Today is the memorial of our Passionist martyrs of Daimiel; they were martyred during the religious persecution in Spain just a mere 74 years ago. I read an article recently which purported that people who lived in Europe during the communist era in the 20th century did not really suffer. Let us not forget this history or we are doomed to repeat it.
Rev. Niceforo of Jesus and Mary, the provincial superior of the Passionists of Daimiel, was martyred, along with most of his community, in 1936 during the Red Terror of the Spanish Civil War.
On the night of July 21st, 1936 revolutionaries stormed the Passionist Monastery, which is about 92 miles south of Madrid. Father Niceforo assembled the Passionist community in the choir.
“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. One of the survivors could not forget that moment and said years later: “What a fervent Communion that was!”
The man who murdered Fr. Niceforo was haunted by the smile that was on Father’s face when he shot him and also by his words of forgiveness. This man later became the caretaker of the Shrine of the Martyrs of Damiel!
Although the militiamen released the priests and brothers that night, they followed their movements and communicated them to other armed Popular Front revolutionaries, who captured and killed 26 Passionists in smaller groups over the next three months. Father Niceforo was one of the first to die, on July 23rd. The Martyrs of Daimiel were beatified in 1989.