March 23, 2014

Martyrs of Valencia

Feast Day : 25 October

Blessed Mary Jesus MasiΓ‘ Ferragut
Blessed Mary Veronica MasiΓ‘ Ferragut
Blessed Mary Felicity MasiΓ‘ Ferragut
Blessed Isabel Calduch Rovira
Blessed Mary Milagros Ortilles Gimeno

A new 'Mother of the Maccabees'

In 1936, during the Spanish Civil War, three Capuchin Poor Clare Sisters together with their mother and another sister who was a Discalced Augustinian were shot to death for the faith at Cruz Cubierta in Valencia, Spain. Their mother had asked to be executed last that she might encourage her daughters as they embraced the palm of martyrdom and entered the Celestial Bridal Chamber of their Heavenly Spouse, Christ their Crucified King. 

Even their executioners were impressed at Mary Theresa Roig Ferragut's courageous faith, exclaiming after they shot her last of all the five, "This is truly a saint!" Pope Pius XII referred to her as a "mother of the Maccabees" alluding to the brave Old Testament mother of the Maccabean brothers martyred for their loyalty to the Jewish faith after encouraging her seven sons to the end. 

Mary Theresa Roig Ferragut and her husband Vincent Silverius MasiΓ‘ had one son and six daughters – of these six became religious, five were Capuchins, four of their daughters were martyred together with their mother. Of the Capuchin Poor Clares three were beatified in 2001 as Martyrs of  Valencia, as were two other Capuchin Poor Clare nuns - Sister Isabel Calduch Rovira and Sister Mary Milagros Ortelles Gimeno. Blessed Maria Teresa Roig Ferragut’s three martyred Capuchin Poor Clare daughters were Sister Mary Jesus MasiΓ‘ Ferragut, Sister Mary Veronica MasiΓ‘ Ferragut and  Sister Mary Felicity MasiΓ‘ Ferragut. In their youth they attended Sunday Mass together as a family unit and were brought up by their mother to have a deep respect for God.

Blessed Mary Jesus MasiΓ‘ Ferragut

Blessed Mary Jesus MasiΓ‘ Ferragut was born at AlgemesΓ­, Valencia on the 12th of January 1882 and was baptized 'Mary Vincentia' that same day.  She was confirmed in 1899, She entered the Monastery of the Capuchin Poor Clares at Agullent, Valencia,  as a novice on the 13th of December 1900 and made her Profession there two years later on the 16th of January 1902, A year later she was joined at the monastery by her younger sister Blessed Mary Veronica  MasiΓ‘ Ferragut, while another sister, Blessed Mary Felicity MasiΓ‘ Ferragut followed in their footsteps in 1909.

Blessed Mary Veronica MasiΓ‘ Ferragut

Blessed Mary Jesus MasiΓ‘ Ferragut was born at AlgemesΓ­, Valencia on the 15th of June 1884 and was baptized 'Mary Jaochina' on June the 16th, 1884. She was confirmed on May 19, 1899 and entered the Capuchin Poor Clare Novitiate on the 18th of January 1903. She made Temporary Profession on the 20th of April 1904 and Perpetual Profession on the 16th of April 1907.

Blessed Mary Felicity MasiΓ‘ Ferragut

Blessed Mary Felicity MasiΓ‘ Ferragut was born at AlgemesΓ­, Valencia on the 28th of August 1890 and was baptized that same day. Her baptismal name Mary Felicity later became her religious name also. Like her two older sisters she entered the Capuchin Poor Clare Monastery at Agullent and was received as a novice on April the 17th, 1909.  A year later she professed temporary vows on April the 20th, 1910. She made he Perpetual Profession on the 16th of April 1913.

Their Common Life as Capuchin Poor Clares 

Aside form these basic facts everything we know about these sisters life in the Monastery and their persecution and martyrdom makes no distinctions between them. Although naturally they remained individuals, their virtues are spoken of as something they had in common as blood sisters and Sisters in Saint Clare.

Their exemplary monastic life impressed their fellow Capuchin Poor Clare Sisters. 

Their behaviour was beyond reproach and they were always ready to sacrifice themselves for the other Sisters. They were particularly devoted to prayer and lived continually in the presence of God. Their prayer was nourished by silence and faithfulness to the Rule of Saint Clare and the Capuchinesses’ Constitutions. They were typically Franciscan in their devotional life and nourished a deep love for Christ on the Cross and in the Eucharist and also for his Blessed Mother. 

During the unrest that followed the advent of the Spanish republic in 1931, the Sisters fled the monastery and took refuge in their widowed mother’s home. They did so again in 1936 when the religious persecutions by Communists and Anarchists began in earnest. This time they were not destined to return to their monastic lives.  There they were joined by another sister, Sister Josepha of the Purification, a Discalced Augustinian nun.  All four led a monastic life in their mothers house albeit without their habits.  They divided their time between celebrating the Liturgy of the Hours together, doing manual labour around the house and personal prayer.

Martyred as a Family

But they were not safe at home for long. Despite their efforts to blend in by wearing civilian dress, some locals informed on them and the local militia came to arrest them on October the 19th, 1936. Together with their mother who refused to be separated from them they were imprisoned in the nearby Cistercian Nunnery of 'Fons Salutis' and, having refused offers of marriage from their captors, they were shot one by one before their mothers eyes. The day of their execution was Sunday, the 22nd of October, 1936, which fell on the feast of Christ the King that year, and, appropriately enough, the last words each of them spoke before their martyrdom were "Long live christ the King!"

