Born in Villanueva y La Geltrú (Barcelona) February 16, 1873
Professed March 7, 1897 in Cervera
Ordained a priest June 29, 1902 in Santo Domingo
Martyred November 28, 1936 in Moncada
The town of Villanueva and La Geltrú is situated on the Mediterranean Coast some 50 km from Barcelona. When Cyril was born, the village was surrounded by vineyards and orchards. Later it would become an industrialized region.
Cyril’s parents were Juan Montaner Artigas and Bernardina Fabre Rovirosa. They had seven children and Cyril the fifth. He was baptized in the parish Church of Santa Maria eight days after his birth. When he was four years old, he received the Sacrament of Confirmation. He received his first religious instruction at home, mainly from his mother. When he was five years old, he was admitted to a private school.
Soon after, the family moved to La Secuita. He went to the municipal school. On May 11, 1884, he received his First Communion in the parish of Santa Maria. At this age, he already demonstrated the desire to be a missionary. He liked to teach catechism to other children of his age, especially poor and helpless. In 1886, the entire family returned to Villanueva and La Geltrú. There he studied in the college of the Pious Schools. Then he entered the Seminary of Barcelona winning a scholarship.
Barcelona: Studies in Philosophy
He excelled in Philosophy as demonstrated by the Meritissimus obtained every year. At the same time his spirituality in the Marian Congregation grew. This program was directed by Fr. Fiter S.J. This is where his love of Mary Immaculate and his vocation to the priesthood continued growing. However, this vocation did not meet his aspirations of being a missionary.
Once he completed the Philosophy studies and began Theology, he left for Cervera. There he made his Novitiate under the guidence of Fr. Anonio Sánchez del Val. During the same time, in spite of a considerable age difference with respect to his peers, he showed simplicity and kindness to all. The Novices recognized his love and devotion to the Virgin. He made his First Profession on March 7, 1897, the feast of St. Thomas Aquinas. After Profession, he said: “the joy that I experience is to be able to be called a Son of the Immaculate Heart of Mary.” With great satisfaction the Providential said that the initials of his first and last name Cyril Montaner Fabre were the same as those of the glorious title that he had just been granted “Cordis Mariae Filius.”
Santo Domingo de la Calzada: Theology
A few days after Profession, in the company of Fr. Xifré, Superior General, he moved to Santo Domingo de la Calzada (Madrid) to complete his study Theology. He was pleasantly surprised with the atmosphere.
The Prefect of Theology was Fr. Santiago Martínez, who was informed of the qualities and virtues of Mr. Montaner, and put him in charge of the study hall.
He was ordained a priest on June 29, 1902, with 102 other ordinands. In Santo Domingo he stayed nine months exercising in the Sacred Ministry.
The first assignment was Barbastro in 1903, as Curate of Postulants where he stayed from March 1903 until the summer of 1904. This life wasn’t his idea of priesthood. His apostolic yearnings were oriented to the apostolate, including the missions of Fernando Poo. Being obedient, he would be asked to move on to evangelize in foreign countries.
1904-1915: missions of Fernando Poo: Fr. Armengol Coll was Vicar Apostolic and Bishop of Tignica. The one who was chosen to collaborate in the evangelization program was Fr. Cyril Montaner, who made the trip to the mission with the Vicar Apostolic embarking from Barcelona on July 25th. They reached Fernando Poo on August 16th.
As soon as they arrived in the mission, the Apostolic Vicar appointed Fr. Cyril as parish priest of Santa Isabel, the capital. The new pastor took charge the end of November 1904. In the first two months, he demonstrated his skills to the misión work; first, in his great missionary zeal without worrying about his health. For this reason he frequently visited the sick at the hospital. From 1906, the Conception Religious were given permission to administer baptism to the indigenous people in case of urgent need.
In 1911, during August or September, by doctors orders he was sent to the Canary Islands. After some rest and recovery, he returned to Santa Isabel in October 1912. After the Chapter in Vic, the cuasi-province of Fernando Poo was elevated to the category of Province, under the name of “Spanish Guinea.” Fr. Cyril Montaner would be named Consultant to the Provincial.
Again, he continued with his apostolic activity. With his missionary zeal, he served the sick and developed other activities. He effectively promoted the Patron of Santa Isabel and the renovation of the Cathedral, built by Brother Jaime Miquel and completed by Brother Ramon Olle.
Back to Spain
At the end of 1915, due to physical stress and illness, he had to embark for the Iberian peninsula. During the journey, he regained the energies of his body and when arriving in Barcelona, he continued to be concerned about the missions. First; he looked for a patron to finance a large statue of the Heart of Mary for the high altar of the Cathedral. This patron was Mariano Mora and his wife Dª Antoñita Llorens. Second; commissioned by the Vicar Apostolic, he was to visit the Queen Regent to discuss the serious issues such as the strained relations between Fr. Coll and the Governor concerning issues of public morality.
