MISSIONARIES TO THE END
Circular Letter on the Beatification of the 109 Claretian Martyrs
“Look to the rock from which you were hewn, to the pit from which you were quarried” (Is 51, 1)
“This is how we know what love is: he gave his life for us. We, too, ought to give our life for our brothers and sisters” (1 Jn 3, 16)
May our Lord Jesus Christ fill our hearts with the fullness of his love and lead us to give our life for our brothers and sisters!
- Our missionary vocation is hewn from the same rock from which the vocation of our Founder and the heroic martyrs was he Our consecration to the Lord is the key to understand and live the mystery of life, suffering, persecution and death, embracing them with love and placing them at the service of life. Just like them – our Founder and our martyrs – we must also be ‘missionaries to the end’ like He who ‘having loved his own, he loves them to the end’ (Jn 13: 1). History has enriched our charism with the blood of many martyrs who proclaimed that there is no greater love than to give your life for your friends (cf. Jn 15: 13).
- On 22 December 2016, Pope Francis approved the beatification of our 109 martyrs that will take place on 21 October in the Holy Family Basilica in Barcelona in a ceremony to be presided over by Cardinal Angelo Amato, Prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints. 81 years have passed since the events that provoked the assassination of more than two hundred of our brothers during the Spanish Civil War. The Church now recognises the heroic witness of many of them. Without forgetting any, we welcome this acknowledgement with profound gratitude. Through this event, the Church confirms the Gospel validity of the sacrifice of our brother martyrs as well as the fruitfulness of the Claretian charism in the Church.
- With this letter addressed to the priests, deacons, brothers, students and novices of our Congregation, I invite all of you to live this event with faith and joy, in communion with the whole Claretian Family and with the entire Churc It doesn’t just mean preparing for the ceremony that will take place in Barcelona this October, but rather to welcome this grace as a new stimulus that God grants to us at this time to be what we are called to be: ‘witnesses (or rather, martyrs) and messengers of the joy of the Gospel’. Our martyrs are a living document that clearly shows us what this vocation consists of and we must read it with attention and docility. By the grace of God, they endorsed their religious profession with their own blood. We are also called to confirm it every day with the witness of a joyful and committed missionary life.
A new stage in our martyrial history
- On 25 October 1992, the 51 martyrs of Barbastro were beatified in Rome by John Paul II in Rome. Four days after the beatification in Barcelona it will be the 25th anniversary of that happy event. The fact that they were the first group of Claretians to be beatified, after the canonization of St. Anthony Mary Claret in 1950, and that it involved a ‘martyr seminary’, it made a great impact in the life of our Congregation. The film A Forbidden God (2014) has brought the story to many places of the world, beyond ecclesial circles. The Superior General at the time, Fr. Aquilino Bocos, helped us to live that event with his Circular Letter ‘Missionary Testament of our Martyrs’. In that letter, he affirmed that ‘in our brother Martyrs we contemplate the paradigm of what we are called to be, that is, sons of the Heart of Mary, from the Magnificat to Calvary’. He presented them as a community with mysticism and missionary enthusiasm, urged on by love and forgiveness, concerned about the marginalized of their time, and with an attitude of dying joyfully. He ended his Letter by asking: What are we going to do so as not to let their fire go out? He responded with seven suggestions which we can make our own again on this occasion: 1) To grow in the conviction that the Holy Spirit is and should be accepted as the protagonist of mission; 2) To valiantly and generously undertake the missionary urgencies of our Congregation; 3) To create a collective environment of availability in persons and in institutions; 4) To make witness our most powerful weapon; 5) To re-live with a new heart our belonging to the Congregation; 6) To commit ourselves to the growth of our Congregation in both quality and quantity; and 7) To learn how to die happy.
