Born September 11, 1869 in Villanueva de Araquil (Navarra)
Professed April 11, 1898
Shot September 1, 1936 in Su (Lérida)
The second martyr representing the large community of Solsona is Brother Julian Villanueva Olza, who was born on September 11, 1869 in the village of Villanueva de Araquil, within the Diocese of Pamplona. His parents are Mariano, a laborer and Micaela a homemaker. On the day of the birth, he was taken to the parish Church of San Martin to receive the Sacrament of Baptism. He received the Sacrament of Confirmation on August 27, 1878, from the Bishop of Pamplona.
He was 28 years old when he entered the Novitiate of Cervera in 1897. He would begin his Novitiate on April 19th, and after a year would make his First Profession on April 11, 1898, the second day after Easter.
He had excellent qualities for working and was a man of the utmost confidence. He had a profound spiritual perspective, and yet a asset of his personality was being a good joker. He also possessed sufficient instruction. In Cervera, he ministry would be the office of cook.
America: In the beginning of the year 1900, he was already in Santiago, Chile. Five years later he would be sent to Antofagasta, Chile. In 1911, he was assigned to Valparaiso and then to Curico.
His return to Spain in 1921. Once again he would be assigned to Cervera. Three years later his assignment was the community of Vic. The following triennium would be to Solsona. Vic again in 1931, and the following year, 1932, to Solsona. This would be his final destination with the charge of shoemaker until they closed the house.
On the evening of July 21, 1936, he was evicted from the house and immediately went to the Manso de Viladot, property of Don Ramon Viladrichs which was located in the parish of Brichs. The Manso had a chapel. Other Claretian also took refuge on the property. Every day he heard Mass and Communion. He also prayed various parts of the Rosary with the family, always on his knees. Along with the other missionaries, he followed the pious acts established by the Rule for the Community. There was also his private devotions. He saw the persecutors as enemies of the Church who acted under pressure from the Freemasons and Communist. On a retreat day the spoke of martyrdom. The Brother said that if the case would arise, God would help in a special way. There were occasions where he expressed the desire for martyrdom. He had no fear of death.
During his time at the Masia, the Brother worked doing cleaning, cutting firewood and helping in the threshing. The militia made several visits to the farmhouses of the parish of Brichs. Towards the middle of August, Elijah, alias the Caria, went to Viladot. Two or three militiants destroyed the altar and burned the images from the chapel. When passing through and seeing Brother Villanueva with four or five students, Caria asked:
Who are you?
We are threshing, he responded.
You look different. Surely you are students of the friars.
And who are you? Asked the Brother.
He wasn’t a man of ambiguities, he answered: what
I am a religious, and even more from Navarro. You can kill me, but my desire is to be a martyr. Before God we will see face to face.
The other, acting like a Bully because of the weapon he wielded, wanted to humiliate the Brother with the classic litany of profanity and let out his insults like a mantra of the laziness of the friars.
As the Brother went off with all vividness:
Well you have to know that I in my house had it good; and, however, in my forty years as a religious I have always lived my work and I’ve earned my bread.
And taking advantage of the opportunity presented the heartless, pointing at the finger and feet of some of them:
And those shoes your wearing, I made them.
So it was in effect. The Brother, the shoemaker of the college, had a good supply of new shoes for the students that summer, in case they be transferred to Cervera. Everything had been in the stock room of the school which was plundered by the militia, stealing everything.
Then the militia, in not having a word to stand on resorted to threats. But neither managed to frighten the Brother and he said in a firm voice:
I’m not afraid of you. Neither you nor your rifle. You can kill me, if you want to, but I am not afraid, because there is another Judge before whom we will see face to face.
That same afternoon, some 15 individuals in the Community, housed in the three neighboring houses of the Viladot, of Rotes and Gudai, met in the forest and heard the story of what happened and said from the mouth of the Brother. This type of meetings in which they heard Mass, the prayers of the community and had their talks, were possible until the third week of August. Circumstances didn’t permit such meetings, so each received a pocket mirror that carried the consecrated Communion. Each group of students had a priest to guide them and attended to them spiritually. The refugees in other regions were not as lucky.
Brother Villanueva was in Viladot from when the community was expelled and seemed to impress everyone. From this event, he moved to the neighboring Masia of Rotes. The Committee of Solsona also visited Mr. Albareda and the missionaries were able to escape into the forest. Brother Villanueva was with them. The fugitives had planned to stay several days in the forest until the storm passed. In that the Brother was 67 years old and brave, he couldn’t move as easily. The Superior, Fr Codinachs, instructed the Brother return to the Manso de Viladot, at the request of the owners. On the evening of September 1, 1936 he arrived. An hour later, the Committee arrived looking for the Brother and met with the student José Casajus Alduán, but the purpose of the militia was the Brother, and they said:
That old man, yes, you know him.
I believe so, but I don’t know, he replied.
They continued to take an interest in the religious Brother and the Religious daughter from the house. He said he was upstairs, with the intention of avoiding a registration. As the Brother didn’t have time to escape, the family advised him to lie down on the bed, as if he were sick and maybe they would show compassion. The militiants went upstairs and found him. They didn’t care dragging him down violently. The women of the house asked the militia where they were taking him and what were they going to do with him. Two individuals replied that it was a matter of time, to clarify who were these detained individuals and that they would see him in five minutes. But they put him in jail. Brother Villanueva didn’t open his mouth all this time. When he was led out between the two, the student offered to take his place but the militia did not accept and told him to leave.
They drove the Brother on the road from Solsona to Cervera. It was close to the Manso Viladrich. There began to insult him in the usual way with words and deeds. They asked why he had so much money because he had a few pesetas. The Brother replied that he was going on a trip.
The trip should be very long, they said.
I guess eternity, he answered.
They continued to mistreat him with the intention of obtaining a declaration of the objects of value and the money from the Community. What they found was not enough for their tastes or they were swayed by the propaganda against the Church. The abuse was brutal, terrible blows, that the brother ever cried:
Oh God, that’s enough!
In the car, they took him to a field of cal Vendrell about two kilometers away, next to the road that goes to Pinos, near the Km. #11. Before shooting him, he was stripped and made to dig a pit. Brother Villanueva asked that as a favor, would they return the rosaries and crucifix reliquary of Father Claret? The murderers agreed. He knelt down and began to pray, because he was convinced that they were going to kill him. When he finished praying, he hung the rosaries and the crucifix around his neck and with hands together prayed. He was willingly to give his life for God and the por souls. Another important point is that he forgave his killers. They shot several times; one to the chest, another under one eye, the other behind the ear, another was lost. The main gunman was Mariano Viladrich. The time of execution was the 10:00 on the night of September 1, 1936.
The killers, once the Brother was dead, referring to the rosaries around his neck, said:
“This must be the Passport,” an allusion to the long journey that he had spoken about.
The same murderers buried him in the pit excavated superficially in the field of El Vendrell. The people were going at night to venerate the martyr and pray at his grave. On May 8, 1939, he was exhumed and transferred to the cemetery of Solsona next to the body of the student José Vidal. In addition there were some buttons, the rubber soles, pieces of the Rosaries, the crucifix and some medals.
A simple wooden cross is the reminder of the place of his death with his name. The following epitaph:
He died here preaching his Catholic faith.