Father Tomás Pallarés Ibáñez (1890-1934)
Lord Jesus Christ, you told your Apostles to be “shrewd as serpents and simple as doves.” You also gifted you servant, Tomás with a marvelous simplicity and an admirable prudence … grant us the same gifts that you gave to your faithful disciple. We pray in the name of Jesus the Lord. Amen
Birth and early education
Tomás was born on March 6, 1890 in the village of La Iglesuela del Cid (Teruel) and was baptized the following day in the parish church of that village. His parents, Jenaro and Amparo, devout Christians, provided Tomás with an education. Behind those lively eyes was an incredible intelligence which made his parents proud and they praised him when speaking with their neighbors. Judging from his
grades in school it seems that his parents had reason to feel proud about their son, Tomás. As an adolescent he requested entrance into the apostolic school that the Vincentian had established in Teruel (1887), and his pastor had no hesitation in writing an excellent reference in which he spoke about Tomás, as well as his parents and other family members.
We should not be surprised that he studied at the apostolic school in Teruel since the Vincentian Missionaries were well known throughout the Diocese for their ministry. In 1902 the Vincentians had established a residence in La Iglesuela (one year before Tomás was sent to Teruel). At the Casa-Misión in La Iglesuela the Missionaries preached popular missions throughout the Diocese of Teruel-Albarracín.
At the apostolic school Tomás spent only three years there studying humanities. Previously he had had an excellent preparation and did not need to take any more courses in order to enter the Internal Seminary. Thus, having completed his studies in Teruel he departed from the place where he was loved and admired for his youthful joy, his natural empathy and for his knowledge which he had acquired through daily effort. He reaffirmed his decision to enter the Internal Seminary, a time for vocational discernment. Thus he traveled to the Casa Central of the Congregation that was located in Madrid. Tomás was sixteen years old.
“There goes the young man Tomás Pallarés Ibáñez”
Before Tomás arrived at the Internal Seminary the superior of the school in Teruel, Father Teófilo de la Viuda, had forwarded a report that stated: There goes the young man, Tomás Pallarés Ibáñez. He has given proof of being well-grounded and is faithful to the practice of prayer, to participation in the sacraments, and to the practice of other pious exercises. Behind that rather clear and precise language we find a great heart that would soon be revealed in all its splendor. It did not take the director of the Internal Seminary very long to discover that the administrators at the school in Teruel were not mistaken when they had submitted their report on Tomás.
Tomás was admitted to the Internal Seminary on September 8, 1906 and received by the director of seminary, Father Agapito Alcalde. That date would always remain etched in the memory of Tomás because he would always be grateful to God for having called him to become a member of the Congregation of the Mission. As expected he proceeded to dedicate himself to the commitment that resulted from this new lifestyle and adapted himself to the customs and the traditions of the Vincentian community.
At the conclusion of two years Father Agapito Alcalde wrote a report that was sent to the Visitor and that would be discussed before making a decision with regard to the profession of vows. In that report it was stated: Tomás enjoys good health and is well behaved. He is talented and applies himself to the tasks placed before him. The Visitor, Father Eladio Arnaiz, granted him permission to take vows. With the provincial as witness, Tomás professed his vows on September 9, 1908 in the Casa Central in Madrid, the same place where he had spent the last two years clothing himself in the Vincentian spirit. The spirit of the community, as explained by Saint Vincent de Paul to the Missionaries, was very attractive to Tomás. People who shared life with him and who witnessed his martyrdom stated: the spirit of simplicity and his humility in dealing with others and in his relationship with God … these virtues were revealed throughout his life. He was most zealous in seeking the integral salvation of those persons who were poor.
After vows he went to the house in Hortaleza (Madrid) where during two years he studied philosophy … his third year of philosophy and the four years of theology were done at the Casa Central in Madrid. His studies in the seminary revealed his clarity of expression and his keen intellectual ability, characteristics that distinguished him as a good student. His knowledge of dogma was combined with an understanding of Sacred Scripture and this gave him a foundation that would enable him to preach on the various theological and scriptural truths. He was not a specialist in Dogma or Scripture, but he could have been if his superiors had requested him to pursue further studies and research.
In accord with his Christian and missionary ideal, he attempted on a daily basis to better prepare himself for the reception of sacred Orders, especially deaconate (May 29, 1915) and priesthood (August 29, 1915). The Basilica of Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal in Madrid overflowed with the joy that was experienced by those who were ordained and by those who participated in this celebration. Fourteen men were ordained with Father Tomás Pallarés and Bishop José Álvarez Miranda imposed his hands on each of these individuals. Father Tomás Pallarés was twenty-five years old and enjoyed good health (physical and spiritual) and had been well-prepared for ministry.
