“¡Viva Cristo Rey!”
These were the electric and immortal words shouted by Fr. Miguel Pro, S.J., as the virulently anti-Catholic government firing squad took aim at him, his eyes wide open and arms stretched forth in cruciform posture.
Long live Christ the King!
Miguel Pro was martyred for the faith at the age of 36, executed, on November 23rd, 1927, which the Church now commemorates as his feast day. He was Beatified in 1988 by Pope John Paul II.
Providentially on the heels of Bl. Miguel Pro’s feast, this weekend, the Church will celebrate the feast of Christ the King – the final Sunday of Ordinary Time (originally established for the last Sunday of October, but moved from its original date in 1970 with the establishment of the new liturgical calendar).
Blessed Miguel’s story is evidently powerful, and the Church is waiting for a final miracle for his canonization. Surely this is a saint to invoke in any cases in your own life – especially those needing a verifiable miracle, such as the medical healing of a loved one in danger. But even beyond his cause for sainthood, there are a number of timely reasons this holy Jesuit priest of the modern era is an intercessor to turn to in these days of unrest.
I mention above the breathtaking final words of this great blessed, “Viva Christo Rey!”. They call to mind such rich meditation on this title of Our Lord, Christ the King, and of a theme – namely, authority – that we really ought to think and talk more about in these troubled times.
Authority – hierarchy – is wired into nature, into reality itself. We are social creatures and we naturally seek the order of the phenomenon of authority and submission. Only, it’s true, these forces can manifest themselves either for better or for worse. Authority is not automatically exercised well, or by the right person. But the existence (even the preponderance!) of bad examples of authority doesn’t mean we should upend all authentic expressions of power or headship.
If Christ is not King of your heart, your life, your family… who (or what other thing) is? If Christ is not the King of those whom you follow (your priest, your president, your husband or father, your teachers), can you ever expect those authority figures to lead you in the right ways?
Blessed Miguel Pro, pray for us that, like you, we might cry out for Christ to be our King in every aspect of our lives!
This is not a polemic against the Jesuits, but, rather, an opportunity to recognize out loud that a religious order, whose greatness was built on a unique historic combination of intellectual rigor AND bold missionary work, once set the world on fire (in universities and in mission territory, respectively). Where lies great potential, there the enemy lurks, seeking pride and other weak spots to attack. It can never be wrong for us to invoke the great, brave, brilliant Jesuits of our tradition in praying for a new zeal and orthodoxy from their brethren of today.
St. Ignatius, St. Robert Bellarmine, Fr. John Hardon, Fr. Walter Cizek, St. Isaac Jogues and the North American Martyrs, St. Stanislaus Kostka, St. Paul Miki, St. Edmund Campion, St. Peter Claver, St. Peter Canisius, St. Francis Xavier, Bl. Miguel Pro… pray for us and for the Jesuits!
As a woman, I take great delight in seeing men use their gifts – uniquely masculine gifts – in serving the Church and simply in worshiping God and living their vocations. Feminism’s errors have wrought palpable dysfunction in families, in society and in the Church, and it is not good for any of us when men feel as though they must walk on eggshells or apologize for simply being men.
Blessed Miguel Pro was a manly man. He lived his religious life in great obedience, rigor and joy – constantly (and presumably uncomfortably) being moved from one country to the next, for reasons both political and scholastic assignments from his Jesuit superiors. In his short life, he found himself first exiled from Mexico to California, then off to Spain for studies, then to Nicaragua, to Belgium, to France and finally back to Mexico! Along the way, he battled cancer. No big deal. He simply kept at his self-donative priesthood, even as he was forced underground in his ministry when Mexican officials effectively outlawed public Catholicism.
Blessed Miguel Pro, pray for our sons, brothers, husbands, fathers, priests, that they may embrace their God-given gifts and challenges as men, in strength and holiness!
Miguel Pro pursued his studies for the priesthood with great dedication and perseverance, in three separate countries due to religious persecution. Upon his ordination, he worked tirelessly to provide the Sacraments to the laity and to impart the Gospel to hardened hearts across two continents. To the very end, he sought to teach the little ones of God’s love, even his executioners. “May God have mercy on you!” He said to the firing squad. “May God bless you! Lord, Thou knowest that I am innocent! With all my heart I forgive my enemies!” What an example – truly an alter Christus.
As in Mexico during the Cristero War, holy priests today in many parts of the world are facing extreme pressure from every direction to compromise, to relax, to hide, to be mediocre. What a weight rests upon their shoulders! The immeasurable weight of souls! We must pray for them, and pray to Blessed Miguel Pro on their behalf.
Blessed Miguel Pro, pray for our priests and seminarians, that they might model their vocations after yours, even – if necessary – to the death!
The Cristero War lasted only 3 years, and ended almost a century ago in 1929, but to this day the Church in Mexico is bruised by the tragic after-effects of the vehemently anti-Catholic apparatus. Vestiges of unjust laws and suspicion of the public visibility of priests still linger. In his book, The Lawless Roads, author Graham Greene called the war in Mexico the “fiercest persecution of religion anywhere since the reign of Elizabeth.”
Meanwhile, disparate errors like secularism, Liberation Theology and Santa Muerte – while certainly not characteristic of the beauty of Mexican Catholicism as a whole – do harm to the faith of common men and women, and thereby to the culture at large. A thriving Church means a thriving society. A wounded Church cannot as efficaciously minister to wounded souls.
But we must not forget that Mexico is a favored land of the Blessed Virgin Mary (and therefore of Our Lord)! Our Lady’s miraculous and historical intervention in December of 1531 in her appearance to Juan Diego would convert millions to the faith. Recently, the good people of Mexico have suffered greatly from deadly earthquakes and a new wave of violence, but the news cycle has long since moved on. Many have forgotten to pray for their consolation and recovery.
Blessed Miguel Pro, pray for the people of Mexico, for Mexican priests, and for a flourishing of the Catholic faith in your homeland!
The Church is by Her nature a rebuke – whether silent, latent, or boldly outspoken – against secular atheistic tyranny and politics. But we see what happens when the Church and the state become bedfellows: a dangerous friendship wherein the state seeks moral legitimacy for questionable policy and the Church becomes beholden to the state regarding what can be said in homilies, how Catholic hospitals can and can’t care for their patients, the allocation of funds, etc.
What Bl. Miguel Pro and the Cristero War remind us is that the Catholic Church is intolerable to (but, Deo gratias!, ultimately indomitable by) the tyranny of the anti-Christian State. Let us ask his intercession that our priests and bishops will always be steadfast against secular encroachments on religious freedom and conscience protections.
Blessed Miguel Pro, pray for the Church!
When I gaze upon the iconic images of Bl. Miguel in his final earthly moments, I am overcome. These incredible photographs were actually taken and published by the Mexican government in a failed attempt to intimidate the insurgent Cristeros.
Under arrest and walking to the firing squad, Pro blessed the soldiers charged with killing him, then knelt briefly in prayer. He declined to be blindfolded, choosing instead to face his executioners. He extended his arms out in imitation of the crucified Christ, holding a crucifix in one hand and a rosary in the other, and shouted the defiant cry of the Cristeros, “¡Viva Cristo Rey!”
The photos, published in national newspapers the next day, failed to dissuade the Cristeros. On the contrary, it only galvanized them. Pro would become an iconic and beloved touchstone for proud Mexican Catholics and the anti-Communist resistance movement.
Would I have such steadiness, if placed in his shoes? Would any of us?
Blessed Miguel Pro, pray for us, that we might each have the faith, zeal and fortitude to embrace martyrdom in the face of nihilistic persecution!
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