The 183 Blessed Martyrs from the Spanish religious persecution in 1936
Today, DAY/MONTH/YEAR is a great day for the Claretian Congregation, when 109 Exemplary Children of her own, escalate to the glory of the altars with the beatification proclaimed and presided over by The Pope Francis, by Cardenal XX, in the city of XX.
These 109 Martyrs from the Spanish religious persecution in 1936, is an addition of to the previously beatified: 51 in Barbastro, 16 in Fernan Caballero and 7 in Terragona, with a total of 183 Claretian Missionaries glorified by the Church. We will have a memory of all of them in this Chronicle of the Claretian Martyrdom.
The readers out of Spain will be grateful of this simple note about the situation in Spain during 1936. After the fall of the monarchy in 1931, the Republic was born strongly antireligious, as the chief of the Government, Mr. Manuel Azaña used to express to the Congress, with his famous phrase: “Spain is no lo longer Catholic”. Furthermore, facing Spanish society with two irreconcilable sides, the left and the right wings, until July 18, 1936 when revolution exploded, killing more than 600,000 between the two sides.
And inside the Civil war, that lasted around three years, in the Red Zone, the left wing started and implacable religious persecution against the Church, so if we count one by one, with names, they add up to 7,000 priest, religious and nuns murdered, and many other who died, just because they were distinguished Catholics. This, apart from countless destroyed or damaged churches.
Consequently, who was the one who cause “The religious persecution” inside the “Civil Revolution”. It´s been clearly written by our Claretian brother, the Cardinal Fernando Sebastian: The religious persecution “It wasn´t a consequence of the war, although it developed because of it. From the worldwide headquarters of Marxism, had come the order of physically eliminate the Church as the most firm enemy of the revolution and the new Soviet society”. That´s why, all these our brothers died “out of hatred of the faith”, and consequently, they can be glorified by the Church as “Truly Martyrs”.
Among so many brothers and religious murdered, in this tight booklet, we will find a brief overview of the martyrdom of our brothers Missionaries Sons of the Immaculate Heart of Mary that gave such glory to God and gave us big example of love and faithfulness to Jesus Christ.
Beatified on October 25th, 1992
On August 29th, 1936, The Vatican news paper, L’Osservatore Romano, was given the news to the world, of the spectacular martyrdom of the youngster students, with these words: “Forty Claretian Missionaries joyfully and cheering to Christ the King, are going to death sentence singing”. And the Saint Pope John Paul the II who deliberated said, as soon as they were beatified: “A whole Martyr Seminar!” So is natural that our Narration starts with Barbastro.
The whole population, only 8,000 inhabitants, had their eyes put on the Seminar School of the Missionaries, imbued with young people. On July 20th in the afternoon, the mobs and the militia raided the School; they put together at the central hall of the building the sixty Community members, and took the three Fathers who were the leaders as prisoners and took them to the municipal prison, and the rest were left to the mercy of the vociferous mobs, who demanded the immediate murder of all of them: “Let´s kill them all, right here! Dynamite over them! All to the river! Now that we have them all, let´s execute them!… Fortunately common sense was imposed. So they took them making two impressive lines, through the streets of the city to the Piarist Fathers School, their auditorium was meant to be their prison for several weeks. The old men were sent to the homeless shelter and the three who were sick went to the Hospital. The City Council prison, The Piarist School and the Shelter, they all faced the Municipal Square.
The Fathers, Felipe de Jesús Munárriz, The Superior, Juan Díaz, The students Prefect, and Leoncio Pérez, The Economo, were held together for five days in the Municipal prison cell, easy to describe: around four to five meters by side, a window with double fence bar, without any chair or bed but the hard floor. Around twenty two prisoners were crowded together in this prison, and all them, used as toilet, a small bucket. It´s unimaginable, but we need to know with serenity, all that our brothers suffer because of their faith.
So, it was until August 25th that the prison was lighten, when more than 350 prioners were transferred to the Convent of the Capuchin Nuns, which was destroyed and also very narrow, but it was like a many stars hotel, compared with the Municipal prison. Alerted the people, a crowded was pressing in the streets, in order to contemplate the spectacular transfer of the prisoners between strident shouts.
Having already initiated the executions, an outlaw group went to the Committee demanding prisoners to kill. They were issued with a pass for twenty prisoners! And at three in the morning On August 2nd, the twenty two were at the cemetery: Our three Fathers, our beloved gypsy “Pele”, as at today already Blessed Ceferino Jiménez, who went to daily mass and Communion and a consistent member of the Nocturnal Adoration in our Church, and the Parrish of the Cathedral, Don Mariano Frago, who said with serenity to all, when the truck turn to the cemetery: Gentleman, they are taking us to execute, I give you all the absolution of sins, and now let´s died like a Christian. And like Christians they all died, with the “Long live Christ the King!” in their lips.
Monsignor Florentino Asensio, who just has been consecrated, four months ago, and when he arrived to Barbastro, and said with accurate hunch, Jesus words: “Behold, we go up to Jerusalem”. He had guessed the Calvary that he knew was waiting for him. He was hold in prison at The Piarist School; on August 8th he was transferred to the Municipal prison. The gravedigger Mariano Abad, was tall, strong, ugly and a criminal, took him out of prison with a disgusting blasphemy, while he was teasing him saying: Are you the Bishop? But you look like a shepherd. Don´t be afraid men! If is true what you preach, you will go to Heaven…
Should we tell what happened? Horrible and shameful, but was part of the public domain and made mad the whole Barbastro. There are exceptional witnesses, among them a prostitute, who later on abandoned her occupation, and she declared everything at the Ecclesiastic Tribunal. Are set down in writing name by name of the five criminals who now are in front of the Bishop, to whom Mariano has strongly tied with wire the hands to his back.
A doctor, an Oculist and a peon show to the Prelate the butcher knife: Do you know, what is the use of this?… they neutered him like and animal, they stitch with esparto the wound and tightened firmly with a towel to hold stop the hemorrhage, they wrapped the cut pieces in a Solidaridad Obrera newspaper sheet that was down to the floor, while the victim grow pale as he let out from his lips this prayer: Blessed sores of Christ, be my strength! …The criminal who inspired such savage action, gave the newspaper wrap to the poor peon and said: -Take it, Don´t you want to eat xx from a Bishop? The unworthy doctor, who “scientifically” directed the operation, took around coffee shops and bars the offal of the Prelate, proud of his shameful achievement.
At last, they took the Bishop to the truck, he can hardly walk: – Let´s go, pig, hurry up… But the Piarist Father Mompel, could hear him from a window at the school, saying joyfully: – What a beautiful night for me!!!! I´m going to the house of the Lord… And to the executioners: – No, the more you do to me, I will forgive you… He was shot in the middle of the street, and they took him still alive to the cemetery, and then threw him over the bodies that just had been executed, and he was given the “coupe de grace” at dawn on a Sunday on August 9. Monsignor Florentino Asensio, was beatified by The Pope St. John Paul II, together with the likeable gypsy Pele, on May 4 1997 at St. Peter´s Square at the Vatican.
The doorman at the prison tells us how Mariano Abad, between wine glass and wine glass said that night: – We have killed the head of the priests. No race will prevail. Even the seeds we have to destroy.
There were remained on July 20th 49 members of the Community, and we have to point out from the beginning three key players, who were exceptional witness of everything: the two theologians students Atilio Parussini and Pablo Hall, Argentineans, who they had not killed because they were foreigners, and the Brother Ramón Vall, who due to his profession as a cook, will have an important role. He had certain freedom to move, that allowed him to know what was happening outside and keep his colleague informed. Just because he was the cook for the revolutionaries’ militia, they will forgive his life and he will die later on a religious Saint in 1961.
We should not be fool around whit the epic of our Barbastro Martyrs, like if everything was Mount Tabor and an Easter sunrise from the beginning to the end, because the nights on 13th and 15th of August were preceded by dense shadows of a very painful Gethsemane. The Piarist Father from the School eased as they could, with love and solicitude that can’t be paid, for all the trouble that they had taken since the first moment.
The auditorium, with the theater in front and the gallery in the back, allowed the detainees to sleep on the stage instead of the floor tiles; but the five wide windows that faced on the right the Municipal Square were a problem, because they were almost at the floor level from the same Square. So if they closed the windows, they were in infernal hot, it was the hardest day of summer, suffocated, heavy and they couldn´t breathe, and if the opened, they will have to face the looks and insults by the crowded mob outside. At the opposite side, two doors opened to a small inner courtyard with the toilet.
In order not to make up another description, we will copy the one that the diligent researcher Father Campo narrates:
“The physical suffer came mainly from the lack of basic hygiene in those endless days, the powerlessness of change their clothes, feeling the heat from a hot oven, with their blood and sweat accumulated. Forty nine stronger and vigorous men in a heated room most of the day, men who perspire heavily, that have to go in line for relieving themselves, they can only washed the handkerchiefs from the water pots they used to drink, so they ended up with bad smell, the armpit smell, the urine which has been broken, a human misery. And that, day after day, the sediment which sticks to the humid and irritated skin, to the pituitary in the eyes. The underwear becomes a cilice, it´s smelly, damage the skin, produce inflammation and abrasion to it”…
We are not exaggerating in this. When they empty the room on August 15th, they had to disinfect carefully, “because it was a real need”, Father Mompel recalls.
It was worst the moral anguishes than the physical suffering. Hall and Parussine are very moderate when they tell us the insults that they had to hear continually from the militiamen in the room and from the mob trough the windows:
“We will kill you because you are fanatics and hypocritical… You lie when you say that you love the people and the poor… We will kill you so you can fulfill at once you holy vows… You can´t do any more what you used to do with the nuns until now… Be prepared, tonight we will come to get you. By tomorrow at four in the morning, there will be no more priest or friars in Barbastro… When they kill you, I will eat your livers… And I the brains… I will cut their testicles off… Stop praying the rosary and custody”…
Parussini tell us with pathos how the militiamen had criminal enjoyment: Tell to the prisoners the news of their immediate execution, and the put them in line, in front or back to the wall: “One day we stayed almost an hour very still, just waiting any moment for the shooting. How terrible! Every minute is endless and you just want that they shoot you at once in order not to suffer so cruel agony, that doesn’t finish but with a sarcastic laugh from the ferocious Red Guards”.
The shameless woman, prostitute and militias full of passion, they soon had free access to the room, but our young boys faced them with modesty eyes, uplifting and with a dignified and derogative silence, together with stoic passivity. Those call girls used to enter to the room, get close to young boys behaving in a sexually suggestive manner, tearing up their clothes, they used to squeeze in between them even during their nap time or at night when they just started to fall asleep…
The militiamen watched everything through the cracks of the doors or from the windows, and they have told to the prisoners, as Hall witness: “In the event that any of you insult or displease any of these women, in any way, we will kill you all together right here at the jail”.
And there was an exceptional case. “Trini la Pallaresa” felt in love of Esteban Casadevall, magnificent boy of 23 years old. We can´t describe all the tricks that she used shamefulness in front of everyone in order to have him. But all his partners supported Esteban, who had a resounding triumph”.
The young boys were treated to be executed immediately if they screamed “Hurray Christ the King”, they took unanimously a heroic resolution: – We won´t harm those poor women, they don´t know what are they doing. But, we won´t let them take our soul. As an extreme measure, we all scream “Long Live to Christ the King!” and they can kill us all right here.
There was no need, because the Piarist Father Ferrer, Rector of the School, with his influences with the Committee, manages to get that these women didn´t come any more to the room and leave in peace the flowery youth.
The secret strength of the resistance of our young boys, in the middle of so much suffering, we have them before us and have been pondered many times: the prayer, it was continuously with countless rosaries; the fellowship, they were a solid block; the martyrdom conscience they enjoyed, as Hall and Parussini said: “We were happy to be able to suffer because of God cause; because they killed us only because we were religious and priest or aspirant to the priesthood”. “The Communist specifically told us: We don´t hate you as a person; what we hate is your profession, your black habit, the cassock, that disgusting black rag… We will kill you all in cassock, so that rag can be buried together with who carries it”.
Our young boys were conscious that a prayer of six years ago was heard by God. One day at the Novitiate, discussing the martyrdom in Mexico of Blessed Father Andres Sola, claretian, those dreamer novices had the idea of suggest to their Teacher : “And why don´t we pray one Our Father to ask God to grant us the grace of martyrdom?”… Kids stuff of fifteen or sixteen years old, as we say. The thing is that they did pray. And now they assigned to Hall and Parussine to tell Rome to the Secretary General, the Saint Father Ramon Ribera: “Tell to the Father that the Our Father we prayed at that time when we were walking, it will have now it effectiveness”.
The more remarkable thing was what happened with The Eucharist. When they went out from home to the jail, The Father Sierra brought the Hosts from the Sacrarium. When they finished it, the Father Ferrer and the Brother Vall, evading the strict vigilance of the militia, manage to introduce the Forms In the breakfast basket. When he distributed, the Father Sierra used to put to each one of them one between the bread and the chocolate. They used to save some Host, and were kept by Hall and somebody else, to whom they draw close, taking turns always with intelligent dissimulation. Hall says: “We accompanied Jesus, who was treated as the Catacombs times. We accompanied Jesus during hours and more hours. Fortunately, it was our only occupation at the prison”.
And together with Jesus or in groups they sang in low voice, sotto voce, to sing was prohibited by the militia, the classic songs were: “Jesus you know, I´m your soldier… for you, My King, I will give my blood”, And the verse: Oh Jesus, I would love to always love you, without measure. –How happy would I be if my life for your love I can give! … The song, in low voice at the room, and very loud later on the rod in their way of death, it was a constant on the Martyrs lips.
The numerous writings of the Martyrs at the room are invaluable, were qualified quite rightly by our Bishop Father Casaldaliga as: “Luxury minutes”. Among them, we bring one for all of them, the letter that Faustino Illa wrote to his family:
“With the greatest joy of my soul I can inform you that The Lord has dignified my life putting in my hands the palm of martyrdom. When you receive these lines, sing to The Lord for the great gift of martyrdom that the Lord has deigned to grant me. I won´t change the prison for the gift of miracles, neither the martyrdom for the apostolate, that was the illusion of my life. I will be executed for been a religious and a member of the clergy, for following the doctrines of The Roman Catholic Church”.
“Let´s get this moving… even the seed of the cassock we will have to destroy”, Mariano Abad said as soon as he executed the Bishop. And that’s how it was. On the 11 some delegates from the Committee came to the room to tell them: There is against you serious allegations, mainly the guns. Where do you hide them?… Since they couldn’t find in the convent any rifles or guns after all the searching, the chief demands with all solemnity: And right now, bring all the sharp pointed instruments that you have… Father Pavon, funny as he used to be, comes first with a sharp pencil: – Here we don´t have sharper pointed instrument than this… the hidden laughter of all. But their fate was sealed. Trying to surrender the young boys, The Committee will take away the olders.
At three in the morning on August 12th, while they were sleeping over the stage, the room was invaded by a group of armed militiamen: – Let´s see, come down here the six who are the oldest… And, strongly tied, they were taken to the cemetery the Brother Gregorio Chirivas, 56 years old, The Fathers Nicasio Sierra, Sebastián Calvo, Pedro Cunill y José Pavón, with only 27 years old, plus the Student Wenceslao Clarís.
From the room and in the middle of the silent night, were perfectly heard the riffles shut guns, and Parussini writes: “We were terribly impressed”, knowing furthermore that the next night it will be our turn, the remaining forty three”. Although the Committee announced that day, the freedom of the two Argentineans Parussini and Hall, and also excluded from the list the Brother Vall, with his great regret, to use him as cook.
