Jose Vidal Balsells

Vidal, Josep

Born December 5, 1908 in Santa Coloma de Queralt (Tarragona)

Professed August 15, 1935

Shot August 22, 1936 in Naves (Lérida)

 

The Philosophy student José Vidal Balsells was the first martyr of the community of Solsona. He was also the first of the Catholics of the region, in shedding his blood for Jesus Christ. He was born in the village of Santa Coloma de Queralt within the province of Tarragona and Diocese of Vic on December 5, 1908. Jose was the son of Don Antonio Vidal, a postal carrier and Teresa Balsells, a homemaker. He was baptized three days later in the parish Church of Santa Maria and Confirmed on May 6, 1914, by the Diocesan Bishop.

He received a religious and academic formation which was common for this time. In his town, he was an active member of Catholic Action. Before entering the Congregation, he studied in Viladrau in the school of Pharmacy.

When he was 26 years old, he entered the Novitiate of Vic. Beginning in August and the year of trial, he was under the direction of Fr Joseph Arner. At the end of the year, he made his First Profession on August 15, 1935.

On August 26, he moved to Barcelona arriving in the evening. Here he began the course in Logic on October 1. Jose had intellectual qualities, but the fact of not having studied the Humanities was evident during the study of Philosophy.

His intentions were good. He was very pious, hard working and bright. His character was determined. He had fine manners, very friendly and helpful with all.

At the outbreak of the Revolution, the Priests and students were assigned to different houses. Students José Vidal and Eloy Suárez went to the Manor San Miguel de Olius. The next day, they moved to Noguer and then to the parish of Clara for three days. Later, they went to Guillenya, where they spent a week. From there to cal Rial for five days. The following week, they arrived in Les Plans De Besora and here to Naves, where they both would separate. José Vidal would go to Grifé. The main reasons for so many change was the fear of being discovered and they didn’t want to cause problems for the houses which could better distribute the refugees.

In all the houses where they arrived, they behaved as a good religious, teaching catechism to the children and helping in the house, such as sweeping corrals and caring for the livestock. Their conversations were pious and charitable and preferably on Catholic Action in which they had fought actively. With regard to the persecutors, they claimed that they had to have the same spirit of Jesus Christ: to forgive. This caused some friendly discussions.

He had no fear of death. He said that he accepted martyrdom as a special grace from God, and that the only thing that sadden him would be to leave his aged parents. For this reason, after renewing the vows August 15th, in Rotes in the presence of Fr Codinachs, he asked permission to go to visit his parents, thinking he would find safe refuge and it was granted. The distance to Santa Coloma de Queralt was considerable, but he undertook the trip. He arrived in the vicinity of the Pines, but the alarms and gunfire made him hesitant and two days later he returned to Naves. Passing by Les Plans, he came to Manso Grifé, where he stayed until his death.

Not satisfied with this setback, he wrote a letter to his parents, who were looking for him. The letter unfortunately fell into the hands of the Committee of Santa Coloma de Queralt, who went to look for him. A group of four militiants of Santa Coloma and three from Solsona, captained by Xandri were present in Les Plans. With the letter in hand, they arrived at the house of Mr. Domingo Casafort, who showed him the letter saying that they came to look for him to take him home. In that Jose wasn’t there, Mr. Domingo accompanied them to cal Grifé, of Naves.

According to Mr. Domingo: “seeing Mr. Vidal come to his home with a group of armed men, he was afraid and went to the forest. Realizing that I accompanied them and with confidence that with my word nothing would happen, he presented himself.

By the Committee saying that they would accompany him to his home, he was joyful.”

When he arrived, he told Xandri:

Were you hiding?

Nothing of the sort, he answered him.

Don’t believe, answered Xandri, it isn’t very secure to run.

Among the militias of Santa Coloma were some who knew Jose Vidal and greeting each other shaking hands and even hugging one of them, because he had been told that they came to take him home. He didn’t suspect anything, like Mr. Jose Argerich, a friend from Grifé because they were presented in a welcoming way, and were dressed in civilian clothes and didn’t seem to carry weapons, although those from Solsona circled the house so he couldn’t escape. Mr. José Argerich adds:

“They didn’t say any blasphemy nor spoke evil of Religion nor of the priests.

Mr. Vidal appeared to be very much at ease with them, because he believed that he was going to his home.

When he walked out of my house no one accompanied him. Mr. Vidal went with them.”

After greeting the Committee, he went to his room to change his clothes, but the Committee told him to hurry so as not to arrive too late, and even went up to his room to check if he actually changed his clothes. They also asked if there were others of its region who were traveling with him.

Mr. Vidal said goodbye until the end of the war, saying:

Adios! When I’m at home, I will write.

The Committee of Santa Coloma accompanied Mr. Vidal to the site called Creu of Pantiner, where they had left the car, about a kilometer from the house. They boarded the car and started in the direction of Berga, not towards Santa Coloma de Queralt, and at Km. #11, in front of the house of Torrecanuda he was shot around 9:00 or 10”00 at night of August 22, 1936. His body was found, with his right hand over his chest and pelted by a bullet, and the left extended vertically. Apparently, the one that kill him was a neighbor of his parents. The shots were nine or ten and heard by the inhabitants of Torrecanuda who found the body on the road the next day. He was buried in the cemetery of Naves. On May 12, 1939, his remains were transferred to the cemetery of Solsona. A simple cross recalls the place of his glorious martyrdom bears the following inscription:

Here he gave the highest witness of love for Jesus Christ.

Here in the middle of the road 22-VIII-1936.