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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

 

 

FR. PEDRO DIEZ, Sch.P.

(A LIFE OF DEDICATION TO THE LITTLE ONES

48 YEARS WITH KINDERGATTEN CHILDREN)

[N1] 

   

 

I.                   COUNTRY, FAMILY AND VOCATION

 

Let us start from home.  At home, Fr. Pedro was an intimate person with his parents, his sisters and …God. His mother was his first teacher. And what a teacher! That school made him more perfect in his elemental knowledge and in all the small virtues he acquired. The Piarist Vocation arrived like a gift and prophecy. In addition, the priesthood as a blessing. And the fraternal war in Spain in 1936-1939… Until here, everything was a going up road, with a small weight upon his shoulders. Just in a few words: Home, school, vocation, priesthood, wars. Each one of these words has its transcendental meaning and they hide a mystery. But he knew how to put them into practice with an evangelical accuracy. The image of his mother never was arisen from his memory.    

 

Fr. Pedro was born on April 14, 1913, in Pampliega, Burgos Province, Spain.  Pampliega means “Pannis plica - doubled in cloths”-. It was a beautiful small town of 1445 people, 32 km. to the western part of Burgos, capital of the Province. By Pampliega pass the railroad and Arlazon River. The first one, an iron road, and the second one, with gentle waters. The town has a Parish Church of the XVI century, with two wide entrances and a high arch tower.

 

The environment of Fr.Pedro’s family was of a complete peace. The deep religiosity of the mother, Mrs. Carmen, was filling the home, interwoven with an Evangelical kindness.  His father, Mr. Domingo Diez, was a very simple, good, communicative, sociable and happy railroad worker. He had different working places such as Tolosa (Guipuzcoa Province) and Venta de Baños. He died when he was 58 years old.

 

The parents of Fr. Pedro got married in the Parish Church of Pampliega, on April 15, 1912. As fruits of their matrimony, they had nine children.  Two boys and four girls survived. The eldest was Fr. Pedro, baptized on April 27, 1913. His sisters Beatriz, Josefa and Eulalia decided for the cloister life. Petra, the youngest one, took care of her mother until she died. One of his brothers died during the Second World War, in the foreign Blue Legion.   

 

While a child, Fr. Pedro is remembered very similar to his mother: the two were in a total tuning. In his town, everybody called him, with love, Pedrito (little Pedro). He was a loving and humble boy. He was loved by his companions and very much esteemed by the teachers. While a boy, he liked to be an altar boy and to pray together with his mother.

 

When his father was moved to Tolosa City, he was in contact with the Piarist Fathers and he attended the elementary school at their school. By sure, the prayers of the mother helped to make stronger his vocation. The father, since he was the eldest, was rather difficult to say “yes” regarding his vocation, but as soon as he said yes, he was proud of his son as a priest.

 

He started his career as a  Piarist Aspirant at Cascajo, in Zaragoza City, by the Ebro River and the Pilar, Mary’s Sanctuary. It was February 1926. Still he was not 13 years old. After that, he went to Peralta de la Sal, native town of St. Joseph Calasanz, in Huesca Province. He started here his Novitiate, directed by Fr. Faustino Oteiza. On July 15,1928, he took the Calasanzian habit and a year later, he made his Temporal Religious Profession. Everything was easy for him. He was happy and his vocation became stronger. He made his Philosophy studies and the teacher’s studies at Irache town, Navarra Province. His Theological studies were made at Albelda de Iregua, Rioja Province, where on January 25, 1935, he consecrated himself to God with his Solemn Vows.

 

During his time of formation, everybody remembers him with sympathy and admiration. One of his companions of this time says: “We all, without exception, loved him and called him with love: Perico. He was a friend to everybody. His piety, kindness and great love were exceptional. The Superiors treated him with love. His amiable nature attracted other persons. We were many, more than 200 hundred juniors, and we all admired the good young man, all kindness to everybody. He never got angry. He was always smiling”.

 

His intellectual level was normal. He was faithful in his duty and he faced the exigencies of the formation for becoming a priest, religious and educator, with total generosity.

 

There were difficult times in Fr. Padro’s formation period. In Spain could be felt a black epoch and the reasons for the worries came from the anticlerical and secularism movements that had taken the power when the Republic was proclaimed in 1931. The environment was rare. On July 18, 1936, the whole Spain felt the terror of the guns. The tension of that epoch was the reason for the bloody religious persecution and the martyrdom of the Spanish Church.

