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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

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BLESSED FAUSTINO OTEIZA

BLESSED MARTYR FAUSTINO OTEIZA

(1890-1936)

 

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.

 

“If 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 done”.

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 Lord”.

 

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 Spain

the Piarist Fathers from Peralta de la Sal

Rev. Fr. Faustino Oteiza and Br. Florentin Felipe

8-9-1936

 

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 house)

Very Rev. 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.

 

Before anything, 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 mean Religion.

 

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:

 

-‘Prepare 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 and myself.

 

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.

Goodbye, Father, goodbye.

 

Bless your 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, Navarra Province, 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 Mary”.

 

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:

 

“Thank to 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:

 

“I continue 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:

 

“It seems 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:

 

“…many 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!”

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