The Vatican announced on Friday the time and location of the beatification of Fr. Josep Samsó i Elisa, a Spanish priest and martyr. According to the Office of Liturgical Celebrations of the Supreme Pontiff, the ceremony will take place on Jan. 23 at the parochial basilica of Santa Maria n Mataro in the Archdiocese of Barcelona.
Born in Jan. of 1887 in Castellbisbal, Spain, Fr. Josep eventually studied at Barcelona's seminary and was sent to the Pontifical University of Tarragona. Upon graduation, Bishop Laguarda of Barcelona assigned him to be his personal secretary, and he was ordained a priest in 1910.
In his priestly ministry, Fr. Josep emphasized charity and catechesis, earning him praise from the Archbishop of Barcelona, Manuel Irurita, as “the premier catechist in the diocese.” The Bishop of Segovia, Daniel Llorente also praised Fr. Joseph, and declared that “Doctor Samsó, in his parish of Santa María de Mataró, held the best organized catechesis in all of Spain.”
His spiritual direction encouraged many people to follow their religious or priestly vocation. Fr. Josep also insisted on punctuality in the Mass schedule, sought perfection in the liturgy, and worked intensely to improve the interior decoration of the local cathedral, which was honored with the title of minor basilica in 1928.
In the throws of the Spanish Civil War in 1934, a group of armed men entered his rectory and threatened Fr. Josep and the people who were with him. The men made the priest and his companions go into the sanctuary of the church and pile up the pews. They then ordered the rector to light them on fire, but he refused in spite of their threats. Though men proceeded to ignite the altar and other things, firemen, arriving later, were able to calm the blaze. Fr. Josep pardoned the men, and chose not to reveal their identities when invited to by the authorities.
Fr. Josep was eventually arrested for being a priest in 1936. While he was in jail, he set up a schedule for reading his breviary, mediating, and praying the Rosary without the guards knowledge. He also heard the confessions of his fellow prisoners. Always friendly in his disposition, he reportedly shared the gifts people brought him with everyone.
On the morning of his execution, he bid the other prisoners farewell with his customary “God above all” and, with his hands tied together, was escorted to the cemetery of Mataró. When he got to the top of the stairs, he asked for the ropes to be taken off his hands so he could embrace those who were about to kill him. He also told his executioners that he forgave them as Christ forgave those who nailed him to the Cross.
Though the executioners tried to cover his eyes, he asked that he be left able to see the city where the people he loved so much lived as he died. After his attempts to embrace the firing squad, Fr. Josep crossed his arms and said, “you may shoot now.”
Fr. Josep's beatification is the first one to take place in the Archdiocese of Barcelona.