The 12th became a unique beauty with the forty of the room. When Brother Vall came down with the basket for breakfast, Faustino Perez save the chocolate wrap, that wrap will become immortal. They dedicated as a memory and farewell to the Claretian Congregation, signed for all and each one of them:
August 12th 1936. In Barbastro. Six of our brothers are already Martyrs, and very soon we expect to be as well, but before we do, we would like to mention for the record, that we die forgiving the ones who are taking our lives off and we offer it for the Christian order of the world of the laborer, for the definitive reign of the Catholic Church, for our beloved Congregation and our beloved families. The last sacrifice for the Congregation from its martyrs sons!
Following the forty signatures, each one with a beautiful slogan. The following are some examples:
Manuel Torras: Long live to Jesus Christ the King!
Tomas Capdevila Miró: Long live to the social kingdom of Jesus Christ the labor!
Agustin Viela: Lord, forgive them!
Miguel Masip: To God, to fight until we die.
Manuel Martinez: Long live to Catholic Religion!
Salvador Pigem: And what ideal? For you, my Queen, the blood I should give.
Francisco Castan: God Lives! I never thought to become worthy of such a singular Grace.
Ramon Novich: I want to spend my heaven by doing well to the labors!
And the valuable document concludes:
Cheers for the holy, persecuted and martyr Congregation! Long live, dear Congregation, and while in prison have children like you have in Barbastro, no doubt that your destiny is eternal. I would have fought within your ranks! Blessed be God! Faustino Pérez C.M.F.
The day passed as a normal day, with a lot of prayers, much fervor, and a lot of happiness, demonstrated by many copious documents from the martyrs. That day they had an early supper and the guards turned a blind eye, so the candidates to martyrdom, without any fear, as Parussini tells, some kissed each other feet, other the forehead, these embraced, those cried with joy before the next execution…Until they felt asleep over the stage.
The clock of the neighboring Cathedral struck midnight, and the Town Hall Square and the School were very crowded of people eager to witness the show, Mariano Abad, together with some twenty militiamen, broke into the room, turned on the lights, took of a paper from his pocket, and started to release the names:
-Secundino Ortega. -Present!… And the Father jumped forward to the ground floor of the room.
And so on the twenty selected for this night: Javier Luis Bandres, Jose Brengaret, Manuel Buil, Antolin Calvo, Tomas Capdevila, Esteban Casadevall, Eusebio Codina, Juan Codinachs, Antonio Dalmau, Juan Echarri, Pedro Garcia Bernal, Hilario Llorente, Alfonso Miquel, Ramon Novich, Jose Maria Ormo, Salvador Pigem, Teodoro Ruiz de Larrinaga, Juan Sanchez, Miguel Torras.
They tided them up firmly by the arm and two by two. Parussini writes down: “All of them were calm, happy, resigned. Those faces at that moment had something supernatural that can´t be described”. Some of them, picked up from the floor the ropes before they tided them up, and kissed them with love, to see them stained with the blood of other martyrs. And they were saying to their executioners: “We forgive you, we forgive you all”.
Juan Echarri, when he gave the order to move forward and to leave, he addressed to the remained twenty in the stage: Goodbye, brothers to Heaven!.. Bye, bye! But one of the militiamen dedicate to them other very different words: – You still have an entire day to eat, to laugh, to have fun, to dance and to do whatever you want. And get the most out of it, because tomorrow at this same time we will come and get you as we got them, and we will give you a ride to the cemetery. And now, turn off the lights, and go to sleep.
From the upper floor from the School, the militiamen brought dawn Don Felipe Zalama, a retired Captain from the Civil Guard, 69 years old, a whole military and great Christian, to whom Father Ferrer addressed these last words: Don Felipe, always strong! Soon he will prove it. The other Piarist Father Mompel had listened to our youngsters “that they will go to martyrdom singing, that their revenge from their enemies will be to pray for their conversion and that will give their lives in order to spread the faith and the Congregation prosperity”. They were at the right time to fulfill such a generous purpose.
An impressive lined up group came out of the room. Against the expectation, at the Square for a moment was a big silence among the crowd, a silence that won’t last long, to become a loud shouting, between enthusiastic for some and anger for others. When the truck engine started, exploded the strong voice of the Captain Zalama:
-Long live to Christ the King!…
– Shout lauder boys. Hurray Christ the King!…
And with all the hurray’s! From the martyrs also were the Die, die!!! From the furious mob. Scoundrels, you´ll see what is waiting for you at the cemetery! … Father Ferrer adds: “While the reds shouted die!, with the buts of their rifles they hit them to silence them. I witness myself this scene from the window of the room, a few meter from where the truck was.
Already gone on their way, they all sang, and all Barbastro heard them. There were about three kilometers of roadway between songs and cheers to Christ the King, to the Virgin and to the Church. Mariano Abad blasphemed like a demon and was taking precaution in order not to repeat such scandal with the next group.
Finally the truck stopped before a small hallow and put the victims against the banks, they enlightened them with the vehicle headlights, and suggest for the last and umpteenth time: – You’re still on time; Do you want to fight against fascism or to die? … We don´t want to fight against Spain and even less against the Church… – Shout at least Long live Revolution! … Long live Christ the King!…
The closed shutting ended up the dialog between executioners and victims. I was twenty minutes to one of August 13. The ones in the room, with the silence at the square, could hear perfectly the shutting. Whom were praying for their colleagues the Rosary in the mysteries of Suffering, now suddenly switched: “Mysteries of Glory! The Resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ… The Ascension of our Lord Jesus Christ to Heaven”… and other was finishing the Magnificat to the Virgin that was repeated twenty times for the twenty martyrs: “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord!”…
Still have not passed an hour when the room was opened again to let the two Argentineans students to get ready to leave by train to Barcelona, and from Barcelona to Rome. Parussini writes about these last moments at the room: “The time we had, we used to pray and to say our good-byes to the twenty. With tears in our eyes, and with a lot of envy, with love and respect we kissed those anointed hands and those foreheads that soon will be rewarded with the richer diadem of the world: The Martyrdom”.
And Ramon Illa, fervent, intelligent and magnificent young boy, said goodbye with a festive tone and almost humorous: What a poor wretches, unfortunate and miserable are you, you won´t be able to die as Martyrs for our Lord!”
Also with them, went to the train another two to whom their lives were forgiven: The principal of the Piarist, Father Ferrer, a son of Barbastro but Argentine citizen, and one French Benedictine Brother. Because they also killed nineteen Benedictines from Pueyo and nine Piarist from the School. Really, “no root” should remain.
The militiamen were really sadists. “Tomorrow at this same time we will come to get you”. And they signed it in just few hours, leaving a bunch of blood stained strings: “With these same strings we will tide you up tomorrow”… To break their moral and destroy their nerve, they kept them there from the 13 to the 14, two days that went by with great peace and that the twenty young boys used to leave us some authentic and unique martyrdom writes.
In the night from 14th to 15th, the blood of the mottled audience crowded at the square seemed to boil feverishly. After the prior group that was the talk of the town, the remaining Missioners may offer something even noisier. And won´t be other way. The Militiaman who leaded the ones, who burst into the room at midnight, read the completed list:
Luis Masferrer, Jose Amoros, Jose Badia, Juan Baixeras, Jose Maria Blasco, Rafael Briega, Francisco Castan, Luis Escale, Jose Figuero, Ramon Illa, Luis Llado, Miguel Masip, Manuel Martinez, Faustino Perez, Sebastian Riera, Eduardo Ripoll, Francisco Roura, Jose Ros, Alfonso Sorribes, Jesus Agustin Viela.
The same as the other night, now the Present! Sounded vigorous, when each of them heard their name. And before they tied them up two by two, they kissed the strings, as the previous group did, and hurried to give each other a strong hug, in front of the eyes of their executers, whom between blasphemies and hits ended up with such story. But the martyrs, already tied up: “We forgive you from our hearts. In heaven we will pray for you”.
From two different windows at the School, the Brother Vall, tearfull because they have erased him from the list, and the Piarist Father Mompel, said to each other: “How happy they are! They are going to celebrate in Heaven the feast of the Assumption” The two of them tell what they saw. Since the victims were tied up, they had difficulties in claiming up the little ladder of the truck, and that made the executers mad against them, and they hit them with the butt of the riffles. And one already up, was cheering up the next ones: “Come! And encouragement, we are suffering for God”.
Mariano Abad was in a bad mood that night, because three of the murderers from the other day declined to take part today in the massacre. But his lover, with only sixteen years old! Came to calm down his anger: – Mariano, tonight I will give them “the coup de grace” … And we know it was fully complied.
Everybody was already in the truck; Mariano took a friendly attitude this time: – I offer you a deal, and don´t think that I want to trick you. If you come and fight against the fascism and renounce to your religion, we will spare your lives.
There was a total silence, and that made Mariano to repeat: – If you renounce to those clothes you´re wearing and to your religion, we will spare your lives and we will treat you as comrade.
The silence continued, that angered Mariano, who was vomiting blasphemies, and had to confess: – It´s a pity that these hard workers doesn´t come to fight with us! And now considerations are finished.
So he ordered: – Be careful to repeat the shout long live to Christ the King! That they did the other day. If I hear it again, I will smash your heads.
But our youngster had already prepared a meticulous plan. Faustino Perez was a natural leader, and someone who knew him well, said about him: “He could have been a laborers trickster as well as an apostle like Javier´s”. He was the responsible of the first shout long live! “And I will do it at the top of my lungs”, he had written.
The militiamen had been placed themselves strategically in the corners of the truck. Mariano and the other militiamen were in other cars. An as soon the order of start the engines was given, it sounded aloud the first shout by Faustino: Long live to Christ the King!… And according to the Process, he continued cheering everybody up: Don´t be afraid! Heaven is waiting for us! Cheer up!…
Mariano was furious, he ordered to stop the vehicles, while the young boys were cheering and singing; he claimed up to the platform of the truck, and hit one of them so hard with the butt of his rifle that his voice was longer heard. The shocks intensified over the others, so the doorman of the prison declares: Even when they were hit barbarously by Mariano Abad, they continued yelling the same thing. And one of the murderers commented at the prison gallery: We can´t explain how having an open wound in the head, losing a lot of blood, he could resist… And it wasn´t only Faustino skull that later one appeared destroyed, but also Llado, Illa and some other as well.
As they have programmed, the cheered to Christ the King, to Mary´s Heart, to the Pope… Also, in this feast of Our Lady, it was heard repeatedly, until the last moment: Long live to the Assumption! …
The group moved on toward. The U.G.T. President was going to the execution place to witness the spectacle. He can be as Red as we wanted, but his courage failed, and he confessed: – I´m impressed by the serenity of the Missionaries when they were going to their death. They have profoundly moved me, I didn’t have the courage to witness the scene, and I went back.
Until they arrived to San Michael Valley, around two hundred meters further from where they executed the prior group. Our history has developed better, and is for the excellent witnesses who we can count. Because the place was at the Tower Antonio Pueyo sight, that will be the terrified witness of so many executions, since less than a month will die, by the wayside of its banks, some 150 victims. It will be used for the first time by our twenty Missionaries. At the end they could see the silhouette of Pueyo Sanctuary, and to their beloved Virgin in a last look of their lives.
The executers, says Don Antonio, they throw them away like bundles, and two of them were holding a crucifix that they had manage to hide. It followed the victorious acclamations that Pueyo and its laborers heard from the tower: – Long live to Christ the King! Long live to the Heart of Mary! Long live to the Assumption! … And for the voices you can say that was the cry of many. Also the said: Goodbye, brothers. We will pray to God for you. Goodbye. We will see you in eternity.
The vehicles made a turn to brighten and focused well the victims, to whom a very hoarse voice was offering the last opportunity:
-You´re still on time. What do you prefer, go to free to the front or die?
– Die! Long live to Christ the King!
The gung shuts closed the dialog between martyrs and executers. The murderers will be in charge of telling their impressions to Pueyo and their workers as soon as they finished the tragedy. Because after given them the “coupe de grace”, the henchmen went to the Pueyo tower to drink and to give the general remarks of the adventure: Those sons of a … were so humorous to hide a crucifix and die saying hoorays! And holding on to it! It was worth their Christ?…
On July 20th we leave at the Hospital the three who were sick, the Students Jaime Falgarona y Atanasio Vidaurreta, together with the Brother Joaquin Muñoz , an old man of eighty four years old. The life of the three Missionaries at the Hospital was surrounded of affectionate care by the Sisters of Charity, doctors and nurses, but also upheavals and fears, because they knew the fate of his brothers and that also will be the same for them.
And it was. On July 15th the three of them were transferred to one of those macabre jails of the Municipal Prison. Until the sunrise of the 18th the heavy locks opened and sounded the hoarse voice of the militiaman en various jails by naming among others: Falgarona, Vidaurreta, Muñoz… The Brother, with his ailments and herniated, was brought down by two by the stairs. And the militiamen, when they put him up to the truck:
-What we do with this junk?… Listen, good old man, Have you done any harm?…
-I haven´t done any harm to anyone…
And they returned to the jail, inside he stated to cry the charming old man: “They don´t want me for a Martyr”… This pleasant old man was special. The Rosary always on hand, he wanted to pray daily to the Virgin a Rosary for each year of his long life! Later on he was transferred to the Nursing Home, and he was there until his death, in January 1938, praying rosaries and more rosaries that more than one blessing should brought from the Virgin over the tormented Barbastro.
The group that was selected that night will die at the exact same place where our glorious brothers were killed three days ago.
Coming to the end, we bring an exceptional authentic testimony. Years after the war ended, one of those Barbastro murderers found in Paris one of our Fathers from the Spanish Mission. In a sworn affidavit are recorded his formidable words:
“Yes, I killed them all. No one escaped. But for your own satisfaction I have to tell you that all the Missionaries were very brave. They die shouting Long live to Christ the King! Long live to the Heart of Mary!… When we took them to execute, they were calm, happy, and even joyful and even singing enthusiastic during almost all the way. Sometimes we had to shut up forcibly with the rifle butt to the one whom seemed to be the leader of the group. They die for the ideal they believed and that nobody could make them to change. This is the truth”.
And the remains? … Today the 51 corpses of the Claretians Martyrs of Barbastro repose in an Impressive Mausoleum. It was because they were buried in bulk with lime, and all of them die with the cassock on, unearthed after the war, that was possible to identified them certainly the remains of each one, and all together repose inside the severe and impressive mausoleum, of fifty one individual funerary urns with crystal, it was built at the right end of that simple church where the used to practice the Holy Hour specially before they were taken to prison. About two hundred meters away from it, was born a great saint of our days, Saint Jose Maria Escrivá de Balaguer that would rise up to the altars with the Beatification honors the same year that our Martyrs did. One and the others are the greatest glory of that Barbastro which attracts our attention with unusual caring.
Beatified on October 13th, 2013
The Claterian Province of Betica was set up based on the Spanish religious persecution with a splendid martyrology, although many of its heroes have not had the valid witnesses for their beatification process. And before we reach the Claretian Major Seminary of Ciudad Real we are going to stop for a moment at Infantes de Siguenza Palace, where the Minor Seminar of Province of Betica was.
Sixty Applicants children filled his classrooms and cheered it up with their shouting the courtyards of the beautiful building of that Minor Seminar. Leading those Applicants children was the Prefect, with his twenty-nine years old, the Father Jose Maria Ruiz Cano. With refined appearance, almost elegant, had his health a bit shaken, gifted with exquisite sentiments, with pity and overwhelming fervor, he was made for the position of children shaper, with whom he spread the love of a mother.
