Spanish Civil War of 1936 is a horrible memory especially for the church and the religion. So many religious or priests, nuns and lay people who gave shelter to the priests were mercilessly killed only because they were priests and nuns. They destroyed churches, convents, burnt all the holy articles and books, desecrated holy places, etc. They said we must put an end to this race of people. In Vic one of the armed man said “How many times have I wanted to put an end to this bad weed, and haven’t been able! But this time, we will make sure.”
The martyrs who will be beatified in October come from the communities of Barcelona (8), Castro Urdiales (3), Cervera-Mas Claret (60), Lérida (11), Sabadell (8), Vic-Sallent (15) and Valencia (4). Heading this numerous group of martyrs appear three names: Mateu Casals (Priest), Teófilo Casajús (Student) and Fernando Saperas (Brother). They symbolise the diversity of vocations in our Congregation (cf. CC7). In the group there are 49 priests, 31 brothers and 29 students, with an average age of 39. Catalans, Navarros, Aragoneses, Castillians, all sharing a common religious profession and a great love of our Congregation. Except for two, who died in 1937, all were martyred in the latter months of 1936.
There are so many aspects of martyrs life which are not included here, for example the life of virtues, obedience, poverty, fidelity to their vocation, precaution and prudence applied in their life, Spirit of humility, different ministries, lay people who died just because they gave shelter to our martyrs etc. It is not possible to include all these aspects in 9 days of novena prayers. Only some important aspects of their life are taken for our reflection.
Lord our God in the designs of your adorable kindness you predestined 109 Claretians to be martyrs for your sake and bestowed them with special gifts of graces, so that they may become the model of sanctity in those different states of the Christian life. We praise you and we give you thanks mainly for the treasures of virtues that you deposited in their souls, above all with a strong faith to give up their life for your sake. Grant us the grace to follow their examples and to imitate their virtues, and especially we (I) request you during this Novena meditation to grant us your protection through the powerful intercession of those 109 Claretian martyrs. We (I) also pray through the Immaculate Heart Mary of whose glory and mercy made them strong in their faith. Amen.
BIBLICAL TEXT FOR REFLECTION
The Jews then disputed among themselves, saying, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” So Jesus said to them, “Very truly, I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood have eternal life, and I will raise them up on the last day; for my flesh is true food and my blood is true drink. Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me, and I in them. Just as the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever eats me will live because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven, not like that which your ancestors ate, and they died. But the one who eats this bread will live forever.” He said these things while he was teaching in the synagogue at Capernaum.
For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.” For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.
So then, whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord. Everyone ought to examine themselves before they eat of the bread and drink from the cup. For those who eat and drink without discerning the body of Christ eat and drink judgment on themselves. That is why many among you are weak and sick, and a number of you have fallen asleep. But if we were more discerning with regard to ourselves, we would not come under such judgment. Nevertheless, when we are judged in this way by the Lord, we are being disciplined so that we will not be finally condemned with the world.
The martyrs’ life was centered around the Eucharist. Fr. Jaume Giron, from the community of Cervera, very sensitive to the social movements and the Eucharist, has left us some memorable words that bring martyrdom, Eucharist and social commitment together: “I am always prepared to give my life for God. At Mass, each day I prepare and offer myself as a victim so that the Heavenly Father may be served. Each day I pray for the one who is going to kill me. So much have I loved and done for the workers and it will be a worker who will kill me”.
Fr. Julio Leache, (27) from Navarra, assassinated at the farmstead Mas Claret, clarified the true motives for martyrdom: “If they want to kill us, I would want it to be only for God, or rather, that they kill me celebrating, administering the sacraments or praying. But not for other human or political reasons. If they kill us as fascists, it has little grace or little merit, as there are fascists of every colour. But if they kill us for saying Mass or for being Catholics, this is meritorious before God, this is to be martyrs”.
Bro. Ramon Roca Buscalla (48) Although Ramon was worried about what was happening, he wasn’t afraid of death and neither said anything about the persecutors. When he arrived at Mas Claret, he exclaimed: Thank God, I will be able to hear Mass and receive communion!
