A year ago today, I literally fell into the river. It was a great day to do so–the feast of San Juan Bautista. All over Latin America, especially in such places as Puerto Rico with its capital named after the Saint, people celebrate the feast by contact with water. By going to the beach, river, swimming hole or bath tub/shower, they symbolically renew their baptisms.
All fatherhood is from God. One of the greatest privileges believers of all faiths have is to address God as ABBA, the Aramaic word connoting tenderness and love that is better translated “daddy” or “tata Dios.” Jesus taught us to pray the famous prayer addressing God as OUR FATHER. Jesus Christ is always, from all eternity, in relationship to His heavenly Father, and invites us to share in the same relationship through adoption–Gods’ grace freely given by which we are also children of God. Through Baptism, we become little brothers and sisters of our elder brother Jesus Christ, and of one another. In liturgy, we pray TO THE FATHER, through the Son, in the Holy Spirit.
Our human fathers are sometimes flawed, sometimes they are almost saints. Whatever they are, they deserve our honor: “Honor thy father and thy mother,” the Fourth Commandment obliges.
Antonio Jose Martinez experienced human fatherhood. As a very young man of 19, he got married, and within the year had a daughter who shared her mother’s name: Maria de La Luz. Mother died in childbirth, and after a few years, Antonio Jose left his daughter in the care of her maternal grandparents in Abiquiu–it is strongly supposed–while he went to Durango to pursue an education. In 1824, a couple of years after returning to New Mexico as an ordained priest, he was assigned to the parish of Santo Tomas in Abiquiu. He had been baptized there in 1793, married there in 1812, buried his wife there in 1813 and had his daughter baptized there in the same year. He was there for only a short time before his daughter died at the young age of eleven going on twelve. Padre Martinez remained in his ancestral home of Abiquiu–although he had lived in Taos since he was eleven– for a total of about two years before returning to Taos in 1826 to become the priest in charge of the parish of San Geronimo at the Indian Pueblo. The parish church included several chapels in the large surrounding area, including the church of Nuestra Senora de Guadalupe to which he would remain related for forty-two years until his death in 1867.
Antonio Jose Martinez was blessed in the lives of his wife and daughter, both named Maria de La Luz Martinez, who died all too-soon. One of the flawed dimensions of the life of Padre Martinez is the fact that he had children after becoming a priest. For a priest of the Western (Latin) Rite to marry is forbidden by the Canon Law of the Roman Catholic Church. It is not divine law, nor has it always been the custom.
The mother of his post-priesthood children, Teodora Romero, was a young woman who became a widow and bereaved mother when she lost her husband and daughter in 1826, the same year Padre Antonio Jose Martinez came to Taos as the priest-in-charge of Guadalupe Church. Within four years, this couple had a son by the name of George, not Jorge, in honor–it is said–of George Washington for whom Padre Martinez had great regard. The cornerstone of the Washington Capitol was laid in the same year of 1793 that Padre Martinez was born.
There were other children Padre Martinez fathered, and we will treat them in this blog on other occasions. Two others, however, are worthy of special mention at this time: Santiago Valdez and Vicente Romero. Valdez was an orphan brought up by a Valdez family in Taos. The Martinez family of the Padre holds to a strong oral tradition that Padre Martinez was his actual father. In his Last Will and Testament of 1867, reviewed and renewed shortly before he died, Padre Martinez left his books, library and some property to Santiago Valdez. In addition, he indicated that it was his will that this familiar (relative, or member of his extended family) and his children bear the name Martinez. Most of them did. Ten years after the death of Padre Martinez, Santiago Valdez wrote a biography of the Padre, Biografia del Presbitero Antonio Jose Martinez, Cura de Taos. It is a manuscript in Spanish, never published up to the present, located within the Ritch Collection at the Huntington Library near Los Angeles. This blog will furnish a summary and generous excerpts among its coming attractions.
