Hoy traemos al Blog un artículo en inglés, aparecido en una revista católica de Estados Unidos.
Los Oblatos de Texas consideran a nuestros Mártires como un poco suyos, pues por aquella época la provincia oblata de España dependía de Texas. Varios españoles estudiaron en San Antonio, allí fueron ordenados y allí ejercieron su ministerio de evangelización. Todavía hoy hay una presencia de Oblatos españoles: los PP. Luis Valbuena, Felipe Matías, José María Gago, Amador López y Saturnino Lajo (en la foto).
El P. Warren Brown, consejero general para Candá y USA, nos remite el artículo que publicamos en la lengua original.
Young martyrs’ lives, deaths echo the lives,
examples of the first disciples of Christ
BY J. Michael Parker
For Today’s Catholic
If “the blood of martyrs is the seed of faith,” as the second-century writer Tertullian once said, the Spanish civil war of 1936-39 must have produced many seeds. Already, Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI have beatified nearly 1,000 martyrs from that conflict on just two occasions. The roster continues to lengthen as 22 Oblate martyrs and a single layman executed with them in 1936 received the honor of beatification Dec. 18 in Madrid’s cathedral.
Father Saturnino Lajo, OMI, himself a Spanish Oblate and chaplain director for Oblate Missions in San Antonio; and Father Vincent Louwagie, OMI, director of Oblate School of School’s Ministry to Ministers and International Priest Internship programs, were among the concelebrants at the beatification liturgy. They represented Texas Oblates at the beatification. The 22 martyrs — three priests and 19 scholastic brothers — “in some way are part of the history of the Southern U.S. Province of the Oblates,” said Father Lajo, because the Oblates in Spain had ministered under the auspices of that San Antonio- based province from 1920-1932. The U.S. Oblates consolidated their five regional provinces into a single national province based in Washington, D.C., in1999. Founded by French bishop St. Eugene de Mazenod in 1816, the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate have always embraced the clear and present reality of martyrdom, even going so far as to include a fourth vow to the usual three evangelical vows of chastity, poverty and obedience: “I will persevere, even unto death.” The Oblates of the former Southern U.S. Province entered Spain in 1920 to provide pastoral services in several parishes in and around Madrid, Father Lajo said. According to an ac- count of the 22 martyrs’ story translated from Spanish by Father Louwagie and posted on the Oblates’ website, they pro- vided chaplaincy services for three congregations of nuns and pastoral services in parishes in the Estación neighbor- hood in Pozuelo de Alarcón, a Madrid suburb of about 82,000. Their activities included hearing confessions and conducting frequent missions. The young Oblate scholastics (theology students), taught catechism, and the Oblate choir sang during liturgies in those parishes.
Father Joaquin Martinez, OMI, postulator general of the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate in Rome, wrote the original Spanish account to circulate among Oblates world- wide for the upcoming beatification. He wrote that, while many Spanish Christians were martyred during the three-year civil war, Catholic bishops, priests and religious men and women were special targets for cruelty because of their highly visible and persistent witness to the Gospel in the face of the frequent violence, destruction of religious property and killings all around them.
By the estimate of now- retired Archbishop Antonio Montero Moreno of Mérida-Badajoz, author of a history of the wartime persecutions, the victims included 12 bishops, 4,172 priests, 2,365 religious men and 283 religious women, Father Martinez reported. No reliable total of lay victims is available.
Local revolutionary committees — socialists, communists and radical lay labor unions — were angry at these religious activities, especially because the priests and scholastics made themselves so visible in their black cassocks and distinctive Oblate missionary crucifixes tucked into the front of their habits. Refusing to let the revolutionaries intimidate them, the Oblates calmly avoided responding to any provocations. They never participated in political activities but confined their efforts to their pastoral work day after day.
“The Oblate superiors could not imagine that things would go as far as they eventually did; it didn’t even enter their minds that they could be victims of so much hate for their faith in God and for being messengers of Jesus Christ,” Father Martinez wrote.
Socialist and communist youths began burning churches and other buildings July
20, 1936. The Pozuelo militia attacked the chapel in the Estación neighborhood, tossing liturgical vestments and religious icons into the street and setting them afire. They set fire to the chapel and then did the same to the nearby parish church.
