Father Amado García Sánchez (1903-1936)
Gracious God, as a result of your love for humankind you called Amado to follow in the steps of your Son, Jesus Christ, evangelizer of the poor. Grant that through his intercession we may always live in accord with the gospel and bear much fruit through our good works. We pray in the name of Jesus the Lord. Amen.
Infancy and early youth
In the early hours of the morning of April 29, 1903, the child who would be called, Amado, was born in Moscardón (Teruel). The meaning of his name would find its complete fulfillment in him … loved by God, the Father of all and loved by the people with whom he interacted (except for those who persecuted and executed him as a result of their hatred for the faith). It does not have to be
:said that his parents, Tomás and Isabel, celebrated the birth of their child by giving thanks to God. Amado was their first child and had been awaited with much expectation. Wherever he went Amado was loved because of his jovial manner which at times seemed to be contradicted by his seriousness and his hesitation to speak. Moscardón was a small village located high in the mountains and numbered about four hundred inhabitants; on the outskirts of this village is the ravine of El Castellar … extensive pine groves cover the hillsides of this area. The low temperatures of the winter hardened the skin and the character of Amado.
He was baptized on May 1, 1903 and was confirmed at the age of twelve, a short time before he entered the apostolic school in Teruel in 1914. All his sacraments, including his first communion, were received in the parish church of the village. Well equipped with the grace that strengthens and enriches the spirit and with the cultural background that he had received in the national school, he told his parents that he wanted to go to Teruel to study humanities because his desire was to become a Missionary of Saint Vincent de Paul. He hoped to go to Madrid with some other young men whom he knew and who had entered the Internal Seminary. He was animated by the best of motives and this would enable him to take the first steps that would ultimately lead to his ordination
I want to be a Missionary like those who have come to preach in our village
His eyes and the eyes of his parents were filled with tears when he departed for Teruel, and later when he left to travel to Madrid at the conclusion of his studies at the apostolic school. Amado embraced his mother and found it difficult to let go of her. He would preserve this scene in his memory and it was a reminder of the sacrifice that was made by many seminarians who had left father and mother and brothers and sisters and other family members, who had left friends and people whom they had known in various towns and villages, and upon their departure those who were left behind filled up with tears. Nevertheless, Amado was decided upon achieving his ideal of becoming a missionary and this was more important to him than the love and care of his family and friends.
On September 10, 1917 Amado entered the Internal Seminary which was located in the neighborhood of Chamberi (Garcia de Paredes, Madrid). Father Agapito Alcalde was Director of the seminary and his spirituality and example touched the mind and the heart of Amado. According to Amado’s own words, his human and Christian yearning were greatly satisfied by the study of the life and activity of the founder of the Congregation, Vincent de Paul. From the registry book of those who entered the Internal Seminary we know that Amado was the youngest but he was one of the most intelligent and also was very pious. We are informed about these qualities by one of his classmates, Ramón Sangüesa, who became a Vincentian and was assigned to Venezuela where he exercised his ministry. Amado and Ramón were united on earth by a deep friendship until the time when death separated them.
I always found him to be pious, balanced and simple
On April 30, 1921 one stage of his missionary vocational journey was completed and another stage, which involved an equally important commitment as the first stage, was begun as he took his vows. In addition to his own knowledge and understanding of the commitments that he had accepted, Amado would add to this and would include the commitments that resulted from living a life of chastity, poverty, obedience and stability in the Congregation in order to evangelize the poor. His human qualities and gifts tested his own love for Christ, the evangelizer and he placed his love for Christ on a higher level than his love for others who held him in high esteem and who were his friends. With his heart filled with many different expectations he began his study of philosophy and was very passionate about his study of psychology and ethics which he found to be more practical for his ministry than the study of metaphysics and cosmology.
At the conclusion of his study of philosophy he began the study of theology at the Casa Central in Madrid (the same place where he had done the two years of the Internal Seminary) and later, in Cuenca. There was no comparison between his study of philosophy and his study of theology which created a tremendous enthusiasm in his interior. With ease he was able to discuss and explain different dogmatic and moral questions to his professors and his classmates. With his clear and keen mind he entered fully into the study of Canon Law and Moral Theology. It is interesting to note here that despite his intelligence and his ability to explain theological matters he was never a seminary professor.
