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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 MATIES CARDONA

BLESSED MARTYR MATIES CARDONA

(1902-1936)

 

He was ordained as a priest in Calahorra, Rioja Province, Sapin, on April 11, 1936. Fr. Maties had just been staying for a short time in Sant Antoni of Barcelona when the Spanish civil war began. The same year had just finished his ecclesiastical studies and he was ready to start his school apostolate.

 

On July 19, Sunday, at noon, he was one of the Religious of Sant Antoni school who went to the next working shop. During the night, as the other Religious, went through Salvador street looking for a friendly refuge. He went to his aunt house, where Fr. Maties remained only for a few days, trying to avoid the retaliations that could come for his uncle because of giving refuge to a priest. He went to the house of a good friend, Mr. Jose Godes. He stayed there, too, for a short time, in spite that his friends were ready to do their best to save him.

 

Thinking that Vallibona, his native town, could be a safer place, on July 30, he went there. He was most welcome by his sister Dolores, staying there until August 17, when he was arrested. According to the testimony of his sister, Fr. Maties spent the days reading and praying. She asked him to go out, from time to time, that he would go to the coffee shop, talk with the people, but Fr.Maties refused it: “No, I am a Priest and I will follow my own conscience”.

 

Friendly persons advised him to go France, promising him the necessary documents. He thanked them, but he never accepted it, telling them that he was in the hands of God.

 

On August 11, in Vallibona, too, the sacred images of the Parish Church were burned out. The local mayor had advised his sister and husband, to look for a safety place to hide Fr.Maties. They thought about the farm Casa Cardona, that belonged to his uncle, outside the town. Fr. Maties went there on Agust 17, early in the morning.    

 

After he had just left, some militiamen arrived to the house to arrest him. They asked with insistence about him, looked around the whole house, but they could not find him. Some hours late, they arrived again and they got the information of the place where he was hidden, after the militiamen threatened the sister with death and promising to save the life of her brother.

 

The militiamen ordered two men to go to Casa Cardona to arrest Fr. Maties. One witness, Jose Codino, narrates in this ways the arrest:

 

“I was there when at the first hours in the afternoon, I believe it was August 17, 1936, I saw two armed men arriving there. One of them winked his eye to the other, as telling him that hey had found what they were looking for. They entered and asked: ‘Fr. Maties?” When he heard is named, he came out and he presented himself. Do you carry with yourself ordinary arms or bombs?, one of them told him. ‘Nothing about that’ answered Fr. Maties. ‘The mayor has told us to take you to the people committee’ And he added: ‘Leave here what you have in your pockets’. Fr. Maties took out his breviary and kissed it. The most furious of the two men, snatched out it and throwing it to the fireplace, commented: ‘This is much better to burn it’. He was arrested and taken to the Vallibona Committee”. 

 

What happened after his arrest is known thanks to the narration of one of those who arrested him:

 

”Not so far from the home of his sister, we told him ‘if he wanted to go by…Go, we will wait for you’. “No, no! I don’t need it’, he answered. But my companion insisted. Fr. Maties went as far as 10 meters from the house and he called in a loud voice. His father was absent. His sister came out of the window. The Religious told her: ‘It seems that they take me as a prisoner’. He took off his wide straw hat and threw it through the air towards his sister on the window, while telling her: ‘As a remembrance. Keep it’”.

 

They arrived to the Committee where Fr. Maties met Mr. Jose Querol and a priest, Fr. Manule Meseguert. Taking the opportunity of a short absence of the militiamen –Mr. Querol remembers – he greeted me and said in a quiet mood: “Mr. Jose, if we don’t meet again… until heaven”.

 

In the evening of that same day, the two priests were locked in a jail room, they were given a mattress to sleep on and were free of receiving visits and food from the relatives.

His sister remembers in this way those moments:

 

“I used to visit my brother and to take him food. Other relatives did the same. He told me one day: I am in peace and happy. I am happily ready to give my life for God. We had the lack of facing difficult times. Our faith will have more merit”.

