Joan Roig y Diggle, killed “in odium fidei” during the Spanish Civil War, was raised to the honours of the altar on Saturday. The Mass for the Beatification was celebrated by Cardinal Juan José Omella y Omella, Archbishop of Barcelona, who called the 19-year-old martyr “a witness of tenderness.”
Blessed Joan Roig y Diggle is among the almost 2000 martyrs of the Spanish Civil War publicly venerated in the Church. In the violent conflict that racked the Iberian Peninsula between 1936, hundreds of lay men and women – mothers and fathers, young and old – along with dozens of priests and nuns, and even Bishops, were killed out of “hatred of the faith,” and solely for their love of Christ.
An intense spiritual life
Joan Roig y Diggle was born on May 12, 1917 in Barcelona (Spain). Due to economic problems, in 1934, together with his family, he had to move to the town of El Masnou where, in addition to working to contribute to the family budget, he joined the Federación de Jóvenes Cristianos de Cataluña , of which he became director.
Despite the many commitments of work and study and poor health, he maintained an intense spiritual life: daily participation in the Holy Mass, meditation and practices of piety, the deepening of the social doctrine of the Church.
The companions and priests who knew him in those years recall a young man of singular virtues and great interior transparency, with an intense and delicate spiritual life and a clear awareness of social problems and the responsibility of the laity in the life of society.
“God is with me”
During the religious persecution of July 1936, the meeting room of the Federación de Jóvenes Cristianos was destroyed and the church was set on fire. A few months later, on the night between 11 and 12 September, some militiamen took the Servant of God from his home. His last words to his mother, in English, were “God is with me.”
A few hours later, Joan Roig y Diggle was taken to the cemetery of Santa Coloma de Gramanet (Spain). The militia have determined to execute him. When they point their rifles at him, he utters words of forgiveness for his executioners. The moment they shoot, he cries out: “Long live Christ the King!”.
Blessed Joan Roig y Diggle was only 19 when he gave his life for Christ.
A model for Christian life
In his homily for the Mass of Beatification, Cardinal Omella asked what we can learn from Blessed Joan Roig’s witness. “Joan Roig can be a model of Christian life for both the young people and adults of our society,” he said. “His testimony can awaken in us the desire to follow Christ with joy and generosity.”
Cardinal Omella said, “The deep friendship with God, prayer, the Eucharistic life and apostolic ardor” of Blessed Joan Roig, “will unite us more to Christ and to His Gospel.”
He concluded his homily with a challenge: “Let us dare, like Joan, to be well grounded in Christ, in order to offer the love of the Triune God to our brothers and sisters. Let us be, as today’s Gospel proclaims, good seed that bears abundant fruit.”
And he reminded the faithful, “Jesus will never leave us. He will always be at our side to share with us His Risen life.”