ALBERTO HURTADO CRUCHAGA was born in Viña del Mar, Chile, on 22 January 1901; he was orphaned when he was four years old by the death of his father. His mother had to sell, at a loss, their modest property in order to pay the family’s debts. As a further consequence, Alberto and his brother had to go to live with relatives and were often moved from one family to another. From an early age, therefore, he experienced what it meant to be poor, to be without a home and at the mercy of others.
He was given a scholarship to the Jesuit College in Santiago. Here he became a member of the Sodality of Our Lady and developed a lively interest in the poor, spending time with them in the most miserable neighborhoods every Sunday afternoon.
When he completed his secondary education in 1917, Alberto wanted to become a Jesuit, but he was advised to delay the realization of this desire in order to take care of his mother and his younger brother. By working in the afternoons and evenings, he succeeded in supporting them; at the same time, he studied law at the Catholic University. In this period, he maintained his care for the poor and continued to visit them every Sunday. Obligatory military service interrupted his studies, but once he fulfilled this duty he went on to earn his degree early in August 1923.
On 14 August 1923 he entered the Novitiate of the Society of Jesus in Chillán. In 1925 he went to Córdoba, Argentina, where he studied humanities. In 1927 he was sent to Spain to study philosophy and theology.
However, because of the suppression of the Jesuits in Spain in 1931, he went on to Belgium and continued studying theology at Louvain. He was ordained a priest there on 24 August 1933, and in 1935 obtained a doctorate in pedagogy and psychology. After having completed his Tertianship in Drongen, Belgium, he returned to Chile in January 1936. Here he began his activity as professor of religion at Colegio San Ignacio and of Pedagogy at the Catholic University of Santiago. He was entrusted with the Sodality of Our Lady for the students, and he involved them in teaching catechism to the poor. He frequently directed retreats and offered spiritual direction to many young men, accompanying several of them in their response to the priestly vocation and contributing in an outstanding manner to the formation of many Christian laymen.
In 1941 Father Hurtado published his most famous book: “Is Chile a Catholic Country?” The same year he was asked to assume the role of Assistant for the Youth Movement of the Catholic Action, first within the Archdiocese of Santiago and then nationally. He performed these roles with an exceptional spirit of initiative, dedication and sacrifice.
In October 1944, while giving a retreat, he felt impelled to appeal to his audience to consider the many poor people of the city, especially the numerous homeless children who were roaming the streets of Santiago. This request evoked a ready and generous response. This was the beginning of the initiative for which Father Hurtado is especially well-known: a form of charitable activity which provided not only housing but a home-like milieu for the homeless: “El Hogar de Cristo”.
By means of contributions from benefactors and with the active collaboration of committed laity, Father Hurtado opened the first house for children; this was followed by a house for women and then one for men. The poor found a warm home in “El Hogar de Cristo”. The houses multiplied and took on new dimensions; in some houses there were rehabilitation centers, in others trade-schools, and so on. All were inspired and permeated by Christian values.
In 1945 Father Hurtado visited the United States to study the “Boys Town” movement and to consider how it could be adapted to his own country. The last six years of his life were dedicated to the development of various forms in which “El Hogar” could exist and function.
In 1947 Father Hurtado founded the Chilean Trade Union Association (ASICH) to promote a union movement inspired by the social teaching of the Church.
Between 1947 and 1950, Father Hurtado wrote three important works: on trade unions, on social humanism, and on the Christian social order. In 1951 he founded “Mensaje”, the well-known Jesuit periodical dedicated to explaining the doctrine of the Church.
Pancreatic cancer brought him, within a few months, to the end of his life. In the midst of terrible pain, he was often heard to say, “I am content, Lord.”
After having spent his life manifesting Christ’s love for the poor, Father Hurtado was called to the Lord on 18 August 1952.
From his return to Chile after his Tertianship to his death, a matter of only fifteen years, Father Hurtado lived and accomplished all the works described above. His apostolate was the expression of a personal love for Christ the Lord; it was characterized by a great love for poor and abandoned children, an enlightened zeal for the formation of the laity, and a lively sense of Christian social justice.
Fr. Hurtado was beatified by Saint Pope John Paul II on October 16, 1994 and canonized on October 23, 2005 by Pope Benedict XVI.
From the Vatican web-site
Gianna Beretta was born in Magenta (Milan) October 4, 1922. Already as a youth she willingly accepted the gift of faith and the clearly Christian education that she received from her excellent parents. As a result, she experienced life as a marvellous gift from God, had a strong faith in Providence and was convinced of the necessity and effectiveness of prayer.
She diligently dedicated herself to studies during the years of her secondary and university education, while, at the same time, applying her faith through generous apostolic service among the youth of Catholic Action and charitable work among the elderly and needy as a member of the St. Vincent de Paul Society. After earning degrees in Medicine and Surgery from the University of Pavia in 1949, she opened a medical clinic in Mesero (near Magenta) in 1950. She specialized in Pediatrics at the University of Milan in 1952 and there after gave special attention to mothers, babies, the elderly and poor.
While working in the field of medicine-which she considered a “mission” and practiced as such-she increased her generous service to Catholic Action, especially among the “very young” and, at the same time, expressed her joie de vivre and love of creation through skiing and mountaineering. Through her prayers and those of others, she reflected upon her vocation, which she also considered a gift from God. Having chosen the vocation of marriage, she embraced it with complete enthusiasm and wholly dedicated herself “to forming a truly Christian family”.
She became engaged to Pietro Molla and was radiant with joy and happiness during the time of their engagement, for which she thanked and praised the Lord. They were married on September 24, 1955, in the Basilica of St. Martin in Magenta, and she became a happy wife. In November 1956, to her great joy, she became the mother of Pierluigi, in December 1957 of Mariolina; in July 1959 of Laura. With simplicity and equilibrium she harmonized the demands of mother, wife, doctor and her passion for life.
In September 1961 towards the end of the second month of pregnancy, she was touched by suffering and the mystery of pain; she had developed a fibroma in her uterus. Before the required surgical operation, and conscious of the risk that her continued pregnancy brought, she pleaded with the surgeon to save the life of the child she was carrying, and entrusted herself to prayer and Providence. The life was saved, for which she thanked the Lord. She spent the seven months remaining until the birth of the child in incomparable strength of spirit and unrelenting dedication to her tasks as mother and doctor. She worried that the baby in her womb might be born in pain, and she asked God to prevent that.
A few days before the child was due, although trusting as always in Providence, she was ready to give her life in order to save that of her child: “If you must decided between me and the child, do not hesitate: choose the child - I insist on it. Save him”. On the morning of April 21, 1962, Gianna Emanuela was born. Despite all efforts and treatments to save both of them, on the morning of April 28, amid unspeakable pain and after repeated exclamations of “Jesus, I love you. Jesus, I love you», the mother died. She was 39 years old. Her funeral was an occasion of profound grief, faith and prayer. The Servant of God lies in the cemetery of Mesero (4 km from Magenta).
“Conscious immolation», was the phrase used by Pope Paul VI to define the act of Blessed Gianna, remembering her at the Sunday Angelus of September 23, 1973, as: “A young mother from the diocese of Milan, who, to give life to her daughter, sacrificed her own, with conscious immolation”. The Holy Father in these words clearly refers to Christ on Calvary and in the Eucharist.
Gianna was beatified on April 24, 1994, during the international Year of the Family and canonized on May 16 2004 by Pope John Paul II.
From the Vatican website
On the 21st April 1962, Gianna Beretta Molla gave birth to a baby girl. In the third month of her pregnancy, she discovered that she had a cancer, which at her request, was removed without endagering the baby’s life even though she knew that her life would be at risk. The day after she gave birth she was diagnosed with septic peritonitis, which was incurable in her condition and which led her to go and meet the Lord on the 28th April 1962. It was Gianna’s “normal” choice: to risk. The heroic choice to give her life to save her daughter has deep roots in the family and in the formation which she received and lived in Catholic Action.
Alberto Beretta and Maria De Micheli, members of the Franciscan Third Order, imbued with the wisdom and fear of God, brought up a family where the children learnt, through example, to give the best of themselves. They had thirteen children, of whom five died at a very young age. The eighth child Saint Gianna Francesca was born on the 4th October 1922 and baptized on the 11th October. Right from the day of her first Holy Communion, every morning she went to Mass with her mother and Holy Communion became her indispensable food. She grew up as a very calm girl and was very keen on music, painting and loved being in the open air and on the mountains. At heart she was already a missionary, an attitude she developed in her family, which was a small domestic church.