 

On August 20, 1936, was the bloody sacrificing day for the two priests. The Fr. Maties’s sister who had visited him during the first hours of the day, affirms that she saw him in his habitual peaceful spirit and with confidence in God. Around seven o’clock, three men, with red handkerchiefs around the collars, took him out of the jail, together with Fr. Manuel, to a place called Pigro del Coll, where, after taken them out of the car and just a few meters away, the militiamen shot them. After a short time, the militiamen were seen coming back to the town, in the same car. During the evening, the news spread around the town.    

 

Later on was known that Fr. Maties, with his proverbial spiritual fortitude and his priestly zeal, had talked to the militiamen moving words, without omitting the supreme word of forgiveness. One of the militiamen said the following sentence, a marvelous pearl: “Enough…! Let us finish our work. He is going to convert us…”

 

It is said that Fr. Maties wanted to be shot with his arms in the form of a cross. His body was found by the road, shot in his forehead, with his arms extended.

 

The bodies were taken care by the same men of the committee and buried in the Vallibona’s cemetery. After the war was over, thanks to his sister, the mortal rests of Fr. Cardona, together with the rests of Fr. Manuel Meseguer, were put in a niche of the same cemetery.

 

Fr. Maties Cardona lived 34 years, 7 as a Religious of the Pious Schools. The rest of them were spent in the world, but always with the desire of becoming a Piarist Religious. He was born in Vallibona, Castellon Province, Spain, on December 23, 1902. His parents were Narcis and Dominga. From childhood he revealed his lively nature, a delicate spirit and religious sentiments. After reaching his reasoning age, he became an altar boy at the Parish Church. The Parish Priest, Fr. Melchor Boix, talked frequently with the children during the catechism class and he talked, too, about the Calasanzian House that was in Morella School. Therefore, Maties, who wanted to become a priest, when he was 12 years old, he asked to be admitted in the vocational center, where he was accepted together with another boy from Vallinoba. He soon became adapted to the new environment, although at the beginning, it was hard for him to be on the same level as the others because he had been born in a poor family and had always lived in a small town. Fr. Pere Boronat, who was a companion in Morella, remembers him as a hard worker, sympathetic and pious young boy.

 

It was a pity, but the extreme poverty his parents lived, forced them to make him cut off his vocational road. Their poverty was such that they could not prepare him to enter the novitiate, although they told him that it was not possible for him to continue his studies since he had to help them in Vallibona, working and helping the family. Maties suffered much because of this decision, the same as his companions. His dream seemed to wipe out.  

 

In those circumstances, he received the help of the Parish Priest who convinced the parents to find a solution for him. The Priest asked and got for Maties a working job at the Brothers of the Christian Schools in Barcelona, where he was welcome with love. The new environment helped him to become more serious and the peace came into his soul. He worked, prayed, without losing his hope. Maybe one day…! Everything he used to earn, was sent to his parents, after fulfilling his essential personal needs. At the school, he was appreciated by the directors, as well as by the teachers. Everybody had confidence in him.

 

When he became 20 years old, he had to leave the school in order to go for the military service. After finishing his service, he remained during 8 years in the radio-telegraph battalion, going to a military school to obtain a military degree.

 

In his vocational road, there was an important happening: his stay at the Military Hospital in Malaga city, Spain, where he was because of some continuos fever. There, the Lord put by his side a real guardian angel in  Sister Ana Maria Ferrer. Fr. Maties talks about her in this way, in a conversation he had with the Fr. Provincial from Catalonian, in1929. He went asking to be admitted into the Pious Schools:

 

“A certain day, the Religious Sister, who was very intuitive and a good observer, clever and energetic, asked me with delicacy what was going to be my life, after I would be well and free form my military duties. Because she added: ‘it seems to me the God has prepared for you a very good road’. I did not doubt telling her my secret and the desire of my life: to become a priest, but a Piarist Religious. I told her briefly my years in Morella, the negative of my parents…”But you, Mother, - I added – keep this secret until God would convert this hope in a reality’. ‘I will do it- answered – and I will keep praying until this become a beautiful reality’”.

 

Fr. Maties kept during his whole life a great gratitude to that Religious Sister who had helped him in the most difficult moments and encouraged his hope with affection and prayers.