- Thirteen years later, on 20 November 2005, in Guadalajara, Mexico, F Andres Sola Molist was beatified. He was a Claretian Missionary from Catalonia who was assassinated on the 25 April 1927 at the San Joaquin Ranch, close to the city of Leon in Mexico. The Superior General at that time, Fr. Josep Maria Abella, spoke, in his Circular Letter, of ‘a memory that challenges us’. This challenge can be recapped in four points: 1) To reaffirm our option for Jesus and for the Kingdom; 2) To be available for the mission, accepting all the consequences; 3) To evangelize in shared mission; 4) In the year of the Eucharist. History continues to move on. On 13 October 2013, in Tarragona, Spain, 23 more of our brothers were beatified, the Claretian martyrs of Sigüenza, Fernán Caballero and Tarragona. Also at this time the same Superior General wrote the Circular Letter ‘Missionary Martyrs’. In it, besides recalling the story of the martyrs, he invited us to ‘keep their memory alive’ condensed into three key words: Fidelity, Availability and Fraternity.
- The tradition of martyrdom in our Congregation has been an incessant reality, beginning with our Founder. His ardent desire to shed his blood for Christ expressed his longing to configure himself with Christ, the missionary, handed over on the cross. He expressed this to Fr. Xifre when he learned of the martyrdom of Fr. Francisco Crusats, “I wanted very much to be the first martyr of the Congregation, but I have not been worthy, someone else has won that honour” (EC II, 1297-1298). This was not an isolated incident, but rather the strong conviction that arose from the passion and radical nature with which Claret lived at different periods of his life. When the effects of the Carlist War made his apostolic travels around Catalonia difficult, the Archbishop of Tarragona wanted to protect him from the dangers, nevertheless, the response of Fr. Claret was blunt: “Your excellency, this in no way frightens me or holds me back. Send me anywhere in your diocese and I’ll go there gladly, even if I knew that the road was lined with two rows of murderers waiting for me with daggers drawn, I would gladly walk on. My gain would be to die at the hands of those who hate Jesus Christ” (Aut 466). We also know of his spiritual joy when he had the occasion to shed his blood in Holguin (cfr. Aut 577). In Madrid, he lived a constant martyrdom for 12 years because of the slanders, persecutions and assassination attempts coming from politicians who wanted to, but were unable to, manipulate him. In the end, hounded by his enemies, he took refuge in a monastery in the south of France where he died almost in the way he had wanted to: “I have always wanted to die a poor man in some hospital, or on the scaffold as a martyr” (Aut 467). The persecutions and calumnies that he suffered were the consequence of his commitment to proclaim the Gospel and to defend the cause of the weakest and defenceless. This strength did not come from his personal courage but rather as the fruit of a long process of spiritual maturation founded on a total trust in God, which remains reflected in the grace he received in 1857. “The Lord told me both for myself and for all these missionary companions of mine, you yourselves will not be the speakers; the Spirit of your Father and of your Mother will be speaking in you” (Aut 687).
- We shall not forget so many of our brothers who have not yet been beatified but who finished their missionary journey with martyrdom. Besides the already mentioned protomartyr of our Congregation, Fr. Fransico Crusats (+1868), we remember the other 88 Claretians who suffered martyrdom in the Spanish Civil War of 1936. In our martyrial tradition we have also Fr. Rhoel Gallardo (+2000) who was killed in the south of the Philippines. We can see that the reality of martyrdom is part of our missionary charism. It is true that not all of us are called to live the grace of a bloody martyrdom, but we all must convert our daily fidelity into a radical witness to our faith. For us, remembering our martyrs is not just having memories of a past event, but it means uniting ourselves in the same spirit of joyful commitment to a life in mission; we will not flee from the trials and difficulties that come to us. The Spirituality Congress at Majadahonda (1999) reminded us about this martyrial spirit that ought not be lacking in our missionary life: “On the horizon of the life of an authentic missionary there is always the possibility of martyrdom, a serious case of dedication, of charity, of the confession of faith and of the proclamation of hope. Martyrdom is a gift. And it has always been recognized as such. It is a gift for the martyr and also for the community and the Congregation. It is a paradoxical gift, but real. We can flee from it beforehand, if we elude danger, if we seek security, if we avoid every type of risk. Martyrdom on the horizon gives a special hue to the missionary life”. (Our Spirituality on the Spiritual Path of the People of God, p. 46).