In 1937, when the Beretta family moved to Quinto al Mare, near Genova, Gianna joined Catholic Action and her mother became the president of the CA women’s group in the parish. This was at the time when Pius XI published his encyclicals against Nasizm, Soviet Communism and against the religious persecution in Mexico. In CA Gianna started an intense formative period in her spiritual journey. She committed herself to live and to follow the proposals which the Holy Father made to young people of that time.
Like all GF (Female Youth Group) she strengthened herself with the Word of God and the Eucharist, went to weekly confession to the same priest, followed courses of Spiritual Exercises and made a firm resolution to “do everything for Christ”, choosing rather to die a thousand times than offend him. In this socio-ecclesial context, actively involved with the CA children’s group as a youth leader, Gianna drew up her life programme: “to save my soul and to succeed in leading many other souls to heaven to give glory to the Lord.” She did her utmost for her own advancement and wished the best for the girls for whose education she was responsible. She was an attractive and heroic example as to how to imitate Christ, manifesting the beauty of a life lived according to the Gospel and giving due consideration to suffering. Souls are won through example and word but above all through sacrifice and prayer because it is through prayer that the Lord communicates the secret of the conversion of the souls we approach. She always kept in mind the fact that accepting a failure in apostolic work, after having done one’s utmost, is more meritorious for eternal life than success.
Gianna, first as an aspirante and later as a delegata, together with the girls under her care, used to go to visit the poor, carrying out works of mercy with joy (Rm 12:8). In 1942, when the war was at its worst, Gianna, obtained her classical diploma. Some months after this, she lost her parents. Later she enrolled as a student in the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Milan and graduated as a Doctor of Medicine in 1949, specializing in paediatrics. She opened her own clinic. She enrolled as a member of the Catholic Graduates’ Movement after having been a member of the FUCI while at the same time she was still responsible for the CA group in her parish. She attended her clinic till two days prior to her entering hospital to give birth to her fourth child, Gianna Emanuela.
The saint used to tell her colleagues: “We have opportunities which priests do not have. Our mission does not end when medicine is no longer a solution. There is a soul which we have to lead to God and at that moment your word counts a lot. You are faced with the great mystery of man: with Christ. Those who visit the sick are helping ‘me’. Just as the priest can touch the body of Christ, doctors touch Christ in the body of the very young, old and poor sick people they treat”.
It was the time of the cold war, of the silent Church and of persecution but it was also a time of great hopes for lay people. The Second International Meeting for Lay People was held in Rome and Montini stated with enthusiasm: “This is the greatness of lay apostolate: knowing how to love”. It is the time for zealous and challenging charity.
Gianna understood the fundamental dimension of life: the giving of oneself and decided to become a lay missionary doctor. From 1949 to 1953 she was in close contact with her brother Fr. Alberto, a missionary in Brazil and was thinking of joining him in his missionary work. But the Lord had other plans for her. On the 8th December 1954 she met Engineer Pietro Molla. After an engagement, during which they, joyfully and tenderly, were enriched by the experience of their mutual love lived out in purity, they eventually got married on the 24th September 1955 and Gianna became “the strong woman of the Gospel” (Wisdom 31:10-12). They had four children: Pierluigi (19th November 1956), Maria Zita (11th December 1957), Laura Enrica Maria (15th July 1969) and Gianna Emanuela (April 21st 1962).
Guido Maria Conforti was born in Ravadese (Parma - Italy) on 30 March 1865 and was baptized on the same day. He joined the seminary when he was 11 years old. An illness with epileptic symptoms delayed his ordination to the priesthood. In the meantime, he was appointed vice-rector of the seminary, showing remarkable talent as a formator, but above all guiding the young seminarians to holiness through the witness of a life lived in the light of faith.
When he recovered his health, he was ordained priest in 1888. As a very young priest, he was appointed “Director of the Society for the Propagation of the Faith”. He was made Vicar General of the Diocese of Parma when he was not yet thirty years old.
Since poor health prevented him from pursuing the missionary vocation to which he felt called, in 1895 he founded the St. Francis Xavier Foreign Missions Society (Xaverian Missionaries) with the sole and exclusive purpose of evangelizing the non-Christians. In 1899 he sent his first two missionaries to China and these were subsequently followed by many others.
In 1902, when he was just 37 years old, Pope Leo XIII appointed Conforti Archbishop of Ravenna. In order to dedicated himself totally to Christ, and consecrate his entire life to the good of souls, he made his perpetual religious profession on the day of his ordination as a bishop. For two years he invested all his energy for the good of the archdiocese, but the effort was too much for his poor health. His sense of responsibility towards his flock led him to offer his resignation, which was accepted by Pope Pius X. Conforti then returned to his Institute where he dedicated himself to the formation of his missionary students.
When his health improved, in 1907, the Pope asked him to govern the diocese of Parma. For more than 24 years he served the diocese as its good shepherd. He promoted religious instruction, making it the priority of his pastoral ministry; he established schools of Christian doctrine in all the parishes; he provided for the training of male and female catechists with special courses in religious culture and the pedagogy of teaching and, the first in Italy, he celebrated a Catechetics Weeks. Enduring all kinds of difficulties and hardships, he carried out four pastoral visits to the diocese, traveling to the most distant parishes, whilst a fifth pastoral visit was interrupted by his death. He held two diocesan synods, set up and promoted the Catholic Associations, the good press, popular missions, Eucharistic, Marian and Missionary Congresses and the Conferences of the Catholic Action. He took special care of the formation of the clergy and the laity.
He neglected nothing that concerned his pastoral service to the diocese and did everything he could to promote the proclamation of the Gospel to the non-Christians, through taking care of the missionary Family he founded, and of which he was Superior General, as well as supporting every missionary animation initiative in Italy.
In 1916 he collaborated in the foundation of the Missionary Union of the Clergy, serving for ten years as its first president. In 1928 he traveled to China to visit his missionaries and the Christian communities entrusted to them.
He died in the peace of the Lord on 5 November 1931 and his funeral was attended by an extraordinary number of people. The fame of his virtues and holiness spread from Parma to all the countries where the Xaverians are working. Indeed, the two miracles for his beatification and canonization took place, respectively, in Burundi and Brazil.
His holiness consists in the humble, faithful and constant fulfillment of God’s will in every moment of life and in his burning zeal for the salvation of all. His living faith shone through his every word and action; his unlimited trust in Divine Providence sustained him in all his trials and tribulations; his inexhaustible love for God and others, and the desire for their salvation, were visible to all.
He was convinced that the Church is missionary by her very nature and, therefore, that every Christian, each one according to his/her own vocation, possibilities and means, must work to ensure that the Gospel reaches the ends of the earth. Conforti’s own life bore witness to the fact that every Christian community must «extend the range of its charity to the ends of the earth, and devote the same care to those afar off as it does to those that are its own members» (AG 37) and that a bishop «is consecrated not just for some one diocese, but for the salvation of the entire world» (AG 38).
He was beatified in St. Peter’s by Pope John Paul II on 17 March 1996. In the public consistory of 21 February 2011, Pope Benedict XVI decided to include his name in the book of saints.
ERMINIO FILIPPO PAMPURI, Brother Richard in religion, was the tenth of the eleven children of Innocenzo and Angela (nee Campari) Pampuri. He was born at Trivolzio (Pavia, Italy), on 12 August 1897 and was baptised the following day.
When he was three years of age his mother died and he was then taken into the home of his mother's sister, at Torrino, a village near Trivolzio. In 1907 also his father is expired at Milan.
He went to two primary schools at nearby villages and then went to Milan where he attended a junior high school. He completed his high school studies as a boarder at Augustine's College, Pavia, where after graduation, he enrolled in the Medical Faculty of Pavia University.
Between the years 1915 and 1920, he was in the fighting zone of World War I. He served firstly as a sergeant and later went into training as an officer in the Medical Corps.
On 6 July 1921, he graduated top of his class in Medicine and Surgery at the above mentioned university.
