José Antonio [Laureano de Zubiría], Bishop of Durango 

Priests of New Mexico

November 13, 1850

[This item is being posted a few days after January 17, the birthday of Padre Antonio José Martínez of Taos born in 1793. Bishop Zubiría had been a seminary professor of Padre Martínez in Durango where he studied.]



Rev. Juan Romero


  The historical interest and value of this Pastoral Letter lies in the window it offers into the time and space between the civil and ecclesiastical transfer of jurisdiction between the Republic of Mexico and the United States leading up to and for a few years after the US-Mexican War. Only a dozen years after the Republic of Mexico had become independent from “La Madre España”, Bishop Zubiría in 1833 made his first pastoral visit to New Mexico and Colorado, the northern extremity of his immense diocese of Durango. On this occasion, Bishop Zubiría—a former professor of seminarian Antonio José Martínez of Taos–gave Padre Martínez permission to begin a pre-seminary at his home for the formation of young men interested in becoming priests in New Mexico. They had to travel over a thousand miles to the south to continue their theological studies in Durango. 

  The U.S.-Mexican War from 1846 to 1848 marked a most “transcendent epoch” in American civil society, opined historian Benjamin Read in his Illustrated History of New Mexico published in 1912 at the time the territory was becoming a state of the Union. This liminal stage was reflected in the history of the Church which witnessed one of American history’s greatest transitions of episcopal jurisdiction, together with its concomitant drama and confusions.

  The large diocese of Durango in the Republic of Mexico was under the jurisdiction of Bishop José Laureano de Zubiría y Escalante from 1831 until his death in 1863. His diocese came to be cut almost in half on July 19, 1850. Pope Pius IX held the scalpel of ecclesiastical surgery, but the operation had begun four years prior with the march toward fulfillment of Manifest Destiny expressed in the U.S.- Mexican War. Stephen Watts Kearny led the Army of the West from Fort Leavenworth, Kansas to Santa Fe in mid-August 1846. The US-Mexican War ended a year and a half later with the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo in early February 1848. Through spoils of war, the United States came to occupy and then own a large swath of territories north of Mexico that greatly diminished the size of the Bishop’s Mexican Diocese. These lands—not all part of his Diocese–included Texas, New Mexico, California, Utah, Arizona, and slivers of Wyoming and Oklahoma. 

  Civil institutions rather quickly adjusted to the new political reality, but Catholic ecclesiastical structures took more time. The American Bishops at their 1850 Council in Baltimore petitioned Pope Pius IX to transfer ecclesiastical jurisdiction from the northern part of the Diocese of Durango to become a new American Diocese of Santa Fe in New Mexico. In response, the Holy Father created the Apostolic Vicariate of New Mexico—a missionary stage of transition in the process of becoming a diocese in its own right. The new Vicariate Apostolic of (Santa Fe in) New Mexico was to be technically attached to the Archdiocese of St. Louis Missouri, font of the Santa Fe Trail ending in Taos. Father Jean Baptist Lamy, a French missionary serving in Ohio, was chosen to lead the fledgling local church. On November 24, 1850, Bishop Martin Spaulding of Louisville, Kentucky consecrated Lamy as bishop.

  A month before that consecration, in September 1850, Bishop Zubiria began his third and final pastoral visit of almost three months to the northern extremity of his extremely far-flung diocese of Durango that extended to Colorado. Upon returning to his base in Durango in the Mexican Republic, the Bishop wrote his Pastoral Letter to his northern clergy in New Mexico. The Letter was dated November 13, 1850—twelve days before Father Lamy was consecrated a bishop.  Bishop Zubiria was to formally remain as the prelate-in-charge of his whole Diocese of Durango for less than another two weeks—indeed a liminal time– until Jean Baptiste Lamy was ordained Bishop for the Apostolic Vicariate of New Mexico. 

 Almost nine months later but not yet after his face-to-face visit with Bishop Zubiría, Bishop Lamy arrived at his new post in July 1851. However, there still had not been enough time for an appropriate gestation of the new reality. When Bishop Lamy arrived at Santa Fe to begin his new ministry, Juan Felipe Ortiz of Santa Fe–the Episcopal Vicar for Bishop Zubiria, explained that the clergy of New Mexico could not yet accept him as their ordinary—the term for bishop-in-charge–since they had not yet received official notification from Bishop Zubíra about any change in episcopal leadership. 

  Bishop Lamy immediately arranged to make a pilgrimage of over 2,000 miles–over to Durango and back to Santa Fe– for a visit with Bishop Zubiría in order to proffer his Roman credentials as the proper Bishop of New Mexico. In November 1851, a year after his episcopal consecration and after much confusion and several clarifications, Bishop Lamy returned to Santa Fe to finally and fully take charge of his Vicariate Apostolic of New Mexico. By 1853, the Apostolic Vicariate of New Mexico had become a Diocese in its own right, and in 1875 it was elevated to the status of an Archdiocese. Archbishop Lamy died in 1888.


  Bishop Zubiria had been aware of the 1848 Treaty of Guadalupe-Hidalgo that ended the U.S.-Mexican War ceding half of the territory of his Diocese to the United States. He also must have been aware of the 1850 Council of Baltimore promoting the transfer of ecclesiastical jurisdiction of the great swath of territory north from Mexico to episcopal jurisdiction in the United States. However, the date for the transfer of jurisdiction was not clear to Bishop Zubiria because of a bureaucratic mistake made by the Vatican. By oversight, the notification of transfer of jurisdiction was sent to the Bishop of Sonora, Mexico whose diocese was adjacent to Arizona but still part of the Mexican Republic. Bishop Zubiria “did not get the memo” of the transfer of jurisdiction, but the Bishop of Sonora did. The latter must have thought it was a pro-forma notification, a copy meant only for his information. 

  Part of the lack of good communication between Rome and Durango, moreover, was nomenclature–the protracted and unwieldy name of Durango’s Bishop, José Laureano de Zubiría y Escalante, quite confusing to Vatican bureaucrats. The Vatican clerical staff sometimes did not recognize the name or signature of the Durango Bishop who, in correspondence with the Vatican, often signed his name simply as “Laureano”, the surname of his father. Mexican usage highlights a mother’s maiden name (de Zubiría) that, to a non-Mexican, might seem to appear as a paternal surname. In 19th-century Mexican usage, a mother’s maiden name was customarily appended to one’s paternal surname. The somewhat cynical thinking behind that usage is the fact that one can be sure of one’s mother, but not necessarily always of one’s father. Escalante was the name of Bishop Zubiria’s maternal grandmother. All of this was quite confusing to bureaucrats at the Vatican. Bishop Zubiria, i.e. José Laureano, after not having been advised about the transfer of the northern portion of his Diocese, sent a doleful letter of complaint to the Holy Father: “I have always been a loyal son to Your Holiness, yet I was not notified.…” [Paraphrase of a Letter from Bishop Zubiria to Pope Pius IX which, during a sabbatical in the Jubilee Year 2000, I read at the Secret Archives Secunda Secundae of the Vatican Secretariate of State.] 


  Bishop José Lauraeano de Zubiría y Escalante, convinced that the territory of New Mexico was still under his jurisdiction, made his third and final visit there in the fall of 1850. Upon returning home to Durango by mid-November, he wrote his Circular Letter to the Clergy of New Mexico on November 13, 1850. Its focus was to ratify disciplinary actions he wished to implement after his visit. No doubt he was also interested in “cleaning house” before a new administration came into town. His Pastoral Letter was an invitation to Catholics living in concubinage to get their marriages blessed, i.e., con-validated in the Church.

Bishop Zubiría, properly fulfilling his ministry of protecting the faithful from clerics without jurisdiction, decreed that Catholics in that situation need to get their marriages blessed soon and without charge. His Letter was also a call to those who had been invalidly married by a priest without jurisdiction to have their unions canonically con-validated. The letter denounced by name a couple of priests who without proper episcopal jurisdiction were invalidly presiding at so-called con-validations of marriages. Bishop Zubiría correctly stressed that to be validly married, a Catholic couple needed to express their free consent before two witnesses and a priest who had faculties (license from the proper bishop) to minister in his diocese. Bishop Zubiría, in this Pastoral Letter, called out by name two wandering clerics (clerici vagi), Padres Cárdenas and Valencia, who were invalidly presiding at marriages since they did not have faculties from him. They traveled around Rio Abajo (Socorro, Belen, Tomé, y La Isleta) pretending to preside at marriages without having proper delegation (jurisdiction/faculties/license). In the eyes of the Church, such marriages were considered invalid, and such couples who had their unions “blessed” by either of these clerics needed to have their unions properly witnessed by priests with proper jurisdiction and with two witnesses according to prescriptions of the 16th century Council of Trent. 

  Bishop Zubiría decreed invalid marriages needed to be con-validated soon and without charge. Couples failing to do so would be deprived of Holy Communion. In addition, they also could serve as godparents or sponsors for baptism, confirmation, or marriage until their marriage was blessed in church. After con-validation of the marriage, they could once again be restored to the status of good standing within the Church.

  Bishop Zubiria sent the letter to the young Padre José Miguel Gallegos from Abiquiú, the talented pastor of the prestigious parish of San Felipe Parish in Albuquerque. Bishop then charged the priest with the task of making copies of the Pastoral Letter and distributing them to the clergy of New Mexico. However, the Bishop did not clearly realize that his Diocese of Durango was on the brink of immanent momentous change. The priest from Abiquiú had a promising ecclesiastical career. However, because of the vagaries of time and chance, the promise of that career was not to be fulfilled. 

  An English translation of the Letter from Bishop Zubiria follows:


Translated by Rev. Thomas Steele, S.J., Vicente Martínez, Elena Nápoles-Goldfeder, and 

Rev. Juan Romero

(Revised – December 2022)

November 13, 1850

To the priests, gentlemen, addressed in this decree: grace and health in Our Lord Jesus Christ.

  Since coming to this Territory, I have made repeated announcements from its pulpits to the faithful regarding the weddings officiated by the woeful priests, Fray Benigno Cárdenas and Don Nicolás Valencia. My much-beloved sons and brothers, all of you know, as well as I, of their disobedience against their Bishop. With great sadness of my spirit, it caused their suspension on February 25, 1848, and that has been made public in the parish of Belén.

  My Vicar General gently invited those involved in invalid marriages performed by those two priests [Cárdenas and Valencia] to have them con-validated before their own [parish] priests in good standing. Furthermore, these priests should do so free of charge, taking into account the spiritual good of souls. Although many have come forward to have their invalid marriages blessed by the church, there is, nevertheless, no lack of others who persist in their irregular marriages. 

  After three months of waiting and at the time of my leaving the Territory, they still do not pay attention to the pastoral voice of their seventh Diocesan Prelate, but dismiss and disdain that voice, [I declare that] those couples who persevere united in the abyss of such deceitful ties are truly nothing more than–to put it more clearly—in public cohabitation. It is even more criminal when they attempt to cover themselves over with the respectable name of the holy sacrament of matrimony by pretending to appear pure. Because what they call “matrimony” is totally otherwise; they commit an outrageous sacrilege. There cannot be any kind of excuse for this after what they have heard but have not wanted to believe. With impertinence, they are disobeying the voice of their shepherd-bishop. May God clarify this for them, for their guidance and direction in spiritual matters.

  Since this is a very grave evil and one of the most pernicious scandals to souls, may it be held in little regard for its notorious mocking of our sacred Catholic religion that we profess because we are blessed [in our faith]. For these powerful reasons, the blessing of our religion should not be, nor can it be, something pretended. Those who try to pass themselves off as good Catholics cannot be hidden without (medicinal) punishment occasioned by their contumacious behavior. Such punishment is meted out for the purpose of their correction and amendment and for the purpose of reducing disorders as well as for healing the fallout of scandal and evils that such inconsiderate and ungrateful children are causing.

  I commend to you, priests of Socorro, Belén, Tomé, La Isleta and Alburquerque [sic], that upon receipt of this decree, you pass it on to the hands of everyone so that each might investigate the marriages officiated by Fathers Valencia and Cárdenas that may have taken place in your parishes. May you find out which couples are living together without proper con-validation of their impure relationships, and which [of those] couples may be interested in regularizing their marriage. Advise them of the necessity of having their marriages blessed before you, or before the priests to whom you will give delegation. Place clearly before them the importance of [either] having their marriages blessed in the church within a time frame that should not exceed eight to ten days, or of necessarily separating forever. That is sufficient opportunity for those couples living separately to prepare their consciences, cleansing them from impurity, to make a good confession to validate their marriages in a Christian manner.

  I hereby impose on contumacious persons a major penalty of being barred from receiving Holy Communion. This applies to those involved in marriages that have already been identified as invalid. The couple has been notified and openly called upon for the validation of their marriages, but– by disgrace –allow time to pass. Should they dare to continue in their matrimonial situations without having their marriages blessed, that punishment shall last while they persist in their obstinacies. 

  All of you [clergy] shall make this penalty effective by explicitly naming those persons as disbarred from Communion by writing their names on a paper and posting it on the doors of the church. It shall be written in the following manner: NN. was married to N. in an invalid ceremony officiated by Father N. This censure is being imposed because, after being notified of the invalidity of their bond, they have persistently refused to make the decision to marry properly. Having been openly called to con-validate their marriage, they shall be excommunicated by sentence of the Bishop until such time that they shall subject themselves to due obedience. In such a case, they shall be absolved, and the faithful shall be notified of their dutiful consent. The respective priest shall then immediately set a date for the con-validation of the marriage and fix his signature to it.