109 signs from God for our time
- 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 Ferran Saperas (Brother). They symbolise the diversity of vocations in our Congregation (c 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.
- On the web page that has been created for the beatification (ww109cmf.org) can be found a biography of each of them and various accounts of their martyrdom. I invite you to get in touch with the history so that their witness does not get diluted by a generic or hazy recollection, but rather have the flesh of concrete persons. Behind this number – 109 – there are individual faces and names, stories that must not fall into oblivion, signs through which God continues speaking to us today. What better stimulus for our missionary commitment than the weight of the story, told with gratitude and interpreted in the light of faith?
- It is impossible to summarize here the life trajectory and the ending of each one of our 109 brothers. I would like to evoke, at least, the witness of some of them as an invitation to come closer to their lives. Bro. Ferran Saperas, who was so tested in his chastity, but before being executed he pronounced some words which continue to reverberate today: “Kill me whenever you want, but this no, never! I am a virgin and a virgin I will remain”. His memory is very much alive in the Christian community of Tarrega. Fr. Jaume Giron, from the community of Cervera, very sensitive to the social movements and trade unions with the workers, 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”.
- F 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”. Months earlier, the student Adolfo de Esteban, in a letter written to his father on the 10 May states with clarity the motive for his possible martyrdom: “Don’t have any fear for my fortune, if necessary I have decided to shed my blood for the cause of Jesus Christ”. What moved them was not a political ideal but rather the person of Jesus. These words of our brothers come from their missionary commitment to the end. The formation they had received had prepared them for this. All were inspired by the definition of a son of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, whose ideal is ‘to imitate Jesus in praying, working and suffering’.
- What continues to fill us with consolation is that all of them made pardon their response to the animosity they face Fr. Jaume Payas, martyred in Sallent, openly declared that they die without hatred, forgiving their executioners: “I forgive all those who wish me ill and I give them an embrace of friendship, I hold no resentment towards anyone, nor to those who have hurled me in the house like a dog; they also did it to You”. The elderly Fr. Josep Reixach, addressing the militia, with his body bathed in blood, said to them: “If it was you who fired the shots at me, I forgive you from my heart. I want to die like Jesus who also forgave those who had just sacrificed him”. Bro. Julian Villanueva, before dying prayed on his knees saying: “Know that death has no fear for me. I offer my life for God and for souls. I forgive you this crime that you are going to commit against me and I ask the Divine Mercy to accept my blood for your salvation”. Fr. Emili Bover died in the cemetery of Cervera on 20 August exclaiming: “I forgive you from my heart for the love of God”. We find similar expressions in many others. It is as if they had all, some time before, made their own the words of Jesus: ‘Father, forgive them for they know not what they do’. (Lk 23: 34).
Do I know well enough the story of our brother martyrs? What can I do to increase my knowledge and to get to know the witness of our brothers?
What attitudes of our martyrs challenge me more personally?
How is my missionary life affected by the news that many Christians continue to be martyred today for their faith in many parts of the world? What response do I give to this fact?
Witnesses of reconciliation and pardon
- We live in a world beset with violence and influenced by different ideologies and realities contrary to the value of Life and the Gospel. There are many symptoms in our society that speak of a culture of dea As missionaries, we are sent to live and work in the middle of this reality, trying to be witnesses of Jesus even at the risk of our own life. In our day, we encounter vulnerable situations in Nigeria, the Philippines, India, Colombia, Venezuela and many other places. Sometimes we have also been victims of violence and hatred. We are at risk each time we refuse to enter into the dynamic of greed and power, and choose to be faithful to the Gospel. The suffering of the missionaries cannot be understood in any other way than the logic of the Gospel.
