THEY GAVE THEIR LIVES FOR CHRIST
The Congregation of Claretian Missionaries was the most tested of all the religious congregations in Spain, suffering persecution in 1936. A few years earlier, in Mexico, we had already paid tribute to a martyr in the person of Blessed Andrés Solá.
The seed of martyrdom had already been planted by the person of the Founder himself, St. Anthony Mary Claret, in the assassination attempt against him in Holguin, Cuba in 1856; and by the young priest Fr. Francesc Crusats, shot during the revolution of 1868 in La Selva del Camp, Tarragona.
There are one hundred eighty-three Claretian Missionaries who became Martyrs of the Spanish religious persecution of 1936 and have climbed the glory of the altars. Including eighty-eight more, who have not had valid witnesses for a canonical process, there are two hundred seventy-one who reached the palm of martyrdom.
Many innocent people died during the Spanish Civil War. The army or death squads killed honest people just because they were on the left. And in the Red zone, many Catholics, Bishops, Priests and Religious and Lay people were executed for their faith.
Not all the Christians died for the faith; many were killed for various reasons that have nothing to do with it. And we cannot attest to the manner of death of all those who died for the faith, like the Martyrs. This is important since the Church beatifies only those who can be ascertained as having died for the faith, forgiving their executioners as Jesus did.
Readers outside of Spain will be grateful for this simple note about the situation in Spain during 1936. After the fall of the monarchy in 1931, the Republic was born; strongly antireligious, evidenced by the chief of the Government, Mr. Manuel Azaña who used to address the Congress, with his famous phrase: “Spain is no longer Catholic”. Furthermore, it presented Spanish society with two irreconcilable sides, the left and the right wings, until July 18th, 1936 when revolution exploded, killing more than 600,000 between the two sides.
During the Civil war, that lasted around three years, the left wing started in the Red Zone with implacable religious persecution against the Church. If we count one by one, the names, they add up to 7,000 priests, religious and nuns murdered, and many others who died, just because they were distinguished Catholics. This, is apart from countless destroyed or damaged churches.
It is so difficult trying to explain the complex phenomenon of the religious persecution suffered particularly in the West of Spain, during the first half of the twenty century. There are several factors that could explain the big number of martyrs in the Church, and in our Congregation.
Sadly, «all is fair in love and war». This is the first reason for this hatred. Another is anti-clericalism, born in the nineteenth century, that was so vigorous in Spain during the decade of 1930.
However, something is very clear, all of them were innocent victims, and they were killed for their faith, and not for other reasons.
The Church, in different moments, has recognized this fact, declaring them Blessed. Hopefully their testimony will be an opportunity to increase our faith, and to make us more zealous and ardent in our Christian life.
And at the Angelus on 23rd June 2013, Pope Francis said: «Martyrs are the greatest example of losing one’s life for Christ. In 2,000 years, a vast host of men and women have sacrificed their lives to remain faithful to Jesus Christ and his Gospel. And today, in many parts of the world, there are many, many — more than in the first centuries — so many martyrs, who give up their lives for Christ, who are brought to death because they do not deny Jesus Christ. This is our Church. Today we have more martyrs than in the first centuries»!.
The martyrs are capable of saving humanity precisely because they gave their faith. In this sense, the martyrs have much power. They have demonstrated that evil can be overcome by good. «We forgive you» were the last words spoken by our martyrs. Other did not get to pronounce it with their lips but only in their heart. And they have demonstrated that one can forgive when there is love.