  So that the validations can be facilitated for the good of souls, I promise that it should be done free of charge, as has been done up until now. The marriage will be regularized without any more expense on the part of the interested parties other than the dowry, and that should be taken care of by the best man and maid of honor. So that they can proceed with their con-validation, I will supply the usual stipend for the Mass. 

  You shall prepare a brief report, even if it is verbal, for the purpose of certifying that there was no diriment impediment whatsoever. Moreover, to whoever suspects that such an impediment may exist, I now declare by this present decree that I have dispensed it —so long as licit pairing does not exceed the second degree of consanguinity or affinity–or even if there be an illicit paring, but that it does not reach the first degree of consanguinity or affinity.

  Finally, so that this decree shall have its necessary execution, I command that a copy of this order be circulated in a flyer, and that another copy be made for the record book [parish marriage register]. Each of the dowries should be used to make another copy of this decree in pamphlet form, and then, with the priest’s signature, hung on the church door. 

  Together with receipt and execution of copies [of this Pastoral Letter] aforementioned, I remit these pages to the pastor of Albuquerque in deference to his position. With his endorsement, and bringing an end to this matter, I now send it to the Vicar to be placed in the archives of Santa Fe.

  Given at the Plaza of San Antonio, with the awareness of the parish of San Miguel del Socorro, November 13, 1850. 

José Antonio [Laureano de Zubiría], Bishop of Durango

By order of Don Luis Rubio, Secretary of Visit,

[Reviewed and endorsed by] 

José Manuel Gallegos, [Pastor of San Felipe in Albuquerque]

Canonization of Saint Charles de Foucald – May 15, 2022

and the



Fr. Juan Romero, Archdiocese of Los Angeles

Blessed Charles de Foucauld – An Unlikely Patron

  Charles de Foucauld, an ascetic monk known as a Little Brother of Jesus, is an unlikely patron saint for diocesan priests.  He inspired the International Fraternity of Jesus Caritas thus becoming one of the few patron saints for diocesan priests.  At the beginning of December 1916 and at the relatively young age of 58, Charles Eugene de Foucauld was killed in Tamanrasset, Algeria. His feast day is celebrated on December 1, near the anniversary of his death. Pope Benedict XVI beatified him as a martyr for the faith on November 13, 2005, and Pope Francis canonized him on May15, 2022. Although the only group he ever directly founded was a lay fraternity of the Little Brothers of Jesus, Blessed Charles has inspired a multitude of other groups and is counted as the co-founder of the Little Sisters of Jesus. His life and legacy were an inspiration for Jesus Caritas fraternities of diocesan priests throughout the world. Here are some highlights of his life and ministry based on a talk recorded on YouTube, sponsored by the McGrath Institute given in 2018 by Professor Gabriel Reynolds of the University of Notre Dame.

  Charles was born into wealth in 1858 at Strasbourg along the borderland between France and Germany. He was, like St. Augustine of Hippo, a cradle Catholic, but not enthusiastic about nor faithful to the practice of his religion until he had a conversion experience in later life. De Foucald was intellectually gifted and had a good education, but his grades were poor until he encountered something that truly interested him. Geography and the desert peoples of northern Africa intrigued him, but his attraction to “wine women and song” as well as Cuban cigars trumped academic interests of this young military officer in the French cavalry. In a change of assignment, he paid the passage to send ahead his mistress Mimi, a Parisian actress, posing as his spouse to be with him at an assignment in southern Algeria where he bravely served in combat.

  A restless man, he left military life and moved to Morocco where—although there were few Christians in the area– the influence of a French priest helped stabilize his life. The area was ruled by a Muslim Emirate, and a strong Jewish colony had been present there since the middle-ages. Charles was intrigued by his surroundings, and an Irish librarian encouraged him to pose as a rabbi to gain easy entry to the people and territory. This allowed him to literally take measurement of the land, and Charles won a gold medal from the Sorbonne University for his geographical study.

  Deeply impressed by and strongly attracted to the simplicity, dogma, and morality of the Jews and Muslims of Morocco, Charles admired their fidelity to faith and its expressions in prayer and fasting. Through the prayerful intercession of his cousin Marie–and after a grace-filled

encounter in the sacrament of Penance at the Paris church of St. Augustine—Charles in 1886 returned to returned to France and to his Catholic faith. He decided to live for God alone and joined a Trappist Monastery for a cloistered life. In 1890, he moved to another more severe and remote Trappist monastery in Syria. Five years later, during the time of the Armenian Genocide, de Foucald the military man resurfaced to organize a successful defense of the monastery against marauders. While in Syria, he wrote a Rule for the Little Brothers of Jesus, but the order was never truly organized during his lifetime.

 His Trappist brothers recognized the leadership qualities and spiritual capabilities of Brother Charles. He was seen as “exceptional, stubborn, humble”, and they sent him to study in Rome towards a possible future leadership role in the monastic order. However, he chose instead to move to Nazareth where he lived for a few years in a hut provided by Poor Clare Sisters. Brother Charles worked as their gardener and subsisted on a diet of bread and water. When the Poor Clare Sisters gave him dates, figs and almonds to augment his diet, he would—unbeknown to them—give away the food to people in the village. In Nazareth, he grew in appreciation of the Hidden Life of Jesus and was given mystical experiences: “a union that had no earthly name”. Brother Charles de Foucald received greater clarity and transparency of the person Jesus Caritas and began to focus on his true vocation.

  The Sisters suggested he go to Jerusalem to meet with their Mother Superior who urged him to be ordained a priest. “You have to be a priest to begin a religious order,” Mother Superior counseled. The Patriarch of Jerusalem demurred ordaining him since he had no real roots there, so he went to Viviers, France where he was ordained in 1901.  Father Charles then left for Western Algeria where he committed himself to be a “brother” with and for the POOR. He planned to establish a community of Little Brothers but was unsuccessful.

  By 1904, as a French patriot residing in the French colony of southern Algeria, Brother Charles without followers was a “community” of one. He attempted to redeem slaves and felt called to proclaim the Gospel to Berbers. At the same time, he recognized the spiritual needs of the soldiers in the French garrison. The tension was resolved when his vocation finally focused through his call to live in solitary isolation, contemplation, and service to the poor–a ministry of hospitable presence to Muslims and dedication to work in the Algerian Sahara. He lived among the Tuareg people, translated the Gospel into their language and produced a Tuareg-French dictionary. He made no conversions and baptized only two persons: a Black African slave whom he had raised and an old lady. Otherwise, he thought of himself as merely a “useless servant” (Lk. 17:7-10).

  Nevertheless, he built a small hermitage in southern Algeria where he dedicated himself to an ascetic “ministry of presence”. By 1908, his health was declining, but he lived for another eight years. He was eventually killed before the Great War between Germany and France, its initial antagonists. Militarized Muslim Turks and Black Africans were aligned with Germany. At the end of 1916, there was a plan to kidnap but not kill Brother Charles suspected of being a French agent and captured him. Little Brother Charles in a kneeling posture, hands and feet bound

behind his back when Algerians arrived to rescue him. However, a teenage militant panicked and shot Charles through the head.

  His cousin Maria for years had prayed for his conversion. Among his last writings, he counseled her, “Never be afraid of danger…God will not forget.” Pope Francis at the beginning of his encyclical Fratelli Tutti (All are Brothers) echoes the message of his chosen namesake St. Francis of Assisi that the heart of the Christian message is “a fraternal openness that allows us to acknowledge, appreciate, and love each person, regardless of physical proximity, regardless of where he or she was born or lives”.

  This holy man of God has influenced the lives of many throughout the world and continues to do so. Although he did not begin Jesus Caritas fraternities for diocesan priests, he nevertheless inspired them with his love of the Eucharist as sacrifice and sacrament and by his commitment to live Gospel simplicity, by his devotion to the Hidden Life of Jesus of Nazareth and by his attraction to “the Desert”. For over half a century, I belonged to a Jesus Caritas Fraternity that faithfully met monthly. The brotherhood profoundly influenced my own life as a diocesan priest, and I am forever grateful to the brothers of my fraternity and to St. Charles de Foucald.



  At a national retreat for members of the Jesus Caritas Fraternity of priests held at St. John’s Seminary in Camarillo, California in July 2010, Father Jerry Devore of Bridgeport, Connecticut asked me in the name of the National Council to write an early history of Jesus Caritas in the United States.  About fifty priests from all over the country gathered for a week while a smaller number of priests were already there participating for the full Month of Nazareth. This chronicle is based on conversations with and testimonies of some of those present.

  As a young priest studying at Catholic University in Washington, D.C. during the mid-sixties, Father Thomas McCormick, a former National Responsible of the Fraternities, encountered the Little Sisters of Jesus.  He noticed that one of their menial jobs was to clean toilets at the University.  Father Tom was curious about this humble self-effacing group that was so faithful to their spirituality inspired by Brother Charles de Foucauld.  These Little Sisters of Jesus lived his simple spirituality and radiated it as they were becoming fully catholic in their vision and mission.  They dedicated themselves totally to humbly living the Gospel as practiced by Charles de Foucauld, the French hermit of North Africa.  From very early on, the Little Sisters of Jesus served as a powerful underground promoting the spirit of Brother Charles in a very simple, yet immeasurable manner.

  Father Tom McCormick in 1974 succeeded Father Dan Danielson as the National Responsible for Jesus Caritas Fraternities in the United States. Originally of the Midwest and later of Denver, Tom McCormick served in that position until 1979.  Father Danielson was the first National Responsible, and until recently Father Joseph Greeley of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles served as the Responsible of the Jesus Caritas Fraternities in the United States. Father John Jacquel of Erie PA, as of 2022, is the new National Responsible.

  The Fraternities were established for diocesan priests since religious order priests supposedly already had “fraternity” built within their structures.  Nevertheless, several religious order priests over the years have joined Jesus Caritas fraternities in partnership with their diocesan brothers. The sense of priestly fraternity grew during the decade of the ‘70s as Jesus Caritas Fraternities spread on both coasts as well as throughout the United States. 

  This brief history is intended to complement two seminal Jesus Caritas works for the USA: A New Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Msgr. Bryan Karvelis (RIP) of Brooklyn, New York and the booklet American Experience of Jesus Caritas Fraternities by Father Dan Danielson of Oakland, California.  This essay proposes to record the beginnings of the Jesus Caritas Fraternities in the USA over its first decade of existence from 1963 to 1973.  It purports to be an “Acts of the Apostles” of some of the prophets and apostles of the Jesus Caritas Fraternity in the USA, a collective living memory of this little-known dynamic dimension of the Church in the United States.  It is not an evaluation of the Fraternity, much less a road map for its future growth and development.  Its immediate purpose is to be a simple report of some of the main facets of the early history of Jesus Caritas in the USA, an “Observe,” if you will, of our beginnings and common roots in this country.  Any consequent “Judge” or “Act” is outside the purview of this paper but may be used as an organizing tool for potential growth of the Fraternity.

  The influence of Brother Charles of Jesus was first felt during the late Nineteenth Century in Africa where he labored as a quasi-hermit, and then in the early Twentieth Century at his homeland, France.  In the early 1960’s, Peter Heinermann brought the story of Brother Charles and the Jesus Caritas Fraternities to places outside of Europe.  Canadian priest Jacques Le Clerc was the coordinator of the Jesus Caritas Fraternities in Canada as well as their national “responsible.”  He brought the fraternities of Brother Charles to the American continent by way of Montreal.  With its strong French connection, Montreal was fertile soil for the development of Jesus Caritas Fraternities. Other fraternities were already established in many places throughout the world.  However, they had not yet come into the United States.  By 1963, the beginnings of the Jesus Caritas Fraternities in the United States coincided with the opening of the Second Vatican Council.


  Branches of Jesus Caritas Fraternities began to bud in New York and California, and various other places throughout the United States.  Msgr. Bryan Karvelis of the Brooklyn Diocese in New York and Father Dan Danielson of the Oakland Diocese in California were pioneer founders—the Peter and Paul–of the Jesus Caritas Fraternities in the United States. 

Msgr. Bryan Karvelis 

  Ordained in the late 1950s, Msgr. Bryan Karvelis died in October 2005, after half a century of priestly ministry and just a couple of months before the beatification of Brother Charles of Jesus.  Bryan had grown up in St. Boniface Parish in Brooklyn, and he served for almost fifty years as pastor of Transfiguration Parish in the same city.  Former New York socialite Dorothy Day, turned apostle-to-the-poor, greatly influenced Msgr. Karavelis.  He housed homeless people – mostly immigrants from Latin America – in the rectory, the basement of the convent, and in a shelter across the street from the church.  He helped them find more permanent housing, and he turned the former convent into a refuge for AIDS patients.