- The essential historical analysis does not blur, but rather contextualizes, the unequivocal witness of our 109 missionaries. They lived in a society torn apart by strong confrontations between factions, but they were not militants of any political party but men (for the most part rather young) who had consecrated themselves to God and who, when the time came, did not hesitate to confess their faith, even at the cost of their lives. They could have saved themselves from martyrdom if they were to allow themselves be led by their fears or if they had made concessions to the demands of their executioners. Nevertheless, they chose to give a response of faith, trusting in God. In fluid times like ours, their firm stand of faith in Christ before an impending death disarms our defenses and moves us to be faithful in our commitment. With the grace of God, it is always possible to be faithful to Jesus, however difficult the circumstances may be. We are called to be valiant witnesses amidst many trials and contradictions. Each time and place has its own challenges. Only the forgiveness and love of God can help us transcend the traps of hatred or bigoted fascination that many ideologies tend to provoke.
- I know that not everyone sees things in the same way. Some of you have expressed to me your fears that the beatification of our brothers could be misinterpreted or even used as a banner by certain g We are aware that a war is always a failure of humanity. Thousands of people suffered the consequences of the Spanish Civil War. Many families have never been able to know the whereabouts of their loved ones. A layer of silence covers stories of human beings who were assassinated in deplorable circumstances. Many ask if there is any sense in beatifying a few when for many others nothing is remembered. Does not this a beatification mean reopening old wounds that appeared to have healed? These are relevant questions that we need to confront serenely and with courage, without fear of the truth which makes us free. These questions help us to understand better the historical context which produced the martyrdom of our brothers and, above all, to clarify its authentic Christian significance.
- The beatification of a few does not mean – nor should it mean – an affront to the re All the dead of a war, independent of religious creed or political affiliation, have the right to be remembered and interred with dignity as human beings. Whatever effort in this direction, will help a genuine reconciliation. But a beatification is not just a pious duty, a friendly commemoration or a social homage comparable to paying tribute to a famous personage. A beatification of a martyr, in the Christian sense, means testifying that a person (or several as in this present case) has been killed for confessing Jesus Christ, for odium fidei, according to the expression used by the Church. It is not just being faithful to human ideals, however noble they appear, but rather, and above all, confessing Jesus Christ. And besides, it requires that the martyr (that is to say, the witness) died without hatred, forgiving his executioner. The badly named jihadist martyrs of our day, for example, also die for their ideals, but they do not do it for love and forgiving, rather the opposite: they die as victims of their hatred and killing many innocent people. The difference is obvious, although they call on the name of God. In the case of our brothers, they, in the style of Jesus, were able to break the spiral of social violence, in which their executioners tried to implicate them. They, in their heart consecrated to God, managed to transform the power of violence into love and pardon for their enemies, and into ardent prayer for peace and reconciliation of the country.
- These two elements (confession of Jesus Christ and pardon for their executioners) are heroically present in the case of our latest blessed It is true that at times one is left perplexed before the cruelty with which they were treated, but their courageous and enthusiastic response draws our attention much more. The missionaries were aware of the risk they ran. Prudently, they sought to save themselves, but when they were captured, in no case did they renounce their faith, despite the fact that on many occasions they were promised liberty if they did so. Is not such fortitude as this admirable? Is it possible that we, their brothers forget these stories of fidelity? After a long process of investigation in which several of our brothers have worked with patient dedication, the Church has acknowledged the authenticity of their martyrial witness. They are not the only ones, but in them the witness of all shines forth. To celebrate it does not mean going against anyone, not even against those who assassinated them or justified their death. A beatification is always a celebration of faith and of pardon, not of judgement or revenge. Therefore, it always has meaning. It is not a settling of accounts with the past, but is rather forward-looking. We are only able to live together when we learn to respect and pardon each other.
- The martyrs, in conformity with Christ, are witnesses of pardon and reconciliation, and builders of peace. Both experiences are essential for living as brothers in our plural soc Stories like these show us that, even in extreme circumstances, there are human beings who know how to pardon because they themselves feel infinitely pardoned by God. They are people who echo the words of Jesus: ‘Go and do likewise’ (Lk 10: 37). Today also, some of you are living in situations of persecution and trial for the sake of the Gospel. Our Congregation does not forget you. The testimony and intercession of our martyrs will strengthen you to give your best response as a disciple of the Risen Lord.
