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Evangelical Suffering: The Martyrdom of Blessed Miguel Pro

Miguel Augustin Pro Juarez was ordained a Priest in Belgium on August 31, 1925. Already by 1926, however, due to his poor health, Fr. Miguel’s superiors sent him back to his homeland of Mexico. Thus began his story of heroic suffering for which he is known. Less than a month after his arrival home, “an order suppressing all public worship was issued. Any priest the police came across was thus subject to arrest and prosecution” (Ball, Modern Saints: Book One, 300).

For some time, Fr. Miguel maintained a secret ministry, blessing the people of his homeland by covertly administering the sacraments to them. Eventually, however, Fr. Miguel was arrested. On November 13, 1927, an assassination attempt with a bomb was made on the life of Calles, the newly elected president of Mexico. Though they were seemingly innocent, it was ordered that Fr. Miguel and his two brothers be executed, since the bomb in the assassination attempt was thrown from a car which previously belonged to Fr. Miguel’s brother, Humberto (Ball, Modern Saints, 301).

Thankfully, the life of Fr. Miguel’s youngest brother, Roberto, ended up being spared. But God in His wisdom saw fit to allow for Fr. Miguel and Humberto to be given up to death. He allowed this knowing, I assume, that their deaths, like the death of Christ, would be witnesses to the world of His love.

The most striking part to me in the story of Fr. Miguel’s execution, was the conversation he had with a “policeman who helped to hunt him down” (Modern Saints, 302), as he was led out by him to his execution. Ann Ball recounts this conversation in her book Modern Saints:

“[T]he policeman…turned, and with tears in his eyes, begged Father Pro to forgive him for leading him to his death. Miguel put his arm about the shoulders of the shaking man and told him, “You have not only my forgiveness but my thanks.” He also softly told the members of the firing squad, ‘May God forgive you all.’”

Then, after kneeling in prayer—a blessing somehow granted to him as a last request—Ball writes that Fr. Miguel “stood with his arms outstretched in the form of a cross, rejecting the offered blindfold. In a firm clear voice, he said, ‘Viva Cristo Rey!’ (Long live Christ the King!)” (Ball, 302). Noticing after the shots were fired, that Fr. Miguel still had not breathed his last, a General “placed a revolver to his head, and fired into his brain” (Ball, 302), ending his life for good (ironically, quite literally).

The story of Fr. Miguel’s execution calls to mind the words of Pope John Paul II from Salvifici Doloris—that “[t]he motif of suffering and glory has a strictly evangelical characteristic” (22). “Suffering”, he says, “is…an invitation to manifest the moral greatness of man, his spiritual maturity” (22). This is one of those beautiful paradoxes of our Christian faith. Namely, that what Satan intends to use for evil, God flips on its head and uses for His own good purposes. Hence, quite contrary to Calles’ expectations, the execution of Fr. Miguel was not “an occasion for celebration of the cowardice of the Mexican Catholics” (Ball, 302). Rather, it was an occasion for the celebration of their courage. For this reason, it “quickly became illegal” to possess the photos which Calles’ photographers had taken.

The lesson of Fr. Miguel’s Martyrdom is simple: by the merits of Christ’s death and resurrection, death, truly, has been “swallowed up in victory” (1 Cor 15: 54). Remember that this Holy Week and on Easter Sunday, and get out there and suffer well!

Original Source: Those Catholic Men


Photos of this priest’s martyrdom were meant to dissuade Catholics; that’s not what happened

Original Source: Aleteia

The images of Miguel Pro's death were "one of the first modern attempts to use media images to manipulate public opinion for anti-religious purposes."

he Cristero War was the result of the brutal anti-Catholic persecution perpetrated by the Mexican government of the early 20th century.

Among the great testimonies of faith from this epoch we find the well-known martyrdom of the Jesuit priest, Miguel Agustín Pro, who was shot without any trial, simply for the “crime” of being Catholic.

In addition to assassinating him, the government wanted to ensure that his execution would humiliate him and that it would serve to dissuade, discourage and frighten other Catholics. They did not expect that his martyrdom would in fact have just the opposite effect.

Of the martyrs of those days, no one caught the attention of the public in Mexico and the rest of the world as much as the Jesuit Miguel Agustín Pro. Pro was killed by a firing squad in front of news cameras that the government had brought in to record what it hoped would be the embarrassing spectacle of a priest pleading for mercy. It was one of the first modern attempts to use media images to manipulate public opinion for antireligious purposes. But instead of wavering, Pro displayed great dignity. He walked out to the execution bravely, asking only to be allowed to pray before dying. After a few minutes, he stood up, extended his arms in the form of a cross, a traditional Mexican posture in prayer, and with a steady voice, neither defiant nor desperate, movingly intoned words that have since become famous, “Viva Cristo Rey,” “Long live Christ the King.”

Far from being a propaganda triumph for the government, the photographs of Pro’s execution became objects of Catholic devotion in Mexico and of government embarrassment throughout the world. Officials tried to suppress their circulation, declaring the mere possession of the photos a treasonous act, but without success.. … (The Catholic Martyrs of The Twentieth Century, Robert Royal, pp. 17-18).

Here are some of those pictures:

1. Father Miguel Pro, already a prisoner, in Nov. 1927, on the eve of his execution. He was dressed in civilian clothes due to the law prohibiting priests to wear clerics.

2. Condemned to death without a trial, Father Pro proceeds to the place of his execution, carrying a crucifix and a rosary.

3. Father Pro’s last request was to be allowed to kneel and pray. The executioner awaits, as he kisses the crucifix and prays.

4. With his arms extended as if on a cross, Father Pro prayed for those who were to execute him: “My God, have mercy on them. My God, bless them. Lord, you know that I am innocent. With all of my heart, I forgive my enemies.”

5. As the executioner readied to fire, Father Pro’s last words were powerful: “Viva Cristo Rey!” (Long live Christ the King!) This became the motto for the Cristeros, such that in subsequent executions, martyrs’ tongues were cut out so that they could not profess Christ with this cry at the moment of death.

6. Now wounded, Father Pro falls to the ground and is given the coup de grâce.

7. Many Mexicans took the great risk not only of participating in the burial of Father Pro, but of crying out “Viva Cristo Rey” as his remains passed by.

Original Source:

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