Father Pelayo José Granado Prieto (1895-1936)
O God, rich in love and mercy, you shared these gifts with your priest, Pelayo. Through his intercession may we, with a spirit of faith, always accept the setbacks of life and never separate ourselves from your love. We pray in the name of Jesus the Lord. Amen.
Infancy and adolescense
On July 30, 1895 Pelayo was born in Santa María de la Llanos (Cuenca) and was baptized on August 1st of the same year. His father, Juan Francisco, a humble farmer,
had married Cipriana (his third wife) and together they had four children among who was Pelayo José (the third child). When Juan Francisco died on July 23rd, 1899 at the age of seventy-four, his widow moved to Belmonte, the town of her birth … at the time of that move her children were two, four, six and nine years old (three boys and one girl who was the youngest of the four children). With small children and no financial resources she began to do housework in the homes of various families and then became a housekeeper for the Franciscan Sisters of the Immaculate Conception.
In 1903 at the age of eight Pelayo was brought to Cuenca by his mother and was placed in the charitable center that was administered by the Daughters of Charity. Previous to this he had made his first communion in the house of the Trinitarians (not the Trinitarians founded by Father Judge). Pelayo remained at the center with the Daughters until 1910. At various times his mother (at great sacrifice) visited him and she was always concerned about him. The Sisters provided for his human development, that is, his affective and spiritual development. They had suggested the possibility of a vocation with the Vincentians because he was learned and pious, sensible and obedient. Every day he attended Mass and prayed the rosary … he was very happy to serve as a sacristan in the chapel.
That was the manner in which the Sisters, in a letter dated May 7, 1910, described Pelayo-José to the Visitor, Father Eladio Arnaiz, when they requested his entrance into the apostolic school in Teruel. Afer receiving that letter the Visitor responded affirmatively even though the young man was four years behind in his studies. Pelayo was fifteen years old and usually one began studies in the apostolic school at the age of eleven or twelve. The Sisters helped him gather together some clothing and provided for some of his other needs and then, at the beginning of September he traveled to Teruel.
After four years Pelayo was on an even level with his classmates who were better prepared. At the conclusion of that first stage of his formation, his professors encouraged him to write to the Visitor, Father Antonio Arambarri (1913-1921) and request entrance into the Internal Seminary. After spending some time with his mother, Pelayo passed the rest of the summer in Cuenca speaking with his friends at the center about his life in the school in Teruel, hoping to influence some of them to take the same steps and make a decision to enter the apostolic school.
Judging from events he was able to overcome the situation that had been created by the death of his father and by the decision of his mother to bring him to the center where he was cared for by the Daughters of Charity. He never gave any indication of feeling lonely or feeling abandoned by his mother and/or siblings. In fact, he showed a great love for his family and his family loved him. Because he viewed the time of the Internal Seminary as another step in his journey, Pelayo was filled with hope and entered the Congregation on September 8, 1914. He was nineteen years old, the oldest in his class and in nothing could he be compared unfavorably with his younger companions.
The trust that his superiors and directors placed in him, people with whom he spoke most openly, encouraged him to commit himself more fully to the Lord and to dedicate himself with greater determination to prayer and study. He enjoyed the classes of the Director of the seminary, Father Agapito Alcalde, who expounded on the spiritual and apostolic teachings of the founder of the Congregation, Vincent de Paul. Pelayo had a good memory and readily understood things and those characteristics enabled him to repeat the Director’s explanations.
At the time there were some Spanish translations of the works of Saint Vincent and Pelayo read these with much interest … at the same time he also read the Circular Letters of the Superior General and the Common Rules (Constitutions) in Latin and he attempted to memorize them in the same way that he would memorize passages from the New Testament, especially from Saint Paul’s letters. The time in the Internal Seminary was brief but decisive and lived with great joy and hope. In his notebooks he wrote about the progress that he felt he had made in the different stages of his life.
A member of the Congregation of the Mission
At the conclusion of his time in the Internal Seminary he pronounced his vows on September 9, 1916 in the Casa Central in Madrid, in the presence of the Visitor, Father Antonio Arambarri. A few days later he traveled with his classmates to the town of Hortaleza where during the next three years he studied philosophy. The community and student environment left much to be desired. Pelayo became aware of some of the serious faults that he observed in the community but also recognized that he himself was responsible for some of the tense relationships that had developed between students and administrators.
