“Guardian of the Faith”
CUENCA, ECUADOR (1988-1990)
High in the cold and rainy Andes Mountains of Ecuador, Our Blessed Mary reportedly appeared in the remote farming village of El Cajas to a sixteen year-old girl named Patricia Talbot. Known affectionately as “Pachi” to her countrymen, she was a beautiful young woman who already had a promising worldly career as a fashion model. She was not a particularly religious woman and had been much more excited about traveling the world, promoting her country by modeling modern clothing inspired by the traditional clothing of Ecuador. She was not interested in spiritual things and had even refused an invitation to view a school video about the apparitions at Medjugorje, assuming that “those things just don’t happen anymore.” Her mother worried about her increasing vanity and costly trips.
On August 28, 1988, at 4:50 a.m., a great light invaded her bedroom at home, and Blessed Mary first appeared to this 16-year old out of the light.
“Do not be afraid. I am your Mother from Heaven. Place your hands on your chest and pray very much for the peace of the world – now is when it is most in need. I love you very much, my littlest daughter. Change. Pray for priests and religious, because Satan tempts them with sin, and his main attack will be to bring confusion. Tomorrow, first thing in the morning, I desire that you make me an altar in this place and put blessed candles on it. I am the Guardian of the Faith, and I will always be with you. Now, my little one, call your mother; pray until dawn as I showed you. I love you very much, my little girl.”
Pachi was very startled — but not afraid. When asked to pray, she began to quickly say an “Our Father,” but Mother Mary told her to pray it more slowly and with feeling. Then Our Lady vanished, leaving a soft scent of flowers, which remained for three days in the whole house.
Pachi felt confused and cried. She woke her mother and told her what had happened. They both prayed together until dawn. Later that morning she bought candles and created an altar in her bedroom. Over the following days, close friends and family began to pray at the site. About 23 more apparitions occurred in that bedroom over the next year. But they also occurred at three other locations until March of 1990.
At the beginning of October, Pachi traveled to Costa Rica and Mexico with a group of models. While in Mexico City, she felt compelled to kneel at the altar of Our Lady of Guadalupe in the great basilica. Upon closing her eyes to pray, Pachi felt a deep repentance for her sins. She was given a vision in which she saw a camp full of children from all races of the world. But they were covered with wounds in need of healing; smoke billowed forth from the camp. Then Our Lady appeared to Pachi – “more beautiful than ever.” Our Lady tenderly held Patricia’s hands in Her own and said,
“My little one, I am happy to see you. Don’t be afraid. Pray much for the peace of the world, because it is now that it needs it more than ever. My little child, I am holding back the arm of My Son. Change and convert. I love you very much. Adios, my little daughter.”
The next day, Saturday, October 8, the group was visiting the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe when Patricia suddenly fell to her knees; her body became rigid, tilting her head far back, and she held out her arms, palms upward, toward the sky. Other tourists became startled – but she was completely unaware of them. Later, she described how Mother Mary had appeared to her:
“She was barefooted and standing over a cloud. A blue veil covered her head and flowed down to her ankles. She wore a white skirt with a red blouse. Her eyes are big and long, the color of honey. Her hair, which comes out both sides of the veil, is also honey-colored. Her nose is small and straight, and her lips are thin. Her face is fine, and her skin is golden. She had a crown of twelve stars vertically around her head. Her arms were extended outwards and down, and she was holding the Rosary in her hands with the cross near her left hand. The Rosary is a brown color and the cross had a metal Christ.”
(On other occasions, Mary had a rose on each foot or a crown of roses around her forehead — and dressed in all white.)”
Mary thanked her for coming and told her to pray the Rosary for it “is a shield against evil.” The Virgin told her to meet with her again in 3 days at the original church on Tepeyac Hill – but the group was supposed to depart that evening to fly back to Ecuador.
Patricia expressed her dilemma, but Mary just smiled. That evening the plane was overbooked, and the girls had to wait for the next flight — in several days!
