BLESSED MARTYR FAUSTINO OTEIZA
Since 1931, in some places of Spain,
there had been the first anti-religious manifestations. Fr. Faustino Oteiza,
then Master of novices in Peralta de la Sal, was able to take away the fears of the relatives of the novices. Some relatives
wanted to take them home. But, at the same time, he understood rather well that one day or another, the hour of the test would
arrive and he should be ready to face it.
the case would arrive, and I hope it will not, of shedding the blood for Christ, with his divine grace, happily, I will do
it. Can one have greater joy?” he wrote to his relatives the
same year 1931.
On November 8, 1933, a truck full of radical people arrived to Peralta. Together with other men of the town, there
was a group of around 80 persons. Convinced that the revolution had triumphed in the whole Spain,
they were ready to put fire on the Police Quarters and the Piarist
School, although thanks to God, they could not do it.
Although all the exits from the town were blocked, two young men could run away and communicated it to Benabarre
town. Meanwhile, the religious, knowing the intentions, with lay clothes; they had left the School and taken refuge in some
houses of Peralta. In the school remained only Fr. Faustino Oteiza and Bro. David Carlos. At around 4:30, of the following
morning, came to Peralta around 40 civil policemen and forced the foreigners to run away.
What did not happen in 1933, was a reality, on the contrary, in July 1936, when the situation became worse. The
Piarist Community of Peralta lived with the fear of new reprisals, specially after a committee of the left had been formed,
soon replaced by a more radical one.
On the afternoon of July 23, by order of the committee, all the Religious, novices and postulants were forced to
leave the school and to go to Llari’s house, as a provisional jail. Fr. Dionisio, although in bad health, had to follow
the same luck of his Brothers. In Llari’s house he lived with the spirit of the one who prepares himself for the martyrdom,
and at the same time, he helped his companions to face with courage, serenity and forgiving sentiments the persecutors.
After Fr. Dionisio Pamplona, Fr. Manuel Segura and Br. David Carlos were shot down, of the Peralta’s Community,
only Fr. Faustino Oteiza and Br. Florentino Felipe remained alive.
On July 20, by order of the committee, the four novices that remained with them, were taken from Llari’s
house to another families of the town. Fr. Faustino and Br. Florentino, on the other hand, were moved to Zaydin’s house,
were they remained until the day they taken for the martyrdom.
The last days of his existence were lived by Fr. Faustino praying and writing letters to the families of the killed
Brothers and to the Aragon Provincial Father. During the visits the novices, the postulants and other persons made to him,
he always had encouraging words for all. During the afternoons, he used to pray the Rosary, accompanied by the good ladies
of Zaydin’s house. Since he could not celebrate Mass, he made that one of the novices would read for him the part of
the Liturgy of the day and the eucharistic prayer, receiving, later on, the spiritual communion.
Fr. Faustino had the desire of martyrdom and he had a nostalgy of heaven, feeling envy of the Brothers called before
him in giving testimony. In a letter to the Aragon
Fr. Provincial, he gives a detailed news of the death of Fr. Segura and Br. Carlos . He wrote in this way:
“I am sorry
because I can’t take part in their happiness. Maybe, as an un-useful person, the Lord will have for me the poor condition
of the servant of Jacob, who was saved from the catastrophe to make it known to the lord. May the wish of the Lord be always
On August 19, after finishing lunch, two men came to Zaydin’s house telling them that by order of the committee,
they should accompany them to Fonz, to be witnesses in a cause. Of course, it was only a pretext. It was in this way how Fr. Faustino understood it, and in a loud voice he
told Br. Florentin: “Br. Florentin, let’s go to heaven”. Br. Florentin, in a serene voice and with his eyes towards heaven answered: “What do you say, Father? That we go the heaven? We can’t do anything if it is the will of the
After they got a short time to prepare themselves, Fr. Faustino used it for the confessions of the persons who were
in the house and to prepare his own soul for the supreme test. Thinking that after a few hours his body would be thrown away
among the bushes, he changed to lay clothes, so that his Religious habit would not be defiled. Before leaving the house, he
renewed his Religious vows and gave the priestly blessing to those who were present. The good Zaydin ladies received the blessing
kneeling, with tears in their eyes and asking Fr. Faustino to pray for them in heaven. “Yes,
yes - answered the Father - I will remember all of you; I will pray for all and for our enemies”.
