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Juan Romero


Today—October 21, 2012—ten
days after the Golden Jubilee of the Second Vatican Council and the opening of
the Year of Faith,  Kateri Tekakwitha was
officially canonized a saint.  Together
with her, Pope Benedict XVI also declared six others saints. I was privileged
to be among a crushing throng of thousands in front of St. Peter’s Basilica.

Saint Kateri, “Lily of the
Mohawks,” was born of an Algonquin mother and Mohawk chief in what is today
upstate New York near the Canadian border. 
She is the first native American to be canonized.  Both of her parents died by the time she was
four, and Kateri died from smallpox in 1680 at the young age of 24.

I learned today from an
eastcoaster that her name is properly pronouced KATeri.  His companion commented it was a case of potaaato/potahto.  From a NY Times article, I also learned that
Tekakwitha was a nick-name given her after she became partially blind from
smallpox.  It means “She who bumps into

It is not a stretch to connect
St. Kateri to New Mexico.  My affection
for her is related to my roots there, and my love for the Taos Pueblo and its
people.  Corina Santistevan, New Mexican
historian and preservationist, as well as one of my special mentors, has
greatly promoted devotion to Kateri in the north (of NM) where love for the new
saint has increased in recent years. 
Kateri’s canonization comes toward the end of this year that began on
January 6 with the centennial celebration of New Mexico as a State of the Union.  It had been a Territory of the United States
since its military occupation in 1846. 

It seems super-ironic to me
that St. Kateri Tekakwitha died in 1680, the same year in which took place the
only successful rebellion of Native Americans against Europeans, Spanish
settlers. Popé, a talented shaman, linguist and warrior from Ohkay Owingeh
Pueblo, coordinated the uprising beginning in Taos. Spanish colonists in 1598 had
named the Pueblo San Juan, and Popé is clearly to be distinguished from “the
pope.”  The settlers were driven south
toward the El Paso area and beyond, but returned thirteen years later, somewhat
chastened and having learned to live in peace with the original
inhabitants.  May Kateri intercede today for
all peoples to live toether in peace in spite of cultural and religious

I see Kaeri as a “suffering
servant type,” and a figure of reconciliation. 
She died of a disease unknown to Indians before the coming of the White
man, and in that sense—although herself innocent—took our burdens upon

I also see her as a liminal
person, one of the saints of the American continent who unites people across
borders.  Her mother introduced her to
her Catholic faith. Faithful to it, she studied it as a young woman and was
baptized at eighteen.  Ridicued for her
fatih, she moved to Canada where Catholics claim her as their own, as well as
people of the entire American continent including the United States, Central
and South America.  After more than five
centuries of evangelization in the new world of America, and four centuries
after her death, she is the first “Native American” to finally be canonized.

Today I salute the people of
the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians with whom I have been privileged to
work. The Parish of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Palm Springs this last December celbrated
the centennial Cahuilla Indians donated land to the Catholic Church through the
Bishop of San Diego.

As we begin this Year of
Faith, fifty years after the Second Vatican Council was inaugurated, may Saint
Kateri Tekakwitha help us to grow in our Catholic faith and to be conscious
agents of the “new evangelization.”







[Letter to
an artistic Taoseña,  close relative of Padre Martinez –
written 2004, revised 2012.]




Fr. Juan Romero

Dear Maya:


ask my opinion on clerical celibacy.  Yes, I think it should become
optional for any diocesan priest.  In my view, this would greatly enhance
the freedom with which a priest to whom God has given the charism of celibacy
will live it.  Within a few sentences discussing marriage, adultery,
divorce, and virginity or celibacy, Jesus’ disciples suggested, “it is better
not to marry.” He answered, “Not all can accept [this] word, but only those to
whom that is granted…. Some [are incapable of marriage] because they…have
renounced marriage for the sake of the kingdom of heaven….Whoever can
accept this ought to accept it.”[1]

Paul gave his own witness in favor of celibacy for practical motives as well as
for theological reasons.  He was single-hearted, and counseled
celibacy to other disciples and evangelizers to be fully concerned for the
service of the people to whom they are sent instead of being wrapped up in the
cares of wife and family.[2] In
Paul’s teaching, celibacy is a charism, a special gift given by God for
building up the Body of Christ, the Church.  It is a gift freely given,
and awaits a free response.  Both the gift and response have to be free if
God is to be pleased.  If a response to a gift is somehow forced,
then there is no real freedom in the response.  Freedom has to be from
within the mind and heart.  If celibacy is a charism, a gift God
gives to a particular person for the good of the whole Church, let us hope that
such a person freely accepts the gift.

a person must also be free not to accept a particular gift from God
without in any way fearing s/he might be punished for not accepting a gift
offered.  Furthermore, no one should try to pretend s/he has a gift
from God if in fact s/he does not.  The pretense is worse if the
person then tries to live as if s/he has a gift of “wisdom, knowledge, healing,
mighty deed, prophecy, discernment of spirits, gift of tongues, interpretation
of tongues,”[3]…or
celibacy.  For example, being an artist is a gift of God; it is a talent
that comes from Him.  For sure, one has to work at it in order to better
develop it.  While only some may have the gift of celibacy, there are
others who definitely do not.  Any gift God gives is for His greater glory
and the service of people.  Of course, a gift—talent
or charism—given by God may also be used for self-fulfillment and as a way
to make a living, but only secondarily.

