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Tom & Sue Pilgrimage Day 4 Santo Toribio & Garabandal Spain

Tom Melillo typing up the days' trip reportEditor’s Note: Tom and Sue Melillo traveled extensively to Catholic shrines and have graciously shared their experiences with us via their daily “trip reports”.

Sadly, Tom is no longer with us, but his trip reports live on…and so do the memories of this faith-filled man.



Wednesday, May 24

Ola, Buenos noches,

We have a lot to share since yesterday so I will start from our departure from Palencia.

After our breakfast we made the 2 ½ hour drive to Santo Toribio over the Cantabrian mountains, where we were going to the Pilgrims mass.  This year anyone who attends mass and walks thru the doors of forgiveness there receives a plenary indulgence after fulfilling the normal requirements, i.e. confession, receiving communion, praying for the Pope’s intentions with a pure heart.  We arrived early and stopped in the town of Potes and had coffee and a few laughs.  Traveling with Sam is very comical to say the least.

We were very surprised when we got there to see so many people.  The last 4 times we were here, the most people we saw was about 20. This shrine houses the largest piece of the true Cross of Christ and venerating it is indescribable.  The piece is from the left side of the Cross and the nail hole is visible. (story below)

Right before the mass in the packed monastery all went outside and the clergy, consisting of 4 bishops and several priests came out and started the mass.  We then all proceeded back into the church thru the Doors of Forgiveness and mass continued.

After the mass everyone lined up to venerate the cross.  Sam was visably touched.  After his third time of venerating the cross, the monk left with the cross.  I think he was afraid Sam might try to take it home.

Totally uplifted we headed to San Sebastian De Garabandal.  For Susan and I this was our 10 anniversary since our first visit, this is our sixth time here and it always feels like being home.  Susan and Sam were pretty quiet on the ride thru the mountains and I didn’t share with them that this next part was the worst (for them) but not for me, I was back in heaven.  Sam told Susan that his stomach was pretty much still in his throat when we arrived.

We stopped for lunch just before the last 3 miles to Garabandal and had a great time. Again we ordered too much food but did it justice.  Refreshed and ready we made it to Garabandal and drove right to the village church to thank Our Mother for her protection and allowing us to be back, even though we brought Sam. LOL  The statue of Her in the church is very special for me and I cried as always when I saw her.

We all said a prayer and went to get our room at Papa’s and Sari’s,(this year I gave her chocolates instead of leeks and laundry soap) where we always stay.  Lots of hugs and kisses later we went to the hotel and the fun began.  Susan had to repack all the suitcase since I packed at home and we couldn’t find anything.( I’m glad I lost that job) While that was going on I was writing the trip report and Sam was being the mayor as always and we met so many people from all over the world.  One of our favorities was this family from Argentina.  The mom and dad brought 5 of their 6 children with them on their second visit.  The kids aged between 17 and 24 and it was an inspiration for us to see such a pious and loving family. Besides them we have met people from Ireland, France, Nigeria, Sweden, London and believe it or not the US.   Lots of new friends.

Sam helped me re-load the repacked luggage and cracked his nose on the trunk when I closed it and he tried to get something out before it closed. He now has a stigmata.  The car is a BMW X4 SUV and it’s pretty nice to drive.  Did I tell you that Sam really loves that car?

Susan and I were up until midnight sending photos and writing down new arrival intentions.  Exhausted we finally fell asleep and awoke refreshed and ready to go.  We thought we heard Sam outside talking to people so when we ventured out and didn’t see him we figured he had went off with some new friends.  Wrong.  Susan and I had  coffee and a lite breakfast and were getting ready to leave for 10 AM mass.  Thank God we forgot something in the room and Susan went back for it and worried about Sam and knocked on his door. Good thing she did for Sam was still asleep. Susan told him not to shower but to hurry and he even got a cup of coffee before we went to the church.

Fr. Rolando, as always, said a beautiful mass and afterwards we went into the sacristy to see him.  Lots of hugs and kiss later we introduced him to Sam and I asked him if Sam and us could venerate the cross that was kissed by Our Lady of Garabandal on many occaisions .  Michael the sacristian got the cross and Father and him explained to him about the cross.  Again his emotions overcame him and after four kisses I told Michael to hide the cross.  It was a beautiful and spiritual moment for all of us.

Father then gave us a special blessing and we made our way to the intention box in the church. Before we left we sent a message thru the Message of Garabandal site telling everyone that we would be here and if they had any intentions to please send them and we would deliver and pray for them here.  We received over 300 intentions in 5 days and with all of yours we delivered to Our Mother over 1000 intentions.  We read each one of them before her and prayed for all at mass and  later in the pines before her statue.  It was very humbling and an honor to be able to do so.  So many people are quietly suffering and we know that Our Lady will help them according to Gods will.