After a three years practical experience with this doctor uncle, and for a short time as temporary assistant in the medical practice at Vernate, he was appointed to the practice of Morimondo (Milan). In 1922 he passed his internship with high honours at the Milan Institute of Obstetrics and Gynaecology. In 1923 he was registered at Pavia University as a General Practitioner of Medicine and Surgery.
Very soon his heart and mind began opening up to the Christian ideals of medicine and the apostolate. Even as a young boy he wanted to become a missionary priest, but was dissuaded from this on account of his delicate health.
From his youth he was always a shining example of Christian virtue everywhere he went. Whilst living in the midst of the world, he openly and consistently professed the Gospel message and practised works of charity with generosity and devotion. He loved prayer and kept himself constantly in close union with God, even when he was kept very busy.
He assiduously attended the Eucharistic table and spent long periods in profound adoration before the Tabernacle.
He had a tremendous devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary and prayed the Rosary often more than once a day.
He was an active and diligent member of Pavia University's Severino Boezio Club for Catholic Action. He also belonged to the St. Vincent de Paul Society and the Third Orden of St. Francis.
Since his boyhood he was involved in Catholic Action so when he arrived at Morimondo to practice medicine, he gave valuable assistance to the parish priest and helped him to set up a musical band and a Catholic Action Youth Club of which he was the first president. Both of these under the patronage of St. Pius X. He was also secretary of the Parish Missionary Aid Society.
He organised regular retreats for the Youth Club, farm labourers and local workers, at the Jesuit Fathers' "Villa del Sacro Cuore" at Triuggio, generally paying their expenses. He used to invite his colleagues and friends to come along as well.
As well as being studious and competent in practising his profession, he was generous, charitable and very concerned for his patients. Throughout his practice he visited them both by day and night, never sparing himself no matter wherever they lived, even in places difficult to find. Since most of his patients were poor, he gave them medicines, money, food, clothing, and blankets. His charity extended to the poor rural workers and needy folk in and around Morimondo and even going further afield to other towns and districts.
When eventually he was to leave his practice in six years time, to become a religious, the grief at having lost the "holy doctor" was so greatly felt everywhere, that even the daily press took up the story.
Dr. Pampuri joined the Hospitaller Order of St. John of God so as to follow the way of evangelical holiness more closely and at the same time to be able to carry on his medical profession so as to alleviate the suffering of his neighbour. He joined the St. John of God Brothers at Milan on 22 June 1927. He did his novitiate year at Brescia and when it was over, made his profession of religious vows on 24 October 1928.
He was then appointed Director of the dental clinic attached to the St. John of God Brothers' Hospital at Brescia. This was mostly frequented by working people and the poor. Brother Richard untiringly gave himself fully to serving them with such wonderful charity that he was admired by all.
Throughout his life as a religious, Brother Richard was, as he had always been before he became a St. John of God Brother, a model of virtue and charity: to his Brothers in the Order, the patients, the doctors, the paramedics, the nurses, and all who came into contact with him. Everybody agreed upon his sanctity.
He suffered a fresh outbreak of pleurisy, which he first contracted during his military service, and this degenerated into specific bronco-pneumonia. On 18 April 1930 he was taken from Brescia to Milan, where he died in sanctity on 1 May at the age of 33 years: "leaving behind, the memory of a doctor who knew how to transform his own profession into a mission of charity; and a religious brother who reproduced within himself, the charism of a true son of St. John of God" (Decree of heroic virtue, 12 June 1978).
After his death, his reputation of sanctity which he demonstrated throughout his life, greatly expanded throughout Italy, Europe and the entire world. Many of the faithful received significant graces from God, even miraculous ones, through his intercession.
The two required miracles were accepted and he was beatified by His Holiness John Paul II on 4 October 1981.
Later on, a miraculous healing through the intercession of Blessed Richard Pampuri, took place on 5 January 1982 at Alcadozo (Albacete, Spain). This was approved as a miracle and so, on the feast of All Saints, 1 November 1989, he was solemnly canonized.
"The brief, but intense life, of Brother Richard Pampuri is a stimulus for the entire People of God, but especially so for youth, doctors and religious brothers and sisters.
He invites the youth of today, to live joyfully and courageously in the Christian faith; to always listen to the Word of God, generously follow the teachings of Christ's message and give themselves to the service of others.
He appeals to his colleagues, the doctors, to responsibly carry out their delicate art of healing; vivifying it with Christian, human and professional ideals, because theirs is a real mission of service to others, of fraternal charity and a real promotion of human life.
Brother Richard recommends to religious brothers and sisters, especially those who quietly and humbly go about their consecrated work in hospital wards and other centres, to hold fast to the original charism of their Institute in their lives, loving both God and their neighbour who is in need" (Homily, 4 October 1981).
St. Richard Pampuri's body is conserved and venerated in the Parish Church of Trivolzio (Pavia, Italy). His feastday is celebrated on 1 May.
In the climate of religious persecution which predominated in Mexico in the 1920s the head of government, from 1920 to 1924, was General Alvaro Obregón. Initially Obregón did not apply current anti-Church legislation. Thus, the Church experienced a moment of peace during which it directed its pastoral activities towards the socio-political arenas, enjoying a new Spring as in the era of first evangelization. This movement culminated in the consecration of the national monument to Christ the King on Mount Cubilete, the geographical centre of Mexico, as well as in the national Eucharistic Congress of 1924. The state was alarmed by the frequent religious demonstrations which were growing in number and fervour. It was against this climate of increasing confrontation that Plutarco Elias Calles (1924-1928) became head of government.
Following the teaching of Pope Pius XI and in response to the needs of the Mexican nation, preparations were begun in 1924 to organize Catholic Action. In 1926 Pius XI addressed an Apostolic Letter Paterna Sane Solicitudo to the Mexican Bishops on the topic of the spread of Catholic Action. Because of the religious conflict in the years 1926 to 1929 preparations for the official launching of Catholic Action had to be postponed and could only begin again in June 1929. When religious persecution broke out many young Catholics and many of the youth section of Catholic Action were already involved in the apostolate.
These younger members of Catholic Action, under the motto, “Long live Christ the King!”, gave many martyrs to the Church, among them Saints Manuel, Salvador and David and Anacleto Flores and Companions. On 31st July, 1926, Article 30 of the so-called Calles Law came into force. The Mexican Bishops, having consulted the Holy See, decided to close all the churches and suspend all acts of worship across the nation. Popular response was not slow in coming with groups of volunteers taking up arms to fight against the regime. Some months later two organizations emerged, one civil, the National League for the Defence of Religious Freedom, of which Saint Manuel Morales became president, and one military, the Cristeros. Meanwhile, almost all of the Bishops had been exiled. The death-toll from this three-year conflict was to rise to between seventy- and eighty-thousand. As a result of the mediation of the Ambassador Morrow of the United States, a modus vivendi was arrived at in June 1929 which led to final peace and permitted the official establishment of Catholic Action in December, 1929.
Manuel Morales was born in Mesillas, Mexico on February 8, 1898. He was baptized in the Church in Sombrerete, Zacatecas. He was the natural born son of Mrs. Matiana Morales, but lived with his grandparents, and at a very young age went to live in Chalchihuites. He was a student at the Seminary of Durango, but left to go to work in order to support his grandparents who were very poor.
He worked as a store clerk and enjoyed interacting with the townspeople, shown by always giving them his attention and kindness. He was social and talkative. Later he worked for a bakery.
He married Consuelo Loera and lived as a good Christian. He was respectful and faithful to his wife; and was a good father and leader of the family. He had 3 children.
He was secretary of the Circle of Catholic Workers "Leon XIII", member of Catholic Action (ACJM) and president of the National League for the Defense of Religious Liberty (LNDLR) founded in Chalchihuites in June 1925. This league did not start having activities in Chalchihuites though until June 29, 1926, in which a meeting was held in the town's bullring with approximately 600 people in attendance.
As president of the League, Manuel Morales spoke to all and urged them not to be afraid to be part of the League. He emphasized peaceful and non-political aims and methods. In his speech, Manuel said, "’God is my right’ is our motto. The League will be peaceful, without mixing in political affairs. Our project is to beg the government to order the repeal of the constitutional articles that oppress religious freedom." He ended his speech with these beautiful words, "To the four winds and with hearts filled with joy we shout, 'Long live Christ the King, and Our Lady of Tepeyac!'”