 

When Fr. Pedro finished his formation career, he was sent to Zaragoza City. On April 10, 1937, he was ordained as a Priest in Jaca City, Huesca Province. They were the most difficult times of the Spanish Civil War and to become a priest meant to go to the front line of the battle as a young military chaplain.

 

When the time arrived to go to the front line of the battle, Fr. Pedro, trusting the Lord, went to Jaca city, where one could hear the cannon shots. When asked if he had been afraid, he answered: “For me, Christ was so important in those moments, that to be able to consecrate His body and to impart His pardon meant as much as my existence”.

 

During a short weekend, he went to his town where he celebrated his first solemn Mass, with joy and with pain, and later he went back to the front battle line. Fr. Pedro never liked to talk about wars, hates, and strange situations. Once was heard that one time he went back to rearguard on a truck full of dead persons and gravely hurt some.

 

Fr. Pedro used to say: “From the war I got three things: an stomach ulcer (it lasted until the end of his life), a broken Italian, without never being in Italy, and the most important thing, a strong conviction of God’s mercy, not being shocked by any physical or moral misery”.   

 

During two years, he was a chaplain and when he came back to his community of Zaragoza in 1939, he took back with him that deep and strong spiritual strength that made him smile before any pain and nobody thought that the small person of clear eyes was one of the most deep divers for moral disasters.

 

II. THE RELIGIOUS


Piarist Religious, we must understand. With the whole greatness and servitude it carries. The Superiors that govern and command, the community brothers, the children of his school. For all of them, respect and love. The Superiors did not have any problem with him. The Brothers asked from him favors and they went by his confessional place. The children loved him as a father. There were sick persons in Community. There were children that  colored their white clothes: the “accident” ones, he used to say, instead of saying "dirty" ones. It was a good ground to put into practice all the Calasanzian virtues: charity, obedience, simplicity, and punctuality.

 

The sanctity of Fr. Pedro consisted in the simplicity of his ordinary life. Peaceful, serene, joyful, smiling, frequently with his breviary or praying the Rosary…He was excellent in humility and simplicity.


One of his community brothers, 20 years before his death, used to say: “One has to admire the evolution of this Piarist Religious: he has always been a charitable and a pious person. He kept in his youth a small energy of an old Castillian person, and he is losing it in order to become a pure expression of charity”.

 

He was a simple, humble and poor man: while he was going to visit his mother and family, he always traveled in the lowest class and he did not mind being seated among soldiers or gypsies. He used to carry with him a very poor bag and according to him, it was not a temptation of being robbed of it.

 

He used to receive gifts: chocolate boxes, fountain pens, etc. Immediately he used to go to Fr. Rector to present them or to receive permission to give them,. They were hindrances for him. He received them with affection and he gave thanks, yes, but the true thanks were for those who received them. He used to say: “Thanks because I can get rid of these things”.

 

One companion since the time of the novitiate wrote to Fr. Provincial: “I always remember Perico more and more and I consider one of the best blessings from God in my Piarist life to have been always at his side during so many years, during the formation time and later on during the community life at school”.

 

The capacity of forgiving offenses was famous in Fr. Pedro. He could receive the greatest offense, could be denied of a favor in spite that he had done many, and he would remain in peace, without giving any importance to the matter, as if it would have been done to another person.

 

Many used to say about him: “In his eyes, he had the purity of a child that has not lost his innocence”. In the last step of his Religious Life, he had reached such a high level that some of his community brothers exclaimed: “This our good Fr. Pedro is so good, has reached such a level of self-dominion and of giving himself to God, to the simple and humble things, that now, even if he would like to become a bad person, it would be like the water that would like not to moisten”. 

 

One of his best friends, a Piarist Father, too, when he tried to pull his leg, told him one day: “People say that you are good, but you don’t have any merit, because everything is hereditary from your mother. For me, yes, for me it is very hard to be a good Religious. You have no passions…" Fr. Pedro took it as a joke and he started to laugh.

 

His Superiors knew how to value him. He was a pillar in the community. One of the Provincials who knew Fr. Pedro said: “The great concept I had about Fr. Pedro could be experienced in his daily life: his life was an exemplary one. He gave the impression, because of his kindness, as a virtue that appeared in his behavior. It was like a habit that covered his interior sanctity”.           

