At this point in our celebration of the Jubilee Year, we have witnessed another extraordinary event, one that has had profound effects on all the members of the Vincentian Family. Indeed, all of the various events that have occurred during this year are related to oneanother and the 400th anniversary of the origin of theVincentian charism is given new meaning through the witness of the faith and charity of the martyrs in Spain who, on November 11th, 2017. were declared “Blessed”.
My first reflection revolves around certain elements that are part of every beatification and that are also part of our Vincentian history. The sixty martyrs were members of the Congregation of the Mission, the Daughters of Charity, the Vincentian Marian Youth and the Miraculous Medal Association. The witness of these martyrs is rooted in the elements of inventive charity and Marian devotion and those same elements were prominent in the logo that was decided upon for the celebration of this event. We note that charity, viewed as the total giving of self, provides us with perspective for our everyday life. Every Vincentian, like Mary, must reach out to and become a neighbor to those who are suffering and in need. Vincentians hold nothing back but are willing to give everything and to give with joy. In accord with the Scriptures where we are told that God loves a joyful giver, we discover that joy is another characteristic that emerges from the witness of our martyrs. In the martyrdom of these newly blessed men and women we also discover God’s loving response to the generous offer of his beloved sons and daughters.
A second reflection leads us to consider the event as not simply one that occurred during the decade of the 1930’s but as an event that has meaning for our own era. What is the significance of proclaiming these men and women as “blessed”? Could it not be a motive to situate ourselves anew in the midst of an environment where we experience so much hatred and hostility? Perhaps this celebration is intended to remind us of the on-going struggle between good and evil and, thus, disturb our complacency. This event can also be seen as a reminder that in the midst of so many acts of cruelty and barbarity, there is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. The martyrs never spoke against their persecutors, rather they forgave them; there was no hatred in the hearts of these Vincentian martyrs … like Jesus, these men and women spoke words of forgiveness. Throughout their lives, these men and women revealed themselves as authentic witnesses, people who made the gospel credible, people who gave new meaning to the Scriptures and to the Church. The years of persecution (1936-1939) were a chaotic and sad time in the history of Spain: the civil war involved a vicious struggle against God and the Church, a struggle to eliminate the Church from every part of Spain. Hatred led the persecutors to drag countless individuals into the abyss of captivity and the country was covered with the blood of the martyrs. Nevertheless, the blood of these witnesses of the faith became a sign of the failed attempt of the persecutors to eliminate the presence of Christ and his followers from our land. Our hope, and the hope of all Christians, is that the blood that was shed in our country will lead to a new flourishing of the gospel throughout Spain. Many years were needed healo the wounds of hatred
that were inflicted on so many people. The martyrs, however, bring us back to reality and remind us of our hope for a future that is grounded on peace and harmony. Furthermore, we become ever more aware of the fact that the gift of forgiveness produces new and lasting reconciliation, especially during this time when, in more subtle ways, we continue to experience hostility and hatred.
We pray that the blood of the martyrs, precious blood because it was shed in the name of Christ and united with Christ’s own blood … we pray that this blood might become the source of new life and hope for the church and for the whole world.
By Mario di Carlo, CM Italy Province
Translated: Charles T. Plock, CM Eastern Province, USA