Manuel’s attitude and words were a result of his Christian life, which was nourished in prayer and frequency of the divine Eucharist. They were a manifestation of his deep faith and his devotion to God, shown in his life of modest work, but honest and persevering, and displayed by his harmonious marriage and family life, as well as by his amiable relationships with others.
His simple life, his Christian fervor, his work in the League and at the same time the nature and purpose of the League, showed how far from the truth and how slanderous were the accusations which Manuel, Father Batis, and the other two martyred youth (David Roldan & Salvador Lara) were accused. The soldiers accused them that they had provoked the people to revolt against the government.
It was Saturday, August 14th when soldiers from Zacatecas were to come to supposedly stifle the uprising of arms. At seven in the evening, Manuel had left his office at the bakery and was quietly at home with his wife and young children. After eating dinner with his family, he left to attend the regular meeting of Catholic Action. The meeting was not held so Manuel returned to his house, unaware then of the arrival of the soldiers, who had settled for the night. On the morning of August 15th, while still in bed, he received notice of the imprisonment of Father Batis.
Manuel left quickly to gather people to go before the authorities in an effort to have the priest released from prison. He presented before the members of the neighborhood council, which was held at the Botica Guadalupana. While at the meeting, the soldiers arrived with rifles in hand shouting, “Manuel Morales!” He stepped forward and responded with Christian fortitude, “At your service!” The soldiers responded by throwing him across the room and hitting him various times on the back and neck with a rifle. While only insulting his companions, they treated him worse, beating him very cruelly. He was then taken to the City Hall.
The efforts made by the people to obtain freedom for the prisoners were useless. The answer from the Lieutenant about the fate of Manuel and his companions was that nothing would happen and that they would only be taken to Zacatecas to explain their position. The wife of Manuel kept insisting to speak with Lieutenant Ontiveros. With much concern and tears, she told him that they could not find the slightest offense for which they had detained her husband and much less taking him to Zacatecas. His wife, Consuelo, said, “My husband is innocent and does not deserve this.” The Lieutenant, faking kindness and desecrating the memory of his mother, said, “Ma’am, relax, I swear by my mother that nothing will happen to your husband.” He added that he was sorry that he could not do anything with her petitions because he was following superior orders that he had to abide by, but that after two or three days her husband would return. She calmed down a little and left. However, not fully believing in what the lieutenant had told her, she returned again to the military, this time bringing her oldest son. The Lieutenant greatly displeased with her insistence, hastily exclaimed, “Go away! Go away...here you come again with your tears!” Consuelo continued pleading for them to not take Manuel from the city, to let him be a prisoner in town while things cleared up. The Lieutenant responded, “Say goodbye to him, if you want.” At hearing this, Manuel’s wife said to him, “Did you not just tell me that he would return soon?” Meanwhile, Manuel’s young son, despite the vigilance of the soldiers, went to give his father a hug. Manuel suffered double the amount at seeing his troubled wife and little boy. In the midst of great pain, the husband and wife said their goodbyes, although Consuelo held onto the hope that nothing would happen to Manuel.
When the mayor presented them with the Statement of Facts, Manuel signed it together with the priest and his companions. At leaving and heading to where they would be martyred, Manuel was able to travel in the same car as Father Batis and also be with him at the moment of their final offering to Christ. When the priest tried to save Manuel’s life, telling the soldiers that he had a family, Manuel as always, filled with faith and courage responded, “Let them shoot me, Father, I DIE BUT GOD DOES NOT DIE, HE WILL WATCH OVER MY WIFE AND CHILDREN.” And raising his hat in the air as they would shoot him in the forehead, he shouted “Long live Christ the King and the Virgin of Guadalupe!” It was on the day of the feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary when the bullets took the lives of these exemplary Christians.
Mrs. Consuelo Loera, wife of Manuel, summed up the feelings and conviction that all the townspeople had about the death of their holy priest and his companions, writing, “The sun rose on the 16th with formal warning that the soldiers were returning, but the victims, the blessed martyrs were now enjoying the Kingdom of God; their bodies sleeping the peaceful rest of the just, with no signs of pain on their faces; but on the contrary, their faces showed us the joy of being in heaven.” Upon realizing that the soldiers would return to desecrate the bodies, the faithful rushed to bury them in the city cemetery. Moments later, the military under General Eulogio Ortiz arrived, took over the church, took inventory and closed it.
The Human Person: A Dignity Violated and Exalted
We furthermore call to mind the violations to which the human person is subjected. When the individual is not recognized and loved in the person's dignity as the living image of God (cf. Gen 1:26), the human being is exposed to more humiliating and degrading forms of "manipulation", that most assuredly reduce the individual to a slavery to those who are stronger...
...But the sacredness of the human person cannot be obliterated, no matter how often it is devalued and violated because it has its unshakable foundation in God as Creator and Father. The sacredness of the person always keeps returning, again and again.
The sense of the dignity of the human person must be pondered and reaffirmed in stronger. terms. A beneficial trend is advancing and permeating all peoples of the earth, making them ever more aware of the dignity of the individual: the person is not at all a "thing" or an "object" to be used, but primarily a responsible "subject", one endowed with conscience and freedom, called to live responsibly in society and history, and oriented towards spiritual and religious values.
~ JOHN PUAL II, APOSTOLIC EXHORTATION “CHRISTIFIDELES LAICI” N. 5.
Salvador Lara was born in the parish of El Suchil, Durango., on August 13, 1905. He was the son of Francisco Lara and Maria Soledad Puente Granados. He was baptized in the church on September 10, 1905, given the name Jose Salvador.
Salvador was always loving and respectful to his parents. When his father died, his affection and concern for his mother increased. His mother was a model of Christian love, a very charitable woman who formed the heart of her son to filial abandonment to God and with a spirit of strength. Salvador had a brother named Carlos, whom he was always attached to, watching over him and making sure his needs were met. Salvador was a student at the Seminary of Durango, but had to leave due to a difficult financial situation that occurred to his family. Salvador was an educated and refined man; caring, full of life and of physical strength. He was very sociable and found it easy to make friends. He practiced horsemanship. He had a healthy body and soul.
He was a trustworthy employee who worked in the mine of El Conjuro. He often helped the priest, Father Batis, with his pastoral work, with as much as by his blameless testimony of life as by his Christian apostolate. Salvador was secretary of the National League for the Defense of Religious Liberty (LNDLR) and president of Catholic Action. When at the youth meeting Father Batis expressed his desire to be a martyr, he asked who would be capable of joining him. Without boasting but with Christian simplicity Salvador generously offered himself. One evening in Chalchihuites, a little before being martyred, Salvador recited a poem titled “Marciano”, which described the innocence of an accused Christian who was burned in Rome. Salvador with intense feelings moved by the content of the poem, seemed to be saying again, “If my offense is to be a Christian, then you are right to kill me because it is true.”
After work on August 14, 1926, he was resting peacefully at home. There he spent the night, not aware that Father Batis had been arrested by the soldiers.
On Sunday, August 15th, he was given the sad news and immediately went to gather his companions to discuss how to save the priest.
While the youth of Catholic Action were assembled with Salvador, their president, and with the neighborhood council as well as with some other parish members, the soldiers arrived. After they called for Manuel Morales, they called for Salvador, who responded with integrity, “Here I am!” They took him along with his companions as prisoners to the City Hall.
Lieutenant Maldonado deceived both Salvador and his mother Soledad, telling them that they were only going to take the prisoners to Zacatecas to make their statements of surrender. Soledad was very calm because she knew that her son was innocent, so when they communicated to her that they were taking her son to Zacatecas, she did not show any anxiety but rather trusted in God and in the Lieutenant’s word. This infused encouragement in her son. She blessed him and reminded him how holy the cause he defended was.
At noon, the priest and the three young companions were taken away. Salvador rode with David Roldan in the same car that supposedly was heading to Zacatecas; but upon arrival at the port of Saint Teresa, he discovered the true intent: to murder them for the crime of being Catholic.
