Triduum Preparation for the Beatification of the Martyrs of Siguenza, Fernan Caballero and Tarragona

                 On 13th of October 2013, the Beatification of 23 Claretians, our brothers in the faith who sacrificed their lives for love of Jesus Christ during the religious persecution of the 30s of the 20th Century will be celebrated in Tarragona, Spain. They are our Martyrs of Siguenza, Fernan Caballero and Tarragona.

                Joining with these Martyrs, the Church will beatify solemnly the 522 Martyrs of Christ under the logo ‘Firm and Courageous Witnesses of Faith.’ Their example is a stimulus and their intercession will be a help for all of us.

                During 3 days we will unite ourselves in prayers with all the Claretian Communities as devotees of our Martyrs in order to prepare ourselves for the celebration of this great event of grace.

Postulator General, Rome

TRIDUUM AS PREPARATION FOR THE BEATIFICATION OF OUR MARTYRS

DAY 1

FR. JOSE MARIA RUIZ CANO, DISCIPLE OF CHRIST

Greetings of the presider:

                Dear Brothers, we begin the Triduum of preparation for the Feast of the Beatification of our 23 Claretian Martyrs. Today we concentrate on the figure of Fr. Jose Maria Ruiz Cano, martyr in Siguenza. His example will help us to understand the words of Jesus better: ‘He who wants to follow me, let him renounce himself, and take up his cross and follow me.’

                All of us who had been baptized in Christ have been called to follow the Master. Taking up the cross is a necessary requisite to reach the light of the promise.

Song (suitable for the occasion)

Proclamation of the Word

The martyr is a disciple of Christ. The martyrs did not select the crosses just to be loaded with them, but they chose to follow the Lord of life. On the way situations arose which people could hardly understand, but in the eyes of God they are moments of grace.

Reading from the Gospel according to St. Mathew (16:21-27)

From that day Jesus Christ began to make it clear to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem; he would suffer many things from the Jewish authorities, the chief priests and the teachers of the Law. He would be killed and be raised on the third day.

Then Peter took him aside and began to reproach him, “Never, Lord! No, this must never happen to you.” But Jesus turned to him and said, “Get behind me, Satan! You would have me stumble. Your thoughts are not from God but from man.”

Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If anyone wants to follow me, let him deny himself, take up his cross and follow me. For whoever chooses to save his life will lose it, but the one who loses his life for my sake will find it. What will one gain by winning the whole world if he destroys himself? There is nothing he can give to recover his own self.

Short Narration of the Martyrdom of Fr. Jose Maria Ruiz Cano

Fr. Jose Maria Ruiz Cano shows us in a visible form the way of being a disciple of Christ taking upon himself the cross of loneliness along with the seminarians whom the providence had entrusted to his care. Let us listen to the story of his martyrdom.

                Fr. Jose Maria Ruiz Cano was born at Jerez de los Caballeros (Badajoz) on 3rd September 1906. He is the only priest from the group of martyrs of Siguenza and Fernan Caballero. Generous of the spirit and kind loving in his conduct, he felt a very fervent devotion to our Blessed Mother Mary.

                One year after his ordination he was appointed to the Claretian Seminary of Siguenza (Guadalajara) in the capacity of formator-prefect. The tragic days of the religious persecution in Spain of 1936 took him by surprise. When on 25th July the situation became extremely difficult as the Bishop and four Claretians were arrested and condemned to death, Fr. Jose Maria assembled his seminarians/postulants in the chapel; the chronicler of events of the seminary writes:

It was about 1.00 in the afternoon. He wanted to animate us, but could not contain his tears. “Nothing will happen, but in order to prevent what could happen, I have to tell you with profound pain and sorrow that the college will be closed down for a few days. Don’t cry. For now nothing will happen. The Superior has come to this understanding for the present situation… you will be leaving in groups to the villages close by since all have agreed and are disposed to grant us accommodation…

Presiding over this scene so difficult to describe, there was a beautiful statue of the Heart of Mary with the Child in her arms. Father directed his prayer towards her: O my Lady, O my Mother! You remember that I am yours; preserve and defend me as your possession and property. And then, kneeling and extending his arms like a cross towards the Blessed Mother he exclaimed: “If you want, dear Mother, a victim, here you have myself; take me but don’t permit that nothing may happen to these innocent ones who have not done anything evil to anyone.”