On July 25th the children were happy celebrating the Feast of Saint James, Patron of Spain, but a noon The Prefect Father gather them all together at the chapel, and told them serious: -My children, we have arrived at one of the most fearfull moments of my life.
All in tears spontaneously invoked the usual aspirations, but now full of drama: Lord! My Mother! Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament!…
The Father, betrayed for the tears in his eyes, wants to reassure them: -No, nothing special. But, before anything happens, the School will be dissolved for a few days. Don´t cry. We´re going to distribute by groups between the families of the neighboring towns, and one Father will be in charge of each group. Before splitting, let’s pray three Hail Mary to our Holy Mother.
They pray between tears and at the end the Father released with great excitement: -Oh my Lady, oh my Mother! Remember that I´m all yours. Protect these innocent children from being harmed. My Mother, save my children, that You have given me. And if necessary a victim, Here I´m; but save these my children.
The children were talking about everything later on, without leaving out any detail. They spreded out around the surrounding villages, in the peasant houses, humbles but generous, are placed with love and care. The smallest twelve children, of eleven or twelve years old, have been placed between Christian families of Siguenza. The olders, boys of fourteen and fifteen years old, after all the ups and downs, found their way safetly to the National Area, since the limits of the front line were not well defined. The youngest, thirty five in total, went to a twon with Father Jose Maria, to whom the Reds were already searching for and following his steps.
And naturally, they found him. On Monday 27th many vehicles arrived with militiamen to the twon where the Father was, they took him inside the Parish Church, look for all the children in all of their houses and gather them all together around the Church. With them gathered, the women in the village, while the man were working at the field. The drama started.
While some rifles keep still the audience, the rest of the militiamen stated a sacrilegious and repugnant looting of the church. Having destroyed the holy figures, they took one of Baby Jesus and they gave it in a derogatory manner to Father Jose Maria: – Take it, so you die dancing with him!…
The Father, who was innocent and very devoted, takes the blessed figure as a gentle caress of Heaven, and kissed it with devotion before all. It was the first kiss of thousands and thousands that it will receive later on. Because it was picked up, by some good hands, and afeter the Revolution became an object of devotion especially among those good people.
After?… The militiamen took the Father in one of the vehicles, they stop at certain point, get him off the car, they send him to walk, some gunshots, and it was all over.
The Aplicants children trembled to be left alone. But the revolutionaries relieve them: Do not be afraid. You will be better without those bad Priests…
They took them all in a truck, and, when they get to Otero, saw a corpse laying, bathed in its blood, facing the road and they recongnise him: The Father!…
The Reds would not kill those children. They held them in the same building, The Palace of the Infantes, where they were saved when the national troops released Siguenza.
Zafra, Ciudad Real and Fernán Caballero are the three scenarios that the drama of the Seminar School was carried out. Our theologian Students, in a breathtaking odyssey, came out of Zafra, were stablished in Ciudad Real and finished in Fernan Caballeron their glorious passion.
The name Zafra, in Badajoz de Extremadura, sounds with a legitimate pride in the Claretian Congregation. Through their Semminar School have passed several generations of young Students, with prestigious professors and up front excellent educators, who made their theology establishment a leafy of exceptional Missionaries.
Near to the end of April, the situation in Zafra became unbearable, and the sixty-six individuals within the Community were in serious danger in their lives and had to go elsewhere.
Ciudad Real, the Capital of La Mancha, became the peaceful headquarters of the Theology School of Betica. The house was not prepared to receive fifty guests, but the good Bishop placed at their disposal the beds and clothes from the Retreat House.
However, those brave boys, formed with austerity, resume with remarkable seriousness their studies, the finished the school year and the summery vacations were very hard, specially with the intense heat of La Mancha. But enjoyed the peace and joy, as one of the future martyrs write in a letter to his family, the Colombian Student Jesus Anibal Gomez:
“We don´t have orchads, and for the toilet we manage any form whatsoever… We have not gone for a ride not even once since we arrived: in fact we are under papal enclosure; the circunstances so require. Based on what has been said, you can see that we are not in Jauja and that we must offer something to the Lord… sauvouring the joy that God gives to the persecuters for his name”…
So it was until July 24th, the day that the Superiors expected that the exodus will beging, but the mob came forward. At noon, while they were at table eating, came around fifteen armed men demanding them to abandon the house. They were miners, railroad laborers and peasants that have come from abroad, and they didn´t know that was so many people inside.They thought that they were six or seven, and they found such a large group. The discussions started:
What to do with so many?… Let´s give them some gunshoots and nothing has happened here!… Let´s burn them! Bring a platic gasoline container! Into the river!…
All these, caressing their guns, and “ with what faces, with what gestures, and with what words!”, wrote later on Father Superior. Up to two hours and more last the nasty scene.
The good boy Jesus Anibal Gomez takes advantage of a moment to expose that he was a foreigner and request to get communication with the Colombian Consulate of Sevilla.
-And you have come so far to become a priest?
-Yes Sir; I´m very much proudly
It was of little use his status. They will kill him even though he was a foreigner, and they will kill him for being priest.
In the end, around four, came a Governor delegate, who inspected all the premises, he did the body search to all detainees, and they took away “the weapons” the most dangerous that they had and they all wen inside the bag: pocket knifes, scissors, medals, rosary beads, razors…, and they decreed their own house as a prison. They distributed them in pairs all over the rooms. One of them slept in the bed, and the other on the floor on a mattress and always with the door opened. The order was categorical: -The first one to look out of the door will get a shot.
They couldn´t go out without prior permission, so in order not to look out of the door, they had to ask shouting…Since the heat was suffocating and they all were dehydrated, the militiamen finally consented that two of the detainees passed the water room by room. When it was time for their meals, they came down in lines and guarded by the militiamen.
Thank goodness the sergeant guard had a hunch on the 25th. During the feast of Saint James, Patron of Spain, he allowed them to come out of their hiding places, get together in the Chapel for a Mass and later on, to spend almost all morning together at the courtyard under the watchful eyes of the guards. When they returned to their rooms found samashed on the floor all the religious objects: crucifix, pictures, images…, replaced by sickles and hammers, revolutionaries slogans, posters showing hanged priests, obscne cartoons…
And for the afternoon they had a special program: the militiamen brought their relatives, friends or girlfriends so they could look closely the show of the priest in their rooms, while shameless woman were walking along the corridors dressing the sacred vestments or covered with the cleric bonnets.
Justice must be done to the militiamen of the City. All the above was performed by foreigners, acustumed to the crime and revolution, to the protests or to the helpless silence of the others. The ones from the City allowed the dispersion to be organized, and on 28th was over that situation of hopelessness.
The Father Superior managet to get in contact with the Governor, who issued the desidered, safe conducts for all of them to go to Madrid or wherever was suitable for them.
Those safe conducts!… The mistery is not been completely reveled yet. A part from the Governor stamp, it should include the stamps of six revolotionaries organizations. And it appears, appears… that the way the put the stamps were like a fateful password. In fact, a few kilometers from the City, and under the noses of the Authority, it works only to its bearers fall into the trap.
The groups were organized. In the first one, besides the Father Maximo accompanied by his father Don Eutiquiano, were going these fourteen Students: Tomás Cordero, Claudio López, Angel López, Primitivo Berrocoso, Gabriel Barriopedro, Antonio Lasa, Vicente Robles, Melecio Pardo, Antonio María Orrego, Otilio del Amo, Cándido Catalán, Angel Pérez, Abelardo García y Jesús Aníbal Gómez.
Emotive hugs. The made promises of prayers. A trusting “See you son”… that for many will be the Heaven.
Traveling in taxis, marched all torwards to the railway station, accompanied by militiaman. It was the middle of the afternoon, and the son of July dropped ferocious over the fields of La Mancha. The expeditionaries are distributed to climb up inside the train´s carriages. But they were reconizeb by the many curios that in those firsts’ days of revolution would crowd at the train and bus station, the melee soon starts the deafening noise: -Pirests! Friars! Don´t let them to get in! To Kill them! They are Priests! They won´t arrive at Madrid!…
The thirty o forty mitiamen, get together all the poor kids in on of the station rooms and they keep them there until the train arrives, in the same one that a big contingent of militiamen was coming on their way to Madrid.
Now a heated discussion started between the socialists of Ciudad Real, who wanted to take the boys to Madrid and the Communist militia, who wanted to kill them in that same place. In the furious discussion gets involved a respulsive girl from the militia, who with kisses seduced one of the revolutionaries and at the same time she asked them all:-To kill them! We have to kill them!
Finally, they put them all in the same wagon at the back, and on the way they are required –Sirs, the documents!
They presented the mysterious safe conducts. The militiamen recount the safe conducts and noticed that one is missing, because they perfectly know that there are fifteen expeditionaries. Don Eutiquiano has been smart; he has taken with him his son Father Maximo and has gone in to a first class wagon, were he passes totally unnoticed. They search meticolously among the passengers without finding the one they are looking for…
Upon arrival to the next station of Fernan Caballero, two militiamen moved ahead the train driver and they order him not to start the engines until further notice. Then they make the forteen boys to get down:
-You have reached the end of your journey.
-But… we are heading to Madrid.
-Get down, and enough!…
Our boys, noticing that they have reached to the supreme moment, they said to themselves: Since we´re going to die, let´s die for God!
They placed them between the second and the third tracks, while the militiamen remained ten meters away in the first track, pointing with the riffles: -All together, and arms up!
The train passengers, forced by the militame, had to come out of the window full with terror, despite the angry protests of some of them, especially women. The struggle between passengers and Red militiamen it almost came to provoke violent scenes. While the young Claretians Students were peaceful, launch their familiar repeated proclamation into the air: -Long live to Christ the King! Long live to the Heart of Mary!…
The large discharge of shots fired fails to kill some of them that wounded only; they crawl to the wagons to grab its platforms. But the militiamen are giving the “coupe de grace” to each one of them, for most of them it was putting the bullet between their eyes.
The Father Maximo Peinador will be later on an exceptional witness of everything.
But the tragedy had not finished yet. One among the victims was not dead, and nobady can explain what happened. The young Candido Catalan, mixed up in his own blood, and when the killers had already left, manages to crawl to the lobby of the train station. He was scared of all, while he was asking for water for his burning thirst. The wife and the doughter of the Chief of the Train Station take care of him with all the affection. They clean the wounds of his body all riddled with bullets and call to the Civil Guard, who asks if they had the tickets to travel, and still has the strength to answer: -They gave us the money at home and we gave it to the militiamen at the estation, but they didn´t give us the tickets.
They transported him by ambulance, although he could not arrive alive to the City. From the car, his beautiful soul starts the fly to the Glory.
Missionary Brother, he had a brother in Ciudad Real and he was hosted at his house. Painful as much as you want, but his sister-in-law won´t admit him and she didn´t want to take care of him, an immediately, report him repeatedly to the revolutionaries, who at the end tell her: -Well, since you are so interested, we will get him.
It was September 30th. He is being detained until October 2nd at the check point at the Seminary, when three militiamen and two girls, take him in to a car that is going to the same Fernan Caballero. This move becomes cruel; they make their victim to ungergo heavey moral and physical tortures, mainly from the two crazy militiawomen, that show to the Brother the knife and pricked him with it while they are telling:-You are not a priest, you are a Pharisee. And in this way, with the knife, we will kill you. With these dogs we should not spend gunpowder.
Arriving at the check point of Fernan Caballero, the assassins answer when they are asked for the documents:-Nothing. We come only to leave this criminal.
“This criminal, an eyewitness says in the Process, was placed in the middle of the two militiawoman, holding theirs knifes were wounding their victim in his thighs, stained with the blood that poured from the wounds. He was resignedly, with joined hands and his eyes lowered looking on the floor”.
Shortly after, they were leaving at the cemetery door that humble religious, as testified by a good peasant farmer who contemplated the scene from the contiguous orchard, he shouted with his arms outstretched in the form of a cross, before he received the discharge:-Long live to Christ the King and to the Heart of Mary!
One of the two girls, very young girl of only sixteen years old, was discharging the coup de grace, while she was saying:-Go on, and that it may be well with your Heaven…
The Seminar School at Cervera, at Cataluña, was located at the great former University, with a very numerous Community: 30 Priest, 51 Teologal Students, 35 Brothers and 38 Applicants, with a total of 154 individuals. The foreing students were handed over to their respective Consulates; The 38 young Applicants were referred to their families; and the rest of them, between Priests, Brothers and Students, were dispersed in groups, and some survived and others, sixty four (64), fell victims to the atheistic and Marxists bullets. But we should make it clear, in honour of the Christian and cultured city, that it was not Cervera causing the death of so many innocents, it was the few left-wing fanatics with some foreing elements that were to blame. In SOLSONA, 50 kilometres from Cervera, was the Claretian Philosophy Seminar, with more than fifty young Students. Although was located at the red zone, there was not perpetrated the bloody crimes from other parts. It had only two claretian martyrs that we have included with those of Cervera.
The Father Manuel Jove, distinguished Teacher and Latinist that had good reputation, took over of fifteen theologians seminarians, with them he went throughout the fields to his hometown to have them safe with his family. The fifteen magnificent youngs were: Onésimo Agorreta, Amado Amalrich, José Amargant, Pedro Caball, José Casademont, Teófilo Casajús, Antonio Cerdá, Amadeo Costa, Juan Costa Arnau, José Elcano, Luis Hortós, Senén López, Miguel Oscoz, Luis Plana and Vicente Vázquez. They were surprised in their journey on July 25th, were taken to the small town of Ciutadilla, and here, kept enclosed in a house as a prison, and spent an infernal night. Telephoned the Central Commitee of Lerida, they sent a group of ferocious militiaman, that after having a huge dinner well watered with wine, they said:-And now, to have fun with those…
And they truly did it. The search of all started with a brutal punch, the first one was given to Father Jove, tearing of his chest the crucifix, and then trew it on the ground, and order: Crush it!
-That, never! I would rather die.
-So, you´ll have to swallow it!
They put it with the tip inside his mouth and plunge it in with a terrible punch, tearing off the tissues of the face. They pull down his pants with intent to amputate his testicles; but they used to do everything loudly and the village residents could hear from the the street, there arose an energetic cry from the good people: That, can not! Those atrocities should not be made with anyone.
With the poor boys, the same, as recalled by an eyewitness: “The strikes and punches can be heard from the neihgbouring houses, but they never heard a moan from the missionaries, even though they hit them a lot”. And so on all night. At down, there were the blankets with big bloodstains, a silent witness of the savageries committed with the sixteen prisoners.
In the morning they went on their way to Lerida, on a fifty kilomenters via crucis. The truck was stopped under a blazing sun during many hours at Verdu, hometown of Pedro Claver, it didn´t arrive to the Capital until the early evening, and it went directly to the cemetery, at the same entrance to the city. That it was going to be almost a public massacre, for the many mitilitiaman who were witnesses, and fortunately for us, with exceptional witnesses: the good driver, who was forced to take them, Authorities and employees at the Cemetety, whom have been able to tell us faithfully the magnificent martyrdom that their eyes contemplated.
The Father Jove, when he was brought down from the truck, on behalf of all said: -They will kill us, buth we die for God.
One of the young boys, said almost as an appeal to those scoundrels assassins: -If you can al least let my mother know.
-You are late, boy. Enough time you had.
And the platoon leader addressed to the others:-Boys, you that have been deceived until now, Do you renounce to the Religion, and we let you free?
-No! We rather die for God.
Underway from the gate to the end wall, the Father Jove shouted three times: Long live to Christ the King! While in the expression of one of the militiaman “they all went silent, with an expression of resignation” because “they seemed to be lambs”. They put them agaist the wall grouped in fours, they all fell down to the rifle shots with the unrenounceable Long live to Christ the King!In their lips.