Amado had the vocation of leader and yet he never attempted to exert power over others. His ease with study and his understanding of ecclesiastical matters was combined with simplicity, a sincere piety and friendliness. He spoke clearly and perhaps even elegantly and his companions were attentive to the manner in which in developed various theological questions that he had been asked to defend. One of his classmates stated: I always found him to be pious, balanced and simple and his simplicity was combined with a rare instinct for prudence. From the time that he was a child he had a sense of responsible obedience and in light of this his superiors would soon assign him to positions of leadership.
I pray that the Lord will give me common sense
Amado moved with great ease in the midst of various intellectual pursuits but he was always focused on the final goal, namely, he wanted to be another Christ on earth, another Christ crucified. On March 20, 1926 he received deaconate and on May 2nd of the same year, he was ordained a priest by the Archbishop of Santiago, Julián de Alcolea. Amado was twenty-five years old.
According to one of his classmates on the day of his ordination to the priesthood Amado told this individual a secret that reveals something of the way in which he thought and acted: I asked the Lord to give me common sense and then after that I wanted the Lord to do as he willed. Others saw that he possessed this gift of common sense, including the Sisters and others who came to him for spiritual direction. They received practical advice and it is difficult to explain the origins of the insights that he shared with those people whom he directed. This same classmate added that Amado was very dedicated to his intellectual and material pursuits … something that was not very common.
A brief but fruitful ministry
The day following his ordination, May 3rd, he celebrated his first Mass in the Basilica of Our Lady of Miraculous Medal, a celebration that was presided at with great joy and devotion. His parents accompanied him. Amado had always shown a special devotion to the Virgin under the title of Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal. Another of his classmates stated: on the day that he celebrated his first Mass (we celebrated together) it was as if he was transported to another place. Those words were spoken by Gabriel López Quintas who later became the Director of the Internal Seminary. The daily celebration of the Eucharist enabled Amado to deepen his relationship with Christ, the high priest and at the same time enabled him to clothe himself in spirit of Christ.
Amado’s spirituality was centered on Christ, present in the Eucharist. His love for Christ was revealed in his frequent visits to the Blessed Sacrament to accompany the Lord and receive the Lord in spiritual communion. From morning to night Amado dedicated all of his activity to the Lord and Master. When Amado left the house and later returned, he would give an account of how he had spent his time outside the community. Mary and the Eucharist were always together in Amado’s eyes and he spoke about these two realities (privately and publically) to the faithful. When preaching retreats or novenas to the Daughters of Charity he took pains to make his words vibrate with a love for Mary and Jesus Christ, the pledge of life in eternity.
After the celebration in the shrine of the Miraculous Medal, Amado traveled to the Mission house in Ávila where his superiors had sent him. There he preached popular missions. In a very brief period of time people saw that he possessed the gift of practical knowledge. In his preaching he frequently cited the works of Saint Teresa of the Child Jesus as well as the works of Saint Vincent and this gave a special authority to his words as he encouraged men and women to grow in holiness.
The house in Granada had been recently established and Father Amado was sent there in 1927. There also he dedicated his time to the preaching of popular missions in small towns and villages that were in need of Christian formation. In the city of Granada he preached often and on many different occasions, worked to establish the Miraculous Medal Association in the various parishes and spent many hours hearing confessions. Soon the clergy of that area became aware of Father Amado’s profound spirituality and sought his advice in spiritual and pastoral matters. In the midst of all of this he found time to visit the various cultural centers located in this area (the cave of Sacromonte and Albaicin, the gardens in Genaralife and the artistic beauty of Alhambra).
After ministering there for two years, his superiors asked him to go to Gijón, another recent establishment. Little by little he renewed his commitment to the people who asked for his presence and assistance. The poor people who lived in this community very quickly discovered Father Amado’s generosity. He was always attentive to people’s needs and willing to serve wherever he was needed. His sound judgment in his pastoral ministry and his life with his confreres was noticed by his superiors who named him the local superior (1935) … he was nine years ordained at the time of that appointment.
