GREGORY EZEOKEKE (West Nigeria)

Our father founder St Anthony Mary Claret lived with a passionate desire of dying a martyr. Our Congregation has also been blessed by the testimony of the martyrs of Barbastro and others like Andrés Solá etc. In the next couple of days, we will also be blessed with the beatification of 109 other brothers who died for their faith in different parts of Spain during the Spanish civil war. As a Claretian, it is difficult to remain indifferent in the face of such resounding testimonies of faith by those who share not just the same faith but also the same religious profession and charism. For me, the meaning of the coming beatification has numerous aspects and the first is an emotional one which is based on the knowledge that I have a historical link with these men; they lived and died as Claretians and today I am a Claretian. I am person who lives with a historical legacy they have left. A legacy made even more beautiful and intense by such an outstanding testimony of followership which our religious profession, by its very nature, invites us to live in a most radical sense and manner. The second aspect of my feeling is spiritual. It is so because the blood of martyrs is considered a seed of faith. In other words, the testimony these 109 men left us is not only a historical relic that should only be considered an epic of heroism. It is more! Their martyrdom invites us to a choice and that choice is not a banal one. It is a choice to dig deep into my person and ask very fundamental questions relating to how deeply I believe in Jesus, how radically I am prepared to follow him and how much of a sacrifice I am prepared to make for that. In other words, a contemplation of their lives is a call to push the very limits of my spiritual and even psychological strength to be a good Claretian. Anything less is not enough!