Dear Religious Family:
By God’s grace we have lived through some unique moments, worthy of being recounted, remembered and celebrated by all.
We had been preparing for this day for many months, almost a year. In late 2012 it was rumored that our beloved monks, martyrs of Pueyo, would be beatified in 2013; yet it was not sure, the verdict of the commission of cardinals and the decree of the Holy Father were yet to be given. We prayed and asked for prayers from all, that it would be soon; we were convinced of the great good that this meant … but we never imagined what it would be to live through these moments.
In early 2013 the cardinals approved the process. And finally Pope Francis signed the decree of beatification on June 3. Everything was in order, and we waited with increasing eagerness. We assumed the responsibility of representing the diocese in the preparations for the beatification, which would in Tarragona.
Fr. Buela visited us in December 2012; we asked for his help to prepare for this great event. From that meeting, there came out several ideas, many of which have been happily implemented with much fruits, thanks be to God.
Well, enough of introductions, which have been long … and so I will get to the point.
On Saturday, last Oct. 26, 2013, we had a large and heart-warming procession. We had been waiting for 18 woodcarvings of the blessed martyrs, but they did not arrive on time. Quickly we had to think of a plan B. We printed their photos, framed them and, as usual in a rush, we prepared 18 banners in place of the images. Something had to be done! We had widely publicized the procession with the images, and had even invited the people and guilds who come on pilgrimage every May, for them to carry the images to the shrine. Also in those days we had come up with the idea of carrying in procession (from the foot of Mount Pueyo) the 3 crystal urns with the bones of the martyrs, which would be placed in the new altar on the following day.
It was an eloquent sign. On the afternoon of July 22, 1936, the monks were taken by the militants (of the communist and revolutionary faction) from Pueyo, towards the foot of the mountain, to a country mansion that was called “el mesón or mesonet “, where they spent their first night in prison on the hard floor and with the stars for their roof (this imprisonment would last more than a month, until the final holocaust on August 28).
God does justice, and this solemn procession, to the sound of drums, trumpets and Ave Marias, was the return of the martyrs to their beloved monastery, which they had so loved, with their prayer, work and faithful service to God.
They had been taken away disgracefully, with weapons and threats, objects of hate that Satan unleashed against them. Now they returned gloriously, blessed and honored by God and men, for having been humiliated and yet persevered faithfully in the trail. We had the grace to be part of the procession.
On arrival at the Shrine, the images of the martyrs were blessed, and while reading a brief account of the life of each, the images were enthroned in the sanctuary, in the places where, God willing, we will place the woodcarvings.
Once all the images were within the church, the Blessed Sacrament was exposed, and we sang Solemn Vespers and the Litany of the Blessed Martyrs of Pueyo, composed by Fr. Juan M. Rossi. The liturgy ended with the blessing and the traditional greeting to Our Lady of Pueyo; and afterwards, we celebrated with a small reception.
Later in the evening, after dinner with the religious who accompanied us (we were about 40), we sang the matins in front of the urn with the remains, as specified in the Ritual. It was a vigil and preparation for the transfer of the relics and dedication of the new altar .
On Sunday at 11am we had the Solemn Mass in honor of our blessed martyrs. More than 50 families of the martyrs, many people from Barbastro and the nearby villages filled the church.
The Mass was presided by Cardinal Antonio Cañizares, Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, who was invited by our bishop for the occasion.
We were accompanied by our choir from Italy, comprised of 9 seminarians and 10 sisters. Together with 3 musicians from the area (organ, violin and trumpet), they interpreted the Missa Brevis of the Blessed Martyrs of Pueyo, recently composed by Fr. Jon Arza, IVE.
It was a ceremony laden with signs, analogous to a priestly ordination. After the sermon and the singing of the Creed, the crystal urns with the bones of the martyrs were placed inside the altar. The urns had been brought to the altar during the entrance procession, led by two monks from Leyre (who promoted and almost led the cause for the beatification), followed by two families of martyrs, and lastly by two of our priests. It was definitely one of the most emotional moments.
There followed the prayer that God would deign to consecrate the new altar (in the opening rites the altar had already been sprinkled with holy water) and the Litany of the Saints was sung. Then Cardinal poured the Holy Chrism on the altar, anointing it entirely with his hands; the altar, supported by 12 stones obtained from the area, is itself a single block of red stone, a quartzite (which is harder than granite) weighing one ton, and was brought from Brazil; on the surface it has 5 carved crosses, symbols of the 5 wounds of Christ, whom the altar represents. Then incense was placed on the altar, so that the Church would be full of the sweet fragrance of Christ. Finally it was wiped, covered with a white altar cloth and was illumined by the candles around, which were lighted by the cardinal.
Once the altar was consecrated, the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass was celebrated on it for the first time. It was a day of glory. We remembered the words of St. Ambrose, contained in the acts of the dedication: “The triumphal victims come to the place where the victim offered is Christ, but He is on the altar, since he suffered for all, and they are beneath the altar because they have been redeemed by his passion “(Letter 22.13).
Before the final blessing, Fr. Carlos Walker spoke and thanked God who has brought us to this “immense reliquary of martyrs” which is Pueyo. Bishop D. Alfonso thanked God for the beatification and Our Lady who has brought our monks. The Abbot of Leyre, summarized the history of the cause of beatification and announced that the work for the canonization remains in the hands of IVE.
Lunch was attended by the Cardinal, the Bishop, Fr. Abad of Leyre, etc. During the fogon, there was the starring role of Fr. Benigno Benabarre, OSB, aged 98 years “and a half” (as he always adds), who was for six years companion of the martyrs here in Pueyo (1928 to ’34, when he passed to second year philosophy and was moved to another monastery). He recounted some anecdotes and especially addressed the families of the martyrs, urging them to value and preserve the faith received and witnessed to by the martyrs even to death.
We wholeheartedly thank God for His great goodness and that in His providence, He allowed us to live this occasion as a religious family. We also thank all those who helped us materially or spiritually in order to carry out all the ceremonies with much fruit. We continue to entrust ourselves to the prayers of all, so that we would be faithful to the legacy of the martyrs.
Fr. Emmanuel Ansaldi, IVE
“Our Lady of Pueyo” Monastery, Spain