With the sixteen corpses, that were taken to a mass grave, was almost initiated the so-called “MARTYRS GRAVE”, so venerated in Lerida and which testified with aplomb the official gravedigger: “I can testify accurately that in that mass grave were buried 668, six hundred and sixty eight!” Our young boys are in the foundation of such a glorius mountain.
Now, we begin with a unique and exciting page of the history. Fernando was not a priest, but a lay brother. A 30 year old corpulent man who professed the religious vows on 1930, along with his fellow novices and theology students: the Blessed Claretian Martyrs of Barbastro. The prestigious “INCUNABLE” priestly magazine, wrote the first and modest biography about Fernando: “The odyssey of the humble curate FERNANDO SAPERAS impresses extremely. It is exciting to find such a clamorous, luminous and fascinating example. Few cases like this would be found in the history of Christianity”. We agree with all of this. That is why, making an exception in the case of Fernando, we will extend further more in the narration. Even when there are some strong details taken from eyewitnesses, because all the atrocities were committed in broad daylight. As the author of this text, I have to say – with profound modesty – that I lived in Cervera for so many years. I personally interrogated the majority of the witnesses, and I have had to make a sworn affidavit for the Beatification Process, which is summarized here.
As a farmer-boy, Fernando was at a his friend Borafull’s farm, located thirteen kilometers from Cervera. On the morning of August 12th, at 8:00am, he was surprised by a group of five red militiamen (to which three others were added later). The group leader was Juan Casterás. Fernando unaffectedly said that he knew Casterás’ brother, a young seminarian. To which he received this answer: – Do you know that animal too?… After that, the militians get Fernando into a large car. Then, on ther road, the tragedy began that day. We apologize for some scenes that need to be told, starting with the first one…
Casterás and Juan del Hostal tore off Fernando’s clothes, and lie him face down while they held him violently. Then another militiamen nicknamed El Chico took off his clothes with no shame, and he pounced on Fernando like a beast. The victim began to scream loudly: -Casterás, Casterás, do not do that…!
Fernando was struggling with all his power to resist, while pleaded: -Kill me if you want, kill me but do not do that…!
The soldiers would not give up, and they just took a few moments to make a plan: “When we arrive to Cervera, we will take you to a house of prostitution. If you have sex with a woman before us, then we will not kill you”. Borafull witnesses: “They repeated this no less that ten times”. But they always received the same inflexible answer: “Kill me if you want, I will not do that…!”.
They arrived to Cervera and entered a bar to celebrate with a few drinks the fishing that has fallen, and gesticulating grotesquely, Casterás told the owner the bad joke: “Here we bring this steak. Check it out”.
And then he told Fernando: “Do you like this woman? She is slightly plump…”.
Before that, Casterás offered him to “La Pereta”, who responded cheekily: “If you like to come with me, we will do it right here!”
The Lay Brother was locked up in prison for two hours, and when the militiamen came for him, they told him: “Come on! Come with us, and do not be afraid. We are not bad, you’ll see”.
He was taken to a couple of brothels. Mr. Ramón Vilaró Pont remembers the facts, because his house was by the back to one of those brothels. Mr. Vilaró Pont saw how the militiamen took Saperas from his private parts, and pushed him towards one of the prostitutes, and Mr. Vilaró Pont adds the following: “You should understand that as boy of sixteen, I recorded everything in memory, and I also loved the Fathers of University because I went to his school”.
What happened in those slums of pleasure? We can guess by phrases coming from a witness, who heard them from Casterás the next day: “What a piece that we got…! I was tired of … (whatever you want to imagine, reader)… He asked God force… We threw him to the ground, and he was acting as though nothing happened! He was as cold as ice… These people are useless. We could not get anything”.
To each new provocation, Fernando always replied “I am a virgin, and I will die a virgin!”, a phrase confirmed by several witnesses. He said those words energetically and vehemently, to then the executioners made a grotesque comment: “Did he says he is a virgin? Well, we will make him the job!”
A witness says that they stripped two prostitutes and sent them over the chaste religious, but he would not do anything. Mr. Bravo, a guard of Cervera prison that was watching Fernando one day before, narrated some few words that he received from a miliatiamen, he asked what they did with Fernando. Mr. Bravo transferred the words verbatim:
“It is done! But you know what? Before we killed kim, he gave us a lesson in manners. We invited him to choose a woman, the one he likes her more. We made several promises that nothing will happen if he did, even we implied that he would get his freedom. But he refused and he suggested not to insist. So we told him: -Show us that you can do it! And he replied to us: Stop talking nonsense, that I am more capable than all of you. But I do not want to, so do with me whatever you want!”.
It is very likely that all of this refers to Tarrega, because according to Casterás, the owner of the brothel ask them to take Fernando out of that place, since Fernando does not want anything from there.
Now let us talk about Tárrega, city that will brag of been a guardian of a singular martyr. Tárrega is twelve kilometeres away from Cervera, and in that time it had two brothels, El Vermut and La Garza, almost facing each other. The militiamen went to those places to drink alcohol and to try to bend the lay brother. They began by inviting him to eat, and then tried that he drink some wine to warm him… but Fernando replied wryly: -Now you want me to eat, to shoot me half an hour later.
Militants know what to expect to achieve their purpose. We had not beautiful expressions to describe what eyewitnesses tell. Militants provoked to the Brother in the most vulgar way. Without taking him to a quieter site, he was naked and exposed to the public eye, in a great humiliation. I interviewed the barber, Mr. Ramón Capdevila, who went to the brothels just by curiosity, and he told me almost exactly what Mr. José Sierra wrote about that incident, as follow: “If you had seen in Garza and Vermut what they did to the religious, you had shaked. They forced the religious to … (guess, reader) trying to make him excited and involved with a woman. She was forced to strip naked and pulling down pants of the Brother, but he never acceded. Then they forced him to walk naked, humiliating him. And they repeat this pressure alternating from one brothel to another, Vermut and Garza”.
Fernando was always praying and making the sign of the cross over him, eyes downcast. Another witness says: “What the religious could do? Nothing! Always with eyes downcast, embarrassed and without saying a word. He suffered all these brutalities, followed by punching to see if he lifted his head, and before the Crucifix they put him in sight”.
Someone that hear the story from the militiamen, said that he was crying, but testifies the indomitable strength of Brother. Those virile tears in the middle of such a gigantic struggle for virtue, they are the highest praise of the hero and the most valuable offering before God.
Casterás violently pulled down his pants, and he did what can not be said here, while he was saying: “Come on, let us see if you can… so you give up from what your God commands you”.
It was useless. Fernando always wielded the same argument: – Do not insist, because you’re not going to get anything.
They insulted to him: “You are not a man!”, but he replied with unusual energy: “-You say that I am not a man? I would do the same or more that you, if I wish. But I don’t want to! I prefer to die!”.
Questions have been raised more than once on this organic passivity of Fernando, burly young of 30 years in full manhood. For some people, it is a gift from God; for others, perhaps an explainable inhibition in such circumstances. Among the first group is Carmen Cotilles, who commented in her own way what she did not understand: “That person was a saint, because he showed no reaction”. Fernando himself gave his own explanation: “I would do the same or more that you, if I wish”.
Militants get nothing, so even the women sided with Brother and said to militiamen: “Leave him, scamps! Whoever wants to come here to do it for their own will and not by force”.
Casterás could take no more, and he confronted Carmen threatening with his gun: “-You will be in charge of getting. If you don’t get it, I will kill you!”.
But Carmen, who was pupil of the La Garza in that moment, and owner of Vermut years later, she regains her dignity as a woman, and without fear of a gun, she replied: “I will not do that, and I am not scare of your gun! May I am a whore, buy I have more heart and feelings than many of you, savages. I will not do such a thing!”.
Carmen added in his own statement of the facts: “My colleagues and me were crying”. Beaucase all of them behave as Carmen: “Now, even when he wants, we will not do it. And take this religious out of here, or we will leave this place”.
And moving from words to deeds, they took empty bottles and chairs in order to threw out those evil intruders. Carmen herself declared all these facts to the Ecclesiastical court. These facts were written by a young theology student who was in Cervera the summer of 1948, when took place the process. He remembered how Carmen, her colleague La Cafala and the barber Capdevila, freely commented about the questions put to them in court with the utmost secrecy. Their attitude and feelings can be summed up in this recommendation that Carmen issued to the Court: “-You can make him a martyr right now, because he really was one!”.
In that way was interpreted by the popular voice that day, because everything that happened in brothels was known in all Tárrega, causing a general outcry. Next day Casterás boasted in a café: “-We wanted him to go to Heaven, having tasted the good life with women, but he did not wanted it. Then We took him to the cemetery”.
But his interlocutors kicked in his face such vileness: “Hey, why you did not the same with you brother, the seminarian? Why you saved your brother? Keep in mind that parents and relatives feel the death of their own”.
The scenes in brothels were really the height of shamelessness, witnessed by many. Among them was Juan Saureda, the night watchman for that zone. He was so impressed that, a year before the war endedm, people saw him walk the streets crossing himself, like Brother Fernando did, or with the finger pointing skyward. Many times he went to medical doctor’s office with Dr. Ramón Armengol Civit, who describes how Saureda said pointing to himself: “-Juan has no soul… Juan has no cure… Juan will not be allowed to speak… Juan is lost… Juan is doomed… Juan can not do anything…”.
The poor man had to be admitted to the mental hospital of Sant Boi, where he died later.
The story of Fernando Saperas provoked outrage, much indignation and truly disgust, honoring the Christian people Tárrega. But also all admired the energy with which he defends his virtue, not exactly a modest girl, but a man in the prime of their energies, and all made to be faithful with his vows.
The tragedy took fifteen hours. The murderers took Fernando into truck, and few minutes later they were in the cemetery. They leave Fernando in the left side, close to the wall. Two headlights illuminate him, like an early blaze of glory. The weight of the tragedy has failed to break his indomitable mettle of a Christian Martyr, and calmly, he asks permission to speak. This dialogue was reported by Mr. Nicolás Sendrós, who hears it from the murder Pedro Segalá:
– “Forgive them, Lord, they don’t know what they do…! I forgive you! I forgive you!…
And militiamen replied: -“He even forgives us! Hey, and there is nothing to forgive! Aim!”.
And the maryt said: “Live Christ the King! Live the Religion!”.
Mr. Antonio Palou and his wife have perfectly heard detonations: three double shock and a final shot. Despite the numerous bullets, Fernando does not die instantly. Mrs. Rosa Castells heard the militants to comment they left their victim lying on the floor, as he was saying: “Mother, my Mother…!”. It could be the memory of his dear mother, who lived in the neighboring province of Tarragona. But it could also be a hopeful cry addressed to Mother Mary, who had lent her powerful help from heaven during his glorious combat. It is impossible not to imagine Brother calling all day to the Virgin Mary.
Jaume Clos has also heard the shots and heads for the cemetery. Already quite old when I met with him, I mended even the rhythmic opening and closing the mouth of the dying, casting mouthfuls of blood. Count to five open wounds by as many bullets in the body of this hero, as the five wounds of Christ. “Not to frightened him, I approach him with sweet words, not knowing that it is a Father of the University: Dude … Dude .. could no longer answer me!”.
The unconquerable soul of Fernando was going back to God, beyond the stars…
Brother died forgiving, and God chose his last plea. Juan Casterás had a seminarian brother who became exemplary priest. Juan made a hideous barbarity, indeed, and when the civil war ended, he fled to France where he died after many years. His son traveled to his native village, between Cervera and Tarrega, to ask the parish priest to receive the remains in the local cemetery. But the priest said with spontaneity: “Your father? He would not have wanted to be buried by the Church”.
And the son answered: “True. This was until five years ago, when my father completely changed. Not only he was repentant of the evil that he made, but he became deeply religious”.
The cry of the dying Christ on the cross, perpetrated in many martyrs, continues to work wonders.
Fernando’s remains were located and identified many years later and today are venerated in the parish of Tárrega. To the left of the cemetery gate, the marble slab, by a central hole, reveals still in the stone wall of the impact produced by a bullet. And a laconic inscription sings the glory of the hero:
BECAUSE HE DEFENDED HIS RELIGIOUS CHASTITY
HE WAS MARTYRED IN 13-VIII-1936
BROTHER FERNANDO SAPERAS
MISSIONARY SON OF THE HEART OF MARY
Fernando Saperas broke the march of the martyrs who died outside group. Fellows of the same Community followed. Now to follow chronological order, we will be content with a brief overview of each, almost laconic, but which can bring us auras charged with heavenly perfume.
The Father Juan Prats, despite his youth, was already a brilliant doctor and professor of Canon Law. On August 17th, when they were about to shoot him, his executioners were so touched by the words of the Father that no one wanted to kill him. They had to play the sad moment by fate so they pointed fingers at the one who was to shoot first: You, you were the one who discovered him and reported him.
The poor devil did it with such bad aim that in the end they all finished him off with stone blows shattering the skull.
Young seminarians Jenaro Pinyol and Remigio Tamariz left us an outstanding example of strength and serenity. Arrested as they walked to their families, they are taken to the cemetery of La Floresta. Already before the guns, they asked permission to write something for their families. Do they grant it? Oh, miracle!! And thus they bequeath their testament: “I address my last farewell lines. Farewell, until Heaven. Jenaro Pinyol, CMF. In the same way, goodbye, until Heaven. I die screaming “Long live Christ, The King!” Remigio CMF. ” The martyrs throw into the air the classic short prayer: “Jesus, Joseph and Mary, I give you my heart and my soul!” And ask to die facing the executors and not giving their back: “The men with honor do not hide their face”. The murderers, perhaps because they could not hold the gaze of those two brave, commanded them to turn their backs so they humbly did so. Once shouting the essential “Long live Christ, The King!”.
Father Emilio Bover died in the cemetery of Cervera on August 20th. Patriarchal figure, if there was none still. He left a great memory to the many vocations he attracted to our seminars. He told his executors before he died: “I forgive you with all my heart, for God’s love and sake.” And it was known all over Cervera that he also asked them for the grace and favor to kiss the hand that was going to shoot him.
The young priest Father Enrique Cortadellas was all fervor, enthusiasm and love on to his mother and the Claretian Congregation. He repeated many times while he was a refugee in his own family home: “If a hundred times born, a hundred times would I enter the Congregation, even if I was to be killed”. In the middle of the night from August 24th to 25th the militia arrives and tears him from the arms of his mother, who cries desperately. But the martyr, while giving her the last kiss, serene and resigned said: “How sad it is to have a mother in some moments of life! Do not weep for me.” At three o’clock in the morning he fell under the bullets in the cemetery of Cervera, having cried out before the classic short prayer of the Congregation: “Oh sweet Heart of Mary, be my salvation!”.
The young and angelic Brother Ramon Ríus, at twenty-three, was already a veteran in the ways of holiness. Refugee in his family house like his two Religious sisters, knew as well what it was to be torn from the arms of his mother. She was a really strong woman, who repeated to her people severely, “Look, children, in times of persecution the faith is put to test. Better dead than to apostatize.” On September 2nd came the mob of militiamen to take Ramon, who listens from his brave mother this farewell: “If they want to make you deny your religion and God, do not do it. Rather die a thousand times before falling away.” With this blessing from her mother he faced his executors in the cemetery of Cervera.
On September 16th, veterans Father Juan Alsina and young student Antonio Perich were taken from the prison of Manresa with other six well known Catholics, to be shot in a nearby cementery. When leaving prison, some were crying for the fate of their loved ones. Father Alsina comforted them: -Cheer up! Do not be discouraged. It’s a matter of suffering for a few moments and then we will be in heaven. What a comfort to think that your husband and father are in heaven with God in Glory! … They all died resigned and courageous.