Around four o’clock in the afternoon, a car arrived in front of Zaydin’s house. The two Religious were
obliged to go in. The street was full of people. They had come to say the last goodbye to the last Religious of Peralta. Everybody
was standing, in a respectful silence, until the car disappeared going to Azanuy town. At around 4 kilometers from this town,
the two Religious were obliged to go down and they were gunned down.
Their bodies were spread with gasoline in order to be burned, but the fire could not destroy them. Therefore, by
order of the committee of Azanuy, they were buried in the same place where they received the martyrdom.
In remembrance of these Religious, a small monument was built. On in we can read:
In this place gave their lives for God and
the Piarist Fathers from Peralta de la Sal
Rev. Fr. Faustino Oteiza and Br. Florentin
After the war was finished, their remains were put in the Piarist Church of Peralta de la Sal, where they are today.
After many years of separation, the memory of Fr. Faustino Oreiza was still alive,
as we can see by a testimony recorded by Fr. Claudio Vila Pala, Sch. P.:
“I, and all
of my age, remember Fr. Faustino how he got smallpox because he attended a sick person with it, who was given up, from Premiguel’s
house. Nobody wanted to take of him, because they were afraid. Only Fr. Faustino attended him and he became sick, too, being
at the point of death”.
It seems that it is one of the so many heroic acts of Fr. Faustino, a generous soul, who gave himself completely
to the people of Peralta de la Sal.
It is worthy to reproduce, completely, the letter Fr. Faustino narrates to Fr. Provincial the death of three Religious
of his community. It is the nearest relation we have, a true “martyrdom act”. It is the feeling testimony of those
who live and die, narrated by one who could risk the same luck, as it happened 8 days later. It is therefore, the manifestation
of his faith: those who remain to this side of life ask, to those who go, their intercession, “when they might be in
heaven”, receiving as an answer, “we will do it”. Fr. Faustino envies the luck of his Brothers and he longs
for “dying for Christ”. He gives to his dead companions the treatment of “martyrs”, “saints”
and “glorified”. Today the Church gives those same names. Besides that, we can find the three necessary conditions
for the martyrdom:
1. To die for the hating of faith: those
who took over Peralta, wanted to “burn everything that was religion”.
2. They do not resist the martyrdom: They
don’t run away from it: “we wait in tranquility the death”, “goodbye, until heaven”.
3. They forgive those who kill them: “may
the Lord have mercy upon those who persecute us”.
Blessing! Peralta de la Sal
August 1,1936 (Zaydin’s
Fr. Provincial Zaragoza
Beloved Father: Blessed are those who are persecuted for the cause of justice, for theirs is the kingdom
of heaven. I don’t know, Father, if this letter will arrive to your hands; anyway, I am going to give to you, as I could,
a simple explanation of the main things occurred until now around here.
I want to tell you that we can be happy because we have three martyrs, in the full meaning of the word: Fr. Rector, Fr. Manuel
and Br. David. Until today, the Lord has not seen me to be worthy of shedding
my blood for Jesus Christ. I don’t know if
He will give me
so much happiness, as He has given it our Brothers, and according to what they tell me, also to Fr. Salvador, Fr. Julian Pascual,
Antonio Ortiz, Eustaquio Agulaniedo, maybe also to Fr. Coll and Br. Antonio. May the Lord be blessed.
I am going to give
you a relation in a chronological way, if I can, because although the Lord gives me enough strength, your Reverend can consider
how my heart is.
On July 23, at
around 4:30, in the afternoon, a group of 40 to 50 communists came from Binefar, armed with bombs, etc., wanting to bomb and
burn the school. When we realized that, we met together in the oratory, received the absolution and waited in peace the death…But
the people from the town could avoid that on the condition of taking us out of the house and of burning everything that would
After that, the
communist committee came to order us the abandonment of the school. We opposed it, specially Fr. Rector, as much as he could,
but we had to give up before the force. At 8:30, without taking yet the supper, among armed people, they took us to Llari’s
house, as a provisional jail: the guards brought us supper and some friendly people prepared mattresses to sleep.
