On Sunday May 29th of 2005, around noon, Josep Boix i Oeste passed away at his house of Pont de Peramola. He was born in Juncàs in 1921. He was therefore 84 years old.

Throughout these last years we have had many conversations with him in relation to the stay of saint Josemaría Escrivá de Balaguer at Espluga de les Vaques on November 28th, 1937.

As already known, Josep Boix coincided with saint Josemaría at Espluga de les Vaques on the morning of November 28th. Josep usually hid around this area of difficult access, very close to his house, the house of Juncàs. Along with him there were many other people hiding. The food was almost always brought to them by a maid they had at Juncàs; on other occasions it was he who went to fetch it. The signal they had agreed to know if he could approach the house without any danger was that they hung a white sheet or simply a rag from the window of the house. He was hiding because he had been conscripted to go to the front, and because of his religious beliefs he had decided no to collaborate with those that governed Catalonia in those days. Today we would say he was a conscience objector. Later on he moved to Andorra and from there to San Sebastián, in the Basque Country.

The expedition in which saint Josemaría went arrived at Espluga de les Vaques at around 7.00h or 8.00h in the morning, at sunrise. According to the story of the journal of some members of the expedition, as explained by the book “Travessant la nit” (“Crossing the night”), of which we quote some paragraphs.

“The sun came out during the last part of the journey, so they arrived at Espluga de les Vaques, at the gully of Ribalera, when the sun was already shining and it was already quite warm. That 28th of November was a Sunday. Right away, saint Josemaría looked for a suitable place to celebrate the holy Mass: it would be the last one before crossing the border. The setting was unusual. At about 800 meters altitude, Espluga de les Vaques was a sheltered place, chosen on purpose in order not to be surprised by militiamen or border police. The inhabitants of Can Juncàs, the closest country house, helped the fugitives. On the other hand, the place was delimited by a high rocky wall that completely protected it from the wind of the north, and is already defended to the south by hills that excel about fifty meters. It was a kind of ample depression, very sunny and that seems inaccessible.

Josep Boix, son of the owner of Can Juncàs, who then was a young boy, remembered saint Josemaría very well years later.

“- I went to Espluga de les Vaques to bring the food that my mother prepared for the refugees. They said to me that one of those who had just arrived was a priest. This priest spoke to me very concentrated, and thus I found out that he was going to officiate Mass right there”.

There were more than twenty people who hadn’t heard a Mass or stepped on a church since July of the previous year. This way, knowing that the priest was preparing to officiate Holy Sacrifice, the expectancy was a general feeling.

Josep Boix helped placing the stone that would be used as an altar upon a bigger stone, very close to the wall of that cut, to be well protected from the wind.

He keeps an indelible memory, also because of a particular circumstance: “- If they arrived at eight, the Mass already began at quarter to nine. I was seated on a bench that we had built with stones, very close to the priest. At night he had ignited a fire at that same place. There were some coals left, which seemed extinguished but weren’t, and when I knelt down I burnt myself. “.

Saint Josemaría had no other option than to celebrate the entire Mass on his knees, as there was no stone big enough; Paco and Miguel helped him. “Everybody was very respectful – as Pedro Casciaro has written- and the Mass was amazing. In spite of the tiredness and the singularity of the moment, Father celebrated the holy Mass with great unction, transmitting his mercy and his withdrawal to the others (…)”.

After speaking many times to Josep Boix, he has clarified that he brought some food first thing in the morning, but actually lunch, that was brought by other people from Juncàs at 14.00h or 15.00h in the afternoon. Pedro Casciaro says “Mateo” brought it, Josep Boix thought it was the maid.

Indeed, the written journal of Pedro Casciaro, on November 29th of 1937, says the following: “Once the holy Mass had been celebrated we had breakfast, not a big one though: bread and cold meat along with some wine. At around three in the afternoon, we ate fried rabbit that Mateo had brought after his absence.”

Antonio Dalmases explains in his journal of 1937, what happened once the holy Mass had finished:

“The Madrilenian gave me bread, while we awaited ours to be brought to us (we have our pack in the house) and this way we spent the while talking, eating and revising our equipment until the guide comes. It’s a young and determined young boy. We have lunch at around two”.

Whenever we met Josep he referred to this encounter with saint Josemaría. He had a lot of affection and devotion to him. He treated him with naturalness and confidence, like a close friend. He encouraged us to improve the route that goes from Espluga de les Vaques so that many people could walk along it.

He was very happy seeing how we went there, to clean and mark the Way, and he always spoke with joy of the Mass he attended on November 28th of 1937. Also the ascent to the Channel of Jaça was a usual conversation subject, which he many times ascended, as he often went to see his friends at the House of Aubenç, situated above the channel. Thanks to his directions we could safely ascend this channel that some described as very difficult; but he always said to us that there was nothing special about it, as we have been able to verify, of course, taking for granted that one takes the correct route, which they had explained to us perfectly.

His conversation was amiable and positive. He was always happy, even though he had been 25 years without being able to walk and seated in a wheelchair. It’s a good example of patience, strength and happy conformity to the will of God towards adversities and illness.

An anecdote that shows the good memory he kept of the Mass at Espluga de les Vaques is that, about 15 days before dying, speaking about these memories, he said to us: “You haven’t thought of building an altar there in Espluga”. The truth is that we had not thought about it. But since this was his wish perhaps we will have to consider doing it.

We have lost a close friend. A person in love with our project. This is why we named him Honour Member of the association. Now, from heaven and together with his friend, contemplating face to face the immense countenance of God, he will concede all these projects to be a reality very soon.