Pachi (Patricia) began to experience dramatic changes within herself. Normally, she would have spent her free time shopping for new clothes. Now, she spent her time in church, in prayer. Three days after seeing Our Lady in the basilica, she went as requested to the church on Tepeyac Hill (original apparition site of Our Lady of Guadalupe). Again Blessed Mary appeared to her and said,
“My little daughter, you do not know how much it gladdens me that you are here. Now, daughter, now I will reveal to you my great secret, which corresponds to the one revealed to the other visionaries. This secret you cannot write nor tell to anyone until I permit you. (Our Lady reveals the great secret to Pachi and then continues…) I put into your hands the great mission of the conversion and turnabout of the world. I am holding back the hand of My Son with the message that I have given you, and if My children convert, the Heart of My Son will soften and the intensity can be diminished or be lost forever. If not, the great trial will come.”
At this moment, miraculously, the Sacred Host appeared upon her tongue. Patricia felt a great Love pouring into her along with the Virgin’s promise to be with her forever. She took the responsibility of retaining the great secret very seriously.
Pachi felt her life changing, and she no longer wanted to be a model. But she was under a lot of pressure. One day, in November of 1988, praying in her bedroom back in her home town of Cuenca, the Blessed Mother revealed to Pachi the actual date of the great chastisement – telling her again that she could not reveal this to anyone. Mother Mary reassured Patricia that she had made a good choice:
“I am your Mother from Heaven, the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Guardian of Faith. You do not know how much I rejoice at seeing you again, my little one. You have made a wise decision. Don’t change your mind. Don’t continue in that.”
Pachi felt a great peace afterwards. It was hard to give up her fun-loving activities and stubborn independence. She found a way to still have fun but with a new emphasis in life.
On December 1st, she stopped in the high school chapel between classes. Kneeling down before the Blessed Sacrament and near a statue of Mary, she felt a gentle breeze and saw a bright light. Her head was thrown backwards again in an awkward posture. Other students noted that she started writing in her notebook while looking upward – and were amazed that she could do that. Afterwards, Patricia had no recollection of having written anything, but here is the message she had transcribed:
“My daughter, please listen to me very well. I want the Rosary to be prayed on December 8 in an open coliseum. See to it that this message is propagated everywhere, that it be done in your country and that you be the ones who carry in your heart the Rosary, which will be the imprint of God’s love. Do not forget, in your city, to have it done in an open space. Please, have all the schools be present there and pray the complete Rosary, the fifteen holy mysteries. I love you so much. Don’t forget that I am the Guardian of the Faith. My little daughter, there always exists a happy tomorrow to a sad yesterday.”
The Bishop would not authorize the event, but said that they were free to gather to pray without official approval. He did not want to sanction the apparitions and have anybody know that that was why they were gathering. Nevertheless, in just three days, two thousand people gathered in an open site, having traveled as far as four hours away! In obedience to the bishop’s requests, Patricia refused to be identified or interviewed, but news of the apparitions had already spread.
On December 15, 1988, family and close friends noted something different when Patricia went into an ecstasy in her bedroom. She began to speak – but without her Cuencano accent! To their amazement, they realized that the Blessed Mother was speaking through Patricia. Pachi was totally unaware of what had happened and did not remember the words she had spoken.
“My daughters, I love you very much. Keep yourselves in My Immaculate Heart and the Merciful Heart of My Son. He is very sad to see that His message does not reach my little hearts. You are my chosen daughters. Put your rosaries on the front of my altar. They will be under my mantle and blessed by my Heart and by the Heart of My Son. I ask you for peace; peace in your hearts, peace with each other, and peace with your Father in heaven. You have in your hands the mission to transmit peace and the change of the world. Remember that I love you so much, and that I am the Guardian of the Faith. Please stop being lukewarm. I want all to be strong in their faith. My little daughters, stop being selfish. Do not keep all that you have for yourselves. This is my message of peace.”
The ladies immediately placed their Rosaries on the altar for Mary to bless. As they finished praying the Rosary the beautiful smell of flowers was present in the room!
