Dignare Me Laudare Te, Virgo Sacrata

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

"Look, Nuns! Shoot Them!" The Carmelite Martyrs of Guadalajara, Spain

Stained glass window of the Carmelite Martyrs of Guadalajara, Spain in the Carmel of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, Valparaiso, Nebraska; cropped from image at St. Mary's Catholic Church, Salem, South Dakota

[The following is compiled from several online sources, especially the Ex Umbris Et Imaginibus blog and Blessed Martyrs of Guadalajara.]

On 24 July 1936, exactly a week after the Spanish Civil War broke out, three women, who had taken up the habit of their countrywoman, Saint Teresa of Avila, were brutally executed by the anti-Catholic Republican faction in the Castilian city of Guadalajara. Their names were Sister Maria Pilar of St. Francis Borgia, age 58; Sister Maria Angeles of St. Joseph, age 31; and Sister Teresa of the Child Jesus and St. John of the Cross, who was only 27 years old when she was martyred with her two friends.

The three had fled from their Discalced Carmelite monastery two days earlier, after the Mother Prioress decided that it was too dangerous for her community to remain inside their cloister. The eighteen sisters of the monastery took off the clothing of their religious vocation, put on the everyday dress of their previous lives, and left the Carmel as inconspicuously as they could, in order to find shelter with sympathizers in the city. Sisters Maria Pilar, Maria Angeles, and Teresa, along with two other sisters, ended up hiding in the basement of the Hibernia Hotel. However, this place proved to be no safe haven, and the five daughters of Saint Teresa ended up leaving to find a new shelter. While two made it safely to a boarding house, the remaining three were left walking through the streets. A woman member of the Republican militia noticed them, possibly due to the fact that the Carmelites kept their hair short inside the cloister, and shouted, "Look, nuns! Shoot them!"

Sister Maria Angeles, who had been labeled a "little angel" by the Mother Prioress due to her sanctity, was killed almost instantly by the resulting gunfire. She was shot through the heart. Sister Maria Pilar was also hit by Republican bullets, but lived long enough to shout "Viva Cristo Rey!" ("Long Live Christ the King!"), the same slogan adopted by the Cristeros nearly ten years earlier in Mexico. The militia members, many of whom were communists, took their vengeance upon her for this exclamation by shooting at her again and slashing her body with a knife. Before she died, Sister Maria Pilar, who loved to spend hours in front of her Lord in the Blessed Sacrament, echoed some of the final words of her Master on the Cross: "My God, pardon them. They don't know what they're doing."

The youngest of the three Carmelites, Sister Teresa, managed to escape the initial gunfire. But she got lost in the resulting confusion, and was ultimately taken captive by the militia members. They took her to a cemetery inside the city, with the possible intent of raping her. Along the way, the youthful Discalced Carmelite admonished her captors, who were insisting that she sing the praises of communism. But she took up Sister Maria Pilar's cry as her answer to their demands: "Viva Cristo Rey!" Just before they executed her by shooting her in the back, Sister Teresa raised her arms and mirrored her crucified Savior, just as Blessed Miguel Pro had nearly nine years earlier before a similar firing squad in Mexico City.

Sisters Maria Pilar, Maria Angeles, and Teresa were beatified by Pope John Paul II on 29 March 1987. Their feast day is 24 July, the anniversary of their birthday into Heaven. Blessed Martyrs of Guadalajara, pray for us!