By Courtney Grogan
Pope Francis said Sunday that the nine Spanish seminarian martyrs beatified this weekend provide a witness to priests and bishops to remain pure and generous.
Blessed Ángel Cuartas Cristóbal and eight of his seminary classmates were martyred amid the “Red Terror” persecution of the Church during the Spanish Civil War in the 1930s in which more than 6,800 clergy or religious were killed.
“These young aspirants to the priesthood loved the Lord so much as to follow Him on the way of the Cross. Their heroic witness helps seminarians, priests, and bishops to remain pure and generous, faithfully serving the Lord and the holy people of God,” Pope Francis said March 10.
In the martyrs’ beatification Mass in Oviedo, Spain the day prior, Cardinal Angelo Becciu, prefect of the Vatican Congregation of Saints expressed a similar sentiment.
“With the sanctity of their lives, the newly beatified speak above all to the Church of today. With their blood, they have made the Church great and have given splendor to the priesthood,” Becciu said.
“We are all troubled by the scandals that seem to have no end and that disfigure the face of the Bride of Christ. We need seminarians, priests, consecrated persons, generous pastors like these martyrs of Oviedo,” the cardinal continued.
“We need honest and irreproachable priests who bring souls to God and do not cause suffering to the Church and disturb the people of God,” he said.
In his Angelus address, Pope Francis reflected on Sunday’s Gospel narrative of Jesus’ temptation in the desert. After fasting for forty days, Jesus is tempted three times by the devil.
The three desert temptations to turn a stone into bread, to rule over all of the kingdoms on earth, and to tempt God’s providence by jumping from the highest point in Jerusalem indicate “three roads that the world continually proposes, promising great success,” Francis said.
These three paths are the road of greed, the road of human glory, and the road of “instrumentalization of God,” he explained.
“These are the paths that are set before us, with the illusion of being able to achieve success and happiness. But, in reality … they separate us from God because they are the work of Satan,” Francis said.
“This is always the insidious logic of the devil. He starts from the natural and legitimate need to eat, to live, to be fulfilled, to be happy, and pushes us to believe that all of this is possible without God, even against Him,” he said.
Pope Francis explained that “the remedies” for these three temptations are also threefold: the interior life, faith in God, and the certainty of God’s love.
“Let us therefore take advantage of Lent, as a privileged time to purify ourselves, to experience the consoling presence of God in our lives,” he said.
Pope Francis asked for prayers as he and the Roman curia begin their annual Lenten spiritual exercises this week. On Sunday evening, the pope will depart by bus for the town of Ariccia, where he will spend a week in prayer and reflection led by Benedictine Abbot Bernardo Francesco Maria Gianni.
“May the maternal intercession of the Virgin Mary, an icon of fidelity to God, sustain us on our journey, helping us always to reject evil and to welcome good,” Pope Francis said.