The Claretian student Pedro Mardones Valle was born on August 24, 1914 in Vallejuelo, a small town in the Mena Valley, located in the province of Burgos, Spain. His parents, Miguel and Sebastiana, were farmers. He was catechized by his mother, and Pedro showed great love for the Eucharist. He pray daily to the town’s patron, the Virgin of Cantonad, of whom he was very devoted.
A brief History from the Province of Bética:
“Above all the heroic deed of his vocation. He loved his father dearly, but found that his father was unsupportive when he expressed the desire of becoming a missionary. His father was not categorical … But was aided by one of his brother-in-law, he left his father’s house at night to hide in the house of God. Then the Mayor of the town, along with his father and a couple of the Civil Guards arrived. There was no choice but to leave the boy where he wanted to be. As an applicant, he was already noticed for his piety, simplicity and friendliness. As a Religious, we can say that he brought all these virtues to the street and with a determination and joy. He was a man of prayer, unblemished Cordi-marian spirituality, sacrifice, mortification and industrious; but above all, mortifying his asceticism. A Saint! As all young man during the Civil War, he joined his unit (1936), where his leaders professed such great respect. Barrack life was a continuous martyrdom for him. He always escaped so he could to keep up with his classes and studies. For him, the study was an inseparable companion of prayer. He died devoured by typhus. The Mayor asked to be the godfather of his First Mass. It could not be, since he would celebrate in heaven” (1, p. 771).
His heroic fidelity would be credited again and definitely sealed in the final test: the infectious disease –typhus- ending his life. Prostrated on the side of the hospital bed in Griñón and consumed by fever, the only entertainment he had was talking about school, remembering the brothers of the Congregation and especially devoted to reading the Bible.
He died on June 23, 1937. He had not yet reached age 24, but was ready for heaven. All who had the opportunity to meet him agreed that, “Mr. Mardones was a saint.”
Life and mission
Pedro started going to school when he was 7 years old. To get there, he had to make a journey of about 20 minutes on foot and often the rigidity of the weather or the need to help his parents in farm work and cattle grazing prevented him from doing so. Thus, it would take more than six months before stepping inside the school.
The same problem arises in the religious sphere. The parish church in Vallejuelo lacked a priest and only had services a few days each year. To attend Sunday Mass regularly he had to go to another town, and this was rarely done. Pedro was catechized by his mother and exhibited great love for the Eucharist and the priest allowed him to serve as an altar boy. But, for the reasons mentioned, he had to miss many Sunday masses. Instead, not a day would go by that he would pray to the patron saint of the town, the Virgin of Cantonad, of whom he was very devout.
Very early on, Pedro felt the inclination to the priesthood and wanted to enter the seminary, but that desire clashed with the poverty of his parents, who could not afford the expenses. His desire became a reality when, through a priest known by his uncles that lived in Madrid. He managed to be admitted to the school that had just opened by the Congregation in Siguenza.
His first Prefect was Father Jose Maria Rodriguez, of whom Pedro always professed deep love, admiration and gratitude. From the first moment the young postulant -just turned 15 years- showed a strong desire to grow in virtue and a spirit of mortification. He was also recognized by his love for Mary, who he offered all his sacrifices and asked for help in difficult moments and discouragement.
The arrival of the Republic interrupted his formation program. On May 17, 1931, Pedro was forced to leave school. What hurt most was the thought that he could no longer be a son of the Heart of Mary. Recognizing this in young Pedro, Father Prefect bade him farewell with these words: “It will be, if you want it.”
Abandoning Siguenza, his new life in the world presented Pedro with a serious threat to his vocation, and even for his eternal salvation. On May 20, he made a private vow not to meet with anyone who could put him in danger of sin, even if he had to walk alone. With this determination, he returned to his town, using his energy working on the farm. Shortly before his return to Siguenza, he had to suffer a very strong and prolonged temptations against chastity, which he was free after eight days of intense fighting and only with the help of the Heart of Mary. In this situation, it was very useful to read the life of St. Stanislaus Kostka, of whom he identified with in his determination to leave the world, “What is that worth to eternity? Ad majora natus sum! “Like the young Claret, Pedro had his moment of Quid Prodest.
Not getting the consent of his father to return to the seminary, Pedro decided to run away from home. Thus, on the feast of Our Lady of Pillar in 1931, he took the train to Siguenza, where he was received by Father Rodriguez, who was now the Rector, and Fr. Eladio Riol, his new Prefect. Two days later, when the Civil Guards appeared to take him, Pedro maintained his determination: “Well, you can, if you will, force me to go back to my parents’ house; but know that as many times you take me, I will escape and return”(3, p. 3). This strongly impressed the Mayor of Siguenza, who spontaneously offered to mediate with his father, and even to be the godparent at his First Mass.