Pauline text on Marriage and Virginity[4] merits
prayerful reflection by anyone interested in understanding or
appreciating celibacy.  The footnotes in a bible[5] are
worth studying and contemplating.  Here are some texts from Chapter 7 of
St. Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians that I particularly recommend for

  • “Indeed,
    I wish everyone to be as I am, but each has a particular gift from God, one of
    one kind and one of another.”[6]
  • “…Everyone
    should live as the Lord has assigned, just as God called each one.”[7]
  • “Now
    in regard to virgins I have no commandment from the Lord, but I give my
    opinion…that it is a good thing for a person to remain as he is,”[8]
    i.e. either married or single.
  • “I
    should like you to be free of anxieties.  An unmarried man is anxious
    about the things of the Lord, how he may please the Lord.  But a married
    man is anxious about the things of the world, how he may please his wife, and
    he is divided….”[9]
  • “So
    then, the one who marries his virgin does well; the one who does not marry her
    will do better.”[10]

celibacy matters because of the example of Jesus, the exhortation of St. Paul,
and the practice of several centuries in the Western (Latin Rite) Church.[11] However,
for a Catholic clergyman to be required to be celibate is not a dogma of the
Church, and therefore theoretically could be changed.[12] The
apostles were all married, except for St. John. We hear about how Jesus cured
Peter’s mother-in-law when he lived with them.[13] For
the first ten centuries of the Church, the great majority of clergy were
married.  At the same time, there has always been the witness of monks and
later religious order priests such as Franciscans, Dominicans, etc. who are
religious by definition because they take the three vows of
poverty, chastity, and obedience.  Celibacy is an evangelical
counsel, not a divine mandate.  Although clerical celibacy is not
essential to priesthood, it is a serious discipline.  For Catholic
clergy in the Western Church, celibacy is a matter of church law as well as an
evangelical counsel.  The bishop may punish celibacy’s flagrant violation
with the ecclesiastical censure of suspension from officiating at the sacred
duties of presiding at Mass and administering

In my
opinion, if the rule mandating celibacy were to be changed, that would
strengthen the freedom of celibacy as a charism by which one freely
responds to God’s call.  It is a vocation that can be lived with
authenticity only if it is freely chosen in response to God’s initiative.
It is obviously not for everyone, nor is it even necessarily a “better
way,” but only different.  It is, however, very definitely a call to
some.  Part of its importance within the Catholic community is that it
bears witness to the future—the fullness of the coming of the kingdom—when
giving in marriage will no longer be.

life of celibacy is essential to the chosen life of a vowed religious priest,
brother, or sister. Taking the vow of celibacy, together with the vows of
poverty and obedience, is what makes a Franciscan, Dominican, Jesuit or member
of any religious order fall into the category of a religious.  A diocesan
priest—sometimes called a secular priest[14] because
he lives “in the world, but is not of it”— is not
irreligious.  However, he is not a religious in the manner of one who
takes vows to keep the evangelical counsels.  This is one of the main
distinctions between a diocesan/secular priest and a religious order priest or
sister.  Nevertheless, the diocesan/secular priest promises to live
in the spirit of the evangelical counsels as they apply to his state of life,
but is not bound to them by the virtue of religion.

important difference between a diocesan/secular priest and a religious is that
a religious priest is immediately subject to the authority of his religious
superior, sometimes called a provincial.  On the other hand, a
diocesan priest is immediately subject to the authority of the local bishop of
his diocese.  A diocesan/secular priest belongs to a diocese, the local
church.  The priest is “incardinated into” or hooked onto a
particular diocese, like a hinge on a door. The diocese is the “door,” and the
“hinge” is the promise of reverence and obedience to the particular bishop
of that diocese, together with the promise to serve the people of that local
church. The real authority for any priest has to be Jesus Christ, but his
immediate earthly authority is either the superior for a religious priest, or
the local bishop for a secular/diocesan priest.  In the sixteenth and
seventeenth centuries–when there were only Franciscans in New Mexico–the
Franciscan Custos (Guardian) was the main person directly in
charge of priest-personnel.

the ninth century, celibacy became a rule for all priests of the Latin Rite in
the Western Church.  One of the primary goals of the rule, as
Father Cozzen explains,[15] was
to insure that church property would not be passed onto the children of a
priest.  Priests that you are familiar with are of the Latin Rite.
Most western Catholics are not well informed about the Eastern Rites of our
one, holy, Catholic (universal), and apostolic church.  Eastern Rite Catholics believe
all the same doctrines (dogmas) that we do; they have the same sacraments
(Eucharist is central for them as well); they honor Blessed Mary with great
devotion, maybe even more than we do; and they are in union with the Holy
Father in Rome.

