Blessed Fr. Martin Martinez Pascual left a lasting testament to the grace of martyrdom when, on August 18, 1936, he smiled for a photo just moments before being shot.
A Diocesan Worker Priest of the Sacred Heart, Fr. Pascual had been appointed prefect of St. Joseph's College in Murcia as well as professor at the seminary in San Fulgencio. He taught Latin, and was a popular and beloved priest.
The anti-Catholic persecutions in Spain erupted in 1936, while the priest was on vacation in his home. He made sure to rescue all the consecrated Hosts from the parish chapel, and went into hiding in barns and caves. He only emerged in August once he heard that his father had been arrested, questioned by the local committee on the whereabouts of his son.
His father had sent a message to his son asking that he get as far away from the area as possible, but instead, Fr. Pascual turned himself in, in the hopes the government would release his father. Pascual was thrown into prison along with other captured priests, where he spent time offering the sacraments of penance and the Holy Eucharist to fellow prisoners. On August 18, the priests were loaded on to the back of a truck and driven to a local graveyard.
Before his death, the guards asked Pascual if he preferred to turn around so as not to see the rifles. The priest answered no, and said, "I only give you my blessing that God does not take into account the madness that you commit." He then blessed his murderers.
Hans Gutmann, a republican soldier documenting the work of the militia, desired to capture images of the priest in his final moments. He took photos while Fr. Pascual smiled for the camera. The man standing next to him in the image is the soldier who would moments later shoot him.
Father's last words were "Viva Cristo Rey!"
Pascual was beatified by Pope St. John Paul II on October 1, 1995. His feast is commemorated August 18. He is among more than a thousand beatified martyrs of the Spanish Civil War. Official records show a total of 6,832 bishops, priests and religious who died in that time period
Blessed Martin Martinez Pascual, pray for us.