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Saint Pedro Poveda

“The men of God and the women of God are unmistakable.  They do not stand out because they are brilliant, or dazzling, or for their human strength, but because of their wholesome fruit,” wrote Saint Pedro Poveda in a letter in 1925.  These words may describe his life.  He was a weaver of dreams because he was able to dream, design projects, and even achieve some dreams trough his trust in Divine Providence.

Saint Pedro Poveda, priest, educator, founder of the Teresian Association, and martyr was born in Linares, Spain, on December 3, 1874. He died on July 28, 1936 at the beginning of the Spanish Civil War. He witnessed to his Christian faith and to his priesthood until his last moment. He was canonized by Pope John Paul II on May 4, 2003.


“My belief, my faith, is not wavering, but firm and unshakable and that is why I speak out.” St. Pedro Poveda, 1920.

 Curriculum Vitae

Pedro Poveda was born on December 3rd, 1974 in Linares (Spain). Due to family reasons, his studies and his preparation to the priesthood were subject to continual changes of places. In 1886 he started his secondary education in the Public High School of Linares; three years later he enters the Diocesan Seminary of Jaen, and in 1893 he finishes his secondary education in Baeza (Jaen). A little later he moves to the Seminary of Guadix (Granada) as the Bishop´s “familar” to Mons. Maximiano Fernández del Rincón, Bishop of Guadix. In Guadix he is ordained a priest on April 17, 1897, and celebrates his first Mass on April 21.

Also at this time he graduates in Sacred Theology in Seville and is appointed professor of the Seminary in Guadix where he held successively the chairs of Physics and Chemistry, Logic, Patrology and Public Oratory, Theological Sections and Hebrew Language until the year 1905. In April of 1901 His Holiness Pope Leo XIII named him Domestic Prelate.

The difficulties experienced in his educational work in Guadix forced him to leave the city.

In 1906 he is appointed a Canon of the Basilica of Covadonga (Asturias). In 1911 he begins to open his first Academies, he also initiates a lay association with the name of Teresian Association. To this foundation and its expansion he dedicates all his energies as we record in this brief summary of his life and work. He remains in Covadonga until 1813 when he is appointed canon of the Cathedral of Jaen. Here he holds the position of professor of Physics at the Seminary and, at the same time, he teaches Religion at the two Teachers Schools, one for women and the other for men, in this city. In 1914 he is appointed member of the Provincial Board of Charities and Children Protection.

On January 18, 1921 he is appointed Chaplain of Honor of the Royal Chapel. Since 1921 until his death in 1936, he establishes his home in Madrid, Alameda Street # 7.

On July 27, 1936 Pedro Poveda was arrested at his home. In the morning of July 28 his body was found, martyred for the faith. On May 4th of 2003 he was canonized by Pope John Paul II in Madrid

A note on the historical context

As it is well known, the disaster of 1898 opened in Spain a serious stage of political, social and cultural crisis. Faced with the lost of the Spanish colonies, Cuba, Puerto Rico and the Philippine Islands, a regenerative movement is launched; this movement raises the need for major changes particularly in the field of education.

The immediate reality lived by Pedro Poveda is the “tragic “Andalucía, as named by Azorín. The so well known literature of the 98 Generation on the reality of Southern Spain cannot be ignored. In that milieu Poveda begins his approach to the problem of poverty, insecurity and rebellion lived in the villages and the countryside of Andalucía, particularly in Guadix, a deep problematic area of Granada. The Spanish regenerative movement continues until the 30´s and it is supported by important figures whose messages are multiplied and sometimes mutually contradictory. The movement continues claiming the reform of the system of education in the nation, the relationship with the European thought, the spirit of tolerance and, above all, the care and promotion of the teachers of primary education and the reform of the University; these are the same themes and the same issues that come out in the writings of Poveda and in his educational projects.

During the Second Republic and the Spanish Civil War the role played by the religious and political issues is a fact to be considered in order to situate historically the case of Pedro Poveda. His stand is that of an educator willing to remain distant from any political or material interest in order to defend religious and educational ideas which he believed were treated unfairly. Poveda maintained, during those days of violence, an active presence, always tolerant and never provocative from a political viewpoint. Why then the violence of which he was a victim of on the 28th of July, 1936? We would have to resort to study many determining factors in order to answer this question. It can be noted that the simplification of mechanisms of the first days of the war, and the emotional exaltation of the moment explain the case of Poveda and of many other similar cases.

Human and spiritual physiognomy

The entire work of Poveda shows the features of his human and spiritual physiognomy and besides we count on numerous written self-definitions. For example, he often repeats in his writings:

"I would like to see realized in my life the Latin aphorism: “fortiter in re, suaviter in modo” ; that is: firm in the deal, soft in the manner (…) “That strength of steel and not of iron, and that peaceful softness I deeply love.”

His men and women collaborators, logically, speak with admiration of his personality. In his writings one can find a common note: that attraction of the personality of Saint Pedro Poveda was not due to his culture, his words, his goodness, but to that balanced set of qualities that reveal “something”: an inner strength that compels him in spite of his stressful work, his poor health, his lack of money and his concerns that seemed to absorb all his energies.

From a spiritual point of view, it is not possible to understand his physiognomy ignoring the beginnings of his life, his childhood and his early vocation to the priesthood. Saint Pedro Poveda lived “as a priest”. His childhood and the last words he spoke in his life express his great truth: “I am a priest of Christ.”

