Fr Rogério Gomes, Superior General of the Redemptorist Missionaries, presided at the Mass of thanksgiving, which concluded the celebrations for the Beatification of 12 Redemptorist martyrs in Madrid.
The Eucharist in the Shrine of Our Mother of Perpetual Help on Sunday, 23 October, was concelebrated by more than 40 Redemptorists from many countries of Europe and the world, including Father Francisco Caballero, Superior of the Madrid Province, Father Zdzislaw Francis Stanula, Vicar General, Father Johannes Römelt, Coordinator of the Redemptorist Conference of Europe, members of the past and present General Government and several superiors of the provinces and vice-provinces of our Congregation.
“Martyrdom is the ultimate consequence of fidelity to the Gospel and to one’s conscience, of personal freedom and of absolute certainty of the love and presence of God in one’s life,” said Fr Gomes in his homily. – Martyrdom is a prophetic act of faith par excellence. It may destroy the body but it does not kill the soul, the spirit. It is to configure one’s own life in the resurrection of Jesus!”
Fr General also referred to the present situation in the world: “when we celebrate our 12 martyrs, we also remember the martyrs of today: men, women and children who fight for a better world or die silently and cruelly as victims of social sin”.
Fr Gomes quoted Pope Francis’ words from his message for World Mission Day, which coincided with the celebration of the beatification: “The true witness is the “martyr”, the one who gives his life for Christ, corresponding to the gift of himself that He made to us. The first motivation to evangelise is the love of Jesus that we have received, that experience of being saved by Him which moves us to love Him ever more” (EG, 264). The blood of the martyrs is fruitfulness and strength for the mission!
At the end of the homily, Fr Rogèrio thanked the Postulator General, Fr Antonio Marazzo CSsR, and the Vice-Postulator of the cause, Fr Antonio Quesada CSsR, who have worked for many years to prepare the archives of the martyrs necessary for the beatification. (The full text of the homily follows below in Spanish).
O. Gomes also asked for solidarity in prayer with the confreres in Nicaragua.
At the end of the liturgy, Fr Francisco Caballero took the floor as superior of the Madrid Province and host of the venue. In his thanksgiving, he mentioned the many people who had participated in the beatification and who had contributed so much to the preparation and unfolding of the ceremony. Recalling the witness of the martyrs, he said that it was now up to us to bear witness to our faith and our lives, to preach the good news and to take the side of the abandoned and the poor.
Photo: Carmen Vila / redentoristas.org
THANKSGIVING FOR THE BEATIFICATION OF THE 12 SPANISH MARTYRS
To the Reverend Father Francisco Caballero, Provincial Superior,
Confreres of the Community of Perpetual Help and those who have come from afar,
Religious men and women,
Members of the diocesan clergy,
Redemptorist lay men and women,
And the whole assembly here present.
On this day, we want to give thanks to God for these 12 confreres – 6 priests and 6 brothers – who, with their deep faith, gave the most precious gift they possessed, their lives. They were 12 apostles of a mature and robust faith (cf. Const. 20), the fruit of the experience of God that they had in their personal and community histories and in their encounters with people, especially the most abandoned. Martyrdom is the ultimate consequence of fidelity to the Gospel and to one’s own conscience, of personal freedom and of absolute certainty of the love and presence of God in one’s own life. Martyrdom is a prophetic act of faith par excellence. It may destroy the body, but it does not kill the soul, the spirit. It is to shape one’s life in the resurrection of Jesus!
Martyrdom is not something distant from us. The martyrdom of hunger, of war, of violence, of immigration, of the poverty that plagues millions of people, of social exclusion, of religious and political fundamentalism, of those who fight for justice for the poorest and are persecuted and killed. These people live the passion of Christ in their own skin. That is why, when we celebrate our 12 martyrs, we also remember the martyrs of today: men, women and children who fight for a better world or die silently and cruelly as victims of social sin.
The blood of Blessed Vicente Renuncio and his fellow Redemptorists, martyrs, waters these Spanish lands and can fertilise them with a committed following of Christ and a commitment to the most fragile of our time, a renewal of faith, a renewed hope, personal and community work to build a better world, an increase in religious and priestly vocations and lay people committed to the Gospel. Brothers Gregorio, Aniceto, Máximo and Fathers José María Ortiz and Antonio Girón lived, prayed, celebrated, confessed, counselled, and welcomed lives without a path in this sacred place that we celebrate today. Their memories echo here and now in our hearts; we can feel their presence with us through faith and the communion of saints!
In the letter to Timothy (cf. 2 Tim 4:6-8, 16-18), Paul, faced with the certainty of martyrdom, uses the image of the athlete who receives a prize. He knows that he will be martyred. It is the consequence of his proclamation and witness to the risen Christ. After his conversion, his life was entirely devoted to spreading and sustaining the faith. So it remains for him to receive the crown of righteousness, not as the prize of one who has won a competition, but of one who has made his life a living gospel in the name of the Redeemer. For this, as the Gospel we heard tells us (cf. Lk 18:9-14), it is necessary to recognise and confess our own littleness, not to consider ourselves righteous and to despise others. The Pharisee believed in his own strength, the tax collector in God’s mercy, and so he was justified. The martyrs were men and women who believed in their strength as a gift the Lord gave them to sustain their faith, but never to justify themselves and consider themselves above others.
In this spirit of witnessing to our faith, today we celebrate World Mission Day, the theme of which is in keeping with what we are celebrating. “That they may be my witnesses” (Acts 1:8). In his message for this day, Pope Francis underlines the communitarian-ecclesial character that all disciples of Christ are called to. He asks them to live their personal lives in the key of the mission so that they may be his true witnesses. Francis affirms: “the true witness is the “martyr”, the one who gives his or her life for Christ, reciprocating the gift that he has made to us of himself. “The primary reason for evangelizing is the love of Jesus which we have received, the experience of salvation which urges us to ever greater love of him” (EG, 264).
The blood of the martyrs is fruitfulness and strength for the mission!
In all this missionary work, I would like to acknowledge, on behalf of the whole Congregation, the work of two confreres, Fathers Antonio Quesada and Antonio Marazzo, who have worked tirelessly for the cause of the beatification of our martyrs. Many thanks for this missionary work for the Congregation! It is a very discreet, silent and important work that often goes unnoticed.
May Mary, Mother of Perpetual Help, teach us to have the courage to bear witness to the Redeemer with our lives in today’s world. Saint Alphonsus, our saints, Blessed Vincent Renuncio Toribio and his companions, together with all the Redemptorist martyrs, give us a mature faith incarnated in the reality of those who live martyrdom today, without fearing those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul (cf. Mt 10:28) May it be so!
Fr. Rogério Gomes, C.Ss.R
Madrid, 23 October 2022.