In mid 1916, he was appointed Superior of Calatayud. Given that he still didn’t have much energy for preaching, he devoted himself to preach and give talks to religious communities and becoming a confessor to the religious. On June 23, 1919, he was appointed Superior of the house of Gracia, Barcelona. In mid-December 1922, he was appointed Superior of Vic and was re-elected to the same office from 1925 until 1928. At this time, he fulfilled many ministries: missions, novenarios, Spiritual Exercises and sermons. In August 1928, he was appointed Consultant of Solsona, but in 1930, he was appointed Visitor General of the Province of Castile. From 1931 to 1934, he was Superior of La Selva del Campo where he was plagued with health problems. In 1934, he was appointed Consultant of the community of Gracia of Barcelona, dedicating himself to various ministries. There he was surprised by the outbreak of the Marxist Revolution.
1°. Inner Life
The soul of his work and apostolate. From when he was young he differed from his brothers because of his piety. He had a strong spirit of prayer, mortification and sacrifice. He accentuated a religious spirit and love for the Congregation. He was fond of the mystic’s, especially of St. Teresa of Jesus and St John of the Cross
2°. Devotion to the Heart of Mary
The Marian character of his life was manifested since his infancy, initiated by his mother in the devotions and love for the Virgin. So, he became a member of the Marian Congregation. This increase when he entered the Congregation of Missionaries of the Immaculate Heart of Mary. By reading books, especially the book of the devotion of ªMaria of San Luis Mª Grignon de Montfort was his inspiration.
3°. Religious Observance
He was very mindful of the Constitutions, “was a leader in observance and work.” He didn’t know another way to be pleasing to God. This is in accordance with his inner life of mortification, because he was in compliance with the demands and observance of the acts mortification.
The Testimonies are unanimous in affirming that the work and sufferings were heroic. When he was in Spanish Guinea, he didn’t hesitate to rise at night to care for some dying and endure the unpleasant smells in the hospital. He manifested an absolute availability to perform the work being humble and simple. Had great patience with the ignorant and illiterate Africans. Faithful to the love of Christ and conform to the will of God, he faced the rigorous diseases and ailments in the spirit of sacrifice.
Revolution and martyrdom
When the Revolution broke out, he was a Consultant. After the first shooting at the house by the militia and calling for calm by the majority of the community, he asked them to seek refuge in the home of friends and benefactors. While others left the house with their secular clothes to seek refuge, Fr. Montaner without taking off the cassock visited the sick of the community, “ensuring that the sick would not be abandoned.” At night on the 19th, he were taken to a police station, where after three hours, he was released and went to a friend’s house.
On the 20th, he found refuge in the home of a friend, where other religious had also sought refuge. Here he continued to exercise his ministry with great benefit of all. He seemed to reassure everyone. Among them and was Antonio Domenech, a carpenter, former anarchist and militant. Yet Antonio was converted by the mediation of his wife. They lived in a modest house on the Calle Aulestia Pijoan. From the beginning of the Revolution, he dedicated his time to help those in need. After the second registration, with fortune he dodged, he found another refuge in the house of Domenech. Domenech was warned about having a priest in the house, he said: Blessed are those who die for the faith. From August 5th to November 25, 1936, he celebrated Mass and on Sunday had a small turnout. On Festive days there would be special celebrations with the piety of the catacombs. It was imposible for Fr. Cyril to ignore his missionary zeal.
During this time, he was preparing for martyrdom, together with the owner of the house. It was stated that during this time, he didn’t hide his condition as a priest. He wanted to be a martyr like those who had given their lives. In mid-November, together with Antonio, they offered their lives to Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament if this would be the will of God. Then Fr. Cyril said to the housewife:
Today your husband and I have offered ourselves to our Lord for martyrdom, and we have endangered you.
The good woman knelt in the decision and in accordance with a sigh said: May the will of God be done. A few days later it was fulfilled.
At three o’clock in the morning on Wednesday, November 25, the militia pounded with outrageous blows that shook the house. Domenech got up and went to open the door while Fr. Cyril dressed. What happened? They had taken precautions. Someone had been watching the house and called the Communist Center of the neighborhood.
Thus began the registration by the fearsome patrols, in particular by Patrol #11 of Pueblo Nuevo. They asked Domenech who was the stranger in his house. The answers did not convince anyone, nor the documentation displayed by the priest, provided by his brother of Villanueva and La Geltrú. To top it all, in the priest’s room they found a letter. They arrested the priest and owner. The owner showed his pain and the priest supported him:
Haven’t you noticed, that if it is what God wants.
The militia added: Declarations and then you’ll be back.
Indeed, they would return at one in the afternoon.
This trip was the control of the Center of Colon, Calle de Pedro IV.
There were countless victims, including the Bishop of Barcelona, which almost always ended up in the cemetery of Moncada. There was the family Armengol, Fr. Arbona, S.J., who knew Fr. Montaner. They also brought Father Cyril and Domenech at four in the morning. First was Father Cyril declaring his status as a religious and priest. Then they went to Domenech home. His wife with signs of great suffering. She couldn’t speak.
The woman asked for her husband.
He’s making a declaration, answered the Father.
And where will they take you?
The response was a shrug while looking at the sky. And, carrying in her hands the Breviary, in search of where he had gone. He left again in the same car with the militia.
At six in the afternoon on November 25th, they were moved to the prison of St. Elijah. There he lived in terror and distrust of the companions, because they knew that the Reds had placed spies. In addition, they all knew that the priest’s and Domenech situation would be resolved soon. Fr. Montaner and Mr. Domenech were taken November 29, 1936, and shot in the cemetery of Moncada. It is not known where they were buried.