Lest you think that in my recent reflections on the martyrs of the Spanish Civil War, I am engaging in a Carmelfest, today I will look at the first martyrs who have been canonised. So far hundreds have been beatified - bishops, priests, religious and laity, but to date only eleven martyrs have been canonised: nine De La Salle brothers, a Passionist Priest and St Pedro Poveda, the renowned educationalist and founder of the Teresian Association (yes, another Carmelite connection, though St Pedro was a diocesan priest).
Today we might look at the first to be canonised: the eight De La Brothers of Turon and St Inocencio Canoura Arnau, a Passionist priest. These martyrs are among the first to be killed, dying on 9th October 1934, before the real rage began. Although they were martyred before the Civil War broke out, their deaths were part of the same persecution which began not in 1936, but in 1931.
Turon is in the north of Spain, in Asturias. It was a coal mining town, and anti-Catholic feeling was rising as socialists and communists fought for the hearts of miners. A ban on teaching religion had been imposed, but it was well known that the De La Salle brothers ignored the ban and remained an important religious influence on the people, particularly the young. The brothers, led by their Superior, Br Cirilo, encouraged the young to take their faith seriously, and had great success in promoting sacramental observance among them. The brothers openly escorted their students to Mass on Sunday, much to the chagrin of the authorities.
The community was known for its piety. The brothers were dedicated to their vocations and to the children they served. Br Cilio Bertran was the Superior, and he governed with a wise and generous heart. Most of the members of the community were in their twenties, so the lives of the older members had inspired a number of vocations to the Lasalian way of life.
In the first days of October 1934, a general strike was called, and the miners of Asturias took up arms. They formed a virtual army, and began to occupy various towns in the province. On Friday 5th October, they arrived in Turon. Given their anti-clerical nature, they headed for the De La Salle school. As it was the First Friday, the brothers had a priest staying with them to hear confessions and offer Mass for them and their students. Fr Inocenio was a Passionist from the nearby community at Mieres.
Born on the 10th March 1887 in Galicia, Manuel as he was, joined the Passionists when he was 14, and was given the name Br Incocenio of Mary Immaculate upon entering novitiate. He was ordained a priest in 1920 and had spent his life preaching missions and teaching.
The miners arrived at the house at dawn, and storming it arrested the eight brothers and Fr Inocencio. They were taken to what was called the "House of the People". While there they were imprisoner there, they were condemned to death by a revolutionary "court". At dawn on the 9th October the nine were led out and shot, their bodies thrown into a common grave.