Vicente Ferrer Romero is the youngest child of Padre Martinez, fourteen years junior to Santiago Valdez. He came of age during the tensions and serious conflicts between Bishop Jean Baptiste Lamy and Padre Martinez. The Taos priest considered himself a journalist, and had many opinions about many things. He had founded the short-lived newspaper El Crepusculo de La Libertad (only six issues), and was friendly with the publisher of La Gaceta de Santa Fe who was a former (anti-slavery) Presbyterian minister. In this and other venues, Padre Martinez publicized his disagreements with the bishop’s policies regarding tithing and other matters. Vicente as a young teenager witnessed the tensions between the bishop and his father, Padre Martinez. They crested between the years 1856 and 1858, and were marked respectively by the ecclesiastical censures of suspension and excommunication. (More about these in a future blog.) Vicente Ferrer Romero, by 1873, went on to become a very effective lay evangelizer and circuit rider for the Presbyterian faith. A paper on Padre Martinez and Ecumenism, and another specifically on Vicente F. Romero will also be grist for future treatments in this blog.
In spite of the inner conflict that Padre Martinez must have suffered from having children after becoming a priest, as evidenced in his efforts to obscure his paternity in the baptismal register of Guadalupe parish, it is worth noting that his conflicts with the bishop were totally other. The moral character of Padre Martinez was never impugned by either Bishop Lamy or his Vicar General and schoolmate, Very Rev.Joseph P. Machebeuf. Nevertheless, the Catholic members of the Martinez family–not to speak of some of the putative children and their descendants–have felt some shame about being illicitly fathered by a priest. Moreover, it is most important to note that Padre Martinez never abandoned any of his children. On the contrary, he loved them, cared for them as he could, and provided well for them in his Will.
On this Fathers’ Day, I wish to conclude this posting with an homenaje to my own father, Jose Tobias Romero. Born in Taos, he was a shepherd boy during the summers in the mountains of New Mexico. He married his high school sweetheart, my mother Claudia Garcia, and they had three boys. We moved to LA as very young children in 1943; Lockheed Aircraft employed dad as a machine accountant (“tabulating”). Mom died in 1969, and a little over a year later, dad went to the Claretian seminary, was ordained a priest in 1975, and served as a priest for 22 years before going to the Lord in 1996. This Taoseno was married as a young man, had children, became a widower, went to the seminary and was ordained a priest. There was absolutely no stigma in this. On the contrary, it was an occasion for surprise and some adulation. Pray for us, dad. !Que en paz descanse! God bless all of our fathers, grandfathers, godparents, and all priests who have brought blessings to our lives.
Rebirth is a special experience. Jesus told Nicodemus, the Pharisee who visited him by night, that he had to be “born again” to enter the Kingdom of God. Did he have to re-enter his mother’s womb, the man wondered. Jesus did not say no, but he clarified, “Unless a man be born again of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.” (Jn. 3:5)
This last year has been the “Year of the Priest,” and it culminated this last Friday, a week ago with a very special celebration of several thousand priests from all over the world who were gathered in Rome around Pope Benedict XVI at the giant plaza of St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican. It was a time to repent of our collective sinfulness in failing fidelity to our vocation, and to acknowledge our dependence on God for his loving kindness, mercy and forgiveness. It a was a time for re-dedication of our lives to the call that the Lord has given us to spend ourselves in loving service of God and His people. It was God’s good time (kairos–moment of grace) to renew our priestly lives and ministry. It was the feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, source of God’s loving kindness, compassion, and mercy.
After almost a year of not being able to publicly celebrate Mass on a regular basis because of my heart attack last August, I once again began doing so with great joy. It was like a “First Mass,” and I was especially pleased to do so in the parish where I began my priestly ministry more than forty-six years ago–St. Alphonsus Parish in East Los Angeles, near the corner of Atlantic Blvd. and Whittier Blvd. In fact, I am staying for these few weeks of June in the same room that I occupied as a newly ordained priest in 1964. Indeed, it is like re-entering mother’s womb, a new birth. May the Lord accompany me in this personal physical “re-birth,” and in the henceforth more regular postings on the life and legacy of Padre Martinez.
During the down time of recuperation, I have continued research and writing on the life and legacy of Padre Martinez, and have collaborated with Vicente Martinez and Father Tom Steele.
I hope to renew some past postings that have disappeared into cyberspace, and post new items recently written as well as future postings waiting to be penned. I invite you to check out this blog with some regularity, and to spread the word about it. May it become as interesting for you to read it as it is interesting and fun for me to put it together.