  In addition to Dorothy Day, Charles de Foucauld also powerfully influenced the life Msgr. Karvelis remembered as an “urban contemplative.”  (National Catholic Reporter, March 10, 2000) In 1966, Msgr. Karvelis began “mini churches” at Transfiguration Parish in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, as a way for parishioners to develop a deeper relationship with Jesus and his message.  “Each ‘fraternity’ consisted of fifteen to twenty members who meet in the church basement for study prayer and reflection,” wrote the National Catholic Reporter in the early spring of Jubilee Year 2000.  Within his parish, he organized Jesus Caritas-type fraternities akin to the Comunidades de Base of Latin America.  They became the organizational basis for the whole parish – a community of small communities; his parish council functioned practically as a Jesus Caritas Fraternity.  Karvelis lit a holy fire in Brooklyn that inspired a new zeal a group of highly enthusiastic social-action-type priests.  The priests of his parish and others of surrounding parishes came to recognize that they needed more prayerful reflection to balance their priestly lives.  They were going about doing good, and—like Mary, Martha’s sister—they were busy about many things, but perhaps not giving sufficient attention to the “one thing necessary”. (Lk 10:38-42)

  Msgr. Karvelis was convinced that the way for priests to hold on to priesthood was to cling to Jesus Christ Himself in the manner exemplified by Charles de Foucauld.  Karvelis emphasized the central importance of love for Jesus and fidelity to the Gospel mandate of serving the poor.  This was the great example Jesus gave to diocesan priests and to all, and it was well exemplified by Brother Charles.

  The basics of Jesus Caritas fraternities were catching on throughout the country. Priestly fraternities were on their own meeting monthly in commitment to a daily holy hour before the Blessed Sacrament, meditation on the scriptures with a predilection for the Gospels, simplicity of life, living in solidarity with the impoverished, and a monthly (or at least occasional) individual and prayerful “Day in the Desert” in preparation for one’s Review of Life to be shared within the monthly small-group meeting of a particular Fraternity. 

  The recommended (metaphorical) “Day” is to afford sustained quiet prayer time alone and away from one’s usual workspace. It may be at a mountain location, beach or anywhere, but without any props or distractions—even spiritual reading. The monthly meeting of the fraternity attempts to incorporate all of these elements: Gospel (or other scripture) reflection (not to be a time for homily prep), a meal together, Holy Hour before the Blessed Sacrament, and the Review of Life — the heart of the monthly meeting. An annual overnight at a retreat house is highly recommended for spiritually deepening the fraternity.

Prudence and the Review of Life

  Father Tony Leuer (RIP), a founding member of a Fraternity in Los Angeles, contributed an insight into the Review-of-Life process. Through his high school participation in the Young Christian Students (YCS), one of the “Specialized Movements” of Catholic Action that blossomed for about forty years from the ‘30s through the ‘70s, he had long been familiar with its Observe-Judge-Act technique. With its emphasis on concrete facts from members’ lives, the method is somewhat akin to the method used in Liberation Theology and in broad-based Community Organizing. Some Jesus Caritas priests such as Father Dan Finn of Boston have successfully used this methodology as a pastoral tool. 

  This approach to life is firmly based on the Virtue of Prudence as expounded by St. Thomas Aquinas in Quaestio 42 of his Summa Theologica.  The virtue is directed toward action based on prior reflection.  The virtue is not so much a habit to offer a warning of possible dangers in doing something, nor an exhortation to stop from doing something. On the contrary, rightly understood, prudence is the virtue (good habit of acting) ordinated to ACTION.

  This virtue echoes the well-known formula OBSERVE-JUDGE-ACT developed in the early 20th century by Father Joseph Cardijn of Belgium. In 1912, he began to use this method of discernment-action with young women working in factories. He taught them to evaluate their “action” since that evaluation provides the deepest learning in life. The young men and women this technique developed into the Jenuesse Ouvriere Chrétienne (JOC = YCW, i.e., Young Christian Workers) that eventually spread throughout Europe, Latin America, and the whole world.

  Pope Pius XII in 1965 named Joseph Cardijn a Cardinal who became a consultant at the Second Vatican Council. His process of prudence-in-action is the theological basis for the Review of Life that is at the heart of one’s sharing at a fraternity’s monthly meeting. The elements are as follows: 1) Observe concrete facts of a situation in life, 2) Judge (discern) them in the light of Christian principles, especially as reflected in the Gospel, 3) and then decide to Act concretely. Such action–on one’s own behalf or in concert with others for change—has as its purpose to move an unwholesome reality to conform more closely to values of Jesus Christ as espoused in the Gospels. This leads toward living a more human/Christian ideal in one’s own life and ultimately in society, thus preparing for the full coming of the Lord’s Kingdom.

  In his article A New Tree Grows in Brooklyn— a homage to the 1951 Broadway Musical of that title (Novel 1943, Movie 1945, and Movie adapted for TV 1974) — Msgr. Bryan Karvelis wrote about the Eastern USA experiences of Fraternity. His option to serve the poor eventually cost him dearly in later years when he suffered from hostile non-Catholic elements that literally beat him various times.  He also suffered from a kidney transplant but nevertheless continued to be enthusiastic about the development of Jesus Caritas Fraternities.

  Only a few years after his ordination toward the end of the sixties, Father Howard Calkins of New York experienced the turmoil of the times through very unpleasant changes in assignment. That unhappy experience – it turns out was a “happy fault” – provided the catalyst for beginning a new fraternity.  By 1970, Father Calkins, together with three or four others, made an “engagement” (pronounced the French way)—a commitment to live the charism of Brother Charles through a Jesus Caritas Fraternity.  He followed this up in 1971 with a “consecration” at Tabor, New York.  This commitment/engagement was somewhat analogous to a religious profession, but such a public affirmation is no longer customary in today’s Jesus Caritas fraternities.


  The first years of growth for the Fraternities in the United States took place at a tumultuous time.  The spirit of the sixties— good and bad dimensions– affected all of society including the Church. The spirit of hope marking the beginning of the decade moved toward dissent in the middle of the decade, and then to conflict and turmoil towards its end.  The March on Washington in August 1963 ushered in a hope in the possibility that we as a country indeed might be able to overcome the divisions of race.  Furthermore, the October opening of the Second Vatican Council gave rise to a great hope that God’s Spirit would breathe new life into the Catholic Church as well as in other institutions throughout the world.  Many of those hopes were quashed by the decade’s stormy end: the assassinations of Rev. Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy in 1968, the convention of the Democratic Party in Chicago that summer, the drug-infested gathering of the nation’s youth at Woodstock, and widespread urban civil unrest. Discord within the Church followed the publication of Pope Paul VI’s encyclical on the regulation of births.

  At the same time, the Church was becoming more socially conscious. Many Catholic clergy, women religious and lay people were following the non-violent leadership of Rev. Martin Luther King.  Cesar Chavez–the unapologetically Catholic charismatic leader and founder of the United Farm Workers Union– challenged Catholic priests and bishops to support La Causa with more than words. He pleaded churchmen boldly assert the right of farm workers to organize their own union.  In the spring of 1969, Mexican American clergy, led by Chicano priests in Texas, organized themselves into a national organization of PADRES, an acronym that translates into Priests Associated for Religious, Educational and Social Rights.  The PADRES were claiming that the Church as an institution in this country was not adequately responding to pastoral needs of its Spanish speaking.  A significant “sign of the times” was that over 25% of Catholics in the U.S. were in this demographic.  Church leadership at the time was slow to believe the percentage claimed, but the immanent explosion of the Latino population within the country eventually validated the claim in spades.

  Turmoil and conflict within the United States and throughout the world certainly had its impact upon Catholic clergy.  Their worlds had been rocked.  As a result, many were deciding to leave active ministry, and some married.  Father Dan Danielson was concerned about the growing fallout among American clergy. He was convinced that Jesus Caritas Fraternities could help the priests hold on to their priesthood through emotional and psychological support of one another within the fraternities.  He thought that elements of “sensitivity sessions”, popularized on the West Coast by American Psychologist Carl Rogers, might be a tool that could be adapted to the fraternities while at the same time holding as sacred the general structure and emphasis of Jesus Caritas small gatherings.

Father Dan Danielson

  Father Dan Danielson spread the word of the Jesus Caritas Fraternities along the West coast and in other parts of the country.  He had been ordained from St. Patrick’s seminary for the Diocese of Oakland in 1963.  In 2005, on the feast of the Assumption, a few months before the beatification of Blessed Charles, Danielson wrote about his own association with the Fraternities and shared his reflections on the history of Jesus Caritas in the USA.

  Sometime around 1962, while studying theology at St. Patrick’s seminary in Menlo Park, a suburb of San Francisco, seminarian Danielson came upon a publication called Apostolic Perspectives, a small magazine published on the Ave Maria Press by Holy Cross Father Louis J. Putz. An article about a movement among diocesan clergy for fraternity and spiritual growth intrigued Danielson but it did not mention either Charles de Foucauld or Jesus Caritas Fraternities. This movement was on its way toward becoming a Secular Institute, a canonical status recognized by the Church only since 1947. Danielson requested further information from a given address in Brooklyn. In due time, he received from a certain Father Bryan Karvelis a copy of the article A New Tree Grows in Brooklyn. Surprisingly no bill was enclosed!  Danielson sent away for more copies of the article on Jesus Caritas Fraternities to distribute among fellow seminarians.  However, the rector reprimanded him for distributing material not previously approved by him and instructed him to cease proselytizing.  After that, Dan Danielson distributed copies sporadically, but only upon the explicit request of a fellow seminarian.

  Sulpician priest Father Frank Norris, a seminary professor with a viewpoint different from that of the rector, attended a meeting in Montreal, and brought back some information on Jesus Caritas Fraternities.  After Father Dan Danielson’s ordination in 1963, he began a Jesus Caritas Fraternity within his Diocese of Oakland.  Members of his group soon attempted to start other groups, but quickly realized that was a mistake.  They returned to their original group that became Dan’s core priest-support group, and it remained so for the next forty-plus years.

  A custom of post-Christmas Retreats for fraternities of northern California began in 1964, and the same kind of retreats soon spread from the Bay Area to southern California where new Jesus Caritas groups were springing up. The gatherings powerfully nourished the groups spiritually.

  Within a relatively short time, branches of the Jesus Caritas Fraternities spread through the eastern corridor of the country, then to the Midwest and into the south.  Msgr. Bryan Karvalis passed the baton, i.e., a sprig of the new Jesus Caritas tree, to Father Fred Voorhees of the Diocese of Buffalo.  Father Fred transplanted the twig onto the good ground of New York and then Detroit where it bore savory fruit for the East Coast and Midwest.  The powerful charism of Blessed Charles of Jesus independently touched Father Winus Roeten of New Orleans who planted a seed of Jesus Caritas in his diocese.  Father Roeten, in turn, influenced Father Doug Brougher, also of New Orleans, and they facilitated the development of other Fraternities throughout Louisiana.

  Father Jacques LeClerc was the national “Responsible,” i.e., coordinator, of the Jesus Caritas fraternities in Canada.  In the mid ‘60s, he introduced the Month of Nazareth to the United States at Holy Cross Seminary in Cromwell, Connecticut.  Among the attendees at that first Month of Nazareth in the United States were Fathers Dan Danielson of Oakland and Father Bryan Karvelis of Brooklyn. This was the first time the two pioneer co-founders of the U.S. Fraternities met face-to-face.

  This Month of Nazareth served as an encounter among several future evangelists, apostles, and prophets of the Jesus Caritas Fraternities.  Present at this Connecticut encounter were Fathers Ed Farrell of Detroit–author of books on priestly spirituality– Winus Roeten of New Orleans, and Fred Voorhees of the Diocese of Buffalo.  Each was also a pioneer in the spread of the Fraternities within their respective areas throughout the country.  These “four evangelists” saw the need for some structure within the U.S, independent of Canada, and they selected Dan Danielson as the first National Responsible for the still-fledgling Jesus Caritas national priests’ association in the United States.  The Fraternities grew in the U.S., but in a quintessentially American style.

International Connection

  Father Danielson during the 1970s had two bully pulpits for the propagation of Jesus Caritas Fraternities: he was an officer in the National Federation of Priests Councils and was a popular retreat master for priests throughout the country. After the Month of Nazareth at Connecticut in 1970, Father Danielson attended a Jesus Caritas International Assembly in Valmont, France—near Lourdes.  He went with one question in mind: Were we in the U.S. “schismatics” among the Jesus Caritas Fraternities of the world?  He asked himself the question because most priests in many of the Jesus Caritas groups with which he was familiar were negligent about paying dues. Furthermore, they seemed to lack explicit long-term commitment (“covenant”) to the ideals of the international fraternity.  He discovered to his happy surprise that the representatives of the international Jesus Caritas not only welcomed their brother priests of the United States as members, but they also gave them “the right hand of fellowship” (Galatians 2:9) and fully embraced them as fellow diocesan priests serious about living the Gospel.  The international gathering of brothers saw their American counterparts committed to spiritual growth, especially in their love for Jesus, regular prayer, and devotion to the Blessed Eucharist.  At that meeting in France, Peter Hienermann was elected as the International Responsible. A “responsible” is the convoker or coordinator of a particular J.C. group who has the task of scheduling a place to meet and reminding the brothers of their next meeting.  In addition, leaders of fraternities from every corner of the nation meet a least annually for better communication and coordination within the country, and this also happens on the international level.

