Br. Virgilio, a rich personality

Many witnesses have shed light on the rich personality of Brother Virgilio.

– “His authority over the students was absolute but loving. He inspired confidence, he enticed his students by his eloquence…”

– In community he always had his “sleeves rolled up”, ready to be of service and always the first on the job for any work.

– “His Spartan way of life strengthened his character, forged his will, made him a self-educator and prepared him to render all types of services.”

– As soon as he finished his studies, he was asked to write a Universal History. From that time on, he did not cease working on the publications from the publishing house Luis Vives.

– When the superiors appointed him as Director at Burgos he started to cry: he saw himself as the worst of the daredevils in the community.

– He spoke about the Virgin Mary in accents of authentic lyricism. He was drawn to the Mother of the Lord towards whom he turned his suppliant and trustful eyes: “May I never lack your favour and may you love now and for always enchant me, amaze me, captivate me, fascinate me, seduce my heart, glorify me, surprise me, enthral me and lead me to greater heights…”

– He was the friend of joyfulness and jokes: “He was a companion from whom you find courage, with whom you could forget your daily troubles and be re-energised for the lessons of the following day. During times of relaxation, it would be one of his jokes that brought joy and broke the tension.” A confrere who knew him in the Second Novitiate remembered him thus: “Friendly, happy in his conversations, enthusiastic for work, undertaking all the initiatives. During our walks, recreation time, trips away, he displayed a kind, family spirit. His healthy joy and his good humour enchanted everybody and even made the most serious of us laugh. An untiring worker, assiduous and simple in the accomplishment of his tasks… His simplicity and his sociable character earned him the affection of many and the admiration of all.”

– A confrere who had been confined to bed for a year by illness remembered how Brother Virgilio visited him several times every day, as if he did not have the task of directing the school.

– He was humble and prudent enough to be open to the advice of everybody, even beginning teachers, and he would ask brothers who had arrived from other colleges about the successful methods they had used previously.

– He became a specialist as a “cinema technician”. As early as 1918 during the long winters when it was impossible to go out, he showed the students films that were followed by discussions on the artistic and moral values of what they had seen. He insisted to his superiors that the college be provided with better equipment for talking movies. He justified the film sessions in this way: “It is an excellent work for saving the children and the young people and for doing the work of the apostolate.”

– Brother Virgilio had also organised the association for the Apostolate of Prayer, the confraternity of the Infant Jesus of Prague, the disciples of Saint Tharcis, the adorers of the Most Holy Sacrament and he would give all his students the annual spiritual exercises.

– In 1932 the Company of Jesus was suppressed in Spain. Before the evident threat of persecution, Brother Virgilio created the civil company “La Cultura” and gave the brothers’ college to this company through legal contract. The college took on a new name, “Liceo Zorilla”. The teaching personnel consisted of lay teachers and secularised Marists, without soutane and no longer using the title “Brother”. In the same way, he made allowances for the security of the museum, the library and the furniture. In September 1933, the Marist Brothers disappeared from Burgos as teachers. Brother Laurentino found this to be a good initiative and suggested it to all the other Marist schools with these words: “Be calm, resist and save all our works if possible.”

– It was Brother Virgilio who went to Barruelo, despite the dangerous situation, to identify the body of Brother Bernardo. He saw the persecution as a sign from Providence: “Revolutions are the lanterns of Providence, light sent by God to illuminate the path of our future activity, the Lord knocking strongly on the doors of our hearts so that they will burn with love for our neighbour, our students, our society and our country.” In another reflection he adds: “Revolutions are the fruit of ideas. The ideas are sown in schools and today this occurs with a far stronger commitment than ever before. The school is the workshop where we forge in the same way either the complete and dignified person or the most vile of criminals.”

– More precisely to his collaborators he would repeat: “I speak from experience; the ideas that I am suggesting to my dear collegues, the secondary teachers, are not utopian. S.E.T.O. = Seto. Sacrificio (sacrifice), estudio (study), trabajo (work), oración (prayer) whose intials form the word ‘seto’ (a Spanish word that means hedge). We must all be like a living hedge to protect the soul of the child… In the name of religion, of the country, of the soul of our students, we educate, we christianise.”

Beyond martyrdom, there is indeed in Brother Virgilio a kindly saint who is very close to us.