mardi 10 mars 2015


Saint Matthieu Del Castillo, prêtre et martyr

Né en 1882, dans une famille modeste de paysans mexicains, à Yuriria, il fut orphelin très jeune et dut remplacer son père pour assurer la subsistance de sa famille. Dès qu'il le put, il entra au séminaire des Augustins et prit le nom religieux d'Elie del Socorro. Prêtre en 1916, il fut envoyé dans un pauvre village en 1921, connaissant lui-même la pauvreté. En 1926, les persécutions gouvernementales l'obligèrent à devenir clandestin pour continuer son apostolat auprès de la population. Découvert dans la grotte où il se retirait, il fut emprisonné et fusillé le 10 mars 1928, en bénissant le peloton d'exécution.

Saint Matthieu Del Castillo

Saint mexicain canonisé par Jean Paul II ( 1928)

Né en 1882, dans une famille modeste de paysans mexicains, à Yuriria, il fut orphelin très jeune et dut remplacer son père pour assurer la subsistance de sa famille. Dès qu'il le put, il entra au séminaire des Augustins et prit le nom religieux d'Elie del Socorro, en l'honneur de Notre-Dame du Perpétuel Secours. Prêtre en 1916, il fut envoyé dans un pauvre village en 1921, connaissant lui-même la pauvreté. En 1926, les persécutions gouvernementales l'obligèrent à devenir clandestin pour continuer son apostolat auprès de la population. Découvert dans la grotte où il se retirait, il fut emprisonné et fusillé le 10 mars 1928, en bénissant le peloton d'exécution. 

Homélie du Pape Jean-Paul II le 12 octobre 1997 pour la béatification - en anglais - en portugais
Elias del Soccorso Neves (1882-1928) - Biographie en portugais - site du Vatican

Il fit partie des saints mexicains que la pape Jean Paul II a canonisés durant le Jubilé 2000. 

Près de la ville de Cortazar au Mexique, en 1928, le bienheureux Élie du Secours (Matthieu Nieves del Castello), prêtre de l’Ordre de Saint-Augustin et martyr. Quand sévit la persécution contre l’Église, il fut arrêté alors qu’il exerçait son ministère, caché dans une grotte, et fusillé après avoir béni le peloton d’exécution et distribué aux soldats ses effets personnels.

Martyrologe romain

Elías del Socorro Nieves (1882-1928) was martyred during a twentieth century persecution of the Church in Mexico.
Mateo Elías Nieves del Castillo was born September 21, 1882 on the Island of San Pedro, Yuriría, Guanajuato, Mexico. His parents, Rita and Ramón, were farmers. Mateo Elías was raised in a deeply religious atmosphere.
He wanted to become a Priest from an early age. When he was 12, he nearly died from tuberculosis. Shortly after he recovered, his father was killed by robbers. Mateo Elí had to drop out of school and work on the farm to support his family.
In 1904, in spite of his minimal early education, he was admitted to the newly opened Augustinian seminary in Yuriría. Studies were not easy for him, and were made even more difficult by poor eyesight.
But he continually felt the help of God. When he professed his vows as an Augustinian, he changed his name to Elías del Socorro (help) in grateful recognition of the help God had given to him.
After being ordained a Priest in 1916, he served in parishes. He was sent to La Cañada de Caracheo in 1921. This was an obscure, poor, primitive town of some 3000 persons. There, in conditions of poverty, he ministered to both the spiritual and material needs of the people.
When a persecution of the Catholic Church began in Mexico in 1926, Elías defied a government order to leave La Cañada. Instead, he went to live in a cave, ministering to the faithful under cover of night.
After 14 months of this clandestine life, he was arrested, along with two ranchers who were with him. Elías readily admitted that he was a Priest, and proclaimed his faith in Jesus Christ.
After their arrest, the prisoners and their soldier captors set out for a nearby town. Along the way, the Captain ordered the two ranchers, José de Jesús Sierra and his brother José Dolores, shot. Refusing to leave Padre Nieves, they died courageously, proclaiming Christ as their King.
They continued on their journey, and a short time later, the Captain said to Padre Nieves, "It is your turn now. Let's see if dying is anything like saying Mass."
Padre Nieves replied, "You are speaking the truth. To die for our religion is a pleasing sacrifice to God."
After giving his watch to the Captain and blessing all the soldiers, Elías began to recite the Creed as the soldiers prepared to kill him. His last words were, "Long live Christ the King!"
His execution took place March 10, 1928.

