Year of the Rosary, October 2002 - October 2003

A 'HERO' OF THE ROSARY
FAUSTINO PEREZ-MANGLANO
 1946-1963

Faustino Perez-Manglano was born in Valencia, Spain, and died just short of his seventeenth birthday. His cause for beatification is currently under consideration by the Congregation for the Saints, at the step of examining the heroicity of his virtues.

What did he do that was “heroic”? He led the very simple life, typical of a young man of his age: he loved soccer, swimming, nature, the movies, and novels. But he loved Christ and Mary even more. He was always willing to be of service and help to others, even if it meant a sacrifice on his part. He decided one day to “seek perfection.” He wanted to be a Marianist, a priest, a missionary in Latin America. Hodgkin’s disease prevented him from pursuing these goals. Now, however, he is a missionary from heaven. His life, published in eight languages, has appealed to many people: young and not so young. Hundreds of letters attest to this fact.

At the heart of his holy life was the recitation of the Rosary. If he eventually is declared “Venerable,” it will be clear that at the foundation of his heroic virtues is the daily praying of the Rosary. He can be a marvelous example for this “Year of the Rosary” proclaimed by Pope John Paul II. His life is like a living commentary on the recent letter of the Pope, “The Rosary of the Virgin Mary.” Here are four glimpses into his short life demonstrating the role his daily Rosary played in it.

“They will surprise even adults....”

“If the Rosary is presented well, I am sure that even young people will be able, once again, to surprise adults, by taking to this prayer and reciting it with the enthusiasm typical of their age.” (RVM 42)

I was just finishing reading the wonderful letter of Pope John Paul II on the rosary when this paragraph moved me deeply. I then remembered an event which truly affected my life. It was a meeting with an adolescent young man who “surprised” me with his rosary, just as the Pope had said.

A Debt of Rosaries.

It was October 1959 when Faustino was thirteen, a student at the Marianist Collegio de Nuestra Senora del Pilar in Valencia. I was just a young priest. He came up to me and said:

"Father, I have to talk to you about something. I think I owe a debt to the Blessed Virgin." Imagine my surprise: a debt to the Virgin Mary?   

"Yes, Father. You see, two years ago 1 promised the Virgin that I would say the rosary every day until 1961. And I was doing it, usually alone on my way to school." I was silent in my amazement, and he continued: "but during our vacation time, when we were playing so much of the time, I sometimes forgot. But, you know, I counted up how many times I missed and I want to make up the debt."

I asked him how much he figured he owed. I think he said it was about a hundred. To myself I thought: what a wonderful fidelity this young man shows! At the age often, without talking to anyone about it, he had made this promise, way beyond his tender age! And he had kept it with total fidelity! And when he forgot, he sought to determine how much he had missed so he could make it up. And this without worrying excessively about it or blaming himself unduly, as if this were the most natural thing in the world. What could I say to this young man who so amazed me with his simplicity and openness?

"Let’s see, Faustino. Do you like to say the Rosary?"

"Yes I do, Father, very much."                      

"So, look Faustino, when it comes to mothers there is no such thing as bills or debts. And when we’re talking about the Virgin mother, this is even more true. Let’s consider the bill paid. You can simply continue to recite the rosary every day without making promises or burdening yourself with obligations or worrying about the past. And for your whole life, if you want."

His face brightened up and his eyes shone with joy: "Yes, Father." Nothing else was needed.

John Paul II said, “The rosary will help us grow, even to accomplishing the goal of holiness."

“I say the rosary while I am on the way to school.”

On the fourteenth of September in 1960 [he was fourteen] he decided to begin a journal. A very simple journal. He put down the happenings of each day: his classes, his grades, scores of games, movies he saw, books he read. This continued more than a year. As time passed the entries became fewer, but more insightful and profound. What is never missing is the reference to his recitation of the rosary the day before. He started repeating entries like: “I said the rosary at such and such a time... I said the rosary spread throughout the day... I said the rosary on the way to school this morning... I said the rosary while I was undergoing radiation treatments.... The last few days I said the rosary at midnight, when I was in great pain.”

In these notebooks there are more than three hundred references to the saying of the Rosary. Occasionally he simply admitted, “I forgot.” But this was not frequent.

One of his classmates remembers: “One day on the way to class I saw Faustino a little way ahead of me. I hurried up and caught up to him at the Puente del Mar. Only then did I realize he was saying the rosary. He didn’t say anything, but just kept going. All smiles."

This simple practice led Faustino to a deep interior life, a hidden friendship with Christ and Mary. The Virgin Mary, his “wonderful mother in heaven,” as he used to say, became a constant companion in his life. Outwardly he appeared just like his friends and peers, with the same likes and interests. But inside he had embarked on a new spiritual path in his life. All this shows how true is what John Paul II says, The Rosary is really a spiritual journey in which Mary is at once mother, teacher, and guide.” (RVM 37)

The twenty-second of October 1960 was a pivotal day in his life’s journey. He was on retreat and mentioned in his diary: “We were talking about many things, but there was one which impressed me most: what vocation should I choose: doctor, chemist, or will I maybe be a priest? This last one impressed me the most. Could God have chosen me? He will tell me. Today and the little remaining time of my retreat I will spend in total silence and maybe God will speak to me.”

And that day I spoke with him. He said he had never thought about a religious vocation. He had thought about being a chemist. But that evening at supper, as he told me later, he saw it clearly: “I must become a Marianist religious.” It was a sort of bolt out of the blue, yet in actuality the foundation for it had been laid by thousands of “Ave Marias” said over long periods of time.

“You are very young,” I told him. “Don’t say anything more, and let us discern whether or not the Lord is actually calling you.” But he never doubted the call. He wanted to act on it right away. “It is wonderful to think I am going to spend my whole life at the service of Jesus and Mary....” But just a few months later he was diagnosed with an illness which after many ups and downs would end his life. Why, 0 Lord, why? In time I realized the answer was: he was to be a missionary from heaven.

A Prize for Saying the Rosary.

In July of 1962 Faustino and a group of his friends spent a day on retreat. They wanted to prepare for spending the upcoming summer vacation in a Christian manner. We can follow the work of that day from his journal. Among other things he thought about his religious vocation which had strengthened in the preceding years. He wrote “Lord, every day I want more and more to reach that time when I can become a Marianist.” You can imagine my profound emotion when after his death I found the following in his journal:

“Father suggested to me that maybe the Virgin had rewarded me with the prize of religious vocation because of my fidelity since I was a child in reciting the rosary. How wonderful and good to me has been my Mother in heaven! It is a prize which can never be adequately measured. It is a prize worth more than all the goods of his world puttogether. Thank you, Mother, for such marvelous goodness. Some twenty months ago, in this same place, I discovered my vocation. Today, the second of July in 1962, 1 have concluded that I want - and Jesus wants me - to be a missionary, and also in this same house I realized that my vocation is a reward from Mary for having been for so many years faithful to the holy Rosary.”

The Rosary always has a reward. John Paul II writes: “Reliving with Mary the mysteries of the Rosary is to go to the “school” of Mary in which we contemplate Christ in order to discover his secrets and understand his message. (RVM 14) In the “school” of Mary, by reciting the Rosary, Faustino attaineda fuller likeness to Christ, a true pattern for Christian living.” (RVM 26)

                                                                                        José María Salaverri , S . M 

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