Missionaries till the End

Message from Fr. Mathew Vattamattam cmf, Superior General on the Beatification of our 109 Claretian brothers.

Fraternal greetings from Rome. We are drawing close to the special moment of grace for us when the Church beatifies 109 Claretians on October 21, 2017, as authentic witnesses of the Gospel love through their death. These missionaries, most of them young, were martyred during the religious persecution at the time of Spanish civil war in 1936. We shall prepare ourselves for this moment of grace and draw inspiration from these men who were faithful to their vocation to the very end. (see the webpagehttp://www.109cmf.org/).

The year 1936 was a turbulent time in Spain, which unfortunately became a testing ground for communist and anarchist ideologies in the Western Europe. At that time, the Claretian Congregation was flourishing with many vocations and many young men were being prepared to dedicate their lives for the people in Spain and in the missions ofAmerica, Africa, China and other mission countries. Most of them were from the working class and farming families. Sadly, the Church in Spain was targeted as the enemy of revolution and priests and religious were branded as criminals to be exterminated.

In the cruel tyranny of the hatred of religion, 272 Claretians were brutally killed. An entire seminary in Barbastro was taken hostage and persecuted for days to give up their faith and join the revolution. But they stood for their convictions and were finally martyred. Those 51 martyrs were beatified in Rome on 25th October 1992.

We remember the group of 23 heroic martyrs were beatified on 13th October 2013. Each of them endured different kinds of ordeals, but remained firm in their adhesion to Christ.  A Claretian who survived the war as a postulant narrated to me tearfully how his formator, blessed Luis Cano, went to the image of the Blessed Virgin and pledged his life to witness to Christ with his blood and earnestly prayed that his postulants be saved from the ordeal. All the young postulants were spared as he prayed for.

The 109 martyrs who will be beatified next week consist of 49 priests, 31 brothers and 29 students. Each of them have a unique story of faithfulness to their Lord. None of the missionaries who were nabbed by the militia denied their faith to earn their release. In the farm Mas Claret where some were held hostage, the missionaries celebrated the Eucharist before the dawn in the barn to get spiritual strength. Fr. Jaime Giron, the superior of the big formation community of Cervera, was close to the workers and he foresaw the impending revolution and his possible martyrdom. He told his close friends, “Every Mass I celebrate it seems to me that it’s the last. I always do a special rememberance to save those who have to be my executioners. From now on I forgive them from the heart”. Bro. Fernando was dragged to a brothel to be humiliated, but his chaste life won over the nobility in those women, to the dismay of the enemies who angrily dragged him to the cemetery and shot him to death. Eyewitnesses testified that the missionaries fell to the bullet forgiving and praying for the assassins. It was for them the hour of fidelity to the mission until the end.

The  Holy Family Basilica, the work of the renowned architect Gaudi, opens first time for an event of beatification. On October 21,the ceremony will be presided over  by Cardenal Angelo Amato, the prefect of the Congregation of the Cause of Saints, accompanied by the Nuncio Mons. Enzo Frattino and numerous bishops from Spain including 14 Claretian bishops from different places.  The Eucharist will be celebrated at 10 am which can be watched directly by 13TV or through streaming in internet.

As many cannot be physically present in Barcelona, you will do well to follow the celebration by watching the event live in http://www.109cmf.org/

The  political climate of Barcelona is tense. The day of the beatification in Barcelona could be particularly sensitive, if the current tension escalates. I ask for your prayers for the peace of that region. We seek the intercession of the martyrs who were faithful to the end for the peace and reconciliation in the world.

Fraternally,

Fr. Mathew Vattamattam cmf
Superior General