We then headed up to the pines at a snails pace since we are getting older but we didn’t have a problem getting there as we prayed the stations of the cross on the way. Suprisingly when we got to the pines we were the only people there until Gerard, our new friend from France appeared.  We had already re-read all the intention we have carried and delivered them to Our Mother via the (e-mail) box at the pine tree where she appeared.

Fulfilling our mission for the day we headed down the mountain the long way and enjoyed the views all the way. We talked to so many of new friends and were having a great time it is now close to midnight as I write this.  No rest for the wicked!

That’s pretty much all I can remember of this beautiful day in Garabandal.  Tomorrow we leave after the 10 AM mass and benediction when father offers  up all the intentions for the week.  We can’t miss that.

So I will say Buenos Noches for now.

May God continue to bless all of you and protect and guide you.

Love Susan & Tom

Glorious Queen of Peace, grant us peace in our hearts, harmony

In our families and concord throughout the world. Immaculate Mother, as

Patron of our Beloved Country, watch over us and protect us with your

Motherly Love.  Amen.


Santo Toribiode Lebana 

The monastery here two miles south of Potes is in an area called Liébana (translated as Lebanon in English) at the foothills of the Picos de Europa (Peaks of Europe, Spain’s largest national park) which are really a continuation of the Pyrenees. Benedictine monks founded the monastery here during the sixth century. Beato, one of the monks in the middle of the eighth century, wrote a commentary on the Book of Apocalypse with illustrations and you may see copies of the illustrations on the walls of the cloister. The present church was built in 1256. The side chapel containing the largest known relic of the True Cross, the Lignum Crucis, was built at the beginning of the eighteenth century.

How did this most precious relic end up here? St. Toribio lived for some time in Jerusalem and was the custodian and guardian of the relics there. Fearing the profanation of the relics at the onset of Persian persecution he transferred the relics first to Rome and then to Spain. The relic was in the Cathedral of Astorga where Toribio was bishop. During invasions of Spain in the eighth century the relic was transferred here to Liébana during the reign of King Alfonso I. The remains of St. Toribio of Astorga were also transferred here at the same time. (The Sudarium also had to be hidden during this time). The chronicles of the Benedictine order state that this relic is from the left branch of the True Cross discovered by St. Elena, the mother of Emperor Constantine in the fourth century. The relic is in the gold plated cross behind the altar, it is in the upright position in the cross, you may see it through the glass. The hole from the nail can be plainly seen. In 1958 the wood was scientifically analyzed in Madrid and discovered to be extraordinarily old, the wood is Cupressus Sempervivens L. Whenever the feast of St. Toribio on April 16th falls on a Sunday it is a Jubilee Year here in the church and pilgrims fulfilling the usual requirements may gain the indulgence by visiting here that year. This Jubilee occurs every 6, 5, 6 and 11 years (similar to the Jubilee in Santiago de Compostela when the feast of St James on July 25th falls on a Sunday).

There is an ancient custom in the surrounding villages whereby two men from each village come to the monastery here to pray in the church and venerate the relic on a fixed day of the week according to agreement. They depart their village at midnight and walk all night, sometimes barefooted to reach the monastery at dawn. The tradition continues and is regulated by the local town councils and the monastery. In the program of the monastery you will see that the special Mass for this custom called La Vez is on Fridays at 11:00am from June to September (2003).

The veneration of this relic here has been accompanied by many signs and graces from heaven. Fr. Antonio de Yepes, in his Chronicles of the Benedictine Order, states, “If one had to count all the successive miracles, they would fill an entire tract…” Many people have testified to having received big graces praying in front of the relic of the True Cross here in Santo Toribio. As we venerate the cross here, we do so in a spirit of sorrow for our sins and asking graces for our lives that we may better represent Jesus in the world.

The Story of the Discovery of the Cross.

The “holy cross [was] found by St. Helen in the 326, about 180 years after it had been buried by the heathens. For out of an aversion to Christianity, they had done all in their power to conceal the place where it lay, and where our Savior was buried. They had therefore heaped upon his sepulcher a great quantity of stones and rubbish, besides building a temple to Venus; that those who came thither to adore him. might seem to pay their worship to a marble idol resenting this false deity. They had, more over, erected a statue to Jupiter in the place where our Savior rose from the dead, as we are informed by St. Jerome; which figure continued there from the emperor Adrian’s time to Constantine’s reign. The precautions of the persecutors evidently show the veneration which Christians must have paid from the beginning to the Instruments of our redemption.

