Blessed Maria Francisca Espejo y Martos
Roman Martyrology: In Spain, Trinitarian nun. One of the Martyrs of the Spanish Civil War.
Beatification date: 28 October 2007 by Pope Benedict XVI.
María Francisca Espejo y Martos was born on February 2, 1873, to a simple family, in Martos, within the province of Jaén, Andalusia, Spain.
She attended school at the Monasterio Trinitario de Martos (Ancient Observance), where her maternal aunt, Sr María del Rosario Martos Cuesta, was a Trinitarian Nun. She had the desire to remain at the monastery and become a Trinitarian Nun. On July 2, 1893 she received the habit of the order. She made her Profession on July 5, 1894 and was given the name of Sr María Francisca de la Encarnación.
During her life in the cloister, she carried out the duties of infirmarian and sacristan as well as those of portress (portera) and turn-sister (tornera). She was a tranquil nun and was dedicated completely these common works exercised with simplicity and obedience. She was a lover of prayer, passing long hours before the sacrarium. She was very devout of the Virgin Mary and of San José. She was of silent character and of heroic patience, which she showed in the frequent attacks of rheumatism that she suffered during her life and in the care that she always gave her elderly aunt, Sr Rosary.
On July 21, 1936 the nuns from the Monasterio Trinitario de Martos were expelled from the monastery. Sr Francisca, along with her aunt, found refuge at home of her brother, Ramón. They had a very similar life to that of the convent, between prayers, they helped in the workings of the family home.
Imprisoned during the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939), not long afterwards she was taken from the prison to be executed. Forced to get into the camión de la muerte with more than 50 other persons, including priests, they were driven some 14 kilometers from the town where all, except the three nuns among them – the Abbess of the Poor Clares, Madre Victoria and Sr. Francisca – were shot and killed. The nuns witnessed their execution. Then came their turn. Seeing that they were women, the soldiers intended to rape them before killing them. The nuns put up such a fight that the soldiers' intentions were completely frustrated. With their anger fueled by their frustration, the soldiers began to beat them in the head with the butts of their rifles. In fact, the soldiers beat the nuns to death. Sr. Francisca de la Encarnación died a martyr of religious persecution in Casillas de Martos, on January 13, 1937.
Her body was exhumed in July of 1939 and her remains were carried to the Monasterio Trinitario de Martos. In 1986, her remainders were recognized and her body appeared uncorrupt. She was declared "Venerable" on June 26, 2006. She was beatified, among others 487 martyrs, on October 28, 2007, in Rome.