Reading about heroes makes me always wonder what happened to my life. How can I continue to live such a mediocre drab life?!
Bartolome Blanco Marquez was one of the youngest of the group of 498 martyrs who were killed during the bloody Spanish civil war (1936-1939) and beatified by Pope Benedict XVI in October 2007. A loyal Catholic, this 22 year-old young man wrote a moving letter to his girlfriend Maruja just hours before his death. “Your memory will go with me to the tomb, and as long as my heart is beating, it will beat with love for you. God has desired to exalt these earthly affections, ennobling them when we love each other in Him.”
Bartolome was born in Pozoblanco, Spain on November 25, 1914. Orphaned as a child, he was raised by his aunt and uncle and worked as a chair maker. He was a good student at the Salesian school and also helped out as a catechist. At the age of 18 he was elected secretary of a youth division of Catholic Action in the same town.
An anticlerical persecution was going on throughout Spain at the time. Because he was such an active member of the Church, on August 18, 1936, he was arrested when he was on leave from military service. On September 24 he was moved to a prison in Jaen, where he was held with fifteen priests and other laymen. “It is pleasant to prepare for death surrounded by fifteen priests!” There he was put on trial, condemned to death and shot on October 2, 1936.
During his trial, Bartolome remained firm. “My indictment in the court of men will be my best defense in the court of God! They wanted to humiliate me – they have only managed to ennoble me!”
What touched me deeply however were the letters he wrote on the eve of his death to his family and to his girlfriend Maruja.
“May this be my last will: forgiveness, forgiveness, forgiveness; yes, compassion, which I wish to be accompanied by doing to them as much good as possible. Therefore, I ask you to ‘revenge’ me with the retribution of a Christian by returning good to those that have tried to do me evil,” he wrote to his relatives.
“I only have a few hours to live”, he wrote to Maruja. “I ask you, my dear, just one thing. In memory of the love between us, which during this time in jail has increased tremendously, make sure you make your primary goal the salvation of your soul. In that way, we shall be able to meet again in heaven for all eternity, where nothing and no one will separate us.”
“Until then, Maruja of my soul! I shall watch over you from heaven! Do not forget me, dear. May my memory remind you always of the better life that is awaiting us. Desire heaven!”
On the day of his execution he left his cell barefoot, in order to be more conformed to Christ. He kissed his handcuffs, surprising the guards that cuffed him. He refused to be shot from behind. “Whoever dies for Christ should do so facing forward and standing straight. Long live Christ the King!” he shouted as he fell to ground under a shower of bullets..
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