A Dominican Blessed from the House of Studies – Fr. Antonio Varona Ortega, OP
November 6, 2014
On November 6 the Province of St. Joseph celebrates the memorial of Bl. Alphonsus Navarrete, OP, and Companions, known as the Martyrs of Japan. But November 6 is also a feast day for a Dominican martyr with a close connection to the Dominican House of Studies: Bl. Antonio Varona Ortega, OP, a student at the House from 1922-1924. Bl. Antonio was one of the many, many martyrs of the Spanish Civil War beatified by Popes John Paul II, Benedict XVI, and Francis. Bl. Antonio was born in Burgos, Spain, and made simple profession as a Dominican at Avila in 1918. He was sent to New Orleans, Louisiana, in 1922 and immediately traveled to Washington, DC to complete his theological studies at the Dominican House of Studies. He also studied across the street at the Catholic University of America from 1924-1926, completing a thesis titled “The Educational Work of the Dominicans in the Philippine Islands.” Bl. Antonio was ordained to the priesthood in 1926, sent as a missionary to the Philippines, where he taught at the Colegio de San Juan de Letran in Manila, until illness forced him to return to Spain in 1933. He moved to a number of facilities for treatment before being taken prisoner in 1936 by the Spanish Republican forces (Communists) and martyred on July 25, 1936. In 2008 the Province of St. Martin de Porres erected a monument to the Dominican martyrs, including Bl. Antonio, who had spent time in the Province. In the homily at the Mass of Beatification of Bl. Antonio (along with 497 other martyrs from Spain) on October 28, 2007, Cardinal José Saraiva Martins spoke about what the martyrs have to teach us: “The message of the Martyrs is a message of faith and love. We must examine ourselves courageously and make practical resolutions to discover whether this faith and this love are expressed heroically in our own lives; heroism also of faith and love in our action, as people inserted into history like the leaven that causes dough to rise properly.” Bl. Antonio and all the Spanish Martyrs, pray for us!
Image: Photograph of Dominican studentate in 1923. The circled friar is most likely Bl. Antonio Varona Ortega, OP.