Heraclius Matute Tobias

Born March 11, 1867 in Alesanco (Logroño)

Professed December 23, 1884

Ordained a priest March 14, 1891

Shot October 18, 1936 in Cervera (Lèrida)

 

Father Heraclius Matute Tobias, son of Roman Matute and Michelle Tobias, was born in Alesanco, province of Logroño and Diocese of Calahorra-La Calzada, on March 11, 1867. He was baptized three days later in the parish of Santa Maria of the Villa. He received the sacrament of Confirmation on July 23, 1876.  When he was six years old his mother died and a year and a half later he father would die. Heraclius and his sister Rosa were taken to Villaverde, to the home of a aunt. His uncle, Alejandro Ureta, conscious of the educational neglect of his nephew Heraclius, sent him to Alesanco to study. He excelled in school and began learning Latin.  The religious and missionary vocation was planted by Father Isaac Burgos in a mission that he gave in Alesanco in 1879, but he had to wait two more years because the Postulancy was full.

 

Heraclius enrolled as a student in the College of Alagon on September 5, 1881. The first two years he studied Latin. In 1883, he went to Barbastro to enter the Novitiate. On October 15, 1884, he moved to Vic, where he made his First Profession on December 23, 1884.  From 1884-1887, he completed his three years of Philosophy. It is also in Vic that he completed the first two years of Theology and then moved on to Cervera for health reasons and in 1888, to Santo Domingo de la Calzada, where he was able to complete the second year of Theology. In August 1889, he returned to Cervera to study the third year of Theology.  He received the Subdiaconate at Santo Domingo de la Calzada on June 8, 1890, and the Diaconate in Calahorra on September 27, 1890. On March 14, 1891, he would be ordained to the Priesthood by His Excellency Antonio María de Cascajos y Azara.

 

His first assignment was at Calahorra and in January 1894, was sent to Pamplona. The following year, he would be assigned to Ciudad Rodrigo as a preacher and librarian. In the Provincial Chapter of 1901, he was appointed Provincial of the Province of Castilla and moved to the Novitiate of Segovia. After his term as Provincial he would move to various assignments.  When he was Provincial Superior, he demonstrated his great love for the Congregation as evidenced by the canonical visitations and the provisions taken highlighting the observance of religious discipline, piety, prayer and the foundation of pastoral activities.

 

His biographer writes about him: “his body was a small Hospital de incurable ills.” In some of his official travel he was accompanied by a nurse and or would dilegate Father Benito Núñez to do the visitations. However his spirit was strong and fearless. He was always reflective and analytical by nature. Many saw him as a very pious man having a strong love for the Holy Rosary.  On July 19, 1936, he went to the station with plans of going to Barcelona and on to Manresa. His plans didn’t work out and he thought it would be prudent to stay in Cervera. He would suffer the same fate as the Claretians of the former university.

 

The prison

On Tuesday, July 21, the community was expelled from the building and taken in bus towards Solsona. Those who were sick were taken to the hospital. Father Matute would be in this group. “For three months Father Matute awaited death at that asylum; three long months that were for him and his companions a long retreat of preparation for death, a kind of intensive Novitiate for martyrdom.”  Though Father Matute was nearly blind, he would always be before the Blessed Sacrament. He wanted to be prepared for martyrdom and called on others to give their blood generously for Christ, but the younger members he encouraged to escape for the sake of the Congregation.

 

Martyrdom

On October 17, the armed militia led by Enrique Ruano and Juan Solé arrived for the missionaries. Father Matute said goodbye to Sister Sala: Goodbye, little sister. He thanked her for all they had done and gave her a crucifix and a few pesetas. Climbing aboard the truck, they were taken directly to the cemetery. Early on October 18, 1936, those in the hospital Heard the shots. According to the testimony of the assassins, the missionaries died shouting “Long Live Christ the King!