 

He lived his spiritual life with such a simplicity that it seemed as a natural thing for him. He became the confessor of almost the whole community. All his Brothers had confidence in him: his goodness attracted us very much. He was the big heart who knew how to forgive everything, who accepted everybody with amiability, who listened with patience and gave us proofs of his great love.

 

He was an example of humility and patience, great Calasanzian virtues. His humility was a living in truth, a marvelous simple life, always the same, happy. He became a little one with the most little ones; he enjoyed helping the most simple ones…He was so delicate and simple that he never became a shadow to anybody.  One can say that he had the utmost patience. He never became angry to anybody. His patience with the “accident” children was extraordinary. Fr. Pedro was a pure child, clean, unable of hurting or giving any trouble.

 

He really lived poorly. His room was always clean. The simplicity and the poverty, together with order and cleanness struck us. He had the necessary things: the bed, always well done, the table, the chair, his breviary, Constitutions and a few more things. He lived in a complete austerity.

 

He used to give himself to charitable works with a heroic generosity. He was the first to offer himself for the hardest work, especially regarding the sick and dead persons. He had received from his mother these virtues, as a hereditary gift. His fortitude was an impressive one, although he was small in statue and rather weak. One of the Fathers of the Community, already old and sick with cancer, had a very long and suffering agony, and his sickness made him lose his patience and the patience of the ones who took care of him.  Fr Pedro, as it was his custom, offered himself to stay there during the nights, next to the sick person, on an armchair, and as always, he considered it a favor to allow him to offer this service. He used to say that he slept as well in bed as in a chair. The sick person, a few days before dying, told his Rector: “…I thought that Fr. Pedro was a very good person; after these days, I say that he is a saint. This very night, I made him get up eight times and the eight times he came to me with a smile and an incomprehensible affability. And besides that, he has told me to call him even more times, if necessary, without any restraint”.

 

He was a friend of all. Always the same. Never was heard a criticism of other people. It was impossible in him. One could ask from him a favor, and he was anxious in fulfilling the request. He gave a good example to his brothers in the communitarian prayer fidelity, as a fruit of his strong faith. As a good Piarist, he loved very much Mary and St. Joseph Calasanz. His visits to the Pilar Virgin were excuses to make a stroll, together with other holy companion, Bro. Simon, and to pray to the Virgin, whom he loved so much, as a small child loves his mother.

 

A companion of community since the year 1935 until he died, says: It is not easy to say that he never got angry to anybody and that he never lost his patience. The heroic thing of the Servant of God was that he was always patient with all; that nobody would see him in a bad humor, and that this would live in a constant, natural and smiling way.

 

 

III. AS A PRIEST


He always felt himself as a priest of Christ, day and night. His hands were anointed on April 10, 1937, in Jaca city, Huesca Province, Spain, and on December 14, 1984, his body was wrapped in his poor room of the Pious Schools of Zaragoza city. And as a priest was seen by the people that met him on the road: his mother, his sisters, the Marist postulants and novices and all the neighbors of Venta de Baños and around, the Parish Priests and Religious of Zaragoza city, the poor and sick persons of Saint Paul neighborhood, the young adorers who baptized him with a good football nickname: The Di Stefano of the Ciborium.  (Di Stefano was one of the best football players of Real Madrid Football Team).  Only the Lord of that Ciborium knew what kind of paths Fr. Pedro used to walk among the winding alleys of the Gancho Parish, and what kind of other paths were running his soul “after the Beloved One”. 

 

Because he was a faithful servant of the Lord, he lived the Liturgy of the day, carried peace to the spirits, and covered with a mantle of mercy the bodies of the dead faithful.

 

Other field of his activity was, taking care and responsibility of the cult of the church at school. In the way of administering the sacraments, in his preoccupation for the divine cult, and on the way of taking care of the Christian people, the Servant of God left also a very strong impression. Many Masses, alms, weddings, confessions were motivated because of his sympathy and welcoming capacity!

 

In the afternoon, after the children classes were finished, he used to accompany the children to their homes and then started his third apostolate field: the abandoned zone of Saint Paul district. Together with his handy-bag, he started his very prudent priestly ministry. He used to go up to those houses without elevators carrying with him the Sacraments, counsels and economic help, especially for the old people and those who were almost abandoned. He returned on time for the community evening prayer, since he was always very faithful in the fulfilling of his obligations.

