THE GLORY OF MARTYRDOM
Martyrs of Barbastro
The Lord said: “whoever loses his life for my sake will find it” (Mt 10.39; 16.25). Therefore, every disciple of Christ has to count on the possibility of martyrdom and value it highly. In fact, the community of Jesus, from its early days till now, has experienced the reality of martyrdom in many of its members. And it is expected that this will continue to be so in the future. Just think of the number of martyrs who gave their lives for Christ under Nazism and Communism in the last century, and the difficulties, and even martyrdom, in our own days, through the work of intolerant regimes or bands of fanatic persecutors.
Claret desired to end his days by shedding his blood for Christ. God did not grant it to him. At the end he died of illness in exile (which is yet a sort of martyrdom); but, throughout his life he suffered at least a dozen attacks, and in one of them, which took place in the city of Holguín, Cuba, where he was seriously injured and had indeed shed his blood for Christ; in his autobiography he describes in detail the joy this experience gave him. That is why Claret had holy envy for Fr. Francisco Crusats, who died in 1868 as a martyr in La Selva del Camp, Spain.
Throughout its history, the Claretian Congregation has had hundreds of martyrs. In the Spanish civil war (1936-1939) it was the religious institution with the greatest number of martyrs: 271; among them, the blessed martyrs of Barbastro (51), whose feast we celebrate today. Before that Blessed Fr. Andres Sola, in Mexico (1927), and then Fr. Rhoel Gallardo in the Philippines (2000), not counting those who suffered imprisonment, torture, exile. It is a great inspiration which should animate our fidelity and that of all Christian people.
“ … Therefore, we too, having around us so great a cloud of witnesses… let us run with perseverance the race that has been marked out before us, eyes fixed on Jesus, the founder and perfect of our faith …” (Heb 12:1-4; cf. 11).