On the 24th,
Fr. Rector went to the Parish Church
to celebrate Mass and to finish the Holy Sacrament, taking to help him Br. Jose Yaniz. Since the guards that were keeping
us were sleeping, and besides that, they had not told us that we were prisoners, the Father thought that he could go without
permission, a thing that irritated the communists. The Father closed himself in the Parish and he celebrated Mass. In the
meantime, many people gathered in the plaza. When he went out, they stopped him, asking for the keys of the church. He resisted
to give them, being on the point of being killed. At last, by the request of good persons, he gave them or took them out.
They searched his body, took all the money he had, 6750 pesetas (now around $30), took him to the jail and after a short time,
we heard the car that took him to Monzon City. I don’t know, but the only thing we have heard is that in St. James’
day, he was martyred, together with 24 four most important people. May the Lord have them in his glory.
On the 26th,
one person brought to us, wrapped in a newspaper, the Holy Hosts that were in the ciboriums in the chapel of the novitiate.
We made the confessions and we had the happiness of receiving holy communion as the ancient martyrs. As we could, we made
our prayers and meditation, since the guards and all have given us much consideration, and almost the whole town have visited
us, taking our part. The altars of the Parish, the church and chapel have been destroyed. The images have been burned out.
The people from the town did not have courage to put down the statue in the plaza (St. Joseph Calasanz), but foreigners came
and they destroyed it and killed a policeman who escaped from the catastrophe of Tamarite.
They have burned,
too, the altars and images of San Roque, Las Mora, Ganza, Calasanz, Fonz, Estadilla, Carrodilla, Azanuy, San Esteban, Binefar,
Gabasa, Purroy, Zurita, Baels, Alcampel, Tamarite, etc., etc., and killed almost all the priests and principal persons.
On the 27th,
the committee, the only authority, and without their permit nobody can move, accompanied 5 postulants, Piarist seminarians,
to Binefar and Binaced, in order to handle them to known families of those places. When the things would become normal, they
will go to their houses. On this same day, the committee published an edict inviting the neighbors to receive in their houses
some novices until they could go to their houses. Immediately came out more families than novices. They were distributed among
the houses, leaving four old ones to be with us, and allowing the rest to visit us when they would think necessary.
The people from
Peralta were thinking about our saving, but they were afraid of the foreigners who came in trucks and with arms.
On the 28th,
three cars of foreigners arrived. They were just leaving when a young man told them that we were in his house. They stopped
for a moment and wanted to kill us all, but the people from the town tried to appease them, being satisfied with only two
victims: Br. Florentino was saved because of his age and I because of my health.
At around 10:00
o’clock, came to the house one foreigner from Tarragona
with one of the town, with two rifles and asking for Fr. Manuel and Br. David. The three of us came out, The foreigner said:
the two who are going to Aren to give the young men, in person, to their parents’.
We understood immediately
that it was a pretext.
- ‘I am going to put on my shoes’ Fr. Manuel said.
We entered the room, he knelt down asking: ‘Give me the absolution’. Later on Br. David. We
embraced lovely and we said: ‘Goodbye, see you in heaven’.
Full of happiness,
they went to the guards, who took them in a car to the martyrdom place. I even had the courage to tell them:
- ‘When you might be in heaven, pray for us and for me in particular’.
- ‘We will do it’, they answered.
The martyrdom place
was on the upper part of Gabasa, looking Purroy, near some holly-oaks that are near the road. Maybe it was around 11 and 12
o’clock of July 28. With much tranquility they asked:
Shall we kneel
down? And making the sign of the cross, they fired the shot that would give them the palm of the immortal triumph. Fr. Manuel
shouted : ‘Long live Christ the King!’. Te Deum Laudamus (We give you thanks, Lord). Blessed are those who die
in the Lord.
The bodies were
burned. I keep the suitcase of Fr. Manuel, with clothes. I am sorry because I could not share his happiness. Maybe, like an
un-useful servant, He will keep for me just for the poor condition of Job’s servant, who was saved of the catastrophe
to be able to communicate it to his lord. May the will of God be done.
On the 28th,
the committee took to Aren, where Fr. Ramon is, 8 novices, three from Aren and 5 more. Here remain 14 young men, Br. Florentin
On that same day,
those who remained were distributed in different houses, with the liberty of going out through the town. Br. Florentin and
myself were put in Zaydin’s house, were we are very well, since the ladies do everything for us. We don’t know
how to answer back to so much kindness. The Holy Founder, St. Joseph Calsanz, will recompense it.
The young men come
here three or four times a day, to visit us. We don’t go out of the house, but people come with relative frequency.