During the time of uncertainty that resulted from the revolution, Father Amado felt responsible for the community
In July 1936 at the beginning of the Marxists revolution, Father Amado, a member of the community in Gijón, had sought refuge and was in hiding in that community. With him were Father Andrés Avelino Gutiérrez and Brother Paulino Jiménez. He was invited by friends and persons who knew him to leave the community residence, but he feared he would compromise the life of those persons who made this offer. The other Missionaries had the same fear and so they did not remain in the same house for any extended length of time. They sought other places of refuge even when those homes were less secure and even though they placed themselves in a situation where they could be discovered and captured by their persecutors. In Gijón, like so many other places, the priests and the religious were the target of the anger and the atrocities that were being committed by the Marxists.
A young woman named Isabel García was one of the people who was close to Father Amado during his final days and she stated: I have a high esteem for the virtuous life that Father Amado lived. During the time of uncertainty that resulted from the revolution, Father felt responsible for the community and for those persons that were in any way related to this local community. He was so aware of this responsibility that he refused to abandon the community residence and stated that it was his obligation to remain there. Other persons, including the Daughters of Charity, expressed the same idea in similar words.
In light of the repeated urging of his friends, Father Amado finally left the community residence and found refuge in the house of Sabina Lladó where he remained for about four or five days. There he celebrated the Mass clothed as a laymen and he used a Missal that was frequently used by the faithful. Listening, however, to the voice of his conscience, he returned to the community residence and hid there. He did not want to compromise any family that, out of kindness and compassion, offered him refuge. Before these events he frequently spent time in front of the Blessed Sacrament and now (until the time of his arrest) he spent all his time in the community chapel. Day and night Amado passed the hours with Jesus, present in the Blessed Sacrament and waited for the revelation of God’s will.
Amado found his peace and his strength in Christ. Jesus, present in the Blessed Sacrament, was his comfort, his joy and his hope. He spoke to Jesus about the situation that Spain was forced to endure and he asked that all people might be given light, unity and peace. He was often prostrate in front of the Blessed Sacrament and, like Saint Paul, prayed: What shall separate us from the love of Christ? Will anguish or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or the sword? No, in all these things we conquer overwhelmingly through him who loved us (Romans 8:35, 37).
He had various pastoral commitments and therefore he would leave the house in the early hours of the morning in order to celebrate Mass and hear confessions in the Colegio de Pola where there were many people who wanted to receive the sacrament of Reconciliation. On August 15th he made his last trip to that school. He was aware of the fact that the persecution had intensified and that at any moment he could be surprised by the enemies of the church and condemned to death (other companions had already suffered that fate).
Kill me but don’t do anything to this poor elderly man
After two months everything unfolded according to Father Amado’s worst fears. On October 22, Brother Paulino Jiménez and he were arrested. They were interrogated in the people’s tribunal where Father was accused of having celebrated Mass and of being a priest. Therefore, they were viewed as rebels deserving of death. Father and Brother were ridiculed and mocked and Amado was obliged to recite the Creed and the Our Father while his persecutors laughed at him. Father Amado and Brother Paulino were then taken to the communist prison where for the next three days Amado was cruelly tortured. Several times each day he was threatened with death.
In the early hours of October 24th, 1936, the day before the feast of Christ the King, the executioners entered the prison and with their list in their hands read out the name of Amado, who stepped forward. He immediately embraced Brother Paulino and said: Good bye, we will see one another in eternity! Then he spoke to his executioners: Kill me but don’t do anything to this poor man who is one of our servants. His words were heard and Brother Paulio, who was thought to be a layman, was freed but continued to be watched … he was eventually able to escape and flee from that place where he was living.
The sun had not yet risen on October 24th when Father Amado and other companions were forced into a truck. They were driven to the municipal cemetery in Gijón (the cemetery of Suco, Ceares) and there at the entrance they were shot. At the time of his martyrdom Father Amado found the strength to express words of forgiveness to his executioners and to thank God for being allowed to sacrifice his life for the love of God. Just before his execution he said: You are killing me because I am a priest, may God forgive you as I forgive you.
In his testimony, the caretaker at the cemetery repeated the words of Father Amado which he had heard very clearly when the death truck arrived and the gun shots rang out. Father Amado was thirty-three years old and was executed with two diocesan priests. Their bodies were riddled with bullets until they fell to the ground … they were executed simply because they were Catholic priests.
Translated: Charles T. Plock, CM