BLESSED MARTYR BRO. FLORENTIN FELIPE
The tranquility of Peralta de la Sal, the town where Bro. Florentin
Felipe spent his last years of his life, started to be disturbed on February 16, 1936. That year, the Popular Front had the
electoral triumph in Spain. This news fell like a bomb upon the Piarist Community.
They started to worry about the church and specially about the school. Bro. Florentino, who was at that time 80 years old,
doubled his prayers, sticking even more to the Rosary Prayer.
On July 18 arrived to the ears of all, the first alarm news
about the national situation in Spain.
Immediately, in Peralta, there was a commitment between the Popular Front and the right wing, so to avoid troubles in the
town. This fact decreased, in part, the worries of the Religious. But the calm
was short. On July 21, the strike was proclaimed and on the 22 was formed the new revolutionary committee, and it became the
only authority in the town. The following day was the tragic day for the Piarist Community of Peralta. From Binefar town came
about forty militia-men with the intention of setting fire to the Piarist school. The committee got that they would be satisfied
with the withdrawing of the Religious from their house. That is why Fr. Dioniso Pamplona, Rector of the House, and all other
people, had to leave for Llari’s house. Bro. Florentin Felipe formed the long line of novices and postulants, around
30, that went down the stairs of the School, crossed slowly the plaza and arrived to Major
Street where Llari’s house was.
Bro. Florentin, although a little bent by the years, stood
out from the rest by his stature, his strong nature and his completely white head. When he was at home, he used to wear a
black overall. Fr. Hilario Fernandez, at that time a novice, remembers that the Brother left the school sad and thinking.
The Llari’s house, a few days before taken over and converted
into provisional jail, the Religious, novices and postulants were watched over by the guards. Taken a room that was converted
into a dining room, the supper was served. It had been prepared at school by Fr Rector and Bro. David, watched over by the
militiamen. The good Jeronimo Meler brought wine and some families of the town the mattresses for sleeping. In this way, the
situation was a little better. Bro. Florentin knew how to face the circumstances
with admirable serenity, trying to share with the others the inevitable troubles and inconveniences.
As possible, in Llori’s house was kept the life rhythm
proper of a Religious House. In spite that the happenings after the killing of Fr. Dioniso Pamplona and the destruction of
the school and the church had brought more suffering, the Brothers helped one another with the mutual fraternal love; and
the kindness of the people from the town were many, since they visited them and tried to help them. They had the happiness
of receiving Holy Communion on the feast of St. James, July 25. This Communion was the viaticum for the Fathers and Brothers.
The postulants and novices, little by little, had to leave
Llari’s house, returning to their families or being received by some families from the town. This fact caused an emptiness
in the Community. But the strongest slap for Fr. Faustino Oteiza and Bro. Florentin, was on July 28, when Fr. Manuel Segura
and Bro, David Carlos were taken away and led to the martyrdom. Of the 5 Religious, only two remained: Bro. Florentin, already
old, and Fr. Faustino Oteiza, sick.
On July 29, both Religious were moved to Zaydin’s house,
by order of the Committee, just some meters away from Llari’s house, where they were received with love by the sisters
Marina and Aurora Camon, who took care of them.
Bro. Florentin, deaf and with his sight very weak, spent the
days praying the Rosary, seated on a bench, outside his room, with tranquility and ready for anything. Although he was not
in a state of being able to understand everything, he understood that at any moment, the time of the test could arrive for
August 9, 1936, was the day of his martyrdom. Early in the
afternoon, tow members of the Committee came to Zaydin’s house telling them that Fr. Faustino and Bro. Florentin, were
going to be taken to Fonz, to be present in a cause. It was only a pretext, generally
used to hid the execution of the killing.
When Fr. Faustino told him to be ready to go to heaven, Bro.
Floretin understood that the time had arrived to give the last and supreme testimony. His face was illuminated, his eyes went
to heaven and from his lips came these simple and meaningful words: “What do
you say, Father? That we go to heaven? What can we do if it is the will of God?!”.
Before leaving the Zaydin’s
house, imitating Fr. Faustino, he renewed the Religious vows, received the Priestly blessing and said goodbye to the good
sister Camon, promising to intercede for them in heaven. Then, he went on to the car, which was waiting in front of the house,
before many silent people who were watching with respect the two Religious that were leaving the town forever.
The trip was short.
A few kilometers from Azanuy, they were forced to come down from the car and taken about 100 meters from the road, they were
gunned down by the same persons who accompanied them. The bodies of the two Religious, after some attempts of burning them
with gasoline, were buried in the same place were they were gunned down. Theirs remains, exhumed after the war, were taken
to the Piarist House of Peralta de la Sal, where they are kept.