At the conclusion of the three years of philosophy he returned to the Casa Central in Madrid where he studied theology during the next four years (1919-1923). In a calmer environment than that which he experienced during the years of philosophy, he dedicated himself to the study of the various theological tracts. The grades that he attained reveal his intellectual abilities. Attentive to his own inclinations and abilities with regard to the ministries of the Congregation, he expressed a preference for preaching and direct ministry with people over the educational ministry in schools and seminaries. His activities showed that he was disciplined and obedient to his superiors (he would write about this in his notebooks).
Faithful to one of the great spiritual principles, namely, to follow the paths of divine providence in all things, Pelayo prepared himself interiorly for the priesthood which was conferred on him on May 25, 1923 by Bishop Prudencio Melo y Alcalde, the bishop of Madrid. The ceremony took place in the chapel of the bishop. Pelayo would have liked to have been ordained in the Basilica of the Miraculous Medal, the place where a few months earlier he had received sub-deaconate and deaconate through the imposition of the hands of Bishop Julián de Diego García y Alcolea, the bishop of Salamanca … he and his classmates, however, had to cede to the desires of the bishop and the superiors of the Congregation. The day after his ordination he celebrated Mass in the Basilica which at that time was called the church of Saint Vincent de Paul. At that Mass he was assisted by Father Ángel Moreda and his lay godparents were his brother and sister, Marino and María Dolores.
The popular mission as an opportunity for people to develop their spiritual life
Soon after his anointing as a priest to evangelize the poor, he received and joyfully accepted his first appointment that brought him to Ecija (Seville) where during the next four years (1923-1927) he was involved in the ministry of preaching popular missions. The Provincial, who had missioned him there, Father Joaquín Atienza (1921-1930), closely followed the manner in which he developed this ministry, praying that God would continue to bless him as he engaged in this important ministry. In addition to preaching missions, he established and directed the Association of the Daughters of Mary. As perfect of the church that was joined to the residence of the Vincentian community, Father rejoiced in this ministry with young women.
It has been said that after receiving the results of the ministerial examinations before the Curia Arzobispal of Seville, Pleayo shared this news with the Visitor … this communication reveals the simplicity of Father Pelayo. The Missionaries did not usually notify their superior with regard to the results of examinations that were routine. Nevertheless, with great joy and satisfaction Father Pelayo was very quick to share this news with his superiors.
At the conclusion of four years, Father Pelayo went to Granada with the same openness. He had been missioned there in 1927 by the visitor, Father Atienza. There he was engaged in the same ministries and it was during that time that Anales de la Congregación de la Misión and de las Hijas de la Caridad began to publish the chronicles of the popular missions. These summaries can still be read and the direct language of Father Pelayo creates a feeling of joy in the reader. During the missions Father would tell the people that the time of the popular mission is an opportunity for people, through the ministry of the priest, to further develop their spiritual life. His fame as a preacher became known in Belmonte, the town where his mother resided, and the pastor there invited him to preach the novena to Our Lady of Grace.
Quite content to be involved in this ministry of preaching popular missions in Granada, he was, however, once again missioned in 1929 to the house in Seville and was asked to continue preaching missions. He was delighted with the people in Andalucía and dedicated himself to preaching and to directing the Daughters of Mary (his hope in this ministry was that the enthusiasm of these young women would produce fruit among the wider population of that area). In the community house that was composed of four confreres (three priests and one brother) Father Pelayo was the youngest. He was tireless in his ministry and happy to provide for the various needs of his confreres.
He had not even considered the possibility of leaving Andalucía where he had begun to establish roots and therefore in 1932 he was surprised when the new Visitor, Father Adolfo Tobar (1930-1949) sent him to Bendajoz where the Missionaries were well-known and loved by the people who frequented the church of Santo Domingo. There he renewed his dedication to the popular missions. At the same time he preached occasionally in one of the nearby towns (usually at the time of the celebration of their patron feast) and was a confessor in the church of Santo Domingo where people came at all hours of the day in order to confess their sins and receive absolution. The people knew that a priest was always available for this ministry of reconciliation.
Obedience is the best preparation for martyrdom
If his appointment to Badajoz was a surprise, then he was even more surprised when he was sent to Gijón. In a letter dated in early 1935, Father Tobar stated: In Council we have studied the situation of the house in Gijón and we feel that it would be best for you to go to this community. We ask you to go there as soon as possible, but first fulfill any commitments that might be pending in your present assignment. News about this change made him fearful. He recalled the events that the Missionaries had experienced in Oviedo where three confreres had died.
In a low voice he repeated: I am afraid to go to Gijón! Day and night the possibility of martyrdom seemed to hover over him. Being the youngest member of the community, however, he found strength in his weakness and was able to encourage his confreres who found themselves in the midst of an insecure and frightening situation.
