Born May 8, 1888 in Barcelona
Professed August 15, 1904
Ordained a priest June 23, 1912
Shot July 21, 1936 in Lleida
Father Codina Picasso was born on May 8, 1888 in the Gràcia district of Barcelona. The son of Don Francisco Codina, a laborer, and Dona Elvira Picasso. He was baptized in the Cathedral five days later by Don Massaven Buenventura. In the parish of San Juan of Gracia, he received the Sacrament of Confirmation in the month of June 1895. He carefully prepared for his First Holy Communion. His mother forced Federico to wear long curly hair. She was in love with those curls and the eve of his First Communion, she said: Federico, go to the barbershop and fix your hair because tomorrow we are going to take a portrait.
Federico obeyed and with disgust his mother, ordered that the hair be cut. He then answered:
Mom, what should I prepare for the First Communion, my head or heart?
He confused me with that comment, commented his mother years later.
He atended the Claretian school on Gracia Street. Here was the beginning of his missionary vocation. Shortly after his mother would say:
Mom, I like the Priests! I think I’m going to be like them.
His vocation found no obstacles in the home even though he was an only child.
In the summer of 1899, he began his studies in the Claretian Seminary of Barbastro. Here he seemed to excel in Humanities. The comments are the following: a good skill, better implementation, exhibits good habits and is very healthy.
In the summer of 1903, he traveled to Vic to begin the Novitiate year under the direction of Fr Mariano Fernández. He would make his First Profession on August 15, 1904. Shortly after he moved to Cervera to study Philosophy. After the end of the second year, he received Tonsure from the Vicar Apostolic of Fernando Poo on July 15, 1906.
His Theological studies would take place at the former University of Cervera. At the end of the second year of Dogmatic Theology in 1908, Father Prefect, Felipe de Jesús Munárriz shared some of his thoughts about Federico: “talent is somewhat limited; at times a little smug; otherwise prudent, generous, a good worker; and very observant.” At the end of the third year of Theology, he would receive the four Minor Orders from the Archbishop of Puebla de Los Angeles, Mexico, on May 7, 1910.
To study Moral Theology, he would move onto Alagon. At the end of the first year, he went to Zaragoza to receive the Subdiaconate in the chapel of the palace on June 11, 1911. During the second year of Moral Theology, he was ordained to the Diaconate on December 23, 1911. The priesthood would take place in Alagon on June 23, 1912.
A few days later moved to Aranda de Duero to begin the year of preparation. The plan was for him to be assigned to Barbastro, as a professor. Beginning the year 1917, his ministry was devoted to preaching. He first went to Cervera and then to Barcelona, where he was from 1919 to 1925. At the same time, he exercise the ministry as confessor and other responsibilities within the Community. The ministry of preaching was practiced in a variety of places. He even received an invitation in Ibiza, as communicated to Father Larraona, a companion from his years of studies. It was Father Larraona who encouraged Father Federico to continue the initiatives in favor of the Temple in Rome and at the same time, to continue sending money for the building project.
In 1925, he was appointed Superior of the community of Berga, the hometown of Fr Postius. The following June he would be transferred to Cervera in place of Fr Mariano Fernández, because the Provincial Government had been moved to Barcelona. In 1928, he was assigned to Lerida, as Superior. Here he enjoyed having the opportunity to preach.
In July 1931, he was sent to Játiva as Superior. “It is well known that in May of this year, the community had been dissolved by mobs and prudence and skill was needed for the reinstallation. Father Codina was placed in charge; we were able to get the house and the care of the Church. In October, the Claretians were able to reopened the school.” But the restoration and going back to the house which was badly randsacked by the revolutionary events would take some time.
The following year, October 1932, called for him to be reassigned to Cervera as Superior. By now, the community was experiencing difficulties with the Civil Authorities of the new regime. He knew how to circumvent the situation, but could also see that the problems were not resolved with the authorities because they would say one thing and do another. On one of the hypotheses of the transfer of part of the University, he wrote to Fr. Nicolás García, Superior General on July 25, 1933:
“We are being forced to yield, in the manner indicated on the complainant’s future action for the use of compensation. We sense the greed which the powerful Local Leftist committed and have placed upon Cervera on the day that it seems the leadership of the Town Council is not available.”