the Eastern Rite Catholic Church in union with Rome, as well as the Greek
Orthodox Church separated from Rome, maintain their custom of a married
clergy.  However, in the early twentieth century, the Latin Church
imposed its discipline of celibacy upon Eastern Rite clergy residing and
ministering in the United States. Eastern Rite Catholics are not to be
confused with members of the Eastern Orthodox Church who also
adhere to the same dogmas, have the same sacraments, and honor
Mary.  However, they do not acknowledge the authority of the pope in
the same way we do.  Their members are our closest brothers and
sisters within the family of Christians.  Although the will of God
and prayer of Jesus is that we “all be one,”[16] we
have sadly and scandalously been estranged since Great Western Schism of
1054.  We Roman Catholics believe that our Holy Father in Rome is the
successor of St. Peter whom Jesus chose—together with all of Peter’s
successors—to be the visible head of the Church on earth.  “And so I say
to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church…”[17] The Greek
Orthodox Church may have great respect for the Bishop of Rome as the Patriarch
of the West, but it does not see him in the same way as Catholics.

my opinion, a change in the rule of celibacy making it optional for priests of
the Latin Rite to marry or not would enhance the practice of celibacy. God
freely gives the gift (charism) to whomever He wills.  Some diocesan
priests who have received and accepted the charism of celibacy happily and
faithfully live out that life.  Other diocesan priests who perhaps feel
called both to priesthood and to marriage would be able to integrate both
vocations into their lives.  Monks and religious order priests, however,
would always live their charism of the celibate life that is intrinsic to the
nature of their vocation, fidelity to the evangelical councils that includes

change in policy would allow diocesan priests to either marry or to remain
single.  Many priests perhaps may choose to marry if given the
option.  However, those who choose to remain single “for the sake of
the kingdom of heaven”[18] would
do so because God has called them to live a celibate life and has given them
the graces to do so.  With His actual graces, the Lord helps a priest
or religious woman live their celibate vocation fully and freely.  These
graces enable a person to act with an enlightened mind to better discern God’s
holy will, and an energized heart to fully, faithfully, and freely follow God’s
will. The Lord gives these special helps (graces) to the persons He wills to
bless with the gift (charism) of celibacy.  However, each person so
gifted has to freely accept the gift, and to ask the Lord for His help to
remain faithful in living it out.

may be surprise you to know that even at the present time in the Western
Rite—in both Europe and here in the United States– there are Catholic priests
in good standing who are also married!  This is the case of some Lutheran
and Anglican men who were married clergymen and later became Catholics.
Keeping their wives, they were ultimately ordained as Catholic priests.

predict there will someday be a change in the discipline of celibacy that would
allow some so-called “permanent” deacons who are married to eventually also
become ordained as priests while retaining their wives.  Deacons are
already part of the hierarchy– the “holy orders” of deaconate, priesthood, and
episcopacy. Such deacons ready and willing to respond to the call to
priesthood will have already shown well-developed qualities of stability and
spiritual maturity.  Their stability is reflected in solid marriages, and
their spiritual maturity echoed by consistent and effective service as deacons serving
the community over a period of years, perhaps seven.  Such a deacon would
likely be required to spend a year or two in formative preparation for
ordination to priesthood.   If there is to be a change in the
discipline of celibacy for clergy of the Western Rite, the Holy Spirit will
show the way, and it will happen in God’s good time, God’s right

briefly review for you some history of your antepasado: Antonio
José Martínez, born of the Martín Serrano clan in 1793 at the Plaza of
Santa Rosa in Abiquiú, validly married a distant relative when he was a
young man of 19.  He fathered a daughter in the town of his birth,
but the following year, his wife died in childbirth.  Two years
later, leaving his daughter with her maternal grandparents, Antonio José traveled
to Durango to enter the seminary and study for the priesthood.  At
the time, all of New Mexico and surrounding regions belonged to the diocese of
Durango that was part of the Kingdom of Spain. The year before he was ordained
in 1822, the Republic of Mexico had become independent from Spain, and Taos
became the northern frontier of the new Republic.  After six years of
study, he was ordained a priest at the age of 29.

he returned to Taos before formally finishing his studies, and lived with his
parents while recuperating from his breathing ailment. Meanwhile, Padre
Martinez helped the elderly Franciscan pastor of San Geronimo parish whose seat
was at the Taos Pueblo.  The parish included Our Lady of Guadalupe
Church at the Taos Plaza, a mission of the Pueblo Church, and the church of his
boyhood.  He got better, and was assigned as the priest in charge of
Tomé south of Albuquerque, and then another stint at
Santo Tomás Church in Abiquiú where he had been baptized,
married, and where his wife lay buried.  During this time, he had the
opportunity to re-connect with his daughter who was living with her
grandparents, his in-laws and parents of his deceased wife.  Alas,
within a year, his daughter María de La Luz also died at the young
age of twelve in the year 1825.  By 1826,
Padre Martínez was assigned to become the priest in charge of San
Geronimo parish that included his beloved church of Our Lady of Guadalupe in
Taos.  He was to have an eventful career for the next forty-two years
not only as a priest, but also as an educator, journalist-printer-publisher,
rancher, lawyer and politician.  His concern for the poor wherever he
was became a hallmark of his ministry.

