Birth of John Roig Diggle
At Mallorca street, number 310, in Barcelona, John Roig Diggle is born. He is the son of Ramon Roig Font, from Barcelona, and Maud Diggle Puckering, born in Barcelona but daughter of British parents. John is baptised at the Puríssima Concepció parish.
John attends a primary school at Bruc-Provença street. The Roig-Diggle family has three children: Beatriu, John and M. Lourdes. They start spending their summers at Premià de Dalt, in a house known as Can Sastre.
Saint Joseph of Cluny
John starts going to the St- Joseph of Cluny school which is in his neighbourhood. He excels for his performance and obtains awards and medals for his good behaviour. His teachers praise him frequently and describe him as an excellent student.
When he is 7 years old, he receives the first communion at the St.Joseph of Cluny school with her sister Beatriu. John’s mom, Maud, is so joyful to see that her 7-year old son shows a deep inner life and strong love towards God. After his primary education, he started at the Institute of the Brothers of the Christian Schools, La Salle, at Comtal Street. Her mom took him to school every day, during the 4 trips to the school (round trip). During one of those trips to school, John tells her mom his dream to be a missionary. “My mother’s love - comments Maud - made me say: ‘Don’t you think that here, where we live, among your people, there is still so much good to be done or many souls to convert?’ John didn’t answer me back, he remained pensive.
High School at the Piarist School
John started his high school education at the Piarist School at Diputació Street, where, as it happened in the previous school where he studied, he is known to have a cordial and open treatment with all of his classmates. He becomes friends with Joan E. Rucabado Verdaguer and his brothers with whom he knows from his summers in Premià de Dalt. He also has a good relationship with his teachers, especially Fr. Ignasi Casanovas and Francesc Carceller. They both died martyrs in 1936 and have been declared beatus.
The family moves to Masnou
John’s father, Ramon, who worked in a textile company, had a serious money problem and went bankrupt. The family decides to leave their flat in Barcelona and move to Masnou. In order to help his family economically, John has to leave the school and start working. This is a hard moment for the Roig Diggle family, especially for John who sees all his future hopes fading away. From that moment on until the day of his death John works as a clothes shop assistant in the Poble Sec neighbourhood in Barcelona and spends his nights studying.
Federation of Young Christians of Catalonia (FJCC)
While in Masnou, and after his family suffered the tragic economic loss, John starts living his faith more deeply, and strengthens his relationship with Jesus and God. He joins the “Mar Blava” (Blue Sea) group of the Federation of Young Christians of Catalonia (FJCC). There he finds a community and a mission: bring Jesus to others. He starts to volunteer as a catechist at Saint Peter’s Parish in Masnou and gets involved in the FJCC activities, where he discovers a way of living: studying, working, sport, hiking, and culture. He realises the importance of living his faith accompanied, next to his FJCC colleagues and the priests, friends of the youngsters. The Parish and the “Mar Blava” venue are the meeting point with his friends, colleagues and, above all, God. The parishioners of the Saint Peter’s Parish start to recognise in that blond young boy something special in the way he lives, the way he talks, the way he loves the little kids from the catechesis group and, in particular, in front of the Blessed Sacrament Chapel.
Flame of love for God
During those years when his family and the society in general suffered the most, was when John grew more in his faith and as an apostle. Every day he went to church and prays in front of the Blessed Sacrament Chapel at Saint Peter’s Parish in Masnou. His love for God and for others grew day after day. An important person for him is Pere Tarrés Claret, a medicine student and, afterwards, doctor, who was in charge of the FJCC. Pere lived a life of faith and love for God and others. He was a merciful apostle and completely dedicated to the evangelization of the youth. Currently, Pere Tarrés Claret is one of the Beatus of the catholich church. Inside John, the flame of love for God and his brothers is sprouting. John has the aspiration to evangelise and improve the life conditions of his most disadvantaged brothers.
John starts to get to know properly the social doctrine of the Church to incarnate it and spread it, convinced that is the only possible way to fight the social inequalities and promote the dignity of all the people. He likes writing about the social dimension in the “Mar Blava” bulletin and he even writes for the Barcelona newspaper “El Matí”.