Fr. Juan Romero – Father’s Day 2010
Praise and THANKS to God for several things! I am grateful for my recovering health after a summer heart attack, for retrieving this web log about Padre Martinez, and for recent developments that are about to yield fruit. These include a documentary film about the Cura de Taos, a new history-biography of the Padre, and a new book about Taos that includes at least one essay on Padre Martinez.
This website is dedicated to the person and legacy of Padre Antonio Jose Martínez (1793-1867) who during his life was known as the Curade Taos (Priest of Taos). Upon his death in 1867, the NM Territorial Legislature called him La Honra de Su País (The Honor of His Homeland). He was orginally buried in his private chapel by his home in the center of Taos, and twenty-four years later his remains were removed to the “American Cemetery” on land that the Padre had donated for the burial of the Americans killed in the 1847 Uprising, located in what is now called Kit Carson Park. The encomium LA HONRA DE SU PAIS/THE HONOR OF HIS HOMELAND was inscribed on his upright gravestone as part of the epitaph. The NM State Legislature in 2004, under the leadership of Senator Carlos Cisneros, reprised that phrase in a unanimously passed resolution that provided funding for a public arts project. Two years later, that phrase became the title for the larger than life-sized bronze memorial of Padre Martinez sculpted by San Luis artist Huberto Maestas and erected in the Taos Plaza.
Antonio José was born along the Chama River in Abiquiu, avillage established in 1739 west of Santa Cruz (next to Española) along the RioGrande. When he was eleven, in 1804, he moved to Taos together with his parentsand younger siblings. At nineteen,Antonio José married Maria de La Luz Martinez, a distant cousin. Within a year, his young wife died as shewas giving birth to their daughter who was named for her mother.
The widower decided to study for the priesthood, left hisdaughter with her maternal grandparents, and made his way to the seminary inDurango where he excelled in his studies, especially canon (church) law andphilosophy. A major influence in his life was Padre Miguel Hidalgo, father ofthe Mexican nation. From his parish ofOur Lady of Sorrows and under the banner of Our Lady of Guadalupe, in 1810,Padre Hidalgo shouted for independence from Spain. Eleven years later, in 1821, a year before Antonio José wasordained a priest, Hidalgo’s shout for independence bore fruit. La Nueva España, including New Mexicoand all of what is today called the “southwest,” became La Republica deMéxico.
Shortly after his ordination, Padre Martinez returned to hisnative home in Taos. He was supposed tohave stayed for another year in Durango to obtain some pastoral experience andcontinue his theological studies. However,he was sickly—asthma (?)—so he returned to live for awhile at his parents’ homewhere some of his younger siblings were still living. The young Padre Martinezhelped the aging Franciscan priest who was the pastor of San Geronimo (St.Jerome) parish, the main church of Taos founded at the Indian Pueblo at thedawn of the seventeenth century. PadreMartinez also helped with baptisms, funerals, and wedding preparation at thechurch of Our Lady of Guadalupe at the Taos Plaza, about three miles to thesouth. Guadalupe was not yet its ownparish, but was still a mission dependent on the main church of San Geronimo.
After he recuperated from his illness, Padre Martinez wasassigned to a couple of parishes where he had the opportunity to show hisspecial love for the poor—at Tomé located south of Alburquerque and at theparish of Santo Tomás in Abiquiu where he had been baptized as an infant, andwhere his wife was buried and his daughter was living with hergrandparents. By 1825, the young Maríade La Luz also tragically died at the very young age of twelve, and within ayear, Padre Martinez was reassigned to be the priest in charge at Taos. This was his fondest hope, now realized.
This blog will explore in some detail—through biography,correspondence and other documentation– the forty-two years that PadreMartinez spent in Taos from 1826 until his death in 1867. I warmly invite you to MARK THIS BLOG AS ONEOF YOUR FAVORITES. Beinteractive, and share what especially intrigues you with others who may beinterested. Please help get the wordout. Invite others to track this blog.
