Ever since I heard about the Claretian Martyrs of Barbastro from my initial formation, it was my deep desire to visit this place where our elder brothers suffered for the sake of Christ and prepared themselves to give up their life for Him. Thanks to the Almighty God for fulfilling my long awaited dream. I was in Barbastro community for a week where we have the Museum of 51 Claretian martyrs. The spiritual atmosphere of this old Martyr Seminary allowed me to make a journey with them on their way to martyrdom. The guidance and narration of Benjamin Elcano cmf regarding Claretian martyrs of Barbastro helped me to imagine what has happened on July 20th 1936 when 60 anarchists broke into this silent cloister shouting “where are you hiding the weapons”? The words of Superior of the community (Munárriz cmf) that ‘we are religious and here are no arms’ in fact infuriated the anarchists. Indeed it was the beginning of their way to martyrdom. Humanly speaking the most anxious moments of uncertainty and fear. But I believe that they were able to transcend their physical vulnerability for being faithful to their vocation by the grace of God and the mutual encouragement.
As a group we made a pilgrimage walking through the paths they trod when they were taken to the Jail (it was the seminary of the Piarist Fathers with its auditorium in the ground floor, which was the prison of the Claretians). I could imagine how they were treated in the jail. I was told that as soon as the Claretians arrived in the auditorium, there were the objects of taunts and brutal harassment. During these critical days of imprisonment the cassock was a symbol of fidelity and their bandage of courage. As I entered the auditorium I could imagine how the angry mob was shouting and yelling looking at brothers saying, “We will kill you with your cassocks on and we will bury those rags along with the other rags you are wearing. We don’t hate you personally, we hate your profession, your black habit, your cassock, that dis-gusting rag!…” But I believe that their fidelity to the Claretian vocation and the daily reception of the Eucharist strengthened them from not apostatizing even when they were offered the last chance to do it.
Our pilgrimage from the martyr’s seminary to the place of the martyrdom of our brothers was a real opportunity to experience of the martyrial dimension of our vocation. It was a short journey by a bus which reminded me the last journey of our brothers from the jail to this place by the truck. “Long live Christ the King, Long live Heart of Mary; the words of our brothers reverberate even now in the city of Barbastro. Josefina Plana, who was a little girl that time later gives the testimony that she even remembers very well her mother asking her and her sister to kneel down on the terrace of their house when they heard the cry from the back of the truck, piercing the night, long live Christ the king and urged them to pray for the Claretian brothers to give them strength to be faithful till the end of their life.
My journey to the two simple monuments which occupy now the exact places of their martyrdom and celebrating the Holy Eucharist there was the most cherishing moments during my stay in Barbastro. The blood that they shed for the sake of Christ was a reminder and an impetus for me to be faithful to my own vocation as a missionary. For us this is a holy place where our Brothers shed their blood for the sake of Christ. But I could sense God’s providence and Mother Mary’s accompaniment even on the last moments of their death. From the shrine of El Pueyo the blessed Virgin, (which can be seen from this place) on her feast day, with infinite tenderness opened her arms and received them in her HEART.