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The courage of the faith



Book on the Marist martyrs

11/10/2013: Spain

Today, 11 October, eve of the beatification of 66 brothers and 2 lay Marists, Br Lluís Serra presents at Les Avellanes his book « The courage of the faith », a work recalling the difficult times the communities of the Marist Brothers knew during the years of the Spanish civil war. The tragic destiny of the 66 brothers and 2 laymen committed to the Christian faith is among the events described there.

The chapters of the book, organised by communities, emphasize the importance each group of brothers gave to the community dimension of the Gospel, lived in the day-to-day tasks, but also recount the particular circumstances in which each suffered martyrdom.

In the author’s words, the book is intended to be an invitation « to silence, meditation and prayer. »


Lluís Serra Llansana – El Coraje de la Fe – Comunidades maristas em tempos convulsos (1936-1939)
Edelvives, Zaragoza, Spain
149 pages

Download PDF: English | Español | Français | Português | Catalan
Download file EXE : English | Español | Français | Português | Catalan


We reproduce an interview which Lluís Serra, author of the book, granted the Spanish Marist Conference.

I suppose that, on hearing the names of places like Les Avellanes, Ribadesella, Cabezón de la Sal, Barruelo de Santullán or Arceniega... many persons would only be able to locate them on a map with the help of  Google Maps, but as for you, they have surely a more precise situation after having written this book... Do the names of these places resonate differently now?
To contemplate a rose generates an aesthetic experience. If you are offered one, an unforgettable emotional bond is added to the beauty. Thus, the scenes of the life and death of the brother martyrs, heroes of this book, take on a new dimension for me. The places preserve their memory which endures over the years. Where the victims – such as they are – have left traces of pain, suffering, and especially faith to the very end, a space has opened which becomes sacred ground. Silence,  respect and listening allow me to penetrate to the heart of the story.

You have grouped the chapters by communities, underlining the importance this represents for a Marist brother to live in this way... Which of the chapters offered most difficulty in confronting such tragic facts?
The objective difficulties can arise for various reasons : the complexity of the scenario, as in the case of Madrid which had several communities from two distinct Marist Provinces, or as in the case of Valencia with various educational works; certain contradictions in the sources which oblige a more detailed study of the facts, etc. There are also subjective difficulties which come from my emotional involvement with barbarism or flagrant injustices.

What episode most strained your sensibility in having to describe the situations the brothers had to suffer?
I have to emphasize Brother José de Arimatea, who belonged to the community of Ribadesella (Cantabria) and who, with a group, was thrown alive and bound into one of the shafts more than two hundred metres deep which are found in the mountains of Sama de Langreo. In the majority of cases, a salvo put an end to life ; but in this case, the agony must have been terrible. The medical-legal report gives one the shivers.

The case of Brother Jean-Marie, because of his French nationality, draws attention, he having refused the intervention of the consul to save him… His community commitment pushed him beyond any possibility of escaping by himself… It this not perhaps one of the most significant traits of the brothers who suffered martyrdom?
In the book, the chapters are presented by community, because that is the most natural way to live life as  Marist Brothers. Our charism incarnates itself around brotherhood in view of the educational and pastoral  mission to children and youth, particularly the most needy. In this sense, it must be situated in the present moment. Br Jean-Marie is the oldest of the Toledo community. He is 63 and 4 months. Of the eleven brother martyrs, five are younger than 25. The other five are from 36 to 43 years old. There are then 20 years at least between him and the next. How could Br Jean-Marie save himself leaving the others in prison and with the likelihood of certain death ? Perhaps he realized that personal privilege destroys fraternity. No one could reproach him for accepting the proposal of the French consul, as the brothers of his community offered it to him, but the power of God makes one do anything. His reply to the consul’s request admits of no half-measure : « Never ! I have lived with them, I wish to die with them. » This decision clashes head-on with the individualistic mentality prevalent everywhere. He lived in depth the essence of fraternity. A magnificent  example !

Today, we no longer live this confrontation between clericalism/anticlericalism, but we still need to continue to be ready to offer witness of our faith… What situations of « martyrdom » do the brothers live today, which pass unnoticed by the great majority?
I do not have this perception. I believe that the difficulties of that period are present, although their  forms may be refined or circulate in an insidious way in certain cases. It concerns the polarisation of left/right, the  clericalism/anticlericalism confrontation, and the territorial theme. It is fitting to recall that the word  « martyr », which means « witness », has, in Greek, a character of everyday use. We have the habit of reserving it for exceptional situations. Martyrdom has a gradual signification. Today, as ever, being witnesses of Christ and his Gospel is not an easy task. We live immersed in neoliberal and capitalist societies which adore money. Our duty : to be witnesses of God in the face of money, to promote co-existence and solidarity in the face of hatred and discrimination, to opt for people in the face of the interests of abusive élites, to live in community in the face of egocentric individualism. Tasks normally discreet, but human and Christianly vital.

Education is the great heritage the Marist Brothers have to transmit to the new generations, but do you believe that the current educational system is capable of guaranteeing that history does not repeat itself?
I believe that it is not. Teachers, as a general rule, merit all my respect, but not the current educational system, submissive to the interests of the dominant political parties. The left/right polarisation prevents a model of consensus. While the Spanish Constitution is formal, educational laws change too often and  disorient teachers, parents and pupils. The Wert Law, the LOMCE, has not yet come into force and there is already agreement in the opposition to reject it, if there is a political alternative. Imposition opposed to  consensus. There is no pluralism in the face of the differences, the value of linguistic diversity. I do not know if history is going to repeat itself, but it is difficult to believe in a future where there will be no sharing,  dialogue, competence, no vision of the future. Without an educational pact, there is no future. The horizon limited by the laws, by the way they are thought out and promulgated, prevents us from seeing the light of the stars. A sad panorama.


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