On December 25, 1988, the scent of fresh flowers and candles (none present or lit) preceded Blessed Mary’s visit as a group gathered to pray. Mary told them,
“Rejoice in experiencing the love of God in your hearts. The Rosary is the most complete prayer. Do not ask yourself why you pray it. Let it be your shield against the evil one who is at work. Do not detach yourselves of it. The Spirit of God descends upon you. Feel the warmth which enters your heart.”
“My warning comes to an end. I have already said so much. You have the great mission of the conversion of the world. Please, little children, make evil disappear. It is in your hands that the hand of My Son be detained or that you are going to suffer as strongly as the pain of His Heart. Do not be afraid, because I am with you. I will pour out the necessary graces on you. I love you much.”
The day after Christmas, when this group was praying again, the strong odor of incense and flowers permeated Patricia’s house again. Blessed Mary appeared and said,
“Children, continue praying. I want that in the place where you pray for you to organize the ‘wardrobe of the poor’ – and that you collect food for the poor. Children, do not abandon those who have nothing to eat or to wear, because in them is the kingdom of heaven. See in them your Father. Do not be afraid of judgment, because in you is your Father, Son, and Spirit, and I will keep you under My mantle.”
“Do not fear, because the kingdom is near. Do not allow Satan to penetrate the heart which loves God. Little children, know that all that you do benefits the world. Your prayers, penances, and fasts are impeding the third World War. You, my little souls, do you forget that with prayer and fasting you can deter wars and natural catastrophes? It is in your hands. It depends on you whether the chastisement be as strong as the pain that My Son feels, or that it be appeased with prayers.”
On December 28, 1988, Patricia had a new and unexpected experience. She met Jesus! He was standing on a cloud in a long white robe. From his heart came forth two rays, one red and the other white. Like his mother, his skin was golden and his hair long and brown. His arms were extended outward and down. Patricia saw the wounds in his hands and feet caused by the nails of crucifixion. His voice was smooth, sweet, and deep:
“Know that He who speaks to you is your brother, Jesus Christ. Why do you sometimes doubt my presence? I have spoken to you many times, but my little souls, you are innocent in Divine Wisdom. Love My Mother because She holds back the fury of heaven. Love her in all the good that happens to you and be discreet.”
“I am the Merciful Jesus; my heart is filled with mercy. Ask, children. I would like the day of my Mercy to be celebrated. Have in your homes an image of my Merciful Heart. Do not forget that the Father is good and that I came to the world for you, my beloved ones. I am Jesus, and know that all is in your hands. The time is short, and I am already very wounded with all that my stray children have done. I love you, my chosen ones.”
Patricia revealed that these visits are unpredictable but usually during prayers at home or at church. Many times she would feel a “calling deep within myself” to go to a particular location and begin praying. She would usually see a bright light and sometimes a wind blowing right before Mary or Jesus would appear on a cloud.
From the beginning, Patricia had made a small altar or shrine in her bedroom where she had arranged pictures and statues along with blessed candles. On January 15 of 1989, these pictures and statues began exuding oil and tears. Droplets of blood formed on the crucifix. Regarding this phenomena, Blessed Mary revealed to Pachi on February 1, 1989 that the oil was an oil of salvation for those with strong faith – and that the sick should be blessed with this oil.
“The Father has allowed the grace of the holy oil, and my tears have been shed for the ingratitude of my little children due to the lack of unity, lack of love, and because each nation opens its doors to evil and to its own destruction. Love one another, children, and do not hurt the Father. I am the Guardian of the Faith.”
Patricia’s boyfriend, Andres, had been out of the country for much of this time and was not sure what he believed. Taking a dry picture of the Holy Shroud of Christ, he held it in his own hands while the group prayed. He was amazed to see oil coming from the eyes in the picture and droplets of liquid forming from around the crown of thorns. All of his doubts about the apparitions vanished with this stunning event.
A doctor took samples of the blood droplets and oil from the holy objects. The blood had red blood cells; the oil had human cells in it, but the type of oil could not be identified. In March, Blessed Mary explained that the tears were from her sadness because so many of her children were still so far away from God.