1851, Santa Fe and its environs (including Taos) became part of a new diocese
within the United States.  However, after a few years, he began to
have conflicts with his bishop, and the last years of his life were clouded in
controversy with his new bishop.  However, his peers in the
Territorial Legislature continued to hold him in high regard, and upon his
death in 1867 carved this encomium upon his tombstone: “La Honra de
Su País
/The Honor of His Homeland.”

Martinez was an intellectual and practical leader who did wonderful things for
the benefit of the people of New Mexico and beyond.  His
accomplishments were great, and so were some of his faults including pride and
obstinacy.  Bishop Jean B. Lamy suspended him in 1856, and
excommunicated him in 1858 for his “scandalous writings” against the bishop’s policy
re-introducing tithing.  Even as a young priest, as far back as 1829,
Padre Martinez had resisted that policy enshrined in the civil law of the
Republic of Mexico because it was an excessive burden on the
poor.  He later, during the mid 1830s, used his legislative skills to
change civil law to make tithing illegal.

Bishop Lamy nor his Vicar General Joseph Machebeuf ever
alleged immoral behavior on the part of Padre Martinez, but the fact is that he
did have children while serving as the priest of Taos.  He definitely
had a vocation to the intellectual life, and service for the benefit of the
people, especially the poor.  He may have had a vocation to the
priesthood, but he certainly did not have the charism of celibacy.

Your tío Vicente
has written clearly about the progeny of Padre Martínez, and is publishing
the results of his extensive research.  I commend to you his work
soon to be published in a genealogical journal, but wish to highlight a few
items I deem especially significant:

  • In his
    Last Will and Testament, modified and ratified a month before he died in 1867,
    Padre Martínez mentions briefly—almost curtly—his only legitimate
    daughter María de La Luz who was named after his young wife that died
    in childbirth.  He was to have two other daughters given the same
    name, the first also died as an infant.  Padre Martínez had
    a predilection for the name, and a great devotion to Blessed Mary
    under the title La Purísima Concepción de María.  He
    kept and revered a favorite image still extant among the heirlooms of
    the family; his private oratorio and graveside (campo santo)
    were dedicated to La Purísima.
  • His
    first son was born in July 1830 around the feast of Santiago (July
    25).  There have been questions about the identity of the mother,
    whether or not Padre Martinez was actually the father, and from whom did
    Santiago get his last name of Valdez.  It seems clear that Padre
    Martinez was indeed the father of Santiago Valdez, and a certain Theodora
    Marquez was his mother. Your uncle Vicente Martínez deftly
    and thoroughly provides answers to most questions raised, and I emphasize a few
    items. Padre Martinez had a special love
    for Santiago—educated him well in his own schools (elementary school, seminary
    and law school), brought him up as part of his own family (the Padre refers to
    him in his Will as “mi familiar”), named him administrator of his Last
    will and Testament. He also asked Santiago
    and Vicente Ferrer, the next to youngest son and future Presbyterian
    evangelizer, to be care-takers of his private chapel. The Padre bequeathed to Santiago and to his
    descendants the use of the Padre’s own family name of Martinez, i.e., children
    of Martín.  Finally, Padre Martinez left his precious books and
    documents to Santiago Valdez. In 1877, a decade after the Padre’s death,
    Santiago would stitch together the Biografía del Presbêtero Antonio
    José Martínez, Cura de Taos
    today found in
    the Ritch Collection of the Huntington Library near Los Angeles. A fully annotated scholarly version English
    is scheduled for publication in the near future.
  • Padre Martinez had other children with Teodora Romero
    Trujillo.  At 16, she married a Mr. Oliver, and gave birth to a
    daughter in 1826.  Within a short time and maybe at the same
    time—perhaps in an accident—both father and daughter died.  This
    was the same year that Padre Martínez returned to Taos as the new
    priest in town.  The young widow Theodora lived with her parents
    next door to the Padre’s house, and she eventually became the priest’s
    housekeeper. Human circumstances led both first to mutual friendship, and
    eventually—within four years–blossomed into a more intimate and long-term
    relationship.  Their respective fathers had known each other and
    worked together in Taos since the early nineteenth century.  It is
    quite possible that Severino Martínez and José Romero–the respective fathers
    of Padre Martinez and Teodora Romero–were business partners.  Their
    names are associated with the land and building of Guadalupe Church in Taos
    since 1804. Furthermore, Severino obtained
    some nearby land that in 1825 he gave for the building of a residence to his
    son the new parish priest in town.
    Moreover, both Padre Martínez and Theodora had been widowed at
    a young age, and each also had lost a daughter. The priest and his young
    housekeeper had a son, and over the following fourteen years, the couple would
    have a number of children.  As a loving and dutiful father, Padre
    Martinez in his Last Will and Testament explicitly and adequately provided for
    each of them.

Padre Martínez named
his next son, born of Theodora in 1831, George—not Jorge.  By
family lore, it is thought that this name in English was given to honor George
Washington for whom Padre Martinez had great appreciation.  The
maternal grandparents were José Romero and María Trujillo.

