'¡Viva Cristo Rey!'

By Matthew August

“Viva Cristo Rey!”

On Nov. 23, Catholics remember the life of Blessed Miguel Pro, the Mexican Catholic martyr who radiated the love and joy of Christ wherever he went. The priest was active in his ministry when President Elias Plutarco Calles was in power. Calles was violently anti-Catholic and ordered state atheism in Mexico. The Catholic Church faced intense persecution, leading to Bl. Miguel’s execution on Nov. 23, 1927.

Miguel Pro was born on Jan. 13, 1891, to a family in Guadalupe, Zacatecas. From a very young age, Miguel had a firm dedication to the Virgin Mary.

As a child, he once suffered from food poisoning that eventually infected his brain. For an entire year, the boy was in a deep coma. He could not talk or recognize any of his love ones. His parents were losing hope as the child was on the brink of death.

When all seemed lost, Miguel’s father took his son and knelt in front of an image of Our Lady of Guadalupe.

“Madre mia, give me back my son,” he cried out.

The boy suddenly vomited blood, and his spirit was revived immediately. How blessed are we as Catholics to have a Mother who loves us so deeply!

Young Miguel held the words of Our Lady of Guadalupe close to his heart:

Am I not here, I, who am your Mother? Are you not under my shadow and protection? Am I not the source of your joy? Are you not in the hollow of my mantle, in the crossing of my arms? Do you need anything more? Let nothing else worry you, disturb you.

Miguel would grow up with a powerful love for God, and be remembered both for his sweet playfulness and fervent prayer life. He made the decision to become a priest and to spread the love of Christ wherever he went. He entered the Jesuit Order in 1911 and continued his studies in Spain.

Upon graduating, Miguel returned to Mexico in 1926. Calles was now in power.

Unlike the leaders that came before, President Calles worked fiercely to revise Mexico’s constitution, implementing the Calles Law. The consequences included striking down religious orders, stripping the Catholic Church of any property in Mexico, and denying the clergy their civil rights. 

These laws were enforced with violence, but the faithful Catholics of Mexico refused to surrender without a fight.

“¡Viva Cristo Rey!” (“Long live Christ the King!”) became the battle cry for those who opposed the law.

“¡Viva Cristo Rey!” (“Long live Christ the King!”) became the battle cry for those who opposed the law.

Calles’ legislation wrought havoc on the Church in Mexico. Miguel returned home in 1926; from then until 1934, more than 4,000 Catholic priests were either killed or exiled.

Miguel was forced to go into hiding and serve the Church underground. He is remembered for his unbelievable bravery. The priest took on many different disguises and secretly administered the Sacraments in the privacy of people’s homes. 

In order to elude the authorities, Miguel walked about the streets of Mexico as a street sweeper, a mechanic, or a wealthy businessman. He wore the disguises so well that he safely walked into a police station at one point to ask for directions!

What stunned the faithful was Miguel’s joy in fulfilling his duties. Despite the horrifying circumstances, Miguel carried out his God-given duties with love in his heart.

“If I meet any long-faced saints in Heaven, I will cheer them up with a Mexican hat dance!” said Miguel Pro.

In 1927, he was accused of being responsible for the attempted assassination of a government figure. President Calles personally ordered for Miguel to be executed. Subsequently, one of the actual perpetrators confessed his own involvement in the attempted assassination and told law enforcement that Miguel had nothing to do with it. Despite the confession and the evidence, Calles ordered for Miguel to die by firing squad.

Execution day came. Miguel was led to the shooting grounds. He refused the blindfold that he was offered to shield his eyes from what was to come. He instead looked calmly into the eyes of those who were about to kill him.

“May God have mercy on you.  May God bless you. Lord, Thou knowest I am innocent. With all my heart, I forgive my enemies,” he said.

Then he stretched out his arms as Christ did on the Cross, with a crucifix in one hand and a Rosary in the other.

“Viva Cristo Rey!” he shouted.

Faithful Catholics have so much to learn from the example of this incredible man who served God with all his heart. There will be times in our lives when we enter the fires of tribulation. Jesus Christ is the Lord of everything, and He could have kept you out of the fire if He wished it. But if we see the lives of the saints, we notice that God does not deliver us from every affliction. There will be times where Christ will lead you through the fire. He will use our adversities to position us into our divine calling. We would never know the true power of God if we and the saints were never thrown into the fire. 

It is in these trials where God can show His power and be glorified through you. The power and truth of the Gospel has always shone through the joy of the martyrs and the peace with which they endured persecution and death. They know that Jesus is the Resurrection and the Life, and so not even the grave is everlasting. Can we do as Miguel did and ask our Lord, not to take us out of our suffering, but to invite Him in?

Blessed Miguel Pro, please help us to remember that in the midst of evil, pain, and suffering, we have the special opportunity to show the world God’s wonders.

Blessed Miguel Pro, pray for us!

Caption: Left, Blessed Miguel Pro faces the firing squad on Nov. 23, 1927; right, a portrait of Fr. Pro. (Wikimedia Commons)


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