Among the many
good persons to whom we must really thank, I want to mention Mr. Jaime Meler, who was everything for us and risked himself
helping us in everything, while we have been in prison, and that is why he is worthy of our gratitude.
The school is completely
plundered, the books from the novitiate burned. What a horror! The best vestment and the precious things from the church,
are in the hands of the committee. The library is untouched. The novitiate is what has suffered less. The oratory is still
as it was.
The young men all
are very well, taken care by all, with much affection and were entertained. I think of writing to the bishop.
I don’t know
how and when this letter will arrive to your hands, since there is not mail to Zaragoza.
According to how the things will remain and as soon as it might be possible, if your paternity thinks it is alright, you could
send from there a car for 14 or 16 persons, with bags, and we could go there, since we don’t have money. If it is not
like that, we will do our best. Br. Florentin will go to Alquezar and I will go to Ayegui.
If a car
comes, it must have many precautions, because in all the towns bordering Cataluna, is the communism and on the towers is flying
the communist flag and everybody, even our young men, has to wear the flag or communist badge.
Anyway, my dear
Father, I don’t continue more. If we don’t see again on earth, until we meet again. And if not, goodbye, Father,
till heaven. Greeting to all Fathers and Brothers. Pray for us, through the intercession
of our martyrs, so that the Lord will give us what is best and may He have mercy
upon our persecutors and bless our benefactors.
beloved and humble son in Christ Faustino of the Virgin of Sorrows, Piarist
P.S. They say that
the bodies of Fr. Manuel and Br. David, in spite of the wood and the gasoline, don’t burn out. I can’t say anything
for sure, but He is wonderful in His saints.
Fr. Faustino was born in Ayegui, Navarra Province, near the Irache monastery, on February 14, 1890. He and three more brothers
were sons of Mr. Isidoro and Mrs. Angela.
Since infancy, spent in Ayegui, his native town, and even more since he took part in the Pious Schools of Estella,
he was excellent in kindness, piety, diligence and serenity, not so common among the children of his age. One of the things
most impressed him was the long line of Piarist young men that went through the streets of Estella coming from Irache, 1 km.
from Ayegui, where there was a Spanish Pious Schools Central Formation House. Faustino, overcoming his timidity, asked for
holy pictures of St.Joseph Calasanz and the Virgin of the Pious Schools and he kept them with care among his things.
When he was around 14 years old, he suffered a strong pneumonia attack that took him near to death, in such a way
that he received the Holy Viaticum. After he got well, he asked to be admitted to the Pious Schools for cleric, wanting to
become a priest as he desired from infancy. He took the Piarist habit on November 9, 1905, in Peralta de la Sal, and made
his temporal Profession on August 15, 1907. To finish the Philosophy studies, he went to his beloved Irache Monastery. The
Theology was done in Alcaniz, and in this same city emitted his Solemn Profession on July 15, 1912. That same year received
his first and the only one Obedience for Peralta de la Sal, in charge of teaching at the “Children School: Since it was the only school
of the town, all the children from Peralta received instruction from him. He became a priest on September 14, 1913.
He dedicated to his work with a real Calasanzian spirit. We can say that following the program and aims we can
read in the notebook written by him during those years.
In 1919, he was nominated assistant of Master of Novices, a job he fulfilled until 1926, when the Superiors nominated
him Master of Novices. From then on, his life was completely dedicated to the formation of the Young Piarists.
His ex-novices kept of him a good remembrance, considering him a man of God, seriously trying the way of perfection.
Fr. Felix Leorza affirmed that “his advice, counsels and warnings had with them the seal
of a great zeal for the improvement”. During difficult moments, when the first dangers of burning the School arrived, he knew how to keep them
in peace and give courage, telling them that he would do everything to save them, even risking his life.
One of his novices remembers a happening that could help us to understand his personality of an exemplary Religious:
“It was Good
Friday, 1931. After the morning prayer, the novices went to the Novitiate Oratory (the novices had the meditation with the
Community, in the church) to have a fault chapter. Fr. Faustino, as always, prayed with his fervor the prayers and he gave
us a deep and ardent talk about the Passion of the Lord, and after finishing it, he told us: ‘Beloved novices: you have
said many times in public your faults. Today, I ask you forgiveness for the bad examples I have given to you’. After
that, he got up and kissed the feet of the novices that were in front, in the first two benches of the two rows. I was one
of the novices whose feet were kissed by Fr. Faustino. This humble act was engraved in my mind for the whole life”.