After receiving absolution from Fr. Batis, Salvador and David Roldan witnessed the heroic death of their pastor and of their friend Manuel Morales. Then they were directed 160 steps towards the foot of the mountain on the path of Canutillo. The young men were praying. Salvador, in the prime of his life at 21 years old, was placed in front of the firing squad and nobly with his head upright shouted in unison with David, “Long live Christ the King and the Virgin of Guadalupe!” A discharge of musketry took their lives. And then the “coup de grace” almost destroyed their faces.
When the people of Chalchihuites learned of their death, they went to collect their bodies. Salvador’s was guarded in his mother’s house; who she, full of strength accepted the will of God and boldly rebuked the soldiers. The families and faithful were warned that the dreaded General Eulogio Ortiz would soon be coming with the intention to hang the corpses as a warning to other Christians, so they rushed to bury the bodies in the town cemetery.
The youthfulness and heroism of Salvador impressed even the executioners, who at seeing him dead said, “What a shame to have killed such a great, strong man.” They did not know, nor could they estimate his stature as a Christian. His offering that day, to accompany the priest to martyrdom was not in vain for he did so with valor and joy.
Promoting the Dignity of the Person
To rediscover and make others rediscover the inviolable dignity of every human person makes up an essential task, in a certain sense, the central and unifying task of the service which the Church, and the lay faithful in her, are called to render to the human family.
Among all other earthly beings, only a man or a woman is a "person", a conscious and free being and, precisely for this reason, the "center and summit" of all that exists on the earth(135).
The dignity of the person is the most precious possession of an individual. As a result, the value of one person transcends all the material world. The words of Jesus, "For what does it profit a man, to gain the whole world and to forfeit his life?" (Mk 8:36) contain an enlightening and stirring statement about the individual: value comes not from what a person "has" even if the person possessed the whole world!-as much as from what a person "is": the goods of the world do not count as much as the good of the person, the good which is the person individually.
JOHN PUAL II, APOSTOLIC EXHORTATION “CHRISTIFIDELES LAICI” N. 37.
David was born in the town of Chalchihuites, Zacatecas, in the archdiocese of Durango on March 2, 1907. He was the son of Pedro Roldan Reveles and Reinalda Lara Granados. He was baptized in the town’s church on March 29, 1926.
When he was one year old, his father died. Mrs. Reinalda was left a widow at a very young age. She was a Christian woman and instilled in her son a great love of Christ and the Church. For his education, she sent David to a private school, and later he enrolled in the Seminary of Durango. Due to the financial needs of his family David had to leave the seminary.
David was a model son in all respects. He loved his mother dearly; he was respectful, obedient, attentive, and tried to avoid all displeasures and annoyances to a point that it was as if he guessed her thoughts. His friends indicated that he was the joy of her home and that he was a refined and cheerful, orderly and responsible, “he had a very nice way” about him. His Christian life was full. He received communion frequently, and was one of the biggest cooperators in the pastoral work of his pastor, Father Batis.
At 16 years old, he began to work in the mine, El Conjuro, near Chalchihuites. Due to his good character, his preparation and responsibility he was a trustworthy employee. His boss, Gustavo Windel, a German, trusted him and named him to be his secretary. His work consisted of keeping accounts. All of the colleagues appreciated him for his way in relating to them. There he met the daughter of Mr. Windel and started dating her. He asked for her hand in marriage a short time before the persecutions began.
In 1925 David, as an engaged Christian man who had belonged to Catholic Action from a young age, was named President of Catholic Action. With enthusiasm, he gladly accepted this position as he had always shown a great love for the association. When the problems of the law started, David was named Vice President of the National League for the Defense of Religious Liberty (LNDLR). David, like his colleagues Manuel and Salvador, organized a pacified defense for the Church. He tried gathering signatures to petition the Government to repeal the laws that were curtailing religious freedom.
The entire city protested when the mayor, Donaciano Perez y the telegraphist J. Refugio Garcia, falsely accused the priest and his young collaborators of starting a revolt. The mayor knew well that the young people were meeting only to study their religion and to defend, by peaceful and simple means, the persecuted Church.
On August 15, 1926, when Father Batis was already prisoner, David was in his house preparing to attend Sunday, when a group of soldiers sent by General Ortiz of Zacatecas came to arrest him. The young man left smiling and when passing in front of the house of one of his friends, he greeted him with courtesy and joy.
He was taken to where Father Batis and the other young men, Manuel Morales and Salvador Lara, who was a cousin to David, were. A group of neighbors made gestures to free them, but it was all done in vain. Gustavo Windel, the general manager of the mine and David’s boss also came to intercede for the prisoners. He offered the lieutenant whatever amount of money he wanted to save the life of the priest and the three young men. But the lieutenant responded to him saying, “Money is not necessary, they are only going to Zacatecas in order to give a statement, but nothing will happen to them.”
Around 12 pm, they took the priest and the three young leaders away. David and Salvador left very serenely and got in the car that was indicated for them. In the first car were Father Batis and Manuel Morales.
Although the neighbors wanted to intervene and protested indignantly, they could not do anything because the soldiers threatened them with their weapons. The car that David was in suffered a minor mishap while crossing the creek named “de la Colchina”, so he arrived a little later to the place where the soldiers who were driving the priest and Manuel Morales had stopped. David received absolution from the priest, surrendered voluntarily to the murderers. At that moment he watched the priest and his friend, Manuel Morales, die.
Then, with Salvador, he was led 160 steps from the previous execution, to the base of the hills. He walked with courage and tranquility. Serene and praying, he went to the place pointed out to him- the place where this youth, nourished and ingrained with faith, would fulfill a final act of love, the work, of generous surrender to the apostolate. And saying the same words that he had just heard shouted from the lips of the priest and Manuel, “Long live Christ the King and the Virgin of Guadalupe!”, he surrendered his spirit to God.
The firing squad took his life. A soldier gave him the coup de grace in the forehead, almost disfiguring his face, but it could not wipe away the smile of peace and tranquility that David had on his lips.
His relatives took his body and at about midnight in the midst of a heavy rain and wind storm they buried him. They had to do so for fear that General Eulogio Ortiz, who was to come soon, would desecrate the bodies.
The Disciple Is Not Greater Than His Teacher
Defending the truth about man has brought to the Church, as it did to the Good Shepherd, sufferings, persecutions, and death. Also in recent times, the Church has had to pay in the person of her pastors, her priests, her religious, her faithful laity a very high price of persecution, imprisonment and death. She has accepted it for the sake of her fidelity to her mission and to following the “Good Shepherd”, knowing that “the disciple is not greater than the Teacher. If they have persecuted Him, they will also persecute them.” (cfr. Jn 15, 20).
~ JOHN PAUL II, HOMILY IN CHALCO, MEXICO, MAY 7, 1990
Anacleto Gonzalez Flores (blessed): Spiritual leader of the Cristiada Among the many colorful figures that animated the Cristiada, Anacleto Gonzalez Flores may be described as the movement’s “spiritual leader.” His Gandhi-like movement of peaceful resistance would ironically provide the infrastructure for the armed struggle in the state of Jalisco, the center of the Cristero revolt. Gonzalez Flores himself would be transformed from a pacifist into the reluctant leader of the Cristiada’s political wing, although he did not participate directly in the fighting himself. He would ultimately be martyred in 1927 and beatified by Pope Benedict XVI in 2005.
The movie For Greater Glory portrays Gonzalez Flores as an important figure, but offers little to explain his significance to the Cristiada, a significance that is almost impossible to exaggerate. In the years leading up to the war, Gonzalez Flores was Mexico’s principle lay leader in the fight against the Mexican government’s increasingly oppressive policies. He was also its philosopher and theorist, providing the religious and philosophical justification for the Catholic position, a visionary writer and activist whose life and martyrdom continued to inspire the movement long after his death.
Gonzalez Flores was born in 1888 in Tepatitlan, the largest city of the strongly conservative Los Altos region of the state of Jalisco, which would become the center of the Cristero revolt. Always a leader of his peers, he was inspired at an early age to defend the Los Altos values of God and country during the Mexican Revolution, and personally met the Catholic-friendly president Francisco Madero in 1912.