 

He was a humble priest, but he was admired and loved. A strong gypsy who was in charge of a prostitution bar that one day saw Fr. Pedro go up to the upper story, shouted with a strong voice to the people who were there: “To this beloved Father, when he comes here, everybody should say kind words to him; I don’t want anybody to tell me that you have insulted him, since I have seen what he does and I believe he is a man of God”.    And sometimes he accompanied him as far as the main street. (Conde de Aranda)

      

He had the fame of being a merciful and understanding confessor. A man who had not been to confessions for many years, used to appreciate so much the kindness of the Father, that he had told his sons that if he someday would confess, the person should be Fr. Pedro. When he time of death arrived, the sons told it to Fr.Pedro and he went immediately to take care of the matter. Fr. Pedro, smiling and with kindness, met him. Only God knows what happened there. After finishing the confession, that man did not stop kissing Fr. Pedro.

 

In Venta de Baños town, a railroad center and the place were his mother lived, was greatly appreciated. The parish priest left the town to him when he went for vacation. People used to wait for him, and not precisely because of his sermons, but rather because of his piety and priestly example in the confessional. And the Marist seminarians were waiting for him, too. He was in calm and happy in the confessional. He was convinced of two things: the infinite kindness of God and of His desire that all the souls would be treated with kindness. 

 

He used to be the confessor of the Piarist Communities in Zaragoza City and he dedicated to this apostolate with great generosity. One day, his Father Rector told him: “Fr. Pedro, you are killing yourself, since you have four things, children, church, confessions and helping the old people. Of these four things, I have to take away two. Tell me which ones do you prefer to be taken away”.  The Servant of God answered: “Father, our life is like a candle that has a determined life-span. It does not matter if it used without stopping or putting it out at certain times...”  

 

When he learned about some death, especially the abandoned people, the Servant of God, with his simplicity and humility, used to kneel down before the dead person and after a short prayer, marked the forehead with the sign of the cross, shrouding the corpse with special kindness. He used to kiss him, prayed the Our Father kneeling, inviting the present persons to do the same and to honor those remains that had been the temple of the Holy Spirit. He did it with such unction, kindness and humility that people used to say: “This Fr. Pedro is wonderful; he crashes us  because of this kindness”. 

 

As a priest, he was named chaplain of the Night Adoration Saint Joseph Calasanz Group. He accompanied the Adorers with exemplarity until four or five in the morning, and almost without any rest, he took part in the Community prayer. 

 

His availability was total. As a priest his kindness was special. He never had a strong word for anybody, or even a despised gesture. Regarding any difficulty, the parish priests of the neighborhood parishes used to call on him and he always found a proper solution.

 

With great diligent, he prepared the feast of the First Communion at school. It was famous the pilgrimage of the whole school to the Sanctuary of the Virgin of Pilar in Zaragoza during May. All the small children went in a perfect procession with their Holy Flags.

 

The Servant of God took special care of the School Church. He daily celebrated his Mass at the altar of the Virgin of Pillar, where the Tabernacle was and in this way, he always distributed the Holy Communion. The young people of the Night Adoration used to call him “ the Di Stefano of the Ciborium”.   

 

Fr. Pedro was a Piarist Priest of the people. The working people, the simple ones, those who worked at the market posts, in front of which he daily passed with his children, were the most that admired him He was always away from ostentations, from the big happenings. He was at easy with poor people, with the people of Saint Paul district, so much loved by him; and these people, the simple ones, the poor, there were the ones who looked for him to help their sick persons, to baptize their children and to perform in the wedding ceremonies.

 

 

IV. A WITNESS AND A TEACHER


Both things together. A witness of the Divine Master and of Calasanz, universal and founding pedagogue of the Pious Schools. How happy he was that hot day of August 1948, when Pius XII declared his “holy Father” Celestial Patron before God of all the Christian Popular Schools of the world!

 

In the example of Calasanz and in the words of his Constitutions, Fr. Pedro inspired his pedagogy. And especially on that magic phrase of the venerable text: “If children from their early years are instructed diligently in piety and learning, it must undoubtedly be expected that their whole life will be a happy one”. From their early years… his kindergarten children. With them and for them he spent happily three parts of his life. He taught them letters with wisdom, with modern methods, with much patience. And hand by hand, he took them to Christ in the Tabernacle, to the heart of Mary and to the fatherly arms of Calasanz. He was happy and the children were happy, too. It is natural that after they became grown up men, they remembered him and invoke him.      

