Saints and blesseds come from all backgrounds and walks of life. Blessed Ceferino Gimenez Malla, born of a Romani (Gypsy) family and a horse trader by profession, is one of the more unusual.
Ceferino was born in 1861 in Spain to a nomadic family. At 18 he married Teresa Castro, also a Romani, although the marriage was not validated in the Catholic Church until 1912. The couple had no children of their own but they adopted Teresa’s niece Pepita. Teresa died in 1922.
The family eventually settled in the city of Barbastro, where Ceferino worked his trade. Honest and industrious, he gained a reputation for holiness. Although illiterate, he knew much about his faith and the Bible. He became a catechist and was known for his special affection for the Rosary. He also resolved disputes between the Romani and the Spanish people. In 1926 he became a member of the Franciscan Third Order
During the Spanish Civil War he tried to defend a Catholic priest from Republican soldiers. Both were shot dead along with other priests and believers. In his hand he was holding his rosary.
Ceferino was beatified in 1997. His feast day is May 4.
Pope John Paul said of Ceferino Gimenez Malla: “His life shows how Christ is present in the various peoples and races, and that all are called to holiness which is attained by keeping his commandments and remaining in his love (John 15:11).”