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9 December

Saint Juan Diego
1879, death of Br. Louis-Marie, second Superior General of the Marist Brothers

Marist Calendar - December

Echoes and reflections



Bugobe, 10 years

20/11/2006: General House

On the 31st October we celebrated the tenth anniversary of the violent death of our four brothers of Bugobe: Servando, Miguel Ángel, Fernando and Julio. In many Provinces and communities, this was an intense time of prayer mixed with emotion and admiration, sentiments felt before these great models, people totally honest with their faith.

But here is a brief summary of initiatives taken on this occasion in the Congregation.
1-Many of us followed the daily texts that appeared on the webpage throughout the month of October, texts that led us to the tenth anniversary.
2-A celebration, sent to all the Provinces, helped many communities to experience a time of prayer centred on the example that they had left us.
3-But in the Marist world, there were many initiatives that made our four brothers present: Masses that brought together many students, parents and friends; song, poetry and drama competitions; catechesis and power-points, that made us reflect on the meaning of generosity and of faith.
4-The Province of Mediterránea had prepared some prayers and reflections for each day of the month of October for the students of primary and secondary classes and on the 28th October a large meeting including reflection, round table discussions and the Eucharist, took place in Seville. Hundreds of people participated in this: brothers, catechists and teachers.
5-The Brother Provincial of the Province of Ibérica was very direct: “Brother Julio was of our Province. Every year on this date we have liturgical celebrations in our educational centres, in organisations of solidarity and weeks of solidarity… It is a date that is very dear to us in strengthening the missionary vocation in the Marist Family of our Province…”
6-In the Province of Santa María de los Andes, in Chile, the catechetical ministry for the entire year was centred on the example and the texts of Brother Fernando de la Fuente, ending in a competition of songs, painting, poetry and mini Olympic Games.
7-In the Province of Cruz del Sur, the schools took similar initiatives, more centred on Brother Miguel Ángel Isla; in this Province a very beautiful small volume was published on the four brothers: Amaron hasta el final.
8-Marist Spain lived this anniversary with a particular sensibility: articles appeared in some newspapers and a very beautiful poem, Cristo de mis rezos, was composed on the broken Crucifix of the brothers’ chapel at Bugobe, without mentioning Masses and prayers in the schools.

The initiatives listed here are those we have heard about here in Rome. There are certainly many more. But these can allow for some reflection.

1-The reputation of holiness is exactly this reality that emerges spontaneously and in many ways, which is expressed in sentiments of emotion, of admiration, of pride, or in prayers, reflections, thanksgiving to God and prayers of intercession. The reputation of holiness attracts the attention of a great number of faithful and creates in them the desire to praise God and to serve him with the audacity of the servants who inspire them. It is what we find when we become attentive to the place that these four brothers of Bugobe have in their hearts, in their prayers and in a generosity that is inspired by their own. However, the reputation of holiness is one of the first things that the Church demands when one wants to open a cause: what impact do the servants of God have on the people of God? What advantages can the people of God gain if these servants are proposed as models? And what spontaneity and intensity does this reputation have?
But the reputation of God is also a sign of God by which he tells us: “You receive there an exceptionally rich gift, you receive models of a Christian life, who are for all the people of God and for whom you are responsible.”

2-Their murder, their martyrdom, surprised us; this was something unforeseen and sudden. But on reflecting upon it this is not true in part. That means that our four brothers did not seek martyrdom and that it fell on them against their will. But all of the four brothers travelled a long path on the way to their great generosity which led them to the refugee camps of Nyamirangwe. When we reread their notes, we discover brothers who were already largely open to the will of God, brothers who were daily friends of the Lord; they did not improvise their holiness when they were with the refugees, even though they felt strongly called to a total love in living with them. We possess a text of Brother Miguel Ángel Isla, The Experience of God, of a dazzling and profound mysticism; it dates from 1977. Many of Brother Julio’s notes, which speak of his attention to God, are found in notebooks that he wrote in 1984… Nobody is a martyr by accident. Martyrdom is a vocation which is prepared by a long generosity, it is a logical result not a surprise. The heart of a martyr is ready well before the body is sacrificed. Martyrdom is the conclusion of a life that had the habit of self-giving.

3-Are they martyrs? In what sense?
We want to say yes, conscious that the Church does not content herself with emotions but wants an ensemble of proofs which demonstrate martyrdom. However, even though we are only at the first stages and without a cause having been opened, here are a few reasons that make us inclined to say yes.

1-The gift of life.
As the Lord, they gave their life before one could take it from them. As for the Lord, those to whom they had given their life, took it from them in a violent way. And life was given in its totality, without reserve, and the gift came in various forms in unlimited love and service, aware that in the violence and existing misery of the camps, their life was in danger.

And their life was given in a very inhuman context, a true kenosis, as for the Lord who is a witness to extreme love. They left beautiful schools or tranquil missions to come to these camps of Nyamirangwe where misery, suffering, violence, privations, injustice and constant insecurity dominated. They responded to the hunger of humanity, of presence, of love, of respect, of culture, of fraternity… They heard the cry of the misfortunate and they were in solidarity in the sharing of everything that the refugees experienced. It is the martyrdom of charity.

3-One same passion.
But, the crucifix that they had in their chapel was also massacred: arms and legs broken. The hatred of all those who kill martyrs, a satanic hatred was practised against him, the innocent God. Our four brothers died from the hatred one had for the Lord, they shared the same passion: they mutilated him, threw him to the ground, their bodies killed, thrown in a cesspool. If we consider the totality of what happened, Christ was tortured and killed at the same time as the brothers. It is the classic martyrdom.

Brother Benito, Superior General, who knew the very strong love they had for the refugees, ‘their true family’ as they often wrote to those of their natural family, never questioned the forgiveness of the murderers, and he, as Superior of all the brothers, forgave them and prayed for them. Brother Albert Nzabonaliba, Rwandan and who had preceded them in these camps as the leader of the brothers’ community, never questioned their forgiveness, for he said “their heart beat so much in union with that of Christ…” Forgiveness is an element of martyrdom; the martyr is a man of reconciliation, in his death he remakes the unity of humanity. Through forgiveness, he proclaims that those who kill him remain his brother. In every martyr, the epiphany of the Cross is renewed: Christ is again put to death, he forgives them as on the Cross, he becomes the Saviour, the one who demolishes the wall of hatred.

Brothers Servando Mayor, Julio Rodriguez, Ferando de la Fuente and Miguel Ángel Isla are certainly models and can be considered as pioneers of what we call today in the Institute, “mission ad gentes”. Can we go as far as saying that they are also intercessors in the new missionary effort that we are experiencing?

Three points remain sure and strong:
1-They said yes to a difficult mission;
2-They loved the refugees without limits to the point that they became “their family”.
3-In this yes, in this love, they met a violent death.
Three gifts are encountered: the will, the heart and life.
They are indeed models for whom the world is searching today.

Brother Giovanni Maria Bigotto, Postulator.

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