The childhood of Pedro Poveda constitutes the pattern of the life of a mature man: total fidelity to his priesthood, unmitigated asceticism, enthusiastic surrender to God and his mission, devotion to the Virgin Mary, spirit of prayer, patient love of people, tolerance with no other limit that the law of God. This spiritual foundation and his cordial speech and tolerance fit well with his great respect for the dignity of the other. One of his incredibly unusual expressions for the “murderous” times in which he lived is this: “Let each person be as he is (…) why are you to think that because your neighbor is not like you, he is not as he is supposed to be?”

Poveda must be placed among “those called” that, being mysteriously guided by the Spirit, seem foolish according to the biblical quote: “I am a stranger for my brethren, a foreigner for the sons of my mother”; a man dedicated to God and men without reservation.

Humanist and Educator

It has been written recently that the “pedagogical humanism” of Poveda starts with and is based on Christian humanism. “When Poveda speaks of true humanism he is differentiating Christian humanism from other humanisms rooted in ideologies and systems of thought- the humanism of Krauss, the libertarian humanism, the Marxist humanism …-raised in open and/or belligerent opposition to the founding belief of the Christian faith in the God incarnated in Jesus Christ.”

Certainly, in the writings of Poveda, the loftiest way of being a man has a “foundation”: The Incarnation well understood; a foundation that by itself implies an important consequence, the consequence of social concern. Poveda’s pedagogical humanism is not exclusive; it is eminently inclusive, and is referred to all people.

“I want human lives” …. “To disregard what is human? Never," 
said Poveda

Paul Poupard in his lecture at UNESCO on May 21, 1974, on the occasion of the centenary of Poveda’s birth, referred to his humanism quoting the famous words of Pope Paul VI: “Modern humanists …. We too are such, and perhaps more than any other we render honor to each person.”

His educational work in Guadix “reveals” his convictions. His presence and his actions in this location, that was humanly ignored, were very fruitful. He shared his life with the dwellers of the caves and made his own the precariousness of their lives and their problems; he opened schools, dining rooms, offered workshops and dedicated his efforts to educate not only its children but also its men and women with the purpose of helping each one of them to become persons.Later on, in Covadonga, Saint Pedro writes a national plan for renewal of Education, the “Ensayo de un Proyecto Pedagógico para la fundación de una Institución Católica de Enseñanza” (An Essay on a Pedagogical Project for the Foundation of a Catholic Institute of Teaching) which is centered on the promotion of the Teacher and of Primary Education. According to Angeles Galino the educational plan is synthesized in several objectives, among them:

The National Coordination of Catholic Educational Institutions in order to secure a reasonable and intelligent plan of action about the important educational topics under discussion. 
The Scientific and Pedagogical preparation of professionals in order to enable them to teach in public schools.

(…) “The matter is very serious and of its successful solution depends in great part the welfare of our nation.” When Poveda writes: “pedagogy is to be taken seriously” he is deeply immersed in an educational campaign for creation of projects, institutions and the formation of educators. He is especially dedicated to the implementation of Academies and Pedagogical Centers as the constituent elements of an educational renewal. These institutions spread throughout Spain and other countries and constituted the beginning of the Teresian Association, a lay association of men and women committed to the mission of bringing to society “the good news of education and culture” by teaching in public and private schools.

In the beginning of the twenty century the Academies were a big boost for the incorporation of women into the educational and professional world. It can be said that women’s promotion was a key element in the projects of Poveda: he knew how to make them fully assume their responsibility for their human fulfillment. His collaborators were women involved in social activities, science forums, research and culture.

Poveda formulated important educational proposals about Universities. It was the time of the Spanish Generation of 1914 which was seeking, through the university reform, a new regeneration for the Country. It demanded the modernization of its curricula, the introduction of new methods, the freedom of thought and the transformation of the University educator.

He opened University Residences in Madrid and in the provinces that had a University, and started Associations to obtain an atmosphere conducive to study, research, and new scientific horizons. The Association of Catholic Students promoted by Poveda had the dialogue between faith and culture as the founding program, in open contrast with the “laicism” predominant at the time. He says:

“In our program, after faith, better said, along with faith, we place knowledge (…) the desire of knowledge, the search for knowledge, the acquisition of knowledge, the effort to acquire it, and never grow tired, never say enough of knowledge.”

Besides his work on educational projects of an institutional nature, the author dedicated much of his time in direct contact with his collaborators and his friends. In these contacts, those who entered into the discrete silence of his office of Alameda Street found the man that gave them not only his ideas and his counsels but himself. As in the case of his contemporary educator, Giner de los Rios, dialogue was one of the greatest strengths of Poveda.

The summa of his conversational teaching emerges in his lectures, newspaper articles and correspondence – thousands of tight folios still unpublished - that are true treatises of an individualized education.

The details of the hard struggle of Don Pedro in the educational world of his time and the battles he won may not be known but the truth is that after some years, Pedro Poveda, humanist and educator, saw how around him grew a selected group of teachers and professors of University and Teachers Colleges who were committed to his ideals on educational renovation; a minority group generously dedicated to the task of education and proud of it.

From Pedro Poveda's official website

For more information go to Saint Pedro Poveda official website.