What trials do I experience as a believer and as a missionary in the context in which I live?
How am I facing up to these trials?
How can I contribute in a concrete way to be a worker for peace and reconciliation in my environment?
Without saints, there is no future
- With regard to the fruitfulness of life, Jesus teaches us: “Unless the grain of wheat falls to the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it produces much fruit” (Jn 12: 24). The Fathers of the Church knew the value of martyrdom, for the future of Christianity: “the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church” (Tertulian). Our future lacks hope when humans lose the good odour of Christ (c 2 Cor 2: 15) which is holiness. The witness of the martyrs nourishes our life of commitment in the present and helps us to hope in a future founded on the rock of Gospel values. (cf. Mt 7: 25). The Lord gives us the grace to share in the redemption of the world. Our brother martyrs have shared in this mystery in a particular way (cf. Col 1: 24).
- Some months ago, Pope Francis, in a Liturgy of the Word remembering the Christian martyrs of the 20th and 21st centuries, said:
‘A martyr can be thought of as a hero, but the fundamental thing about a martyr is that he or she was “graced”: it is the grace of God, not courage, that makes us martyrs. Today, in the same way one could ask: “What does the Church need today?”. Martyrs, witnesses, namely, everyday saints. Because the Church is led forward by saints. Saints: without them, the Church can no longer go forth. The Church needs everyday saints, those of ordinary life carried out with coherence; but she also needs those who have the courage to accept the grace to be witnesses to the end, unto death. All those are the living blood of the Church. They are the witnesses who lead the Church forward; those who attest that Jesus is Risen, that Jesus lives, and affirm it with coherence of life and with the strength of the Holy Spirit which they have been given’. (Homily of Pope Francis in the Basilica of St. Bartholomew on the Tiber Island, Rome, 22 April 2017).
- Every time we celebrate the holiness of one of our brothers, we remember that each one of us have been called to be saints, even at the risk of being misunderstood. The objective of our Congregation is clear: “to seek in all things the glory of God, the sanctification of our members and the salvation of people throughout the world, in keeping with our missionary charism in the Church” (CC 2). How to be a saint today? Living like Jesus, being witnesses to the love of God and fighting against everything that obscures it. The English writer, G. K. Chesterton, in his book on St. Thomas Aquinas, affirms that: ‘it is a paradox of history that each generation is converted by the saint that most contradicts it’. Holiness, which is an expression of the love of God for the world, for all human beings, also has a strong counter-cultural meaning. This holiness confronts the ideology of a world without God or of a God disconnected from the destiny of man. Our brother martyrs inspire us to have no fear of living this kind of contradiction so as to be a parable of the love of God for the world.
- This requires of us vigilance and courage, a deep love for all people and, at the same time, a distance from all that, even though it is fashionable or presented as progress, contradicts the Gospel of Jesus: his passion for God and for the Pope Francis has repeatedly spoken to us of the temptations of present day evangelizers (cf. EG 76-109) and, in a special way, the temptation of spiritual worldliness (cf. EG 93-97). Thinking that we can be faithful to the Gospel without renouncing anything, living as everybody else lives, means having forgotten that only he who gives his life, he who does not try ‘to gain the whole world’, can truly find it. In this sense, our martyrs are a clear example of the Quid prodest experience (Mk 8: 36) that marked out the spiritual journey of our Founder and which prepared him for his process of configuration with Christ. We are also called to be saints in the context of our daily life, living the martyrdom of an existence dedicated to God and to the service of the Gospel. Then we need to refuse to allow ourselves to be dominated by the idols and addictions of our time: attachment to power and money, activism without soul, seeking comfort and success at any cost, the desire for prominence, the escape from situations of poverty, etc. It will be our best contribution today to the transformation of the world according to the heart of God.
What calls from God do I experience when I remember the lives of our martyrs?
What idols are stifling my heart and stopping a generous commitment to God and to others? How do I confront the temptation to flee from suffering in the mission?