 

He was rather small in stature, pure, wide face and smiling eyes. He had a very good writing, a balanced ingenuity and he was very kind. More than kind, he was a man of God.

 

He was a sower of love and peace with full hands. A teacher of kindergarten children during 48 years, all of them lived at the school of the Pious Schools in Zaragoza City, Spain. The title of Fr. Pedro, above all, was: a teacher of children according to the spirit of Saint Joseph Calasanz.

 

The pedestal of the human and religious personality of the Servant of God was the kidergarten place. He loved the children as a crazy person, but always with a delicacy, a human way and a pure conduct that caused admiration.

 

For the children he looked for and invented the best things, consecrating, on purpose, his intellectual world to the children world. He made of his school a modern, happy and beautiful home. He composed – sometimes alone and sometimes in collaboration – primers, reading books and didactic elements with much originality. He was so great his prestige in this field that during the 40s and 50s years of the 20th century, there were kindergarten meetings in Madrid, Barcelona, Zaragoza, Pamplona, Santander, Valencia, Logrono and in other places of Spain and he always was, with other Piarist companion, Fr. Joaquin Erviti, whom he loved and admired much, the number one, in theory and in practice. Some of these methods were used by the Ministry of Education in alphabetization campaigns.

 

Where did he learn this wonderful didactic capacity? From many readings and summarizing of books, but above all, from a professional obsession that took him to test and experiment the best and the most modern things that reached his hands.

 

Pedagogically speaking, his work was great in quantity and quality. Uninterrupted, since 1937, legions of children went through his classes and they were welcomed with joy by Fr. Pedro and they were treated with kindness, patience, order and special delicacy.

 

He has been considered as the best kindergarten teacher of the Piarist Schools in Zaragoza since the foundation year, 1731. There is an impressive detail of the influence that he gave with his consecrated life for the small children. After his death, every year, during the goodbye ceremony of the students who finish their studies at school, it is necessary to remember him: “as the perfect model of the Piarist educator”, “the one who for almost all of us, was the FIRST PIARIST FATHER, loving teacher, who taught us the first letters and although he left us long time ago, he is always present in our hearts”.

 

In the Servant of God were fulfilled those prophetic words of Pius XII, when he referred to the silent task of the unknown Piarist: “Our remembrance goes, with a special remembrance, to the unknown Piarist, who with his unknown work, maybe not so well considered by the world, has given to thousands of children the knowledge and the whole religious and civic virtues”. 

     

The dedication of Fr. Pedro was total, animated by a supernatural spirit, and a time arrived when it could not remain unknown, as a light under the bushel, and it was publicly recognized on June 24, 1973, with the a medal of “Working Merit”. The people asked it and the ceremony was presided by the Archbishop and authorities and it showed out the humility and simplicity of the Servant of God.  

 

He left two notebooks, in a clear writing. They have the lists of all his students from 1935-1972.  Year by year, he was writing down the names, family names, age; the sum is 37 years and 4404 students, with their pictures, because he had them taken the pictures so that he would know them better at school and after they left the school 

 

There was a great day and a great invention by Fr. Pedro; it was the “study trip day” for his kindergarten students. Why the grown up had it and his little ones, did not? That day, children and families used to fill the Almozara fields, with its sport places, swimming pool and its famous fort – like a western movie - known as Calasanz Castle. It took place on the first week of June. During that day, Fr.Pedro used to carry a tall cane and his happiness was full and contagious, encouraging children and grown up.  There were team games, ordinary games, given prizes by the queen, obliged visit to the Pontoneros Quarter, celebration of the Eucharist in the open air, with prayers and songs. Later on, lunch on the fields. The day was finished with the actuation of some magician person and a group that sang and danced the best Aragonian songs. This feast has only one name, even after the years have passed, and it is called “Feast of Fr. Pedro”. Now, the old students remember it wit nostalgia.  

 

Every year, too, the kindergarten children of Fr. Pedro used to visit their friend kindergarten companions at the schools: Christ the King, Ana, Calasanz, Ruiseñores and Miraflores. Fr. Pedro carried with himself full bags of caramels that shared with his children and these with the visited children. In this way they became familiars.

 

And talking about the creativity of Fr. Pedro, we can remember him clothing the children like Chinese and color children, passing the boxes and asking for help for the Holy Infancy, for Missions.  