Eighteen more apparitions occurred in chapels in Quito, Guayaquil, and Paute. At one point Blessed Mary gave her visions of hell, heaven, and purgatory; Pachi describes:
“Hell is a terrible place, like a big volcano where you see souls that hate each other. There are skulls, and they don’t have faces, but they hate and insult God. I saw some of those bishop ‘hats’ in hell also. Purgatory was like a bunch of hands reaching out and crying, trying to get out of that volcano. While I was there, I heard a voice telling me to pray for them because they couldn’t do anything without our help. I didn’t go into heaven because I didn’t feel that I deserved to. There were two choirs of angels at each side of the door. The Rosary (prayer) is the door, and the cross of the Rosary is the key to open the door to go into heaven. Prayer takes us to Jesus, who is the way, the truth, and the life; the cross that we carry over our back – our sufferings – is the key to open the door into heaven.”
In June of 1989, Bernardita Jerves de Ugalde, an older model who had been entrusted by Pachi’s mother to take Pachi under her protective wing, helped Pachi look for a better place, more pleasing for Our Lady’s “little children” to gather. They traveled to El Cajas, high in the Andes Mountains at an elevation of 11,000 feet. Finding a place where there was a large rock, they knelt in prayer, seeking confirmation that this location might be pleasing to Our Lady. Patricia felt a wind upon her face and looked up to behold another visit from the beautiful Virgin. Immediately submerged into an ecstasy, Pachi heard Blessed Mary tell her,
“My daughter, you have sought long enough, and you have finally found the place. In this holy place, I will pour forth my blessings on all pilgrims who come to me.”
Mother Mary added that she wanted the area fenced off, and that a special area called “the Garden” be reserved as a holy place, a sanctuary. She said that the “Garden” would be a little piece of Heaven, and only those She invites should come into it.
On August 5, 1989, Patricia and a large number of pilgrims gathered at El Cajas because that was the day Our Lady said was her birthday (exactly the same date that she had claimed when in Medjugorje). The Virgin appeared for her birthday, dressed completely in white. Patricia presented her with a birthday cake and the birthday song, hoping she wouldn’t laugh at them. Blessed Mary smiled and replied,
“One day I was also human, my little one. The singing of my little ones is from their hearts. Their songs arrive to my soul. I am happy when you sing, my little ones.”
Jesus also appeared again to Patricia and commented on his mother’s birthday, stating that she is the most beautiful lady both on earth and in heaven.
“She is My Mother. Love My Father more than anything else. Love My Mother because She will take you to My Heart. Tell all of them that I love them. Tell them all to convert faithfully, humbly, and with simple hearts … I want you to pray the Way of the Cross and the Rosary by foot …”
On the first anniversary of the apparitions on August 28, 1989, over 6,000 people traveled from other cities and distant parts of Ecuador to participate in a grand procession. Our Lady appeared and told them through Patricia:
“Today is the first anniversary of my presence in this holy city. My children, you do not know the sorrow the inhabitants of this city cause me. You have not received with simple hearts the Love of my Son and my Love. My children, I will be with you for a very short time due to the ingratitude of the people of Cuenca. I leave you with great sorrow in my heart. I will be on this hill for six months for my pilgrims. The apparitions will be just once a month. My people of Cuenca have received me with great rejection. I ask you, my children, those who have worked with me, to continue sharing their devotion with my little ones.”
Our Lady then requested that people gather on September 7 and consecrate themselves to the Merciful Heart of Jesus and Her Immaculate Heart. If they did so, she would “pour out My Love upon these little souls with little miracles for my sinners.” In response to her request, over 100,000 people came for the pilgrimage on September 7th. The Archangels Michael and Gabriel accompanied Blessed Mary. She asked for peace, no mockery or sensationalism regarding the apparitions, more prayer, attendance at Mass, and for young people to set an example in praying the Rosary. The massive crowd witnessed supernatural events in the sky – like the sun changing colors and hurtling toward them! These celestial miracles were repeated on other occasions and witnessed by many. Mary promised to return on the first Saturday of each month.
