NISIPORESTI, ROMANIA — A 22-year-old Romanian Secular Franciscan – Veronica Antal – was beatified Sept. 23, 2018 as a “martyr to chastity,” six decades after she was murdered while fighting off a would-be rapist during the Communist-era repression of the Catholic Church.
Catholic News Service reported that Cardinal Angelo Becciu, prefect of the Vatican Congregation for Saints’ Causes, said Veronica Antal’s fate was similar to that of persecuted Christians in ancient Rome, who had asked the same question: “Who will separate us from the love of God?”
Antal was the first Romanian woman to be beatified and first Romanian layperson formally honored as a martyr from the time of Communist rule.
Born Dec. 7, 1935, Antal was taught the faith by her grandmother. Each day Antal walked five miles to Mass in the nearest church at Halaucesti. At age 17, she took a private vow of chastity as a Franciscan tertiary. Unable to become a nun because all religious orders had been suppressed, she created a prayer cell near her parents’ house, from where she visited the sick and needy and helped prepare children for confirmation.
On the evening of Aug. 24, 1958, Antal stayed to sweep the church after a Mass. As she was walking home alone, praying the rosary, she was attacked by a neighbor, who stabbed her 42 times when she refused sex and left her in a cornfield.
Her grave at Halaucesti’s cemetery immediately became a place of pilgrimage. Conventual Franciscans launched a beatification process after the 1989 collapse of Communist rule, using material secretly stored by Franciscan Father Anton Demeter.