July 20th: Servant of God Raymond Artigues, SJ
Born : December 29, 1902
Died : July 20, 1936
Fr Raymond Artigues, the first priest to be martyred in the diocese of Lerida during the Spanish Civil War, was born in Lerida, Spain. He began his studies for the priesthood at the local diocesan seminary in 1915 and was ordained on June 11, 1927. He served as assistant pastor at Almenar for three years before he was transferred to the parish in Alguaire where he laboured until his death in 1936.
Fr Artigues was especially known for his promotion of the Enthronement of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and his work with the Catholic Action groups. And
it was because Fr Artigues exercised a great influence on the lives of the young through his catechetical instructions that he was singled out by Lerida’s atheistic revolutionary forces as one of its main targets.
Fr Artigues first thought of becoming a Jesuit in 1934 and although his bishop had no objections to transferring him to the Society, requested him to stay on, as the diocese was severely short-handed. He obeyed. On July 18, 1935 Fr Artigues visited the Jesuit provincial and placed his request and problem before him. The provincial accepted him as a candidate there and then but asked him to remain in his parish where he was badly needed and that he could start his noviceship when peace returned to the Church. In the meantime he was already officially accepted by the Society. This acceptance brought consolation to Fr Artigues but he was never to see the novitiate.
Fr Artigues made his personal annual retreat from July 6 to July 11, 1936 and later wrote to his brother who had joined the Jesuits, that he was content to remain where he was as that was where God wanted him to be. A few days later on July 18, civil war broke out. Fr Artigues was invited by his neighbour who lived near the rectory, Mr. Manuel Cambray to stay with him as it was safer. Fr Artigues stayed in the Cambray’s residence on the night of the 19th where he spent hours talking about Spain’s critical situation and was invited to return the next evening.
Fr Artigues celebrated Mass in the church the next morning and sometime after eleven, when he was alone in the rectory, he heard unusually loud banging on the front door. He hurriedly left through the back and while he was going through the gardens on his way to the Cambray’s house he was captured by a dozen men who surrounded him. After setting the church on fire, they led him to their headquarters. On the way, one of the men gave him three hard blows on his head causing Fr Artigues to fall to the ground and as he remain prostrate on the ground, three others shot him several times. Fr Artigues was buried the next morning in a common grave with others killed during the previous night.
Fr Artigues’body was only discovered and identified in October 1940 and was properly interred in another part of the cemetery. The diocese investigation into his martyrdom was begun in Lerida in March 1953. His bishop who requested him to remain in the parish was also martyred two weeks after Fr Artigues.