Wednesday, September 17, 2014
September, 1936. The Spanish civil war was spreading across the country, and the "red terror" (an anti-church campaign) saw many clergy killed by firing squad. Marianist brother Jesus Hita had recently been assigned to Ciudad Real. On the morning of 25 September, he was arrested at the boarding house in which he was staying. That evening, he was driven outside the city and shot in front of the walls of the cemetery. Later, his body was thrown into an abandoned well. One week earlier, a similar scene had been played out with the death of Bro. Carlos Eraña. Three weeks later, it was repeated with Bro. Fidel Fuidio. Their crimes: being Religious.
Today we remember and celebrate our Brother-Martyrs from Ciudad Real. Jesus, Carlos, and Fidel, and others who, while not officially recognized by the Church, shared their same fate. As I read their biographies, I was struck by their "normal" lives. We could easily call them just regular Marianist Brothers. They were good teachers and community members. They were faithful to their vows and were doing the best they could. Perhaps, there was nothing extraordinary about them - no mystical visions or ascetic penances. I imagine that if they were seminarians they would fit in well, and we could relate to them. Carlos and Fidel had difficulty learning a new language. Jesus was anxious and serious, but always helpful. Fidel didn't like math, but loved jokes. Normal, simple, practical, ordinary Brothers.
But, in the end, when asked by God, they did something very un-ordinary, something extraordinary. Given the circumstances in Spain at the time, they must have known that death was just around the corner, but they didn't flee. They continued their educational work, basing their lives on complete trust and faith in God, living life in the Spirit. And it is for this faith of their whole hearts and lives that we remember them today.
The lives of our Brothers and their acts of faith are reflected in the mass readings given for their feast. St. Paul reminds us that "we have a treasure in earthen vessels so that the immensity of the power is God's and not our own" (2Cor 4:7). Pots made of clay are fragile and easily broken. Like them, we too are weak. We will struggle and not always be as strong as we would like. But at the same time, it is a reminder that God is ultimately in control, it is in God that we find our strength and victory. Our Blessed Martyrs show us that even when we are weak, God is strong. God has the power to give us new life even when others try to take it away. As we place more and more trust in the God who can save us, our life grows more abundant.
St. Matthew speaks of a time of great trial. But he also says that the Holy Spirit will come to the hearer's aid in how they should speak and act (cf Mt 10:19-20). It is told that just before Blessed Fidel was shot, he cried out, "Long live Christ the King!" Just as the Holy Spirit came to the aid of the Martyrs, she will come to our help. The Holy Spirit can increase our faith as we listen more closely to her gentle whispers. The Spirit gives us comfort and hope by helping us be people of faith in the Christ who is King.
Dear Friends, we have before us today our Blessed Martyrs: Carlos, Jesus and Fidel. Let us pray that we might heed their example, not as martyrs ourselves, but as witnesses to strong faith and life in the Spirit in our very ordinary experiences. Let us pray that Mary might help us on this journey so that we too might be counted among our beloved Blesseds.
Today, our Marianist communities also remember Bro. Miguel Angel Quiroga. He was a young Marianist Brother from Columbia who was killed in 1998 by para-military forces while he was defending the rights of a group of peasants who were traveling to a festival. May he, with our Blessed Martyrs, pray for us!