During the different
steps that mark the existence of Bro. Florentin Felipe, we can find the action of God that led him, through an intense Religious
Life, to the glory of martyrdom.
In the first place,
he had good and honest parents, humble workers. His mother Francisca, an exemplary and virtuous woman, died saintly, receiving
“with great piety and happiness the last sacraments”, as it is written in her death’s testimony. His father,
Miguel, a fervent Christian, too, had a brother Parish Priest in Junzano. And his eldest sister, Joaquina, was a Capuchin
Sister in Huesca’s convent.
After he finished his
elementary school at Alquezar, where he had been born on October 10, 1856, Francisco, this was his name before taking the
Piarist habit, dedicated himself to the farming works. It seemed he was going to become a farmer all his life, but the Lord
had others projects for him. When he reached the adult life, he went to the service of the richest man in Alquezar, Mr. Antonio
Sanchez. This man had a house in Barbastro City,
in front of the Bishop’s house, called :”La Muela”, And his wife had very good relations with the Piarist
Religious of that city.
While observing his
modesty, obedience and his inclination to the religious life, they helped him to enter the Pious Schools in Barbastro, where
Francisco continued with enthusiasm his Piarist Vocation.
This is the way how
he entered the Pious Schools, led almost without noticing it by the hands of God. Asking to be admitted as a Lay Brother,
his virtues, simple, yes, but of great value, soon appeared during his years of novitiate, that was done in Peralta de la
Sal, where he received the habit on February 27, 1876, and he made his Religious
Profession, on March 7, 1880.
With a courageous spirit
and simple nature, Bro. Florentin started with enthusiasm the following of Christ, helped by the Lord, making good progress
on the road to perfection. He worked at the kitchen and at the oven. In the morning and in the afternoon, he took part in
the reading of spiritual books and in the explanation of the Rules. Besides that, in the afternoon he took some time in reading,
writing and arithmetic, in order to complete the instruction he had at the town school.
He was a cook almost
his whole life, except some time that he took care of the kidergatten. He was an excellent cook. Florentin was good in the
fulfillment oh his duties and in the religious Observance. He was excellent in his simplicity and humility, together with
a great kindness. He was pious and fervent, had good reputation among the Fathers and Brothers, and the lay people considered
him, very well.
After he finished his
formation period, his first job was at Zaragoza School. He hand never been in a big city, nor in a school with a responsibility job.
But he was not discouraged. His increasing fervor took him to consecrate completely to the Lord with the Solemn Profession
on April 29, 1883.
He was in different
houses of Aragon Province: Zaragoza (1880-1886 and 1919-1920), Tafalla (1886 and 1899-1913), Daroca (1886-1887), Caspe (1887-1888),
Molina de Aragon (1888-1894), Alcaniz (1894-1899 and 1920-1929), Pamplona (1913-1919), and when he was rather old, he arrived
to Peralta de la Sal (1929-1936), always leaving a good remembrance and sometimes, sadness, because of his departure.
In the official note
of his death, it is read, when he was 64 years old:
“He changed the job of a cook for the job of refectioner. His sight was very weak. Nine years
worked in this humble service giving his attention from his heart and with love, to the Fathers, and Brothers. He was charitable
with all, respectful to the priests and very reverent towards the Superiors”.
In Peralta de la Sal,
where he arrived in 1929, when he was old, continued working, as much as would allow him his health, his short sight and his
deafness and his stomach sickness he had for many years. Plenty of meaning is the expression
Fr. Faustino Oteiza had for him: “ He is continuing”.
In Peralta, at that
time place for Postulants and Novices, his presence was an example for all, especially for the novices. Fr. Felix Leorza remembers
him in this way:
“He fulfilled the job of refectioner with an extraordinary kindness and affability. We all had
a great respect for that venerable old man whose equanimity was the reflection of an intense interior life. He showed amiability
from all his body. I never saw him absent from the Community acts. The Superiors had upon him full confidence. He bore with
great patience his illness and he had an evangelical meekness”.
When he went to Alquezar
for his vacation, he was an example for everybody. The old people of the town used to remember him for his amiable character
and for the joy with which he met the children. They used to visit him and he always gave something to them.
At the end of his life,
being unable of working, he spent a lot of time praying, reciting, especially, the Rosary, which he had always in his hands.
This is the attitude engraved in the Zaydib’s House ladies, where he lived the last days.
Upon the many merits gathered during so many years,
serving in the different schools, serving the Brothers, only one was lacking: the martyrdom. The Lord gave it to him on August
9, 1936, when he was gunned down on the road from Azanuy to Peralta.