Brother Narciso Pascual Pascual (1917-1936)
Lord Jesus Christ, who has desired that men and women should obtain their daily bread through the sweat of the their brow and the strength of their arms, grant us that simplicity of heart like that of Brother Narciso so that we might also discover the secrets of your kingdom that are hidden from the learned and the wise of this world. We pray in the name of Jesus the Lord. Amen.
Birth and first steps:
Narciso was born on August 11, 1917 in Sarreaus de Tioira (Orense), the cradle of zealous Vincentian Missionaries. His parents, Juan Antonio and Pilar,
celebrated the birth of their son by baptizing him the following day in the parish church of Tioira. Through the waters of his second birth, the renewal of the Holy Spirit and the strength of the other sacraments that he received in later years (Confirmation, October 15, 1920; Penance, August 14, 1924; Eucharist, August 15, 1924, the feast of the Assumption), Narciso was reborn and strengthened for his life on earth, strengthened until the time that he would give witness to his faith through the shedding of his blood in 1936. His fidelity, the fruit of the Holy Spirit, was nourished by the seeds of the faith that he received in baptism and as a family heritage.
The nearness of Sarreaus de Tioira to the shrine of Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal accounts for the fact that this area has produced many vocations for the Congregation of the Mission. Many excellent Missionaries, preachers of the Word of God from many different places in Spain had visited this shrine and as a result were instilled with a holiness that became the envy of many people who were hungry for religion and culture. This is what motivated Narciso at the age of fourteen to request entrance into the Apostolic School of Los Milagros. It was there that he engaged in the first two years of his studies in the humanities. Because he encountered many difficulties in his studies he decided to become a Brother in the Congregation and to dedicate his life to manual labor (which at that time was the customary work of the Brothers). He decided to no longer resist the internal voice that was calling him to leave mother and father and brothers and sisters in order to follow Jesus, the carpenter from Nazareth. His older brother, Pedro, would take the place that had been vacated by Narciso when he (Pedro) entered the Congregation in 1947 and was ordained in 1955.
Narciso’s decision did not deprive him of accompanying his companions as they moved from the Apostolic School to the Colegio Central Apostólico in Guadalajara to complete their formation and to be admitted into postulancy prior to their admittance into the Internal Seminary (all of this was written down in book that was kept in the community house in Guadalajara, a book that has disappeared). Three months was enough time for Narciso to be confirmed in his decision to become a Brother and to participate in the same missionary spirit as the aspirants to the priesthood. His dedication to the works that were entrusted to him in the kitchen and the dining room as well as at the front door reveal his goodness and affability and his profound sense of responsibility, patience and a spirit of service. It was these qualities that moved his superiors to grant him entrance into the Internal Seminary where he would have an opportunity to mature in his vocation as a Brother in the Congregation of Saint Vincent de Paul.
Member of the Congregation of Vincentian Missionaries:
As stated above, when Narciso completed the time of his postulancy the superiors in Guadalajara judged that he was mature enough to be admitted into the Internal Seminary located in Hortaleza (Madrid). This took place on November 26, 1933 at the time of the celebration of first Vespers for the feast of Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal. He was received with open arms by the superior, Father Higinio Pampliega and the novice director, Father José María Aparicio. They quickly discovered the outstanding attitudes of Narciso and saw that he would be a good Brother in the Congregation and in the local community. Narciso had a great ability to resolve practical problems related to the maintenance of the house: repair of doors and windows, repair of pipes and faucets, etc.
At the time that Brother Pascual became a Brother in 1933 he was accompanied by five other young men, two from the same town as Brother Pascual and all five became Brothers. They encouraged one another and in private spoke to one another in Galican (it was prohibited to speak this language in public just as it was prohibited to speak in Basque). The formation and the acts of devotion were the same for the aspirants to the priesthood and for the Brothers. All received the same Vincentian and spiritual formation from their superiors and directors (consideration, however, was given to the different mission of each group). In the Internal Seminary there were 42 candidates: 36 aspirants to the priesthood and 6 Brothers. Father Aparicio, the director, insisted that the clerics and brothers should heed the words and Saint Vincent and should love one another as dear brothers and thus be united in prayer and in ministry.
Brother Pascual’s devotion to the Virgin Mary was very obvious and it was also clear that this devotion had been learned from his family and from his visits to the shrine of Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal. In fact his Marian devotion was not only noticed during the time that he was in the seminary but was clearly revealed during the time that he was in Cuenca and Guadalajara. He entrusted himself to the Virgin during times of trouble and unease. The daily recitation of the rosary provided him with a way of showing his devotion to the Mother of God. At the same time he had a love for the Eucharist which is inseparable from devotion to the Mother of mercy. He was frequently seen praying the rosary before the Blessed Sacrament. Indeed, his frequent visits to the Blessed Sacrament indicate his profound love of the Lord. Such then was his Marian devotion and his participation in the sacramental life of the church … practices that distinguished this simple, hard-working, reserved but effective Brother.