  During the ‘70s, Father Danielson promoted two Months of Nazareth at the Franciscan Seminary in Santa Barbara. He soon realized that he needed to develop a presentation about the Jesus-Caritas Fraternities for the priests of the United States.  He determined that it had to be “realistic, and true to the experience of the existing groups in the United States.”  About twenty priests helped him produced a twenty-paged mimeograph publication called The Jesus Caritas Fraternity of Priests: The American Experience.  Eventually, it was printed in booklet form, extensively revised twice, and continues as the main booklet used to communicate the Fraternity to priests in the United States. Father Danielson gives own witness:

There is no question in my mind that the Jesus-Caritas Fraternity has been the single most important structural part of my priesthood in terms of what it means to be a priest. Most of the critical decisions in my priestly ministry of forty-two years, would not have been well made without the support and discernment provided by my Fraternity.  I find myself continually challenged by the life and charism of Brother Charles, a challenge that is filled with encouragement most of the time, with only occasional feelings of “I’ll never get it.”



  San Francisco was an important focal point for the propagation of Jesus Caritas in the West Coast and in the entire nation.  The seminary at Menlo Park was a true “seminary” for seedlings of new fraternities.  Father Jim Flynn of the San Francisco Archdiocese tended the garden of new vines thus influencing Bay area priests to become members of Jesus Caritas Fraternities.  They included Fathers Harmon Skilin, John Armisted of Stockton, and Tony McGuire of San Francisco.  Father Flynn strongly influenced and sent many young priests, such as Jack McCarthy, for higher studies at Catholic University in Washington, D.C. These men, in turn, became multipliers of Jesus Caritas Fraternities.

  Father Dan Danielson was the original inspiration to Father Larry Clark of St. Cecilia’s parish in Los Angeles, and Father Clark became one of the earliest members of the Jesus Caritas Fraternity in Southern California.  In the years 1968-69, he hosted various groups of priests, but lessened his connection with Danielson.  Tony Leuer and Peter Beaman picked up the Danielson connection, and then spread it to others by promoting other Fraternities within the Archdiocese. 

  During the mid-sixties in Southern California, through the inspiration of Msgr. John Coffield, Father Frank Colborn began a support group he tentatively called “Young Christian Priests” based on the Jocist Movement. This group quickly morphed into a Jesus Caritas Fraternity, one of the earliest and longest lasting in the Los Angeles Archdiocese. Among other early pioneers of Jesus Caritas in Southern California were Msgr. Willam Barry, Father Peter Nugent and future Bishop Joseph Sartoris.  Jesus Caritas member Msgr. Wilbur Davis, originally from the Archdiocese of Los Angeles but now of the Diocese of Orange, is credited with building a House of Prayer for Priests in the Diocese of Orange. It became a favorite meeting place for J.C. Fraternities.


  In 1972, Father Juan Romero began a Jesus Caritas group in San Antonio. Having been in a Los Angeles Fraternity for about six years, he was released from the Archdiocese to work out of San Antonio, Texas for a few years with the PADRES national organization of priests involved in Hispanic ministry. Father David Garcia, a former national board member of Jesus Caritas, credits Romero with being “the godfather” of Jesus Caritas fraternities in the San Antonio Archdiocese.  From there, fraternities spread to other parts of Texas.


Colorado and Beyond

 In the Jubilee Year 2000, almost forty years after the beginnings of JC Fraternities in the USA, the “Rocky Mountain Roundup” held near Denver, Colorado inaugurated the Third Christian Millennium for the Jesus Caritas priest fraternities in the country.  At the International Assembly held in Cairo in 2001, Father Greg gave a report on the state of the Jesus Caritas Priest Fraternities in the United Sates.  He reported that the American character of individualism tends to be eclectic, and it resists what some priests may perceive as an imposition of outside rules.  “Some fraternities are vibrant, some just social, and some suffer from rigor mortis,” he candidly observed.  The Review of Life is “a central practice in the life of the fraternity… a means of accountability…a kind of litmus test for living the fraternity and priesthood in our lives,” he continued.  Hospitality, love of Scripture, devotion to the Blessed Sacrament, simplicity of life and a love for the poor are some of the charisms that marked the life of Brother Charles, and that are attractive to many American diocesan priests.  However, other practices that Charles inspired or advocated, such as a monthly Day in the Desert and giving an account of the use of one’s economic resources (a form of evangelical poverty) are observed “with more difficulty” or in the breech. 

  He reported that there were about four hundred Fraternities in the United States, totaling over fourteen hundred members.  The structure consisted of a National Responsible that is considered “Regional” within the organization of the International Jesus Caritas.  The Responsible has six district Council Members to be “co-responsibles” with him, each representing various regions of the expansive country.  Father Greg further reported that some bishops encouraged their priests to join Jesus Caritas Fraternities, and that Fraternities were being introduced into seminaries. Although there was constant growth of Jesus Caritas priest Fraternities during the nineties, their number did not double in that decade prior to the closing of the millennium.

  The life and death of Charles de Foucauld has had great impact throughout the world during the twentieth century and into the twenty-first.  His impact upon clergy throughout the world has been immense, and his influence has reached the lay faithful as well.  The International Assembly of the Secular Fraternity of Charles de Foucauld met at Araruama, Bazil in 2000. Representatives from twenty-four countries came together and took as their theme “To Live Nazareth.”  Participants were called to live simply and encouraged to counter all the negative effects of globalization: “pursue solidarity with all those excluded, individually and collectively”.  Speakers encouraged listeners to adopt definite positions on issues to join with those groups—such as Amnesty International and other Justice and Peace networks–that advocate for human dignity. 

  At a time that many Westerners see every Arab as a militant Islamic fundamentalist, the life of Brother Charles of Jesus is a counter-cultural witness to a secular society polarized by multicultural and inter-religious conflicts.  His words—echoing Jesus—exhort us to. “Be patient…loving as God…[to] reject harshness, condescension, the militant spirit that sees those who differ as enemies… [and to] see in every human being a beloved brother/sister, friend.” That’s quite a different attitude in our time, but one that is the attitude of Jesus Christ and His Gospel. Little Brother, Blessed Charles of Jesus, pray for us!

Lay Fraternities Worldwide

  The charism of Blessed Charles de Foucauld has deeply touched many lay people throughout the word, and the disciples of Brother Charles of Jesus have an impact outside of the household of our Catholic faith.  A Methodist Pastor in 1979 spoke of his great admiration for Little Sister Francesca who worked as a model of discipleship and love in Roxbury, one of the poorest sections of Boston. The charism of Little Brother of Jesus Charles de Foucauld has touched secular institutes as well as lay fraternities.  Lennie Tigh of Boston is in contact with about 200 persons associated with lay fraternities of Jesus Caritas in Transfiguration, NY.  Yvonne Keith is also a promoter of lay fraternities among women in Colorado and beyond. 

  In Cleveland during the mid 1970s, Joe Conrad and others formed Lay Groups, six to eight to a group.  Three “concentric” groups, with as many as forty members each, quickly developed.  However, the number settled down to sixteen committed members comprising two Review-of-Life groups that live in a Core Community house whose focal point is Eucharist.  Their Thursday evening Mass is open to other people, and over a period of decades, this has led to the formation of other Jesus Caritas communities bonded by monthly adoration and Review of Life, as well as by an Annual Retreat together.

  Lay persons attracted to the way of life of Brother Charles de Foucauld were simply invited to gatherings for three consecutive months.  They were expected to participate in the Gospel Sharing and Review of Life, and eventually invited to make a commitment.  Within a year and a half to two years, they were furthermore invited to formally commit to the group for a year.  The commitment is to live a simple life of prayer in the spirit of Brother Charles. The “Act of Commitment,” analogous to a public vow before God and the community, is renewed annually for ten years, and then for life.

  Some years ago, the Cleveland Fraternities held a “Community Day” to examine their history and make an intention to deepen connection with Brother Charles. Organizers of the Day made available books and writings about Brother Charles that have inspired many to live more closely in accord to his example.  Among these are materials by Father Voillaume and Little Sister Magdeline.

International Lay Groups

  In 1991, the original Jesus Caritas Fraternity split into two groups.  One became a secular institute recognized by Rome.  The larger group took the name of Fraternity of Charles de Foucauld and drew up statues to be recognized as an Association of the Faithful.  Rome granted this recognition on December 1, 1998, the seventy-second anniversary of Brother Charles’ death.  In mid-August of the new millennium, laywomen of Jesus Caritas Groups held their own International General Assembly at Essen, Germany.  Thirty-three of them represented twenty-one countries.  For the first time, three members of Groups from Rwanda represented their forty-one members.  Main themes discussed were 1) Identity as single laywomen following the spirit of Charles de Foucauld, 2) Co-responsibility and 3) Celibacy.

  They took care of business in six main language groups connected to an International Team that has a non-hierarchical structure.  The leadership consists of a General Responsible (Italian), a Deputy (another Italian), Secretary (German), and Treasurer (French). Completing the leadership team is a Representative and Deputy Representative for Latin America, and a Representative from Africa.  The plan for Assembly 2004 was to choose a representative from Africa as Responsible for the continent.  Each member of a Fraternity is connected to a base community whose members pledge to live important values and practices: unity within the Fraternity and beyond it, listening and mutual respect; daily Eucharist and Morning Prayer.

  Besides his macro impact upon the world, Charles de Foucauld continues to have micro impact on the very local level in the many places where there is located a Fraternity inspired by him.  French speaking African priests from Cameroon belong to a Fraternity.  In Umtata, South Africa, a pair of Jesus Caritas sisters live together as “sisters” neither by blood nor by religious vocation, but by common commitment. Both work in ministry for two years in the States, and then return to South Africa to help without salary in clinics and hospital. They are of European origin and belong to a Group (not called a fraternity nor a sorority) that numbers seven members.  Each has taken a vow of celibacy and they “accompany African peoples in their struggles and hopes.”  One observes, “There are no miracles in Umtata…We simply walked with the people…accompanying in their struggles and dreams.” (Sounds very Focauldian!)

  Prior Marc of the Little Brothers of Jesus, in preparation for their Chapter in 2002, noted, “brother and fraternity…define our mission, the task that we have received from the Lord….” The message became inclusive by adding, “Jesus was son of man and of his mother, the Virgin, Mary of Nazareth.”  Jesus was not only the son of Mary, but also the son of the women and men that He met who do the will of the Father.  “Here are my mother and my brothers; whoever does the will of my Father who is in heaven is my brother, my sister, my mother.”  (Mt 28: 8-ff)

Conclusion and Testimony

  The fact that Charles de Foucald– soldier of fortune turned ascetic monk–became a Catholic saint proves that he was much more than a “useless servant”. In God’s way that became his own way, St. Charles served the Church and the world and powerfully influenced many lives including my own.

  For half a century I was closely associated with my Jesus Caritas fraternity of diocesan priests. Deaths and distance have ended it. Our support group numbered six or seven at a time during its existence and usually included members of Irish, Latino, and Asian heritages. Within the fraternity, there were triads, various groups of three. Three belonged to the fraternity for fifty years while others came and went. The fraternity included three classmates, and three—with some overlap– were or had been professors at our seminary. Three were extremely bright, but I was not in that trio.

  We came to profoundly know each other as much as one could. During the Review of Life, each of us would try to share one significant “fact” or event of the past month that we observed in our own lives, and for which we were seeking clarity to make a change that would make our lives more pleasing to the Lord. We tried to avoid complaining. However, in younger years we sometimes talked about our pastors. In later years, we talked about our associates. The purpose of the sharing was not to provide or encourage a complaint session, but to collectively discern, i.e., judge the Will of God manifested through the brothers’ comments on each other’s sharing. In the process of Review of life, we gained insight to decide what action the Lord was asking of us to put into effect action(s) for an improved reality in our lives. Support, challenge, insight, accountability (to give an account), and love: these were watchwords of the mutual sharing in the Review of Life.

  The life of Charles de Foucald was a wonderful inspiration to each of us and a great influence on the church and the world. He is a serious spiritual guide for anyone who wishes to closely follow the path of Jesus. St. Charles, pray for us!

          Saint Charles de Foucald (1858 – 1916) 

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                         PRAYER OF ABANDONMENT

Father, I abandon myself into your hands.  Do with me what you will.

Whatever you may do, I thank you.  I am ready for all; I accept all.

Let only your will be done in me and in all your creatures.

I wish no more than this, O Lord.  Into your hands, I commend my soul.

I offer it to you with all the love of my heart, 

for I love you, Lord, and so need to give myself,

to surrender myself into your hands without reserve, 

and with boundless confidence, for you are my Father.



Juan Romero

As a young priest, Padre Antonio José Martínez, Cura de Taos, objected to the system of tithing that he perceived to be a severe burden on the poor. He formally voiced his opposition since 1829, only three years after he arrived back in Taos as the priest in charge of his boyhood church of Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe, an extension of the parish church of San Geronimo headquartered at the Taos Pueblo since about 1620.  As a civil legislator for the Departamento de Nuevo Mexico in the still new Republic of Mexico, independent from Spain since 1821, Padre Martínez advocated abolishing tithing.  In a union of church and state, the government was in charge of collecting tithes as income to pay expenses of government including military salaries as well as church expenses including the salary of clergy. Padre Martinez served various times as one of the legislators representing New Mexico within the Assembly of the Republic of Mexico, and also later as a Representative for the USA Territory of New Mexico. As a member of the Asamblea del Departamento de Nuevo Mexico, Padre Martínez campaigned to change the law so that tithing would no longer be mandatory. Without objection from the Bishop of the Diocese of Durango to which Taos and all of New Mexico and beyond then belonged—the northern frontier of the Kingdom of Spain—Padre Martínez successfully advocated for a change in the policy.  Tithes were abolished by the mid 1830s.

