By Susan Brinkmann, OCDS
The Pope has chosen a woman who asked to be executed along with her daughters during the Spanish Civil War as one of five families to serve as role models for the upcoming Sixth World Meeting of Families to take place Jan. 14-18 in Mexico City.
Maria Teresa Ferragud Roig was 84 years old when she suffered martyrdom in Spain in 1936. The mother of seven, her only son became a priest and five of her daughters became cloistered nuns.
During the height of the Spanish civil war, facing grave danger from the anti-Catholic Popular Front, her daughters sought shelter in their mother’s home. The women continued to live according to the rules of their respective congregations, engaging in mental prayer, recitation of the Divine Office and manual labor.
However a neighbor betrayed them to the authorities and on the afternoon of Oct. 19, 1936, the militia came and arrested the daughters. Maria Teresa did not want to leave them and was imprisoned along with them for the following week. During this time, the daughters were offered their freedom if they would abandon their habits for marriage. All of them refused.
At 10:00 p.m. on the evening of Oct. 25, the militia took the women by car to a place known as Cruz Abierto in Valencia where they were to be executed. During the trip, they prayed and encouraged each other to die for Christ.
When they arrived, the militia wanted to execute Maria Teresa first but she refused. “I want to know what you are going to do to my daughters, and if you are going to kill them, shoot them first with me being the last one.”
She then turned to her daughters and said, “My daughters, be faithful to your celestial Husband and do not believe in the flatteries of these men. . . . Do not be afraid. Death is only a question of time.”
One by one, she watched her daughters die. When the executioners came to her, they asked, “Old woman, are you not afraid to die?”
Maria Teresa said, “All my life I wanted to do something for Jesus, and now I’m going to be left behind? Kill me for the same reason you killed my daughters. I am a Christian.”
After killing her, the executioners said among themselves, “This is a true saint.”
The women were beatified in 2001 by Pope John Paul II along with 229 other martyrs of the religious persecution of 1936.
The other four families selected to be role models for the World Meeting of Families include the Basilio and Emilia family, who lived in 4th century Turkey and had nine children, four of whom became saints; Senator Gordiano and his wife Silvia, the parents of Pope Gregory the Great, who lived in the 6th century; Blessed Luigi and Maria Beltrame Quaatrochi of the 20th century, the first married couple to be raised to the altar; and Blesseds Louis Martin and Marie Zelie Guerin, who lived during the 19th century and were the parents of St. Therese of Lisieux.
Pope Benedict will send Vatican secretary of state, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone as his legate to the meeting, but plans to participate by videoconference.
“Starting now,” he said during a Jan. 11 Angelus address, “I ask you to implore for this important world meeting of families the abundance of divine grace. Let us do this by invoking the maternal intercession of the Virgin Mary, Queen of the family.”
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