Helena, Constantine’s mother, being inspired with a great desire to find the identical cross on which Christ had suffered for our sins, came to Jerusalem, and consulted all those whom she thought likely to assist her in compassing [accomplishing] her pious design. She was by them credibly informed, that if she could find out the sepulcher, she would likewise find out the instruments of the punishment; it being always a custom among the Jews to make a great hole near the place where the body of the criminal was buried, and to throw into it whatever belonged to his execution; looking upon all these things as detestable objects, and which for that reason ought to be removed out of sight. The pious empress, therefore, ordered the profane building to be pulled down, the statues to be broken in pieces, and the rubbish to he removed; and upon digging to a great depth, they discovered the holy sepulcher, and near it three crosses; also the nails which had pierced our Saviour’s body, and the title which had been affixed to his cross. By this discovery they understood that one of the three crosses was that which they were in quest of, and that the other two belonged to the two malefactors between whom our Savior had been crucified. But as the title was found separate from the cross, a difficulty remained to distinguish which of the three was that cross on which our divine redeemer had consummated his sacrifice for the salvation of the world.

In this perplexity the holy bishop Macarius, knowing that one of the principal ladies of the city lay extremely ill, suggested to the empress to cause the three crosses to be carried to the sick person, not doubting but God would discover which was the cross they sought for. This being done, St. Macarius prayed that God would have regard to their faith, and after his prayer, applied the crosses singly to the patient, who was immediately and perfectly recovered by the touch of one of the crosses, the other two having been tried without effect.

St. Helen, full of joy for having found the treasure which she had so earnestly sought, and so highly esteemed, built a church on the spot, and lodged it there with great veneration, having provided an extraordinary rich case for it. She afterward carried part of it to the emperor Constantine, then at Constantinople, who received it with great veneration: another part she sent, or rather carried to Rome to be placed in the church which she built there, under the name of The Holy Cross of Jerusalem, where it remains to this day.

The title was sent by St. Helen to the same church in Rome, and deposited on the top of an arch, where it was found in a case of lead in 1492, and may be read at length in Bozius. The inscription in Hebrew, Greek, and Latin, is in red letters, and the wood was whitened. Thus it was in 1492 but these colors have since faded. Also the words Jesus and Judaeorum are eaten away. The board is nine, but must have been originally twelve inches long. The main part of the cross St. Helen enclosed in a silver shrine, and committed to the care of St. Macarius, that it might be delivered down to posterity as an object of veneration. It was accordingly kept with singular respect in the magnificent church which she and her son built at Jerusalem, and was shown publicly to the people at Easter. This stately church was hence called the Basilic of the Holy Cross; it was also called the church of the Sepulchre or of the Resurrection, thought this was properly the title only of the holy chapel which stood over the sepulcher or cavern in which our Savior was buried, which was in the garden adjoining to Mount Calvary; so that this great church covered the sepulcher, and was extended so far on Mount Calvary as also to included the rock Golgotha, and the very place where the cross of Christ stood at his crucifixion. This extensive building was enclosed within the walls of Jerusalem when that city was rebuilt. The find of the cross by St. Helen happened in the year of our Lord 326, in the thirteenth of the pontificate of Sylvester, and the first after the council of Nice.”

May God Bless Each and Every One Of You!

Tom & Susan Melillo



1 thought on “Tom & Sue Pilgrimage Day 4 Santo Toribio & Garabandal Spain”

  1. Prayer Request:

    Please pray for Eric McDonald.
    Pray for his conversion to true faith in Jesus Christ…
    May The Sacred Heart of Jesus, Have mercy upon Eric McDonald and save his soul..
    Our Lady Of Fatima, ask us to pray for the conversion of sinners.May Our Blessed Mother bring Eric right to the Sacred Heart of Her Most Beloved son, Jesus!!!!!!

    “Pray for Eric McDonald-
    Pray for his salvation…
    St Michael, pray for us
    “Abba Father, I ask you to send St Michael to rescue Eric McDonald and help him to know and love Jesus Christ..Amen
    Jesus, Mary I love you Save Souls
    Sacred Heart of Jesus, have mercy on Eric McDonald
    Immaculate Heart of Mary- pray for Eric McDonald
    Jesus, Mary I love you Save Souls
    St Michael, The Archangel, pray for Eric McDonald
    All you Holy Angels and Saints, Pray for Eric McDonald”

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