Franciscan Saints




1st February

The Servants of God, Juniper Vega and Humilis Martinez

Martyrs, First Order

In spite of the fact that for more than a century Mexico was a prey to Freemasonry and to laicism, the worst offspring of Freemasonry; it was reserved for this unfortunate country to be the first with which we associate the kingship of Christ in the sense of the new Feast of Christ the King. To Mexico may also be attributed the first martyrs to Christ the King. Prominent among these are thirteen secular priests, one Augustinian, one priest of the Society of the Heart of Mary, two Jesuits, three Franciscans, and several Tertiaries.

Today we commemorate Father Juniper de la Vega and his faithful companion, Brother Humilis Martinez. Both received the habit of St. Francis in the same convent in 1901, remained together later on, suffered together for Christ, and were awarded the crown-of-martyrdom at the same time.

Father Juniper and Brother Humilis were both born in Mexico, the former in 18974, the latter in 1873. Juniper was another Nathaniel, a man in whom there was no guile, with a pronounced tendency towards the interior life. Humilis was impetuous by nature and possessed a tireless impulse for work.

During the persecution under the notorious Calles, both were twice cast into prison for the cause of Jesus Christ. In February, 1928, Brother Humilis wrote to his provincial: “I am in prison which held a martyr captive before me. One can still see the traces of his blood.” On February eighth, father Juniper was questioned in court. “How many Masses have you read?” an officer demanded. In all simplicity the Father answered: “Figure it out for yourself, for I was ordained to the holy priesthood in 1905.” I did not ask that,” the officer replied, “but how many Masses have you read since the prohibition was issued that no Masses be said at all?” The priest asserted in his simple, upright manner: “If I am to tell the truth, as many masses as I could.” That was a crime punishable by death. Both the Father and the brother were again led back into prison and were fully aware of what was awaiting them.

Brother Humilis again wrote to his provincial: “I spent the entire night in humbly asking God to forgive me my sins and in recommending my souls to the ever Blessed Virgin Mary, for it is clear we must die. You need not, however, reply to this letter, for without doubt I shall not receive the answer any more.”

During the night Father Juniper heard the confessions of his fellow prisoners. Early the next morning he cast himself upon the ground and prayed. When Brother Humilis begged him to take a little rest, since he had spent the night without any sleep; the hour has arrived to prepare for death.” And so it happened.

The executioners soon arrived. Both friars were forced to board a military train. At Ecuandureo Father Juniper was forced to alight and run. A rain of bullets followed him. Meanwhile, the rude soldiery were making sport of brother Humilis. At Zamora he, too, was forced to alight, and was shot down in his tracks.

The funeral of the two martyrs was like a triumphal march. Father Juniper was solemnly interred at Eucuandureo, Brother Humilis at Zamora. Over the graves of both martyrs the jubilant cry of many thousands of voices could be heard repeating: “Long live Christ the King!

 

 

Prayer of the church

Almighty and eternal God, didst make Thy glory known to

the whole of Christendom; protect the work of Thy mercy,

so that Thy church which is spread all over the world, may

remain firm in its confession of Thy Name. Through Christ

our Lord, Who liveth and reigneth with Thee and the

Holy Spirit, One God, now and forever.

 Amen

 

Habig, Marion A., O.F.M., 1959, ed.,  The Franciscan book of Saints, Franciscan Herald press, Chicago, Illinois

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