This event will overwhelm us with indignation, it is only natural. How is it possible to kill the most innocent and defenseless creatures, like elders and terminal patients kicking them out of bed and into the grave. Nonetheless that is how things were back in those unlucky days.
Community’s disband was comparable to a saga, elders and ill people were lead to the hospital where father Jaime Girón also stayed as they were in need, “because a superior’s place is with his subordinates”, as well as father Pedro Sigtes who was in charge of the brotherhood and father Juan Buxó, who was a medic whom when questioned by his old colleagues from Barcelona gave the expected answer of a strong spirit as he had, “My place is beside my ill brothers”. So he stayed at the hospital practicing his profession with great competence, and, as the worthy board required, doctor on call. He was a man of outstanding sanctity and is going to leave a permanent memorial.
The sisters of the heart of Mary and a very responsible Catholic board were in charge of the hospital, which assigned to the Missionaries two rooms, fully independent of the public on the upper floor. Keep in mind the name of the Superior, Mother Margarita Fargas. Thin and tiny, reputedly holy, “a woman who did not know sin” because she was the innocence incarnate. She had to play a great role with our martyrs.
The Father Giron, thinking man and very competent in the social scope, as Superior suffered the unspeakable, because Mother Margarita kept him aware of the fate of his people, the 16 of Lleida, Saperas … And he said, ‘If ever I will be hidden, not working to save souls, I will become crazy or stupid. So I cannot be, doing nothing by God. Although every day I pray that he slays me”.
His forebodings were going to fulfill in time. Faced with the betrayal of a girl who denounced the Padres Sitjes and Girón had to flee on September 2. They parted ways in the countryside just outside the city; Father Sitjes took the road to Barcelona and the Father Giron headed for the border with France, but did not reach its destination.
Betrayed by a shepherd, was captured by a group of militiamen, who afterwards were shouting the streets: ‘Today we caught a big fish, today! … He spent that day detained as well as overnight in jail, and taken the next day to the cemetery by the full Committee and several friends of the revolution, with about twenty outlaws and curious, eager to witness a spectacular fusillade. Placed before the wall, Father claimed the love he had always shown by the workers and exhorted his executioners to get back on track … until a commanding voice was heard: ‘Come on, pull the trigger! This guy is capable of changing us.
The now unloaded guns left him lying on the ground. But Mother Margarita had asked him to keep her informed of his fate. Father Giron seriously promised he would, and faithfully fulfilled the word. At four o’clock, Mother was wide awake and with the lights off … But let the word to the Mother herself, who testified under oath before the Court:
“I must refer here what happened to me that night. While Praying the Rosary for them, clearly I perceived the sound of a mighty wind, suddenly illuminated the cell to light of a luminous body, whose contours I cannot precise, and through the cell it passed. At the same time, I heard a voice perfectly and I recognized it immediately by the tone as Father Girón, saying: “I am already in Heaven. Father Sitjes is still out there”. Everything was the work of a moment. I was relieved at the thought that Father was already in heaven, but with the question whether it would have been all one of my hallucination. At seven o’clock I was without doubt, when I was told that Father Giron had been shot. But, until after the war, and afraid of having suffered some hallucination, I have not told anyone. ”
One must know Mother Margarita to assess well this statement, when she repeated it in her native Catalan: “Jo ja estic al Cel. El Padre Sitjes encara campa”. … For the Father Pedro Sitjes was still out there, on the road to Barcelona, until a group of militants from Igualada who came out to meet him, left him lying dead. The pious peasants from the neighboring village gave him proper burial, after they picked out all from his pockets: the rosary and a small crucifix with a relic of Father Claret.
We return to the hospital with our twelve dear sick and elderly. Life was normal for those two rooms upstairs. Prayer, much prayer … And we have something very remarkable to tell of the medic Father Juan Buxó. One day came to the hospital with broken a broken leg the fiercest militiaman of the region, murderer par excellence, Enrique Ruan. Hospitalized, Father Buxó took him on his own with love, more than a mother would and heroic commitment for in order to attend to his patient, he did not come to sleep even three hours all night, since Enrique did not let him stop, according to the dialogue, preserved by several witnesses, between patient and doctor:
-Heal me well.
-The best I know. Keep calm.
-Heal me, soon this is going to be over!
-This is nothing. Tomorrow will not have damage.
One day and another. The terrible murderer even told him solemnly: Nothing shall happen to you. Do not fear. I will save you.
But the woman in charge of the telephone, who had always in front of her the militia men, heard Enrique say to them these words: – “Let him heal me!! Because his turn will come too.
And of course it came! On October 16th, Enrique, with his broken leg gave the sinister order: – Given that these ones will not come out, we will make them come ourselves.
It could not be in any other way. At midnight from October 17th to the 18th Enrique and José Solé went up to the second floor where our Missionaries slept. What a pair, Enrique and Solé!! Enrique “was a demon whose role in Cervera was to look for people and kill them”, says Sister Natividad’s Process. Sister Concepción Brey adds: – “And Solé was a killer like Enrique”, and really someone to be careful with. He was a Member of the Revolutionary Council and a leading member of the Committee. When the prisoners were offered a chance of leaving the Hospital, he hypocritically signed two letters to let patients be transferred to Barcelona. This had been requested by Father Matute and the excruciating Father Serrano through Mother Margarita; but the same Solé and others preferred to go ahead with the execution of everyone. This was the most logical outcome instead of a positive answer.
Now Solé was screaming from the door: Come on, everyone up!! Get up, we are taking everyone to a sanatorium.
The twelve chosen by God to die this night were the Fathers Heraclio Matute, Luis Jové, José María Serrano and Juan Buxó; the students José Ausellé, Evaristo Bueria, José Loncán and Manuel Solé; with the Brothers Francisco Canals, Buenaventura Reixach, José Ros and Miguel Rovira.
Solé’s order was obeyed with exactitude. Several helpless had to be helped to get dressed, especially Father Luis Jové, who was carried on a stretcher by others down the stairs. One of the old Brothers, who truly believed the sanatorium story, asked as he walked with his cane: – “We will arrive at midnight, right? …
And Solé the murderer, said: – “Yeah, man, yes, and even before that”.
Among those who went to martyrdom, some were not sick nor were elderly. Brother Francisco Canals held the position of nurse, and for nothing in the world did he failed his purpose: “I could save myself, but I will not leave my beloved patients”.
Student Bueria Evaristo had taken refuge in the hospital. His sister had gone looking for him but the boy refused to accept to flee: “I’m staying because I feel a vehement and extraordinary wish of martyrdom”.
Now God put death on his hands, just like his two companions José Loncán and Manuel Solé. The other student, José Ausellé was, in his youth, suffering of a serious and painful disease. Helped by others, came down the stairs as they could the veteran missionary from Guinea Brother José Ros, who had been completely blind for twenty years, and Buenaventura Brothers Reixach and Miguel Rovira, also old people and helpless.
Sister Natividad Ruano tells us about Father Serrano, who descending sore with Pott, let out a spark of his apostolic zeal when he went to José Solé speaking of God. Although the murderer gave a disgusting and horrible blasphemy, while answering furious: “You still think about those things?! You still believe in God?! …
The cemetery is within walking distance of the City and without hindrance that prevents its vision from the Hospital. In a few minutes the truck was there. Already inside, and before the guns, the martyrs began to shout: “Long live Christ the King! Long Live Christ the King!”.
There were laid the bodies of sick, elderly, helpless, what did it matter? … But still the last act of the drama was missing.
Mother Margarita ran to the room of Father Juan Buxó, who as Doctor on call, slept alone and apart: “Father, they have taken them!”
But Father Buxó stayed bed, quiet and in the most inconsequential hour of his life, and though in pain, he said quite naturally: – “God be praised! What are we going to do! They are martyrs. Well, it seems like they have forgotten me. It will not be long before they return for me.
After a while Solé and the others were before his room, they entered without warning. And Father Buxó, which was never seen losing the tight control of his nerves even for a moment, now spread across his face a look of surprise and pain: ‘You too, Enrique? So much have I hurt you that you have to kill me?
Enrique, the one with the broken leg, who for many weeks was the subject of all the fatherly care and affection of Father Buxó, came to keep his word: “When healed, I will repay.” When getting in the truck, he told Father Buxó cynically and in medical language, referring to the bullet that was to be fired:
-Where you want to get the injection?
-Wherever you want…
Solé was also there again. To whom the Father, as he dressed, must have dropped some well-intentioned advice because Sister Concepcion Salla heard him scream from outside furious:
“I have no need to convert. God does not exist!”
Along Father Buxó they also had to shoot three laymen, for which Father Buxó tried to intercede uselessly: – “That you must kill me, I could understand. It is okay. But why do you have to kill them?”
Placed before the guns, and about die with a dignified gesture of his great soul, Father asked the murderers the grace of kissing the hand of those who were going to shoot him, to what the criminals replied with anger: – “Kiss your own!”
However, they agreed to another request he made to them: – Let us pray a little.
-Pray everything you want.
And they praying, and shouting “Long Live Christ the King!”, received the volley of bullets.
Of everything narrated, we did not have to come up with any detail. The militants were responsible for spreading to the four winds the incidents of that night, making for the processes a huge favor. As one who told this: -They fell like flies. But all shouting “Long Live Christ the King! , and the young people shouted louder. They are stubborn! All die with the same exclamation. There was not even one that said what we wanted them to say: Long live the Revolution …!
One of the murderers would tell Brother Francisco Bagaría with cynicism, when he went the next day to kill the ones from the Mas Claret: Yes, we have done a lot of work these days. We will finish with this bad seed. Yesterday we killed the Hospital and those here today. I myself was taking them out and killing them.
It was given the name “Mas Claret” to the very modest and somewhat abrupt farm, that the Community of Cervera had seven kilometers from the City, on the route to Barcelona. Worked tenaciously by competent Brethren, it was a relief for the family economy of the numerous former University Seminar with its milk, eggs and vegetables. This haven of peace became the scene of religious persecution in bright scenes of martyrdom.
Already scattered the Community, the order of the Revolutionary Committee was strict: on the farm could not stay anyone than those who were already working on it; others should go elsewhere. And the worst was that there was no room for charitable traps like ours, because the militiamen, coming every day to command the product of so much effort, went inexorably through the list and there would be no tolerate the presence of any extra individual.
On August 1st the number of the residents of the Mas Claret was definite: Fathers Manuel Font, José Ribé y Julio Leache; Student seminarians Francisco Simón, Antonio Elizalde, Emiliano Pascual, Eusebio de las Heras, Constantino Miguel y Francisco Solá; and the Brothers Francisco Milagro, Pedro Vives, José Ferrer, Dionisio Arizaleta, Juan Senosiain, Fernando Castán, Narciso Simón, Francisco Marco, Nicolás Campo y Francisco Bagaría.
All were to be crowned with martyrdom, except for Brother Francisco Bagaría, to whom the militants spared so he would continue taking care of the farm with the servants and handmaids they imposed on it. By the area around the Mas were only hidden two brothers who were soon to conquer the palm of death in solo martyrdom.
Brother Antonio Casany was innocence and simplicity personified. Always devout, was always in prayer, both in the chapel behind the oxen yoked to the plow or while caring for the animals in the stables. In any tree he hung a picture, medal or crucifix, and there he fervently prayed Hail Marys and Our Fathers. His angelic life makes him seem he already lived in heaven. On August 10, he was surprised and captured by a group of militiamen, led by the dreaded Casterás, the same man that would do a real number of things to Brother Saperas two days later, as we already know… Passing the car by the rail crossing, it was hit by the train and dragged about two kilometers… Brother Casany was passing the beads praising God while militants blasphemed as demons.
Everyone leaves the huge adventure unhurt, and they head towards the friend’s house where they had captured Brother Casany, near to Mas Claret. On the way they have captured the priest Mr. José Nadal, and they take both out of the car, in a ravine. The innocent Brother knelt before the priest, hands together in front of chest, nods and asks for absolution. The militants are enraged: “-Kill them! Let us finish these absurdities!”.
And while the minister of God raised his arm to acquit, both confessor and penitent fall riddled by bullets.
Brother Ramon Roca was an inveterate humorist, from a Christian family that had given to the Congregation four great missionaries. Ramon came to Mas Claret on September 13, where he could not stay for restriction of the Committee. But fraternal love found the solution. They hid him in a cave on the forest and they brought him food. At night they hid him in the engine shed. He attended morning Mass before the arrival of militants. Sometimes he received visits from brother Bagaría, and he said pointing to the rosary: “You see, all day dancing the Sardana!”, comparing this Catalan dance to pray the rosary again and again to Virgin Mary.
The Committee extended permission for Ramón lived in his cave, “and word of honor, nothing will happen to him.” But with all the honor Marxist, on day the Committee took him to Cervera, and they locked him in the church that was function as prison. Ramón told a friend serenely: “Francisco, to Heaven! On the Feast of Mercy I will achieve martyrdom. And so it was: on the 24th, feast of Mercy, on the cemetary, Virgin released all the ropes that kept him from flying freely to Glory.
And the nineteen of the farm… Keep working until exhausted! Because the Committee had established an overwhelming pace of work, and every day the truck comes twice to take everything producing fields and corrals. Among the twenty perople of the farm, about six were sick or elderly, and the same young students were made to other work. They knew how to study well the books, but farm work proved them very heavy. According to brother Bagaria, one day a student named Francisco Simón said: “And to think of right now we should be solving papers with pen, and here we are, forced to clean with these hairpins fetid pig manure! Come on! We can do it by love to God, but not by love to communist”.
And they insist the same: women! As in barbastro, as with Brother Saperas… Testimonials are abundant, but brother Francisco Bagaría is the main witness. Every afternoon when the truck came to take all the products of the farm, militants brought brazen girls, dressed unabashedly. As all people should be formed to review, our brothers must also bear the sight of those shameless women, who invited them all with lewd gestures and attitudes. Militants made some jokes:
– “Hey, you, Who you like most, this blonde, this fattest, this one … or that other? …”
Missionaries lowered their eyes, and they did not respond to the derisive laughter of those fiends. And repeatedly. Until the final order came from the same Committee:
– That had to end. And therefore, we will bring you women to help you and to let you enjoy life.
The notice was firm, and brother Bagaría relates the following: “Faced with this threat, Father Joseph Ribé, who acted as Superior, met us in the room, and told us: What should we do? And all responded unanimously: If women enter through a door, we went for another, even if they kill us. Live with those women, never! “…
Fortunately, the Committee did not take women to Mas to live in it until all were shot. And here we advance this note. Militants had failed to youth executed. But inveterate until the end, they do not let up in their efforts to bring down the Brother Bagaría. He remains to be under the care of the farm, and had to face the women who came to live there. “New operators appointed by the Committee were presented on the farm, with some militants women, coming from prostitution. Several times tried to make me go through the women’s room, trying my virtue. Thanks to the intercession of the martyrs, nothing happened and they left me alone”.
Until came the irremediable. People in the Mas did not find out at all what happened to people in the Hospital at that early Sunday October 18. In the afternoon, young people organized a football match, and as every day, the Committee’s truck presented to collect milk and other products. But the driver, to go, let out to Bagaría this enigmatic phrase: “Tomorrow they will come for that”.
And “that” turned out to be the worst. Monday 19 began like any other day: work and more work… Until the the Committee’s truck came at four in the afternoon. Three people got out of the car: the driver, a strange guy with camera in hand to pass as a photo-grapher, and Juan Padrós, famous assassin acting as judge and with the staff of authority in his hand. The driver told Bagaría: – Nothing special. We have come with the photographer, because we want everyone portraits.