 

His return to the Pious Schools was accompanied with episodes that would make us see the plans of the Providence. On February 4, 1928, Saturday, he went out to buy tickets for the opening of an opera that was going to be presented the following day. He realized the situation he was living – un-easiness for the present and un-known for the future – and by chance he realized that nobody but the Virgin Mary could help him to find a solution to his problem. He entered a shop, bought a candle and lighted it later on before a stature of the Virgin. His friend Jose Godes, who was observing the scene, asked him: “A promise or thanksgiving?” “A petition to the Virgin”, he answered.

 

The grace was obtained and it was manifested in the providential meeting with an old companion of the Calasanzian House in Morella, Fr. Pere Boronat, who at that time was in the Sarria School.

 

God wanted him a Piarist and he accepted it, in spite that the familiar situation had not been changed. He went to Fr. Provincial, asking, with humility, to be admitted to the Order of the Pious Schools.

 

He entered the Moia Novitiate, where he started a new life, full of a real religious spirit. On July 25, 1929, he took the Religious habit, and emitted the first Profession on August 24, 1930. He was an obedient, self-sacrificing, fervent Religious. Everything was easy and bearable for him. He was diligent and punctual in the fulfillment of his duties, may be these difficult or easy. The sacrifices of the Religious life were not new for him: he had been obeying all his life; he had experienced the poverty and the tiredness; he had cultivated noble and Christian friendships. In the novitiate, he experienced all these things, but now the motivations were of a superior level. In spite of his age – he was 27 - he felt that he was not really formed, relying on everything upon the Fr. Master, his confessors and his teachers. He used to say that he had an experience treasure, but now he was travelling through unknown paths.

 

He did not find difficulties in his studies. In Morella, excellent teachers had initiated him in letters and in the taste for Spanish and Latin classics. He did not forget his Greek knowledge. He went back to the poetic vein and he started again his compositions in prose and verses, in Spanish as well as in Latin, although he left this poetic field in a rapid decision. To a companion who was curious about this, he answered: “Brother, I have told this to Fr. Master. During prayer, there came to my imagination too many verses and they sounded like assonant and consonants”.

 

The Novitiate was for him a launching pad towards new aims and new horizons. During 1930-1933, in Irache, Navarra Province, he dedicated himself to the cultural formation and to the foundation of his vocation. It was clear that nor his age, nor his mind, had lost the necessary permeability of his intelligence for the studies. In 1933, he started his Theological studies at Albelda de Iregua, Rioja Province, and fed with new and profound truths his piety towards God and the charity towards others. He was really enjoying, before hand, his future missionary vocation as an educator at the Catalonian Province Pious Schools. That was his constant vocation that seemed impossible in the past, but now it was approaching little by little. He was enjoying the nearness of his priesthood, whose spirit he had and whose desired consecration was renewing with fervor.

 

In his Solemn Profession, emitted on the day of the Assumption 1934, he wrote to Sister Ana Maria Ferrer:

 

“Ordinary, it is said that in this world there is not complete happiness. But I, after what I experienced in the past day 15, I must answer in an affirmative way. I have to say that there are days when one feels so close to God, our Lord, so much impregnated of his smooth sweetness presence, that one feels obliged to exclaim with the holy Patriarch Job: ‘Really, God is here’.     

 

Those who lived with him those happy moments of his Profession stress the great satisfaction that filled his spirit and that his person used to irradiate. Only he, could measure and understand the work of the Lord through that economy of grace. The Lord had waited, first, but He was now arriving with opportune punctuality.

 

On April 11, 1936, in the chapel of the Bishop of Calahorra city, Rioja Province, was consecrated as a priest. With that ordination, everything received a better and more luminous explanation: his vocation, his sufferings, the shadows and the lights, the desserts and the oasis. And there was, too, a beautiful perspective of apostolate. The Priesthood, as in the case of the Disciples, put an end and crowned with honor the hard years of following the Lord, always united to the Master of miracles and power.

 

But he only could enjoy the first fruits of his Priesthood. From the intimacy of the Holy Thursday, the Lord soon associated him to his Passion and Death. Fr. Maties accepted the will of God with serenity and without any opposition to those who arrested him, convinced that the sacrifice of his own life would not remain without fruits.

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