On November 8, 1989, Patricia was trying to study in her bedroom when she sensed Mary’s presence just before she appeared to her. Our Lady told Patricia to look in the little box that the little Fatima statue had been placed on; “There is My Sacred Son.” Patricia removed the statue and opened the box; there was a Sacred Host inside! As she dropped to her knees immediately in adoration, Mary told her that St. Michael had placed it there – and that she should pray before it every day, telling very few people. After several months of dedicated adoration and cautious disclosure, Jesus told her that a priest should distribute it to the inhabitants of the house. On March 4, 1990, after the last apparition of Mary, Father Teran celebrated that special Mass in their home.
Another 6,000 people climbed the mountain for the first Saturday in December, 1989. At 7:00 p.m. Blessed Mary appeared to Patricia and told her,
“Forgive one another and remove resentment from your heart. Days of darkness are near, but greater than the darkness of the earth is the darkness of the soul. Why? Because you do not keep lit the lamp of the heart with the light of My Son Jesus. You must learn how to make amends for your faults. When you fall, you must not remain sitting, but you must get up. The greatest fault is when you realize that you have fallen and you don’t get up.”
A phenomenon was witnessed on that day by thousands of persons. The clouds parted and a great light formed the image of Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal in the sky. Hands and faces sparkled with a golden glow – as if from glitter. This amazing celestial image converted many people who had been “just curious” until that moment.
On December 8, the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, more than fifteen thousand gathered, and Our Lady asked them “to remove all stain of sin from their souls.” She asked them to reconvene on December 12, the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe. At 8:00 p.m., she appeared to Patricia and told her,
“My little children, I love you very much, and I ask you to extend your hands to God as when a little child, learning to walk, extends his arms to his mother. Little children, let yourselves be enveloped with the love of God. Fly with the wings of the Lord, gallop in the beautiful field of God.”
“Children, why do you take so long to change? Do not leave for tomorrow what you can do today. Begin today with firm steps towards a faithful conversion of love … Don’t cover the soul with a mask of hatred, resentment, and pride. Remove the cancer of pride because it is killing your souls.”
On the first Saturday in 1990, on January 6, more than 10,000 convened on the mountain and spent the night; Mary appeared to Patricia at 4:00 a.m.
“Children, there is much sorrow in my heart, for many natural catastrophes and others created by man are coming. Hard times are already taking place, a short decade filled with suffering. Children, the third world war is near. Do not frighten your hearts, because the peace of God is with you … Forgive all men. Understand the mercy of God. Understand my petitions. All that I have told you is because God the Father has asked me to. Children, the time is short, very short. Conversion must be faithful. Remove all evil sentiments because Satan penetrates in them. Remove them with the Presence of God in your souls. Children, give thanks to God for what you have … you must fill your hearts with the Light of My Son, so that a desolation of faith will not exist … Children, My Son Jesus imposes his hands on your heads to take away hatred, pride, bitterness.”
During the month of January, some of the pictures in Patricia’s bedroom sweated tears again, and the crucifix bled. There was also a drop of blood on the Sacred Host in her box. She announced in February that March 3rd would be her last visit with Patricia.
Over 115,000 people gathered for the final apparition on March 3, 1990. There was a grand procession with flower-decked litters carrying statues of Jesus and Mary. Once inside the “Garden” area, Patricia’s body arched backward as she looked up to the sky and went into the usual ecstasy. She stared at a single spot in the sky, became unaware of anyone around her, and was unaffected by the sudden drenching downpour of rain. She spoke Mary’s message without any conscious recollection afterwards:
“Today is the day of my physical departure, but my spiritual retreat will never be. I will be with you always, little children. Help those in most need. Love one another, and love God above all things. Children, priests and religious, help in the conversion of the world, the redemption of souls, the purification. Young people, be examples of light. Carry the Cross in your hearts. Put on humility. Children, white doves of peace, be the light.”
“Come always to visit me here. Never abandon me, little ones, because I love you so much, so much. At the end of all the apparitions in the world, I will leave a great sign in this place and in all those where I have been. Goodbye, my little ones, my children.”