Meanwhile, from another car down a guard Committee and assassin Enrique Ruan, whom we know well. Brother Narciso Simón suspected nothing of photographer, and he called all the missionaries, whom arranged their clothes and they gathered in the front courtyard, where the seats were being are arranged to portray. Brother Bagaría joined to the group, ready for photography. But the nervous driver intervened, take the Brother by the arm, and pointed to the two servants who are with him saying: “-You, and both of you, get in the car. Hurry up, take your jacket and get in the car, because we will go to Cervera inmediately”.
They went up to the vehicle, but the engine did not start. God wanted an exceptional witness to the martyrdom of the eighteen Missionaries. With a heavy heart, brother Bagaría hears the words of the judge Padrós addressed to guard of the Committee and to the terrible militiaman Enrique Ruan: “So the car does not work? It does not matter. People are waiting for us, and it’s getting late. Let’s do the work!”.
And adressing to Bagaría: “You and your two servants, get out of the car. You will staye here to take care of this place. To everyone else, we will kill them right now”.
These words were confirmed by one of the murderers, saying with brutal frankness: “We have done many jobs these days. We will finish with this bad seed. Yesterday we killed people of the Hospital. I killed them myself. Now the turn is for these people”.
Brother goes up to the second floor, and terrified, he sees about thirty militiamen with machine guns, rifles or pistols in hand.
Victims are grouped in rows of four abreast, between two ropes held by militia, and they are forced to go down to a concourse outside the building. Missionaries were forgiving each other, and the three priests gave absolution to all. Resigned. From the beginning they knew death was a real posibility, and now thet had it at hand.
Once they reached the place chosen, the executioners prepared the machine gun, but it jammed almost at start, so the murderers had to use their rifles. Between guffaws and revolting blasphemies, they gave the shot of grace to the eighteen martyrs of Christ, who went up to heaven in peace of that autumn evening, in the era of the bread and the wine… A splendid mausoleum in the center of the cemetery of Cervera saves the dead bodies of the martyrs of Mas and Hospital.
When the civil war ends, Brother Francisco Bagaría continued as a magnificent religious leading the farm, until the close of the Cervera seminary. He died in 1985, full of merit.
The martyrdom of the other nine missionaries of the same College and Cervera community, is no reviewed here; they died alone and anonymous: Fathers Angel Pérez, José Folqué and Dionisio Ponsa; the students José Reixach, Ireneo Jiménez and Daniel Sáenz; and Brothers Esteban Mestres, Juan Llabet y Agustín Trallero.
Due to lack of suitable witnesses to a canonical process, it has not been possible to include these persons among the candidates for the altars, but they all have the same glory and the same merit before God. We remember to all of them with brotherly affection, as we say, in the words of the Bible, that the world was not worthy of them…
Very glorious history that we have just seen. In the beatification of 51 of Barbastro, Pope John Paul II said with weighting: “Quite a Martyr Seminary!”. Followed by the one of Bética province, “the Second Martyr Seminary”, with 16 young people who falled in Fernán Caballero. Now we know the “Third Martyr Seminary”, the Cervera’s one, with its 64 missionaries killed. We must praise God, who gave strength to those braves.
By moving to the two martyrs of the College of Solsona we find José Vidal, a mature student. A twenty-six years old man, he was a handome pharmacy clerk, worship, fine manners. But mostly, he was an excelent young, active member in the Catholic Center of a town in the Province of Tarragona, and and activist of the Catholic Action. With this background so rich of piety and apostolate, he entered to the Claretian congregation to which he would honor with a premature and beautiful martyrdom. Some leftists people from the same place did not like the previous life of José, so Christian and so apostolic, and even less that he would like to be a priest.
At nine in the evening of August 22, a militia group came to the house where José lived. Like wolves in sheep’s clothing, the militia group explained that José is claimed by the town’s Committee in order to fulfill an assignment entrusted to him by their parents. They were lying shamelessly. Two of the four men taught him the letter that José sent to his parents asking to come and get him, and also they showed him a forged letter with the answer from her parents. In the post office they had controlled the mail of José with his family. José did not suspect anything of those men, and greets them warmly.
For his complete safety, those “friends” are responsible to accompany him to his father’s house. José waved a warm goodbye to the people who harbored so kindly, and he leaves with those supposed protectors… But few minutes after his departure, some gloomy shots were heard from the darkness of the night. The young Catholic activist lies dead in the middle of the road.
Spread the news, the Christian glorification began. The people of the region raised there a cross with the legend: “In this place, José gave the greatest testimony of his love for Jesus Christ. 22-VIII-1936”.
Julián Villanueva is before us in the form a man, a religious and a martyr. He was a Lay Brother, 67 years old man, and he had not shaken once in his life. He was a refugee in one of those country house that saved the lives of all seminarians students. In early August, a platoon of militiamen arrived with his chief Elías. They destroyed the chapel that was in the house, and then they march to the threshing floor where four or five men were threshing the harvest, and they asked to the older one: “Who are you?”
This was Brother Julián, a very straight man who does not use to beat about the bush. Brother Julián replied: “’I am religious, catholic, apostolic, roman and also navarre”.
The same Brother gave that accurate description of himself. He had a splendid, vigorous and full of faith character. Taking advantage of the superiority that gave him the gun, the militiaman tried to humiliate the Brother bringing up the “laziness of religious”. He said it at the wrong time. Brother took up the challenge: “I have to say that I had a good life in my house; however, in my forty years as religious, I’ve always lived of my work and I have earned the bread”.
And taking advantage of a good argument that came to his hands, and pointing the feet of his interlocutors, he added: “And those shoes you wear, my job is”.
Brother had recognized them. he worked as a Community’s shoemaker. When the Revolution broked out, Brother had prepared and ready the shoes that upper course students would take then they move to Cervera that summer. But when militants stormed the School, they stoled those shoes.
In the face of threats, that decided old man did not stopped: You don’t scare. Neither you or your gun. You can kill, if you want, but I´m not afraid, because theres is a Supreme Judge Judge whom we both will be face to face.
Militants repress his thirst for revenge until it was September 1st, when they came at 8pm at night to capture the old man and they got him into a car, as they beat him repeatedly. They drive several kilometers along the road to Cervera, and take him down to a nearby copse. They ripped off his clothes, and they hung back in his neck the rosary, medals and crucifix, and then they told mockingly: “Now commend to your God, and let’s see if He hears you”.
There is no need to tell that Julián fervently prayed kneeling next to some plants. But he took the opportunity to tell the executioners firmly: “You should know that I am not afraid of death. I offer my life for God and for souls. I forgive you for this crime you are going to make with me, and I pray to Divine Mercy that accept my blood for your salvation”.
One of the thugs felt visibly impressed, ahd he would say later: “When I saw that religious, with his chest covered with rosary and medals, a great terror came over me. The religious was a saint, and I was one of those who killed him”.
As with Vidal the student, local people raised a modest wooden cross in his grave, with the same of Brother Villanueva and with this printed legend: “Here he died preaching his Catholic faith”.
Beatified on October 13th, 2013
The cause of these martyrs was assumed by the Archbishopric of Tarragona, which included in the same Proces all their Priests, headed by the Auxiliary Bishop Monsignor Manuel Borras, together with the Religious who worked and died at the Archdioceses: an impressive Martilogy of 147 witnesses of the faith and ministers of Jesus Christ in the pastoral care to the People og God, among them seven Claretians Missionaries from the two Communities of Tarragona an The Selva del Camp. The one of Tarragona was as small Community, and their residents had been devoted as their own ministry to the teaching at the Seminary and at the Pontifical University, were they always enjoyed of high appreciation as distinguiseh professors. The Selva del Camp. Was the retirement home for eldery persons and sick, a very loved house by the congregation, because in there shed his blood in 1868 our Protomartyr the Father Francisco Crusats, what made to exclaim with envy to the founder the Archbishop Claret whe he knew about the news of his glorious death:-Ah, I knew it that he have preceded me!…
The first victim will be the Brother Antonio Capdevila, that in his forty´s, on 24 July was taking the train to visit his family. The train stoped at a secondary statio, Antonio gets down to the plataform, and he has a suspicion of some malicious who take him to the revolutionary Committee, he naturally confesses his identity as a religious, and, for such a crime, they take him to the road, they placed him infront of the rifles and he request with great serenity for a few moments to pray. He is granted, he prays, he thanked the assassins, exclaimed the very familiar Long live to Christ de King! And he received the shots.
The humble people from town, considered immediately as Saint and they kept the martyr´s blood-sprinkled small pebbles… It started the glorification of God.
On 29th followed him the Father Jaime Mir. He was tall, thin, squalid, serious, always inclined to his Philosophy text, he was the incarnation of the Metaphysics that he used to teach with efficient competition. The revolution surprised him leading the Carmelite Systers of Mercy on the Espiritual Exercises, been forced to be suspend. His martyndom bears the imprint of a despicable betrayal. He obtains from the Committee the coveted pass or travel card. They gave it to him, and the same people who gave it to him ask for it the next day. They take the Father in to the car, and his corpse was found the next day at the Tarragona cemetery.
The brother Sebastian Balsells took refuge in his town with his family. Here was also refugee his religious sister Silveria, who curiosly asked him, How many Rosaries have you prayed today to the Virgin?-Already nineteen… The blessed Brother was a picture of humility, innocence and fervor. He spent his religious life teaching, and now, without children to teach, he consumed all the time in conversation with God and the loved Virgin.
On August 15th the feast of the Assumption, the two religious brothers, Sebastian and Silveria, developed an idyllic scene that seems to be taken from the memories of Benito and Escolastica. It was already night, and after dinner the two souls have fun talking about God, The Heaven, and the joy to die for Jesus Christ as martyrs. They were talking and talking, and time went by…
After three hours of having been extinguished that heavenly colloquium, eight henchmen knocking on the door furiously claiming for Sebastian, and taking him inside the car to take him to the Committee. In the middle of the silence, the Brother initiated a dialogue in a clearly question and answer format: -You are going to kill me, right?… Yes!
Faced with clarity for both sides, the victim takes out from his pocket calmly the rosary, that he won´t give it up nor when the executioners tied him to a tree so he won´t escape…and shot him eight shots in the middle of the silent night.
The Brothers Andres Feliu and Pablo Castella were the children of La Selva del Camp and they went back to their families when the Community was dissolved. The two venerable elders have expended their best years at the hard Mission in the Equatorial Guinea; they spend together in peace their old edge in the same Community to impress everyone and together the will go to meet the Lord that provided them the palm and the crown.
Three months with their respective families. Until the Reus Committee wanted to embitter the life of the residents of the peaceful La Selva del Camp and made the list of the ones that should die. The two missionaries were imprisioned on October 26th, when they took them down from the car to be executed, the Brother Castella, with difficulties to control his legs, he takes some time to come out of the car, so they pushed him down and he has fallen down with his face and walking stick to the ground. And in such a way, lying on the ground, they shoot him all the shoots in the back…The meritoriously Missionaries were dying for this specific cause: They were religious!
It became famous in Cataluña the floating prison which was installed on the ship “Río Segre”, a cargo ship of 5,000 tons. Anchored in the port of Tarragona, with some 300 prisoners that on the first days they rioted in its orlop-decks, 218 leave in about seven weeks to go toward death. And they were followed by others and others.
In tha floating jail it was a complete isolation of family and friends. The heat was unbearable in the suffocating summertime. The monotony of the whole day was unbearable. But, into the other hand, the prisoners enjoyed of some distractions that in other jails would have been unsuspected luxury. There were among the prisoners a lot of Priests and Religious, and the laypeople were distinguished catholics that had their own way of entertainment on-deck, despite the close monitoring of the red militiamen, that they could not withstand to see a rosary made out of knots in a rope! Nor tolerates to see some lips opening to pray… The order was severe: Nor lips, nor fingers, nor knots!
The prisoners used to get together sometimes in small groups to relax a bit by singing and the more serious ones, like our Father Vila, used that time well to have Moral or other ecclesiastical conferences!…
Our Brother Antonio Vilamassana, with his impressive beard and his seventy six years on top, was a full stamp of the missioner who had spent his life in the Missions of Equatorial Guinea.
On August 25th it was particularly horiffic at the ship. Sixty of its prisoners leave in four expeditions toward death. In the third were the entire Parish Priests from the City and some other Priests and elder Religious, among whom was our Brother Antonio. Loaded the twenty four victims in the truck, when they arrived to the City of Valls, they were singing the Crec en un Déu,the incomparable Creed in Catalan, and other religious himns, what made an old lady say this comment that is worth the most brilliant panegyric sermon:-What a beautiful himns were those! Not those of spree, but very nice, it was a pleasure to listen them.
They were executed around three kilometers from the City, they didn´t receive the coup the grace and many of them were alive. In such a way, half dead, were loaded back to the truck and taken to the cemetery where they arrived all dead. Hard to tell, but that is how the things were in those days…
The Father Federico Vila was one of the most distinguished figures as a professor, writer and a patient researcher. The Generalitat of Cataluña, gave him a parole application, processed by the Archivist, but that order, that was brought on November 11th, arrived late, because the murderers of the F.A.I. went ahead, they made a simple expedition, getting onto the room kicking and shouting between the bunks:
-You, What are you?
-So, up you go!
They were twenty four in total: eight Priests, einght seglars and eight Brothers of La Salle.On the bridge of the boat, they all started to sing a psalm. And, already in line in front of the walls of the cemetery where they were brought, they all exhaling their last breath with the irreplaceable Long live to Christ the King!…
Lérida, or Lleida, deserved to be called “Lérida the Martyr”, turned into a stage of the greatest revolutionary atrocities. Because were countless the Priests, Religious and Catholic Seglars pointed, those who in it shed their blood for Christ. Among them, were eleven of our Claretian Brothers.
On July 21th the Community dispersed and they all took shelter at the apartment of a good widow who offers them the accommodation. They were all dressed as laypersons, they develop an exciting escene. Kneeling before the Father Superior, they offer their lives to God for the salvation of Spain, after received the general absolution and blessing from the Father, they all were ready to surrender to the red assailants that already were coming up the stairs excessively and had covered all the runaway exits. Been captured, they all are taken to jail, except Father Busquet, which they claim: What are we going to do with this old man, and also blind? So they left him there, but, at the end they will kill him as well. They took the Superior to declare at the Revolutionary Committee.
The Father Federio Codina, was educated, distinguished and kind, after he made his declaration at the Committee, he goes out to the Calle Mayor guarded by a platoon of militiamen, whom ordered him to walk ahead, on his own two feet, to the jail. All of a sudden, the voice of young boy which had been altar boy in our church:-Is the Father Superior of the Misionaries!…
In light of that traitorious voice, the militiamen have grouped around, plus street women and they shout recklessly:-To kill him, to kill him, he is a Priest!
By asking the people around to leave they shoot their rifles to the Father, who falls to the floor at the Plaza de la Paheria, the most centrally located in the City, facing the Calle Mayor, when this one was very crowded of people at eleven in the morning.