As he was about to travel to La Corrada to preach on the feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel (August 19th), one of the Sisters told him that such a journey would be very dangerous. He responded and said: Obedience is necessary and without obedience martyrdom is impossible. Another Daughter of Charity stated that Father Pelayo responded with the words: No, the best preparation for martyrdom is obedience!
He arrived in the town of La Corrada and, as usual, organized a procession around the Church, a procession that would take place before the celebration of the Eucharist. The celebration was very emotional and the people were very pleased. Everything went as planned but in the afternoon the members of the militia, some with firearms and others with sticks, began to shout insults against the church, the priests and religion. In light of this demonstration Father Granado decided to delay his return to Gijón and spoke with the pastor, Don Manuel: This is an ugly situation! Is there some place here where I can hide?
The pastor offered various possibilities and Father Pelayo opted to hide himself in one of the abandoned houses in La Corrada. In order to deal with this situation he changed his hiding place: during the day he hid in a cornfield and at night, in the house of Don Manuel. But then Father Pelayo was surprised and pursued by his persecutors. Don Manuel, with the help of his brother, had been able to escape and flee … he hid himself in a cave in the mountains. The members of the militia brought Father to the Casa Rectoral in Soto del Barco which had been converted into a prison for that district. Thus began Father Pelayo’s martyrdom.
Disregarding the risks involved in celebrating and administering the sacrament of Penance in the midst of that situation of persecution, Father Pelayo continued to do this in a hidden manner. The last person to receive the sacrament of reconciliation from him, María del Carmen García de Castro Carreño, wrote the following words that her confessor had told her: My daughter, I am not afraid to be a martyr. What I do fear is that they will make me suffer greatly and during these troubled times I do not know what will happen… It was as though Father Pelayo was able to foresee the extreme physical suffering that would be inflicted on him. Nevertheless, he continued to trust in the Lord whom he continually relied on and continued to exercise his ministry until he was handcuffed and imprisoned in the Casa Rectoral.
If it were not for the accounts of eye-witnesses, no one would believe the cruel torture that was inflicted on Father Granado before his death. The communists, who were fiercely opposed to the catholic faith, mutilated the body of father Pelayo … they shattered his legs and mocked him and insulted him, and he never uttered a word against his torturers. Like a lamb he was led to the slaughter and he offered up his life for the cause of peace and harmony … a clear sign of Father Pelayo’s forgiveness, compassion and mercy as he remained faithful to the faith until the last moment of his life. He gave his watch (the only object that he possessed) to one of his executioners, but not even that gesture was able to change the intentions of his torturers.
A resident in Soto del Barco, who died in 1952 and who was a family member of one of the local Marxist leaders, called the Casa Rectoral requesting clemency for Father Pelayo and protesting the treatment that he was receiving in prison. This individual had passed by the place where the Missionary was being detained and had heard Father’s groans and the laughter of the military personnel who tortured him in a cruel manner. They beat him and pricked him … they also cut off his sexual organs and with knives cut off slices of his flesh which were then sewn together with upholstery needles. This same resident heard the members of the militia (men and women) shouting out in the midst of their laughter and saying: look at his white flesh! (the height of their unspeakable sarcasm and sadism).
During the last three days of his imprisonment he was locked in a bathroom and given nothing to eat or drink … the space was so small that he was unable to sit down. He asked for mercy from his executioners and requested some water so that he could refresh his mouth, but this request was denied. Finally, it was his faith in Christ that satisfied his thirst. Spiritual torments were added to these physical torments. Father Granado knew that there was another priest in the town and requested that he be allowed to go to confession before he was executed … that request was also denied.
On the night of August 27, 1936 he was removed from prison, more dead than alive, and taken to the banks of the Nalón River where it passes through Soto del Barco. Once again the members of the militia began to cut and slash his back until he died. His body was then thrown into the river. Thus ended the life of Pelayo Granado … a man with no malice or guile, a friend of God and a friend of the people. In the midst of indescribable torments he endured great pain and yet never denied his faith; indeed, he was strengthened by the presence of the Holy Spirit. He died expressing his love for those who had treated him so cruelly and exclaimed: Lord, forgive them! Thus, Father gave up his spirit as the moon shined its light on the water of the Nalón River. Father was forty-one years old and had found great satisfaction in his ministry. Just a short time before her death on April 5, 1938 his mother, Cipriana, had received news of his death and this caused her great anguish as she reflected on the prolonged and painful martyrdom of her son.
[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].