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THE ORDER OF THE PIOUS SCHOOLS THE PIARIST FATHERS IN ASIA

The Life Of St. Joseph Calasanz
Saints, Martys, & Venerables
Calasanzian Family
“The others are suffering so much for the love of Christ and I am here so well!”

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BLESSED CARLOS NAVARRO

BLESSED MARTYR CARLOS NAVARRO

(1911-1936)

 

In August 1935, Fr. Carlos Navarro celebrated his first Mass in Torrent, his native town, Valencia Province, Spain, with a great feast of the whole Christian community. His cousin, a Diocesan Priest, Fr. Marcelino Fernandez, was in charge of the sermon. He would become his companion in the jail the following year. After some days of vacation, Fr. Carlos went back to Albacete School, where the Obedience had commanded to become an Elementary Teacher.

 

He fulfilled his mission with enthusiasm, although with some difficulties, especially after the triumph of the Popular Front in the city, in the 1936 February elections. As the other Religious, he wore lay clothes, but without leaving out the fulfillment of his sacred ministry in the chapel of the school and in other churches of the city.

 

When the civil war broke out, in Albacete city started the antirreligious manifestations, burning of convents and churches, the arrest and killing of Priests and Religious. The Piarist Religious of the Community in the city had to abandon the school and find refuge in friendly houses.

 

Fr. Carlos took refuge in a family of one of his students and in that way he was able to bear, with certain tranquility, the worst days. Fearing that his presence would be the cause of troubles to his protectors, although they urged him to remain with them, he decided to abandon the house and go to Torrent, to his parents’ house. He did that on August 20.His sister Purificacion, a Salesian Sister, had taken refuge there, too.

 

But his house, was not either a safe place. His family was known as “to the right and going to church”. His presence and the presence of his sister, made things worse. In Torrent, as in other many places of Spain, soon an antirreligious campaign started: the Parish Church was put on fire, and the Tertian Franciscan Convent ; the altars and sacred images became ashes and the temples became market places and warehouses. The priests were arrested and put in prison.   

 

Fr. Carlos was in touch with the happenings. Suffering so much because of that, he used to say to his relatives: “The others are suffering so much for the love of Christ and I am here so well!” He intensified his prayers and prepared for the martyrdom with serenity, convinced that it was not enough to be killed to get into heaven, but it was necessary, too, to posses the necessary spirit dispositions. One day he spoke in this way to his sister in law, Maria:

 

“The persecution is near, but not all who will be killed will become martyrs. To become a martyr, it is necessary, not only to be killed, but also to have a clean conscience, to do good, to forgive the one who would kill you. And do not forget this detail of forgiveness when you face the moment”.  

 

During the first days of September 1936, some militiamen came to the house of his father.  The father who received them, was asked: “Don’t you have here a Religious son?” Trying to avoid the arrest, the father answered: “He is in Albacete”. The militiamen answered then that if the Fr.Carlos was not there, one of his sons should go to the Committee. Fr.Carlos, who from the above floor was following the conversation, went down immediately telling them that he was the one who should go. And he did that. When he arrived to the Committee, he was asked who he was and he did not doubt in answering his identity: “Yes, I am a Piarist Father”. He was immediately arrested and put in jail. 

 

He was convinced that his days were already counted. The rest priests of the town, soon arrived to the jail: Diocesan Priests Fr. German Gonzalvo, Fr. Rafael Esteve and Fr. Marcelino Fernandez. All together, they prepared for the martyrdom.

 

“In the jail – Antonio Navarro testifies, since he was a prisoner and was put in liberty later- Fr.Navarro was one with much resignation and very valiant. Fr. Carlos prayed together with the other priests. The used to pass the Breviary from one to the other. All together used to pray the morning and evening prayers, the letanies of the Saints and the Rosary”.   

 

Fr. Marcelino Fernandez, who was put in liberty, said that Fr. Carlos made his confession to him, the last time the night he was taken to the martyrdom. His sister in law, Maria, who took to him food every day, remembers that in one occasion he told her: “When I die for Christ, I will directly go to the Kingdom of Heaven”.

 

On September 22, at around 2 o’clock in the morning, together with Fr. German and Fr. Rafael, were taken out of the jail. Saying goodbye to his cousin Antonio, said: “Until Heaven”. And to his friend Fr.Marcello, who had asked him if he knew where they were taking him, he answered: "Yes, to die and I am going to Heaven. Goodbye!” .

 

The hands of the three were tied. To Fr. Carlos, they put him a handkerchief in his mouth so that he would not be able to say goodbye to his own when he would pass in front of the house of his parents. The car where they were obliged to go up, went towards Monserrat town. During the trip, they encouraged one another, telling the militiamen that they were forgiven.

 

After they arrived a few kilometers from Monserrat, they were put on a line to one side of the road. They even had the strength to forgive once more, and after they invoked the Virgin Mary of the Abandoned, Patroness of Valencia City, they shouted together: “Long live Ckrist the King!” before falling down under the riffles.   

 

Their bodies were left on the road, until the Committee of Monserrat ordered that they were translated to the cemetery, where they were buried in a common tomb. After the war, the bodies were exhumed and identified and were moved to a crypt of the Fallen, in the Archbishop church of Torrent city.

 

Fr. Carlos Navarro, who only lived 25 years, had his life cut out in the prime of life. He was a great hope for the Valencia Piarist Province, but the Lord wanted him soon next to Him. Nevertheless, in spite of his short life, he left a good impression in those who knew him.

