Blessed Josephine of the Purification - 22nd September

During the thirties in the twentieth century, the Church in Spain went through a period of great martydom, when the civil authorities started a systematic persecution that lasted three years and during which time a great number of Christians were killed: laity, religious, priests and bishops. Brethren of the Augustinian family, in these difficult circumstances, also showed great strength of their faith in the face of such harsh persecution, at the hands of their fellow Spaniards.

On 22 September the Augustinian liturgical calendar commemorates Blessed Josephine Masiá. She was born on 10 June 1887 at Algemesí, a small village close to the city of Valencia. Although poor, her family was imbued with the values of a convinced Christian way of life and great attention was given to the children’s education. At a young age she lost her father, and thus the family was guided by the mother, who was also involved in activities of groups doing charitable work. For such work for the benefit of others, it appears that the Lord rewarded her by a number of religious vocations from the family: one of her sons joined the Franciscan Capuchins, whilst five of her daughters entered a contemplative life with closed communities in different monasteries. 

One of these, Maria Josephine a, in response to what she felt in her heart, entered the monastery of Augustinian Recollects at Benigánim, and on 2 February 1905 she wore the Augustinian habit and one year later she made her religious profession. From testimony give by her contemporary nuns, we know that she was a person who had a heartfelt desire to be of service to God in everything, and she used to lay her hands to whatever work was necessary in her monastery. She loved poetry, and from her various writings, we know what love she had for her Bridegroom whom she embraced during her Augustinian monastic life. In the company of Christ, she felt that nothing was difficult. In the spirit of reformation of the Recollects, she always sought a life of certain solitude, with her mind centred on heavenly matters. Nonetheless, she never shunned her duties to her community by bringing up spiritual excuses.

Between 1932 and 1935 she was elected prioress of her monastery. The signs of the times were already showing what was brewing in the hearts of those who wanted to go against Christ’s Church. The nuns started receiving a lot of threats, to the extent that many tried to persuade them to abandon their monastery. Maria Josephine remained in the monastery despite the peril, together with a small group of nuns. This remained so until 1936 when the situation became so desperate and the danger so great that, in those circumstances, the nuns had to leave the convent much against their wishes. Like many other religious who were compelled to abandon their convents, Maria Josephine sought refuge with her mother who greeted her with much love. In the same house there were now gathered, together with their mother, all the sisters who had sought religious life. Thus, their mother’s home was changed into a very particular monastery, with a rhythm of life that resembles that of a monastery. Maria Josephine lived these harsh moments by continuing offering herself as a victim for conversion of sinners and for peace in her native land.

The persecutions became harsher day by day. On 19 October 1936, as it became known that in their house there were a number of clandestine religious, some soldiers from the rebel military came to take them away. They did not offer any resistance! They were prepared for what was likely to happen in the circumstances. The mother did not want in any way to leave alone her female children and so she herself decided to be arrested with them. They remained together for one week, a time which they used to prepare themselves for the solemn moment when they would be called upon to give the greatest witness. In spite of the empty promises that were made to them, they remained strong, giving encouragement to one another. Divine Providence decreed that the day when they were called upon to give their greatest witness fell on the evening of the feast of Christ the King, the 25th of October. After a short journey, they took them down from the truck on which they were transported and, one after the other, they were executed. Although the intention was for the mother to be the first one, she pleaded that they start with her beloved children: “thus, I will die in the knowledge that they remained faithful till the end” she said. Like the mother of seven children in the Book of Macabee, she encouraged them until she saw them on top of one another, lifeless bodies, killed by gunfire. They ended with the execution of the mother, courageous like her children. The bodies of these five martyrs were buried in the convent, transformed into a prison, of Fons Salutis. Later, they were taken with great veneration, to the parish church of St. Pius X at Algemesi.

After testimonies were gathered about these martyrdoms, and after the requisite canonical process, Pope St. John Paul II beatified Sr. Maria Josephine and her sisters and mother on 11 March 2001, together with a large number of other martyrs who died in similar circumstances during the Spanish persecution. Blessed Maria Masiá of the Purification, together with her mother and sisters, remain for us witnesses and a continuous invitation for the loyalty that we are to show to the faith we are called upon to cherish daily in our life, driven by a wholesome desire to be with God in eternal life.

 Fr. Josef Sciberras osa

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