By what criteria do I choose to live and accept the cost of following Jesus in testing situations?
Witnesses and messengers of the joy of the Gospel
- The XXV General Chapter has invited all of us Claretian Missionaries to live our vocation as witnesses–messengers of the joy of the Gospel as a shining response to the interpellations of God in our world (c MS 5-33). For this, after reminding us of the charismatic traits that we ought to stress today in the mission (cf. MS 34-63), it clearly proposed three processes of transformation:
- In the first place, we need a profound pastoral conversion that means we are a Congregation ‘going forth’ (c MS 66-68), missionary, open, attentive to the needs of the people around us, ready to leave behind the old securities and to risk much more to bring the Gospel to those searching for meaning and consolation. Our martyrs found strength and courage in the Lord as and when they faced risks and perils in their missionary life. Their ‘going forth’ – we can almost say their forced dispersion, like the Christians of Jerusalem who were persecuted (cf. Acts 11: 19) – marks, in reality, the beginning of a new stage of missionary fruitfulness. Their ‘going forth’ was not to save their lives by losing themselves, but rather to hand over of their lives to gain true life (cf. Mk 8: 35).
- We also need a community conversion that helps us to rediscover the joy of being a missionary community, of evangelizing through the witness of a fraternal life (cf. MS 69-72). The 109 martyrs were not from just one community, like those of Barbastro, nor were they all imprisoned or assassinated in one place. But, despite their geographic dispersion, they felt members of our Congregation, supported by the prayer of all their brothers and in profound communion with For this, their memory today helps us to value even more our sense of belonging to our universal Congregation: ‘They are your sons, dear Congregation’, as Blessed Faustino Perez wrote, in his famous farewell letter.
- We need, finally, a sincere spiritual conversion that moves us to adore God in the Spirit (cf. MS 73-75), to see in everything the glory of God so as not to be victims of the many idols that surround us, so as to be able to say with the psalmist: ‘You are my Lord, my only good. The gods of the earth are but nothing’ (Ps 16: 2-3). The dedication of the martyrs was possible because they had been formed in a solid missionary spirituality that nourished their commitment. The well-known martyrial hymn expresses it very clearly: ‘For you, my King, to give my blood’. Not for political motives or through fear, but rather for love to Him who is our reason for being and acting.
Considering my age and situation, which of the three processes of transformation proposed by the XXV General Chapter find an echo in me? Why?
What can I do to live my missionary vocation with more joy and dedication in the situation I find myself in at present?
- As a Congregation, we are living in another historical era with its own challenges and opportunities. We want to live in faithfulness to the Claretian charism, to be missionaries to the end. The word MISSIONARIES, written in capitals, sums up our charismatic identity. Our martyrs lived intensely the vocation that this word – missionaries – encapsulates. They knew they were sent by God and anointed by the Holy Spirit to follow Jesus Christ in a communion of life, going to the whole world to announce the Gospel to every creature (cf. CC 4). The faithfulness of our brother martyrs invites us to authentically live our missionary vocation unto the end in each of our contexts.
- The expression ‘to the end’ evokes a missionary life brought to its ultimate consequences: to give your life for The Gospel of John opens the so called ‘book of glory’ with these words: “as he [Jesus] had loved those who were his own in the world, he loved them unto the end” (Jn 13: 1). This is the evangelical background that gives the true meaning to the phrase used in the title. Each one of us has to discern how to be missionaries ‘to the end’, in the situation of our own lives and in this way perfect the work that the Holy Spirit had begun in our religious consecration (cf. Phil 1:6).
- With this Beatification, the Church recognizes and proposes the value of our brothers’ missionary dedication unto the e Let us see to it that the celebration of this event does not reduce to a moment of congregational euphoria but rather becomes a catalyst that raises the quality of the ‘ordinary prophesy’ of our missionary life.
