This calendar of saints is drawn from several denominations, sects, and traditions. Although it will no longer be updated daily, the index on the right will guide visitors to a saint celebrated on any day they choose. Additional saints will be added as they present themselves to Major.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

September 22 -- Feast of Blessed Carmelo Sastre Sastre

 Martyr of the Spanish Civil War

Father Carmelo
The little town of Piles, in Valencia, Spain, looks like a nice place, if a little sleepy.  It has a population of around 2500.  It has some nice Mediterranean beaches.  But it has a grim incident in its history. 

Carmelo Sastre Sastre (I admit to selecting him because I enjoy names that repeat, like Sirhan Sirhan and Boutros Boutros Ghali)... start again.

Carmelo Sastre Sastre was a humble parish priest with a demonstrable desire to give everything he had to serve the poor.  He started out with a literacy campaign, thinking that education was the best way to serve the neediest folks.  He taught people in his home, then the most proficient students became instructors, and through 1920s, his literacy campaign spread.  He arranged trips for his own young students, making school fun enough that they wanted to stay involved. 

looks like a nice place now
As the diocese reassigned him here and there, he found opportunities to serve folks in other ways.  He provided basic medical care, even doing so in a local cafe because he had no clinic.  Once, when burglars broke into his home and were caught by his neighbors, Father Carmelo refused to give evidence against them, so they got away. 

But in the 1930s, Spain was caught between the anvil of conservative orthodoxy (the Fascist Franco) and the hammer of anti-religious, Marxist modernity (the Republicans).  It won't do to pretend that the Republicans were on the side of right and justice, not even by recalling that Volunteer units from the USA named themselves after Abraham Lincoln and George Washington.  Not when you read what the folks of sleepy little Piles did in their revolutionary zeal. 

you can stay right down by the beach
To tell it briefly, in February 1936, the locals seized the church, rectory, parish hall, and a nearby shrine, stripping everything of value, destroying everything religious, and leveling several of the buildings.  The revolutionary committee reassigned the chapel to fishermen as a storage facility.  Father Carmelo, two assistant priests, and seven laymen who worked for the parish were imprisoned and then executed.  The revolutionary leaders then donned the vestments of the priests and paraded down the streets, satirically tossing Eucharistic wafers to people they met.  
Caveat tourist

It should be noted that Father Carmelo could see it coming.  Revolutionary fervor was rising, and he could have fled to some Falangist (pro-Franco) stronghold and been sheltered by fascism.  But like so many other priests in 1930s Europe, he stuck where he had been planted and continued to shine his little light until the forces of darkness (whether right-wing or left-wing) came to extinguish it. 

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