He also realized that this matter is not what the Town Council decided but the Generalitat of Catalonia “as it expressed this week by the visit of Gassol, Barnes (brother of Minister) and other advisers which are going to come with an intent of settling our case, as well as that which is not so different as the Piarist Fathers in Seo de Urgel and with Brothers of the Christian Schools.”
In February 1934, he traveled to Rome to attend as a representative of the community for the beatification of Father Claret, because he received the ticket that belonged to a priest of La Granadella, who could not go. In July of that year, he was assigned to Lerida as local Superior for the triennium 1934-1937. Here the situation of the Community was or seemed quieter but it was not free from dangers. So in a letter of May 22, 1936, to Father Felipe Maroto, Superior General:
“Nothing more, we continue now thanks be to God in not facing death as those who suffered on Sunday the 17th, like the Franciscans, whose residence was assaulted by a mob, and an entire squad of guns pointed to their chests for being religious, etc… Blessed be God!
By lucky no one loses the serenity in our Home, confident in the protection of the Lord who will not leave us.”
But this security vanished soon, because Father Codina guessed that soon heads would be rolling.
Qualities and virtues
He was always very applied. He had a gift for Literature and public speaking which he cultivated. In the report of the Provincial of 1926, it reads: good health; very good conduct; well in the community. He was always a good religious, given to the piety, respectful with superiors, with great love for the Congregation.
Exemplary behavior, fine treatment.
Arrest and martyrdom
July 21, 1936: Around 9 o’clock in the morning, he took refuge in the house of the Sra. Jaques with others members of the community where they were dressed in cassocks and took the ciborium with the Blessed Sacrament. In that house, Father Baixeras gave Communion to all present.
In the house, they changed from the cassocks after a registry, which did not give the desired results by the militia because of their inexperience and went to the house of Mrs. Rosa Puig. Commenting on the events that occurred, they decided to offered their life for God and for Spain. They all knelt down and Father Codina gave them the blessing and general absolution. Shortly after they hid in the attic, where they were easily caught.
In the street the prisoners were divided into two groups. The first, comprised of six without having taken their statements. They were taken directly and immediately to the provincial jail. The second, formed by the leaders, the Superior, Father Codina, and the First Consultant, Father Busquet. Before long, the militants led the priests once again to the floor, where they asked the owner if they had been there, to which he replied in the affirmative. After they were led to the Generalate where the Red Government was waiting for a declaration.
Father Codina was subjected to respond to a statement which certainly was not appropriate to his defense. It ignores the object of the declaration, as well as the interrogation but he knew that very soon they would lead him out to the street in the midst of a platoon of militia to the prison. When coming out of the porticos toward the Paheria Square in front of City Hall, the shouting of the people was so great that the employees of the City Council with the mayor went out to the balcony to see what was happening. These saw that a group of fourteen militia and people in the town were lead a tall, thin man with hands tied together, “who was rebuked, insulted and recognized immediately Father Codina. He was serene and smiling and walking with measured step, as if he were indifferent to what was happening.”
He was followed and harassed by many people, mainly women who were shouting:
Kill him, kill him, he is a priest.
But apparently what led to the death of Fr. Codina was the claim that he was the Superior of Saint Paul, the Church of the Claretian Missionaries. When arriving to the center of the square of the Paheria, one of the militiants shot the priest in the back, only about two meters away, without any movement of resistance nor even looking back, and falling to the ground. This killer, according to public voice, was a former altar boy of the priest. Another of the group approached then fired a shot to his head.
The corpse of Father Codina was covered by a kind woman with posters of announcement from the theater. After a while, a car arrived and the occupants collected the corpse and took him away. Another woman wiped the blood off the ground with a towel. The mortal remains of Father Codina was buried in a common grave of the martyrs, where it is impossible to identify the dead.
The murder taking place downtown near the Town Hall square, and at such a late hour of the day was known throughout all Lérida and with many witnesses.