In the year of the 150th anniversary of the Pascua of Saint Anthony Mary Claret, the memory of the blessed Claretian martyrs which we celebrate on 1st February invites us to deepen the martyrial dimension of our missionary life. Father Claret himself longed to seal the truths he preached with the very blood of his veins and bore in his body the scars of the attempt on his life in Holguin on 1st February 1856. He writes about the event:
“For several days I had been feeling very fervent and full of longing to die for Jesus Christ. The love of God seemed to be the only thing I knew how or changed to talk about, both to the member of my household and to outsiders who came to visit me. I had a great hunger and thirst to suffer trials and shed my blood for Jesus’ and Mary’s sake” (Aut 573).
Father Claret’s dream for himself and his missionaries as men on fire with God’s love who spreads its fire wherever they go, setting everyone on fire with God’s love alludes to the burning of the heart with God’s love and the zeal of pastoral commitment to the people. Being devoured by the love of God and love for brothers as fire consumes wood is a mystical state described by many saints in the Church. The consummation of his life in Fontfroide on 24 October 1870 was spending himself off totally in this fire of God’s love.
Our gaze on the Crucified ignites this fire that dispels the cold shiver of fear and anxiety in the midst of persecutions and trials. When the Claretian martyrs, most of them young, faced the threat of death for their discipleship, they opted to die rather than give up on Christ. We rejoice in their testimony which impels us to be consumed by the same fire of our charism.
Let us recall the way of the cross of our Barbastro martyrs who were dragged from the hall of agony in the Piarist School to the calvary of martyrdom. We shall keep their farewell message resonate in our hearts: “Farewell, beloved Congregation! Your sons salute you from prison and offer you our sufferings and anguish as a holocaust to expiate for our failings and as a witness to our faithful, generous and everlasting love” (Faustino Pérez).
Our martyrs lived up to the dream of our Founder for his missionaries. The memory of their lives and their intercession ignite the same fire of love in us as we commemorate their martyrdom liturgically on the 1st of February. 182 of our brothers and one Claretian sister were beatified among the total of 274 missionaries martyred during the Spanish religious persecution (1936) and the persecution in Mexico (1927). We shall also remember Francesc Crusats, the first martyr, killed during the revolution of 1868 in Spain.
The Church officially recognized the testimony of our brothers and a Claretian sister in the following beatifications:
- Felipe de Jesús Munárriz and 50 Companions, Martyrs of Barbastro (Rome, Italy, 1992),
- María Patrocinio Giner RMI (Valencia, Spain, 2001),
- Andrés Solá and Companions (Guadalajara, Mexico, 2005),
- José María Ruiz, Jesús Aníbal Gómez, Antoni Vilamassana and Companions (Tarragona, Spain, 2010),
- Mateu Casals, Teófilo Casajús, Ferran Saperas and their 106 Companions (Barcelona, Spain, 2017).
Every year, we have four important Claretian celebrations weaved into our liturgical life that nurture us from the whole mystery of Christ. They are:
- the martyrial dimension of our charism on the memory of Claretian Martyrs on 1st February,
- the Cordi-Marian dimension of our charism on the solemnity of the Immaculate Heart of Mary (Saturday following the second Sunday after Pentecost),
- the spirit of our charism on the anniversary of the Founding of our Congregation on 16 July,
- the missionary fire that inflamed our Founder on his feast day on 24th
Celebration of the martyrial dimension of our charism on 1st February takes us to reflect on the core values of Consecrated Life and observe the World Day of Consecrated Life on 2nd February meaningfully.
We count on the intercession of our martyrs to be faithful to our missionary vocation. The best way to honor the life of our Founder is to allow ourselves to be inflamed by the fire of God’s love that gave courage to our martyrs to be missionaries till the end.
I wish you all a meaningful celebration of the memory of the Claretian Martyrs.
Fr. Mathew Vattamattam CMF
Rome, January 31, 2020