  • Next
    to the last son was Vicente Ferrer Romero, born in
    1844.  He is a significant figure in New Mexican history insofar as
    he carried on the religious and publication legacy of his father, the
    priest.  However, he did so as a Presbyterian evangelist and
    publisher of Protestant tracts.  When in his formative
    teenage years, thirteen and fourteen, the controversy between
    Bishop Lamy and Padre Martinez was cresting and exploded into
    suspension and finally excommunication by 1858.  By the time Vicente
    Ferrer Romero was a mature man entering his thirties, he came into contact with
    the Presbyterian minister Rev. Roberts, and in 1873 invited him to Taos where
    Vicente helped him establish a school. Vicente Ferrer Romero became
    an effective circuit rider appealing to many disaffected Catholics who were smarting
    and devastated the denunciation of their beloved Cura de Taos.

band of Jesuit priests gave missions in Taos after Padre Martinez died in
1867. As a result, many families and
individuals who had been disaffected returned to the Catholic Church, but
certainly not all.  What is true is that both Catholics and
Presbyterians over the years have become more united in their appreciation of
Padre Martinez, Cura de Taos, and appreciative of his
legacy.  At the unveiling of the bronze life-sized memorial of Padre
Martinez placed at the center of the Taos Plaza in July
2006, Edmundo Vasquez—a relative of the Padre and committed
Presbyterian layman—prayed the main prayer of dedication for the event.

Martinez died reconciled to his Church through the sacraments of Penance,
Anointing and Holy Communion administered by Padre Lucero of Arroyo Hondo—his
former student, friend and neighbor.  In my own prayers, I often
commend Padre Martínez to the Lord, and I invite you to do the same. He
succeeded in doing a lot of good, and followed his conscience.  May
we do the same.


God bless him and all of us!

Padre Juan

Juan Romero







[1] Mt. 19: 10-12, New American Bible.

[2] I Cor. 7.

[3] Cf. I Cor. 12-14 for St. Paul’s theology and
practical exhortations about  charisms for
the good of the community.

[4] I Cor. 7.

[5] Such as the New American Bible published by Oxford
University Press Inc., New York.

[6] I Cor. 7:7.

[7] I Cor. 7:17.

[8] I Cor. 7:26.

[9] I Cor. 7: 33-34.

[10] I Cor. 7: 38.

[11] The discipline of clerical celibacy has been the rule for
Catholic clergy of the Roman Rite since the Second Lateran Council in the tenth

[12] For a history of Celibacy in the Church, and an opinion of
its possible future direction, Cf. Donald Cozzens, Freeing
© 2006:

[13] Mt 8:14.

[14] From the Latin saeculum that means world.

[15] Cozzens, op. cit., passim.

[16] Jn 17:21.

[17] Mt. 16: 18.

[18] Mt. 19:12



OUR LADY OF GUADALUPE – Feastday December 12

Padre Martinez was in charge of la iglesia de Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe in Taos, New Mexico from 1826 until 1858.  When he was first assigned there, it was an asistencia of the main parish church of San Geronimo located at the nearby Taos Pueblo. Guadalupe Church did not formally gain parish status until 1842.  Nevertheless, it is one of the oldest churches  dedicated to Mary under the title of Our Lady of Guadalupe that is continually functioning as a Catholic church (now for over two centuries) in the United States.   

The first Guadalupe Church in Taos was constructed around 1802 at the La Plaza de Don Fernando.  It fell into serious disrepair, but was used until 1911 when it was replaced by another building in time for New Mexico statehood in early 1912. [My two older brothers–Airforce Major J. Tobias Romero (retired) and Rev. C. Gilbert Romero, Ph. D. were baptized at that venerable church.]   That church was sadly destroyed by fire in the summer of 1961 a few months after joyful ordination of Father Gilbert, fifty years ago this past April 25.]  A third church, phoenix-like, rose from its ashes within a year and located across the road from the original location.  
I have served as a priest at three different California parishes dedicated to Our Lady of Guadalupe: one in Santa Barbara, another in La Habra, and more recently in Palm Springs. Precisely one hundred years ago today, the leadership of the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians in Palm Springs signed a document with twelve signatures thereby donating choice land to the Diocese of San Diego to be used for worship.  The church built on that land is today’s Guadalupe Church in Palm Springs.  Congratulations on the Centennial!