 

The “accident children” were treated with a delicacy and love very difficult to express, as if they would send him a flower bouquet or a chocolate box, with great joy and with a love that made the crying children happy. He used to clean them and he prepared a small packet telling them: “this for your mammy, and only for you mammy, and not for anybody else”. The mothers always thanked the delicacy the Servant of God treated their children. 

 

It was impressive the happiness with which he received the children when they entered the classroom. He helped them to take off the clothes and to put them in order. When all of them were in their seats, during a few minutes, he prayed the prayer: “Small Virgin of all the children”.

 

He taught the small children to read, pray and discover life from the happy window of their smallness. He prepared the children for the First Communion, year after year, with great competence and supreme care…And the “row”… He always took with himself the children that went by the Market, the poor and popular district of Zaragoza. His “row” was a long row, because of the many children, and slowly, because he knew the persons of the district and he used to greet the owners of the fruit and candy shops and they used to make full his pockets with fruits, bananas and candies for his children…And the diningroom of the working students, altar boys and poor children, was the preference place for him. He blessed the food, took care of the diningroom and ate poorly with his children, day after day, all the days of the year.

 

All the children without any exception considered him a saint and they remembered him by his great charity and kindness. He became a child with the children; he lived transmitting the purity and the kindness of the smallest ones, and this is the reason of the veneration and love of all. He never shouted to the small children; he never punished them… He only used with them, as Calasanz wanted, patience, charity, and kindness and in this way he was gaining and leading them to God.

 

Fr.Pedro was not a talkative person, rather he was timid, but when he talked about his children, he used to be very expressive, and one felt his happiness, his Piarist vocation. There is a detail that reveals his faith and confidence in the prayers of the small ones. One day, when he was on vacation, somebody asked him prayers for a grave sick person.  Everybody was impressed by his answer: “Not now; when the school year will begin, we will pray with the children; the Lord always listens to the small ones”. And the sick person became better.  

 

Fr. Pedro has his holy mania. All together form a beautiful bouquet. He used to call his children group, “The Air Supreme Command” The children would go by in a line and when the teacher greeted them with an inclination, all of them greeted him in a martial way.

 

The mothers were for him almost sacred. The mothers of their children had for him heavenly places: they were good and always were right. He made them love and respect. When the children asked him, always the same answer: “as for you, what your mama would say”.

 

In far away places the missionaries. He described, in a dramatic way, their heroic acts, their victories and their martyrdom. Before the eyes of the children, they appeared as heroes and they had to pray for them.

 

In the spiritual affection level, Saint Joseph Calasanz and the Virgin Mary. Calasanz was the Holy Father. And as a Father, he presented him to the children.  The Virgin Mary, the Small Virgin, about whom he always spoke, was the Mother that takes care from Heaven.

 

V. A MIRROR OF GOD


Regarding sanctity, the last word is in the hands of God and His Church. But, there remains, as a proof and testimony, a bouquet of virtues, put into practice in a radical way, by Fr. Pedro. And even more than virtues, his heroic example that attracted and had a magnet power. The main devotions were three: the Eucharist, for Him, with daily Mass and visit, the “Small Virgin”, for Her, with the rosary and his verses, and Calasanz, because he was his father and father of the children. A clear proof that he did not go with explanations or other things, at the hour of truth, in following Christ, we have those sixteen intentions, as fruits of a retreat and they did not remain only on a notebook. He had made them life before. He wrote them down now to remember them better. Some of them are based upon the best doctrine of his time. Others are only his. Completely his… He continued fulfilling them, but with peace, with a tranquility in his soul, with smiling in his lips, with joy in his eyes. A saint, yes, but a smiling saint.   

 

The characteristic thing of Fr. Pedro was “to give himself to all, always ready to…” And together with this marvelous giving himself, “his simplicity, his kindness”. The sanctity of the Servant of God was the simplicity of every day…Peaceful, gentle, serene, prayerful…In his visits to the Holy Sacrament, there was no time for him.

 

He would not do anything without the permission of the Superior. His humility was also supreme, translating it in a simple obedience.

 

He kept the simplicity and purity of the children, He was never seen sad. Only one time, when he saw that his health was failing, and he saw that he had to leave off the children… but what the Superiors said, it was the word of God.

 

One of his special devotions was the Eucharist…The servant of God spent many nights accompanying the young people of the 18th group of the Night Adoration. When he was on vacation, in the visits he made to the Sacrament together with his mother, time did not count.

 

He loved the Virgin as a small child could love her. With his small children, he invoked her every day:

 

“Virgin of all children,

you who are in heaven,

praying for me:

Every time I would be in danger

I will go to you.