Padre Martinez distinguished himself as a religious leader,educator, journalist, author, printer, publisher, rancher, lawyer andstatesman. The last decade of his life was clouded by serious controversy withhis new bishop, the Most Rev. Jean Baptiste Lamy. Martínez was a “liminal man” straddling the threshold of variouseras of New Mexican history–the Spanish period that lasted until 1821, theMexican period that lasted until 1846, and the American period that BenjaminRead called that most “transcendant epoch.” [Illustrated History of NewMexico, 1912]
Michael Olivas, a native of Santa Fe, an attorney and professor of law athe the Univrsity of Houston Law Center, is convoking a working group to meet NM State Records Center and Archives on Monday, August 17. The focus of the meeting is to discuss various research projects being conducted on Padre Antonio Jose Martinez of Taos for the purpose of possibily digitizing and storing digitally on one website books and other materials published by the Padre and maybe works about the Padre. It is a laudable enterprise, and I wish Mr. Olivas every success.
Sandra Jaramillo, the Director of the NM State Archives will host the meeting at the Records Center in Santa Fe. Besides her and her staff, others invited are Archdiocesan representatives Jerome Martinez and Marina Ochoa, UNM professors Laura Gomez and Gabriel Melendez, Palace of the Governors staff Tomas Jaehn and Tom Leech, filmmaker Paul Espinosa, and independent scholars Robert Torrez, Tom Steele, Juan Romero, and Vicente Martinez.
Parish of Our Lady of Guadalupe
Taos, New Mexico
September 3, 1842
[To whom it may concern:]
I, Don Antonio José Martinez, the parish priest and pastor of Taos, Department of New Mexico, hereby certify in the fullest way fixed by law that Don Juan Rowland, a foreigner from the United States of North America, is married to Doña María de la Encarnación Martinez, a Mexican. He is [therefore] naturalized in this Republic, and hence a Mexican Citizen as is his wife. He is [also] a Catholic as is his wife and all their family as shown in the parish record books of this parish of which I am in charge.
He is accustomed to receive Holy Communion regularly, and he contributes to the support of the Church. He faithfully and religiously obeys the laws, and enforces them when holding a position of authority. Moreover, he does so with such a degree of charity that each day has been a greater credit to him. It is also known to me that in his social life he is held in the highest regard as an honored citizen. He is faithful to the state and to the government, and respects its laws. He is quiet and peaceful in all his acts, complying with his duties and responsibilities. In the same manner, this is also his attitude toward the Church. He strictly complies with his promises and contracts when dealing with others. He is well regarded by the inhabitants of this region, and is highly esteemed by its authorities. He has never been accused or even suspected of violating the laws, since he has never given any cause or reason for that. In short, he has always been a man of fine behavior as his qualities as set forth above testify.
Therefore in witness of this, I issue the present certificate from this parish jurisdiction of Taos on the third day of the month of September of this year one thousand eight hundred and forty two.
(Signed) Antonio Jose Martinez, Cura de Taos
[Ms. Lillian Dibble, a granddaughter of John Rowland, owned the original letter published in Leonore Rowland’s ROMANCE OF LA PUENTE, pp. 13-14, Pasadena City Library. Ms. Dibble’s lawyer fashioned an English translation that I amended into a more fluid English version. The original translation may be found more easily in Donald E. Rowland, JOHN ROWLAND AND WILLIAM WORKMAN: SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA PIONEERS OF 1841, Arthur Clark Co. and the Historical Society of Southern California Spokane, 1999, p. 73.]
Padre Antonio José Martínez, the Cura de Taos wrote this Letter of Transit—a kind of passport– for John Rowland and his wife Encarnación Martínez and their family. The letter is dated September 3, 1842. John Rowland, together with William Workman, had fled New Mexico to California in 1841 because of political troubles.
Although both Rowland and Workman were married to native New Mexicans of Taos, and were therefore naturalized citizens of the Republic of Mexico and therefore had the right to own property, they retained certain “Anglo” sympathies. They both had declared themselves in favor of the intent of the Lone Star Republic to claim New Mexico as part of Texas as far east to the Rio Grande. New Mexico, of course, strongly opposed the idea, and Governor Armijo denounced Rowland and Workman as “traitors to the nation.” They fled to California where Encarnación Martinez, the wife of John Rowland, already had business dealings for several years. The major commerce between California and New Mexico at the time, and for some years to come, was the trade of New Mexican blankets for California horses and mules.
