Blessed Mariano de la Mata - 5th November

On 5 April 1983 Fr. Mariano de la Mata Aparicio, an Augustinain priest and missionary in Brazil, departed this life at the age of 77 years. It is certain that he himself, a humble and unpretentious person, never expected to find himself as the protagonist at his beatification ceremony in the cathedral of Sao Paolo, Brazil.      

He was born on the last day of the year 1905 in a small village close to the city of Palencia in Spain. His family’s ambience helped him a great deal to instil in himself Christian values from his childhood. His mother Martina, together with his father Manuel, did their utmost to give a good and Christian upbringing to Mariano and his three siblings. To that end, they made many sactrifices, and this was the example given to the children.

Through this upbringing and his personal disposition to respond to God’s call, Mariano decided to join the Augustinian Order on 9 September 1921. This day gave him great joy as he donned a friar’s habit, but he was even more joyous when he made his profession and took his vows of poverty, chastity and obedience. From that same day he tried his best, helped by God’s grace, not to fail to observe these vows. He made his religious profession at the feet of another Blessed person, the Augustinian martyr Alselmo Polanco, who was the convent’s prior. Later on, Polanco suffered martyrdom, as bishop of the diocese of Teruel, during the persecution of the King of Spain, Brother Mariano continued his studies until his priestly ordination on 25 June 1930,

Virtually immediately after his ordination, he was chosen to be sent to the mission in Brazil where he got down assiduously to his work there. He had close to his heart the education and sound formation of children and youths. His exemplary lifestyle was noticed by his fellow missionaries and between 1945 and 1948 he was chosen as superior of the Vice Province of Brazil. For various years thereafter he remained involved in the leadership of the Augustinians as counsellor on a number of occasions. From 1951 he started working in the college that the friars had in the small city of Engenheiro Schmitt. Under his direction this school made great strides, not only from the academic aspect but, above all, in the Christian formation of the students. He returned permanently to Sao Paolo in 1961, in the college of the parish of St. Augustine, not far from the city’s centre.

Wherever he was, he used to lay his hands on whatever was needed, without any pretensions nor ambitions. He was very active and he hardly sough restful periods because his generous spirit pushed him to be always available. With his words and gentle manners, he used to explain in a simple way the Word of God wherever he was called upon to exercise his oratory ministry. Many were attracted to his natural sympathy, that used to demonstrate itself in the contented smile which he always had on his face. His simplicity was marked particularly by his lifestyle; always in his Augustinian habit, away from any tendency towards fashion and whims.

The simplicity and and prioritization of his choices was reflected not only in his mode of dress, but in all aspects of life. He had the cultivation of plants close ot his heart, something that gave him some relief from the hardship of everyday life. He had a habit of talking to his plants in a simple dialogue many times referring to the beauty seen in God’s creations around us. He carried out this pastime on the convent’s roof, where frequently he used to make his walks. Until this day the roof is still replete with a number of plants in memory of this Blessed person’s hobby. 

This simple way of life was reflected even more at a spiritual level, His love towards Christ, with whom he used to spend lengthy periods of prayer, used to spur him on so as to be close to everybody. But the ones closest to his heart were children and youths. In them he saw the child Jesus. The same can be said as regards those excluded from society and, as we know, these are numerous in Brazil. For everybody he had not only a smile and a good word, but wherever possible, concrete help. So as to carry out this charitable work in a more concrete and organized way, he set up more than 200 workshops for seamstresses known as Talleres de caridad de S. Rita. He used to help as much as he could the poor, aged and sick.

Blessed Mariano used to feel himself drawn to the Eucharistic presence. Celebration of the Mass was the most special moment of the day for him because he           recognised that there was an intimate between his pastoral work and the moment of the Eucharist. His devotion towards our Mother Mary was also not lacking, notably under the Marian titles that are found in the Augustinian Order’s spirituality: Mother of Good Counsel and Mother of Consolation.

The burden of his pastoral life together with age started to leave their mark on Fr. Mariano’s health. He started reducing his work due to pains in his stomach until he reached the stage where his ailments worsened despite the medical attention he was getting, always as a priority matter, by his brothers in the community. He departed this life on 5 April 1983 at the age of 77. His remains are to be found in the side altar on the right-hand side in the Augustinian Church of Sao Paolo where he worked for many years. Many are the social legacies which he left behind him or which today bear his name or were inspired by his saintliness.

The fame of his holiness and of graces received through his intercession increased with time. This led to the Augustinian Order opening the process of his beatification and canonization. Fr. Mariano was beatified on 31 May 1997. The holiness of this Augustinian priest reminds us of the commitment that all Christians should have to lessen the burden of those around us, more so those who are vulnerable in society. This can be done through small and simple actions, in the same manner that the smile on Blessed Mariano’s face changed the lives of so many people!

Fr. Josef Sciberras osa

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