                The exodus from the seminary started. The Servant of God put himself in front of the group of the seminarians. “Good bye, dear Father, see you soon!” Brother Victor greeted him while taking leave. “Until Heaven!” the Servant of God replied and then started his journey towards the small village of Guijosa, 7 kms away from Siguenza.

                They entered the village Guijosa when it was getting dark and were received with open arms by the parish priest and neighbourhood. Someone made the Father aware that the boys are safe and it would be better for him to flee and save his life. His response, repeated many times, was always the same: “Even if they find me and kill me, I won’t abandon the children!”

                At Guijosa they came to search for ‘the Father of the children who have fled from Siguenza.’ They made him get into a vehicle and proceeded to Siguenza. Suddenly they stopped at the bottom of Mount Otero, at half stretch between Guijosa and Siguenza. A voice commanded the Servant of God to get down from the vehicle. Father understood the order, pardoned his enemies and undertook his ascent to the mount Otero as a pilgrim to Heaven.

                The click of the rifles sounded and our martyr collapsed with outstretched arms in the form of a cross. It was 1.00 in the afternoon on 27th of July 1936. One of the Militia men would comment later:..”How that friar who was with the children uttered words of pardon to us when we were about to shoot at him.”

                A cross is fixed o n the spot of his martyrdom at the side of Mount Otero as a perpetual memory of his martyrdom.

Points for reflection regarding the martyrdom

  • The martyrdom is the most authentic sign of the Church of Jesus Christ: a Church formed by people who are fragile and sinners, but know how to give witness of their vigorous faith and their unconditional love for Jesus Christ, placing before him even their very lives.
  • The martyrs, renouncing to save their lives and pardoning those who maltreat them situate us before a reality which surpasses the human and invites us to acknowledge the power and grace of God being active in the weakness of our human history.
  • By proclaiming them blessed, and later as Saints, the Church elevates her thanksgiving to God and at the same time honours those sons who have known how to correspond generously to the divine grace and proposes them as Intercessors and examples

of holiness to which we are all called.

What to learn from our Martyrs:

Availability (Letter of Fr. General, nos.11 & 15)

13. Be disposed to take up the consequences of following. We confess Jesus as Lord and He invites us to follow him on a path on which the disciple is called to walk, embracing the cross and in full communion with him and the brethren, expecting to be able to listen, reach the goal, his word of blessing:”Come you blessed of my Father, receive the inheritance of the Kingdom prepared for you from the creation of the world..”(Mt.25,34f). Disposition to follow Jesus, leaving everything.

15. The blood shed by our brothers is a missionary force which impulses us to get to those goals and ideals which they wanted to reach, towards those areas in which they would have wanted to work, towards those persons whom they wanted to accompany towards a more profound experience of the love of God and which they were loving in their hearts… Their lives were not snatched away from them, they surrendered their lives because they were convinced that their blood would be seed of new missionary life.

OUR FATHER, HAIL MARY, GLORY BE

Marian Song ( The love which the Martyr Jose Maria had towards the Blessed Mother enabled him without doubt his good disposition and spirit of service. He was responsible for a group of seminarians and that responsibility he lived to the full measure offering his life for this purpose).

COMMUNITARIAN PRAYER

We bless you, God our Lord, and we give you thanks for having called our Martyr Brothers of Siguenza, Fernan Caballero and Tarragona to form part of the Martyrs of the Church.

Their witness of faith and their generous pardon to those who took away their lives are mature fruits of their great love to the Word, to the Eucharist, to the Heart of Mary and to Claretian Congregation.

We ask you Lord that we be worthy heirs of this legacy and make ourselves ready and disposed to collaborate faithfully in the mission which was the ideal and illusion of their young hearts.

That in this Year of Faith, with the spirit of religious faithfulness, availability, disposition and fraternity, we may give a sincere testimony of the disciples of Christ, and embracing the daily crosses with a spirit of faith, we may endeavour to walk towards the glorious resurrection with our Brother Martyrs. Amen

TRIDUUM FOR THE PREPARATION OF THE BEATIFICATION OF OUR MARTYRS

DAY 2

THE MARTYRS OF FERNAN CABALLERO, WITNESSES OF CHRIST BEFORE THE WORLD

Greeting of the Presider:

Dear Brothers, on this second day of the Triduum for the preparation of the Feast of the Beatification of 23 Claretians, we will look towards our Martyrs of Fernan Caballero. Their example will help us to understand better these words of Jesus: “Who declares me before people, I will also declare him before the Father who is in the Heavens.”

