(A Capuchin Missionary in Manila and now a Beatified Martyr)
Blessed Remigio de Papiol, OFMCap. was beatified in Barcelona, Spain last November 21, 2015 in the Cathedral of Barcelona together with the other twenty six (26) martyrs of Catalunya. Blessed Remigio was a missionary in Manila from 1911 to 1915 and he became the parish priest of the now Archdiocesan Shrine of Nuestra Señora de Guia in Ermita, Manila from 1911 to 1913.
The early life of Bl. Remigio was very difficult most especially his religious and priestly vocation as a Capuchin. He felt his call still when a child. He used to play to say mass with his brother at home who helped him as the altar server.
As a teenage boy he had already experienced the “storm of life”. He was nineteen (19) years old then when his parents lost the vineyards they owned and went bankruptcy. They found work in the town of Rubi, by tiling the lands of an owner of a factory.
One day when he insisted in his vocation, there was a great discussion in his house. His parents realized that they could not pay for his studies and they wanted to avoid a great disappointment. He, who normally had a quiet and peaceful temperament, escaped from his house. The whole family and the police went around to search for him. His desperate mother went around vineyards and garden, examining the deep-wells, being afraid that he may have fallen in them. After three days they found him. When his mother asked him why he had done that to them, he answered: “I want to be a Capuchin priest and if I cannot be, I prefer to die!”
His case became famous and a rich woman of Rubi offered herself to sponsor him in his studies so that he could fulfill his desire. So he entered first as an intern among the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart. Then he went to the Diocesan Seminary, but desiring a “stricter life”, with the permission from the bishop, he left the seminary and went to the Novitiate of the Capuchins.
After his profession as a Capuchin, he was ordained to the priesthood in the year 1909 in the parish of Arenys de Mar. His first assignment was in Ermita, Manila Philippines, where he dedicated himself fully to the sacrament of Confession. Most of the days, he started to hear Confessions at four (4) in the morning and he usually ended at around ten (10) in the morning. It seems that he mastered the Filipino language and became the most popular confessor in the city of Manila.
When the Capuchin Province of Navarra took over the Philippine mission in 1915, Bl. Remigio was transferred to the Capuchin Mission of Blufields in Nicaragua; he was also some years in Cartago, Costa Rica, where he took care of the magazine, “The Seraphic Herald”.
In the year 1921, Bl. Remigio was transferred to Manresa, Catalunya being the Master of Novices. He was very happy for this change, because after a busy life as missionary in the Philippines and in Central America, finally he could fulfill his original desire of living a greater time for contemplation.
But after some time he received an obedience to Central America until he was asked to return definitively to Catalunya in 1927.
The desire of a quiet life was growing and he asked to enter the “Cartuja” (monastery) of Miraflores in Burgos, Spain. He was for a short time there, but it was not easy for him and left. Later on he obtained the permission for a second trial in the “Cartuja” of Montalegre, in Tiana, Province of Barcelona, but he was not able to enter there. Then he was destined to our Capuchin friary of Arenys del Mar. The Provincial Chapter of 1936 transferred him to Sarria and he was able to go there but for few days, because he was caught by the REVOLUTION!
He was not happy talking about Politics or any worldly affairs. His favorite conversations were about the lives of the Saints. He liked very much the lives of the more recent times, who dedicated to works of apostolate, like St, John Bosco or St. Anthony Mary Claret. He had also great devotion for St. John Marie Vianney and St. Therese of Lisieux.
Bl. Remigio was one of the first propagators of the devotion to St. Therese in Cataluña and even wrote a book about her. He was a member of the group “Priestly Union of Sta. Teresita” and attracted many brothers to become members of this association. He made a pilgrimage in Lisieux and he spent a long time in prayer in the death bed of the saint.
Since the time he knew the life of the saint, he tried to imitate her virtues, avoiding always murmuring, not returning received offenses and being courteous with all. He also imitated her in her practices of penance, like having without pillow for sleeping.
Among his writings, “A Comparison between Catholicism and Protestantism”, in defense of the faith became famous which he wrote while he was living as missionary in the Capuchin Mission of Blufields, Nicaragua. A Protestant even praised this book who commented, “The Capuchin Priest Remigio of Papiol did not insult us, as it is usual, but showed us a great respect and has defended the Catholic faith always from the Bible.” In one occasion, he also received a letter from Cardinal Pacelli, the future Pope Pius XII, congratulating him for the value of this book.
