Married Saint: Bl. Ceferino Gimenez Malla
Born: August 26, 1861
Died: August 9, 1936 (aged 74)
Feast Day: May 4
Patronage: Romani and Sinti peoples
Born in Spain to a Catholic Romani (Gypsy) family, Ceferino Gimenez Malla (also known as “El Pele,” “the Strong One” or “the Brave One”) lived much of his early life as a nomad. As such, little is know about his upbringing.
At 18 he married Teresa Castro (also a Romani) in a traditional Roma ceremony. Their union was later validated by the Catholic Church in 1912. They were married for forty years until her death in 1922. Though they had no children themselves, Ceferino and Teresa adopted her orphaned niece Pepita in 1912.
Ceferino and Teresa eventually settled in Barbastro where he worked as a horse trader. Known for his honesty and industriousness, he became a successful businessman and helped make peace among the Kalòs (Spanish nomads) and resolve their disputes with others. His natural goodness and virtue led him deeper into his relationship with Christ.
Although illiterate, Ceferino became a catechist, teaching the children about Christ through storytelling and exhorting them to pray daily. He became a daily communicant and was known for his special affection for the rosary. He became a member of the Franciscan Third Order, the Saint Vincent de Paul Society, and participated in night adoration.
In 1936, during the Spanish Civil War, Ceferino was arrested for defending a Catholic priest who had been arrested. Imprisoned at a local monastery and advised to give up his rosary in order to save his life, Ceferino fervently continued his prayers. On the day of his execution, As the firing squad prepared to kill him, Ceferino held his rosary and cried out, “Long live Christ the King!” He was executed for his faith along with other priests, brothers, and lay persons and buried in a mass grave.
Ceferino Gimenez Malla was beatified on May 4, 1997. In his homily for the beatification Mass, Pope St. John Paul II said
Ceferino Giménez Malla, known as “El Pelé” died for the faith in which he had lived. 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 (cf. Jn 15:11). El Pelé was generous and welcoming to the poor, despite his own poverty; honest in his activities, faithful to his people and his Gypsy race, endowed with an extraordinary natural intelligence and the gift of counsel. He was above all a man of deep religious beliefs.
Blessed Ceferino Gimenez Malla, pray for us.