During the night, when I might be slept,

Come by my bed, and kiss me,

and with your clouding and starring hands,

with much love,

embrace me”.

 

He used to get up half an hour before the community to make his prayer, since at seven o’clock he opened the door of the church.

 

An undergraduated, who knew him very well, wrote: “I have known many Piarist Fathers during my 54 years and can assure you that regarding the sanctity of life, he is the one who really impressed me”.     

 

In the celebration of the Eucharist, he always was seen in a deep devotion, and he was strict in fulfilling the liturgical norms.

 

His poverty was admired by all. He was very strict with himself; he did not like to take a taxi, always on a bus. He was in charge of the money of Masses, of the collections at the church, and he never spent anything for himself. He was a generous person, but not with the money of the community.

 

He was delicate in his conscience. When there was a labor problem, he suffered very much. He was hurt by any injustice and he was like between two fires. He loved the lay teachers very much, he defended them, but he was always very prudent to be in contradiction with the Superiors and Procurators, and he used to say: “I cannot do anything”.

 

For the old people and for the children, he always had special attentions. He could go on a bus or anything else, but if he met an old person or a child, he always found a pretext to start a conversation.

 

Nobody heard any complaint or a critic about anybody. He had supreme respect for the Superiors. The charity was for him above anything else.

 

Since he was a young man, his characteristic was the amiability. He was a special person regarding that. He behaved in such an exemplary way that nobody was able to feel hurt or disgusted. Through his way of being, he won the esteem and confidence of those who knew him.  

 

Everybody had confidence in him…His goodness attracted so many persons…

 

At the end of his life, he really embraced the supreme poverty. He accepted in peace and humility, everything they made of him. He had a conscience of his supreme poverty and he remained serene.   

 

He lived centered in God. His prayer life was very simple; it was a definitive way of living in God everyday and everything he did; and the way he did, was a consequence of his faith that creates charity towards God and brothers.

 

The heroic aspect of his life, of his virtues, was always present in his joy, always happy and joyful.  He never lost his peace, even in front of the offenses…his reaction, silence and forgiveness, were impressive

 

He was a frugal and generous person. If he had only a caramel, he was able to share it even with five children. In addition, when a poor family would present him some problems, his answer was: “bring him to me; he will eat here”. He helped many families. The poor people found in him a protector. Many children found in him a solution about the problem of eating.  

 

In his Spiritual Exercises, one year, he wrote these thoughts:

 

1.              The Religious Life consists in giving oneself completely to God, and in the generous giving oneself to men because of the love of God.

2.              At the end of the daily work, to spend a little time with the Lord, telling Him our happiness and specially our failures.

3.              The small house of Nazareth is a school of silence, prayer and work. The work is a weapon for sanctity. At the end of life, nobody will repent of having worked very hard for Christ.

4.              In the ministerial activities to have a special strong preference for the poor; they are the face of Christ. 

5.              The praying of the Breviary, as soon as possible, within a proper climate, and the best, before the Holy Sacrament.

6.              The cross is always in direct relationship with the intimacy with Christ. I overflow in happiness in my sufferings.

7.              Weekly confession.

8.              To suffer in silence, telling everything to the Lord and to the Lady.

9.              That your goodness may be hidden and that He only may be satisfied with you.

10.          To make happy those who are around us.

11.          If somebody is sick, not to finish the day without visiting him.

12.          That the exterior part may be in accordance with the inner part. To have dominion of ourselves. Always the same character equanimity.

13.          To live the community life with delicate love and a spirit of unity. Fidelity and punctuality in Communitarian practices.

14.          To be an ascetic in the dialogue with the Obedience. To expose with simplicity the constructive criticism, but the last word belongs to the Superior.

15.          The Mass “with attention, clearly, and with devotion”, as if it would be the last of my life and in company with Mary.

16.          The happiness of the Resurrection of Christ should be the hope and the illusion in our walking towards sanctity.

 

VI. DECLIVITY AND DEATH


The strange thing is not that he died when he was 71 years old. The strange thing is how he could reach that age.

 

That life could have been finished any moment, spent the oil of life during so many vigils, with so much self-giving, with so many great services rendered. However, his sickly health was able to last, without any parenthesis, until Fr. Pedro reached the top and could leave his classroom and his didactic methods upon secured hands.

