Blessed Martyrs of Guadalajara
Among the first of the valiant witnesses to be martyred for their faith in Christ during the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939) were three Carmelite nuns, popularly known as the Guadalajara Martyrs. Blessed Maria Pilar of Saint Francis Borgia, aged 58, Blessed Teresa of the Child Jesus, aged 27, and Sister Maria Angeles, aged 31, were prepared for their heroic deed by the life of prayer and penance they had led in the Carmelite monastery of Guadalajara. All three martyrs showed a great love for God, were careful and joyful in observing even the smallest details of their religious rule, and accepted with a loving spirit any sacrifices they had to make.
All three nuns felt called to Carmel at a young age. The oldest of the martyrs, Blessed Maria Pilar, entered the Guadalajara Carmel at the age of twenty. She became known in Carmel for her love of silence and of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament, Whom she would call “the Living One”, because she felt His living Presence so strongly.
Sister Teresa of the Child Jesus felt called at the age of thirteen, and entered the Carmel of Guadalajara when she was only sixteen, in spite of obstacles in her way. In Carmel, she worked hard to master her determined and impulsive nature through mortifying her will in such things as food, eating vegetables, which she disliked. Her many acts of charity and her remarkable generosity also helped in her pursuit of holiness. She took as her motto “Charity above all”, and after her hard work she would say that she was happy to be tired. She loved to spend time before the Blessed Sacrament, and would say that she was “sunbathing” because of the divine rays she received.
Sister Maria Angeles, although she felt called to be a Carmelite almost her whole life, had to wait until she was twenty-four years old to enter the Guadalajara Carmel. She spent only seven years there before she was martyred, and during that time she showed such holiness that her Prioress afterwards described her as “a little angel”. She had an intense missionary spirit, and was forgetful of herself, seeking rather to help others.
When the Spanish Civil War broke out, all of the nuns in the Guadalajara Carmel were ready and willing to die for their faith. Sister Maria Angeles expressed a very deep desire to suffer and die for Christ, as did Sister Teresa. Sister Maria Pilar, just a day or two before her martyrdom, asked Our Lord that if He should desire a victim, He should allow her to be the one to be martyred, and spare the rest of her community.
On July 22, 1936, the anti-religious havoc that the war was causing in Guadalajara reached the point where the Carmelites had to put on modest secular clothes and leave their convent to hide with their friends in the city. On July 24, as Sister Maria Pilar, Sister Teresa, and Sister Maria Angeles were searching for a safer hideout, they were discovered by the militia and gunned down. Sister Maria Angeles was the first to die, and had no time to speak before she fell. Sister Maria Pilar was badly wounded, and suffered for a while before her death, saying during that time, “Forgive them, Lord, for they do not know what they are doing.” Sister Teresa was the last to die, and she did so crying out, “Long live Christ the King!” She had wanted to die with these words on her lips. Thus the three Carmelite nuns crowned the life of virtue they had led in Carmel with the ultimate act of faith, hope and love, by offering their lives for their Lord and their loved ones, reaching for life eternal in Heaven, and forgiving those who killed them.
The feast day of the Blessed Martyrs of Guadalajara is celebrated by the Carmelite Order on July 24.