 

Fr. Calasanz Bau, talking about his infancy, says:

 

“The little Carlos was one of those prodigies God sends from time to time to the earth as an example and edification of grown up and children”. 

 

Carlos was born in Torrent town, Valencia Province, on February 11, 1911, and he was the youngest of four brothers. His parents, Francisco and Dolores, very pious persons, tried their best in the education of their children. They were the first in giving good examples of virtue practices, among them the recitation of the holy rosary. This environment influenced greatly in the formation of the small Carlos, making him an exemplary boy. When the mothers of the town knew that their sons were with Carlos, they were in peace, sure that nothing bad would happen.

 

The infancy is greatly similar to the one of Saint Joseph Calasanz. In one of the rooms of his house, chosen as a chapel, he had prepared an altar with the necessary things for the liturgical functions, allowed by his mother after she asked the advice from a priest. Even there was a small pulpit from where he used to preach to his companions and relatives. In the house of  Torrente, there exists, even today, a wooden small belfry, with its bells, that he used to call his infant community for the devotions and processions. He had even portable platforms and images that he asked to his mother when she was going to Valencia city.

 

Those  simple plays soon gave place to initial virtues and sincere pious practices. He gave his name to the San Luis Gonzaga Congregation and to the Pious Union of San Antonio de Padua. He served Mass daily in the Tertian Franciscan convent, and his Angelic posture gained the sympathy of everybody.

 

In some of his letter written to his relatives during his formation period, we can find remembrances of that happy infancy. The writing relation with his parents was for him an stimulus in the fulfillment of his religious duties, as a form of giving thanks to God for the grace he had received giving him such a good parents and brothers, whose religiosity he considered as the best inheritance.  

 

In an environment as this, the Religious vocations could not be absent. First, his sister Purificaion, who became a Salesian Sister and later on, he himself. His parents, happy because of this grace, put him in the Diocesan Seminary of Valencia, where he remained until he was 16 years old. During the Christmas vacation of 1927, he heard much about the Masia del Pilar of Godelleta, where the Piarist Fathers had the Postulancy. Carlos felt in himself the desire of becoming a Religious, beside being a Priest. Therefore, in a fast decision, he did not go back to the seminary and asked Fr. Provincial of Valencia to be admitted in the Pious Schools. Without losing any time, Fr. Provncial sent him to the Masia del Pilar Postulancy and later on to Albarracin, the novitiate place, where he received the Piarist cassock on August 5, 1928.

 

Fr. Carlos attributed his vocation to a grace from the Virgin Mary, as we can see from a letter written to his Salesian sister:

 

“I communicate to you a great news, and it is the following: After I was called by the Virgin, our Mother, to leave the world and to embrace the Religious Life, I have followed this divine call and I have entered the Pious Schools Order, and since a month ago, I am in the Novitiate”.    

 

After a year of novitiate, he was admitted to the Profession, communicating the news, in this way, to his relatives:

 

“On the next August 11, 1929, there will be my Profession, when Fr. Provincial will come. Therefore, be happy with me, dear parents and brothers, because the wedding of this your son and brother, with the Sovereigns of Heaven and of earth, Jesus and Mary, is near”.

 

From Albarracin he went to the Central  House of Irache, Navarra Province, to study Philosophy and Theology, finishing his studies in Albelda de Iregua, Rioja Province, making his Solemn Profession on December 8, 1934.

 

During his formation period, according to the Fr. Master, Carlos “always was cheerful and kind with everybody, but always a grave, discipline , fervor and exemplary person”.

He was excellent in Liturgical Piety, especially manifested during the feasts. He frequently talked about it on the letters he wrote to his relatives. Here is an example:

 

“We are making practice of the Office of the Holy Week, that as you know, I liked so much when I was with you. In it we can find, in an expressive way, what Christ suffered for our love…”.

 

He exhorted in this way to live the Lent:

 

“We are just to start Lent. I hope that my brothers will do their best in fulfilling their duties of good Christians, taking part in the preaching and preparing themselves to receive the Easter Lamb”.

 

And in another letter:

 

“I wish, above all, that you may live happily the Good Friday, when our mother will celebrate her birthday. May the Virgin Mary, whose suffering image is the only one the Church allows to show during these days of Passion for our contemplation, pour upon all of you plenty sentiments of piety and contrition… I would like to be with you during those days to show off my love to Jesus, our Good, our Life, our Whole, explaining the deep meaning of the liturgical ceremonies of those days that precede the Resurrection of God made man”.

 

His fervor for he Liturgy was accompanied by his zeal for the Apostolate. “My only hope, he wrote in 1933, is of cooperating in the spreading and extension of the Kingdom of Jesus Christ in the hearts of the Christians. That is why I asked, constantly, the spirit of the Divine Savior and the facility of speech, not to be proud of my rhetoric gifts, but to lead many souls to the feet of the Tabernacle…”  

 

On April 4, of the same year, after manifesting his enthusiasm about the sublimity of the Liturgy, he wrote to his parents and brothers:

 

“One day will come when the Lord will satisfy my desires. Every day that goes on, I feel more animated to follow the steps of Christ… I am longing for the desire moment when I will be able to explain to the children and youth His salutary doctrine”.

 

He was ordained as a priest on August 4, 1935. The priesthood that he longed with his whole being, was enjoyed by him but a little more than a year. The Lord wanted to associate him in the bloody sacrifice of martyrdom, and he accepted it as a gift from heaven. He died after he invoked the Virgin of the Abandoned and repeating, in a low voice, as one of those who killed him confessed later on, “Long Live the King Jesus”, until his last breath.

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