For Whom the Bell Tolls

November 8, 2012

“There probably still is God after all, although we have abolished him.” Ernest Hemmingway It was a time of political polarization. The republic was divided along ideological grounds, forcing the Catholic Church into the awkward position of trying to remain a welcome home for all, while being made painfully aware that its very existence was at stake. Always a powerful witness, the Catholic Faith was driven out legislatively from the public square. Radically secular sentiments infected a great number of the citizenry, and with the economy collapsing the Church was viewed as an obstacle to change. The blood-soaked years following the disintegration of the 2nd Spanish Republic led to over 500,000 killed. Spain was a martyr nation, and in the year 1936 the Red Terror claimed the life of Blessed Antonio Varona Ortega, O.P. He was a student at the Dominican House of Studies in Washington, D.C. from 1922-1924 before continuing on with a Master’s Thesis at the Catholic University of America. He was ordained in New Orleans and returned home to Spain in 1933 after doing missionary work in the Philippines. The feast day for the Spanish Dominican martyrs was several days ago on November 6. At least 13 bishops, 4,154 priests and seminarians, 2,365 religious, 283 nuns, and 4,000 laity were martyred in Spain because they confessed the Catholic faith. In total, 132 Dominicans were killed. On October 28, 2007 Pope Benedict XVI beatified 498 martyrs of the Spanish Civil War. He took heat for this from critics who accused him of re-opening a painful chapter of history, and for turning those killed into right-wing political martyrs. Responding to this reproach, the Spanish historian Monsignor Vincent Carcel Orti stated, “Christian martyrs have no ideological or political motivation except their faith in God and love of their neighbors. These martyrs never waged or fomented any war; they were never involved in party strife. They brought an everlasting message of peace and love, which lightens our faith and feeds our hope.”

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