He was very kind. His aspect and his treatment caused in us veneration and respect. From this comes out the authority
he had upon the novices, whom he loved like sons, and upon the people in Peralta, even upon those who were indifferent or
were far away from the Church. Fr. Valentin`Aisa affirms that : “At his side, one could not but behave as a good Religious
in talking, thinking and doing”.
He frequently gave talks to the faithful, and his words penetrated the hearts of those who were listening, because
what he said was in coherence with his life. His most beloved teaching theme was the mercy of the Lord. His “loves”,
food of his interior life and of his apostolate, were the Eucharist, the Virgin and St. Joseph Calasanz.
From childhood he had desired to become a priest, in order to be able to celebrate daily the Holy Mass. After he
was ordained, he celebrated it with such a fervor that the faithful were impressed. The novices were anxious in serving him
during Mass. After he was nominated Master of Novices, one
of his first preoccupation was to get permission to have the Holy Eucharist in the oratory of the Novitiate. Imitating St.
Pompilius Mary Pirrotti, he called the Eucharist the “the beautiful Beloved”. And wanting that the young people
would really love the Eucharist, he wrote many articles about this theme in “Calasanzian Youth”.
His devotion to the Virgin Mary was also really great. He offered to Her, every day, a “crown of flowers”.
In the schedule of his daily work he had written: “Mary is happy when She sees you working for God. Love and make love
He was also a very devout of St. Joseph Calasanz, Founder of the Pious Schools, born in the same town of Peralta de la Sal, and he took with much affection the care of the Sanctuary
dedicated to him. In many of his letters he speaks about the works done for the betterment of
Peralta House, of the Church and of the chapel dedicated to the Saint.
He was one of the promoters in the restoration of the house. He wrote to his brother Evaristo: I have been the one who really
was interested that the work would go forward, since it really needs restoration.
We can imagined how great was his pain when he learned that the sanctuary had been plundered, that the holy images
and the altars had been defiled and torn down and that even the chapel of the Saint had been burned. When he heard these things
from the novices and postulants, he used to say: “Yes, they will destroy everything, but he added immediately, ‘Later
on, they will re-make them more beautiful than before”. The love for the Founder of the Pious Schools moved him to promote
pilgrimages to the Sanctuary, as he desired, too, that St.Joseph Calasanz would be named Patron of the Spanish teachers. Many of his desires were a reality after the war.
When he became a Piarist, Fr. Faustino had in mind that he could meet martyrdom. The Lord started preparing him
giving him holy desires and putting upon his shoulders the cross, 16 years before. The first signs arrived in February 1922,
when he became sick that would take his toll during his whole life. Even although he was weak, he never remained in bed and
never was absent from school. He became well soon, but it remained in him a chronic trembling that would make him a characteristic
person and fountain of no so few nuisances: the Parkinson sickness.
When because of his health, on October 1934, he stopped being Master of Novices, becoming an assistant of the new
Master, his health became better. He wrote to one of his relatives:
God, my health is going rather well, for the time being. I have improved very much. The trembling is disappearing little by
little. I have more energy and I perform the classes without being tired. Even I will be able to preach one of these days.
I don’t know if the betterment will last; anyway may the will of the God be done”.
In another letter, in 1935:
bearing the small cross the good Jesus has deigned to give me”.
Since he was accustomed to suffer, his spirit was ready to face the supreme test of martyrdom. After the famous
political election defeat in 1936, he wrote:
that the Lord wants to purify us a little. We will try to be faithful to God, being ready to bear with patience and holy joy
everything His Majesty would deign to send us, even the martyrdom”.
His desire of martyrdom is clear in his four letters – the famous ones – written in the year 1936,
dated on August 1 and 2, and sent to the Aragon Fr, Provincial, to the relatives of Fr. Dionisio Pamplona, Fr.Manuel Segura
and Br. David Carlos. In one of them he writes:
miles around, I am the only priest that remains with life, until now. If the Lord calls me, I am ready. That will be my happiness”.
The hour so much waited, arrived on August 9, 1936. Fr. Faustino had really
it in mind. Going on to the car that would take him to the martyrdom, he told to the old Br. Florentin, who was asking “where
they were taking them”: “to the torture, Brother!”