When John Rowland first arranged to settle in California in 841, Manuel Alvarez–the Spanish-born American Consul living in Santa Fe–provided a Letter of Transit for him.
August 11, 1841
[Mr. John Rowland] is…. a native of the United States of America, a naturalized [Mexican] citizen and since the year 1823, a resident of this jurisdiction [of the Department of New Mexico, Republic of Mexico].
He is an industrious and peaceful man, very well known and respected in this country. I know him very well, and have associated with him since the early years of his settling here…Whatever favor you may deem worthy of extending to Mr. Rowland, I shall thank you for it.
Kissing your hands, I remain,
Consul of the U.S., Santa Fe
After his first visit to California, John Rowland established a residence on the eastern portion of La Puente Rancho in what is today Rowland Heights, twenty-two miles east of Los Angeles. In those days, it was a space where San Gabriel Mission used to graze cattle. Rowland then returned to Taos in order to escort his wife and family to their new California home.
Padre Martinez, parish priest for the Rowlands—John, Encarnación and their family– had been away from Taos when Rowland and Workman left in their first expedition of 1841 to California. He was on a year of continuing education in Durango, and was also taking care of personal business.
Upon the return of Padre Martinez, Rowland was quick to ask him for a Letter of Transit so that he could take it with him on his return trip to California in 1842. Rowland sought such a letter of recommendation from the Pastor of Taos for reasons similar to those that had initially prompted his request to Alvarez. In addition, Rowland correctly surmised that a Letter of Transit from his pastor might help neutralize the objections to his obtaining La Puente Land Grant that the pastor of San Gabriel Mission and his successor harbored. Padre Tomas Estenaga of San Gabriel Mission strongly opposed Governor Juan Bautista Alvarado’s attempt to divest what he considered Church patrimony in order to sell it to Rowland. For his part, Rowland was hoping that Padre Martinez’ letter would neutralize the objections of the San Gabriel clergy so that Governor Alvarado could effect the land grant over their clerical objections, thus making it the first Mexican land grant in California made to Anglos.
Encarnación Martinez was related to the Padre’s father, Severino Martinez of Taos. Although Padre Martinez had been a Mexican nationalist for most of his years, he nevertheless graciously and generously acceded to John Rowland’s request to write the very positive letter for him and his wife who was the Padre’s relative. The letter was shown to the equivalent of customs officials (or border patrol agents) between New Mexico and California, different departamentos—equivalent to states or territories–of the same Republic of Mexico. The letter also served as an effective credential with politicians and priests, including the governor of Alta California and the pastor of San Gabriel Mission. Indeed, it must have helped Rowland’s effort to eventually own property in California, his new adopted homeland. It was a case where family blood (through intermarriage) trumped politics!
This Sunday, June 21, is Fathers’ Day and the beginning of summer. In addition, Pope (meaning “father”) Benedict XVI has proclaimed this year, beginning last Friday–that was the Feast of the Sacred Heart–be observed throughout the Catholic World as the YEAR OF THE PRIEST. This augurs well for the re-establishment of the web log dedicated to the life and legacy of Padre Antonio José Martínez, Cura de Taos. Padre Martínez was a legitimate father in fact as well as the spiritual father for the thousands of people he served during his long ministry as the Cura de Taos in northern New Mexico. As a young man of 19, he had married María de La Luz Martínez, a distant relative from the same village of Abiqiui, NM–westerly of Santa Fe and Taos. She died while giving birth to their daughter, and was buried in the church yard of Santo Tomás in Abiquiu. Antonio José had been baptized there as an infant , and at the age of 29 would return there for one of his first assignments as the priest in charge. The maternal grandparents of little María de La Luz brought up the child in the unity and love of an extended family of which Antonio José was a part. Nevertheless, after a few years, Antonio José felt the call to priesthood, and traveled to Durango to pursue the calling through seminary study. Not long after María de la Luz turned twelve, she also died an untimely death.
Stay tuned to this blog, and pray for all priests.
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