With its occupation by Colonel Steven Watts Kearney in August 1846, New Mexico became a part of the United States, but remained for a few years under the ecclesiastical jurisdiction of the Bishop of Durango, Mexico. However in July 1851, Jean Baptiste Lamy arrived at Santa Fe as the new Vicar Apostolic. He came from Ohio where he had served as a missionary from France. Padre Martínez joined other native New Mexican priests, as well as the Spanish Franciscan clergy and laypeople, in welcoming the new prelate who became the first bishop of New Mexico. The Vicariate Apostolic of New Mexico shifted from the jurisdiction of the Bishop of Durango, Mexico to the Bishop of St. Louis, Missouri until Santa Fe became a diocese in its own right in 1853. It became an Archdiocese in 1875. Padre Martinez made overtures to ingratiate himself with Bishop Lamy.  For his part, Lamy initially sought advice from the Padre known for expertise in canon law, and even borrowed money from him who came from a relatively wealthy family.

However, the relationship began to sour and more so with the 1854 promulgation of a Pastoral Letter of the Bishop that reinstituted the policy of tithing.  In his attempt to finance the operation of the new diocese, Bishop Lamy imposed the penalty of denying Christian burial to those who did not contribute to the church their tithe, one tenth of family income. Meanwhile, the public controversy over tithes and the Pastoral Letter of 1854 was heating up.  Bishop Lamy re-introduced tithing to meet new expenses, but also concomitantly imposed a harsh sanction of excluding from the rites of Christian burial those families that did not comply.  Through his writings in the secular newspaper La Gaceta of Santa Fe, Padre Martínez strenuously and publicly objected to this change in policy regarding tithes, and  denounced Bishop Lamy for “huckerism and simony”.

After serving in his beloved Taos for three decades as a busy parish priest, educator, printer, publisher and politician, Padre Martinez was tired and feeling sickly.  He thought it might be a time for a change in his own life, maybe even retirement. He shared his musings with Bishop Lamy who by then had been in charge of the church in New Mexico for five years.  In a letter dated January 28, 1856, Padre Martinez advised Bishop Lamy of his ill health: bladder infection and severe rheumatism that made walking difficult.  He requested help, preferably a native New Mexican priest as an assistant. Martínez specifically asked for Don Ramón Medina whom he had trained in preparatory seminary, and suggested that Padre Medina succeed him. However, Bishop Lamy chose to interpret the letter as a formal “resignation” and countered with the appointment of another priest he put in charge of the Taos parish, effective within three months, by May 1856: Don Dámaso Taladrid. 

Bishop Lamy had met the Basque priest during one of his trips to Rome, recruited him and appointed him to Taos. Father Taladrid had little regard for the ill health of Padre Martínez or for his many years of service at Our Lady of Guadalupe parish and its environs.  Within a short time, friction developed between the two priests. Taladrid made it difficult for Martínez to celebrate Mass in the church, so Martínez began to build a private oratory with its walled cemetery on his own property and at his own expense. Soon, in June, Taladrid reported to Bishop Lamy that Martínez was building the chapel. [AASF Reel 30, pages 529-530] Private chapels of devotion were common among some people of New Mexico, and the custom–less prevalently–continues to this day.

The visions/goals of parish ministry and distinct personalities of Padre Martínez and Father Taladrid clashed. In a letter of October 1, 1856 Padre Martínez advised Bishop Lamy that he was building a chapel next to his home since Father Taladrid did not allow him to use the parish church for weddings and funerals of family members and close friends. The Bishop learned that the wedding of the Padre’s favorite niece (Refugio Martínez to one of his former students Pedro Sanchez) would take place at the Padre’s chapel.

The Bishop’s response to Martínez’ letter was not a letter in kind, but rather a harsh action quickly meted out within a few weeks: suspension. Suspensio a divinis is the ecclesiastical censure by which a cleric, for a breach of discipline or for moral cause, is prohibited from exercising “the divine things” of priestly ministry.  By means of “suspension”, the bishop deprives the suspended priest from his faculties (license) to celebrate Mass, preach, or hear Confessions as well as to give Absolution except in danger of death.  In such a case, through the mercy of God, “ecclesia supplet”, i.e., the church supplies faculties and jurisdiction for a suspended or excommunicated priest to administer last rites of penance-absolution and Last Anointing with the Holy Oils, and to give Holy Communion (Viaticum) to a person in danger of death (in periculo mortis) or in the very process of dying (in articulo mortis).

For Padre Martínez, the much more severe ecclesiastical censure of excommunication was still a couple of years away—April 1858. Bishop Lamy in 1860 came to administer the sacrament of Confirmation at the Taos parish of Our Lady of Guadalupe.  While signing the Books of Parish Records (Baptisms, Confirmations, Marriages, Funerals) as customary upon coming for an official visit, he noted the excommunication of Padre Martinez in the respective sacramental registries of Confirmations and Funerals. The Bishop noted that the excommunication was because of the priest’s “scandalous writings”, not for any alleged immorality or concubinage.

Msgr. Jerome Martínez, Canon Lawyer and former rector of the St. Francis Cathedral-Basilica of Santa Fe, affirms that the excommunication was invalid in the first instance for lack of the canonically required three previous warnings. If that be so, then no formal process for “lifting an excommunication” would be required as may have been necessary for some excommunicated historical figures such as Galileo who was “strongly suspected” of heresy in 1633 or Joan of Arc who was burned at the stake in 1431 . Joan’s conviction was overturned a quarter of a century after she was condemned, and was ultimately canonized in 1920.

No such happy outcome awaits Padre Martínez. Nevertheless upon his death in 1867, his fellow legislators in the Territorial Assembly of New Mexico, inscribed upon his tombstone as part of an epitaph: “La Honra de Su País”. Shortly before Town of Taos on July 16, 2006 installed the more than life-sized bronze memorial of the Padre within the plaza grounds, the State Legislature of New Mexico unanimously ratified and made present that same encomium, “THE HONOR OF HIS HOMELAND”.

FRANCISCO XAVIER ROMERO – A “Hitherto Unknown Santero” of the 17th Century



A “Hitherto Unknown Santero” of the 17th Century

In Memory of my Uncle Tom, my Father José Tobias, and

Fr. Tom Steele, S.J.


Rev. Juan Romero

(Witten January 2008, Revised December 2018)

  While we were enjoying a delightful and fraternal dinner at a restaurant near his Immaculate Conception residence in Albuquerque, Fr. Tom Steele, S.J., eminent scholar of all things New Mexican, made a surprising announcement to me in mid-January 2008. We were at the time collaborating on primary source materials relating to Padre Martinez of Taos, but the announcement had nothing to do with the famed Cura de Taos. With a twinkle in his eye and nascent smile, Fr. Tom said, “I have discovered a hitherto unknown santero”. Father Steele (RIP) is a recognized authority on the history of NM and in its various expressions of culture including santos and santeros who fashion them. I was, of course, curious about who this new santero might be. In New Mexican parlance, santos refer to saints’ images carved in wood (bulto) or painted on a wooden slab (santo) or on another medium perhaps such as ox hide.

I was greatly surprised and intrigued when Father Steele revealed that this new santero was Francisco Xavier Romero whose name I recognized as a distant ancestor! Father Steele discovered him in 1993 while studying paintings made from rock minerals and vegetable dyes on ox hides. In the Jubilee Year 2000, Father Steele–author of several books–wrote an essay on Francisco Xavier with the view of future publication. He gave it to Mr. Tom Chavez, an expert on such paintings and former employee of the Palace of the Governors in Santa Fe. He is also an historian as well as nephew of Fray Angelico Chavez, the famed New Mexico historian, poet, and prolific author.

In his essay, Father Steele made the case that Romero is to be identified with “Franciscan B” as listed in some New Mexican art catalogues. Among a collection of these painted ox hides housed at the New Mexico History Museum within the Place of the Governors. <>. The Segesser Hides are the most famous works within the collection made up of two categories: Segesser I depicts skirmishes between rival Pueblo Indians and Apache Plains Indians between 1693 and 1719. Segesser II depicts a rout of Spanish soldiers and allies in 1720 in the area of present-day Nebraska.

There is a Jesuit connection to this collection that may have triggered the special attention Fr. Steele S.J. paid to the ox-hyde paintings. Fellow Jesuit priest Philip von Segesser von Brunegg of Switzerland obtained painted ox hides in 1732 from the prominent Anza family of Sonora. One of their illustrious members, Juan Bautista De Anza, in 1774 set out to search for an overland route from Tubac, Sonora to Monterrey, the capital of Alta California. His an expedition included 20 soldiers, 11 servants and 3 padres that returned from their successful expedition in 1777. As a reward,  the Spanish Viceroy of New Spain appointed de Anza as the Governor of La (Custodia de) Nuevo Mexico which at the time also included the present-day states of Arizona, Utah, Colorado and parts of Wyoming. <> One of De Anza’s signature exploits as Governor of La Nuevo Mexico was his 1779 defense of Taos in the mountains of northern New Mexico. Together with Utes and Apache Indians as allies, Govenor De Anza defeated marauding Comanches under the leadership of Cuerno Verde. He remained as Governor of New Mexico for eight more years, and then returned to his home-base of Sonora. He was put in charge of the Presidio of Tucson in 1788, but died within the year before taking up the new office.

The family name of Padre Felipe von Segesser, S.J. exudes wealth and class now poured out in service to vocation and mission. Padre Felipe followed in the footsteps of fellow Jesuit missionary Padre Eusebio Francisco Kino, the great pioneer-evangelizer (as well as geographer, explorer, cartographer and astronomer) who served in Sonora and Arizona for 24 years until his death in 1711. Both priests were from wealthy families of the old Hapsburg region of Trent in the liminal territories of northern Italy, southeast of Switzerland and southwest of Austria. In 1758, Padre Felipe serving in Sonora sent the paintings to his family in Switzerland. The Palace of the Governors in New Mexico borrowed the hides for an exhibition in the mid 20th Century, and purchased them in 1988.

Francisco Xavier Romero, the “hitherto unknown santero”, is presumed to have been one of those who painted on these hides in the late 17th and early 18th centuries. He was one of the founders of the village of Santa Cruz that Spanish settlers established north of Santa Fe in 1693, after returning from their thirteen-year exile following the major 1680 uprising of Pueblo Tribes. Santa Cruz is near the junction of two rivers Chama and Rio Grande. The Okay Oingue Pueblo had been located there since the fourteenth century. When Spanish colonizers arrived in 1598, they called the pueblo San Juan Caballero. Adjacent but across the Rio Grande to the east, they established their own colony and named it in honor of San Gabriel.

Francisco Xavier Romero had collected vellum documents and kept his own manuscripts written on sheep skin and handed down to heirs through the eldest son of succeeding generations. From his own father Miguel Romero, my grandfather and namesake Juan B. Romero (Grandpa Jon as we called him) came into possession of the manuscripts, a family heirloom, sewn together in a book. In turn, Grandpa Jon handed them down to my father, José Tobias Romero, the eldest of his siblings.

However, my Uncle Tom, my father’s younger brother by seven years, having earned a Master’s Degree in Spanish literature, had a greater interest in them. Without objection, Uncle Tom took possession of the vellum tome, researched its contents well, and eventually translated the Francisco Xavier Romero documents. The fruit of Uncle Tom’s scholarly labor can be found at the State Archives of New Mexico in Santa Fe. Father Tom Steele, S.J. quotes from Uncle Tom’s work on Francisco Xavier Romero.

Uncle Tom, together with his brother–my father–had been a boyhood sheepherder. After a stint with the Civilian Conservation Corps when he was a young man, Uncle Tom joined the Army Air Corps–predecessor to the U.S. Air Force–and became a turret-ball gunner. He flew twenty-five successful Missions from England over Germany and was decorated with the Distinguished Flying Cross. On the G.I. Bill, Uncle Tom earned a Master’s degree in Spanish at NM State University in Las Cruces. With his family, he later moved to California where he taught Spanish on every level until his retirement. His grown children challenged him to finally translate that water-stained sheaf of vellum documents of Francisco Xavier Romero.

At their urgings, Uncle Tom, after his retirement as a professor of Spanish, finally completed the difficult task of translating the FXR documents, a series of letters testifying to his surgical skills and good reputation. However, he was even more strongly motivated for the task by a prior negative injunction by dean of New Mexico historians Fray Angelico Chavez while a guest speaker at the University where Uncle Tom was earning his degree. Tom asked Fray Angelico about Francisco Xavier Romero, and the priest –to hear Uncle Tom tell it– curtly replied, “You best forget about him!”  The response upset and angered Uncle Tom who was aware of the vellum parchments as documents precious to family lore.

Upon seriously studying the documents, Uncle Tom became aware that allegations cast a shadow over the reputation of our ancestor: one of theft of an ox and another of molestation of a young man.  Subsequent trials and exonerations, however, concluded that, in the first case, the animal was said to be “dead and wolf-eaten.” Nevertheless, the ox hides certainly came in handy to the santero who either painted on them or fashioned them into moccasins.  In the second case of alleged molestation, a judge found FXR–in the words of Fr. Steele’s abbreviated version of the events–“Innocent, but don’t do it again.”

