On November 30th, the Feast of St. Andrew, our class of 12 novices received the habit of our Institute, the black cassock. I will do my best to share some brief reflections on this day of great significance in our life as religious. The cassock is a sign both to us and to the world that we are religious of the Institute of the Incarnate Word. To us, it is a reminder that we must conduct ourselves as worthy sons of our Institute loving more deeply each day God, Our Lady and our Charism. To the world, it is a reminder of eternity, an eschatological sign.
As we prepared to receive our habits, we reflected on another story about cassocks. In 1936, during the Spanish Civil War, 51 Claretian Missionaries were arrested in the town of Barbastro, they were seminary classmates. We know of their heroic witness from writings they left hidden in the hall which was their prison for three weeks. They wrote, “They have found no political cause. They have made not a single trial. Happily we all die for Christ…” The reason for their impending death was clear, two Argentinian seminarians (spared because they were foreign citizens) recounted, “They constantly repeated to us: we do not hate your persons. We hate your profession your black habits, your cassock.”
From the 12th to the 15th of August the brothers were driven to the cemetery in groups of ten and twenty. The shots could be heard by those who remained in the hall. Speaking for all, Faustino Perez, one of the last 17 to die, wrote these final words to their Congregation. “… We all die happy, with no regrets or misgivings. We all die praying God that the blood that falls from our wounds will not be shed in vengeance, but will rather transfuse your veins and spur your growth and expansion throughout the world. Farewell, beloved Congregation. Your sons, the martyrs of Barbastro, greet you from prison and offer you our sufferings and anguish as a holocaust of expiation for our failings and as a witness to our faithful, generous and everlasting love. The martyrs of tomorrow, the 14th, are fully aware that they die on the eve of the Assumption. And what a special awareness it is! We are dying because we wear the cassock, and we are dying precisely on the same day we were invested in it. The martyrs of Barbastro greet you, as do I, the last and least worthy of their number, Faustino Perez, CMF. Long live Christ the King! Long live the Heart of Mary! Long live the Congregation! Farewell beloved Institute. We are going to heaven to pray for you. Farewell, Farewell!”
May the Martyrs of Barbastro pray for us from heaven that we might love our own Institute with their same devotion, that the cassocks we received might become our second skins always identifying us as members of our beloved Institute and, when our final hour comes, may we each be found still in these habits, having persevered to the end. Viva los martires! Viva la Virgen!
Nov. Christian Roa, IVE