According to the story of Guadalupe, Mary appeared to the Indian Juan Diego a few consecutive times towards the end of 1531.  Very early in the morning of December 12, she appeared again and encouraged this unschooled and yet unbaptized catechumen and urged him to take her message to Bishop Zumaraga that a church in her honor be built on the spot upon which she was appearing.  It was Tepeyac Hill in today’s Mexico City.  The actual location was the site of the goddess Tonantzin, goddess of fertility sacred to the Aztecs.
Just as Blessed Mary “took over” the cult that had been rendered to Artemis in Ephesus (Cf. Acts 19:23, sq.), so also does Mary under the title of Guadalupe take over the cult that had been rendered to Tonantzin. In Catholic theology, Mary is not a goddess, but is the mother of Jesus Christ true God as well as true man.  He was “conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary,” as the Apostle’s Creed states.  Therefore, she can rightfully be called the “Mother of God.” 
Only ten years after the noche triste of 1521 that inaugurated the Spanish conquest, Mary appeared in the center of the new world—the American continent– not as a Spaniard nor as an Indian, but as the mestiza (racially mixed) brown virgin.  “Am I not your mother?” she assures Juan Diego, and then invited him to be her  ambassador before the Bishop.
Catholic faithful and others (Catholics who are not so “faithful” as well as many non-Catholics, including some non Christians) have a devotion to the mother of Jesus especially under the title of Guadalupe.  To Spanish ears, that name sounded like a name already familiar to them.  At the Monastery of Guadalupe in Extramadura, home to many of the conquistadores, there was a “black Virgin” widely venerated.  However, the similar-sounding word in Nahuatl is translated as “she who crushes the head of the serpent”–understood as a reference to Genesis 3:15.  This biblical citation is “The First Good News” or Protoevangelium.  Immediately after the fall of Adam and Eve, God spoke to Satan in the form of the serpent and told him that the offspring of the woman (Eve) would crush the head of the serpent, but in the process, the “offspring” of the serpent would in turn wound the heel of the woman’s offspring’s.  This text was the earliest foundation for messianic HOPE that prophets, speaking in the name of the Lord, helped to specify.   Christian interpretation of that text understands  “the woman’s offspring” first of all as the human race (Eve is “mother of all the living”), then as the Jewish people, and finally as Jesus Christ, son of David, son of Mary, Son of God. 
In the middle of the Basilica of Guadalupe, the imprint of Mary’s image on Juan  Diego’s tilma  is preserved and venerated as a holy icon.  It is appropriately  flanked by the the flags of  every nation of the continent of America.  Mexico City is the approximate geographical center of the continent of the new world.  My confrere Father Virgil Elizondo likes to point out, “Just as Mary of Nazareth gave birth to Jesus Christ in Bethlehem, so also Mary of Nazareth–with her apparitions to Juan Diego– gave birth to Jesus Christ in the new world of America.”  She is the primary  evangelizer of America, the continent.


In the second century, St. Polycarp, grand-disciple of St. John the Evangelist, wrote with sadness to the people of Philippi that St. Paul had evangelized and to whom he had written a beautiful letter.  The sadness was about a priest, and his wife, who had “hung up his collar” before there was such a thing as clerical dress.

Here is what Polycarp says:
“I am greatly saddened on account of Valens who at one time was presbyter among you…be chaste and honest…avoid avarice…greed….I am deeply sorry for Valens and for his wife; may the Lord grant them true repentence.”
It seems that dishonesty, unchastity, avarice and greed were the public sins of this former presbyter, and it seems that he walked away from ministry as opposed to being asked to leave.  The following sentence is instructive and an example for us on how to treat “fallen” or wayward priests.  
“…invite them back as frail members who have gone astray, so that the entire body of which you are a part will be saved.”
We are still connected to each other in and through the Body of Christ, even if one or another goes astray—even a priest!  They are not to be cast out, but invited back so that all of us can be saved.  Powerful ecclesiology and soteriology, fancy words for the study of the Church and of Salvation!
(Quoted from the Liturgy of the Hours, Vol. IV, Twenty-Sixth Week in Ordinary Time, pp. 327-28)


After such a long hiatus, I write this post on October 4, the feast of St. Francis who is patron of the Archdiocese of Santa Fe. Last week I was in Taos for a meeting with Vicente Martínez and Robert Torrez, former state historian of New Mexico.  We are collaborating on a publication-project about the life and legacy of Padre Martinez, Cura de Taos.  It was my joy to remain in Taos for a week, and concelebrate the 6 AM Mass at San Geronimo Pueblo on occasion of their patron feast of St. Jerome, September 30.  

In the August 2011 issue of People of God, the newspaper for the Archdiocese of Santa Fe, Archbishop Michael J. Sheehan addressed the scandal that comes from “prominent priests who have turned out to have serious difficulties.”  The Archbishop in no way justifies any wrong-doing in which high-profile men of the cloth may have been been involved, but he also affirms with certainty, “… it is not our place to judge these men who did a great deal of good in their priestly lives despite the failings that have come to light.  We must be grateful for the spiritual blessings they have brought to many people.” 

This non-judgmental attitude, regarding the morality or sinfulness of priests who have not lived up to their spiritual commitments or promises, applies as well to Padre Antonio José Martínez in regard to his public conflict with his bishop, Jean Baptiste Lamy, or in regard to any alleged moral failings. 
The concluding exhortations of Archbishop Sheehan are pertinent today as they were in the time of his episcopal predecessor and Padre Martinez: Do not put your “faith in the bishop or priest, but in Jesus and the Eucharist!  We human beings do the best we can, but sometimes we fail….Put your faith in Chist and the Sacraments of our Church so that your faith can never be disappointed and you will never be scandalized.”
Vicente Martinez of Taos, part-time resident of Florida, has done significant research in recent years on the progeny of Padre Martinez.  It will be part of the documentation on the Padre’s Last Will and Testament that will accompany an annotated 1877 Biography by Santiago Valdez of Padre Martinez, and an 1840 Autobiography.  I have had the privilege on assisting in the research and writing of this coming publication to which Father Tom Steele, SJ has contributed so much scholarship.  May he rest in peace!  Mr. Robert Torrez is Father Steele’s “anointed” successor as editor of the publication-project that may be out within a year, perhaps by the end of the centennial of New Mexico’s statehood.  The publication-project purports to deal with the life and accomplishments of Padre Antonio José Martínez, “warts and all” (Vicente Martinez) “within their context, but without excuses.” (Fr. Juan Romero)  Stay tuned!