After studying for several years in a local Catholic seminary, he decided that he did not have a vocation to the priesthood, and moved to Guadalajara to study law in 1913, earning a living by teaching Latin and history at local high schools. He joined numerous associations as well as creating his own, always seeking to inspire fellow-citizens with the religious and cultural values he cherished. He became an organizer of the National Catholic Party, and created a patriotic association called the National Phalanx to inspire young Mexicans to defend their values against their own government as well as the corrupting influences of the United States. He was constantly engaged in the education of Catholic youth as well, teaching catechism classes in his spare time, and became known to his followers as simply “El Maestro” (The Teacher).
In 1914 Gonzalez Flores witnessed the sacking and destruction of the churches of Guadalajara by the forces of Carranza, who also shut down the city’s Catholic schools and expelled foreign priests, in a preview of the persecutions of Calles 12 years later. The city’s archbishop, Francisco Orozco y Jimenez, was forced into exile. Gonzalez Flores reacted by joining the pro-Catholic followers of Pancho Villa, becoming their press secretary, and helped to plot the retaking of Guadalajara, a scheme that failed and ended in death for two of the Villista leaders. The experience helped to convince him of the futility of violence to achieve his goals.
In the dark years of 1914-1916, while Guadalajara was under the control of anti-Catholic forces and schools were closed, Gonzalez Flores and close friend and future martyr Miguel Gómez Losa founded educational circles, teaching their students both secular and religious topics. When restrictions were finally lifted, Gonzalez Flores helped to establish the Jalisco branch of the Catholic Action of Mexican Youth (ACJM), and founded a weekly newspaper, La Palabra (“The Word”), writing articles in defense of the Catholic faith for it as well as numerous other publications. He continued to study law, and was also a daily communicant.
As Gonzalez Flores’ reputation as a Catholic thinker and organizer increased, the ACJM in Jalisco also grew dramatically, establishing numerous study groups to educate young people about the Catholic faith and other related topics. When the state government of Jalisco attempted again to attack the Catholic Church in 1918 and 1919, members of the ACJM sprang into action, organizing protests and interrupting sessions of the state Congress, until the authorities backed down. In response to such resistance, President Carranza and his successor, Alvaro Obregon, took a more conciliatory approach to the Catholic Church, creating a partial reprieve from persecution until Calles began it anew in 1925.
After joining a secret society opposed to Freemasonry called the Union of Mexican Catholics, and known simply as “the U,” Gonzalez Flores eventually founded a public organization in Jalisco to organize Catholic resistance to Mexico’s avowedly Marxist government: the Popular Union (UP), a group that grew to include hundreds of thousands of Catholics in Jalisco and neighboring states. He also founded a newspaper, Gladium, that reached a circulation of over 100,000, with its own delivery service. The organizational infrastructure that would eventually provide the backbone to the Cristero army was now in place, functioning as a peaceful resistance against government tyranny.
In 1925, after years of tireless activism at the service of the Catholic Church, Gonzalez Flores and three other lay Catholics were awarded the Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice Cross by the Holy See. It was the same year that Pope Pius XI would decree the establishment of the Feast of Christ the King, for whose rallying cry the Cristeros would ultimately receive their name. It was also the year that Mexican President Plutarco Elias Calles would begin anew the persecution of the Catholic Church.
As the Calles regime began to pressure states to enforce the anti-clerical articles of the Constitution, and attempted the creation of a schismatic, state-controlled “Mexican Catholic Church,” the National League for Religious Liberty (LNDLR) was created in Mexico City to organize resistance throughout the country. Gonzalez Flores joined, and in 1926 agreed to fuse the Popular Union with the organization.
The decision was a crucial one for the launching of the Cristiada. Although Gonzalez Flores personally opposed armed conflict, his organization was now a subsidiary of the League, and he could not override its decisions. The League initially organized a nationwide economic boycott in response to the Calles Law, which Gonzalez Flores was confident would bring the government to its knees, but when the boycott failed to produce the desired result, the organization turned to war.
As tensions mounted, and Gonzalez Flores began to be harassed and investigated by government officials, he realized that he must go into hiding, as had Archbishop Orozco y Jimenez. The League formally declared war against the Mexican government on January 1, 1927, and formerly peaceful Catholic activists sprang into action, attacking federal garrisons in a number of towns. However, military aid that had been promised by the League’s national headquarters never materialized, and soon the federal government had the rebels on the run.
On April 1, 1927, the Mexican government struck what seemed to be its most devastating blow against the Cristiada, when Anacleto Gonzalez Flores was arrested by the infamously cruel General Jesus Maria Ferreira, chief of the Military Zone of Jalisco. He was accompanied by four compatriots: Jorge, Ramon, and Florentino Vargas Gonzalez, and Luis Padilla, although the young Florentino was later released. They were taken to a military barracks that had become known as the “Coliseum of the Cristeros,” where they were tortured by Ferreira for hours in a futile attempt to determine the whereabouts of Archbishop Orozco y Jimenez. Their answer was: “I know nothing! Long live Christ the King!”
As their execution approached, Padilla told Gonzalez Flores that he needed to confess, and the latter answered: “No, brother, it is no longer time to confess, but rather to ask for pardon and to pardon. It is a father, not a judge who waits you. Your own blood will purify you!” He asked to be the last to die, so that he could remain to comfort the others as they expired.
As his moment came for execution, Gonzalez Flores turned to General Ferreira and quoted the Ecuadoran President Gabriel Garcia Moreno, who had been assassinated for his defense of the Catholic faith in 1875: “I die, but God does not die!” According to one witness, he then told General Ferreira, “Soon you will present yourself before God. I will be your greatest intercessor.” He was bayonetted on both sides of his back, perforating his lungs and causing him to collapse. He was then shot at close range as he lay on the floor, managing one last time to say, “Long live Christ the King!”
Although the Mexican government had eliminated the Cristeros’ most charismatic leader, Gonzalez Flores’ murder served only to inflame the movement that he had inspired. He was instantly recognized as a martyr by the people of Jalisco, who would visit and pray before his grave. One of those who did so, asking for the grace of martyrdom, was Jose Sanchez del Rio, a 14-year-old boy whose death is portrayed in the movie For Greater Glory.
The memory of Anacleto Gonzalez Flores was constantly invoked by the Cristeros during the remaining two years of war, sustaining them in times of immense difficulty. His voluminous newspaper writings were preserved and republished in anthologies that are still available in Mexico today, and documentation was gathered for his eventual beatification, which occurred on November 20, 2005. Although he remains virtually unknown outside of Mexico, the result of his tireless work is still seen in the state of Jalisco, which remains one of the most fervently Catholic in the country, and the nation’s most productive center of priestly vocations.
Pier Giorgio Frassati was born in Turin, Italy on April 6, 1901. His mother, Adelaide Ametis, was a painter. His father Alfredo, was the founder and director of the newspaper, “La Stampa," and was influential in Italian politics, holding positions as an Italian Senator and Ambassador to Germany. At an early age, Pier Giorgio joined the Marian Sodality and the Apostleship of Prayer, and obtained permission to receive daily Communion (which was rare at that time).
He developed a deep spiritual life which he never hesitated to share with his friends The Holy Eucharist and the Blessed Virgin were the two poles of his world of prayer. At the age of 17, in 1918, he joined the St. Vincent de Paul Society and dedicated much of his spare time to serving the sick and the needy, caring for orphans, and assisting the demobilized servicemen returning from World War I.
He decided to become a mining engineer, studying at the Royal Polytechnic University of Turin, so he could “serve Christ better among the miners," as he told a friend.
Although he considered his studies his first duty, they did not keep him from social and political activism. In 1919, he joined the Catholic Student Foundation and the organization known as Catholic Action. He became a very active member of the People’s Party, which promoted the Catholic Church’s social teaching based on the principles of Pope Leo XIII’s encyclical letter, Rerum Novarum.
What little he did have, Pier Giorgio gave to help the poor, even using his bus fare for charity and then running home to be on time for meals. The poor and the suffering were his masters, and he was literally their servant, which he considered a privilege. His charity did not simply involve giving something to others, but giving completely of himself. This was fed by daily communion with Christ in the Holy Eucharist and by frequent nocturnal adoration, by meditation on St. Paul’s “Hymn of Charity” (I Corinthians 13), and by the writings of St. Catherine of Siena. He often sacrificed vacations at the Frassati summer home in Pollone (near Turin) because, as he said, “If everybody leaves Turin, who will take care of the poor?”
