Yesterday, in Madrid Cathedral, the twelve Redemptorists who died martyr’s death in 1936 were beatified. In this way, the Church solemnly proclaimed how they lived and died was proof of their union with Christ and an example of the fruitful fulfilment of the baptismal and religious vocation. What can the testimony of the martyrs tell us today?
“In 1936, there were two communities of Redemptorists in Madrid: one at the Shrine of Our Lady of Perpetual Help and the other at the Basilica of Saint Michael”, – says Fr. Marek Raczkiewicz CSsR, professor at the Comillas Catholic University in Madrid. – “On 20 July, the revolutionaries began burning churches and monasteries and arresting priests, religious and lay Catholics. The Redemptorists, on the orders of their superiors, began to seek refuge among family and friends. In the afternoon, the two religious left the monastery at St Michael’s Basilica. However, on a street corner, they were met by a group of militants who began shouting: “Fascists, fascists”. The Redemptorists calmly replied: “No, we are religious”. On the same day, they were shot in the Casa de Campo park. The 77-year-old blind religious brother Nicesio said after his arrest: “We cannot part in hatred. Let me hug you.” He hugged everyone, blessed them, and then said: “Just aim well!” Fr.Vincent Renuncio hid under an altered name but was eventually arrested. He was surprised to hear his real name among those who were to be executed. He sacrificed his life for the Church, the Congregation and Spain.
Fr. Antonio Quesada, CSsR, the vice-postulator of the cause, points out that the martyrs beatified in Madrid are the first Redemptorists in the history of our Congregation who have shown their fidelity to Christ in such dramatic circumstances.
“Until 20 July 1936, the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer had suffered various religious persecutions, but none of the Redemptorists had died a martyr’s death. The three brothers who died martyrs on 20 July 1936 opened a door in the Congregation that ended a year later. It is the encounter of the Gospel with totalitarianism. Here in Spain 20 martyred confreres died. Today we celebrate the beatification of 12 of them. And then there will be the martyrs of Ukraine, those of Poland and also those of Slovakia.”
When asked about the significance of the beatification for our Redemptorist Congregation, Fr. Antonio Quesada replies:
“It means, then, that our evangelising and missionary charism has been able to live their vow of perseverance amidst tragic circumstances, and they have lived that fidelity to the Lord to their vocation, without renouncing their faith, bearing witness with their lives to that precious thing for which they had consecrated themselves to the Lord. And for the Spanish Church and for the universal Church, because it calls us to live our faith passionately. It invites us to live our vocation in fidelity to the Lord. And to live our lives generously. In such a way that we never put anything before the Lord’s call. And it is also an invitation, then, to reconciliation and fraternity of all peoples, as all victims join hands”.
(based on material submitted by Fr Mark Raczkiewicz, CSsR)