Born December 1, 1891 in San Andres de la Barca (Barcelona)
Professed November 21, 1918
Shot October 18, 1936 in Cervera (Lérida)
In the village of San Andrés de la Barca, Brother Francis Canals was born December 1, 1891. The son of Don Rosendo Canals, a laborer, and Mrs. Rosa Pascual. They had four other sons of which Luis was also Claretian religious. Francisco was baptized five days later at the parish church of San Andrés and was Confirmed on November 18, 1894 by His Excellency Jaime Catala, Bishop of Barcelona, during the pastoral visit to the parish.
When he was 25 years old, he began the Postulancy program as a Coadjutor Brothers in Cervera in 1916. In the first week he wrote twice to his parents to inform them of his joy at being there. During this time he was also preparing for the Novitiate. The letters he wrote to his family were very spiritual. In the letter written on July 1, 1917, he states:
“This is to explain the many and exact means that we have to learn to embrace the virtue which is the only thing in this world because it is the image of God as the saints describe. We participate on the ordinary days as we also do on feast days.
Do not be surprised that I spoke only of things referring to the spirit as I see by the mercy of the Lord that all is lost which is not directed to this end.”
He received the habit and began his Novitiate in Cervera on November 20, 1917. According to the Master of Novices, Brother Francisco was a little slow, humble and prone to visions. He was talented, but didn’t like it because he was a lover of silence. He was also very humble and obedient. After his Profession, he continued in Cervera by taking advantage of a variety of ministries, mainly as a nurse, mason and gardener. In the letters to his parents, he makes no mention of these ministries because the main thing was to fulfill the will of God. He manifested a great longing for holiness. So he wrote to his parents: “… fulfilling his will as a perfect religious is all that I want; by this, I don’t want to think about anything more than in pleasing God and become holy. Yes to love God, to please God and expect everything that comes from God is happiness in this life, and at the same time is the straight path that will lead us to eternal glory.” In the reports of 1929, he was referred to as “holy” Brother Coadjutor, or as “exemplary conduct, a man of confidence.” In the following years he would experience similar praise. He exhibited great skills for the work he was given to do. The position as nurse was exercised with extreme kindness and the heart of a mother. He was a very simple and obedient man.
In the autumn of 1923, he was assigned to the community of Gracia, Barcelona, but in early 1926, he was again sent to Cervera. In 1925, his brother Luis died in Cervera. He always prayed aloud, even when he was working. His favorite devotions were the Holy Rosary and the Way of the Cross.
As the nurse of the community, Brother Canal followed the elderly and those who were sick to hospital when they all were expelled from the house of Cervera. At this time he would dedicate himself to prayer and preparation for death. He did have the opportunity to leave the hospital and find safety, but he preferred to stay there to help his brothers who were sick. He was the nurse and didn’t have the heart to leave them. Sensing danger, he told Sr. Lourdes Masferrer:
I could save myself because I am healthy, but I don’t want to leave these poor sick ones.
His ministry in the hospital ended on the night of October 17, 1936. The group of assassins captained by John Sole and Enrique Ruano gathered the missionaries and led them out of town in a truck. Brother Francisco Canals and the other 10 missionaries were shot in the cemetery of Cervera while shouting, “Long Live Christ the King!