In 1921, he was a central figure in Ravenna, enthusiastically helping to organize the first convention of Pax Romana, an association which had as its purpose the unification of all Catholic students throughout the world for the purpose of working together for universal peace.
Mountain climbing was one of his favorite sports. Outings in the mountains, which he organized with his friends, also served as opportunities for his apostolic work. He never lost the chance to lead his friends to Mass, to the reading of Scripture, and to pray the rosary.
He often went to the theater, to the opera, and to museums. He loved art and music, and could quote whole passages of the poet Dante.
Fondness for the epistles of St. Paul sparked his zeal for fraternal charity, and the fiery sermons of the Renaissance preacher and reformer Girolamo Savonarola and the writings of St. Catherine impelled him in 1922 to join the Lay Dominicans (Third Order of St. Dominic). He chose the name Girolamo, not after St. Jerome the Bible scholar but rather after his personal hero, Savonarola. “I am a fervent admirer of this friar, who died as a saint at the stake," he wrote to a friend.
Like his father, he was strongly anti-Fascist and did nothing to hide his political views. He physically defended the faith at times involved in fights, first with anticlerical Communists and later with Fascists. Participating in a Church-organized demonstration in Rome on one occasion, he stood up to police violence and rallied the other young people by grabbing the group’s banner, which the royal guards had knocked out of another student’s hands. Pier Giorgio held it even higher, while using the banner’s pole to fend off the blows of the guards.
Just before receiving his university degree, Pier Giorgio contracted poliomyelitis, which doctors later speculated he caught from the sick whom he tended. Neglecting his own health because his grandmother was dying, after six days of terrible suffering Pier Giorgio died at the age of 24 on July 4, 1925.
His last preoccupation was for the poor. On the eve of his death, with a paralyzed hand he scribbled a message to a friend, asking him to take the medicine needed for injections to be given to Converso, a poor sick man he had been visiting.
Pier Giorgio’s funeral was a triumph. The streets of the city were lined with a multitude of mourners who were unknown to his family. The poor and the needy whom he had served so unselfishly for seven years. Many of these people, in turn, were surprised to learn that the saintly young man they knew had actually been the heir of the influential Frassati family.
Pope John Paul II, after visiting his original tomb in the family plot in Pollone, said in 1989: “I wanted to pay homage to a young man who was able to witness to Christ with singular effectiveness in this century of ours. When I was a young man, I, too, felt the beneficial influence of his example and, as a student, I was impressed by the force of his testimony."
On May 20, 1990, in St. Peter’s Square which was filled with thousands of people, the Pope beatified Pier Giorgio Frassati, calling him the “Man of the Eight Beatitudes”.
His mortal remains, found completely intact and incorrupt upon their exhumation on March 31, 1981, were transferred from the family tomb in Pollone to the cathedral in Turin. Many pilgrims, especially students and the young, come to the tomb of Blessed Pier Giorgio to seek favors and the courage to follow his example.
Alberto Marvelli was born on 21 March 1918 in Ferrara, Italy, the second of six children to Luigi Marvelli and Maria Mayr. He was a lively child but also very thoughtful and reserved, most sensitive to the needs of others.
Growing up, Alberto was especially influenced by his mother, who was the "Good Samaritan" of the Marvelli family and always kept open house for the poor. It was not uncommon for Alberto to see half his meal disappear right before his eyes so it could be given to the hungry. "Jesus has come, and he is hungry", his mother used to say.
Together with the highly Christian education he received from his parents, Alberto learned to be a hard worker and to defend justice and truth according to the Gospel. In June 1930 the Marvelli family moved to Rimini and Alberto began to attend the Salesian Oratory and Catholic Action group in the parish, where his faith was nurtured and sustained, increasing his awareness of his call to holiness. He would often say, "My programme of life is summed up in one word: holy".
Alberto was very athletic and loved all kinds of sports, especially bicycling; this was providential, because it enabled him to carry out his future apostolate and works of charity and assistance.
In October 1933, following the unexpected death of his father on 7 March of that same year, Alberto began to keep a spiritual diary at age 15 in which he detailed his daily schedule: "I rise as early as possible each morning, as soon as the alarm rings; a half-hour of meditation every day, not to be neglected except for circumstances out of my control; half an hour at least dedicated to spiritual reading; Mass every morning and Holy Communion as regularly as possible; confession once a week normally and frequent spiritual direction; daily recitation of the Rosary and Angelus at noon".
When he was only 18, Alberto was elected president of Catholic Action. At Bologna University where he continued his studies, he was active in the Catholic organization, in addition to directing his Catholic Action group in Rimini. Every Saturday, upon returning home, he would give lectures, visit the poor and prepare programmes for the upcoming days. His primary concern was the plight of the poor.
Alberto graduated in 1941 with a degree in engineering and left immediately for military service, only to be exempted from it after a few months because two of his brothers were already in service. Upon his return to Rimini, he was elected diocesan vice-president of Catholic Action. He began teaching in a high school, devoting his time to designing projects, to prayer (he was especially devoted to the Eucharist) and to helping the sick and poor.
During the Second World War, the Marvelli family was forced to move to Vergiano, seven kilometres from Rimini, because of the devastating air raids. After each bombing, however, at the risk of his own life, Alberto returned to the city to help the wounded, dying and homeless.
He gave to the poor what he had collected or bought with his own money: food, clothing, mattresses and blankets. Then, on his bicycle, he would carry what he could and distribute it to the needy. Sometimes he returned home without his shoes or even without a bicycle, all because he had given them to the neediest he met that day.
During the German occupation, Alberto was able to save many people from deportation to the concentration camps, courageously freeing them from the sealed carriages of the trains that were ready to leave the station of Santarcangelo.
After the liberation of Rimini on 23 September 1945, the Marvelli family returned to the city, now in ruins and without running water, electricity or sanitation.
The interim Authorities immediately entrusted Alberto with the allocation of housing. He proved to be an able administrator and a few months later became town councillor and a member of the Italian Society of Civil Engineers.
He also opened a soup kitchen and invited the poor to go to Mass and prayed with them, listening patiently to their troubles and worries, entrusting them all to God the Father. Alberto did not belong to any party at first, but joined the Christian Democrats after the war and became an active member of the Executive Committee. He understood politics as an important service of faith and justice to society.
He was one of the most popular candidates of the Christian Democratic Party and was respected by all, even by his political adversaries, the Communists, whose ideology he openly criticized; they acknowledged his honesty and profound dedication to the well-being of the community.
On the evening of 5 October 1946, as Alberto was cycling to attend a meeting for the local elections, for which he was a candidate, he was run over by an army truck and died a few hours later without regaining consciousness. He was 28 years old.
The scheduled elections were held as news of his death spread throughout the city, and many citizens decided to vote for him just the same. His mother, however, was elected in his place.
“Alberto Marvelli, a young man who was strong and free and a generous son of the Church of Rimini and of Catholic Action, considered his brief life of only 28 years as a gift of love to Jesus for the good of his brethren. "Jesus has enfolded me in his grace", he wrote in his diary; "I no longer see anyone but him, I think only of him". Alberto had made the daily Eucharist the centre of his life. In prayer he also sought the inspiration for political commitment, convinced of the need to live to the full as children of God in history in order to make it a history of salvation” John Paul II, 5/9/04.
Pere (Peter) Tarrés i Claret was born on 30 May 1905 in Manresa, province of Barcelona, Spain, to Francesc Tarrés Puigdellívol and Carme Claret Masats. His parents were deeply religious, which was a positive influence for his two sisters, Francesca and Maria, who both entered the convent.
Pere had a very joyful and open spirit and loved nature and helping others. As a boy, he assisted at the local pharmacy and the shop owner, Josep Balaguer, encouraged him to continue his studies in medicine.
In 1921 Pere transferred to Barcelona to study; he made the decision to follow his dream and one day become a doctor to help others.
During these years of study, Pere received spiritual direction from Fr Jaume Serra, a priest who encouraged him to enter the "Federation of Young Christians of Catalonia". This organization, which met regularly at the Oratory of St Philip Neri, worked for a renewal of the Christian spirit within society.
Pere was appointed President of the Federation, and with his openness and enthusiasm he knew how to give extraordinary "vigour" to the group. He was a beacon of good example for others, and his zeal motivated him to travel the roads of Catalonia in his little automobile (which he called his "instrument of work") as a lay missionary.