Blessed Elias gives men and women of today a shining example of pastoral zeal and courageous witness to the Christian faith.

Marco Elias Nieves del Castillo was born in the Isle of San Pedro, Yuriria (Guananjuato, Mexico) on 21 September 1882. He was the son of Ramon and Rita, two humble and deeply religious farmers.

Early on he showed a great desire to become a priest but circumstances in life prevented it. At the age of twelve, a case of tuberculosis put him at the door of death and months later his father died at the hands of highwaymen. It was necessary for Elias to abandon his studies in order to be able to earn some money with which he could contribute to the support of his family.

In 1904, the Augustinian College of Yuriria had just recently reopened. Despite his scarce preparation and his adult age, he managed to be admitted. The understandable difficulties stemming from seminary studies undertaken by one who was twenty-one years of age and had just abandoned farm duties were overcome with incredible endurance and effort. As a result of the need for economic aid and his weak physical constitution he was on the verge of losing his sight, yet there was always someone to lend a hand. In recognition of help from on high at so many times during his life, upon his profession in 1911 he changed his name from Mateo Elias to Elias del Socorro.

Once ordained to the priesthood in 1916, he practiced his ministry I different localities of Bajio, until 1921 when he was named parochial vicar of La Cañada de Caracheo, a town of around 3,000 inhabitants, situated in the crevices of “Culiacán.” In this obscure center of scarce economic resources, devoid of sanitary services, public schools, and electricity, the works of Padre Nieves were not limited to the spiritual assistance of his flock. Having known all too well from his youth the meaning of manual labor and impoverishment, he was not burdened by the privations of poverty which he dealt with by way of a generous spirit, a jovial disposition, and confidence in divine providence.

It was precisely during these years that there arose the popular movement of the “cristeros.” The servant of God kept himself on the margin of the revolutionary movement that in ways barely echoed among the local population which was very distant ideologically and geographically from the socio-political problematic underlying the revolution. At the end of 1926 when persecutions of the Church broke out, despite his timid character, instead of obeying the government order to reside in the big urban centers, he established himself in a cave near the hill of La Gavia, assuring his faithful in this way of religious assistance, usually under the cover of night. In the fourteen months during which that situation lasted, someone to administer the sacraments or celebrate daily Mass was never lacking.
This clandestine effort came to an end the morning he stumbled across a posse of soldiers, whose attention was caught by what could be made out under his white peasant’s cloak as the vestments he used during his nocturnal ministry. Once interrogated he declared his status as a priest, and was arrested along with two ranchmen, the Sierra brothers, who had offered to accompany the priest. Driven to La Cañada, he opposed the ransom attempts made on part of some of his faithful. He also had the occasion to discuss religious topics with two of the officials who had custody of him, but his luck had run out.

At dawn on 10 March 1928 the military and prisoners set out in the direction of the small urban center of Cortazar upon which La Cañada depended. In his first order, the captain, facing the troops, gave the order to execute the two companions of Padre Nieves, who after going to confession to the Padre died valiantly proclaiming Christ the King as victor. At the next station which was connected to a beautifully landscaped mesquite, near the town, the captain addressed Padre Nieves, saying “Now it is your turn; let us see if dying is like saying Mass.” To which the servant of God responded, “You have spoken the truth, because to die for our religion is a pleasing sacrifice to God.” He requested a few moments to collect his thoughts, then gave over his watch to the captain, gave his blessing to the soldiers kneeling to receive it, and began to recite the creed while they prepared the guns for his execution. His last words were “Long live Christ the King.” Pope John Paul II beatified him in July 1997

The Augustinian Family celebrates his feast on 11 October.

Rotelle, John, Book of Augustinian Saints, Augustinian Press 2000.

Blessed Elias of Socorro Nieves by Mario Ferrari, Rome, Italy.

