Lucien Botovasoa was born to a family of poor farmers in a small village in Madagascar. At thirteen he was baptized in the Christian faith; his parents followed later. After studies at a Catholic school he became a teacher and assistant director of the parish school in his town. In 1930 he married and went on to father eight children, three of whom died.
From his early life Lucien had wished to be a good Christian. But he felt called to strive for holiness. After learning about the Franciscan Third Order he embraced the Rule and helped to gather a community of brothers to pray and meditate together.
As anticolonial sentiments intensified, the island was rent by competing political factions—each of which wanted Lucien’s support. The Catholic Church was viewed by certain nationalists as allied with the French, fueling antagonism that led to violence. During Holy Week in 1947 a massacre in Lucien’s region resulted in the burning of churches and schools. He was away at the time; upon his return he gathered survivors, urging them to pray and prepare themselves to face possible martyrdom.
On April 17, 1947, the leader of one of these anti-Catholic factions put out a call to eliminate his party’s enemies. He invited Lucien to accept a position in his movement, but Lucien refused, citing the persecution of religion. That night Lucien was arrested and brought before the chief. “I know you are going to kill me,” he said. “If my life can save others, do not hesitate to kill me.” Before being beheaded, he prayed and offered forgiveness to his executioners. He was beatified in 2018.
“May my blood, scattered on the earth, be for the redemption of my country.”
—Blessed Lucien Botovasoa