John is taken prisoner and killed
The sociopolitical situation gets worse and Joan starts to consider that God might be calling him to martyrdom. The Spanish Civil war started in July 1936 and the anticlericalism movements burned down churches and persecuted, and even killed, religious people, priests and “church goers”.
John is defeated when he couldn’t avoid his beloved St. Peter’s church being burned down and the destruction of the “Mar Blava” venue. Despite the situation he was facing, he decided not to hide and to keep working to economically help his family. He exposed himself every day when taking the train to go to work from Masnou to Barcelona, and returning home. Also, he secretly received the holy sacrament from his spiritual leader, Fr. Pere Llumà.
On the 11th of september, Fr. Pere Llumà gave John the holy sacrament so he could bring it to some other christians in Masnou, and for whatever could happen. That same night he was taken prisoner and killed, but not without having taken the lamb of God before, which gave him strength to face with serenity and trust his martyrdom.
It’s the year 1936, on the 18th of july, the Spanish Civil war starts as well as a violent persecution against the Catholic Church. John Roig Diggle is 19 years old and he lives with his mother and sisters in El Masnou. He is a christian and doesn’t hide it. In El Masnou everyone knows he is a christian as they often see him preaching in the church. John loved St. Peter’s church and he even said that, if by any chance that church was to be burned, he would tie his arms to the cross and he would have to be burned down too.
That’s what John said to the vicar at St. Peter’s church with whom he spoke on the 18th of July. First, John asked the father to listen to his confessions. Then, he explained to him that he was ready to die as a martyr and, that night, he wanted to stay in the rectory, next to the church, to make sure nothing happened. Only the father’s authority made John go home. Sadly, days later, the church was burned down and desecrated. John was not able to save the temple but received the grace to become a martyr for Christ. During those times of christian persecution, it was very dangerous to be known as a “church youth” as John was known in El Masnou.
Furthermore, John was a member of the Federation of Young Christians of Catalonia (FJCC), a christian youth movement very active during those years in Catalonia, and persecuted during the civil war. Some of the persecutors confused the members of the FJCC, known as “fejocistes”, with fascists. The youngsters of the FJCC movement were accused of having an ideology which was far from what they really believed.
On the 11th of September 1936, John went to see his spiritual leader, a very well known priest in Barcelona, Fr. Pere Llumà, who, during many years, was a confessor of the Barcelona Seminary. During those years, Fr. Pere Llumà was one of the priests who spiritually encouraged the FJCC teenagers. These priests were known as friends of the youth. Under the persecution circumstances that were living during those moments, he decided to trust with John the Holy Sacrament, the Lamb of God. Both, John and Fr. Pere Llumà had the feeling that something could happen at any time. John took the Lamb of God home in El Masnou.
That same night, in front of John’ house, the family heard loud car brakes and minutes later they heard loud bangs on their door and shouting. John, being very aware of what could happen, had the Lamb of God, given by Fr. Pere Llumà. We can imagine what John told and asked God at those moments. Nonetheless, the shouting at the door was getting louder so John, with serenity, went to open the door. However, before that, he told his mom: “Leave them to me”. The men at the door entered pointing a gun to John and took him to his bedroom. They registered everything, looking for guns and valuable things. Finally, they decided to take John with them. Jon was very calm and told his mom: “Don’t worry, I’ll go to XX’s house if needed”. And added in his mom’s mother tongue (English): “God is with me”.
They took him to Barcelona, in a car, to go look for his father, in his uncle’s house. John didn’t get out of the car while the members of the group registered his uncle’s house and burned religious objects. They couldn’t find John’s dad there. Then, they took him to Santa Coloma de Gramenet cemetery. They made him get out of the car and placed him in front of one of the walls of the cemetery. The group members pointed their arms at him and shot 5 bullets to his heart and one to his head. John, before being killed, told his assassins: “May God forgive you, as I forgive you”.
Those who killed him were impressed by John’s courage. “That young boy spoke serenely”, commented one of the killers. Another one added: “That blond boy was very brave”. That was the early morning of the 12th September 1936.
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