He spoke openly of God, the Church and Christian living to the youth and those who were gathered along the streets; he also assisted in the formation of new Federation groups.
His "secret" in the spiritual life was Eucharistic devotion and filial love towards the Mother of God.
Pere maintained a written correspondence with many members of the Federation (of whose federal council he was later appointed vice-president) and wrote articles that were published in the Federation's weekly paper.
In addition to his work within this group, the young man was also involved in Catholic Action. In 1935 he was appointed vice-secretary of the new diocesan committee; he later became secretary of the archdiocesan committee, having received the recommendation of the Cardinal, Francesc Vidal y Barraquer of Tarragona.
A year later, having earned his degree in medicine, Pere began his residency in Barcelona. Here, together with Dr Gerardo Manresa, he founded a medical clinic for all those who needed assistance but could not afford it.
As a doctor, Pere was exemplary in his charity and life of piety. He never lost his habitual joy and was always available to help and speak to those who needed him. During the Spanish Civil War (July 1936-April 1939), Pere lived as a "refugee" in Barcelona because the persecution of Christians forced many into hiding; during this time he prayed, read and studied.
In May 1938 he was forced to enter the Republican army to provide medical assistance; these were eight long months of suffering for Pere, and living through the horrors of war probed deep into his soul. Day after day he wrote about his life on the battle front in his "War Diary".
The war experience and assistance given to the wounded and dying made Pere understand the necessity for "spiritual assistance", and he felt that God was calling him to be a "doctor of souls" by entering the priesthood. As a result, he entered the Seminary of Barcelona on 29 September 1939 and was ordained a priest on 30 May 1942.
Fr Pere began by serving as a parochial vicar at the Parish of St Stephen Sesrovile, and a year later he was sent to the Pontifical University of Salamanca to study theology.
After he earned his degree in 1944, Fr Pere returned to Barcelona where he dedicated much of his time to Catholic Action, as well as providing spiritual assistance to religious congregations and material and spiritual help to the sick, especially the poorest of the poor. He also served as the diocesan delegate for the Protection of Women and as spiritual director of the "Magdalen Hospital" for female prostitutes.
Fr Pere lived his days to the full and had little time for rest; nonetheless, he carried out all his activity in peaceful recollection and a prayerful spirit. Everyone who came into contact with him was left with the impression that he was a very holy priest who truly cared, sacrificing himself for the spiritual and physical well-being of all, particularly the most desolate.
At the beginning of 1950, Fr Pere noticed that his health was deteriorating; shortly thereafter, he was diagnosed with lymphatic cancer. He accepted his illness and offered it up for the sanctification of priests, resolved to die "as a good priest".
Fr Pere said that it was a "joy to have the possibility to be a priest and to die in a continual act of love and suffering... worthy of the Heavenly Father".
Fr Pere died on 31 August 1950 in the clinic that he founded. He was 45 years old.
“Pere Tarrés i Claret, first a doctor, then a priest, dedicated himself to the lay apostolate among the young people of Catholic Action in Barcelona, whose adviser he subsequently became. As a medical practioner, he devoted himself with special concern to the poorest of the sick, convinced that "the sick person is a symbol of the suffering Christ". Ordained a priest, he devoted himself with generous daring to the tasks of his ministry, ever faithful to the commitment he had made on the eve of his Ordination: "A single resolution, Lord, cost what it may". He accepted with faith and heroic patience a serious illness from which he died at the age of only 45. Despite his suffering, he would frequently repeat: "How good the Lord is to me! And I am truly happy". John Paul II, 5/9/04
Giuseppina Suriano was born on 18 February 1915 in Partinico, an agricultural centre in the Province of Palermo, Sicily, to Giuseppe and Graziella Costantino. She was always known as "Pina" and received the sacrament of Baptism on 6 March 1915.
Pina was particularly sensitive to the religious, loving atmosphere that permeated her home, and was most docile and obedient to her parents. Her calm spirit drew her to the simple things in life, and she perceived God's presence in everything around her.
Pina received her initial religious education from her parents and grandparents, and when she was four she began attending the nursery school directed by the Collegiate Sisters of St Anthony.
In 1921 she went to public school in Partinico and was admired by her teacher for the virtues she demonstrated at such a young age. In 1922 Pina received her First Holy Communion and Confirmation, and the same year she entered the Catholic Action group.
When she was 12, Pina began to take an active part in parish and diocesan life and in Catholic Action. The parish became the "centre" of all of Pina's activities and she cooperated fully with the directives of her parish priest, Fr Antonio Cataldo. He was also her spiritual director and confessor.
From 1939 to 1948 Pina was secretary of Catholic Action, and from 1945 to 1948 she also served as president of Youth Catholic Action. In 1948 she began the Association of the "Daughters of Mary", of which she was president until her death.
Pina's involvement in Catholic Action served as her "spiritual foundation" and was vital to her apostolate. She always drew strength and inspiration from daily prayer and meditation, the sacraments, the Word of God and the teaching of the Church.
Outwardly peaceful and joyful, always ready to be at the service of her family, the parish and Catholic Action, Pina secretly suffered an unceasing interior martyrdom. She felt called to give herself entirely to God in the Religious life, but her desire was never to be fulfilled. Circumstances did not allow it: her mother was opposed to all of Pina's "religious activity", completely ostracizing the girl because she wanted her daughter to marry and settle down.
Pina once confessed: "The main reason why I give in to despair and cannot pull myself out of it is because of my vocation". Pina's vocation was not simply the fruit of her will and desire; she truly felt called to the Religious life and received spiritual direction which led her to understand that this was truly God's will.
Time and time again, Pina sought to embrace this life and understood that Jesus wanted her "all to himself" as "his bride". Her family, however, wanting her to marry, repeated that it was "better to have a dead daughter than one who was a nun".
Pina heroically accepted her failure to reconcile such contradiction, the inability to reach the goal to which she felt so called. She wanted to please God alone and resigned herself to live and accept this "dilemma" for love of her divine Spouse.
Throughout her life, Pina kept a diary that revealed the "night of the soul" in which she was immersed up to her death. She once wrote: "Who can know of this drawn out and painful martyrdom I live and the tears I shed in silence? My soul cries out and is in danger of falling into a bottomless pit... it is a constant martyrdom of the heart". Pina also expressed the solitude that she experienced: "I feel alone and without help, human or divine, abandoned even by the One who is my entire life... I live in silence and do not answer back; I offer all this up to him".
It was clear, however, that Pina understood she was called to love: "Love for the Eucharist, love for the Cross, love for souls must be our ideal".
On 29 April 1932, with the permission of her spiritual director, Pina made a vow of chastity that she renewed every month. She tactfully declined the proposals of marriage that she received from those young men who were so impressed by her interior radiance and exterior beauty.
Finally, in February 1940, a ray of hope entered her soul when she received her parents' permission to enter Religious life. Saying goodbye to her family and companions of Catholic Action, she entered the Institute of the Daughters of St Anne in Palermo. But after only eight days she was forced to leave following a medical examination that revealed a heart problem. Pina continued to be a leader and reference point for Youth Catholic Action and the "Daughters of Mary", making it her aim to accept and transform all into love.
On Easter Tuesday, 30 March 1948, together with three other women, Pina offered herself as a victim for the sanctification of priests. She made this decisive sacrifice of her life in the hands of her parish priest, Fr Andrea Soresi. In early March of that year, the first signs of a violent form of rheumatic arthritis surfaced. Then on 19 May 1950, she suffered a sudden and fatal heart attack as she was preparing to go to Mass.
Giuseppina Suriano died at the age of 35.
“Pina Suriano, a native of Partinico in the Diocese of Monreale [Sicily], loved Jesus with an ardent and faithful love to the point that she wrote in all sincerity: "I do nothing other than live for Jesus". She spoke to Jesus from her bride's heart: "Jesus, make me more and more your own. Jesus, I want to live and die with you and for you".
Since childhood, she had been a member of the female branch of Catholic Action, of which she later became parish director, finding important incentives in the Association for human and cultural growth in an intense atmosphere of fraternal friendship. She gradually developed a simple, steadfast desire to give her young life to God as an offering of love and especially for the sanctification and perseverance of priests”. John Paul II, 5/9/04