New Franciscan Martyrs

 

A new group of martyrs belonging to the Order of Friars Minor and the Secular Franciscan Order is added to the Franciscan Martyrology. The newly Blessed are part of a larger group of 502 martyrs beatified in Tarragona (Spain) on Sunday, 13 October 2013. They offered their heroic witness of faith in the course of the bloody religious persecution in Spain of 1936.

FATHER ANTONIO FAÚNDEZ LÓPEZ, OFM, is the head of the company of martyrs of the Province of Cartagena. He was born in the Hiniesta, Diocese of Zamora, on July 23, 1907. He was baptized two days later in the parish of Santa María la Real with the name of Miguel. In the same parish, he received the Sacrament of Confirmation on July 9, 1916.

After a pious and docile childhood, he entered the Seraphic College of Cehegín (Murcia) at 12 years old. He did his novitiate in Jumilla and made his perpetual profession on August 15, 1928, in the convent of Orihuela. The young Friar was loved by all for his calm and amiable character and his love of simplicity. At the end of the theological studies, he was ordained a priest on February 8, 1931, in the convent of Saint Anne of Orihuela, where he remained for two years.

He was made professor of literature at the college seminar of Cehegín and here he devoted himself to the ministry of preaching, confession, and spiritual direction of the Antonian Youth. On March 11, 1936, the militia attacked the convent of Cehegín and Br. Antonio began a time of danger and itinerancy in various places, while trying to get to safety. He was at first in the convent of Lorca and from there, on July 23, headed towards Altobordo. When he was back in Cehegín, he took refuge in Orihuela (Alicante) and then in Bullas in the house of José García Pascual. On the evening of November 11, 1936, militiamen came to pick him up on the pretext of leading him to the committee. Br. Antonio, aware of the danger of death, asked for absolution of Father Fermín García, the son of the landlord. Once in the street, realizing that he was being led to the gallows, he started to run, shouting “Long live the Virgin of the Rosary and long live Christ the King.” Reached by the bullets of the militia, he died a martyr in the streets of Bullas.

BUENAVENTURA MUÑOZ MARTÍNEZ, OFM, was born on December 7, 1912, in the district of Santa Cruz, in the planes of Brujas, in the Province of Murcia. He was baptized the next day by the name of Baltazar Mariano. He grew up in a family rich in faith and works of mercy. At the age of five, he was left orphaned by both parents. His older brother, Antonio, who was just 15, took charge of the family. When he got married, Baltazar went to live with him. He grew fond of the religious practices, of priests, the prayer of the rosary. He divided his time between school and shepherding the flock, leading them to pasture. On June 27, 1920, he made his first communion. Giving clear signs of a vocation he entered the seminary at age 14 entered the Seraphic College of Cehegín. In 1930 he began his novitiate in the convent of Santa María La Real de las Huertas. Upon receiving the habit, he took the name of Bonaventure. He was a model student, highly respected and loved by all.

In April 1931, he was forced for the first time to leave the convent and return to his family at the first signs of persecution. After July 24, 1936, he finally abandoned the convent. In the early hours of September 4, 1936, he was arrested at his home right under the eyes of the brothers and led to the place of martyrdom with Fr. Pedro Sánchez Barba. His bloody body, but with a smile on his lips, was picked up by the brothers a few hours later on the road leading to Espinardo in the place called Cuello de la Tinaja.

Fr. PEDRO Sánchez Barba, a diocesan priest, was born on July 1, 1895, in a placed called Llano de Brujas. On the following day, his pious parents took him to the baptismal font of the Church of Our Lady of the Tears in Baena. He was confirmed on July 13, 1898. In obedience to the call of the Lord, he entered the Seminary of St. Fulgencio in Murcia where he was ordained a priest in 1919. His assignments were treasurer of the Seminary, Director of the Catholic newspaper “La Verdad”, and leader of the “Agraria Catholic Confederation”.

In 1931, he was assigned to the parish of St. Bartholomew, one of the most important of Murcia, where he left a wonderful memory among the parishioners for whom he founded many organizations including the Catholic Action. He distinguished himself for the ministry of preaching, concern for the youth, the poor, and the abandoned.

He joined the Third Order Franciscan, of which he always wore a cord and in which he practiced admirably poverty and mortification. When they made frequent attempts on the churches and religious communities, the Servant of God many times during the night mounted the guard along with other young people from Catholic Action, in order to preserve the church from possible arson attacks.

On the night between September 3 and 4, 1936, he was captured by militia men in his own home with his brother Fulgenzio who vainly tried to protect him with an apology. Led to the place of martyrdom, together with his brother Fulgenzio and Br. Buenaventura Muñoz Martínez, they were asked to declared themselves fascists, to which he replied: “We have nothing fascist about us. Do with me what you want as a priest, but free my brother, who is taking care of my sick mother and for whom he is the only support.” On that instant, the first shots wounded severely the three prisoners. As they fell to the ground, they were again shot, but only Fulgenzio miraculously survived, thus becoming a privileged witness of the martyrdom of Don Pedro and Br. Buenaventura.

DON FULGENCIO MARTÍNEZ GARCÍA, A DIOCESAN PRIEST, was born in Rivera de Molina (Murcia) August 14, 1911. He was baptized on the day of the Assumption of Mary into Heaven in the parish of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. His family environment passed on a solid Christian formation that directed him towards a priestly vocation. On January 13, 1919, he received the Sacrament of confirmation and on May 29 made his first communion. Like his uncle, he entered the Seminary of St. Joseph of Murcia, where he showed human and spiritual qualities which presaged his holy priesthood.

From 1933 – 34, he served in the military; it was a difficult period because of the bad moral environment in which he lived, but which, nonetheless, was a good test for his fortitude. On June 15, 1935, he was ordained a priest and sent to La Paca in the countryside of Lorca, in the province of Murcia. On the same day of the national uprising, July 18, 1936, Fulgenzio was also arrested among many priests. Taken to the prison of Lorca, he was declared a political prisoner. On September 28, he was transferred to the Church of St. John of Murcia, turned into a prison, to be tried by the people’s court. The death sentence was issued on Friday, October 2, with the false accusation that he said “the government of traitors has fallen,” whereas in truth the only crime was that of being a priest of Christ. When he was informed of the news the following day, he manifested serenity and joy to offer his life for the faith. In his last letter to his parents, on October 4, 1936, he wrote: “Do not suffer for my death because I feel very honoured to suffer for Christ. I’m going cheerfully and happy to my death and I offer it in reparation for my sins and for you that that all this bloodshed going on in Spain may end. This blood flowing is the seed of good Christians and an occasion of spiritual regeneration for the country.” Led to the shooting place of Espinardo, he refused to be blindfolded and facing the firing squad, he cried out his last words. “Long live Christ the King and long live Catholic Spain …”

 

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