Born October 13, 1902 in Jerez de la Frontera (Cádiz)
Professed May 20, 1923
Ordained September 22, 1929
Shot August 13, 1936 in Alboraya (Valencia)
Fr. José Ignacio Gordon de la Serna was born on October 13, 1902 in the city of Jerez de la Frontera in the province of Cadiz and Diocese of Seville. He was baptized two days later in the parish church of San Miguel. Two years later he received the Sacrament of Confirmation by the Archbishop of Sevilla in the Church of Our Lady of the Carmen de Jerez on October 13, 1904. His parents were Don Luis Gonzaga Gordon y Doz, a producer of wine and Dª Josefa de la Serna y Adorno, daughter of the Marquis of Irún of Seville, who died in 1909. Fr. Juan Ignacio would come to see his aunt Dª Luisa, sister of his mother as his own mother.
His primary and secondary instruction was realized in the school of San Juan Bautista de Jerez directed by the Marianists from 1909 until July of 1920. He then moved to Madrid to pursue a law degree.
In Madrid he had Fr. Antonio Naval as Spiritual Director. At the end of 1921, he went to Cervera. There he began his Novitiate on March 1, 1922, and his Novice Master was Fr. Ramón Ribera. At first it was difficult for him to settle into the austere lifestyle of the convent, where before he had lived among comforts. They extended him two months of Novitiate, so he professed on May 20, 1923, the feast of Pentecost.
After the summer he began his Philosophical studies in the University of Cervera. There he realized the rigors of the climate was so different from that of Jerez. He was hypersensitive to the cold, so in the harsh winters of Cervera his hands would hurt from cracks. He wrote to his father on November 24, 1923: “It’s cold and strong, but I enjoy it a lot, although it makes me shiver a little. There are tastes that are really different!”
On July 4, 1925, he moved to Solsona to continue the study of Philosophy.
After completing his studies of Philosophy on September 1, 1926, he returned to Cervera to study Theology. In the first letter he writes to his father since returning to this city, November 23, he tells him that he has little time because he “now is completing the difficult years of my career.” In the middle of July 1927, he received Tonsure and the four Minor Orders from the hands of His Excellency Nicolás González, Vicar Apostolic of Fernando Póo.
In January 1929, the Superiors asked the Holy See that he be dispense with studies so that he could be ordained a priest and render the military service as such, in order to take advantage of his Bachelor’s degree in Arts for the Magisterium. In Vic on March 16, he received the Sub-diaconate. Three months later, on June 23, in Cervera, he received the Diaconate from the Excellency Ramon Font, Bishop of Tarija, Bolivia, and on September 22nd, he was ordained to the Priesthood from the same bishop and at the same place.
In August of 1932, he was named Superior of the community of Játiva in substitution of Fr. Federeico Codina, who had been destined as Superior of Cervera. He was confirmed in this position in the appointments of 1934, for the triennium 1934-1937. He could not conclude this assignment because in the second quarter of 1936, he was forced to take refuge in the house of Valencia.
Qualities and Virtues
From childhood he fought not to lose his grace and was an apostle to his peers and companions. Because of his piety, his educators chose him as the director of the Marian Congregation. When he attended the classes of Law, his professor Julián Besteiro, a socialist, whose explanations were filled with doctrinal disloyalties, encouraged Jose to become more firm in the knowledge of the true faith.
At his entry into the Novitiate, he showed his detachment from the family, asking to be assigned far from his family. He had a pleasant character and delicate treatment. He was distinguished by his piety, charity and humility. He had a great spirit of austerity.
He was a very observant and an exemplary religious, very fond of the Congregation, as is reflected in his letters. As Superior, he showed his great prudence. He was concerned that his apostolate was effective.
Prison and Martyrdom
As mentioned before, he was arrested and imprisoned together with Fr. Alonso during the morning of August 12, 1936. He spent the day in prayer and conversation with the other two Fathers preparing for martyrdom. They had no illusions that they would be set free. At dusk they were given dinner of a stew of potatoes with meat, bread and plenty of water. He ate very little of this meal. Late in the evening, they called him to give declarations of his name and position. The court consisted of about seven, including one or two from Jativa. The interrogation lasted for more than an hour and was vexed, vehement and hard, without exuding the cries of the judges. The questions and statements, it can be said, were concentrated in three subjects: the family, his person and the school of Játiva.
About the family, they asked him who his parents and siblings were, his nobility titles, the people of origin, the wealth they possessed and a few more things, perhaps for the money contributed by his family for the works of the school.
About his person: name, surnames, studies, careers, city where he took them; whether he was a priest, religious, superior, where his subjects were, what goods he had and where he had them. On the school of Játiva they asked him what he did it, with what money, what methods he followed, how he treated the children? He argued with energy, integrity and serenity of accusations based on columns, as when finally one from the court rebuked him that “how he had basements and in them stunned the children?”
To which he replied with a fist pounding at the table:
Lie! It’s a slander! You can check it whenever you want.
He was impressed, pale and trembling. However his face reflected the joy of a saint and said:
Soon we will join the choir of the Martyrs.
He still spent two hours in prison preparing himself intensely for martyrdom. At about 12 o’clock at night, he was taken out with the other two priests and taken by car to the Palmaret at the end of Alboraya.
When he got out of the car, he hugged the other two and said
My Jesus, in your hands I commend my soul.
After getting out of the car in which they were taken to be shot. Fr. Gordon addressed the militants with these words:
We forgive you from the heart.
The Fathers then gave each other their blessing. They lined up to receive the bullets, in the dark because they turned off the car lights. Fr. Gordon was injured, and there was an occasional woe from him! And the ejaculation Mother of mine! These words broke the silence of the night. This lasted about twenty minutes. After twenty minutes the executioners turned on the spotlight, they approached Father Gordon at the moment when he said, “My Mother!
One of them exclaimed:
Long may she live! And shooting him in the head. It was over. His corpse was recognized by the doctor and judge of Alboraya and buried in the cemetery of said municipality together with Fr. Alonso.