Francisco Xavier was quite expert in the use of a SCALPEL, a skill that “cut across” or perhaps through his many endeavors, talents and occupations. That he may have been a scoundrel and perhaps a sinner is more than suggested in the correspondence that nevertheless attests to a good reputation. Francisco Xavier was foremost a surgeon and barber who knew blood-letting/phlebotomy, a therapy used at the time. FXR was also a shoemaker–cutting hides for teguas, i.e., moccasins. He was a sacristan at San Felipe Church, formerly known as San Francisco Xavier Church, at the corner of Romero and Church Streets in Old Town Albuquerque. Finally, FXR was a santero–cutting hides by the vara (about 3” less than a yard) upon which holy pictures or other images might be painted.

Francisco Xavier Romero was certainly well-regarded by the parishioners of San Felipe de Neri church when it was still known as San Xavier Church. He had served as sacristan and as the parishioners’ surgeon and shoemaker. When the governor was about to sentence him for his alleged indiscretions, the people of the parish prevailed upon the governor to pardon the sentence so that FXR could continue to serve there.  Francisco Xavier donated many religious artifacts both to the church of San Felipe and to the church of Santa Cruz de La Cañada located between modern-day Española and the santuario of Cimayó.

Thank heaven Uncle Tom disregarded Fray Angelico’s exhortation to “Best forget about him”. Or perhaps better still, thank God that the exhortation to forget instead provoked the reaction to REMEMBER the ancestor, and vow to attempt his rehabilitation for family honor. God alone is judge as to what extent Francisco Xavier was a scoundrel-sinner or pious man, even an un-canonized saints in heaven.  I’m confident that FXR, the “hitherto unknown santero” had within him–as do we all– some of each of those categories. May the merciful Lord grant us all pardon and peace!



BENJAMIN M. READ (Proto-Chicano Historian) & LARKIN GREGORY Read

Santiago Valdez was the principal author of the Biography of Padre Martinez of Taos, originally written in Spanish in 1877, ten years after the death of the Padre. The Read brothers—Benjamin Maurice and Larkin Gregory—collaborated with Valdez in writing the biography. Younger brother Larkin Gregory copied the manuscript in calligraphy while Benjamin Maurice Read made his contribution by annotating and amplifying it, as well as by furnishing an English translation by 1881.  The original manuscript is part of the William G. Ritch Collection at the Huntington Library in San Marino, California, and until now has never been published.
Benjamin Maurice Read is the second of three sons born to Benjamin Franklin Read and Ignacia Cano. Benjamin Franklin Read—father of Benjamin M. Read–came to New Mexico with the Army of American occupation in 1846. Three years later, this soldier married Doña Ignacia Cano of Spain, daughter of Don Ignacio Cano Ignacio, first discoverer and one of the grantees of the Ortiz Grant in southern Santa Fe County.  Doña Maria Quiros was mother of the
three Read boys—-Alejandro, Benjamin M., and Larkin G. They all went to St. Michael College in Santa Fe, and all became well known as politicians, teachers, or historians.  Benjamin F. Read Sr. died before 1857, and then Doña Ignacia married Mateo Ortiz, a lawyer. From her second marriage with Sr. Ortiz, another three sons and one daughter were born. Doña María deserves credit for the education of all the children because of her great sacrifices, but Archbishop Juan Bautista Lamy of Santa Fe also deserves credit for extending generous help for the education of the children.
Young Benjamin Maurice entered public life as a schoolteacher at the Christian Brothers Santa Fe College in 1876, the Centennial Year of the nation and just before Santiago Valdez was finishing the biography of the Padre. Benjamin M. became an Attorney at Law as well as a politician, then was selected Speaker of the House of Representatives of New Mexico.  Within eight years, in 1884, Benjamin M. Read–together with his brother Larkin Gregory and their mutual friend and colleague Santiago Valdez—compiled and translated into English The Laws of New Mexico.  This may be seen as one of the fruits of the Law School Padre Martinez founded at his Taos home in the fall of 1846 after the occupation of New Mexico by the United States. “The one who will ride the burro from now  on will no longer be the clergyman, but the attorney,” Padre Martínez said as he informed his seminary students that he was changing the seminary into a law school. Just a couple of years previously, Governor Armijo had officially certified Padre Martínez as a civil lawyer. For many years previously, he had–among peers–  already been recognized as a competent canon (church) lawyer.
Benjamin M. Read was also a competent lawyer and good politician, but his true passion seems to have been recording the history of New Mexico from the perspective of a bicultural native. With a plethora of documents available to him through his brother Larkin’s marriage into the Padre Martinez family, Benjamin in 1910 authored An Historico-Synoptical Sketch of the Mexico-American War published in Spanish as Guerra Mexico-Americana.  His major work was the Illustrated History of New Mexico, a work of 812 pages published in 1912 when NM officially became a state of the Union.  Both of these works were originally made available in limited editions: first Spanish and then English.
Through his bilingual-bicultural upbringing, Benjamin M. Read was prepared for a life of scholarship involving both English and Spanish.  The contradictions in translations of Spanish documents into English bothered him sufficiently enough to impel him to do something about it.  In the Preface to his Illustrated History, Benjamin M. Read speaks in the third person about his frustrations in this regard:

Thus it was that he came through personal observation, and after many and very careful examinations of the several writings on history to notice that remarkable differences and striking contradictions exist among some of the English speaking authors, in their respective narratives of historical events….The author of this work attributes the discrepancies and contradictions of the authors mentioned rather to the fact that they had, perforce, to depend absolutely on the translations which are supposed to have been made from the original works and original documents by translators who, by reason of their never having seen the said originals and also because of their not being Spanish scholars, have not, in almost every instance, rendered into correct English the spirit of the original texts, changing quite often, the substance of the language of the first authors; whence the result has been that no two works of the same history, translated from the Spanish into English, by different translators can be found to agree with one another and much less with the original works.
–Illustrated History, Preface, p. 5.

Benjamin M. Read had a definite perspective on the philosophy of history that was born of frustration at the cultural insensitivity of mainline historians in his day and the past. This impelled him to become a first-rate pioneer, native New Mexican historian who deserves to be much better known! He may certainly be aptly considered a mentor for today’s Chicano/Latino historians of North America.
Although a competent lawyer and good politician,Benjamin M. Read’s  true passion seems to have been recording the history of New Mexico from the perspective of a bicultural native. He deserves to be much better known as a first rate New Mexican historian.


SANTIAGO VALDEZ – Author of 1877 Biography of Padre Martínez

Santiago Valdez, Benjamin M. Read, and his brother Larkin Gregory Read were business partners, friends and colleagues. They were also linked by marriage. Larkin was married to Teodora Martinez, the daughter of Santiago Valdez. If we are to believe that Santiago Valdez was indeed a son of Padre Martinez, as family oral history strongly asserts, then Larkin’s wife Teodora would have been the Padre’s granddaughter.  The brothers Read and Santiago Valdez much later became a team of translators for the Laws of New Mexico: Compiled in 1884.

Santiago Valdez, putative son of Padre Antonio José Martinez of Taos, was the main author of the Padre’s 1877 biography, Biografía del Presbítero Antonio José Martínez, Cura de Taos, complied a decade after the death of the priest. The original Spanish manuscript–literally hand-written and partially translated into English–is included in the Ritch Collection at the Huntington Library in Sierra Made adjacent to Los Angeles. In 1993, I did a contemporary English version of the work available from the NM State Archives and UNM library. Mr. Peter Blodgett, Huntington Library manuscript curator at the time, encouraged me to have my version published. In the hopes of having a scholarly edition published, I lent my copy of the manuscript to Fr. Thomas Steele, S.J. accomplished author regarding people and things  New Mexican. Together with Vicente Martínez of Taos—a close relative of Valdez– and Mr. Robert Torrez—former NM State Historian and protégé of Fr. Steele—we hoped to publish a scholarly annotated  edition of the biography, perhaps bilingual, together with two other key documents relating to cunabula of the Priest of Taos: his 1840 Autobiography written in Durango, and his 1867 Last Will and Testament.
In his Last Will and Testament, Padre Martínez named Santiago Valdez as executor and heir of his books and papers. In December of 1868, a year and a half after the Padre’s death, Valdez first began writing in Spanish the biography of the Padre.
Benjamin Maurice Read, friend and business partner of Santiago Valdez, did a preliminary translation of the manuscript after Samuel Elliot—related to the earliest efforts of the NM Historical Society—began translating the first twelve pages of the manuscript. On a separate page attached to the Spanish-English manuscript, Larkin Gregory Read– younger brother of Benjamin M. Read noted in his own hand that he had “faithfully copied” the original (Spanish) manuscript in good handwriting, and that his elder brother Benjamin Maurice Read was to further “annotate and amplify” it.  Larkin, having married into the Martínez clan through the Padre’s granddaughter, was a good resource for the work of his brother. Valdez completed the work in mid January1877 near the Padre’s birthday, the tenth anniversary of the Padre’s death, and a year after the nation’s first Centennial,.

[For further information on Santiago Valdez, author of the 1877 Biography of Padre Antonio José Martinez, see the lineage and other documentation of (Last Will and Testament of Padre Martinez) researched and compiled by Vicente M. Martinez at .]


ON PADRE MARTINEZ OF TAOS – Posted 2008, and again 2016

[The summary of the life of Padre Antonio José Martínez of Taos by William Wroth, author of The Talpa Chapel and Images of Penance, was posted on the website of the NM Legislature I have taken the liberty of making a few edits and corrections, e.g. that Padre Martínez was “a Franciscan priest”. He was actually a “secular” or diocesan priest ordained in February 1822 at Durango, Mexico a year after its independence from Spain.

In February 2008, I posted the edited article on my blog The Taos Connection. With some pride I can claim that the Wroth article is based on information from my monograph (First Edition – 1976; Second Edition – 2006) Reluctant Dawn: A History of Padre Antonio José Martínez, Cura de Taos – Based on 1877 Biography by Santiago Valdez. I re-post this précis on Padre Martínez on the first full day of summer 2016, and dedicate it to deceased collaborators Rev. Tom Steele, S.J. and Vicente M. Martínez.]

New Mexico was part of Spain’s Nuevo Mundo for two-and-a-quarter centuries (1598-1821), and remained the northern frontier of the Republica de México for another quarter century until the American occupation in 1846. After the 1848 Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, New Mexico became a territory of the United States, and the Pontifical Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith Apostolic in 1851 established the Vicariate of Santa Fe, dependent on the Archdiocese of St. Louis. A few years later, Santa Fe became a diocese in its own right with Bishop Lamy as its appointed leader.

Father Antonio José Martínez (1793-1867) was one of the most important New Mexicans of the nineteenth century, playing a leading role in both religious and political affairs in the Mexican and Territorial periods.

Antonio José Martínez was born the eldest son on January 17, 1793 [the feast of desert father San Antonio Abad] in the Plaza of Santa Rosa, about two miles west of today’s Abiquiú.  At the “public school” connected to the parish church [of Santo Tomás], he learned to read and write at a very young age.  When he was 11, in 1804, the family moved to Taos where he worked on the family ranch and helped to take care of his younger brothers and sisters.

At the age of 19, he married María de la Luz Martín of Abiquiú, [Wroth parenthetically asserts they were not related,but they were were cousins a few degrees removed-JR] but tragically she died a year later in childbirth.  The young widower returned to Taos to live with his parents.  Still in his early twenties, he decided to become a priest, and before turning 24 [María de La Luz died when he was 20; after a couple of years of discernment], he went to the seminary in Durango in northern Mexico.  It was the seat of the far-flung diocese that also included what is today called the American Southwest.  At seminary, he excelled in his studies, especially philosophy and canon law, and received a scholarship given in honor of the King of Spain.

Antonio José Martínez was ordained a priest in February 1822 for the Diocese of Durango that included all of New Mexico [that included at the time  a great swath from what are snippets of all the states today surrounding NM].  This prior year Mexican Independence from Spain had taken place, and that struggle for independence strongly influenced Padre Martinez’ political thinking.  He was supposed to stay for another year in Durango to continue theological studies and receive pastoral experience before returning to NM.  However, suffering from an asthmatic condition, he received permission to return to Taos where he lived with his parents while helping out the Franciscan pastor of the church of San Geronimo at the Pueblo.  Its missions included Padre Martinez’ home parish of Our Lady of Guadalupe at the Plaza.  He fully regained his health to fulfill an active ministry fist in Taos for a couple of years and then for a few years  in parishes at Tomé (south of Albuquerque) and Abiquiú (northwest of Santa Fe, and about sixty miles southwest of Taos).

Spanish New Mexico had since the early colonial period been under the religious administration of the Franciscan friars, but after independence, there was a powerful movement to replace these Franciscans with secular priests.

In 1826, Padre Martinez became the priest in charge of the parish in Taos: San Geronimo of the Pueblo, Our Lady of Guadalupe of the Plaza and other surrounding mission churches.  This was also the year of the arrival of a sixteen-year old Christopher (Kit) Carson into Taos that he made his home, and the year of the death of the Padre’s father, Severino Martinez who had been the Sheriff of Taos.

Soon after his appointment as the priest of Taos, Padre Martínez opened a school that was for young girls as well as boys.  It was the first of several schools he established in the Taos area, including a seminary (1835) and a law school (1846).

