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Eucharist Was a Journalist's Secret Weapon

Interview With Priest Who Knew Lolo Lozano Garrido

JAEN, Spain, DEC. 21, 2004 (Zenit) - The Eucharist was the key to perseverance for lay journalist Manuel "Lolo" Lozano Garrido, who spent 28 years of his life in a wheelchair.

In 1942, Lozano contracted a serious illness, spondylitis, which deformed his body and left him an invalid. For the last 10 years of his life he was totally blind. Despite his condition, he dictated nine books, founded a magazine for the sick, and was awarded the Bravo! prize for journalism. He was a member of Catholic Action.

Below is an interview with Father Rafael Higueras Álamo, diocesan administrator of Jaen, who administered the Eucharist to Lozano for nine years and was at his bedside when he died. Since his death in 1971 more than 200 letters have been written to John Paul II by journalists requesting Lozano's beatification. His cause is now under way.

Q: What Eucharistic moments or events marked milestones in Lolo's life?

Father Higueras: The first, without a doubt, coincides with the period of religious persecution in Spain in the '30s. Lolo was then 16. He was appointed by a priest of Linares -- the only one who was not in prison -- to distribute the Eucharist secretly. The small boxes have been kept which he used to distribute Communion to the sick and to other pious persons in their own homes.

With the passing of the years, when he was already an invalid and blind, Lolo was to recall those moments in his books. It was the period of the "catacombs," and he wrote: "Above terror and black profiles, that heavenly hand. ... Above all, an unmerited preference: God became the Bread of the Sacrament, almost every day. My most fervent spiritual moments were those, there on the axis of those dates between mournful sirens and whistling shells. Why was I privileged and not others?"

Because of his secret Eucharistic activity, Lolo was made a prisoner. He spent Holy Thursday of 1937 in prison. The Blessed Sacrament was passed to him hidden in a bunch of flowers. Lolo erected a monument in his prison, adorned with sacks and brooms, and spent the entire night in prayer with some other youths who were also in prison because of their faith.

Q: What was Lolo's Eucharistic life like when he was an invalid?

Father Higueras: I think it is significant that he did not want to spend a single day of his 28 years in a wheelchair without receiving Communion.

Every day of the week the Linares priests took turns to take him the most holy Sacrament. One could speak at length of those hours: The time that preceded and followed these visits of the priests taking Communion to him.

The witnesses of the process of canonization are very precise about it. They recount how Lolo would recollect himself in prayer when he knew the time the priest would arrive and how he would then remain for a long time in prayer.

Q: Was Mass also celebrated in his home?

Father Higueras: One must keep in mind that Lolo's illness coincided with the period preceding the holding of the Second Vatican Council. So the liturgical norms were different from what they are now.

Nevertheless, one could celebrate with the necessary requirements, such as permissions, etc. ... Of significance is the first Mass that was celebrated in his home.

When the Mass was about to begin, he asked that the typewriter should be placed under the table that was to be the altar "so that the trunk of the cross would be nailed to the keys and put down roots there"; that is what he wrote later, commenting on the moment.

Lolo asked that the Linares priests, if possible, celebrate Mass in his house at least once a month. On one occasion, the bishop of Jaen himself came to celebrate Mass. While he was preparing all that was necessary, Lolo commented: "Lord Bishop, this is really a round table with God." In fact, it is the title of one of his books.

Q: What was Lolo's fervor like during the celebration?

Higueras: One of these Masses was celebrated by Father José Luis Martín Descalzo, priest and famous journalist, a friend of Lolo.

When Lolo died, Father Martín wrote an article entitled "Mass in Manolo's Home." With beautiful gracefulness, the writer commented: "He replied to my words with the joy of a young seminarian."

Further on he added: "I thought that there were two victims in that Mass. Christ was in the bread that I had just consecrated. He was also in that body massacred by 30 years of suffering." Those of us who were given by God the gift to know and relate to Lolo are witnesses of it.

We must recall the paragraphs Lolo wrote when he lived right across from St. Mary's parish. From his balcony Lolo could see the tabernacle of the nearby parish, and he says that he would interrupt his work "to add a brief paragraph with him."

Q: Is this Eucharistic devotion reflected in Lolo's writings?

Father Higueras: Indeed. Lolo's writings on the Eucharist are abundant. I recall a "prayer of the Twelve before a piece of bread." It is one of his writings during Holy Week, putting a prayer on the lips of each one of the Twelve Apostles "on that night of the first Holy Thursday."

His writings on the Eucharist, on his experience of the Eucharist, are abundant.

An anthology of that thought, of his experience, is gathered by Pedro Cámara in his book "Biographical Sketch of Manuel Lozano Garrido," published by the association that fosters the cause of canonization.

I remember that one of his first newspaper articles, when he was already sick, was published on the day of Corpus Christi, and he entitled it "At the Crossroads of Thirst and Hunger." ... Above all, frequent reference to the Eucharist can be found in several pages of his published works.

However, what must be emphasized is the way he lived his illness, rooted in his Eucharistic devotion. This profound Eucharistic devotion is what led him to ask his sister, as if it were a testament, that when he died a Mass should be celebrated for his soul immediately, if possible. And so it was.

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Keywords

Eucharist, Advent, Journalist, Wheelchair, Garrido, Priest, Catholic Action

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