Because there were television cameras and radio microphones present on this last apparition, the message was broadcast over the entire area as it was being given by Our Lady. People began to weep. Broadcasts repeated the messages over and over for several days throughout the country of Ecuador. The Holy Virgin also gave her instructions for building a sanctuary high in the mountains at El Cajas – complete with dimensions and descriptive details. Patricia also asked her why the statues and pictures on the altar were weeping again. Our Lady replied,
“My tears are poured out for the evil that exists in the world, through atheism and materialism, through adoring false gods, through ignoring the Word of God and the Sacraments. I have not come in order that they recognize me without recognizing My Son Jesus in their heart. I am the Mother of all who believe and who do not believe in me. The pain from having told you what is coming to the world fills my heart with sadness. I also was a Mother, and I felt the pain of saying goodbye to my Son. In the same way, today, I feel the pain of saying goodbye to you, because I am your mother. You should go out into the world, evangelizing, with the Word of God in one hand and My messages in the other.”
Patricia was especially moved by the beauty of the apparition; here is her description:
“Jesus was at the top. Below Him was the Holy Virgin, surrounded by seven angels. They were dressed all in white. There was a brilliant halo behind Jesus and Mary. The scene was beautiful and resplendent. At her feet and to her left was a little man, poorly clothed with a brown tunic that had a belt around it. He had a beard, and he was very thin. You could see he was very poor, and he was holding a skull in one hand and a Rosary in the other hand. The Holy Virgin told me it was St. Francis of Assisi.”
A geological team had been performing experiments before, during, and after the apparitions. They had two fascinating discoveries: (1) the temperature was clearly measured as warmer only within the sacred “Garden” area of El Cajas, (2) a compass needle shifted 90 degrees during the apparition, pointing in the direction of where the Virgin was said to have appeared. Sister Isabel Bettwy replicated this experiment with her own compass, watching it suddenly shift from its normal position during the apparition to wildly rotating 360 degrees one direction and then the other without any obvious cause — other than the Virgin’s invisible presence at that moment.
For two months in 1989, a Diocesan Commission of three priests was appointed by Archbishop Luna. But they did not read the journals or documentation that had been kept, nor interview any of the key people involved other than Patricia and her mother.
On April 18, 1989, the Commission presented their findings to Patricia and her mother.
Despite the documented events of statues weeping or exuding oil, pictures crying tears, drops of blood, the strong smell of roses that were never present, the sun dancing, and the celestial images of Mary in the sky seen by thousands, they stated that they could not prove any supernatural manifestations or confirm that the messages actually came from heaven. The cautious and conservative Commission appreciated her sincerity and did not dismiss the apparitions – but would not officially approve of them.
After thousands of pilgrims traveled to El Cajas from all over Ecuador and from other countries, the Bishop reopened the Diocesan investigation in February of 1990. He enlarged the commission to include five priests and three doctors. An internationally known linguist performed an analysis of Patricia’s voice during the apparitions because it was distinctly different as she related Mary’s messages. Her voice became higher-pitched and more delicate, “sweet to the ears” as many had described. The linguist’s findings were passed on to the Commission as well. But official approval remains elusive as the Commission adopted a “wait and see” attitude while giving permission for the faithful to follow the messages and requests of Our Lady as long as they are not in any conflict with existing Church practices.
Adverse publicity and ridicule led to one priest’s suggestion to Patricia to take a “vow of silence” – to not speak publicly. In her obedience to the Church, she follows that suggestion even to today. However, on April 4, 1990, she did deliver in person a message from the Holy Virgin to Pope John Paul II, receiving his blessing and support. Through Sister Isabel Bettwy, a dedicated investigator who came to Ecuador, Patricia was also able to travel to Medjugorje and become acquainted with the visionaries there. Patricia married her boyfriend, Andres Cordova, in 1991, and then dedicated their lives toward helping the poor and sick as well as teaching youth groups and young couples how to grow deeper in their Catholic faith.