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The cry of a thousand mothers
29/12/2011 Spain

Excerpts from the homily of Cardinal Angelo Amato, SDB, during the celebration of the Beatification of the Oblate Martyrs and a Layman, December 17, 2011. After briefly telling the martyrs’ story, the Cardinal said:

The cry of a thousand mothers cannot silence the pain of the Church at the loss of these her sons, killed because of hatred of God. Unfortunately, history shows that when man erases from his conscience the commandments of God, in his heart are also broken all ties to goodness, thus leading him to committing monstrous deeds. In losing God, man also loses his humanity.

We might ask ourselves: were our martyrs ready for the ultimate sacrifice? The answer, based on witnesses and on their own words, is affirmative. They were aware and they were getting ready, through lives of prayer and sacrifice, for their surrender to their executioners. They certainly knew of the antireligious sentiments of many of the locals who were angry because the Oblates openly wore the cross on their chest and welcomed into their house meetings of Catholic railway workers.

Just four days after the outbreak of the civil war, the anti-Catholic hatred, which had burned and destroyed many churches in Madrid, arrived in Pozuelo de Alarcón, came down upon the scholasticate of the Oblates with unprecedented cruelty. They occupied the building; all the religious were arrested, without questioning, without a trial, without proof, without the possibility of defending themselves.

A priest, six young students and Mr. Cándido Castán San José, husband and father of two children, were killed at once, on the day following their arrest. The others endured four months of suffering, following their painful Way of the Cross: fear, life in hiding, the constant risk of being discovered, arrest, prison, ridicule, humiliation of all kinds, torture, mutilation and death.

It’s good not to forget this tragedy. It is also good not to forget the reaction of our martyrs. To the wicked actions of their murderers, they responded with kind words, prayer and forgiveness for their persecutors, accepting death with fortitude, for love of Jesus Christ. Their behavior gave light to the darkness of evil.

We are touched by the words of the young, eighteen year old Oblate, Clemente Rodriguez Tejerina, who, months before his martyrdom, had told his sister, Josefa: “If we have to die, I am ready; I am confident that God will give us the strength we need to be faithful.”

We seem to hear the words of the apostle Paul who wrote these words to the Christians in Rome: “What will separate us from the love of Christ? Will anguish, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or the sword? […] No, in all these things we conquer overwhelmingly through him who loved us.” (Romans 8:35, 37)

The Lord Jesus himself was hated, persecuted, condemned and killed. And he warned his disciples, saying: “If the world hates you, realize that it hated me first.” (John 15:18) Persecution is one of the beatitudes of the Christian: “Blessed are you when they insult you and persecute you and utter every kind of evil against you (falsely) because of me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward will be great in heaven. Thus they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” (Matt. 5:11-12)

The martyrs teach us that our witness to the Gospel involves not only a virtuous life but also, at times, martyrdom. Pope Benedict XVI, in his Apostolic Letter of Beatification, says that the 22 Oblate Martyrs and the layman, father of a family, “while remaining faithful to their vocation, relentlessly preached the Gospel and, by shedding their own blood, bore witness to their genuine love of the Lord Jesus and of his Church.”

This is the message which the martyrs offer us. Society has no need of hatred, violence and division, but only of love, forgiveness and brotherhood. In a world weakened by wounds of every kind, the Christian is called, even today, to give a strong testimony of God’s providential presence and the effectiveness of his grace which, in a way so mysterious but real, changes evil thoughts into thoughts for good.

Let us imitate the strength of the martyrs, the strength of their faith, the immensity of their love, the greatness of their hope. As we prayed in the Collect: “O God, through the merits and the intercession of the Blessed Martyrs, let us bear witness of faith and truth to the world.”

May the new Martyrs be, above all, life teachers for their brother Oblates of Mary Immaculate; may they, in the school of these martyrs, strengthen the love of Christ and of the Church, and be generous and eager missionaries of the new evangelization in the whole world.

Last October 29, the Archdiocese of Madrid celebrated the Beatification of Sister Maria Catalina Irigoyen Etchegaray, a woman rich in faith and love, a sublime example of faithful and joyful consecrated life. Today, Madrid has lived, with renewed joy, the glorification of the Blessed Oblate Martyrs and Blessed Cándido Castán San José, exemplary father of a family and model of the Christian worker.

Glorious Archdiocese of Madrid and glorious Spain, fertile land of saints and martyrs, who offer the world the vision of the good life of the Gospel, practicing the love they preached! As long as there are righteous people in your land, Divine Providence will never abandon you and the blessing of the Lord will come down, full of grace and of gifts, upon civil society, your families and each of you.

May the Immaculate Virgin Mary, mother and help of Christians, help you celebrate Christmas with a pure and holy heart.