He had not completed the stipulated time for the Internal Seminary in Hortaleza when in the middle of 1935, he was sent to Cuenca, to the Seminario de San Pablo where the theologians were gathered. In Cuenca he completed the two years of the Internal Seminary and professed his vows on the feast of Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal, November 27, 1935. The liturgical celebration was prepared by the theologians and the superior of the house, Father Julián Morales, presided at the Eucharist.
The celebration after the Eucharist, which was organized by the students, brought tears to Brother’s eyes. Filled with emotion he found it impossible to speak and therefore he gave his place to the superior of the house who in the name of Brother thanked the community for their prayers and their support. On the day that Brother professed his vows he found it difficult to leave the chapel. On a paper that was found in one of his personal notebooks he had written that the Lord had granted him many graces throughout his life, especially the grace of being able to profess his vows on such a special feast of the Congregation. He wrote: I will never tire of thanking the Lord for the many good things that he has done for me!
If they kill me, I die for Christ and I die to save the country:
At the beginning of 1936 threatening clouds were gathering over the area of Cuenca and the seminary of San Pablo. On May 1st of that year the community had received serious threats from leftist elements. The community had received a warning to leave the seminary as quickly as possible and seek refuge in a more secure place. In light of these threats and warnings the superior of the community, Father Julián Morales, told all the residents that they should leave at once.
Early in the morning of the following day everyone, dressed poorly, boarded the train headed toward Madrid-Pomplona and Murguía (Álava) … everyone but one, Brother Pascual, who sought refuge in the house of a friend and thus remained in the city of Cuenca. The following day he went to the seminary to see what had occurred there. As he traveled there he was told that his companions had taken advantage of the darkness of the early hours of the morning and had left the seminary. The seminarians in Hortaleza had done the same thing and fled to Tardajos (Burgos). In a very short time all the houses of formation were closed for fear of the revolutionaries and thus all the aspirants were scattered about.
Brother then halted his journey to the seminary and instead went to the Hospital of Santiago and soon thereafter to the charitable Center where he was able to disguise himself with the clothing of one of the patients there. With a patch over one eye to further disguise himself he traveled to the bishop’s residence where he sought refuge. The Daughters of Charity who administered the two houses mentioned above helped brother with his disguise. At the bishop’s residence he wrote a letter (dated May 5, 1936) to his parents and stated: At the present time I am well and nothing new has happened here. Thanks be to God nothing has happened to me. The students and the priests and the other Brothers have left for Madrid and I have been told that today the majority of them have left for their own homes. I have remained in Cuenca and am very happy. Even though I wanted to leave and could have left yet in reality I really did not want to leave and I am very content here.
In the same letter Brother Narciso expressed his willingness to be a martyr: I suppose that nothing will happen. But if something does happen do not grieve because if they kill me I die for Christ and I die to save the country. I do not want you to grieve for me or for my companions … indeed, we are well. At the present time I am not afraid of anything or anyone. I am prepared for anything that will occur and if we die, we die for our faith in Christ and we profess the name of Christ and at the same time profess our love for our country and therefore we defend these holy ideals believing that we will be saved. I ask you to not worry about us and do not grieve. These were the sentiments that were embraced by the great majority of the future martyrs who were willing and prepared to profess their faith and their love for Christ and for their beloved community.
Even though he said he did not want to leave Cuenca or abandon the refuge he had found in the Episcopal residence, the truth is that for greater security he traveled to the Casa Central in Madrid. He did not want to expose his life in some reckless manner to death. The superiors in Madrid felt that it was best for him to go to Valdemoro to rest and recover his strength. He seemed to be very tired and weary from so many scares and hasty flights. Thus he traveled to Valdemoro carrying a small bundle on his shoulder (yes, he traveled lightly).
Having recuperated physically his superiors sent him to the residence in Guadalajara, the place where he had done his postulancy and it was hoped that he would be able to put aside the frightening events that he experienced in Cuenca and care for the community there in Guadalajara. But things were not better in Guadalajara and there he was imprisoned with his companions in community and was put to death on December 6, 1936. He was nineteen years old and had a strong body and a will of steel that enabled him to be dedicated to his ministry and to doing good. Today all the members of that local community rejoice together in heaven.
Although the testimonies on behalf of Brother Pascual might be fewer in number because he spent so little time in Guadalajara and people hardly knew him, nevertheless witnesses speak of his example of self-sacrifice and his dedication to work in the community house and in the jail, even work in the kitchen in order to serve his brothers who were also imprisoned with him. Even though there were many who wanted to identify his body nobody was able to do so (and no one was able to identify the body of Father Vilumbrales). It seems most likely that both bodies were reduced to ashes since the number of bodies that should have been found there was higher than the number of bodies that were actually found buried in graves on the farmlands of Chiloheches.
[This biography, which can be found in Spanish on the website of the Madrid Province (http://www.paulesmadrid.org/), is an adaptation of the work done by Antonio Orcajo, CM and published by Editorial La Milagrosa, Madrid in the year 2012 under the title Misioneros Paúles Mártires de la Revolución Religiosa en España: 1934-1936 and translated into English by Charles T. Plock, CM].