On the afternoon of July 22, 1936, a large band of armed militia attacked the Oblate residence, rounding up 38 priests and scholastics and locking them under guard while soldiers searched the premises. Finding a variety of religious items, including crucifixes, rosaries and vestments, they Gregorio Escobar García; and 11 brothers — to the general security office, where they were jailed until the next day and then released after filling out some forms. “They sought refuge in private homes. The provincial put himself at risk by visiting and encouraging the others and bring them Communion,” Father Martinez’s narrative states. However, three months later, they were hunted down again and returned to prison. They endured “a slow martyrdom of hunger, cold, fear and threats. There are testimonies from some survivors as to how they accepted with heroic patience this difficult situation that implied the possibility of martyrdom. Among them, there reigned a spirit of charity and an atmosphere of silent prayer.”
Father José Vega Riaño and scholastic Serviliano Riaño were executed Nov. 7, 1936; three weeks later, Father Esteban Lacal, Father Blanco, Father Escobar and 10 brothers were shot to death — again, without formal accusation, explanation, judgment or any opportunity for defense.
The brothers included Juan José Caballero Rodríguez, Publio Rodríguez Moslares, “asked the militia if he could say goodbye to all his companions and give them absolution, something he was allowed to do.” After the absolution was completed, the witness said, Father Esteban boldly declared in a loud voice: “We know that you are killing us because we are Catholics and religious. That we are. My companions and I forgive you from the bottom of our hearts. Long live Christ the King!”
Oblate officials reported that Father Escobar, the newly ordained priest, had written his family that he’d been deeply touched by the stories of martyrs through the history of the Catholic church and felt a desire as he read “to hav the same fate as they did.” He added, “That would be the best sort of priesthood all of us Christians could desire, each of us offering to God our own body and blood as a holocaust for the faith. Wouldn’t it be great to die a martyr?” Father Lajo said that a survivor of the mass execution, Father Felipe Diez, OMI, gave the following account of the martyrs’ last moments. “When we were at the moment that we were going to be killed, at gunpoint, arms up, facing the wall, crammed into a small compartment, we wanted to say a prayer, but we could not manage it. But what came forth spontaneously were our feelings of love for God, affection for our brothers and forgiveness toward those who were going to kill us, as well as seeking pardon for our sins and weaknesses.”
Father Warren Brown, OMI, a member of the General Council of the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate for the United States and Canada, said that in the years after 1936, several Spanish Oblates received training in San Antonio as scholastic brothers and served as missionary priests in Texas, California and other places. Some who had been imprisoned with the martyrs threw these items into a heap to be destroyed.
Two days later, in the wee hours of the morning, the militia forced a priest-professor and six scholastics into cars
at gunpoint and drove them to their place of execution. Without any charge or judgment made against them, the seven Oblates were shot to death. They were Father Juan Antonio Pérez Mayo and brothers Manuel Gutiérrez Martín, Cecilio Vega Domínguez, Juan Pedro Cotillo Fernández, Pascual Aláez Medina, Francisco Polvorinos Gómez and Justo González Lorente. The same day, a truck arrived at the Oblate residence and transported the remaining Oblates — the provincial superior, Father Francisco Esteban Lacal; the local superior, Father Vicente Blanco Guadilla; a newly ordained priest, Justo Gil Pardo, Angel Francisco Bocos Hernández, Marcelino Sánchez Fernández, José Guerra Andrés, Daniel Gómez Lucas, Justo Fernández González, Clemente Rodríguez Tejerina and Eleuterio Prado Villarroel.
The postulator general’s report says that although details of the executions were sketchy, it was known that the condemned were driven to a nearby municipality called Paracuellos de Jarama, where the executions occurred. Another priest and a scholastic who were taken to the execution site in another truck were given an unexplained and un- expected reprieve from death.
According to the narrative, the gravedigger provided any eyewitness testimony on the actual execution of Nov. 28, 1936. He reportedly said that Father Esteban Lacal, the provincial superior, later studied in San Antonio, and one was on the faculty of the De Mazenod Scholastic ate (now Oblate School of Theology). Testimony before the Vatican’s Congregation for the Causes of Saints clearly indicated that, “in spite of the psychological torture, during their cruel captivity, none of them denied or lost their faith, nor did they lament the fact that they had embraced a religious vocation. Their family members, their brother Oblates and the Christian people who know of their fidelity up until death have unanimously considered them martyrs from the very beginning and are praying to God that the church will recognize them and present them to all the faithful as authentic Christian martyrs.”