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A writer, blogger, historian, and web designer born in New York, educated in Argentina, Scotland, and South Africa, and now based in London. read more

First Gypsy Woman Martyr is Beatified

Emilia Fernández Rodríguez was killed during Spanish Civil War

The Catholic Church has beatified its first gypsy martyr in a ceremony in the Spanish city of Almería on the southern Mediterranean coast. Emilia Fernández Rodríguez, also known as “La canastera” (the basket-weaver), was one of 115 martyrs murdered in odium fidei by anti-Catholic militants during the Spanish Civil War.

The beatification ceremony took place in the city’s conference centre attended by over 5,000 people, including twenty-one bishops and four cardinals.

In 1938, Blessed Emilia Fernández was a poor gypsy woman living with her husband in Tíjola and surviving by basket weaving when the Republican forces occupied the town, shutting its church, and conscripting its menfolk. Emilia’s husband Juan with her help feigned blindness to escape conscription but was discovered and the couple were imprisoned separately.

Arriving at the women’s prison in Gachas-Colorás, Blessed Emilia was already pregnant and was jailed alongside many other practicing Catholic women who had refused to abjure their faith. Illiterate and never having been catechised despite being baptised, Blessed Emilia was taught how to pray the Rosary by another inmate. Her devotion to this Marian prayer and meditation attracted the ire of the prison authorities who threw her into solitary confinement for refusing to reveal which of her fellow inmates had catechised her.

After the birth of her baby girl, Ángeles, Blessed Emilia died as a result of her weakened condition from malnutrition and the appalling conditions of her isolation. Just twenty-three years old, her body was dumped into a common grave in Almería.

The painting of Blessed Emilia is by Raúl Berzosa
This post was published on Wednesday, April 5th, 2017 5:20 pm. It has been categorised under Church Saints Spain and been tagged under , , .
L G Clark
6 Apr 2017 8:32 pm

Another gypsy woman, still alive in the 1980s, who was present at the Fatima apparitions, the miracle of the sun included, told a friend of mine that Our Lady’s warning about “errors” was universally understood by the crowd, who murmured the word fearfully after Our Lady had spoken, to mean LOS MOROS, not Communism (of which few would have even heard in 1917).
A hundred years later, who would be so bold as to say them nay?

10 Apr 2017 10:04 pm

Thanks for the beautiful story.

Unfortunately, I feel like I need to respond to L G Clark’s comment about Our Lady of Fatima. This is how Our Lady’s warning has been reported: “Russia will spread its errors throughout the world, raising up wars and persecutions against the Church. The good will be martyred, the Holy Father will have much to suffer, and various nations will be annihilated.” It shouldn’t be hard to see how this came to pass with the subjugation of the Eastern Bloc, antagonism towards the Church, and the murder of 50 million people. The nations that followed suit have similarly bloody histories. To say that Our Lady was actually warning us about “Los Moros” (probably meant to be Muslims, although that specific term refers to the people of North Africa) is to say that Our Lady, on the eve of the Russian Revolution that led to these events, was actually warning the world about violence in the Middle East, is silly. Quite frankly, this seems like a desire to have one’s own anxieties affirmed one’s faith. That’s not how this works. God does not exist to assure us that our fears and beliefs are valid, rather we work to live for Him, which is a life that could upend much of what we believe and understand about ourselves.

L G Clark
14 Apr 2017 9:21 pm

My comment was also an opinion only in the last sentence. The rest of it was a report, from an eyewitness, of what at least a large proportion of the people present that day understood to be the “error” Our Lady was warning them, and us, against.
None understood better than the peoples of the iberian Peninsula what damage militant Islam could do. They were warned of a danger; what “danger, what “error” was more likely to occur to them than that which had ravaged their lands and their culture for a thousand years?

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