- Through this letter I exhort all the members of our Congregation to intensify your spiritual preparation for this event over the coming wee The General Commission for the Beatification and the Commission of Catalunya have already sent the exact details for organizing the participation in the various acts prepared for the 20 – 22 October: Vigil of Prayer (20), Ceremony of Beatification (21) and the Thanksgiving Mass (22). The General Government, for their part, have also sent out some special invitations and put into motion what is needed for the programme in collaboration with our brothers of the host Province of Catalunya and the other Provinces of Spain. I appreciate all of them for their commitment and congregational spirit.
- I now invite each Major Organism and each local Community to enthusiastically prepare for the celebration in their own environment, such as sharing with the other members of the Claretian Family, with families, friends and collaborators in the mission, and make it an event that goes beyond the confines of the Congregation. Apart from the 3,500 people who can be present in the Holy Family Basilica in Barcelona on 21 October, it will be possible for others to follow a live transmission of the ceremony from any part of the world through the web page (http://www.109cmf.org). It can be a beautiful opportunity to gather the People of God in our houses, churches, schools and other centers of evangelization and, in this way, to share with others the grace of the beatification. The beatification will also be a very special occasion to express our closeness to the people around us who are experiencing the trial of sickness, loneliness, unemployment, domestic violence, poverty or whatever form of marginalization and suffering. There is no authentic celebration if we do not include those who are excluded from the feast of life.
- I would like to finish this Letter with an invitation to live with intensity the grace that the Lord grants to us on the beatification of our martyrs:
- To the elderly and infirm of our Congregation who feel in their body the trials of old age and illness, I thank you for your special mission in our Congregation. I ask you to join yourselves to the redeeming cross of Jesus and to the victorious suffering of our martyrs ‘completing what is lacking in the sufferings of Christ’ (Col 1: 24). You will experience a consolation that nothing and nobody can take away from you. I also invite you to pray in a special way at this time that every Claretian Missionary take advantage of the grace of the beatification to grow in his missionary zeal.
- To those in formation I invite you to look at yourselves in the mirror of the martyrs to find vigorous models of Claretian life, to strengthen your missionary commitment, to offer yourselves generously for the new frontiers of the mission and to invite others to share our style of life.
- To those experiencing the trial of persecution, loneliness, crisis of faith, emotional or vocation crisis, personal, community or pastoral conflicts, I invite you to welcome the witness of the martyrs and humbly beseech their intercession to be able to respond with missionary fidelity and generosity. Everything can be lived in a positive manner when we allow the Lord to work in us.
- To the members of the Claretian Family and to the lay people who share the Claretian charism with us, I invite you to join in our thanksgiving and our celebration to reinforce the fraternal communion and missionary commitment.
- To everyone, in general, I ask you that we live this time as a moment of grace that the Lord grants to us to be ‘missionaries unto the end’ in the particular conditions in which we find ourselves living. The martyrdom of our daily life, lived with serenity and dedication, is the prophecy with which we announce the new style of life that Jesus proposes in the Gospel. We ask the Lord for the gift of conversion so as to become builders of peace and reconciliation in our communities and in society.
- We want to live this moment of grace together with our Mother, the Queen of the Martyrs, the ‘strong woman’, who sustained our brothers in their trials and who continues today in her fight against evil. She continues to accompany us in the sweet adventure of evangelization and forms us in the attitudes necessary to be ‘missionaries with Spirit’. We shall make our own the tenderness of her heart, to accompany with maternal fidelity those who suffer just as she and the women at the foot of the cross accompanied the crucified Lord to the very e We know ourselves to be missionary arrows forged in her Heart and launched from her powerful hand.
The beatification almost coincides with the solemnity of St. Anthony Mary Claret who persevered as a ‘man on fire with love, who spreads its flames wherever he goes’ to the end of his life. To him and to all the Blessed Martyrs of the Claretian Family we ask to intercede for us and accompany us along the way.
As an expression of our common vocation, during this period of preparation I invite you to pray together, forming one congregational choir, with the following prayer:
Rome, 13 August 2017
Memorial of Blessed Felipe de Jesús Munárriz and Companion Martyrs