Willing to go and do whatever his superiors desired
Few Missionaries in the space of six years (1825-1930) would have found themselves in as many houses and engaged in so many different ministries as Father Palláres: popular missions, retreats for priests, for the lay people and for the Daughters of Charity, formation and education in seminaries and schools, spiritual director for all classes of people. Someone classified him as homo universalis because of his vast knowledge and his ability to engage in the different forms of ministry that were entrusted to him.
His first and primary ministry was that of the popular missions and he preached these missions during eight years (1915-1923) on the island of Tenerife. Those who listened to his preaching testified to the simple and yet profound manner in which he explained clearly and precisely the Word of God, the eternal truths and the obligations of every Christian. His fruitful apostolate on the island also involved giving Latin classes in the high school administered by the Salesian Brothers. Those young students would have liked to have been able to discover some fault in their professor but were unable to accuse him of anything that might have resulted in some form of censure. He was probably able to hide some human limitations with regard to his teaching methods and the development of his spiritual life, but those faults could not be perceived by the critical eyes of his students.
In 1923 Father returned to the peninsula and was assigned to the apostolic school in Guadalajara, the central school for all the aspirants to the Congregation of the Mission of the Province of Madrid. During four years he was involved in the formation of those young men and at the same time was able to serve as chaplain. In his human and Vincentian formation of these young men he was very attentive to the physical/material, spiritual and cultural aspects of the students. There in Guadalajara the students were grateful for the ministry of Father Pallarés and praised and admired his teaching methods, self-sacrifice, sense of responsibility, and his skill as a teacher and spiritual director. As spiritual director he suggested that people develop a love for the Eucharist and the Blessed Virgin, devotions which he himself practiced in his own life and many of those who knew him, later testified to that fact.
In 1927, after four years in the apostolic school he was appointed to another house which would cause even greater admiration for his person and his ministry. He was assigned to the Casa Central in Madrid where he became an assistant to the Provincial Econome, Father Eduardo Tabar. He remained in this position until 1930 but during that time he was also a chaplain and heard the confessions of the Daughters of Charity who resided in various houses in Madrid. His competency and commitment came to the attention of the Superior General, Father Verdier (1919-1933) who appointed him secretary to the extraordinary delegate of the superior general, Father de las Heras, (Provincial of Mexico), who was charged with visiting all the provinces of the Congregation and the provinces of the Daughters of Charity in Spain.
Father Pallares accompanied and assisted the delegate of the Superior General in all his canonical visits throughout Spain and revealed his prudence, patience and kindness. He never meddled in the affairs of the delegate. When this mission was completed, the Provincial of the Madrid Province appointed him as his secretary and confident, a position in which he would serve until the following year when the provincial, Father Joaquin Atienza (1929-1930) completed his term of office.
In 1930 the new Visitor, Father Adolfo Tobar (1930-1949) appointed Father to the Diocesan Seminary in Oviedo, an appointment that Tomás obediently and willingly accepted. Placing himself at the service of the community there he ministered as an administrator and was also a spiritual director. A sign of his concern for the spiritual development of the seminarians is seen in the request that he send to Madrid asking for copies of the Meditaciones Sacerdotales that was written by the well-known friend of the Spanish clergy, Father Eugenio Escribano. In addition to this work, Father Pallarés, during the summer months, gave retreats to the Daughters of Charity and the laity … these retreats took place in different parts of Spain and as a result of this ministry more and more people came to know Jesus, the evangelizer of the poor. Then at the beginning of 1934 he accepted the position of Vice-rector at the Seminary, never realizing that the October Marxist uprising would bring an end to his ministry.
“Let’s finish off these individuals with one shot”
Several witnesses have stated that during the afternoon of October 6, 1934, the communist revolutionaries surrounded the Diocesan Seminary, making it the scene of a horrible shoot out. Thus began the tragedy that would continue until Saturday, October 13th. The professors and students that were able to do so, fled the seminary, but the majority of them were captured. Then, those individuals, along with member of the Dominican and Carmelite communities, were taken to the police station and later to a make-shift prison that had been established in the former headquarters of the Guardia Civil. Father Pallarés had jumped over the wall and began walking in a disoriented manner along the train tracks. In the distance he was able to hear on all sides the discharge of guns and was eventually surprised by the revolutionary mob crying out for vengeance and death to the priests and the monks. He was handcuffed and imprisoned with Brother Salustiano González. Both had rejected an offer of refuge that had been extended to them by a brother of Father Pallarés. They thanked him but continued to stay at the seminary despite the dangers that they were exposed to.