Our society lacks the witnesses to the Kingdom. Prophets are needed with hearts filled with faith in God, that with their works and actions they may speak clearly that God is Father and Source of life.

Song (suitable for the occasion)

Proclamation of the Word

The sacrifice of the martyrdom is a spectacle which strikes those who can contemplate with purified eyes. The martyrs, renouncing to save their lives and pardoning those who maltreat them places before a reality which surpasses the human and invites us to acknowledge the power and grace of God working in the weakness of human history. Jesus said: ‘Don’t fear those who kill the body.’

Reading from the Gospel according to St. Mathew (10:22-23; 28, 32-34, 38-39)

Everyone will hate you because of me, but whoever stands firm to the end will be saved. When they persecute you in one town, flee to the next. For sure, you will not have gone through all the towns of Israel before the Son of Man comes. Do not be afraid of those who kill the body, but not the person. Rather be afraid of him who can destroy both body and soul in hell. Whoever acknowledges me before others I will acknowledge before my Father in Heaven. Whoever rejects me before others I will reject before my Father in Heaven. Do not think that I have come to establish peace on earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword.

And whoever does not take up his cross and come after me is not worthy of me. He who cares only for his own life will lose it; he who loses his life for my sake will find it.

A short Narration of the Martyrdom of the Martyrs of Fernan Caballero

The Martyrs of Fernan Caballero, at the height of their youth did not love so much their lives than would have feared the death. They declared in front of those who were killing them that Christ was their only King, the Heart of Mary their greatest love. Their names are written in the Heaven and here is the list of their names: Tomas Cordero Cordero, Jesus Anibal Gomez Gomez, Primitivo Berrocoso Maillo, Vicente Robles Gomez, Gabriel Barriopedro Tejedor, Claudio Lopez Martinez, Angel Lopez Martinez, Antonio Lasa Vidaurreta, Melecio Pardo Llorente, Antonio Orrego Fuentes, Otilio del Amo Palomino, Candido Catalan Lasal, Angel Perez Murillo, Abelardo Gracia Palacios and Felipe Gonzalez de Heredia.

With the Cross from Zafra up to Fernan Caballero

                The atmosphere of violence against the inmates of the Claretian Theologate of Zafra started badly when the elections of February 1936 came to a close. At the end of April Fr. Provincial instructed them to abandon the house and proceed towards Ciudad Real, thinking that there would be a more favourable situation in that city.

The real situation made itself still more difficult. Jesus Anibal Gomez described thus the situation to his own people: “We have no orchard and we somehow rough out for bathing. We haven’t gone out for a walk since we arrived here; in fact we are keeping strictly a kind of ‘papal cloister’; the circumstances are demanding in that way. From this account you can see that we are not at Jauja and we have to offer something to the Lord.”

                They were breathing an atmosphere of martyrdom and soon they were badly surprised by the attack on their house. Fr. Superior would write later: ‘Four were the days of prison for the 14 victims who were sacrificed on 28th and six days for the rest. To describe what we had to suffer in those days is something impossible. All of us were prepared for death which we were seeing coming too close. We were suffering the humiliations and privations with the spirit of resignation, meekness and commiseration towards those persecutors.”

                With the aim of getting us out from that place of torment, Fr. Superior could obtain ‘save-conducts’ from the Civil Governing Officer to go to Madrid or wherever they would have like to go. The first expedition was prepared for 28th July. Our martyrs were going in that expedition. They bade farewell from those who were remaining there. “Happy journey” they wished. They proceeded to the railway station of Ciudad Real in various vehicles accompanied and guarded by Militia men. At the arrival, a great uproar happened and voices were heard like “Kill them – they are friars, don’t allow them to get in.. Kill them!” The train departed towards Madrid and the threats got realized just 20 kms away from the Capital, at Fernan Caballero.