That young man who was 17 year old was quite clear: “First and foremost, God.” So he would reiterate in the letters he wrote later to his family, explaining the reasons for his decision and reproaching his opposition to it while expressing his invariable affection for them. From October 1931 to September 1932, he stayed in the Postulate of Siguenza. It was a year of great progress in the way of evangelical perfection, driven by the exercise of the presence of God, the practice of virtues, acts of piety and mortification … performing with great intensity and commitment. He strongly emphasized his deep Cordi-marian experience, expressed in constant and passionate conversations with the Virgin. Pedro wanted to love her even to die with love. And, together with this experience, Eucharistic piety that pervaded every action of the day, reaching its climax in the sacramental Communion. The fire of maternal love of Mary and the Eucharistic sacrament fed the flame of the missionary zeal that burned in the soul of Pedro all these years. “What anxiousness I feel- he wrote in an account of consciousness- of being a loving son of our good Mother! But her son, a zealous missionary, to extend his most holy name and worship of God throughout the world, to lure souls lying in the shadow of death of paganism and sin. An apostle of Jesus and Mary, and inflame the whole world in the love of God and make everyone love him …”(2, p. 133). The profound harmony with the spirit of Claret is also expressed in his aspiration to martyrdom: “At this time the Lord communicated great desires to suffer for his love and to be despised for Him. I want very much to shed my blood and all my strength torments for the love of Jesus and Mary”(2, p. 133S).
These features of his personal spiritual will be even stronger and develop depth in the year of his Novitiate. Pedro realized this while at Jerez de los Caballeros, wearing the holy habit on September 28, 1932. His Novice Master was Father Donato Chavarri. Thus, while growing in his identity as the Son of the Heart of Mary, his own heart began to swell in zeal for the salvation of the world, feeling particularly attracted to the missions of China.
After receiving his Religious Profession on September 29, 1933, our young student went to Plasencia to begin his classes in Philosophy. At this time, his spiritual life lost in exuberance, but gains in simplicity and depth. The centerpiece was the indwelling of God in his soul, with a strong Eucharistic and Marian imprint. His Cordi-marian experience is summarized in this way: “I have to seek more the presence of Mary; that is to say: to do everything with Mary and Mary in my heart, to work with love and purity from her” (2, p 223.). At the end of his Philosophy studies (specifically, during 1935 to 1936), he makes a decisive step towards union with God: “All his aspirations are strongly polarized in the desire for God alone, entirely conforming his will to the divine” (2, p. 234).
In July 1936, Spain erupted in the Civil War and Pedro was called up by the National Defense Council, he must enlist at the headquarters of Plasencia. There he would live eight months of real purgatory. His spirit was suffocating in that environment and couldn’t wait to go to breathe again in his community. And that was his main occupation in the unit; it was the religious and patriotic training of recruits. We know of his feelings during this time because of the correspondence with his sister, who after her husband was mobilized, she was alone and sick with their young son in Avila. These family letters, imbued with faith and affection, show the grandeur and delicacy of his soul.
In early April 1937, the garrison of Plasencia was moving to Valladolid. From Valladolid they had to move again to Leganes and other towns in the province of Madrid, ahead of the Jarama. From the letters that Pedro wrote during these months, we see continued strength in the three pillars of his spirituality: Cordi-marian affiliation, love Jesus in the Eucharist and apostolic zeal. But there is also a foreshadowing of the serenity with which he looked at death, to be near the firing line, he could fall any time. “In these difficult circumstances where many succumbed … the virtue of Mr. Mardones grew” (2, p. 257).
His heroic fidelity would be credited again and definitely sealed in the final test: the infectious disease –typhus- that was sapping his body until it end his life. Prostrate on the hospital bed in Griñón and consumed by fever, the only entertainment that Pedro had was speaking of school, remembering the brothers of the Congregation and especially devoted to reading the Bible.
One of the Sisters of Charity who attended to him in these last days left us this moving account: “He entered, unable to specify date in late June, in room number two, with high temperatures and severe pain in the belly. In the days that he remained under observation in this room, the nurse’s noted his great patience, from his lips there was no complaint and when diagnosed his illness, they took him to the typhus room, saying to his new Nurse: “The patient who joins you today is a saint.” For the remainder of his illness, he continued to give proof of his kindness and modesty, because he never uttered a complaint or because of his pains and because of the serum, injections and sheets, which they placed on him. He had great delusions and one night he said he was a friar; and on successive nights, when asked how, he said he was great and was seeing the Virgin and a saint. Who, I do not remember. Having a day with great pains, he had to receive serum and said “You are so good,” he looked back and said: “Is that you; I am obligated to be better than I am, but nevertheless, the Virgin speaks to me and take me with her.” After three or four days telling me [that] the Virgin would take him, he sweetly perished between the priest of this hospital and this writer, staying reflected in his face a serenity and peace which we all discussed (2, p . 264s).
It was on June 23, 1937. Pedro was not yet 24 years old but was prepared for heaven. All who had the opportunity to meet have coincided in the same judgement, “Pedro Mardones was a saint.”
- CARRASCO DIEZ, M. Mª., (Coord.) One Hundred Years of Evangelization in the lands of the South. Historical review of the Andalusia province of the Claretian Missionaries (1906-2006), Madrid 2007.
- JUBERÍAS, F., In Corde Matris. Biography and spirituality Cordimariana of Student Missionary Pedro Mardones Valle, C.M.F., Seville 1959.
- RIOL, E., Obituary of Mr. Pedro Mardones Valle, in Annales Congregationis, t. 34 (1938), pp. 92-96,, 143-144.