The Lerida prison sadly will be famous, and also gloriously!… In the first days they were up to 650 the detainees and they are so many to describe the tortures often suffered by so many heroes of faith and so many patriots from that wonderful place of Cataluña. The testimonies are very touching. Countless deprivations of food, rest time…, and tortures to entertain the red guards, bayonets drawn against the prisoners following them around the corridors and stairs pungturing their buttocks and backs…
Despite so much pain, a climate of peace and in an atmosphere of prayer bigger than the one at the catacombs. Rosaries,The Stations of the Cross, the Trisagio… all the catholic devotions were practiced with the regularity of a convent, encouraged and directed by so many Priests and Religious, leading their Holly Bishop Salvio Huix, famous Father Oratoniano, now already beatified. On August 4th they took him out of jail at dawn together with twenty one laymen “to be transferred immediately to Barcelona”… although Barcelona will be translated to “cemetery”. Facin all of them to the Platoon, the Bishop asked, and he gets it, to be the last one to execute. Standing up front and with pontificial serenity, feeling more like a Bishop than ever, was giving each one of them the absolution and his blessing as father and pastor.
In prison were eigth Claretian Fathers Manuel Torres, Miguel Baixeras, Arturo Tamarit, Agustín Lloses, Luis Albi and Javier Morell, with the Brothers Juan Garriga and Angel Dolcet. The Father Albi, in the middle of the street, has been assaulted by a carbonero, who has seriously injured him with a nail on the belly, in such a way that he will spend four weeks at the prison nursing. On August 21th they will bring also the Father Juan Busquet, the elder almost blind that for the moment they had left released.
The first three Claretians are going to fall soon. On July 24th some outlaws militiamen of Durruti Column from Barcelona, were passing by Lerida. At 4:30am in the morning of 25th assaulted de prision to kill a lot of prisoniers. They got into one of the rooms, were there are sleeping in packed together thirty two detainees, and they want to take them all out. But the chief, maybe because he was terrified for the enormity of the crime or because a spark of goodness in his heart, exclaim at the door:
– Poor them, I feel compassion for all of them!
So they demanded to him: – So, pick at least some of them.
And the lucky ones were the three Claretian Fathers Manuel Torres, Miguel Baixeras and Arturo Tamarit, those who previously were asked if they were Priests. They left the prision, and fifteen minutes after the shoots had been heard, that sound came from the next door Campo Marte.
That singular night of Augut21th left and indelible memory in Lerida. An exceptional and grandiose case. At eleven at night starts a macabre recount of all cells and rooms. Two militiamen, one with a list and the other with the lantern to give him light, reviewing names and choosing the victims: “Only Priests and Religious”. Two endless hours of investigation. But when the layman prisoniers noticed that they were running out of Priest to attend the spiritual needs, there were some of them that with a heroic magnanimity gesture, changing their own names, went right ahead to replace them.
Nothing helped, because once they discovered the trick, those who are predestined that night will be only the ministers of the Lord. Sixty four, among them the Claretina Fathers Lloses, Albi and Morell together with the Brothers Garriga and Dolcet. When they left, saying goodbye to the other still in the room with these words: -Goodbye! Rejoice always! Long Live to Christ the King!
Loaded all of them up in various seized buses of a Transport Company and guarded by Assault Guards, they take off to the cemetery.With a disconcerting serenity and inexplicable feeling of pure joy, they all are singing to the Vigin the Salve, the Ave maris Stella and the Magnificat, the Latin hymns that have guided thousands times to the Blessed Mother. And so they arrived toward the junction of the cemetery. But still yet to come what is going to happen now. It seems that the Assault Guards, take into consideration the big crime they are about to commit, and instead continued on their way to Barcelona. But very close from there were stationed already around two hundred militiamen, and made them to turn around the buses and the Guards.
At the cemetery, the victims were tided up in groups of tens in front of the walls, the militiamen send the Assaul Guards to shoot them. They refuse, and the first discharge they threw it into the air. But from the threat of the ones they have behind with their guns pointed at them, they made to fall one after the other the eight groups, that won´t stop their singing and prayers. Consumated the execution, the Guards return to the City and they undertake the commitment to not participate any more in such crimes. But for their resistance in this night, they are al sent to the Huesca Front, where they in a mysterious way disappeared blown apart.
The Father Juan Busquet, the almost blind elder who seemed free of everything, entered into prison on Augut21th and his captivity will not last long. Because on the 24th were passing by Lerida another Militiamen Column that were on their way to the Aragon Fort spreading destruction and terror all over the place. They want to burn the jail with all the prisoners inside. The local Authorities refused energetically and the expeditionaries take revenge by burning the Cathedral. Later on, gather in front of the prison a crowd of around three thousand persons, screaming excessively and asking for the all the detainees death. The Authorities agrees a bit, and let them to take out a broader group of presioners, among them the Father Busquet, who at the door, stumbling because he hargly sees and full of ailments, evokes compassion of some one: -Poor him! Let him go back inside.
But the ferocity is imposed by those savages, who will not belive in tenderness; they put him up the truck on their way to the Campo Marte, where the kind old man reached the palm of martyrdom, a gift of God a priestly life full of merits.
The Father Javier Surribas was a young Priest who earned the affection of everyone. On the eve of the feast of Carmen, as a challenge to his persecution, instead of prepare himself disguising; he made in his hair specifically the classical crown of the clergyman. When the Communty of La Selva del Camp were dispersed, he wants to go directly to his family through Barcelona, but the Student Miguel wants to go to his family passing by Lerida, with the evident life risk. Javier, always generous, goes with him againt his will, and coming dawn at the train station, a militiama suspected of them and takes Miguel and took of his cap to see if he had the crown in his head.Nothing. But with Javier he has more luck and there was the clerical sign in its entire splendor. Why to take him to the Committee to declare? Right there, where the walk begins in front at the Station, they separate de people, and let riddled with bullets the young Priest, victim of his own charity.
We can guess that Barcelona and Sabadel, the two most industrialized cities in Cataluña, with a distance of 20 kilomenters between them, will be the stage of many problems during the Revolution and that the Religious persecution would have there many victims. The Claretians had two Communities in Barcelona. The House of La Gracia who used to take care of the School, the magnificent Church and the Preaching ministry; and the other one served as the Mission Procure of Guinea and as branch of the publishing house of Coculsa from Madrid. At Sabadell, the Claretians managed a Church located in the central area of the City and always was a powerful magnet of the souls, because they had some Priest devoted to the confessional as their own ministry. With a total of 76 members in the two Communities, there were many the martyrs, but the majority of them die in anonymity, dispersed and without the necessary witnesess for a beatification process.
The assault to the House of La Gracia was spectacular. While the big Churh was burning on all sides, the Fathers and Brothers which could, advised by the Civil Guard, dispersed throughout the City.And the sick and the elders? This was the problem. There with them was the Provincial Father and other more heads Fathers. When they were ready to go from the House to the Hospital o where ever they were going…, it was impossible, because the fire prevented them to go out. With the tins of gasoline, with the three cannon shots placed in front of the main door, with the constant shooting of rifles and machine gun and with the all the rooms filled with smoke, that turn out to be a scene taken from the Apocalypse.
The nine who stayed at the house, gathered in the patio, surrender to the assailants’ militiamen, to see what will happen. The Militiamen, women, all sort of people heatedly discussed about what they should do, when a smart old man, imposed silence and by show of hands, he sentence with aplomb and severity, and weight of each word:-If you asked me, I am of the opinion that you should shot all them right here.
Thank goodness that the Father Montaner, a future martyr, had the fortunate idea to approach to one of the assailants who were speaking Catalan:-I see that you are Catalan like us, and understand that we will have to mutually support each other. Can you defend us? I beg you to save us.
The plead was effective. They all were taken to La Gracia Commissariat, in three hours the sick ones were tranfered to a Clinic, while the others went out free to the street to seeking refuge anywhere… At night, they all could see how the big Church was burning and how the dome collapsed with a deafening din.
Now, there is nothing left to do but to review, in a chronological order and with a brushstroke only, the luck of those who reached the palm of martyrdom and that have been avaible to be included in the beatification process. They all died in the same way: a search in the apartment where they are hiding, a going to the Revolutionary Committee, to leave towards death, to appear later on the corpse at the Clinic to be identify, and to be buried with complete anonymity.
The Brother Juan Capdevila will be the first victim who spilled his blood in Barcelona, on July 25th. On 26th, following him was the Father GumersindoValtierra, that for his impeccable clothing of black suit and above all, by his genuine modesty and humility you can see revealed a soul of God, will betrayed him as a Priest, and the militiamen, with this had enough, although they made sure that:
- Are you religious?
- Yes, by the grace of God…
And for the grace of God also he spilled his blood.
The Father Candido Casals, is going to visit on July 29th in a pension two of his nephews where hi coincides with two Fathers and a Salesian Brother. The assailants who were there suspect something:
- Are you a Priest?
- Yes, I am…, without any fear says the Father.
The four Religious were recognized and forced by the militiamen to get into the truck, the next day their bodies appeared at the Clinic, with clear signs of have been tortured.
The young Student Adolfo de Esteban has been shelter in his partner house the also Claretian Student Jose Oliva. On July 31th his corp appeared behind the San Pablo Hospital. He was found in the indispensable searching, he said goodby naturally and with kind to the owner: -Doña Angela, in these days you had been more than a mother to me. I am very grateful. I know they are going to kill me, but I will die in peace, because I will be martyr and I will go to Heaven.
The Father Antonio Junyen saw how his missionary dreams were truncated. Was destined to go to America by the Superiors, he was in Barcelona waiting for the ship that will take him to Argentina. On August 18th he went to find out about the departure of any vessel. But the Father who booked the ticket to Argentina, tells him in sort of celebration: -Father, I suspect this ticket is not to America, but to Heaven.
He was no mistaken; On August 22th his corp appeared with all his documents at the Clinic, because God had guided his steps in search of another sea…
On the 22th of this month, the revolution will take away the Father Jacinto Blanch, who lets us a big memory with his exemplary life as saint and wise. About him we read in the Process that he ate little, sleep less and worked a lot. Already before the war, he used to walk by the opulent streets and avenues of the stately Barcelona, and tells to his partner: – Nothing of these fills me, nothing. I´m hungry only from God!
When hi was asked, how he was, he used to respond between serious and happy: -Not entirely right, since I don´t love God enough.
With the spiritual elegance that he put in all his acts, even the ones with more sacrifice, cared with sympathy an inopportune beggar. He was invited by a wealthy family, and knocks at the door a beggar with a very empty stomach, at the precise moment that the roasted chiken was served, that was in those days an elegant dish. And the Father, taking the portion that he was offered, suggests with humor:-Maybe that poorman also likes the chicken claw.
He comes down the stairs with the steaming plate and puts the succulent dish in the hands of the dirt poor, who saw an impossible dream to come true…
Now is not a beggar who knocks at the door house, but a platoon of militiamen who found in his pocket his rosary and had enogh: -Coward, why were you hiding this?… They put it over his neck for mocking, and like that, they take him to an unknown place. His great friend won´t let go the telephone questions about the Father whereabouts, until he heard a militiaman answer: -If is the case of a countryman, still. But been a Priest, no further recourse is possible.
The corpse was recognized the next day at the Clinic.
It will follow in the martyrdom the Father Tomás Planas, in his 30 years already a brilliant professor, he was waiting in Barcelona the moment to go to Rome for higher education. God had prepared for him on August 26th a different láurea than the one he had claimed at the Agelicum or the Gregorian. He had taken shelter at his brother house, and was claimed by the militiamen in the middle of the silent night. Inside the car that is waiting at the door, is his cousing who have already been arrested. They both declared at the popular tribunal and remain prisoners. At three and half of the following morning, they open the door and made Father Planas to get up and go out. Knowing he was going to die, he tells to his cousin:-It doesn´t hurt me to die. I would have liked to make in my life the good that I have always dreamed.
He was shot at the dawn of August 27th.
The Father Cirilo Montaner, a great figure of a Missionary in Equatorial Guinea, after a thousand of adventures he comes to stay at Antonio Doménech house, a former anarchist militant and now a devout Catholic, thanks to his formidable wife who managed to attract his lost sould to God.
Everyday they celebrated there the Holly Mass, attended by the charming woman and by the husband repairmen of furniture. Antonio an the Father Montaner bend on their knees one day in front of the Eucharistic Lord, that they keeped devotedly in the house, and make a earnest prayer, the one that later on the Father will tell to his wife:-Today your husband and I have offered to Our Lord in Martyrdom, and you are also agree all right? …
On November 25th, at three in the morning, got up terrified before the platoon of militiamen who with their riffles hits make the entire house to tremble. The Father and Antonio are taken to the terrible Control of Calle Pedro IV, from which nobody came out but to die, as the Holly Bishop and Martyr Monsignor Manuel Iruita. They are taken later on to the tragic jail of San Elías, and from there were taken out on the 28th the Father Montaner and the devouted Christian labourmen Antonio, Franciscan tertiary, on the death road.
Eleven Missionaries formed the peaceful Community of Sabadell. Eight Fathers, almost all of them in the older age groups, they were tailored to the important service of the confessions, and three very exemplary Brothers to which God was focused for the time to distribute crowns and palms.
On July 20th were all congregated at the Church to celebrate the Eucharistic. The key of the Temple was put at the feet of the image of Heart of Mother Mary so She takes care of everythin, if was part in the Lords plans to save the almost insurmountable. The same 20th the Church was burning in her womb, while the Fathers and Brothers were dispersed each one where they could.
The elder Father José Reixach, a good man, gave the instruction to his friends that host him:-If they come looking for me, I don´t want that you deny that I´m here. I will be Martyr as the others!
And that’s how it had to be. At three in the morning of July 25th was taken out of the house by a group of forty (!) outlaws, who soot him in the middle of the street and run away after ashamed of their mischief, leaving the victim lying on the ground. The poor Father starts to drag like a reptile, on his way to the Casa de la Caridad, where you can reach there in eight minutes and took him more than two hours in the journey. He advanced with one hand, leaning against the dirt on his chest and face, while with the other hand he was holding his intestines that were coming out the wounds under his womb.
He knocks at the door of the stablishment many times, and finally the ones inside noticed the heartbraking moans.The Sisters of Charity, dressed as layperson, take care of him with the presumably kidness, even though they do not know who is the wounded dying person that has arrived.The inexplicable patience that he suffered and the rosary that they found in his pocket gave him away:-Is Father Reixach!
The Director of the House calls the competent Authorithy, Mayor and Judge, that present in company of various militiame, careless and with their riffles high. When he saw them, the Father jumps amorous with this outburst unforeseen:-If you are the ones who shoot me gun fires, I forgive you with all my heart. I want to die like Jesus, who also forgot to whom just crucify him.
The murderers militiamen put down their guns and looking at the floor crestfallen. The Judge ordered to transfer the patient to other Clinic, and his lips won´t stop saying fervent ejaculatories, until he deliver his beautiful soul in God hands.
The other six members that were part of the Community were caught by the militiamen in a mityrious way at their respective domiciles, requested name by name and with their exact personal data. At the head of them all, is the Father Superior Mateo Casals, followed by the venerable Father José Puig, and by the Brothers José Calvería, Juan Rafí, José Solé and the young boy so hopeful with only twenty years old, José Cardona. They all went to a jail nothing like anything else we already know from other areas. It´s almost hard to belive, and especially in Sabadell, a city with so many Marxist laborers. A prison almost empty, where our Missionaries find only nine prisoners, a Piarist Father and eight excellent young catholics.
With almost a total tolerance from the prison authorities, that even had some freedom, the prisioners had a peaceful life, in order, each one in its own cell, and with the facility to get together to pray the Rosary to the Virgen. To the laypersons, was their family who brought their food, and to ours was prepared with dedication by the good cook Brother Cardona.
But at the end of August the prison authorities changed, and a militiaman released coldly:-It´s eleven and a half. We must start the chore.
And the chore was to take out all of them from their cells y have them ready for the cars to come. The fifteen prisoners, turned into corpses, appeat at sunrise on September 5th in the surrounding roads.