 

At the end, there were three years in declivity, with a loving encounter with the sister poverty and a serene death. The stripping could be seen as a humiliation… as the one of Christ. Even in this he was a good disciple of the Master. And master for his disciples that cried in his death and covered him with flowers. And they pray so that He may glorify him.

 

When his strength was failing, the Servant of God asked only for a favor to the Superiors: that the last thing to take away from him was his children. He said: “I have learned many things from them. When they are little children, they don’t lie, are simple and are happy with anything and all that has enriched my life”.

 

Three or four years before dying, the sickness began. Fr. Pedro suffered a stomach ulcer. He got it during the years as a chaplain on the War Front. He never got an operation although it forced him to take a rigid regime, taking only milk, mashed-potatoes and fish. He never complained about his sickness. Sometimes, when his pain was hard, we could feel it on his face, pale and tired, but he did not pay much attention.

 

When his sickness was clearly manifested was when he got a strong unconscious attack on Ash Wednesday, going to prayers. He fell down unconscious. The specialist who attended him said: “This man, who for me is a saint, is leaving us. It will be a question of two or three years, while we will try to stop this arteriosclerosis. He has worked so much in his life that he is exhausted. He has just become 66 years, but he has an organism of almost 90”.    

 

The sickness continued his course, in spite of all the efforts, and it ended, in the last months with terrible sores in his legs and thighs, sometimes showing the bones. He never complained, and one day, the caring Brother said: “Fr. Pedro has complained today and has told me: Brother, you really hurt me”. He was bearing a big Calvary.

 

On October 13, 1983, he was taken to the hospital. The doctor, excellent man and a good catholic, commanded to put him completely naked on the bed to observe him. When the Servant of God, always so delicate, heard this order, his expression was terrible. He became white because of his shame, but he lifted up his eyes to heaven, crossed his hands in prayer and said: ”What you may command”. He had tears in his eyes, but he did not say any complain.

 

During his sickness, one could feel his obsession about the small children, sometimes going to the classroom to watch them and when he felt a little better, he used to help, reading with some small group.

 

One afternoon was like if he were lost; he did not know people…. From that day on, he declined very much. He could not be more a serving man. He allowed others to do everything for him and with a smile in his lips, he was completely happy. He was not demanding, he never asked for anything, he accepted what was given. He was an exceptional sick person. During his sickness, he was conscious of everything, and at the end, only sometimes, when he was lucid, used to say: “Let us go to the class-room; I want to go with my children”. 

 

He was consumed as a candle before the Lord. He was conscious, humble and quiet, without giving importance to the speed of the wasting he had put on his life of complete self-giving.

 

The Servant of God was accustomed to suffer and he lived it in a climate of prayer and offering. He had received the Sacraments and he entered into a quiet agony around 10 o’clock on September 13, to wake up in the bosom of our Father around one and a half in the morning of 14, 1984.

 

The city, the graduates, the parents, community, the poor of the district, knew how to thank the years consecrated by Fr. Pedro and they literally invaded the Church of the School. When the doors were opened, the friends of the Servant of God stood on the street, blocking the circulation. 

 

Many cried the best of the Fathers, as they called him. One could see deep affection, admiration towards a saint. Not so many times we could see a ceremony with so much emotion. During that impressive Eucharist, thanks were given to God for the sanctity of Fr. Pedro, who as the Divine Master, went through the life doing good, leaving upon those who met him a furrow of light and love.

 

The newspapers wrote reports about him and it was asked to print, as a remembrance, a holy picture with his picture so that they could pray to him.

 

He was buried in the tombs of the Piarist Fathers, at the cemetery, but now his remains are in the Church of the School, place of so many activities with the children and of his self-giving to the Lord.

 

PRAYER

 

Lord Jesus, you proposed a child

As a model for your Kingdom

And you sent to us Fr.Pedro,

a Piarist Father, to prolong your

teaching ministry among the little ones:

give us, through his intercession,

fidelity to imitate him in his apostolic zeal,

so that one day we may enjoy

the same recompense in heaven.

You who lives and reigns

for ever and ever. Amen

 

(Petition of graces…)

 Fr. Dioniso Cueva, Sch. P.

       Fr. Jose Luis Cepero, Sch. P.

Fr. Dioniso Cueva, Sch. P.

   Fr. Jose Luis Cepero, Sch. P.

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Fr. Dioniso Cueva, Sch. P.

Fr. Jose Luis Cepero, Sch. P.

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