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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 FRANCESC CARCELLER

BLESSED MARTYR FRANCESC CARCELLER

(1901-1936)

 

At the end of the school year 1935-1936, Fr. Francesc Carceller was sent by his Superiors to Caldes de Montbui, for a thermal treatment. Just a few days before leaving the Our Lady School, when he said goodbye to one of the students, he told him: “I have the presentiment that we are not going to see each other again”. And when the student was really surprised, he repeated the same words. After he finished his thermal treatment, he went back to Barcelona and on July 17, he went to Forcall, his native town, in order to spend the vacations in his parents‘ house.

 

When the Spanish Revolution started, he understood the grave situation and he tried to go back to Barcelona, but he could not get the necessary pass. In the meantime, in Forcall started the arresting of the priests and the most prominent Christian people.  At the beginning of August was arrested the secular priest Fr. Santiago Obon, who had taken refuge in his house. A friend of Fr. Carceller, Mr. Francesc Escorihuela, informed him about the situation and invited him to go to his house, where he would be safer, promising him to defend him at any cost: “Before killing you, they would have to kill me”. Fr. Francesc thanked him with emotion, but he did not accept the proposition, fearing that if he would hide, his father and his brother Joaquin would be arrested, with much damage for the family. “If they arrest me – he said – may God be blessed; I will die for the country and for God”.

 

The days were spent in peace in the house of his parents. In spite of the rheumatic pains, he helped in the chores of the house, in the farm, in the fields, especially during the harvest time. When somebody warned him to act with prudence, so not to fall in the hands of the militiamen, he just answered: “Priests, will never be lacking in the Church, because the blood of the martyrs is seeds of Christians”. 

 

On August 28, the eve of his arrest, commenting the recent developments with some persons, he said: “If they kill me, the rheumatic pains will be finished; besides that, the greatest glory God can give me is the martyrdom, since in that way I will surely posses heaven”.

 

The Lord gave him this grace. On August 29, at 6 o’clock in the morning, an emissary of the City Hall went to the Carceller’s house telling them that by order of the Committee, Fr. Carceller should be present in the Municipality. The father was still resting and was her sister who took the responsibility of telling him the news. Taking courage, before entering the room of her brother, she knelt down asking the Lord strength. Then, he woke up his brother and told him the news. The same order had been given to another two secular priests and two Carmelites Fathers, all from Forcall.

 

When he heard the news, Fr. Carceller asked: “And the mother… is she crying?” And finished: “Blessed be God”. 

 

Going down the staircase, he met his parents. He fondled his father, gave a strong embrace to his mother, and greeted the rest of the relatives. He left the house, and accompanied by his brother Joaquin, he went to the city hall, where he met the other four priests from Forcall. The arrested five, were led to the jail of Morella, and later on, in the evening, to the jail of Castellon de la Plana, where they remained until October 2, the date when they were taken to the martyrdom. Other priests were added; around 30. They were kept in a big room, separated from the lay people, with whom only could speak when they were taken out to the patio.

 

Thanks to Mr. Francisco Torres, who was also a prisoner, but that he could save his life almost in a miraculous way, we know some circumstances of the stay and martyrdom of Fr. Carceller and the other priests. Knowing that they were destined to death, they had been prepared in time, making their confessions among themselves. Fr. Carceller suffered very much because of is rheumatic pains, in such a way that some days, it was impossible for him eve to go out to the patio.

 

October 2 was the day of his martyrdom. Around 4 o’clock in the afternoon, when the prisoners were in the patio for the recreation time, came the militiamen called ‘Iron Column’ with the intention of killing all the priests and many of the civil people. The leader read a list of 20 people who were handcuffed and taken to death near Almazara. The rest were ordered to go to their rooms.

 

At around 22:00 o’clock, another 10 were taken away and killed at the cemetery of Castellon.  At 23:30 o’clock, they came back again to take the rest, the biggest group, among them around 30 priests, one of them Fr. Carceller. The arrested were coming one after the other, in silence and without any opposition. In one of the next room, they had prepared something like a tribunal: each one was asked the name, family name and profession. The priests, after they declared that they were priests, no more questions.   