The Father Juan Torrents, when he will be declared a Saint by the Church, his image has to appear with the rosary in his hand… Since during the endless hours at the pension in Barcelona, and at the jail later on, he had nothing to do, the rosaries to the Virgen happened one after the other continuosly, in a way that he reached every day to funny figures and unimaginable. Was the last of the Claretian Martyrs to die. He was found at the Fonda where he was hiding, not even his 73 years, or the blindness he had could save him of going to the frightening jail of San Elías, until Mach 17th when they took him out to take him to the Montcada cemetery.
There are two cities of Barcelona Province. Vic (or Vich) it´s flatness was incomparable it was the sitting of the purest Christian essences of Cataluña. And this because of it´s Bishops, it´s Saints and it´s wise figures. Vic has an influence in the XIX century and beginning of the XX like any other dioceses in the Spanish Church of our times. It must be remembered among many a Claret, Almató, Coll, Manyanet, Joaquina de Vedruna, Balmes, Verdaguer, Torres y Bages and several more. In Sallent was born Saint Antonio María Claret, and in Vic the Claretian Congregation. Le us recall, now the heroic death of the fourteen confessors of the Faith tha came from those two blessed Houses.
The Community of Sallent was guarding with love the birth house of Saint Antonio María Claret and they run a modest school in that industrial city. This tiny but authentic Claretian family was composed of the fathers José Capdevila, Juan Mercer and Jaume Payás, with the Brrothers Marcelino Mur and Mariano Binefa. They all have to leave the House on July 20th at noon following the stric order of the Municipality, and, refugees at friends houses, soon they will come out of their hiding places to end up in jail and in the cemetery.
The Father José Capdevila did not die until two months, but started his odyssey when he begins to walk more than sixty kilometers, always hiding from the compromising glances, until he arrives to Vic. He will be calm at the parental home until September 24th. He was found by the militiamen, has to leave the arms of his dearest:- Godbye, mother, to Heaven!
-What Heaven nor what…? There is no Heaven ok!…, a very hoarse voice sound of a militiaman.
– For you, if you don´t change your life, no; but for us, yes.
He spends all nigth in Vic prison and on 25th he was going to Heaven sighing, while his body was lying on a sidewalk of the road.
The Father Jaime Payás, as he escaped, was lost in the bushes, and among those began his very painful Passion. He had been dragging along in the darkness until he reached the banks of the River Llbregat; he falls down in a dreignage pit, where he gets covered with mud and filthiness. He can´t get out. The next day he was found by one boy of the family who went to look for him, but he has to leave, because he was in sight and before the beast. Two days of useless seach, because all doors were closed to him, even the best friends houses which seemed to be absolutely safe. Finally, he finds a house that welcomed him with much kidness; but had been seen by the militiamen, who take him to the City council.
The Father Payás, with only twenty eight years old, elegant, cultured, remarkable children professor, delicate soul of truest espiritural aristocracy, he feels broken heart at the rejection he has experienced, and writes the most harrowing words: “If you kill me, should not be due to the anarchist bullets but to lack of knowledge of my friends. I will not trust anymore in people; only in You, Jesus Christ. I have the pleasure of suffer the disappointment of friends. Oh Jesus! I give them a hug; I do not bear a grudge against anyone, nither to the ones who had kicked me out of their house like a dog. All for You, Jesus”.
In jail was detained such a singular prisoner, he earned the sympathy of everyone and they try to save his life by attracting him to the Revolutionary Cause. In the same jail joined in to Father Payás the Brothers Marcelino Mur and Mario Binefa with the Father Juan Mercer, and together the four of them offered their blood to God, by bullets fired to them on July 25th , The Festivity of Santiago(James), Patron of Spain.
For the Claretians, VIC is our Holy City. In it was born our Congregation and in it was kept the mortal remains of our Founder, Saint Antonio María Claret, that were saved miraculously, even though they were wanted with more hatred than any other living Priest. In Vic and its region, very Christians, so was easy the pleasure of religious persecution, and Barcelona took care of it, sending extremist elements to set fire to several churches, among them the Cathedral with its incomparables Sert paintings, they killed every single Priest and religious they found, they pulled out of their houses so many distinguished catholics to the cemetery, and committed all the atrocities they wanted. The Claretians lost our historical temple of La Merced, destroyed and burned dawn to bedrock. Although the member of the Community was numerous they manage to disperse, they offered the Church a handful of glorious martyrs.
The Fathers José Arner, the novice Master, and Casto Navarro, his helper, with the noumerous group of young novices, went through the forest wandering during eight days, running away from house to house and sleeping rough, hungry and thirsty and continuous hikes. Falling in to the hands of the reds, they all were taken to the barracks, where a bad faced guy entered asking abruptly: Who is the boss of this entire group?
And from that moment, all the young novices from the red zone were sent to their families, the ones from the national area were placed at the Charity House, and the Fathers Arner and Navarro were arrested in jail where they will go toward death on the night of August 7th.
The Fathers José Puigdessens and Julio Aramendía were two privileged masterminds and they were in Vic conducting estudies that it would have drawn very much attention. The Father Aramendia, with only thirty six years old, already considered by the authorized magazine El Monte Carmelo as “One of the most competent and best informed men of the Spanish spirituality”. And the veteran Father Puigdessens was defined for several years as “The first philosophic thinking of Cataluña…, meticulous knowledgeable of thought of all ages and of all the ancient and modern languages that had always spoken the philosophy”. The two Fathers took refuge in the house of a sister of Father Puigdessens. Once discovered, were of no use all the arrangements of the Generalitat of Barcelona or the influences of the same Culture Counsellor, to save the life of the Father Puigdessens, and important men for the Catalan science. At one in the night of August 17th the militiaman patrol came to the house and took the two Fathers, and let them laying down by the wayside of the road only one kilometer and a half from Vic.
The Father Juan Blanch was passing by Cervera when the outbrake of the revolution took place and took refuge at the house of the Lloses family, the Father´s Agustín, the Lérida Martyr. He was living peaceably with that Christian family, when at ten at night on August 31th the militiaman patrol came and took the Father together with the house owner, who falls down faint between the arms and crying of his dearest wife and the resounding groans of his children. The Father Blanch, in the face of this tragedy, beg in vain: If you want, kill me, but not this poor family man.
Just like that fainted, was dragged by the militiamen the husband and the father down the stairs to the car. Short while, the two corps were burning in the sideway of the road to Barcelona, almost at the beginning of the way to our property of Mas Claret, that we already know.
The day of the Virgen of the Pilar, October 12th, a nice day in Spain, the Blessed Mother wanted to take in to heaven three of her beloved sons, honoured with the palm of martyrdom.
The Father Juan Codich, very pleasant person, and a former missionary in the Chocoana Forest of Colombia, where he lost his health forever and had to return sick to Spain; the young professor Father Miguel Codina, and the Brother José Casals, and excellent religious. The three of them were hosted as refugees in a very Christian home, the home of the Student and Claretian Martyr Jaime Franch. There they used to have a work life and of prayer more than a convent. The reds knew everything and when the patrol came to the house and requested the three Missionaries, the Father Codina gave to one of the family member his watch, pen, eyeglasses but not the Rosary, “because if they kill me, I want to have it intertwine in my hands”. Their corps appeared later on in the road to Barcelona.
The Brother Isidro Costa, a young man of twenty-seven years old, will be a victim of a charming fraternal love, but reckless, and will lose his life on November 11th at the Mas Claret property, in Cervera, that we know well at this time. The blessed Brother was a total beautiful soul. Son of Vic, he used to walking down the farmhouses and houses where a Brother of the Community could be hinding, to help him if needed, to comfort him, to be a moment with him… The image of the most pure brotherly love.
He didn´t supect of the malignancy of the red revolution, and one day on his was geeting ready to go to Cervera to monitor the whereabouts of his brothers at the farm. A member of friendly family from a near small town, wants to convince him not to do so, since is an unreasonable idea, ensuring him that all of them were executed and that only Brother Francisco Bagaría was there in miserable conditions. The love to his Congregation brothers is stronger than the most lementary prudence, and when he was surrounding the farm was recogizeda by some former servants. The Committee was warned, and immediately they sent a vehicle with the militiaman to shut him with their guns at the entrance of the farm.
The Brother Miguel Facerías, venerable old man, was the imge of the perfect religious man. He was a tailor, a farmer, a cook…he was good to do everything, he didn´t refused to do anything, and he performed it well, at the same time all his work was made with incessant prayer. He is admitted at the nursing home of the Josephine Sisters, without any fear he prayed continuosly rosaries to the Virgen and even aloud, for the building up off all, although they required more prudence. Until he had to leave on December and he ended at the rural house of a Christian family, and not to be burdensome, as he was a tailor he ironed and patched clothes, he tailor-make new outfits, sweeping the floors, cutting the wood and still had some time to pasture the small flock.Thanks to information received by a spy, he was taken to the Committee of Vic and on February 22th of 1937, the day of hir birthday when he was turning seventy seven years old, his corpse appeared lying on the road.
The Mother House of the Claretian Congregation adds to his glories to be also the cradle of enlightened martyrs.
In the city of Castro Urdiales, Santander, the Claretian Province of Castilla had a School that ran with love, and also had a Community in San Vicente de la Barquera. Together gave nine martyrs to the Church, although, due to the lack of valid witnesses for the canonization process, we will put the attention on three only.
The city of Castro Urdiales was a beatiful place due to its religiosity, and it was a place free from fear. But the miners in several nearby towns formed radical organizations. At the outbreak of the Revolution on July 18, 1936, the Mayor asked the revolutionaries to respect people, and indeed, the priest remained calm and confident in the School and the Church until August 18, although they had to share the building with about three hundred militants. On that date, they were forced to leave both places, and then started a vandal destruction on everything related to the church and to God. All Fathers and Brothers of the College had to scatter to save their lives.
Fathers Joaquín Gelada and Isaac Carrascal, and Brother Félix Barrio they took refuge in the Asylum of the Sisters Servants of Jesus, because Fathers were chaplains of that place. They settled in the cabin that the guardian and gardener had in the garden. In the Asylum, more than a hundred female children from working families, lived and studied. The study, piety, joy, the most charming bustle had his seat there, and ensured a happy stay for those childrens.
But that honeymoon between Sisters and studentes came to an end. After two months, the the socialist chief of town arrived to the Asylum, enraged: “Nuns in habits yet? Girls who were in the schools have sent to their homes. What about these girls?”
Missionaries had to take extra care. They found out that several of their Community brothers had been shot, and they suspect that they could have the same fate. One day they were surprised by a militiaman who proclaimed loudly: ¡Here they are, here they are…!
The three missionaries were driven to jail on foot among so many people ranting, and the three were chatting friendly with his captors through the streets. On October 14th they were taken out from jail, and loaded onto a car drived by a catholic driver, who was forced to take the missionaries to a previously choosen location. When they arrived to that place, militiamen took them out the car, and then shot them… A Sister of the Asylum asked to a militia for the missionaries, and this was the answer: “Those three…? They are already in Heaven!”.
The criminal said it mockingly. But we know positively that they are fine in Heaven.
In Valencia, the persecution was primed with furious vengeance in all that referred to God. Five Claretian Missionaries (four priests and a brother) gave their lives for Christ, and and now they are part of all the beautiful scenes of martyrdom that our Christian eyes admire.
The Claretian Community of Valencia was of very recent foundation. It had only a year working in an apartment close to the Church of Martyr San Vicente, which our Fathers took care with uplifting priestly zeal. The four priests Marceliano Alonso, José Ignacio Gordon, Tomás Galipienzo and Luis Francés would be crowned with martyrdom, aside from Brother Felix Aguado, who miraculously saved his life, and Brother Santiago Velez, arrested in Barcelona and shot when he had come to take refuge with a brother.
Because the second-floor apartment used by the Community was so common and without any appearance of convent, its inhabitants did not bother to run waway from the outbreak of the Revolution on July 18. The house seemed the safest place. Sunday 19 Father Alonso went to celebrate Mass in a parish church, and just finishing the celebration, the church was burning on all four sides, sprinkling gasoline by mobs. It was a warning, and Fathers did not go out anymore.
However, with twenty six years old, Father Luis Francés accepted the invitation to go to a small town far from the capital, without rail, with simple people orphaned, and with a group of childrens expending their vacations. It looked like a corner of paradise. Until the militiamen from the Capital showed in the place on August 20, looking for a Father of the neighborhood who had gone to Barcelona, but they found Father Francés. He was taken prisoner, and after a few hours, with a strong “Live Christ the King!” on his lips, he fell under the bullets along with the faithful acolyte that every day helped in Mass.
The die was cast from the beginning, and the three Fathers Alonso, Gordón and Galipienzo left the floor on August 10, and together they were to meet the Socialist Committee. The statement and defense before that revolutionary tribunal was useless, it was just a formality. As former Director of the College of Játiva, Father Gordon was interrogated and accused of something that was grotesque: “What about the basement in the College, used to torment childrens?”.
A strong slap on the table, and an energetic protest:
– “Lie! It is an infamous slander that you can check whenever you want”.
Thirty-three years old, Father Gordon had an outstanding personality. He had a tall and slender figure and fine manners revealing the distinction of his lineage. Patrilineal descendant of a noble Scottish family, whom suffered by been Catholic under King Jacob, so they had to migrate to Spain and established in Jerez de la Frontera, where they had matrilineal linked with the Marquis de Irun. As a religious, Father Gordon was an example of detachment, humility and selflessness. He had a kindness and exquisite elegance. When he was still a student of theology, King Alfonso XIII visited the former University of Cervera, and he was assigned to give the welcoming speech. He greatly pleased the Monarch, who called him, asked him who he was, and knowing his name, he said, “What are you doing here?”.
And he answered: “Yes, Your Majesty. But I appreciate more my cassock and my vocation that all titles of nobility that I have because of my family”.
Returning to our story: That night, without “judges” pronouncing any sentence, the three Fathers were before the guns in the splendid and perfumed plain of the Valencian garden. The car lights illuminated the scece, and militants preparing, measuring, point and order: “Walk!”.
Car reflectors went out and they shot. Father Alonso falls dead immediately. Father Gordon was still alive and was pining for a long time: “Ay… good heavens!”… After half an hour of agony, one of the militants came and fired the coup de grace.
– “And where is the other missing?”
Big surprise for murderers. They are looking and looking … all in vain. Father Galipienzo was ahead of bullets fractions of a second and threw on the ground. Crawling millimeter by millimeter, making no noise, holding his breath, he went away enough through the grass, and after fifty meters he felt safe, away from killers and lights. The murderers were leaving angry, but with a clear and loud warning: “Tomorrow we will return and we will give you what you deserve!”.
That night in the life of Father Galipienzo can not be described. After recovered with a peasant family who welcomes him with love, he decided to return to the Capital, dressed as a valencia fisherman.
But forty-eight hours later, he was delivered on prison, after been recognized by one of the killers of that night. On September 1st, he died strafed, with many others, in the firing range of Paterna.
With one hundred and nine (109) beatified today, there are one hundred eighty three (183) Missionaries Claretian Martyrs of the spanish religious persecution of 1936 who have climbed the glory of the altars. Considering eighty-eight (88) more whom not had valid witnesses for a canonical process, they are two hundred seventy-one (271) which reached the palm of martyrdom. The world will not know the eighty-eight martyrs unnamed, but before Jesus Christ for whom they gave their blood, there is no unsung heroes.
In 1868, Father Claret was dying of envy when he knew about the death of Father Francisco Crusats, the first martyr of the Congregation. As in Glory not fit jealousy, let’s say that St. Anthony Mary Claret is truly proud. “Such childrens that I have had!”, he would be thinking…