In 1831, it appears likely that the first of at least three children were born to Father Martínez and a woman who lived next door to him, Teodora Romero [Cf. Research and writings of Vicente Martinez @ <>…Progeny; Postscript; Part III.]

In 1834, Ramón Abréu brought a printing press from Mexico to Santa Fe.  It was the first press to operate in New Mexico, and the next year Father Martínez purchased it, and moved it to Taos.

Martinez used the press to print schoolbooks—spelling, arithmetic, etc.– as well as religious and political tracts.  He established the first newspaper west of the Mississippi, El Crepúsculo de La Libertad, but only six issues were printed.  He published the first book printed in New Mexico—a bilingual ritual (Latin and Spanish) called A Manual for Pastors.

After the Chimayó War of 1837, Padre Martinez wrote and published on his press his own autobiography—a kind of melancholy mid-life memoir cataloguing his accomplishments.  In that violent Rebellion, centered in the town of Chimayó, Martínez was accused of playing an organizing role.  However, the evidence suggests that he was innocent of any involvement and in fact, was in danger at times from the rebels.  Martínez, as a Mexican liberal of the period, was opposed to President Santa Anna and to his appointed New Mexico governor Albino Perez, who was assassinated by the rebels.

With the change in sovereignty from Mexico to the United States in 1846, Father Martínez was accused of being, on the one hand, too tolerant of the incoming American Protestants and, on the other hand, anti-American and even an organizer of the Taos Rebellion of 1847.  [Cf. “Padre Martínez: the First Mexican American” in Seeds of Struggle, Harvest of Faith – 1998, LTD Press]. Both accusations were not only contradictory but also unfair.

He believed in religious freedom and admired that principle in the American constitution.  He maintained good relationships with most of the Anglo [Americans who had settled in Taos.  General Stephen W. Kearny, after occupying Santa Fe in mid-August 1846, had Padre Martinez come from Taos, and invited him to pledge allegiance to the American Flag.  The Padre, together with is brothers, were among the very first New Mexicans to become citizens of the United States.  Padre Martinez lent the General his printing press, and Kearny used it to print his famous code of laws.

During the Taos Rebellion (in January 1847, during which Governor Bent was assassinated), Padre Martinez provided sanctuary for at least one endangered American, and he confronted the mob of rebels…He also cooperated fully with Colonel Sterling Price who made Martinez’s home his headquarters while he and his troops fought and defeated the rebels.

The soldiers of Col. Price fired cannon balls into the venerable Pueblo Church of San Geronimo—over two and a quarter centuries old—killing over 225 people including women and children who were seeking sanctuary.  The Padre gave some of his property for the burial of the fourteen Americanos and sympathizers who died in the 1847 Taos Uprising.  He buried in the parish church graveyard at least eight of those who were hanged for leading the defense of the Mexican nation in its northern outpost, and another four or so in the burial grounds of the Pueblo.

In 1849, Martínez was appointed president of the convention of nineteen delegates assembled to prepare a territorial plan of government.  In 1850, Padre Martinez presided at New Mexico’s first territorial constitutional convention that ratified New Mexico’s becoming a territory of the United States, free from slavery.


The arrival of Bishop Jean Baptiste Lamy in1850 brought about a long-lsting conflict between the French clergy under Lamy and the New Mexican-born clergy for whom Martinez often served as the spokesman.

In December 1852, Lamy…declared that parishioners who did not tithe  (pay church fees) would be denied the sacraments…Martínez had some twenty years earlier been successful in having involuntary tithing abolished in Taos due to the poverty of the populace.  On behalf of a number of the clergy, Martínez took issue with Lamy’s position, and this issue remained a major thorn of contention between them for the rest of Martinez’s life.

At the same time, Lamy suspended some New Mexico-born clergy from their priestly duties.  Among them, Father José Manuel Gallegos, pastor of the church in Albuquerque and a former seminary student of Father Martínez.  Lamy’s action produced a powerful backlash; not only did Martínez come to Gallegos’s defense, but over 900 citizens signed a petition in support of him.

[The number of signatures collected, including clergy and politicians, was closer to a thousand. Congressman José Miguel Gallegos of New Mexico, from his office in Washington DC, wrote the cover letter and sent it to Pope Pius IX. Gallegos, born in Abiquiú and educated in Taos by Padre Martinez , was ordained at Durango in 1842, two decades after Padre Martínez.]


[[To be coninued.]]

Posted By Blogger to The Taos Connection at 2/07/2008 11:08:00 PM

Reluctant Dawn: A History of Padre Martínez

At the link below, you are free to download gratis my monograph Reluctant Dawn: A History of Padre Antonio José Martínez, Cura de Taos–based on the 1877 Biography by Santiago Valdez and other primary documents:

If you wish an autographed hard copy, please tell me to whom it should be dedicated, and address of where it is to be sent.  A donation of $15 is adequate and gratefully received.  Please contact me at this address:

Rev. Juan Romero • c/o P.O. Box 1947 • Palm Springs, CA 92263


1831 Exposición by Padre Martínez

[An English translation of this document is found online on the website of Vicente M. Martínez of Taos who died in late February of this year 2016.  He was a close relative of the Cura de Taos who lived in and owned the Padre’s house in Taos.  In later years, Vicente resided in Florida and more recently in the state of Washington with his son Dr. Antonio José “junior” named for his illustrious ancestor.

Since the early seventies, we were were close collaborators on Padre Martínez lore,  and became good friends.  I still mourn his death, and miss him much.  Check out the Padre’s 1831 Exposición on Vicente’s website:


Commentary by David Weber

Translation by Juan Romero –  Introduction

On the tenth anniversary of Mexican Independence from Spain, Padre Antonio José Martínez of Taos wrote and presented Exposición, a treatise on the Territorial government of New Mexico dated November 11, 1831. In his presentation made to his fellow delegates of New Mexico, Padre Martínez attempted to clarify the meaning of their representative body called La Diputación, the legal body of elected “deputies” or representatives of New Mexico under the government of the Republic of Mexico that lasted from Mexican Independence from Spain in 1821 until the occupation of New Mexico by the United States in 1846. In his treatise, Padre Martínez also advocated  that the limited powers of the Diputación be broadened. After its members received, read, and ratified the Exposición, they sent it for enactment to the representative of the federal government in Mexico City.

David Weber (1940-2110), first-rate scholar of things and people New Mexican, authored a classic Padre Martinez-related work in 1996–On the Edge of the Empire: The Taos Hacienda of Los Martínez. While teaching at San Diego State University in 1975, Weber wrote his commentary on the 1831 Exposición by Padre Martínez for the journal of El Colegio De Mexico, and it was published as El Gobierno Territorial de Nuevo México: La Exposición del Padre Martínez de 1831.

The actual Spanish text for the Padre Martinez document Exposición de 1831 is from the H.H. Bancroft Library at U.C. Berkeley. It is rerpinted in the second part a fourteen-page article by David J. Weber published in Spanish by El Colegio de México, “El govierno territorial de Nuevo México: La Exposición del Padre Martínez de 1831” in the journal Historia Mexicana Vol. 25, No. 2 (Oct.-Dec., 1975), pp. 302 to 310. The first eight pages are a commentary by Weber, and a facsimile of the original Padre Martínez text follows.

One may read the article for free, or download and purchase it for $19.  Access JSTOR through one’s educational institution OR join <REGISTER & READ beata Program> online for free. An indiidual scholar or researcher may register at the following link: <>. Write in and SELECT “El govierno territorial de Nuevo México: La Exposición del Padre Matnez de 1831”. To read the full text, add the article to your “reading shelf”.

David Weber, familiar with my English version of the Santiago Valdez 1877 Biografía del Presbítero Antonio José Martínez, Cura de Taos,  encouraged me to publish it–something yet to be done. With this blog item, I present my English adaptation of Weber’s commentary on the Padre’s Exposición, but without accompanying footnotes that may be found in the Spanish online version cited above.  The accompanying blog item is my English translation of the Padre Martínez Exposición de 1831.

My Adaptation in English of David Weber’s Commentary

In October of 1830, the District of Taos elected their parish priest and “home boy” Padre Antonio José Martínez to serve for two years as a member of the Diputación de Nuevo México, the local legislative delegation of seven representatives. The New Mexican territorial legislature of the republic of Mexico was convoked about a month later, and on November 7, 1830, Martínez traveled south sixty miles or so toward Santa Fe where the sessions were about to begin.

After about a year of service in the Diputación, the Cura de Taos became convinced that the most urgent problems of New Mexico would not be resolved unless the Diputación would come to have greater authority. Padre Martínez left some writings about this matter in an essay or treatise entitled Exposición dated November 11, 1831. He addressed it to José Antonio Chavez, Governor of New Mexico who at the time was also President of the Diputación. Martínez held that the Diputación was so weak that it would end up dissolving on its own. He wrote that the Diputación was in practice charged with only three functions: supervising primary schools, granting land, and maintaining relations with the Supreme Congress in Mexico City through the Deputy (representative of the Diputacion) of New Mexico. Martínez held that the Diputación was lacking sufficient power to effectively be in charge of the three areas, and that they would be better managed by various local town governments (ayuntamientos) together with a political chief of a territory, a mayor or an equivalent.

Of greater importance, moreover, Padre Martínez argued that the Diputación lacked the power to resolve the more urgent problems of the territory: juridical inefficiency, necessary church reform, and military defense in the face of depredations of New Mexicans by so-called uncivilized Indians. The priest was also bothered because members of the Diputación did not receive any salary. The seven Deputies had attended the sessions at their own expense, and without attending much to their own business affairs. Martínez insinuated that unless the Diputación became an important body with real power to obtain significant reforms, it would not be worth wasting the necessary time and money to continue its activities.

Padre Martínez gave his presentation (Exposición) before the territorial Diputación on November 11, 1831. The Deputies, the other six elected representatives of New Mexico, voted in favor of his presentation, and decided that the document be sent to the Congress in Mexico City. The next day, the Diputación addressed a letter to Anastacio Bustamonte, Vice President of the national Mexican legislative body, but who wasat the time functioning as its President. The Deputies asked him to present the Exposición of Padre Martínez to the Mexican Congress in the hope that the governing body “would wisely take more energetic steps …to remedy the positively difficult wrongs that…afflict this forsaken land” of New Mexico.

The Diputación sent the presentation (Exposición) of Padre Martínez together with the Padre’s cover letter to Mexico City where  it arrived, but did not result in any political reform for New Mexico. Historians are aware that Martínez wrote a cover letter, but none have ever seen it. However, the Exposición de 1831 has been preserved at the Archivo General de La Nación (Mexico), and U.C. Berkeley has copy of the text in its own archives.

The Exposición de Padre Martínez is worth becoming better known for its early expression of the viewpoint of one of the most important and controversial historical figures of New Mexico. Antonio José Martínez from a well-to-do family was born in Abiquiú, New Mexico in 1793.  He studied at the seminary of Durango where he was ordained a priest in February 1822, a year after Mexico’s independence from Spain. He was one of the few native New Mexicans who was ordained to the diocesan priesthood in a Province in which the majority of clergy belonged to the Franciscan order. A few years after returning to New Mexico after his seminary studies, Martínez in 1826 became the parish priest in charge of Taos and its environs. However, he did not technically become pastor until several years later. Taos was his boyhood home where he had moved with his family in 1804 when he was eleven, and where he remained until his death in 1867.

A man of great energy, and one of the few sophisticated persons of that remote and sparsely populated province, Padre Martínez became a dominant figure of the political, religious, and cultural life of New Mexico. He founded educational institutions on the primary level–a school for girls as well as boys–and a preparatory seminary helping other New Mexicans prepare for the priesthood, and after the American occupation opened a law school. From 1835 until the War of 1847, he operated the only printing press of the territory, and occasionally lent it to officials of the government. As a dedicated nationalist and admirer of Padre Hidalgo, Padre Martínez fought to obtain political and ecclesiastical reform in his own jurisdiction. He also called attention to the growing influence of Anglo Americans, and helped many integrate into the life and culture of New Mexico.

Padre Martínez continued his interest in politics, especially as it might be helpful in improving the lot of his fellow New Mexicans. Although his 1831 essay decried the weakness of the Diputación, Martínez served in subsequent legislatures. The political status of New Mexico, under the Constitution of 1836, changed from a territory of the Republic of Mexico to a “Departmento“–analogous to a state in the Republic. By1837, Padre Martínez was elected to the Junta Departamental, at the time called La Legislatura. He was elected to that same position again in 1845, but the post was now called the Asamblea Departamental. Either within or outside of the Provincial Departmental Assembly, Padre Martínez was involved in many political battles. For example, in 1837, he tried to pacify popular uprisings against the new taxes that arose in Taos and in Chimayó, and that had been imposed by the Departmental system introduced by Governor Albino Perez. He wrote his own autobiography at this time, and the following year of 1838 published it on his printing press as Relación de Los Méritos del Presbítero Antonio José Martínez, Cura de Taos.

During the last decade of his life, Padre Martínez found himself involved in a complex struggle with native Frenchman Jean Baptiste Lamy who served as the first bishop of New Mexico after it became a political entity under the American flag. The priest’s public opposition to his bishop’s reinstatement of tithing as church policy became the tipping point of the conflict that led to the Padre’s ecclesiastical censures.  Through suspension in 1856, Bishop Lamy deprived Padre Martínez of his license (faculties) to function as a priest. Two years later and nine years before his death, Bishop Lamy officially excommunicated Padre Martínez in 1858. However, in order to serve family members and parishioners loyal to him but inadequately served in the new ecclesiastical regime, the Padre continued to minister from his own private chapel and from other similar chapels in the vicinity.

