Great minds think alike! As I was pondering the Spanish martyrs to see who I would blog on next one of those I was considering was Blessed Maria Teresa Ferragud and her four daughters. Lo and behold as I catch up on the comments I see an anonymous commenter has the same idea.
For those that doubt that Scripture has a relevance for us today, then Blessed Maria Teresa stands as an example that it does, because in this eighty-three year old woman we see the mother of the Maccabees all over again. Blessed Maria Teresa was martyred with her four daughters in Cruz Abierto on the 25th October 1936.
Maria Teresa was born on the 14th January 1853 in Algemesi, south of Valencia. A pious young woman, she married a man with a similar disposition towards faith, Vicente Silverio Masia, and had nine children. The faith of the parents inspired their children, and of the nine six entered religious life: four daughters became nuns - three Poor Clares and a Discalced Augustinian, and two sons became priests, on a missionary priest in Latin America.
A daily Mass goer, Maria Teresa nurtured a deep devotion to the Blessed Eucharist and the Sacred Heart, as well as profound relationship with Our Lady. Having a zealous heart she sought to serve Christ not only in raising her family, but also in various apostolates in the Church. A member of Catholic Action, she was also a member of the Society of St Vincent de Paul, serving as President in her local conference.
When the persecution broke out, Maria Teresa hid her four daughters in the family home. There they continued their religious life as best as they could. However, they could not hide for long: locals knew them and among them there was supporters of the Republican militia's pogrom of priests and religious. On the 19th October 1936 the militia arrived at the Farragud home and arrested the four sisters: distraught, Maria Teresa ran after them, insisting that she be taken with them. Given her reputation as a devout Catholic, the militia obliged.
In their prison cell in a former Cistercian monastery, Maria Teresa encouraged her daughters, preparing them for martyrdom. She urged them to remain faithful to Christ and their vocations. As her daughters, Maria Teresa need not have worried, the four woman were as devout and determined as their mother: though some of the militia promised them their lives if they married them, the nuns refused to consider the "proposals". On the 25th October 1936, at ten o'clock at night, the five were brought out to be shot. Maria Teresa had one last request: that she be shot last so as to encourage her daughters: her requested was granted.
As each of her daughters went to their death, Maria Teresa was a rock of support: "My daughters, be faithful to your celestial husband and do not believe the flatteries of these men. My daughters, do not be afraid. Death is only a question of time." Her daughters bravely embrace their martyrdom: Sr Maria Jesus, Sr Maria Veronica and Sr Maria Felicidad, Poor Clare nuns, and Sr Josefa de la Purificacion, Discalced Augustinian nun.
When the daughters were dead, the militia men turned to Maria Teresa: "Old woman", one said to her, "are you not afraid to die?" She responded: "All my life I wanted to do something for Jesus, and now I'm going to left behind? Kill me for the same reason you killed my daughters. I am a Christian." She was shot and died instantly. One of the militia remarked, "This is a true saint".
Maria Teresa and her daughters were beatified together among the Martyrs of Valencia by Blessed Pope John Paul II in 2001. During the Beatification, Blessed Maria Teresa was referred to specifically by the Pope in his homily.
In other news: I see there is a new book out which examines whether the founder of Islam actually existed. Did Muhammad Exist? An Inquiry into Islam's Obscure Origins by Robert Spencer is sure to raise a few objections. No harm asking the question, and it seems Spencer's work is well researched and argued. In Christianity we are well used to Jesus' existence being called into question, I'm not sure how Muslims will react.