 

The militiamen tied the hands behind, checked them and took away everything they had. They were forced to get into a truck, not without before insulting them with bad words and actions, hitting their faces with the rosaries they had found in their pockets.

 

They were taken to the cemetery of Castellon, where the bodies of the second group were lying. In front of that spectacle, even worse under the reflection of the light of the moon, all of them lived a sentiment of horror thinking that just a few minutes later they would be in the same condition.

 

They were arranged in two lines, near the riffles. The silence before the execution was broken by a strong and  firm voice of the secular priest Fr. Bernardo Frasno, Parish Priest of Forcall, who facing his martyrdom companions, shouted: “My Brothers, let us repeat the words of Calvo Sotelo: ‘You can take out our lives. More than that, you cannot’. Long live Christ the King!  Long live Spain!”.

 

A strong ‘Live” resounded in the night, followed by the sound of the rifles taken away the lives of those valiant men. 

The bodies were left in the cemetery until the following morning, when they were gathered, put into individual caskets and buried. It was October 3, 1936, the same day when Fr. Francesc became 35 years old.

 

On November 26, 1938, his mortal rests were taken to the cemetery of Forcall, where they were put in a niche.

 

Although he had lived only 35 years, the figure of Fr. Francesc Carceller is presented to us as a noble Piarist figure, because of his exemplary life and because of his admirable dedication to the Piarist ministry.

 

From childhood he lived in a pious atmosphere. Forcall was a real Christian town that had given to the Church many Religious and Priestly vocations. The Carceller family was especial, because except the eldest brother Joaquin, all the sons of Joaquin and Manuela, had become Religious: Jaume, Francesc and Pere, Piarists; Joseph, Domingo and Manuel, Augustinian Recollects, and Maria, the only daughter, a Dominican.  

 

When he was 13 years old, he had a sickness in his right knee, a white tumor. His parents used all the possible means, but in vain. While he was growing up, Francesc was with his sickness and people thought that during his whole life, he would be the “little lame” as everybody started to call him with love. His parents took him to Lourdes and he became a little better, but it was for a short period of time. He was taken to the Zaragoza hospital, but the doctors did not dare to operate him because of his weakness. In spite of all the care he received, his leg articulation remained bad. Francesc did not do of it a drama: with his rigid leg, he played and ran as the other boys. Following the example of his brothers, he became an altar boy, in spite that he had to kneel down keeping his leg rigid. His mother told him one day: “Francesc, I will ask the Parish Priest to allow you to serve Mass standing”.  Francisc answered: “Mother, I can do it as am doing it now; if I have to be standing, I prefer not to serve Mass”. In the meantime, the mother prayed and asked the heaven for his cure. And she was heard. From the day Francesc had made his first Communion, he used to receive it every Sunday and feast days. Since he could not bend his sick leg, for an easier way, he used to go to the extreme of the communion rail where he could kneel while keeping spread out his rigid leg. One day, the feast of the Assumption, in 1913 or 1914, while the communion was being distributed, seeing Francisc that his accustomed place was not free, he went with decision to the center of the communion rail and knelt down as the others, easily.  He was cured. His mother, who was present, could not believe her eyes. The cure was attributed to the Virgin of Lourdes, so many times invoked. Fr. Francisc confirms it in a poem he wrote while he was in the Calasanzian House of Morella. As a sign of gratitude, when he received his Religious habit, he wanted to be called, Francesc of the Virgin of Lourdes, and after he was ordained as a priest, he went to Lourdes, with his father, to give thanks to the Virgin.

 

After he became 13 years old, he wanted to join his brothers on the road of the Religious life and he entered the Calasanzian House of Morella, on October 11, 1914. He was so happy that when he spent the vacations with his family, he used to say: “Here, I am not well”.

