Wednesday, May 23, 2012

A Beautiful Soul

Blessed Maria Jorda Botella

When it comes to martyrdom, the Republicans of Spain did not discern between men and women.  While the vast majority of those who were killed were men - mostly priests and brothers and many laymen, a few hundred sisters and nuns also died, as well as a large number of lay women.  Most of these women were involved in Church organisations, notably Catholic Action, or were known locally for their deep faith and consistent religious practice.  Yesterday I looked at the life of Blessed Maria Teresa Ferragud, today I would to present another extraordinary lay woman martyred for her Catholic faith. 

Blessed Maria Jorda Botello, one of the martyrs of Valencia, was only thirty-one when she died, but her short life left an impression on all who knew her.  Born in Alcoi, Alicante, on the 26th January 1905, she was baptised Maria Pilar two days later.  As was the custom she was confirmed on the 20th October of the same year while still a baby, and received her First Holy Communion on the 21st April 1912.  She grew up as a normal, though pious child.   She was good at school, and received a good general education.  A member of the Children of Mary, she learned the virtues of purity, humility, charity and obedience: she also fostered a growing zeal in her heart.  She was constantly reading the lives of the saints, and loved the stories of the martyrs in particular - it seems God was preparing her for her heroic destiny. 

As a young woman she was involved in various associations in her parish, notably the Society of St Vincent de Paul and Catholic Action, dedicating herself to the service of the poor and promoting the Catholic faith, catechising the young and leading others to faith not only by what she taught, but by the way she lived. 

Maria was not only pious, she was joyful: all who knew her were impressed by her serenity and cheerfulness. She had a wonderful sense of optimism - nothing could get her down -her faith in God was so strong that nothing could shake her trust.  She was also a very beautiful young woman, she was still unmarried when she was martyred and did not have a fiance: she may have made a decision to remain single - we do not have much information on this.   

When the persecution broke out, Maria's name was already on the list of Catholic agitators - her obvious holiness and success in proclaiming the Gospel was evidence enough for her condemnation.  Realising the danger she moved to Madrid to stay with her brother, but she was found by Republicans, arrested and brought back to Alcoi where she was imprisoned in a former college.   She was then taken to a prison in Benifallim. 

While in prison her beauty attracted some of the militia, and a number of them tried to seduce and rape her.  Maria fought them off, but as she preserved her chastity, she lost her life as she was beaten to death in the struggle.  She died a martyr for her faith and for her purity on the 26th September 1936.  Her body was buried in Benifallim, but after the war exhumed and brought back to her hometown for burial.  In 1957 her remains were again exhumed and translated to the parish church where she had been baptised, confirmed, received her First Communion, and where she had attended Mass every day.  Today her tomb is a place of pilgrimage where the people of her parish and beyond come to honour their Beata who remained true to Christ. 

She was beatified by Blessed Pope John Paul in 2001.  She is officially designated "Virgin and Martyr".

1 comment:

  1. Thank you, Father, for telling us about these martyrs and saints. We need such example and inspiration, which is especially lacking in the Church in Ireland. Let us all try to be on the list of "Catholic agitators" that the persecutors are compiling as they systematically attempt to destroy faith and morality. The opportunities for a lesser "martyrdom" are many as religious freedom and freedom of conscience is being denied us, Catholic education being destroyed; sexual immorality, contraception, abortion, IVF and eugenics being foisted upon us, especially our children; and marriage and the family, motherhood and fatherhood, constantly denied, undermined and interfered with.