Blessed Isabel Calduch Rovira

In 1900, with the blessing of her parents, Josephine Calduch Rovira gave up the love of a wonderful young man from her village, whom she had been dating for a while, to embrace the love of a greater Spouse, Jesus, the Crucified Christ as a Capuchin Poor Clare Nun at the Monastery of Castellon de la Plana. She had been born on the 9th of May, 1882 in the Valencia village of AlcalΓ‘ de Chivert. Her parents Francisco Claduch Roures and Amparo Rovira Marti raised her and her four older brothers and sisters in a very Christian atmosphere and, even as a young teenager, together with a friend, she used visit an old lady in the village, taking her her meals and helping her bathe and to clean her house.  

As a Capuchin Poor Clare she was known by her religious name, Sister Isabel, and made her first Profession on the the 28th of April 1901. Sister Isabel made her Perpetual Profession on the 30th of May 1904 and her faithfulness to the Rule and Constitutions were was noted by her fellow Sisters. She was fulfilled the office of Novice Mistress with great zeal, encouraging her novices to faithfully live their Poor Clare life.  She was never prone to favouritism but treated all the novices equally. She maintained custody of the eyes, was self-disciplined when it came to eating and, when speaking, always exercised great prudence. She led an intense prayer life and her favorite devotions were devotion to the Blessed Sacrament, devotion to Our Lady and devotion to Saint John the Baptist.

With the outbreak of the Spanish Revolution she took refuge in her home village where she had  brother who was a priest. He was later murdered. In her house in the village she led a life of prayer and contemplation until she was arrested, together with a Friar Minor, on the 13th of April, 1937. The militiamen who arrested them brought them before the local Committee of AlcalΓ‘ de Chivert where they were badly treated and injured before being killed at Cuevas de VinromΓ‘ in Castellon, Spain, and buried in the local cemetery.

Blessed Mary Milagros Ortilles Gimeno

Blessed Mary Milagros Ortilles Gimeno is the fifth of the five Capuchin Poor Clare Martyrs of the Spanish Revolution. She was born on Zaragoza Street, Valencia, on November the 29th, 1882, the third and last daughter of Enrique Ortelles and Dolores Gimeno and baptized on November 30, 1882, in the parish Church of St. John the Baptist. Those who knew her as a child speak of her as having been very devout and given to doing penitential exercises to mortify herself.

Rejecting her mother’s suggestons that she should try out a less strict religious congregation, she entered the Capuchin Poor Clare Monastery at Valencia with great enthusiasm for the strict Capuchin way of life the Sister led.  She herself held various offices and fulfilled a numebr of ministries within the Monastery, including those of Porter, Sarcristan, Infirmarian, Refectorian and Novice Mistress.  She was very charitable and always ready to be of service to her Sisters. She was so recollected interiorly that it was almost outwardly visible.  She would prolong her stay in the choir after the Midnight Office of Readings and she was prrticularly devoted to the Blessed Sacrament and to Our Lady Conceived without Sin. Her spirit of prayer and living in the presence of God led some of her fellow nuns to exclaim "he’s a saint!"Her penitential practices too were extraordinary. She wore a hairshirt and used to flagellate her body with the ‘discipline’. Such was her humility that she considered herself unworthy of holding any office and even of receiving Holy Communion.

With the outbreak of the revolution she took refuge in her sister’s home but when this became to dangerous she moved in with the Sisters of Christian Doctrine. She was eventually arrested together with seventeen of these Sisters by the militia of Valencia and executed on the 20th of November, 1936, at ‘Picadero de Paterna’ before being buried in the local cemetery. On April the 30th, 1940, her remains were exhumed and transferred to the Capuchin Poor Clare Monastery in Valencia, where they are still enshrined. She, together with four of her fellow Capuchin Poor Clare Sisters and two hundred and twenty eight other clerics, religious and lay Catholics were beatified by Blessed Pope John Paul II on the 19th of March, 2001. 

'The Mother of One Capuchin is the Mother of Us All'

In his homily for their beatification, the Pope made special mention of Blessed Mary Theresa Roig Ferragut and of her contemplative daughters and fellow martyrs. Of the wider Capuchin family there were in all twelve Capuchin Friars Minor, five Capuchin Poor Clares, nineteen male Capuchin Religious Tertiaries of Our Lady of Sorrows, three Capuchin Tertiary Sisters of the Holy Family and one lay Amigonian beatified that day. Saint Pius of Pietrelcina’s numerous tears by the deathbed of his mother, as well as the heroism of Blessed Mary Theresa Roig Ferragut and many other family members who provided refuge for our Capuchin martyrs serve to remind us that love of our Capuchin family never excludes genuine affectionate love for and filial piety towards our own blood relatives and parents. Sanctity does not destroy anything that is truly human; it only transforms and completes it. As one Irish Capuchin Brother is wont to repeat "he mother of one Capuchin is the mother of us all!"

"Long live Christ the King!" - Blessed Mary Jesus MasiΓ‘ Ferragut & Companions

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