After three days all the prisoners were transferred to another jail and these seventy prisoners were forced to occupy one room. They spent the night huddled together, some seated on the ground, others standing … they were guarded day and night by members of the militia who were all heavily armed. These members of the militia were seeking the death of these individuals whose only wrong was that they had opted for the priesthood and had made a decision to live their life as a committed Christian. The prisoners were not always allowed to speak with one another but nevertheless, realizing the danger that they were in, they took advantage of this situation to confess their sins to one another. During this time they were searched and the little that they had on their person was taken from them. The guards then shouted at them: you who are religious and profess to be perfect, clean the toilets and sweep the floors.
There was an attempt to shoot them all but the person in charge of the prison prevented this from happening. In order to prevent some kind of slaughter, mock trials were held and each of the prisoners was asked about their condition (even though it was known that these men were priests and/or religious or committed lay persons). Some of the lay persons were released but not the more committed individuals. The revolutionaries, with arms in hand, shouted threats against the priests and the religious: let’s finish off these individuals with one shot! Those republican-socialists had become very agitated but their instructions came from individuals who were their seniors. They were anticipating a civil war and had a hatred for the clergy who became the primary victims of the October revolution and the bloody persecution.
Again the prisoners were moved to another jail and remained there for three days without anything to eat or drink. On the morning of the third day the prisoners were given coffee made with the water that their persecutors had washed in … and then very quickly even this was taken from them. The prisoners had to endure harsh treatment on a daily basis … horrors which today are difficult to understand. The behavior of the prisoners revealed that they were people of conviction and rejoiced in recalling the promise made by Christ himself to those who profess their faith in him before others.
Oviedo, “the city of martyr”
The hand trembles when writing about the events that occurred on October 13th, 1934, in the provisional jail: there were two explosions that had been planned by the communists. At about 12:30pm when the communists saw the advance of the governmental forces, the first explosion took place. This had been planned as a diversionary tactic in order to give them time to escape and plan the second explosion which destroyed the entire building. The advance of the government troops enraged the anti-clerical forces and at first they wanted to shoot all the prisoners (six by six) but they feared reprisals and so they changed their plans.
The first explosion destroyed the stairway thus preventing any exit. Three walls of the prison were destroyed and one of the walls collapsed on the prisoners. In light of these events the prisoners realized that death was near at hand. Two tons of dynamite had been placed on the ground fall and could explode at any moment. The communists lost control and the order was given: let each one save himself as he can!
At that time, then, some of the prisoners climbed onto the near-by roofs that were lower than the third floor of the building that had been converted into a prison; others began to climb down the scaffolding that had been erected for the construction of the new Institute (a work that had not been completed). The majority of the prisoners, however, ripped up the flooring that was made of wood and then, through the opening that they had created, they were able to lower themselves to the second floor by means of bed-sheets that had been tied together. When they arrived on the second floor they climbed down the scaffolding that surrounded the construction site of the new Institute. The entire building and the walls surrounding the property were guarded by the communists who, with rifles in hand, were prepared to shoot and kill anyone whom they saw.
As Father Pallarés lowered himself to the second floor, gun shots rang out and bullets penetrated his skull … he let go of the sheets and fell to the second floor where he died immediately. It was 12:30pm, Saturday, October 13, 1934. A metal post that had been thrown into the air as a result of the second explosion fell on the body of Father Palláres, crushing him and burying him.
Witnesses were able to identify his body, which later disappeared … nothing more was ever known concerning the whereabouts of his body. His courageous witness to Christ remained imprinted in the memory of those persons who knew him and witnessed his death. Indeed, Tomás professed his faith in the presence of those persons who had hoped to exterminate every form of religion.
Oviedo was baptized in blood and given the name, the city of martyrs. This was a prelude to the events that would take place during the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939) … in fact the events in Oviedo could be viewed as the first chapter of that war. Priests and men and women religious, seminarians and committed lay persons gave an admirable witness through the profession of their faith in Jesus Christ. Many churches and convents were burned and the University, the seminary and the cathedral residence (all artistically invaluable) were destroyed with dynamite. The cathedral residence was reduced to rubble as a result of continual bombardment which was intended to dislodge the Guardia Civil who had hidden themselves in the cathedral.
[This biography, which can be found in Spanish on the website of the Madrid Province (http://www.paulesmadrid.org/), is an adaptation of the work done by Antonio Orcajo, CM and published by Editorial La Milagrosa, Madrid in the year 2012 under the title Misioneros Paúles Mártires de la Revolución Religiosa en España: 1934-1936 and translated into English by Charles T. Plock, CM].