Seminarian Peter Caball Junca (22), in February 1932 wrote: “………To constantly ask Jesus and the Mother Mary to increase more and more the faith in my heart so that I can publicly confess, even shedding my blood if it’s his Divine blessing; every day in the Sacred Communion I will offer to Jesus as a victim of expiation and I ask especially for the strength to be faithful even at the cost of my life if necessary……..”
Fr.Juan Busquets Llúcia (68) in the home of his friend Father Maroto had asked the Holy See permission to celebrate Mass with a decent glass and not a chalice were not granted until August 22, three days before he would die. There was eagerness to celebrate mass and receive communion everyday if possible. At that time they were celebrating mass in the houses and looking for the possibility to celebrating mass.
Fr Galipienzo dressed up as fishermen, they set out on the journey to Valencia as they arrived at dusk and the young man took him to the same boarding house near his home. In this pension he continued to celebrate Mass, which is why he refused to change to another more secure pension, where he wouldn’t be able to celebrate. He preferred to celebrate Mass for his personal safety.
July 21, 1936 Fr. Casto Navarro Martínez (31), got the news that the Convent in Vic was burning. The next day, he showed his disappointment for not being able to celebrate Mass or praying the Divine Office. They were feeling pain in the heart when they could not celebrate mass. They had given at most importance to the celebration. He celebrated mass on the feast of St. James having taken all possible precautions, but it proved to be problematic.
Jaime Girón Puigmitja said: “Every day I pray in the Holy Mass for the one who has to be my executioner.” “Every Mass I celebrate it seems to me that it’s the last. I always do a special remembrance to save those who have to be my executioners. From now on I forgive them from the heart.”
Fr. Jacinto Blanch Ferrer (51) could not live without celebrating Eucharist. Always ready to celebrate the Mass, even if he was sick. In fact, Dr. Bofill recalls an anecdote by Fr. Jacinto. “While I was traveling and with little free time, I went to a chapel near the station. I called out but no one was there. I saw the altar prepared with the chalice and other things for Mass. I celebrated Mass and left the chalice on the altar and the other ornaments. Then I returned to the station and continued on my journey.”
Fr. Gumersindo Valtierra Alonso (60) he took refuge with Fr. Jacinto Blanch at the home of Don Eugenio Bofill. Despite the fact that the situation was so delicate and critical, the Father wanted to celebrate the Mass. One of the sisters had to take them to the Little Sisters of the Poor because it was a safe place. He said: “Since my ordination I have never ceased to celebrate Mass until this day.”
The tabernacle and the Blessed Sacrament was the home where the spiritual life of St. Anthony Mary Claret was formed and continually lit his love for God and his zeal for the souls. For this frequently he visited Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament, passed longer time meditating his love, celebrated the sacred Mass fervently and in a thousand ways practiced devotion of the Blessed Sacrament. Our martyrs lived the same Eucharistic life of our founder. Always they were longing to celebrate mass. When they were dispersed from the community, secretly they carried chalice to celebrate Mass if any possibility was opened. They took all the precaution to remove the Blessed Sacrament from the church and place it in a secret place so that the militants don’t desecrate them. As they were escaping from their place if possible they always carried with them blessed sacrament so that they can consume every day after the prayer.
Is the Holy Eucharist center of my religious life? Has it become source and energy of my life, my ministry and the mission? Do I frequently visit Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament?
INVOCATIONS FOR EVERY DAY
- Glorious Claretian martyrs, faithful servants of the church: help us to come closer, to the holy Catholic Church and to an unshakable fidelity to all its teachings and precepts.
Our Father, Hail Mary and Glory be to the father…….
- Glorious Claretian martyrs, Apostles of the Holy Virgin: help us to come closer to the devotion of Immaculate Heart, and by means of her the salvation of our souls.
Our Father, Hail Mary and Glory be to the father…….
- Glorious Claretian martyrs who were faithful to St. Anthony Mary Claret and the charism of Claretian Congregation: help us to have a burning love towards Jesus, to follow his steps until the summit of the Christian perfection.
Our Father, Hail Mary and Glory be to the father…….
- Pray for us, Claretian martyrs.
- So that we may become worthy of those promises of Jesus Christ.
Almighty God, by whose grace and power your 109 Claretian holy martyrs triumphed over suffering and were faithful unto death: strengthen us with your grace, that we may endure reproach and persecution and faithfully bear witness to the name of Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who is alive and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.