A year ago today, I literally fell into the river.  It was a great day to do so–the feast of San Juan Bautista.  All over Latin America, especially in such places as Puerto Rico with its capital named after the Saint, people celebrate the feast by contact with water.  By going to the beach, river, swimming hole or bath tub/shower, they symbolically renew their baptisms.

Jesuit Priest Louis Tempe came to visit me in Palm Springs.  He wanted to interview me about the Tercer Encuentro Hispano Pastoral for which I was the national coordinator from 1984-1985.  The consultative process sponsored by the American Bishops lasted for several years culminated in a summer event that took place at Catholic University in Washington, DC.  It resulted in a national pastoral plan for Spanish speaking Catholics in this country, and has been implemented with various degrees of success. 
In any event, after the interview, I took him to tour the cool springs at Indian Canyon.  The Agua Caliente Tribe of Cahuilla Indians for centuries have used their hot springs–where today is located the Spa Hotel in Palm Springs –in the winter.  During the summers and during warm wather, they went to the cool springs in the canyon.
 During the guided tour I was giving, I got a little too close to the edge.  It was an unintended occasion for the renewal of my own baptismal promises.


All fatherhood is from God.  One of the greatest privileges believers of all faiths have is to address God as ABBA,  the Aramaic word connoting tenderness and love that is better translated “daddy” or “tata Dios.”  Jesus taught us to pray the famous prayer addressing God as OUR FATHER.  Jesus Christ is always, from all eternity, in relationship to His heavenly Father, and invites us to share in the same relationship through adoption–Gods’ grace freely given by which we are also children of God.  Through Baptism, we become little brothers and sisters of our elder brother Jesus Christ, and of one another.  In liturgy, we pray TO THE FATHER, through the Son, in the Holy Spirit.

Our human fathers are sometimes flawed, sometimes they are almost saints.  Whatever they are, they deserve our honor: “Honor thy father and thy mother,” the Fourth Commandment obliges.

Antonio Jose Martinez experienced human fatherhood.  As a very young man of 19, he got married, and within the year had a daughter who shared her mother’s name: Maria de La Luz.  Mother died in childbirth, and after a few years, Antonio Jose left his daughter in the care of her maternal grandparents in Abiquiu–it is strongly supposed–while he went to Durango to pursue an education.  In 1824, a couple of years after returning to New Mexico as an ordained priest, he was assigned to the parish of Santo Tomas in Abiquiu.  He had been baptized there in 1793, married there in 1812, buried his wife there in 1813 and had his daughter baptized there in the same year.  He was there for only a short time before his daughter died at the young age of eleven going on twelve.  Padre Martinez remained in his ancestral home of Abiquiu–although he had lived in Taos since he was eleven– for a total of about two years before returning to Taos in 1826 to become the priest in charge of the parish of San Geronimo at the Indian Pueblo.  The parish church included several chapels in the large surrounding area, including the church of Nuestra Senora de Guadalupe to which he would remain related for forty-two years until his death in 1867.

Antonio Jose Martinez was blessed in the lives of his wife and daughter, both named Maria de La Luz Martinez, who died all too-soon.  One of the flawed dimensions of the life of Padre Martinez is the fact that he had children after becoming a priest.  For a priest of the Western (Latin) Rite to marry is forbidden by the Canon Law of the Roman Catholic Church.  It is not divine law, nor has it always been the custom.

The mother of his post-priesthood children, Teodora Romero, was a young woman who became a widow and bereaved mother when she lost her husband and daughter in 1826, the same year Padre Antonio Jose Martinez came to Taos as the priest-in-charge of Guadalupe Church.  Within four years, this couple had a son by the name of George, not Jorge, in honor–it is said–of George Washington for whom Padre Martinez had great regard.  The cornerstone of the Washington Capitol was laid in the same year of 1793 that Padre Martinez was born.

There were other children Padre Martinez fathered, and we will treat them in this blog on other occasions.  Two others, however, are worthy of special mention at this time: Santiago Valdez and Vicente Romero.  Valdez was an orphan brought up by a Valdez family in Taos.  The Martinez family of the Padre holds to a strong oral tradition that Padre Martinez was his actual father.  In his Last Will and Testament of 1867, reviewed and renewed shortly before he died, Padre Martinez left his books,  library and some property to Santiago Valdez.  In addition, he indicated that it was his will that this familiar (relative, or member of his extended family) and his children bear the name Martinez.  Most of them did.  Ten years after the death of Padre Martinez, Santiago Valdez wrote a biography of the Padre, Biografia del Presbitero Antonio Jose Martinez, Cura de Taos.  It is a manuscript in Spanish, never published up to the present, located within the Ritch Collection at the Huntington Library near Los Angeles.  This blog will furnish a summary and generous excerpts among its coming attractions.

