Six days with the Oblate Martyrs accompanied by the writings of Saint Eugene
A selection of brief texts for reading and praying with St. Eugene and the Oblate Martyrs
Joaquín Martínez Vega and Frank Santucci
WILLING TO GIVE THEIR LIVES
“The Church, that glorious inheritance purchased by Christ the Saviour at the cost of his own blood, has in our days been cruelly ravaged. The beloved spouse of God’s only begotten Son is torn with anguish as she mourns the shameful defection of the children she herself bore.
“The sight of these evils has so touched the hearts of certain priests, zealous for the glory of God, men with an ardent love for the Church, that they are willing to give their lives, if need be, for the salvation of souls.
“And how should men who want to follow in the footsteps of Christ?
- They must strive to be saints.
- They must wholly renounce themselves.
- They must be ready to sacrifice goods, talents, ease, self, even their life, for the love of Jesus Christ, the service of the Church, and the sanctification of their brethren.”
This is the ideal which St. Eugene de Mazenod proposes for his Oblates.
“Belonging to the bright and glorious army of martyrs are not a few Spanish Christians killed out of hatred for the faith in the years 1936-1939 by a wicked persecution of the Church, its members and its institutions. With special hatred and cruelty, bishops, priests and religious were persecuted; their only “crime” was believing in Christ, preaching the Gospel and bringing people along the way of salvation.” (John Paul II)
On May 21, 1861, the Bishop of Marseille, St. Eugene de Mazenod, died a holy death. So this year, 2011, marks the 150th anniversary of his dies natalis, his birth into heaven.
We wanted to use this anniversary to highlight, through the glorification of some Oblates, that the spiritual path taken by this Holy Founder is a sure way to holiness.
For this reason, the Superior General of the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate filed a “petition” with the Holy See, joined by Cardinals, Bishops and many faithful, requesting and acceleration of the process of the Cause of the Oblate Martyrs of Spain, in order to celebrate their Beatification in this jubilee year.
This petition was kindly received and therefore, we have the immense joy of assisting at this event on December 17, 2011, in the Cathedral of Madrid.
Cardinal Angelo Amato, Prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, in a friendly chat with Fr. General and the Postulator, told us that we had to get moving so that this celebration would be a kairos, that is, a moment of grace and source of spiritual animation for the entire Oblate family, and not only for it…
This booklet has no other purpose than to quite simply provide some ideas for such animation, combining the charism of St. Eugene during his 150th anniversary year, with the heroic witness of some of his sons upon the 75th anniversary of their martyrdom.
We thank Fr. Frank Santucci, animator of the Oblate charism, for his considerable contribution to this booklet with his article, Oblation, a dynamo which generates energy, published in Missioni OMI (6 / 2011). In it, I found most of what inspired me in reference to St. Eugene.
Joaquín Martínez Vega, o.m.i.
Oblation and Martyrdom
From the earliest days of the Missionary Oblates, they used the term “oblation” in speaking about religious consecration: temporal oblation, perpetual oblation.
It seems that, in the beginning, St. Eugene de Mazenod did not plan to found a new community of missionaries nor a new religious congregation. He wanted neither more nor less than this: to continue “the apostolic life” in its most authentic and original meaning, that is to say, to relive here and now the life of the Apostles with Jesus. To do that, more than giving missions or doing ministry, he wanted above all to collaborate with Jesus Christ the Savior in the work of redemption. To do this “mission” well, it was necessary to follow in the “footsteps of the Apostles,” to whom Jesus had said: “You will be my witnesses to the very ends of the world.”
WITNESS, in Greek, the language of the New Testament, means MARTYR.
St. Eugene required of “anyone who wishes to be one of us, a burning zeal,” “a self-giving love,” a preferential love for the most abandoned: to love without measure, to love with the same measure as the love of Christ: to the very giving of one’s life. For this, he required that each Oblate be ready to give his life. And if this happens with the shedding of one’s blood, we have martyrdom or a bloody oblation, the supreme oblation.
Therefore, St. Eugene wished for himself the grace of martyrdom. It was one of the intentions of his First Mass. He asked for: “final perseverance and also martyrdom, or at least death while assisting victims of the plague.” For “martyrdom out of charity will not have a lesser reward than martyrdom for the faith.” (26.01.1854: letter to a gravely ill missionary)
Testimony of the Martyrs
“I’ve always been deeply moved by stories of martyrdom. When I read them, I am overpowered by a secret desire to suffer the same fate. That would be the greatest priesthood to which all of us Christians could aspire: to give each one’s own body and blood as a holocaust for the faith. What an honor, to die as a martyr!”
These are the very words of one of the Martyrs, Gregorio Escobar, in a letter written to his family as he was preparing for his ordination.