On January 20th, 2021, Fathers Ruben Perez de Ayala, Gabriel Benedicto, Alejandro Aravena, Moises Leon, and Matias Ernesto Quintana were on different floors of their church building Madrid. The priests began to notice that the cold air outside had begun seeping in and the heat no longer coming out of the vents in the building. Father Ruben noticed that all of the radiators were not working and the boilers had several red warning lights. He called a close friend and maintenance technician, David Santos, telling him that they had begun to smell gas in the building. David attended Mass almost daily at the parish and lived right around the corner. He came at once to the building and met Father Ruben at the door.
Father Benedicto would later say:
“They went up, they came down, the two of them must have been together seven minutes at most. It was all very fast ”
Minutes later, an explosion ripped through the building, killing Father Ruben, David, and two people walking past the building on the street. Father Matias Ernesto Quintana was caught on the top floor, trapped between pieces of debris. Believing he would die there, he recorded a small video for his family in Paraguay, saying
“Our house has just exploded through the gas pipeline. I’m stuck on the fifth floor and I can’t get down. Pray for me. I don’t know if they can rescue me from here. Our house has exploded ”.
Father Ruben was rushed to the hospital and upon arrival was immediately sent to surgery. The bomb had nearly destroyed his pelvis. His brother Pablo, also a Priest, heard first of the explosion through a telephone call and rushed to the scene. Unable to get to the building itself, he and the parents of David Santos's wife stood near the police cordon praying fervently. Father Ruben had managed to crawl out of the remains of the building with severe burns on his legs and stomach in addition to the damage to his pelvis.
“Rubén should have arrived dead at the hospital from a series of injuries he had, but that came alive and fought nonstop“
Father Pablo considers it a miracle that he and his family in Madrid were able to say goodbye to Father Ruben in the hospital. He gave his brother the Anointing of the Sick before being with him when he succumbed to his wounds later that evening. Father Ruben was 36 years old and had been ordained a priest in the Mother of The Redeemer, a group belonging to the Neocatechumnel Way the previous June. He served in the parish for seven months. In his first Mass, Father Ruben told parishoners :
“when difficulties come, let us cry out to the Lord”. “You will experience that the Lord is your tranquility. […] May we experience the joy that the Lord is with us ”.
At his graduation, Father Ruben was interviewed by the Archdiocese of Madrid about his vocation to the priesthood. He said:
" I have had the experience throughout this time in seminary that happiness is not in living everything for oneself, but in giving oneself to others"
At the funeral for Father Ruben and David, David's widow Sara hugged their eldest 10 year old son Lucas in tears. Cristobal Arjona, at the entrance speech, said:
"Is God a monster? Does this make sense, that a priest within 6 months of his ordination dies? Does it make sense that a young father of a family with 4 small children dies? Will Sarah be consoled, is consolation possible? Heaven has been opened to David and Reuben, they are in the presence of the Lord. Could it be possible that we say that God is not a monster? Well, He is not. We are going to celebrate what we can celebrate today, even though the celebration is hard. We are going to celebrate that they are in the presence of the Lord. We are going to crush the anguish today. Christ has risen and has conquered death. "
Father Pablo, in his homily, spoke these words of comfort:
"This is a difficult moment, praying for a deceased brother as well as for a deceased friend. Sara has our full support. Talking with Sara I was telling my parents. They have to be together. Two friends from the community and two true friends. A true friendship founded on Jesus Christ. Today just seven months ago my brother celebrated his first mass. How afraid that the Lord will disappoint us, but Sara you know that the Lord has never disappointed you, as the Scripture says, the Lord does not abandon the widow and the orphan. We can think, the Lord has made a mistake.. I see my 36-year-old brother recently ordained and a whole life ahead of him. But the ministry of the presbyterate consists in bringing souls to Christ. Today it was just seven months since Rubén's first Mass. Although there are moments of desert, such as the one that the relatives of the deceased will enter and as the reading of Hosea remembered - chosen because it was the one proclaimed at the wedding of David and Sarah -, the desert is the place where we we meet the Lord, and in which we discover that without Him we have nothing. In the desert the Lord purifies our intentions, and that is where we are going to experience the love of the Lord "
Today, David and Sara's children (10, 9, 4, and 1) need our prayers and love more than ever.