To the Salesians of Spain
With profound gratitude to God and fraternal joy we are preparing to celebrate the Beatification, which we have wanted for so long, of the Martyrs from the former Spanish provinces of Betica and Celtica. Their colleagues from the Tarracona province were beatified six years ago. These 63 conferes remind us that faithfulness to God can require a supreme act of love, to give up ones life for ones friend, and assures us that even in this trial God is faithful to those who love him to the end.
Through the signing of the Decree of Martyrdom last year and the Beatification ceremony which we are celebrating on 28 October, the Church recognises these our brothers as martyrs. That is what they are, and that is what we want to celebrate. They were not heroes or victims of either side in the Spanish Civil War; they are witnesses to Jesus Christ and for him alone they gave up their lives even to shedding their own blood.
To die as a martyr is primarily a grace, which God gives to those he loves in a very special way. The granting of this gift, the preferential love of God for each of our brothers, is what we want to, and must, celebrate with gratitude. Without doubt, 28 October will be a great day for the Congregation, for Spain and for Salesians of Spain. In the name of Don Bosco and of all Salesians, I join you in thanking God for the love he has shown us. I congratulate Salesian Spain for this priceless gift it is making to the Congregation and to the entire Salesian Family – the testimony of the greatest possible love which 63 of our brothers have sealed with their lives.
Martyrdom is the proof which guarantees the faithful implementation of the Salesian charism in Spain. I also believe that this official recognition from the Universal Church comes at an important time for Salesian Spain, which has just celebrated the 125th anniversary of the arrival of the Salesians to Utrera and is awaiting the opening of the next General Chapter. These two events prompt us to renew our apostolic passion towards the young. What better demonstration of passion than the offering of ones own life?
The martyrs offer us a model and an encouragement to apostolic generosity at this historic moment. The Beatification of these brothers who were martyred during a sad episode of your history is an invitation to live our commitment as believers and as Salesians with greater integrity. This historic occasion gives us a wonderful opportunity to bear courageous witness to our faith and to our fidelity to God and the young.
The Passion of Christ was, and continues to be, the best news for humanity (its salvation). In the same way, the Beatification of the martyrs is the proclamation of a piece of good news, a word of hope and a source of serene joy. God continues his work of salvation and continues to need people who can make themselves completely available to their brothers and sisters, by offering themselves totally to Him. A world without God is a world without a future. We believe and hope in a new world which is better and more human, and we are fully involved in building that world. The blood of the martyrs is the seed of this future which we are confidently expecting: the end of a world of hate and death, of the absence of God and of human irresponsibility. May the blood of the beatified Salesian martyrs be the seed of new vocations and of a vigorous rebirth of the Salesian charism in your blessed homeland.
God asked our martyred brothers for extreme generosity in making a radical and sudden choice. God and young people expect from us the courage of our clear and persevering choice, and the joy of living in their service. May Mary, the Queen of Martyrs, grant us to honour the memory of our brothers with the daily offering of our lives.
With affection, in Don Bosco,