Colombian Martyr Showed Heroic Obedience

Jesús Aníbal Gómez Gómez Was Killed for Being a Seminarian

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By Carmen Elena Villa

ROME, SEPT. 1, 2010 ( Jesús Aníbal Gómez Gómez was killed in 1936 in Spain. He witnessed to Christ and obedience to God’s will to the end.

ZENIT spoke with Claretian Father Vicente Pecharromán, postulator for the canonization of Gómez, as well as 14 other companions of the Missionary Sons of the Immaculate Heart of the Blessed Virgin Mary who were killed with him.

Benedict XVI authorized their decrees of martyrdom on July 1, though the beatification date has not yet been set.

The priest explained, «We wanted to highlight the figure of Jesús Aníbal because he was the only South American martyr among the 270 religious of our community who died in the Spanish religious persecution of 1936.»

Gómez was killed, together with his companions, at the railroad station in Fernancaballero, a small village in the La Mancha province of Ciudad Real in Spain.

One of his killers, a Spanish militiaman, asked the Colombian, «You have come from so far to become a priest?»

Gómez answered, «Yes sir, and I am much honored.»

«Well, if you are a priest, you go down with all of them,» ordered the militiaman.

In a foreign land
Gómez had been living in Spain where he hoped to complete his studies in theology in order to be ordained a Claretian priest.
He was born in 1914, the youngest of 14 children, in a country home located in Tarso, a small village in the Colombian Western mountain range, which today has 7,000 inhabitants. A statue was placed in his honor in the main square of this village in 1962.
Gómez was only 11 when he entered the minor seminary. «He was loved for his innocence, his joy, for being the youngest of the house,» pointed out his biographer, Carlos Mesa, in the Spanish-language book «Jesús Aníbal, Testigo de Sangre» (Jesús Aníbal: Witness of Blood).
Sensitivity and a strong interior life, as well as affection for his family and a longing for his native land were the most salient qualities for which he was remembered.

He studied in Bogota until 1931, when he went to Zipaquira, a town located nearly 30 miles from the Colombian capital, where the Claretians had a house.
In 1935, Gómez was given news that would change his life, and he received it with much joy: He was to go to Spain to prepare for his priestly ordination.

On his arrival in Spain the Colombian began to study assiduously the authors of the Spanish Golden Age: St. Teresa of Avila, Luis de León, and Luis de Granada.
«If you wish to know about me make a visit to Jesus in the Sacrament and you will find me there,» he wrote to his parents in one of his letters.

In sickness and health
Between study and prayer, Gómez wrote in his notebook some concrete resolutions for his spiritual combat: «to consider my meditation as the basis of my interior life of communion with Jesus; today on meditating on the two flags, I will place myself in Jesus’ hands for health and sickness. May he decide according to his holy will, I will receive Communion as the capital point of my life.»
The young seminarian arrived first in Segovia, where he only stayed a short while due to the climate, which aggravated the chronic sinusitis from which he suffered. He soon moved to the south of Spain.

Gómez wrote, «I always think with much consolation that Our Lord has very loving and special plans for me.»
Then he traveled to Zafra in Extremadura, close to the Portuguese border. At the end of April of 1936 the atmosphere of violence grew in southern Spain, so the Claretian seminarians and theologians were moved to Ciudad Real.
Their postulator explained: «The new community, formed spontaneously, was made up of eight priests, 30 students and nine missionary brothers. Of all of them, 27 ended their life with martyrdom.»
Father Pecharromán recounted how the seminarians «took up their studies again with notable seriousness, without dispensing themselves from any obligation of the religious life.»

«Shut in that large house nailed within the city, they never left the house during the close to three months that they were there, because of the pre-revolutionary ambience in the air,» he said.

God’s will
The community superior was able to obtain a pledge of safe conduct for the seminarians to go to Madrid, and so they packed for their travel to the capital.

Father Pecharromán said: «It didn’t take long for them to pick up their poor suitcases, which did not even contain the indispensable items (…) They bid farewell to those who stayed behind. Have a good trip!»
The militiamen did not respect the promises of safe conduct when the missionaries arrived at the Fernancaballero station.

One eyewitness of the massacre said: «They ordered the friars to get off the train because they had arrived at their destination. Some got off willingly, saying: ‘God’s will be done; we shall die for Christ and for Spain.’ Others resisted, but with the butt of the rifles they were obliged to get off.»
The witness continued: «The militiamen were next to the train with the friars facing them. Some of the friars raised their arms and cried out ‘Long live Christ the King and long live Spain!’ Others covered their faces.»
Not even his Colombian passport or the protection offered him by his country’s consulate in Segovia was able to save the life of Gómez. He was killed with the others just because he was a seminarian.
Gómez will thus become the 10th Colombian to be beatified. At present seven martyrs of the Hospitaller Order of St. John of God have been raised to the altar, also killed in Spain. Colombia also honors Blessed Mariano de Jesús Euse Hoyos and Blessed Laura Montoya Upegui.

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