 

In 1917, before entering the Novitiate, while spending his vacation at home, his mother, watching him sad, and thinking that the cause could be the thought  of abandoning for good his fatherly home, asked him: “Francisc, what happens?”. He, who felt a great nostalgia for the Calasanzian House, answered: “Mother, the Brother of the School in Morella told me that there was still  a table and a bed for me”. The mother, renouncing the happiness of having near her loving Francisc, answered: “If that is the cause, do not suffer more; go back to Morella”.  And he did that. He spent the remaining days of his vacation in the Calasanzian House and went back to Forcall just a few days to greet the family before entering the Moia Novitiate.  He took the Piarist habit in August 1918.     

 

He had Fr. Antoni Tasi as his Novice Master, who knew that his instant cure was attributed to the Virgin of Lourdes and that for that reason, Ferancesc had taken her as his Patroness in his Religious life. He considered him as a special son of the Heavenly Mother and he used to remind him, from time to time, the duty of being thankful to Her with his holy Religious life. Francesc always kept this commitment, as the same Fr. Master re-affirms it, telling us that “he does not remember anything that would go against  this divine grace". He made his first Profession on August 10, 1918.

 

During his years as a Junior in Irache and Alella, Francesc Carceller behaved as an exemplary young man, especially observant in silence, modesty, punctuality, fulfilling very well his religious duties, pious and loving the secluded life. He loved the Liturgy and the Gregorian chant and later on he made of them instruments of his apostolate. He made his Solemn Profession in Alella, on December 8, 1922 and was ordained as a priest in Lleida, on September 19, 1925.

 

His Piarist ministry was carried out in Barcelona city, Spain. First, in Sant Antoni School, 1924-1930, and later on in Nostra Senyora, 1930-1936. It is worthy to stress how on Saturdays and on the eves of the feasts, he talked to his students about the liturgical feasts, always with fervor and enthusiasm, convinced of the importance of the Liturgy in the education of the faith. Since he was a good musician and he knew the Gregorian chant, he was the director of the singing in Nostra Senyora School of Barcelona. Another especial note of his activity was the work with the youth., outside the school time. During his years at the school in Diputation Street, he dedicated himself, in a special way, to the activities with the group Federation of Young Christian Men or Workers, founded by him at the school.

 

His apostolic zeal appears clearly in this sentence, written to his brother Pere:

 

“My ideal is to make Jesus known to the young men, in order to save them, and I have given myself completely, with body and soul, to this task”. 

 

One of his students, Jose M. Costas, gave a long testimony about his apostolate done by Fr. Carceller, among the “Workers”.  It is worthy to remember the most important sentences:         

 

“Fr. Francesc was not really known, and many times, was not understood. His ample spirit, his generosity, his understanding; the ardor of his soul, in love with the good and the truth…He was an apostle and a great apostle. The apostolate was the idea and sentiment that informed his whole life. To it, he gave his heart, brain and will.

 

He was a man apparently cold and reserved, that communicated his strong personality to those who were around. But when he was completely identified with us, he used to give us his heart and his secrets. How he stripped himself of that mask of coldness, that was only in appearance, and he allowed us to see the whole fire of his passionate character…! He loved the young men with exaltation.  

 

He was in love with the Federation of the Young Christians and to it, in silence, he gave his energies and ardor of the apostle. Day and night, he used to give himself with assiduity and enthusiasm! After the hard work of teaching, still the meeting, the preparation of the meetings, always thinking about the moral and material betterment of the organization. Those who belong to that organization, know very well that, our care, always had a special place in his mind. For that, and especially because of that, we loved him as our parents. He was, without being, our spiritual director.  He was, without trying to be, our Spiritual Father.

 

In a few words, Fr. Carceller was an apostle in the way of St. Paul. His apostolate was successful because it was supported by an intense spiritual life, fed by prayer and the desire of sanctity.

 

And in the same way he was generous in the apostolate with the young, he was also generous in his martyrdom, who received it as a gift from heaven, convinced that the blood of the martyrs is seeds of new Christians".

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