Also known as
  • Mateo Elias Nieves
Born a sickly baby in a deeply religious peasant family; had to be quickly baptized as they did not think he would survive. Nearly died of tuberculosis at age 12. His father died soon after, and Elias had to support the family. Admitted to the Augustinian college of Yuriria at age 22, considerably older than the standard admission age. Took vows in 1911 as Elias del Socorro. Ordained on 9 April 1916. Parochial vicar of the village of La Canada de Caracheo in 1921. During the government persecution of the Church, he refused to a city where he could be controlled; moving instead to nearby hills where he continued to serve his parish, usually under cover of dark. Arrested with some pious laymen, and martyred on the side of the road for his faith and service.
  • if you have information relevant to the canonization of Blessed Elias, contact
       Sierra Nevada #750
       Col. Lomas de Chapultepec
       11000 México D.F., MEXICO



Sunday, 12 October 1997

1. "Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?" (Mk 10:17).

This question, which in today’s Gospel text, was asked by a young man, has been put to Christ by countless generations of men and women, young and old, clerics and lay people. "What must I do to have eternal life?". It is a fundamental question for every Christian. We know Christ’s answer very well. He reminds his interlocutor above all to observe the commandments: "Do not kill, Do not commit adultery, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Do not defraud, Honour your father and mother" (Mk 10:19); cf. Ex 20:12-16). The young man replies enthusiastically: "Teacher, all these I have observed from my youth" (Mk 10:20). At this point, the Gospel emphasizes, the Lord looks lovingly at him and adds: "You lack one thing; go, sell what you have, and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me". However, the account tells us that "At that saying his countenance fell, and he went away sorrowful; for he had great possessions" (Mk 10:21-22).

2. Instead, the new blesseds raised to the glory of the altars today, promptly and enthusiastically accepted Christ’s invitation: "Come, follow me!" and they followed him to the end. Thus the power of God’s grace is revealed in them, and in their earthly life they even succeeded in doing what seemed humanly impossible. Having placed all their trust in God, everything became possible for them. That is why I am pleased to present them today as examples of faithfully following Christ. They are: Elías del Socorro Nieves, martyr, a professed priest of the Order of St Augustine; Giovanni Battista Piamarta, a priest of the Diocese of Brescia; Domenico Lentini, a priest of the Diocese of Tursi-Lagonegro; Mary of Jesus, in the world, Emilie d’Hooghvorst, foundress of the Society of the Sisters of Mary Reparatrix; Maria Teresa Fasce, a professed nun of the Order of St Augustine.

3. "And Jesus looking upon him loved him" (Mk 10:21). These words of the Gospel text call to mind the spiritual and apostolic experience of Fr Giovanni Piamarta, founder of the Congregation of the Holy Family of Nazareth, whom we contemplate today in heavenly glory. Following Christ’s example, he, too, was able to bring a great many boys and young men to meet the Lord’s loving and demanding gaze. How many, thanks to his pastoral activities, were able to start out joyfully in life, having learned a skill and, above all, having encountered Jesus and his message of salvation! The new blessed's apostolic work has many facets and embraces many areas of social life: from the world of work to that of agriculture, from education to the publishing sector. He has left a great mark on the Diocese of Brescia and on the entire Church.
Where did this extraordinary man of God find the energy for all his numerous activities? The answer is clear: assiduous and fervent prayer was the source of his tireless apostolic zeal and beneficial influence which he exercised on everyone he approached. He himself said, as the accounts of his contemporaries recall: "With prayer one is strengthened by the strength of God himself ... Omnia possum". Everything is possible with God, for him and with him.

4. "Let the favour of the Lord our God be upon us" (responsorial psalm). The deep awareness of the Lord’s favour motivated Bl. Domenico Lentini, who in his itinerant preaching never tired of inviting to conversion and return to God. For this reason his apostolic activity was accompanied by the diligent ministry of the confessional. Indeed he well knew that in celebrating the sacrament of Penance, the priest becomes the dispenser of divine mercy and a witness of the new life that is born through the penitent's repentance and the Lord’s forgiveness.

A priest with an undivided heart, he could combine fidelity to God with fidelity to man. He addressed his ardent charity in particular to youth, whom he taught to be firm in the faith, and to the poor, to whom he offered everything he had with absolute trust in divine Providence. His total dedication to his ministry made him, in the words of my venerable Predecessor, Pope Pius XI, "a priest rich only in his priesthood".

