“How could we express our gratitude to the Lord and to our brother who left us his testimony of faithfulness until death? One way to respond is to approach vocation ministry with renewed determination… The last General Chapter issued an urgent call to the entire Congregation to promote vocation ministry with renewed enthusiasm… We should take advantage of this special moment of grace of the beatification of Fr. Andrew Solá to renew our concrete commitment to vocation ministry and to accept the many demands on our personnel that this entails.”
Circular Letter of Fr. General
(In the place of the celebration a large picture of the Martyrs of San Joaquín appears, surrounded by candles and flowers. Some symbols related to vocations can by added: a poster with the phrase: “LORD, WHAT DO YOU WANT OF ME?”; a handful of seeds; a vocational song in the background). Should it be possible, some seminarians, some vocationable boys or girls, some agents of vocation ministry and other persons who might be especially interested in this simple fraternal celebration should be invited.
As we celebrate this day of the Triduum we bring to mind in a lively way the need of vocations for the Church and, in particular, for our Congregation. Martyrs have always been source and origin of renewal in the most difficult situations of the history of the Church. Today we need to recall those of our martyrs who are nearest to us so that, remembering their integrity, many of our contemporaries may discover the value of their testimony and receive the necessary fortitude to listen to the call of God and to follow him generously till the end.
1st Martirial Memory of Fr. Andrew Solá (P. Josep Abella cmf.)
“Fr. Andrew Solá was fully aware of the risks involved in meeting his pastoral commitments. He was aware that the possibility of martyrdom loomed over the path that he chose. He writes to Fr. Pau Aguadé, a classmate from the novitiate and a very close friend, on February 9, 1927: “I don’t remember if I ever said to you while we were at college that I had a great desire to be a martyr. Who knows if the Lord will ever grant me this grace! If so, may my blood be accepted for the triumph of the Catholic Church in Mexico.” There is not the least doubt that the idea of martyrdom ran through the mind of Fr. Solá more than once and that he incorporated the idea in his goals for the future. The cry of the people asking him to continue at their side to help them maintain their faith and their hope during those difficult moments, was stronger than his own fears and the repeated calls to be prudent –or to abandon his work– that surely he received from many.
Finally the time came for him to face that eventuality which he knew could come at any moment. None of the three detained was surprised in the act of committing the “crime” of public worship. If they were condemned to death, it was only because of the fact that two of them were priests, Fathers Rangel and Solá, and the other, Mr. Pérez, because he was considered to be a priest. The expressions of rejection and hatred toward them as priests that they had to listen to from the lips of the military authorities did not leave them any doubt. The moment had arrived for them to accept their fate. Now they needed to call upon all of the spiritual resources they held in reserve, especially in their final moments of persecution.
They were made to board the train that would take them to the place of their martyrdom. The train was detained in Lagos the whole night long, probably for fear of further assaults. It continued on its way in the morning and Father Solá and his companions understood that they were approaching the time of their final testimony. They were aware of it. They all agreed to shout “Long live Christ the King!” if they were going to be killed. The train stopped and the three were forced to disembark, and right there, about 60 meters from the tracks, they were shot at 8:45 a.m. on April 25, 1927. According to the testimony of several railway workers who were in the area repairing the damage caused by the derailment two days before, Fr. Rangel and Mr. Perez died immediately, but Fr. Andrew Solá survived another three hours, during which he repeated frequently these words: “My Jesus, my Jesus, I die for you.” The soldiers stripped them of their belongings shortly after shooting them.
2nd. From the Gospel of St. John, 15,18-21
“If the world hates you, remember that the world hated me before you. This would not be so if you belonged to the world, because the world loves its own. But you are not of the world since I have chosen you from the world; because of this, the world hates you. Remember what I told you: the servant is not greater than his master; if they persecuted me, they will persecute you, too. If they kept my word, they will keep yours as well. All this they will do to you for the sake of my name because they do not know the One who sent me.