A passenger travelling on the same train relates what he saw:

They ordered the friars to get down, that they have reached their destination. Some got down voluntarily saying: ‘Whatever may be God’s will, we will die for Christ and for Spain.’ Others resisted, but with the butts of the rifles the militia men forced them to get down. The militia men placed themselves together with the train and the friars facing them. Some of the friars outstretched their arms shouting: “Long Live Christ the King and Long Live Spain!” Others covered their faces. Some others bent their heads. One who was very short of stature was giving the lead in animating them. They started shooting at them and all the friars fell down to earth. While trying to come to their feet, some of them were shouting with outstretched arms: “Long Live Christ the King!” They came to shoot at them again and they collapsed.

Among the heap of the corpses, Candido Catalan remained very gravely injured and would die a few hours later. “He showed amazing resignation; he made no complaint”, the doctor who attended him at the railway station confessed thus.

Points of reflection regarding the martyrdom

  • The martyrs are a great sign of hope for the world. There are things for which it is worth to live and to die.
  • They have known how to live the Gospel in situations of hostility and persecution up to the supreme testimony of shedding their blood.
  • These witnesses show the vitality of the Church; they are a beacon of light for the Church and for the humanity because they have made their light shine in the darkness.

Lessons to be learnt from the Martyrs

Fraternity ( Letter of Fr. General, cfr. Nos. 17-20)

17. The testimony of our martyrs invites us also to thank for the gift of the community. It is possible that they would have never felt so close to each other as in those hours of martyrdom. When one experiences one’s own weakness and littleness it is necessary to feel all the more the closeness and love of the brothers with intensity.

19. The evangelical fraternity is built up everyday around the Word of God and Eucharist, in the communion of missionary ideals and in the overcoming of thousand and one difficulties which come up on the path, in interpersonal dialogue and in the discernment which searches for the will of God for the community and everyone of its members.

20. The community helped every one of our brothers to be faithful up to give their lives for the Gospel. Their testimony enlivens us.

OUR FATHER, HAIL MARY, GLORY BE

Song ( Be prepared for what God wants from us and proclaim before the world that our strength is in God, in whom our brother martyrs of Feran Caballero trusted)

COMMUNITARIAN PRAYER (as on Day 1)

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TRIDUUM FOR THE PREPARATION OF THE BEATIFICATION OF OUR MARTYRS

DAY 3

CLARETIAN MARTYRS OF TARRAGONA WHO SUFFERED FOR THE CAUSE OF JUSTICE

The martyr lives the values of the Kingdom: justice, love and peace.

Greeting of the Presider:

Dear Brothers, on this third day of the Triduum of the preparation for the Feast of the Beatificatin of 23 claretian Martyrs, we will fix our gaze on the Claretian Martyrs of Tarragona. Their example will help us to understand better those words of Jesus: “Blessed are you when they insult you, persecute you and utter all kinds of evil to you on account of my name.”

Many are those in our world who being innocent die in the darkness of horror without knowing why they die. The martyrs are indeed aware of why they die and we can consider them as privileged persons.

Song (suitable for the occasion)

Proclamation of the Word

The beatitudes draw the face of Jesus Christ and express the vocation of the faithful associated to the glory of his Passion and Resurrection; they are paradoxical promises which sustain hope in tribulations.

A Reading from the Holy Gospel according to St. Mathew (5:3-12)

Fortunate are those who have spirit of the poor, for theirs is the kingdom of Heaven. Fortunate are those who mourn, they shall be comforted. Fortunate are the gentle, they shall possess the land. Fortunate are those who hunger and thirst for justice, for they shall be satisfied. Fortunate are the merciful, for they shall find mercy. Fortunate are those with a pure heart, for they shall see God. Fortunate are those who work for peace, they shall be called children of God. Fortunate are those who are persecuted for the cause of justice, for theirs is the kingdom of Heaven. Fortunate are you, when people insult you and persecute you and speak all kinds of evil against you because you are my followers. Be glad and joyful, for a great reward is kept for you in God. This is how this people persecuted the prophets who lived before you.