The Exposición de 1831 offers a window into the insights of Padre Martínez’ political thinking. It sheds important light on the situation of New Mexico and indirectly also upon its whole northern borderlands. In the document, Padre Martínez publicly laments the weakness and limits of the Diputación of New Mexico, and adamantly contrasts those limits with the power of the legislatures of states in the young Mexican republic.

The Diputación was, in a sense, a precursor to the state legislature. The Diputaciones in Spain were established as centers of resistance against Napoleonic invasion of 1808, and they remained formalized by the liberal Spanish courts that authorized their establishment in the New World. In Mexico, the Diputación rapidly evolved to become a vital force within regional politics, promoting the fall of the Iturbe regime, and playing an important role in the tumultuous business affairs conducted with the adoption of the federal constitution of 1824. Under that constitution, the Diputaciones matured to become transformed into relatively autonomous state legislatures whose responsibilities remained expressed in the respective state constitutions. These legislatures generally had more power and greater autonomy than the Diputaciones. They were also much larger bodies whose members generally were supposed to receive a salary during the time they were in session.

Meanwhile the rest of Mexico was experimenting with representative government on the state level, but the situation of the territories was different. New Mexico was one of five territories created in 1824, together with Alta California, Baja California, Colima and Tlaxala.  Under the 1824 Constitution, the Mexican Congress expedited laws for the internal administration of its territories. Nevertheless, the weight of other more urgent matters did not allow the Congress to act. Under the Constitution of 1824,  the territories remained in a kind of political limbo in spite of the protests of functionaries on all levels.  Without approval or guidance from Mexico’s national Congress, the Diputación of New Mexico established in 1822 continued to function without authorization under the Constitution of 1824.

Lacking in any current legislation regarding its responsibilities, the Diputación of NM continued its procedures established by the Spanish Constitution of 1812 (Title VI, Chapter II) and by a Spanish decree of June 23, 1823. Spanish law granted it powers to supervise the collection of taxes and expenditures of funds of its province in order to promote public health and public education, to foster agriculture, industry, and commerce, and to ensure the welfare of the missions, monitor the abuses of the clergy, and finally to take up the census and collect statistics.

These powers were apparently ample, but were limited by other regulations that permitted the Diputación to be nothing much more than a consultative body. Both the Constitution of 1812 and the Decree of June 23, 1823 made it very clear that the Governor exercised ultimate authority. All communication between the Diputación and the central government had to be channeled through the governor in the same way as any other communication with municipal governments. The Governor was the only one who could promulgate laws and decrees in the province. Moreover, it was required that the Diputación consult the central government and wait for its approval in order to be able to act on important questions. Even routine plans to promote agriculture, industry, commerce or the arts—for example—had to be sent to the government for approval.

While continuing to act according to Spanish laws, the Diputación of New Mexico was converted into an anachronism for the young federal republic. The complaints of Padre Martínez were, then, not exaggerated, and other new Hispanos agreed with him. Juan Eestevan Pino, in 1829, referred to the Diputación saying that it functioned “without initiative”, although it was “representative of this territory”. Antonio Barreiro, its elected leader at the time Padre Martinez penned his Exposición, wrote in 1832 that the power of the Diputación “is null and insignificant, because it does not have enough authority to be able to work for itself”. Moreover, Barreiro signaled that under the decree of June 23, 1823, the attributes of the Diputación “were absolutely ideal because it made for some tension  with our system and others since they do not agree with the circumstances of the country.”

In this way, the federalist dream of autonomy and local government that would respond to local conditions was a failure for the territory of New Mexico. In the preamble for the Constitution of 1824, a committee headed by Lorenzo de Zavala had been enlarged in favor of a strong regional government, bringing together questions such as “what relationships of convenience and uniformity can there be between the warm earth of Veracruz and the frigid mountains of New Mexico?” The question was never answered in any satisfactory way. New Mexico, left with an antiquated territorial government with little room for local initiative, was isolated with two separate issues of defense: one against autonomous Indian tribes who are mounted and well armed, and the other against Anglo-Americans who are advancing toward the west.

It is worthwhile to note the fact that the federal system also failed in its intent to provide representative governments in the other two provinces of the distant northern border of Alta California and Texas. Just as in New Mexico, the Diputación of the territory of Alta California continued to function under Spanish laws. One of the proofs for the little importance of the Diputación of Alta California is the fact that over a period of several years, it would not meet for anything. One French observer who visited California in 1827-1828 noticed that its Diputación “only met to applaud any opinion of the civil and military chief”. That judgment was probably not very far from the reality. The attitude of the military governor of Alta California with respect to civil authority was summarized by the acting governor Lieutenant Colonel Nicolas Gutierrez who is known to have said that he “had no need for deputies (elected representatives) “with pen and voice” so as long as he had a sufficient number of deputies “with sword and pistol.”

Texas completely lost its Deputación upon being merged with Coahuila in 1824. In one of the first sessions, on August 28, 1824 in Saltillo, the legislature of Coahuila and Texas abolished the Diputación of Texas. Moreover, the delegate for Texas did not come to express his opinion on this question, and the decision was not well received in San Antonio. Nevertheless, the resistance seemed futile. In the Departamento de Texas, therefore, the only bodies of elected officials that existed between 1824 and 1836 were on the municipal level. In 1832 the city government of San Antonio deplored the failure of the [Mexican] Congress to establish in Texas a government that understood local conditions, and blamed this failure on the “paralyzing” of Texas.

In this way, under the Constitution of 1824, the furthest provinces of the northern frontier–Alta California and Texas, in the same way as New Mexico–were able to count themselves among the weakest links of the federalist system. At the same time, there did not exist other provinces in the nation that were more exposed to the danger of being absorbed or conquered by the United States or by another outside power. As the men of the frontier used to know so well, the political weakness of the provinces used to contribute to its vulnerability.

El Crepúculo de la Libertad, a short-lived newspaper founded by Padre Martínez and published in Santa Fe at the end of 1834, expressed its opinion on the ultimate consequence of the [Mexican] federal abandonment of New Mexican territory and of the rest of the northern borderlands. In one of its editorials, El Crepúculo asked, “What other consequences ought this deplorable abandonment bring to the nation?” The answer: “The loss of New Mexico and its dismemberment from Mexican territory.”  El Crepúsculo, mistakenly, began to predict that the United States would not use force to conquer New Mexico. “No,” it editorialized, ” the [18th] century ended, and cast to the ground this manner of subjugating peoples: the empire of brutal force has been substituted by the strength of the conviction of reason….” If the United States were to conquer New Mexico, it would be with “its industry, its ideas of liberty and independence, and the stars of the capitol of the north would undoubtedly shine brighter in New Mexico insofar as its darkness is thicker because of the deplorable state in which the politics of the Mexican cabinet holds it.” El Crepúsculo could not have been more mistaken about announcing that brutal force had ceased being in vogue. However, its prediction concerning the failure of the (U.S.) federal government in attending to the necessities of the borderland could not have been more on target, and would have to lead to the “dismembering of Mexican territory”.

Opposition to Tithing and Ecclesiastical Censures

As a young priest, Padre Martinez objected to tithing that he perceived as a severe burden on the poor.  Since 1829–only three years after he arrived back in Taos as the priest in charge–he publicly voiced his opinion.  As a civil legislator for the Departamento de Nuevo Mexico in the still new Republic of Mexico, independent from Spain since 1821, Padre Martinez advocated abolishing the system of tithing.  In a union of church and state–for centuries, the norm  in Europe and by extension in early Hispanic America–the government was in charge of collecting tithes as income to pay government expenses as well as church expenses including the salary of clergy.  As early as 1829, without objection from his Bishop José Laureano Zubiría of the Diocese of Durango, Padre Martínez successfully advocated for a change in the policy. Durango Diocese extended to Taos, to the whole northern frontier of the Kingdom of Spain that included all of  New Mexico and beyond.  Tithes were fully abolished by the mid 1830s, but by 1853, Bishop Jean Baptiste Lamy, the first Bishop of New Mexico after it became part of the United States,revived the policy of tithing.

  Wtit the the American occupation of Santa Fe, New Mexico became a Territory of the United States in 1846.  It new ecclesiastical jurisdiction under the diocese of St. Louis began in July 1851 when the new Vicar Apostolic Bishop Lamy arrived at Santa Fe from Ohio where he had been a missionary priest. Padre Martinez joined the other native New Mexican clergy, Spanish Franciscans and laypeople in welcoming Lamy destined to soon become the first bishop of Santa Fe.  Padre Martinez made overtures to ingratiate himself with the new prelate.  For his part, Bishop Lamy initially sought advice from the Padre known for expertise in canon law, and even borrowed money from Padre Martínez who had come from a relatively wealthy family.

 In his attempt to finance the operation of the still-new diocese, Bishop Lamy promulgated a new policy  about tithing in a Pastoral Letter of the early 1850s .  He imposed the penalty of denying Christian burial to families that did not comply with contributing tithes .

  After serving in his beloved Taos for three decades as a busy parish priest, politician, printer and publisher, Padre Martinez was getting elderly, tired and sickly.  He was thinking of possible retirement, and shared his musings with the Bishop.  As a young man in Durango about to be ordained a priest, Martínez suffered from a breathing condition (asthma?) that impeded his health, but he recovered upon returning to Taos.  As a mature man in later years, he suffered other maladies.  In a letter written at the beginning of January 1856 , Padre Martinez advised Bishop Lamy of his ill health that included  bladder infection and severe rheumatism that made walking difficult.  Martínez requested help, preferably a native New Mexican priest as an assistant, and specifically asked for Don Ramón Medina whom he had trained in his preparatory seminary. Padre Martinez suggested that Padre Medina could ultimately replace him as pastor.  Bishop Lamy chose to interpret the letter as a “resignation,” and  accepted it as such.  The Bishop appointed a new priest to succeed Padre Martínez as pastor of Taos, and the change became effective  within three months by May 1856.

  Bishop Lamy had met Don Dámaso Taladrid, a Basque priest and ex-military chaplain,  during one of his trips to Rome, and invited him to the diocese of Santa Fe, and appointed him to succeed Padre Martínez in Taos. Father Taladrid had little regard for the health situation of Padre Martinez or for his thirty years at the parish of Our Lady of Guadalupe.  Furthermore, Father Taladrid made it difficult for Padre Martinez to celebrate Mass at the parish, and even refused him permission to preside at the wedding of a favorite niece that was about to take place.  The two priests clashed.

  Father Taladrid newly in charge of Guadalupe Parish in Taos was being disrespectful to Padre Martínez as pastor emeritus. Taladrid made derogatory comments against Martínez, and made it difficult for Martínez to say Mass in the parish church.   To avoid these difficulties Padre Martínez since the summer of 1856 had been building a private oratory with its walled cemetery on his property and at his own expense.  By the fall,in a letter to Bishop Lamy –dated October 1 — PadreMartínez complained about Father Taladrid’s untoward behavior.  At the same time,Martínez formally informed the Bishop of his new private chapel.  However since June, Father Taladrid had already  reported to Bishop Lamy that Martínez was building a private oratory on his own property.

  During this time, the public controversy over Bishop Lamy’s Pastoral Letter that mandated tithes was heating up.  When Bishop Lamy re-introduced the policy of tithing in order to meet new expenses, he imposed exclusion from the rites of Christian burial for the deceased of those families who could not comply.  Padre Martínez, through his public writings in the newspaper La Gaceta of Santa Fe,  strenuously and publicly objected to this change in policy.   

  For his “scandalous writings,” Bishop Lamy suspended Padre Martinez in October 1856.  Suspensio a divinis is the ecclesiastical censure by which a cleric, for a breach of discipline or for moral turupitude, is prohibited from exercising “the divine things” of priestly ministry.  The bishop deprived the suspended priest from his faculties (license) to celebrate Mass, preach, or hear Confessions with Absolution except in danger of death.  In such cases, through the mercy of God, “ecclesia supplet,” the church supplies faculties and jurisdiction for a suspended or excommunicated priest to administer to a dying person the last rites of penance-absolution and anointing with the Holy Oils, and to give Holy Communion, called Viaticum when a Catholic is in either danger of death or already at the point of death . 

  The ultimate ecclesiastical censure of excommunication took place two years later shortly after Easter in the spring 1858.  It is worth noting that church censures imposed on Padre Martinez were not  for moral failings, but specifically for his “scandalous writings” as noted in church records of the Taos parish.  It remains my hope that such penalties be posthumously overturned as was done for Galileo, Joan of Arc, and John Hus.

Blog about Padre Antonio José Martínez, Cura de Taos. When he died, his peers in the USA Territorial Assembly for NM wrote on his epitaph, "La Honra de Su País" – The Honor of His Homeland. The last decade of his life–in the years following the American occupation– was clouded by controversy with his new bishop. Fray Angelioc Chavez in My Penitente Land called him "New Mexico's greatest son." This blog is dedicated to the life and legacy of this priest, educator, printer-publisher, lawyer-politician, rancher, patriot.