it…"

This Warning is often referred to as the Illumination of Consciences, an event foretold by many others, including Saint Edmund Campion who foresaw "a great day that would reveal all men's consciences." Then, according to the visionaries, on the heels of the Warning will come the Great Miracle.

The visionary Conchita knows the date of this Miracle and will announce it eight days in advance. She claims that people in Garabandal and on the surrounding mountains will be able to see it. The Miracle will take place at the pines, a cluster of trees overlooking the village where many of the apparitions took place. If mankind does not convert after the Miracle, Conchita claims, God will be forced to send the so-called Chastisement.

After the Miracle, a Permanent Sign will remain at the pines, which in itself will be miraculous, because it will be able to be photographed and filmed but not felt or touched. Coincidentally, this is the same description given by the Medjugorje visionaries regarding the Permanent Sign that is prophesied to appear on Apparition Hill.

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