During the persecution of the Church in Spain from 1936 to 1939 nearly 7000 bishops, priests and religious were martyred. Among those who sacrificed their lives for Christ and his Church there were 22 Oblates: priests, brothers and scholastics. They lived in the Oblate formation house where the young men were preparing to become missionaries. Although the anti-religious riots in the city were becoming more and more frightening the Oblates continued their community life centered on prayer, study and pastoral activities in the neighborhood. However that quiet life style, which was exclusively religious, became an issue for the communist revolutionaries who eventually on July 22, 1936 attacked the Oblate house. The Oblates were put under arrest while the house was searched for some alleged weapons. The only “weapons” found on the premises were Bibles and other spiritual books, rosaries, crucifixes, religious statues and pictures. Those were thrown into a pile to be burnt. 38 Oblates were locked in their dining room and guarded as if they were dangerous criminals. Two days later, on July 24, 1936 the first seven of them were to crown their life with martyrdom:
Juan Antonio Peréz Mayo, priest and professor, age 29.
Manuel Gutiérrez Martín, scholastic, age 23.
Cecilio Vega Domínguez, scholastic, age 23.
Juan Pedro Cotillo Fernández, scholastic, age 22.
Pascual Aláez Medina, scholastic, age 19.
Francisco Polvorinos Gómez, scholastic, age 26.
Justo González Lorente, scholastic, age 21.
On the same day the orders came to release the remaining religious. They scattered among their friends and relatives. However a few months later they were hunted down and imprisoned again. The coming November was to be the time of their Calvary.
On November 7, 1936 two Oblates were executed:
José Vega Riaño, priest and formator, age 32
Serviliano Riaño Herrero, scholastic, age 30,
On November 28, 1936; 13 more Oblates were to follow the path of the confreres.
Francisco Esteban Lacal, Provincial Superior, age 48.
Vicente Blanco Guadilla, Local Superior, age 54.
Gregorio Escobar García, recently ordained priest age 24.
Juan José Caballero Rodríguez, scholastic, age 24.
Publio Rodríguez Moslares, scholastic brother, age 24.
Justo Gil Pardo, deacon, age 26.
Ángel Francisco Bocos Hernández, brother, age 54.
Marcelino Sánchez Fernández, brother, age 26.
José Guerra Andrés, scholastic, age 22.
Daniel Gómez Lucas, scholastic, age 20.
Justo Fernández González, scholastic, age 18.
Clemente Rodríguez Tejerina, scholastic, age 18.
Eleuterio Prado Villarroel, brother, age 21.
The gravedigger made the following statement regarding the day: “I am completely convinced that on November 28, 1936, a priest or a religious asked the militia if he could say goodbye to all his companions and give them absolution, something he was allowed to do. Once he had finished, he said these words in a loud voice: “We know that you are killing us because we are Catholics and religious. That we are. My companions and I forgive you from the bottom of our hearts. Long live Christ the King!”” There were also members of other religious congregations, but from what this witness has told us, it was the Provincial of the Oblates who said this.
Scholastic Clemente Rodríguez Tejerina, 18 years old, said to his sister some days before his martyrdom: “We are in danger and we fear that we will be separated; we encourage each other. But even if we have to die, I am ready, and I am sure that God will give us the strength that we need to be faithful.” He was only 18 at that time but his faith had already ripened.
Three out of 22 Oblates were under 20 years of age, 14 were in their twenties.
Prayer through the intercession of the Oblate Martyrs of Spain
Almighty and eternal God
Who granted to Francisco Esteban
and his martyred companions
the grace of giving their lives for Christ,
through a bloody oblation,
help us in our weakness,
so that through their intercession
and following their example,
we too might remain firm in our faith
and might be able to give our lives for others
through the “martyrdom of charity,”
according to the teaching
of St. Eugene de Mazenod;
and in this way,
we might be able to give witness to the world
about who Jesus Christ is.
We ask this through the intercession
of our Mother, Mary Immaculate,
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.