Vicente Ferrer Romero is the youngest child of Padre Martinez, fourteen years junior to Santiago Valdez.  He came of age during the tensions and serious conflicts between Bishop Jean Baptiste Lamy and Padre Martinez.  The Taos priest considered himself a journalist, and had many opinions about many things.  He had founded the short-lived newspaper El Crepusculo de La Libertad  (only six issues), and was friendly with the publisher of  La Gaceta de Santa Fe who was a former (anti-slavery)  Presbyterian minister.  In this and other venues, Padre Martinez publicized his disagreements with the bishop’s policies regarding tithing and other matters.  Vicente as a young teenager witnessed the tensions between the bishop and his father, Padre Martinez.  They crested between the years 1856 and 1858, and were marked respectively by the ecclesiastical censures of suspension and excommunication.  (More about these in a future blog.)  Vicente Ferrer Romero, by 1873,  went on to become a very effective lay evangelizer and circuit rider for the Presbyterian faith.  A paper on Padre Martinez and Ecumenism, and another specifically on Vicente F. Romero will also be grist for future treatments in this blog.

In spite of the inner conflict that Padre Martinez must have suffered from having children after becoming a priest, as evidenced in his efforts to obscure his paternity in the baptismal register of Guadalupe parish, it is worth noting that his conflicts with the bishop were totally other.  The moral character of Padre Martinez was never impugned by either Bishop Lamy or his Vicar General and schoolmate, Very Rev.Joseph P. Machebeuf.  Nevertheless, the Catholic members of the Martinez family–not to speak of some of the putative children and their descendants–have felt some shame about being illicitly fathered by a priest.  Moreover, it is most important to note that Padre Martinez never abandoned any of his children.  On the contrary, he loved them, cared for them as he could, and provided well for them in his Will.

On this Fathers’ Day, I wish to conclude this posting with an homenaje to my own father, Jose Tobias Romero.  Born in Taos, he was a shepherd boy during the summers in the mountains of New Mexico.  He married his high school sweetheart, my mother Claudia Garcia, and they had three boys.  We moved to LA as very young children in 1943; Lockheed Aircraft employed dad as a machine accountant (“tabulating”).   Mom died in 1969, and a little over a year later, dad went to the Claretian seminary, was ordained a priest in 1975, and served as a priest for 22 years before going to the Lord in 1996.  This Taoseno was married as a young man, had children, became a widower, went to the seminary and was ordained a priest.  There was absolutely no stigma in this.  On the contrary, it was an occasion for surprise and some adulation.  Pray for us, dad.  !Que en paz descanse!  God bless all of our fathers, grandfathers, godparents, and all priests who have brought blessings to our lives.


Praise and THANKS to God for several things!  I am grateful for my recovering health after a summer heart attack, for retrieving this web log about Padre Martinez, and for recent developments that are about to yield fruit.  These include a documentary film about the Cura de Taos, a new history-biography of the Padre, and a new book about Taos that includes at least one essay on Padre Martinez.

I had a heart attack in mid August, on my way to Santa Fe for a meeting of scholars convoked by lawyer Michael Olivas (promoting the on-line digitalization of materials pertaining to Padre Martinez).  My triple by-pass surgery at Presbyterian Hospital in Albuquerque was followed by a brief time of recuperation with relatives in Taos.  I am now at Palm Springs, slowly getting better and beginning to do some writing.  This is my first contribtion to the blog for too long a time.
Documentary film maker Paul Espinosa, with the help of various contributors, is revising a script for a film on Padre Martinez. His credits include US-MEXICAN WAR: 1846-1848, shown on PBS several years ago.  In the new year, the script will be submitted to the National Endowment for the Humanities for production funding.  The working title was the DAWNING OF LIBERTY, but is now called LIBERATNG OUR AMERICA.
Eminent Jesuit scholar of things New Mexican is putting finishing touches on a significant work on the LIFE AND TIMES OF PADRE MARTINEZ.  Robert Torrez, a former state historian, will become general editor of the book.  He has several collaborators, and the opus will likely be published as a one-volume English text of over 500 pages.  It will include never-before published materials copiously annotated with interesting footnotes.   The plan is that the work will include the following: 1840 Autobiography, 1867 Last Will and Testament, and 1877 Biography by Santiago Valdez.  I expect that the University of New Mexico Press will publish the book by 2012, the centenniel of New Mexican Statehood. This would be appropriate in light of the fact that, in 1846, Padre Martinez became the first New Mexican to swear alligience as a citizen of the new territory belonging to the USA.
Corrina Santistevan, Doña Eufemia (award) recepient,  is writing the last chapter of the new HISTORY OF TAOS whose publication she has been coordinating and promoting.  As I understand, it is an anthology of essays.  Corrina asked me to contribute the essay on the enegmatic role of Padre Martinez with the Penitentes.