“The martyrs of San Joaquín
–a Claretian religious, a diocesan priest and a layman-,
become for us today a parable of that sharing that makes us all
brothers in the mission of giving witness to the Kingdom.”
Circular of Fr. General
(It is important that some symbols of what is understood by shared mission among religious, priests and lay persons appear with clarity. It could be a stole, a book of the Constitutions and a globe of the world or a map of the locality. All this around an image of the Martyrs of San Joaquín, surrounded by candles that light up the place. It would be good to invite to this celebration some priests and lay friends who might be willing to share this moment of family joy).
A Claretian commentator wrote: “Secular laypersons, Religious laypersons and ordained ministers should get together and cooperate in the unique mission ad extra of the Church, aware that the mission of the Kingdom is like a symphony in which all the instruments and voices are indispensable as well as the unavoidable mutual harmonization.” A certain 25th of April of 1927 a beautiful concert was put out under the racket of shots. A Claretian missionary, Andrew Solá, a diocesan priest and a lay person fell, shot down in Mexico by religious hatred. It is beautiful to work together for the sake of the Kingdom, but it is much more beautiful to die together for the Kingdom, when you lack even the air of freedom to survive as a son of God. Perhaps the sharpest, the most difficult note of that concert was that of forgiveness. And they were able to give it. We celebrate that fact today.
1st From the first biography of Andrew Solá (Fr. Antonio Mª Arranz, cmf.)
“Death overtook the three in the most promising moment of their age. Fr. Andrew Solá was 31 years and 5 months; Reverend Trinidad Rangel, 39 years and 10 months; and Mr. Leonardo Pérez, 37 years and 5 months. The Lord, who is arbiter of life and death, preferred to crown those heads full of apostolic dreams with the laurels of victory, rather than seeing them fade away. They confessed the Savior before men; and the Savior, faithful to his own word, honors them exceedingly before his heavenly Father. Even more, He has started to make their graves glorious, since they are for the good inhabitants of Lagos a perennial source of blessing. O that we may soon venerate on our altars these servants of God! Let us ask them with confidence that they be our Protectors from heaven, that they may be the consolation of their families and may shower over everyone the benefits of religious peace.
2nd From the Gospel of St. John, 17,20-23
“I pray not only for these but also for those who through their word will believe in me. May they all be one as you Father are in me and I am in you. May they be one in us; so the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the Glory you have given me, that they may be one as we are one: I in them and you in me. Thus they shall reach perfection in unity and the world shall know that you have sent me and that I have loved them just as you loved me.”
4. Brief reflection
A Bishop wrote: “Just as in the liturgy we, all the baptized, are priests delegated to worship by our baptism, and the ordained ministers are ordained to fulfill in it a service of presidency and coordination, in the same way we could say that in the liturgy of the world all Christians are also participants, but the officers that must preside and conduct this activity are the laity.”
Today we celebrate the martyrdom of three Christians, that is to say, the witness until death of three followers of Jesus who, although in the liturgy of life they chose separate ways, in the liturgy of death they acted as just one choir: Andrew, Trinity and Leonard. Their first biographer expressed it this way: “The three victims lay on their altar. And, while their souls were being received in heaven among songs of joy, God was inspiring people with feelings of veneration toward those valiant martyrs.” Martyrdom implies something deeply liturgical; this must be the reason why, for many centuries, the Eucharist was celebrated over the bodies of the martyrs without any distinction. If during their life some were bishops, others priests, others laypeople, in death they were all made equal by the splendor of their martyrish self-offering, much more luminous and significant than the ministerial or apostolic one.
The military people were given the order to burn the remains, but that order was not fulfilled. Approximately ten meters from the place of execution, the pious railwaymen made three graves and they buried the three corpses there. From then on the three martyrs were linked forever. The news of the triple martyrdom was immediately scattered through the region, and soon the transfer of their bodies took place. The three rest in the same cemetery. Their dreams in life were different, but they sleep their final dream well united in martyrdom.
This could be a good reflection. We choose separate ways in our Christian commitment, we carry out the Good News of Christ in different ways, but there is something in which we do not differ: it happens at the time of giving our witness. Because our life is the best witness, on top of our roll in the Church. And it is precisely our life that we refer to with the expression of Shared Mission. If each one of us is capable of following the way assigned by the Lord, we will succeed in becoming faithful witnesses, because we will coincide in the deepest aspect of Christian testimony. When we will see one another’s works, we will be attuned without any effort. It is not the ideas, it is not traditions, it is not culture, it is not language that makes us share the mission; it is our fidelity to God’s will. St. Bernard said, “Since life is in the will of the Lord, there is no doubt that the most advantageous and useful for us will be whatever is most attuned to the Lord’s will.”
Why did they coincide in martyrdom? Because they were together in the same physical place? Because their names were written together in some fateful list? No. They coincided in martyrdom because one time Andrew, aged 14, preferred to follow the attraction that those missionaries, who were called and were Sons of Heart of Mary exerted over him, rather than the desire of his father to count on him to enlarge his simple farm near Vic. They coincided in martyrdom because one time Trinidad, at the same age of 14, manifested to his parents his desire to become a priest and, in spite of the negative because of family and political difficulties, remained firm until finally at the age of 29, he obtained the permission of his parents. They coincided in martyrdom because Leonardo, a simple employee at a commercial enterprise, when the time of persecution and danger came, was not afraid to attend daily to the private Eucharist that Fr. Andrew celebrated in the house of Mrs. Alba. That is what united them in martyrdom.
There is a possibility that great plans may arise in the future for the shared mission; but if there should be no witnesses, persons who have known and faithfully followed God’s plan in their lives, that mission is sure to fail. It will be a fruitless mission, because it will lack the roots, that is, the witness of a proper and singular life.
– Lord, you called our martyr brothers of San Joaquin to such different vocations and united them in martyrdom; grant us to be witnesses of unity before the Church and before the world in spite of our differences.
– Lord, you called by different ways our Martyrs, who followed your call; grant us also to know your will and give us strength to follow it.
– Lord, you gave strength to our Martyr Andrew Solá until he gave up his own life; grant us also the strength to overcome the difficulties that arise in the service to our brothers.
– Lord, you call to your service all kinds of people without distinction; continue calling to your service young people who will learn to continue the work our Martyrs began.
– Lord, you show yourself in the unity of your Trinity; infuse in us the desire to keep ourselves united in the mission.
– Lord, you manifested your weakness for the poorest and the simplest; help us to give ourselves up for them and with them, without selfishness.
6. Our Father
7. Final Prayer
O God, who have honored with the crown of martyrdom our martyr Andrew Solá (Martyrs of San Joaquin), we ask you that, after imitating their virtues, we may obtain by their intercession the graces that we need. Through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
(Or the official Prayer).