After such a long hiatus, I write this post on October 4, the feast of St. Francis who is patron of the Archdiocese of Santa Fe. Last week I was in Taos for a meeting with Vicente Martínez and Robert Torrez, former state historian of New Mexico. We are collaborating on a publication-project about the life and legacy of Padre Martinez, Cura de Taos. It was my joy to remain in Taos for a week, and concelebrate the 6 AM Mass at San Geronimo Pueblo on occasion of their patron feast of St. Jerome, September 30.
In the August 2011 issue of People of God, the newspaper for the Archdiocese of Santa Fe, Archbishop Michael J. Sheehan addressed the scandal that comes from “prominent priests who have turned out to have serious difficulties.” The Archbishop in no way justifies any wrong-doing in which high-profile men of the cloth may have been been involved, but he also affirms with certainty, “… it is not our place to judge these men who did a great deal of good in their priestly lives despite the failings that have come to light. We must be grateful for the spiritual blessings they have brought to many people.”
This non-judgmental attitude, regarding the morality or sinfulness of priests who have not lived up to their spiritual commitments or promises, applies as well to Padre Antonio José Martínez in regard to his public conflict with his bishop, Jean Baptiste Lamy, or in regard to any alleged moral failings.
The concluding exhortations of Archbishop Sheehan are pertinent today as they were in the time of his episcopal predecessor and Padre Martinez: Do not put your “faith in the bishop or priest, but in Jesus and the Eucharist! We human beings do the best we can, but sometimes we fail….Put your faith in Chist and the Sacraments of our Church so that your faith can never be disappointed and you will never be scandalized.”
Vicente Martinez of Taos, part-time resident of Florida, has done significant research in recent years on the progeny of Padre Martinez. It will be part of the documentation on the Padre’s Last Will and Testament that will accompany an annotated 1877 Biography by Santiago Valdez of Padre Martinez, and an 1840 Autobiography. I have had the privilege on assisting in the research and writing of this coming publication to which Father Tom Steele, SJ has contributed so much scholarship. May he rest in peace! Mr. Robert Torrez is Father Steele’s “anointed” successor as editor of the publication-project that may be out within a year, perhaps by the end of the centennial of New Mexico’s statehood. The publication-project purports to deal with the life and accomplishments of Padre Antonio José Martínez, “warts and all” (Vicente Martinez) “within their context, but without excuses.” (Fr. Juan Romero) Stay tuned!