There is a little-known blessed whose feast day just passed on August 2nd. His name is Blessed Ceferino Gimenez Malla. While he’s yet to achieve official sainthood status, there is a lot that can be learned from the first Gypsy who was considered a blessed – he was beatified in 1997 by Pope St. John Paul II.
Never heard of him? Want to learn more about him? Here are five facts you need about the Spanish martyr who died for his faithfulness to the Rosary and the Church.
A wandering man
He is considered the first “blessed Gypsy.” From the time of his birth, his family traveled through Spain, particularly through the provinces of Catalonia and Aragon, and into southern France. He didn’t travel all of his life though. In the last years of his life, he and his family finally settled in the city of Barbastro, Spain.
A family man
Bl. Ceferino was married to Teresa Gimenez Mallam (who was three years his elder) when he was just 18 years old. They were unable to have children of their own but adopted Teresa’s niece, Josefina, as their own. It is said that the little girl was never in need or want of anything; she received the love, affection, and education she needed.
Unfortunately, he didn’t just have his own family to take care of. His father left his family shortly after Ceferino married, leaving his pregnant mother alone. Not wanting his mother and 4 younger siblings to suffer, Ceferino decided to step up and helped financially support them while navigating through the early stages of married life.
An Honest Man
After settling down in Barbastro, Cerefino became known as both a horse trader and an honest businessman. It was his reputation of being reliable and upright that brought him both business and, unfortunately, also envy. At one point, he was falsely imprisoned for alleged theft. Having cultivated the reputation he had and his accusers not having the “evidence” needed, he was acquitted and released from jail.
A religious Man
He and his family were known for their piety. Ceferino was known to pray the Rosary with the elderly. He helped children learn their prayers and would often tell them biblical stories to help educate them on faith matters. His two great loves were the Holy Eucharist (attending Mass as frequently as he could) and the Rosary. His felt close to the Blessed Mother and even adopted her fiat as his own; to always do God’s will, no matter what.
After he was widowed, he devoted himself more to the Church, becoming a member of the third order of Saint Francis (which the Capuchins had founded in Barbastro), helping out in the Society of St. Vincent de Paul, and regularly attending nighttime adoration.
A courageously pious man
In July 1936, at the age of 75, Bl. Ceferino was imprisoned and tortured for defending a local priest during the Spanish Civil War. They offered him his freedom… as long as he stopped praying the Rosary. When he refused, he was sentenced to death. On the morning of August 8, 1936, Communist soldiers shot him to death. His last words, as they were shooting, were “Viva Cristo Rey!” He died while clutching his beloved Rosary in his hand.
In a world in which living out an authentic Christian life is treated as a legitimate threat to “liberty”, it would be good to take a page out of Bl. Ceferino’s book. Instead of letting ourselves be bullied into conforming, let’s hold tight to our Rosaries and go forward with the words “Viva Christo Rey!”
Bl. Ceferino Gimenez Malla, pray for us!