4. Brief reflection
In some areas of our Congregation we are surprised by the persistent vocational alarm, the end of which we cannot even glimpse, and this projects a serious challenge on our presence there. In addition, fidelity seems to be a value so downhill and empty that it seems to be incapable of maintaining a Claretian till the end in difficult moments of trial. Possibly this is due greatly to what we call today fragility, culture “light”, fragmentation, lack of deep convictions, limited capacity to assume permanent commitments, etc. They are cultural characteristics overstressed in our historical moment that have surely always accompanied human condition and, in particular, the life of the followers of Christ. The “hatred of the world” toward the Lord continues manifesting itself in subtle forms of persecution that seek to destroy his project.
The memory of one of our brothers, who has given up his life by confessing his faith, will always constitute a powerful calling to reaffirm the validity of our option for Jesus and for the Kingdom. It also invites us to offer it to others so that they too may second it under the powerful action of the Spirit of the Lord “who has revealed his power shining through human weakness and has chosen the week to make them strong” (Preface of the Martyrs). It’s now a question of being constantly aware that today the Lord continues calling many young people to follow Him as members of our missionary family. We, as mediators, must transmit this calling to them and must urge them to respond to it generously.
For this same reason, Fr. General has requested us to take advantage of this singular occasion of the beatification of Fr. Solá to give a new joint impulse to Vocation Ministry. It will be therefore our duty, in each Organism and in each community, to find practical and simple ways of carrying it out, with the collaboration and involvement of all the missionaries, as well as of the lay persons who collaborate with us in our pastoral centers.
Vocations are promoted by means of prayer, through a clear presentation of our charism and mission, particularly through personal contact with the youth. For all those who are interested in our Congregation, this is the best type of invitation to know more intimately our Family, its life and its mission, its great men, its most significant works. Let us make use of all the means available to us (holy pictures, leaflets, posters, books, videos, radio, television, internet…). But these means are not enough by themselves. Most important is a personal relationship, where our missionary life project is be presented to the young people respectfully and freely, as an alternative form of their personal and Christian realization.
Without an obsessive preoccupation for numbers, we should look for qualified candidates of deep faith, with good health, balanced, sincerely Christians, who have already confronted and assumed the dark aspects of their life, and integrated their sexuality; young persons who love the Church and believe in its renewal; with sufficient capacity to put into practice the formation demanded by our apostolic mission.
Since vocation is, before anything else, a gift of our Lord, on this occasion of the beatification of our brother, Fr. Solá, let us intensively, constantly and always, personally and in community pray for vocations, in conformity with the tradition of the Congregation. And, above all, let us be generous in our vocational response, let us recover our vocational enthusiasm and let us feel truly happy to belong to our community, in such a way that we will not hesitate to propose it to others.
– Lord, you have called us to announce the gospel of the Kingdom; grant us a share in your fortitude so that we may freely offer our life as a testimony of faith that will invite many young people to embrace missionary life.
– Lord, you have convoked us in community; grant that our communities be clear signs of fraternity, attractive spaces for those who are confronted with the following of Christ in missionary key.
– Lord, you are constantly calling many; renew our faith to help the young to discover your call and to accompany them in their itinerary of response.
– Lord, you gave the Martyrs of San Joaquín the greatest love; help us live in such a way that we may generously and joyfully bear the consequences that are inherent to your following.
– Lord you want us to be servants of your people; grant us the necessary wisdom and courage to search for the most efficacious and opportune means to obtain that vocations be never missing in your church.
– Lord, you manifest yourself in weakness; keep us strong in our vocation, sharing your death and resurrection in order to enjoy with you, in company with the martyrs, the fullness of the joy of your Kingdom.
6. Our Father
7. Final Prayer
Loving Father, fill us with your joy
in the beatification of Fr. Andrew Solá and martyr companions,
who bravely shed their blood to confess
the death and resurrection of the Lord.
May their example illumine the eyes of our faith,
clean the ears of our understanding,
cleanse us from our paralyses,
so that we may more deeply know Jesus the Lord,
love Him with all our heart,
follow Him faithfully.
May we learn to propose our Claretian charism to others
so that in your Church there will always be workers
that will continue spreading your Kingdom.
We ask you this through the same Jesus Christ,
who lives and reigns for ever and ever. Amen.
(Or the official Prayer).