5. In the second reading of the liturgy we heard: "The word of God is living and active ... piercing to division of soul and spirit" (Heb 4:12). Emilie d’Hooghvorst accepted this word in her inmost depths. By learning to submit to God’s will, she first fulfilled the mission of all Christian married couples: she made her home "a sanctuary of family life" (cf. Apostolicam actuositatem, n. 11). Widowed and motivated by the desire to participate in the paschal mystery, Mother Mary of Jesus founded the Society of Mary Reparatrix. By her life of prayer she reminds us that in Eucharistic adoration where we draw from the source of life that is Christ, we find the strength for our daily mission. May each one of us, whatever our state of life, be able "to listen to Christ’s voice", "which must govern our lives", as she liked to say!

Her beatification is therefore an encouragement for the Sisters of Mary Reparatrix to continue their apostolate through renewed attention to the people of this age. The sisters will respond to their mission according to their charism: to awaken the faith of our contemporaries and help them in their spiritual growth, thereby actively participating in building the Church.

6. To his disciples, amazed at how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God, Jesus said: "With men it is impossible, but not with God; for all things are possible with God" (Mk 10:27). This message was received by Fr Elías del Socorro Nieves, an Augustinian priest, who is raised to the glory of the altars today as a martyr of the faith. His total trust in God and in Our Lady, Help of Christians to whom he was deeply devoted, characterized his whole life and priestly ministry, which he exercised with self-denial and a spirit of service, without letting himself be overcome by obstacles, sacrifices or danger. This faithful Augustinian religious knew how to transmit hope in Christ and in divine Providence.

The life and martyrdom of Fr Nieves, who did not want to abandon his faithful despite the risks he was taking, are in themselves an invitation to renew faith in God who can do everything. He faced death with fortitude, blessing his executioners and witnessing to his faith in Christ. The Church in Mexico today has a new and a powerful intercessor who will help her to renew her Christian life; his Augustinian brothers have one more example to imitate in their constant search for God in fraternity and in service to the People of God; for the whole Church he is an eloquent example of the fruits of holiness which the power of God’s grace produced in him.

7. The first reading, from the Book of Wisdom, reminds us that wisdom and prudence flow from prayer: "I prayed; and understanding was given me; I called upon God, and the spirit of wisdom came to me" (Wis 7:7). These words closely apply to the earthly life of another new blessed, Maria Teresa Fasce, who lived in the constant contemplation of the mystery of Christ. The Church holds her up today as a radiant example of the living synthesis between contemplative life and a humble witness of solidarity to men and women, especially to the poorest, the humble, the abandoned and suffering.

The Augustinian family is living an extraordinary day today, because it sees united in the glory of the altars the representatives of two branches of the Order, the apostolic, with Bl. Elías del Socorro Nieves, and the contemplative, with Bl. Maria Teresa Fasce. For Augustinian religious, their example is a cause of joy and legitimate satisfaction. May this day continue to be a providential opportunity for a renewed commitment, in total and faithful consecration to God and in generous service to their brothers and sisters.

8. "Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone" (Mk 10:18). Each one of these new blesseds heard Christ’s essential definition and understood where to seek the original source of holiness. God is the fullness of good that is selfdiffusive. "Bonum est diffusivum sui" (St Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theol., I, 9.5, a.4. ad 2). The supreme Good wants to give himself and to make all who seek him with a sincere heart resemble him. He desires to sanctify everyone who is prepared to leave everything to follow his Incarnate Son.

The primary aim of this celebration is therefore to praise God, source of all holiness. We glorify the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, because the new blesseds, baptized in the name of the Blessed Trinity, collaborated with God’s grace with persevering heroism. Fully participating in divine life, they now contemplate the glory of the Lord, face to face, enjoying the fruits of blessedness proclaimed by Jesus in the "Sermon on the Mount": "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven" (Mt 5:3). Yes, the kingdom of heaven belongs to these faithful servants of God, who followed Christ to the end, fixing their gaze on him. With their lives they witnessed to him who died on the Cross and was raised for them and for all people.

The whole Church, mother of saints and blesseds, the great spiritual family of mankind called to participate in divine life rejoices.

Together with Mary, Mother of Christ and Queen of saints, together with the new blesseds, let us proclaim God’s holiness: "Holy, holy, holy Lord, God of power and might. Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord. Hosanna in the highest".

© Copyright 1997 - Libreria Editrice Vaticana

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