A Short Narration of the Martyrdom of the Claretian Martyrs of Tarragona

                Seven are the Claretian Martyrs of Tarragona proceeding from the two nearby communities: Tarragona and Selva del Camp. Their martyrdom took place on different days and in different places. Their names are:

Antoni Capdevilla Balcells, Jaume Mir Vime, Sebastia Balcells Tonijuan, Pau Castella Barbera, Andreu Feliu Bartomeu, Antoni Vilamassana Carulla and Frederic Vila Bartroli.

Brother Antoni Capdevila and the peace of pardon to those who were going to kill him:

                The first victim of the group was Brother Antoni Capdevia, who just before getting short at pleaded the assassins with all earnestness: “Would you allow me to prepare myself for a few moments?” When the petition was granted, he covered his head in all calmness, started to pray silently and once prayers was over he invited the killers to do whatever they wanted to do with him. Before dying, drawing all the strength in him from the bottom of his missionary soul, he shouted: “Long Live Christ the King!” A shower of bullets made him collapse to the ground. The simple people of the village considered him a Saint from the first instant and were eager to get the little stones drenched in the blood of this martyr for themselves.

Brother Sebastia Balsells Tonijuan, fallen in love with the Rosary

                The revolution of the month of July took Brother Sebastia by surprise in Selva del Camp. He decided to take refuge in his own house where he was born in his little village of Fullola. There he met his own sister, a Religious nun with the name Silveria. She asked him one day with her deep religious spirit: “How many rosaries have you recited today to the Bl. Virgin? “Already the nineteenth one goes on..” replied the Servant of God. It was just only midday. And in fact the rosary and the little office of the Bl. Virgin were not to be going away from the hands of the blessed brother, such a humble, innocent and fervent soul.

                On 15th of August, Feast of the Assumption, both religious brother and sister Sebastia and Silveria were having a similar experience like that of St. Benedict and St. Scholastica… It was already night and after dinner both these brother and sister spent hours in speaking about God, heavens and the blessedness to die as martyrs for Jesus Christ – talking and talking and so many hours passed by…

3 hours later as this spiritual conversation was over, shoutings filled with hatred were heard at the door calling for Bro. Sebastia. He was loaded unto a vehicle to be taken to Comite de Tarrega. The vehicle was on the march. In the middle of the silence, Brother started a small conversation: “You are taking me to be killed, is not so?”     “Oh yes,” was the reply. In the face of such clear positions from both sides, the victim took out the rosary from his pocket with all calmness and began to whisper… ‘Pray for us.. in the hour of our death.’ The vehicle came to a halt. The Militia men tied the Brother to a trunk and released eight shots. From nearby, one forest guard was watching the scene. The fingers of the corpse continued to press the rosary until some time later the fire caused by the dry grass converted the mortal remains of the Martyr into ashes.

                Each one of the remaining Martyrs of the group had his personal moment of glory accepting the death of the just. Paul Castella, Andreu Feliu and Antoni Vilamassana had given the best of their lives in the Missions of Guinea Aequatorial; Jaume Mir Vime and Frederic Vila Bartroli served the Church from the Chair of the Pontifical University of Tarragona.

Points of reflection regarding the martyrdom

  • The Martyrs have been persecuted on account of the divine truth to which they gave witness and to this Word become Flesh who came to his house in the world and his own did not accept him; they suffer persecution for Jesus’ sake, who is our justice.
  • The Martyrs are blessed. They know why they suffer. They don’t suffer only ‘for the sake of’ justice, rather through justice which they know, love and are in fond of.
  • The beatification of the Martyrs is an hour of grace for the Church and for the whole society.

Lessons to be learned from the Martyrs

Fidelity (Letter of Fr. General, cfr. Nos.10-12)

10. We conserve the memory alive being grateful to God who works wonders in the smallness of those who trust in His mercy. His memory helps us to centre ourselves in that which constitutes the fundamental nucleus of our life: love the primacy of God and search above all the Kingdom of God and its justice.

In the fidelity to this Alliance our life is blessed by God and makes itself bringer of blessing for the rest. This is the source of missionary energy.

12. Our Brothers died fixing their gaze at Jesus, because they had been living with their look and heart fixed on Him. Their memory invites then to place the Kingdom, the things of the Father (cf.Lk 2:49) into the centre of our life.

OUR FATHER, HAIL MARY, GLORY BE

Song (suitable to the occasion)

COMMUNITARIAN PRAYER

(As on Day 1)