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Father Josep Samsó was martyred in 1936



Beatification of a former Marist student

21/01/2010: General House

The Catalan priest Josep Samsó i Elias, martyred in 1936, will be beatified on 23 January 2010 in the basilica of Santa María, in the town of Mataró, of which he was parish priest. This will be the first celebration of a beatification held in the archdiocese of Barcelona, following the new regulations of Benedict XVI requiring that beatifications be celebrated in the local churches where the beatified persons lived.

Josep Samsó i Elias was born in Castellbisbal on 17 January 1887, the older of two brothers. After the death of his father, a chemist by profession, the family moved to Rubí (Barcelona), where his aunt Joaquina was living. In Rubí, his sister, Montserrat, was educated in the Colegio de las Teresianas, while Josep attended the Marist Brothers’ School.

As a consequence of the good education he received, Josep entered the Seminary of Barcelona, where he observed “exemplary conduct and a great dedication to study”. For this reason, his superiors asked him to do graduate studies in Theology at the Pontifical University of Tarragona.

He was ordained priest on 12 March 1910, and worked in various parishes, the last being Santa María de Mataró.

He was a model of a priest committed totally to parish ministry. He was outstanding in the ministry of charity and catechesis. His best known work in this area is the Guía para catequistas (Catechist’s Guide) prepared in March 1936, but not published until 1940. The Bishop of Barcelona, Manuel Irurita, manifested on several occasions that Doctor Samsó was “the first catechist of the diocese. And the Bishop of Segovia, Daniel Llorente, himself an expert in catechetics, declared that Doctor Samsó has in his parish of Santa María de Mataró the best organized catechism in all of Spain. At the same time, he guided many to priesthood or religious life through his spiritual direction, established punctuality in the timetable for Masses, strove for perfection in the liturgical services to attain the maximum splendor of worship, and worked intensely on the interior decoration of the church of Santa María, which in 1928 was honoured with the title of Minor Basilica.

Pardon for his executioners

In 1936 he was imprisoned for being a priest. In the prison, he followed a strict timetable which allowed him to read his breviary, make his meditation, and organize shifts for the recitation of the rosary so that the guards would not notice. He also heard the confessions of some of the prisoners, made himself the catechist and apostle of all, showing himself always agreeable and encouraging, sharing with the others the things his visitors brought him. His captivity ended with his execution in the cemetery of Mataró on 1 September 1936.

Samsó offered up his life to Christ with serenity and died pardoning his executioners. He left his prison companions with his usual “God above all and, with hands bound, was taken to the cemetery. After mounting the steps, he asked to be untied and sought to embrace those who were going to kill him. He told them that he forgave them as Jesus had done those who nailed him to the cross. When they tried to blindfold him, he asked them not to, seeing that he wished to die looking at the town which held such happy memories for him.

His beatification “is above all a spiritual event and all are called to celebrate it as thanksgiving to God and as an invitation to imítate his virtues today, the apostolate and witness of faith –carried as far as martyrdom- which this saintly priest has left us”.

This is what the bishops of the ecclesiastical province of Barcelona spelt out in a letter published to explain his beatification.

With the ecclesiastical authorities attending the ceremony, Brother Xavier Barceló, Provincial of the Marist Province of l’Hermitage will be present, together with Brothers and friends from Rubí as well as Mataró. The Marist educational works of Rubí are full of joy in knowing that one of their former students, who spent some time in their classrooms, gave testimony to his faith as a martyr. In addition, the Marists of Mataró, one of the first colleges founded in Spain after the arrival of the first Brothers in this country, feel very close to the parish of Santa María, praising the Lord for the gift of sanctity God has given the town through the life and witness of Fr. Josep.

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