Beatification of the First Cloistered Dominican Martyr
On Sunday, October 28, 2007, 498 Martyrs from the Spanish Civil Ware will be solemnly beatified. Of these, 71 are from the various branches of the Dominican Family: friars(including a former Master of the Order), sisters, laity and a cloistered nun, the first martyr among the nuns to be beatified in our 800 year history!
Ventureta (nickname for Buenaventura) was a normal child, born and reared in an exemplary Christian household. Like all ordinary children, she played games with joy and laughter. The child could also throw a tantrum when contradicted. What a temper! The Dominican Sisters of the Annunciata took charge of her education where she showed great interest and talent in music, art and literature. Ventureta learned to pray and to make time for silent prayer before the altar at the college oratory. At age eleven, she received Our Lord at her First Holy Communion on 23 May 1897. As she was wholly enraptured, God infused into her soul the desire for total self-surrender.
Relatives and acquaintances described seventeen year old Ventureta as “tall, slender, graceful and well-poised with refined manners. She had a round face, always ready with a smile, and enhanced by her expressive eyes with their distant, contemplative gaze.
She was assiduous in prayer and the reception of the sacraments. The writings of Fr. Louis Granada nourished her spiritual and intellectual life. Pastoral ministry was not alien to Ventureta for she was among the zealous catechists who gave instruction on Christian Doctrine to the young people in her parish. Ventureta was sixteen years old when she felt God’s call to the religious life. Possessed of a tender heart with exquisite kindness and sensibilities, Ventureta was drawn to the care of the sick. It was logical that she first thought of joining a community of nursing sisters who administered hospitals.
Her oldest sister, Mercedes, was already a nun at the Dominican monastery of Our Lady of Mount Sion in Barcelona. Mother Mercedes prayed for her young sister who was in the process of discerning her vocation. Ventureta made a retreat with the Filippini Sisters in Barcelona and after a period of intense spiritual exercises, she decided to become a Dominican contemplative nun.
In January 1905, the Dominican monastery of Our Lady of Mount Sion in Barcelona opened wide its enclosure door to receive the nineteen year old postulant, Buenaventura Sauleda-Paulis. The welcoming embrace of the community, especially of her own sister, Mercedes, filled her with great peace. Her monastic cell was a sacred space where she would find sweet repose for her soul and a quiet place for study, prayer and intimate encounters with God. The furnishings were very poor: a bed, a table, two chairs, a crucifix, a statue of the Virgin Mary and a small closet to hold clothing and personal things. The monastic horarium revolved around the Divine Office, lectio divina, study and work.
The monastic chronicles recorded the stages of her formation in the Dominican monastic contemplative life: Reception of the Habit on 12 March 1905; Profession of Simple Vows on 24 March 1906; and on 12 April 1909, she made her Profession of Solemn Vows. She memorialized her mother in her assumed religious name. A nun of unlimited charity, Sister Josefa was generous in serving her sisters. She discharged the offices of portress and infirmarian with great generosity and fidelity. She served her community as prioress (1929-1935) and afterwards as novice mistress (1935). The Dominican mottos Veritas and Contemplare et contemplate aliis tradere were deeply etched in her being. She was a well-tempered soul, fervent, exemplary, enthusiastic at the liturgical celebrations. Her spirituality was christocentric and with aspiration for the gift of martyrdom.
The Lord granted her desire to shed her blood to the last drop for her divine Spouse. In the religious persecution and tragic war of 1936, on August 31, she was taken captive; soon afterward, at night, she was subjected to interrogations, followed by a slow and cruel torture. At the first streak of dawn, her suffering was crowned with martyrdom. While she was dying, she prayed for her country, forgave her persecutors, and commended those who, likewise, died as martyrs. Her lifeless body – bloody and horrendously disfigured – was later discovered at the hippodrome outside the city of Barcelona. The body was taken to the Hospital where it was identified and prepared for burial. On 23 June 1950, her remains were transferred to the cemetery of the Esplugues de Llobregat convent.
The Process for her Beatification was opened in 1958 and was solemnly closed on 26 February 1963 at the Episcopal Palace of Barcelona. Sister Josefina Sauleda-Paulis, OP was beatified by His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI on October 28, 2007.
(Excerpted from SINTESIS BIOGRAFICA DE LA SIERVA DE DIOS SOR JOSEFINA SAULEDA by Sor Catalina Febrer, OP. Translated by Sister Maria-Agnes Karasig, OP, Summit, New Jersey,U.S.A.)