A few days after he was transferred to Sarria in 1936, when the Fraternity had to dispense due to the Revolution, he went first to the house of the family of our Capuchin Brother Juan Bautista of Sarria. He did not like to remove his Capuchin Habit that he always carried along, but Brother Victor of Manresa convinced him to do it, in order not to endanger the family that welcomed him. Even so he resisted to shave his beard.
When he saw the burning of the Friary of Sarria, he cried and used to repeat, “All the sweat of my life is lost forever!” The last days he remained silent and did not talk almost with anyone, but he was all the time praying.
Some days later the Provincial Minister of Catalunya asked Doctor Escayola, who had a clinic in the street of Alfonso XII to welcome the Capuchin friars in his clinic for refuge. Pretending that he was sick, he went there. When he gave farewell to the family of Brother Juan Bautista, he thanked them for the services received there and told them, “Goodbye! Till in Heaven!” His stay in the clinic lasted only for two days. in order to pretend that he was sick, he had to submit himself to some analysis and attentions that made him very nervous. Besides it was not clear to him that he could trust all the personnel of the clinic. Finally he left saying, “I am tired of too much comedy! I am not sick!”
We can say that the decision to abandon that center was right, because some days later, the Revolutionary of Sants called Doctor Escayola asking him for reasons why they had admitted two Capuchin Brothers in the clinic. He answered that he dedicated himself to treat sick persons, and not to ask for the ideas of persons.
So our Brother Remigio entered in contact with one of his nephews, Jondi Santacana, who lived since two years in a rented house in Balmes street 133. The owner Antonia Puyuelo was absent, but her daughter, Maria Luisa Rabinat consented to welcome the brother. All those living there were informed and gave the consent. When the owner Antonia returned, she approved the decision taken and so our Brother Remigio was formally accepted there.
During the months that he lived in that guest-house, our Brother Remigio lived a very retired life. Each morning he celebrated the Eucharist and in the afternoon he gave classes of Religion to another guest, Mr. Roger Palau, who paid him for this service.
At table he used to explain the lives of the Saints. He spent his time in reading, writing and praying for his persecutors. In those days they wanted to prepare a missionary trip to another country for him. Hehad to leave two days before his detention.
At the beginning of January, he asked the owner of the guest-house to welcome another brother student, Brother Tomas of Castello.
He asked for a Capuchin nun, whom he led spiritually, if he could come and visit her. He did it in different occasions: he went, he confess himself, received Communion and carried it to other known people. With other ladies he continued to write letters as their spiritual accompaniment. Not to use the true names, he gave to each one of them, the name of the sisters of Santa Teresita, and he himself signed the letters with the name of the father of santa Teresita, now canonized!
On January 21 in the morning, another brother presented himself in the guest-house. He was one of the students, Brother Paciano Maria of Barcelona, who came to look for his companion, Brother Tomas of Castello to go around together. The two young brothers went to the rubbish and burned Friary of Sarria, without realiizing that there were Revolutionaries keeping vigil. Because in another occasion they had been seen in that place or because of their attitude showed that they knew well the place, the two brothers were detained and led to a detention center. So they were interrogated, they confessed the places where they had been welcomed and the Revolutionaries went there immediately to catch them.
When Brother Remigio realized the danger, he consumed all the consecrated hosts that he kept and he gave himself up, declaring with strength and decision that we was a CAPUCHIN PRIEST. They carried him with two other guests. The place of the executions of this detention center used to be the cemetery of Cerdanyola, a town near Barcelona.
Every night at around eleven , they brought out those who had to be assasinated. the witness of these events, Mr. Font, deduced that Brother Remigio was brought out to be executed on the 21st of January 1936, because he could not see him anymore. The turn of Brother Paciano and possibly of Brother Tomas, was on the 24th.
In the year 1939, the bodies of Cerdanyola were officially exhumed and classified. In the year 1943, they proceeded to identify them. The body of Brother Remigio could be recognized for different details, among them, it stood out a relic of Santa Teresita, which he carried always with him. The body of Brother Paciano also was recognized, but the one of Brother Tomas did not appear. For this, never it was verified completely his probable execution at the hands of the Revolutionaries.
BLESSED REMIGIO OF PAPIOL, CAPUCHIN MARTYR AND MISSIONARY IN ERMITA, MANILA PHILIPPINES,
PRAY FOR US!!!
(prepared by Br. Christian Quiroz Feliciano, OFMCap.)