"Lolo, Sacrament of pain."
I have started calling on the saints to help me with the blog. Some time ago, I “rescued” a relic of Blessed Manuel Lozano “Lolo” Garrido, the first journalist ever to be beatified by the Church. When I read about him, I was moved deeply by his heroic virtue and joyful demeanor. Blessed Lolo was a teenager during the Spanish Civil War in the 1930s. He was well known for sneaking the Eucharist to prisoners detained during this time in Spain. He had an incredible devotion to the Eucharist and was a lifelong layman. He worked as a journalist all his life, even after he became gravely ill. He had a disease called spondylitis which is a rare form of chronic, progressive arthritis that runs in families. A slow paralysis began to set in and only a year later, Lolo found himself confined to a wheelchair at the age of 23. He would stay in this state for the rest of his life, with the disease progressively getting worse. As the paralysis slowly moved up his body, he lost the ability to write with his right hand. So, not discouraged in the least, he taught himself to write with his left hand. Then, after the left hand became paralyzed, he would dictate his writings to his sister who was always by his side. Even though he progressively lost the use of his body, he worked for newspapers, Catholic periodicals and the Associated Press. He even founded a magazine called Sinai as well as a prayer group by the same name. This group was made up of 12 gravely and terminally ill lay people as well as a convent of nuns who dedicated their lives to praying for a particular section of the mass media. He also won the prestigious Bravo award for journalism in 1969 and wrote a total of 9 books on spirituality. He also wrote hundreds of Catholic articles despite his severe illness. He is thought of as the patron saint for bloggers, even though he has not yet been canonized. The miracle that led to his beatification was a miraculous healing of a two year old boy who was dying from gram-negative sepsis. He was healed through the intercession of Blessed Lolo in 1972.
Blessed Lolo was a man of great joy and humor, as attested to by those that knew him. He always had a smile on his face and he never uttered a complaint about his very painful condition. A friend of Lolo, upon coming into his room and witnessing his twisted body writhing in pain, wrote on his lampshade "Lolo, sacrament of pain." His last wish was to have a funeral mass celebrated in his room at the very moment of his death. His close friend Father Descalzo along with his sister Lucy, fulfilled this request and at the very moment of his last breath, celebrated the holy mass next to his bedside. The written account of this mass by Father Descalzo is as follows:
" MASS AT MANOLO’S"
(Recorded from “Words of Those Who Suffer” - in the author’s own voice- San Pablo Edition, 1971)
This letter is different to any other.
It has never been posted and has no stamp on it.
It is such a particular letter that I’ll tell you the name and surname of the one who signs it.
He ́s someone who left us some months ago and I could even say that these words come to me from the ‘supernatural.’
It’s a mere card.
One side of the card tells about MANUEL LOZANO GARRIDO, now resting in peace forever, after many long years of cruel illness. The other side shows a short letter, Manolo’s message for all his friends:
We won’t meet for a time,
I’m going on ahead to meet Our Father.
I’m really grateful that you all have gathered
To comfort and share my death
Just the same as you did when I was in my wheelchair. I always be yours and I’ll be waiting for you.
In the JOY.
City of Lucy.
Always remember that all is grace.”
These words have lashed my soul as clearly as a flash of lightning.
And I have felt amazed.
As there’s nothing so deep as a soul that has taken faith seriously.
Only with true faith can one speak about death with such an amazing calm, free of pomposity, just like he would write at the point of his death.
Because Manolo has been dying for so long.
In the 1940s rheumatism in his joints attacked his body, which slowly took bits of his life until total paralysis and blindness set in.
Nevertheless, sitting in his wheelchair, he wrote and published nine books, hundreds of articles and tales and he even headed a magazine for the sick.
I met him when he was already a paralytic.
No, that's not true, he still had some slight movement: his forefinger was able to press the button of a recorder that he used to dictate his books and thoughts; then, Lucy, his sister, his secretary, his second soul, typed them up to be published. I remember when I once came into his room and greeted him “Hello, Manolo!”, and he said, “I’ve heard this voice before”. Sure enough, he had heard a lecture of mine on the radio three years before!
Manolo was a living file: sounds, voices, ideas, thoughts ... his incredible memory recorded and sorted out everything. He recited pieces of an article I published eight years before, that I could hardly remember. Blind, as he was, he kept the innermost experiences he had lived when he had his sight close to him.
“Look for the number four blue file”, he asked his sister, “In the middle there’s a tree-column article from ‘YA’ where it can be read about Juan XXIII’s death”
He was impressive! And he was so due to his impressive joy.
God was no tall tale for him. To believe and to be a Christian were his profession. He devoted his whole life to the Christian faith and so he always felt cheerful and was happy.
His paralysis had not concealed his soul, all the contrary, how interested he was in the world! How passionately he kept in touch with the living Church! How well he realized the crisis and how little he distressed about it! He professed hope!
That Monday morning I had been to his home town, Linares, to give a lecture. I said the mass in the tiny room where he went through his life. Scarcely was there enough room for the little altar between the bed and his wheelchair.
He was facing me, his body withered down to his bones but he answered my liturgical words in the strength and joy of a young seminarian. I became a bit embarrassed to realize that I felt Manolo the real priest, much more priest than I, much more victim, anyway.
I felt as though there were two altars and two victims in the mass this time. Christ was alive in that consecrated wafer. Christ was also alive in that struck and shattered body after so many years of happy suffering.
And now I’ve received this card which speaks of his death
“We won ́t meet for a time
I’m going ahead to meet Our Father ... I renew my time in the JOY
... remember that all is grace”
Yes, Manolo. Dying was for you nothing but going ahead to meet Our Father. Leaving your friends for just a bit, the ones you will meet again, just round the corner of death. You're in the "JOY" (you always wrote JOY with capitals), this is certain.
You felt JOY like a PERSON fully united to CHRIST. You had assumed so deeply the calm certainty that ‘all is grace’, that living without a body and seeing with no eyes was a precious gift.
Your bright death has been so important for me as we are all at the point of distress. All of us, who believe we are living Christian lives, are living with plenty of arguments and stress.
Just while we were arguing, you were thinking in depth. While we were bitterly upset, you were willing us in the JOY. While most hesitate and even are afraid about the future of the faith and the Church, you kept on saying that ‘all is grace’.
Yes, indeed, Manolo, ‘ALL IS GRACE’.
Your life was a special grace for me on that day I said the mass in your home. Your dying has been another bright grace in these times when as we keep watch for what Christ gives us so clearly everyday.
- (Father José Luis Martín Descalzo, From the original recording)
Such beautiful words about such a luminous soul! I can understand why people would flock to his house just to be around him. I want to keep him close to me too and maybe I could become more like him, even just a little.
I bring him with me to adoration and I prop his relic up on my laptop. He helps me write my blog posts and adores the Eucharist with me. I also take the relic of Blessed Lolo with me to mass and I hold him close to my heart. He inspires me greatly every time I think of him. I imagine him at mass with me, standing next to me. He looks like he did before his illness overcame him. He is standing strong and tall, gazing at the altar, looking at the lover of his soul. I ask him for favors...I ask him to help me accept my suffering, whatever it may be. I ask him to help me to be a person filled with happiness that does not waver.
And should I make it to heaven, I also ask him to be there waiting for me too.
.......In the JOY.
Blessed Manuel "Lolo" Lozano Garrido, Pray for us!
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