You will find below the account of the death of the Martyrs of Daimiel, as recounted by Passionist Father Pablo Garcia, cp. The original article can be found at www.passiochristi.org.
On the night of 21-22 July 1936, the Passionist retreat of Daimiel, Ciudad Real (Spain), was enveloped in a deep calm. The darkness was like a protective blanket that covered the house and the church of Santo Cristo de la Luz. It seemed as if nothing could disturb this silence and peace. It was 11:30 PM. The metallic sound of the door bell suddenly broke the cloistered silence of night. It was an agitated and nervous sound that made the soundly sleeping Brother porter of the community jump in his bed. Who could it be at this hour of the night? What’s going on? What did they want from them?
Good Brother Pablo María was noted for his serenity and peacefulness. Nevertheless, when he heard this loud and insistent sound of the bell at this strange hour, he could not help but be frightened and disconcerted, not knowing what to expect. Should he go to the door? Should he wait a while longer to see what else would happen? If he went, should he go alone, or should he awaken one of the other religious to go with him? He quickly recovered his calm and with great bravery and serenity, he decided to go to the door alone. It is hard to imagine his surprise…and fear when opening the door he was confronted by a group of strongly armed men, half hidden in the darkness. With strong threats and with great insistence they demanded that the Brother immediately evacuate the retreat. They entered the church. In front of the altar the provincial, Fr. Niceforo, was already waiting for them, his gentle and kindly face looked on each of these religious, of whom most were very young.
Already in the sanctuary and on his knees before the altar, the priest said some words to them that did not seem to be his own; rather they seemed to be inspired by the Spirit of God. The few survivors, despite the tragedy of the war, still remember them precisely. Thus they were engraved in their memory and in their heart: “Gethsemane”, he said to them with great emotion, “this is our Gethsemane. Our spirit is deeply distressed as it contemplates the daunting perspective of Calvary, as was that of Jesus, and so too our human nature, in its weakness, trembles, becomes cowardly… But Jesus is with us. I am going to give you He who is the strength of the weak.. Jesus was comforted by an angel; it is Jesus himself who comforts and sustains us… Within a few moments we will be with Christ… Citizens of Calvary, take heart! Let us die with Christ! It is my duty to encourage you and I myself am encouraged by your example”.
Then Fr. Niceforo gave all of them general absolution which he himself received from Fr. Germán, the superior of the community. Then he put on a surplice and stole and gave Holy Communion to each religious. Years later one of the survivors would refer to this Communion as: “What a fervent Communion that was!” After several moments of thanksgiving, Fr. Provincial encouraged all his religious to accept martyrdom, reminding them that now they would prove with their lives that they were followers of Christ Crucified, that they were Passionists!
Outside, shrouded in the darkness of the night, two hundred armed militia were guarding the entrance. Suddenly one of the soldiers shouted out and with a revolver in his hand, moved toward the religious and ordered them with threatening tones, to abandon the monastery and the church. Fr. Niceforo responded simply: “If you want to kill us, do it here in the church.” The soldier had not expected this serene and courageous response. Seemingly confused, he addressed Fr. Niceforo saying: “Who said that we wanted to kill you? We only want you to leave here.” Led away as if they were criminals, the Passionist religious left the church and they entered the darkness and anonymity.
Two by two, guarded by armed men, they walked under the cover of night. As they arrived at the fork in road of Ciudad Real and Bolaños, they stopped to plan their next move. Since it would be impossible for 31 men to move unseen through the front lines, they decided to separate into groups. The superior divided the small amount of money that they had and the groups headed out in different directions. If all went well, they would meet again in Madrid; if not, then in heaven.
Although they were set free, the religious were observed by the “popular front”, that was sending information concerning their movement toward the capital of Spain. At times phrases such as these were used: “The Passionists of Daimiel are going to going to pass through here. Fresh meat! Don’t let them get away…”.
The following day, 23 July 1936, the first martyrs would be shot in the area surrounding the town of Manzanares. Five, among them Fr. Niceforo, died there; another seven would again survive, but three months later and after much suffering due to the wounds inflicted during this shooting, they would also die by a firing squad. All of the others, in various areas and on different dates, would also be shot in Carabanchel Bajo (Madrid), in Carrión de Calatrava (Ciudad Real) and in Urda (Toledo).
All died while pardoning their murders, as did Jesus on the cross. “If anyone takes us to be killed”, Fr. Juan Pedro would say, “we ask that no one hate or despise them because of the evil that they are doing to us.” Eye witnesses also told that Fr. Niceforo, after having been shot and being near death, raised his eyes to heaven, turned his face toward his murderers and smiled at them, which disturbed them to the point that one of them, now more infuriated than ever, shouted: “What, are you still smiling?” And with that he shot him at point blank range, thus ending his life here on earth.
The 26 Passionist religious of the monastery of Santo Cristo de la Luz, Daimiel, who gave their lives in fidelity to Christ and to the Church are: Nicéforo Díez Tejerina, provincial superior, who had previously suffered persecution and exile en México; Germán Pérez Jiménez, superior of the community; Juan Pedro Bengoa Aranguren, who had also suffered persecution for the faith in Mexico; Felipe Valcobado Granado; Ildefonso García Nozal; Pedro Largo Redondo and Justiniano Cuesta Redondo, priests; Pablo María Leoz Portillo, Benito Solana Ruiz, Anacario Benito Lozal y Felipe Ruiz Fraile, Brothers; Eufrasio de Celis Santos, Maurilio Macho Rodríguez, Tomás Cuartero Gascón and his brother José María, José Estalayo García, José Osés Sáinz, Julio Mediavilla Concejero, Félix Ugalde Ururzun, José María Ruiz Martínez, Fulgencio Calvo Sánchez, Honorino Carracedo Ramos, Laurino Proaño Cuesta, Epifanio Sierra Conde, Abilio Ramos Ramos y Zacarías Fernández Crespo, students of Philosophy who, after novitiate, were preparing for priestly ordination.
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