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For a large part of the liturgical year, we devote ourselves to listening to the mystery of Christ in all its aspects unfolded as we seek God's truth and understanding.
Miguel Agustin Pro, Priest and Martyr, 1891-1927
Often, if we think at all about martyrs in modern times, we remember saints like Maximilian Kolbe or Edith Stein, victims of the Nazi Holocaust. But others also gave their lives for their faith in the 20th century, even in the western hemisphere. Miguel Agustin Pro was one of these.
Born January 13, 1891, at Guadalupe, Mexico, to Miguel Pro Sr. and Josefa Juarez, Miguel might not have impressed people with his saintliness as a child. From an early age, he was a practical joker whose mischievousness sometimes got him into trouble. Nevertheless, he maintained his sense of humor throughout his life.
Sadly, like many young people in our time, Miguel drifted away from his faith and the sacraments for a time as a teenager. However, when an older sister entered the convent, Miguel began to give some serious thought to his own calling. In 1910, nearing the age of 20, Miguel applied to and entered the Jesuit novitiate in El Llano, Michoacan. Unfortunately, this coincided with the beginning of the Mexican Revolution which soon led to the persecution of the Catholic Church, beginning with the overthrow of Porfino Diaz, the Mexican leader in 1911.
In 1914, when the seminary in Mexico was forced to close, Miguel began a trek which would lead him through Jesuit schools in California and Spain before he was finally ordained in Belgium in 1925. Around this time, Miguel suffered from severe stomach disorders which did not respond to several surgeries. In 1926, his superiors allowed him to return to his native Mexico despite the severe persecution taking place there.
Miguel was not initially known to be a priest and so, with several disguises, he was able to minister to Mexican Catholics. While, with the help of these Catholics, he had escaped detection, the ring was closing in around him. In one case, while being chased by the police, Miguel asked a young woman who happened to be walking along the street to help him. The police ran right by the arm-in-arm lovers.
Time began to run out for the priest when, in November 1927, a bomb was thrown from a car at the newly elected president of Mexico. The car had once belonged to Miguel’s brother and, while none of them had anything to do with the attempt, Miguel and his brothers were falsely charged with the assassination attempt and arrested.
On November 23rd, Miguel and his brothers were led out to be executed. The arresting policeman quietly asked his forgiveness which Miguel gladly granted as he also did for the firing squad. When stood up before the firing squad, Miguel refused a blindfold. He said in a loud voice, “Viva Cristo Rey!” (Long Live Christ the King!), spread his arms in the manner of Jesus on the cross, and was shot.
The government, hoping to intimidate the people away from the practice of their religion, allowed Miguel Pro’s execution to be covered by the press and pictures of his death appeared in the papers and became widespread among Catholics. The opposite effect of the government’s aim occurred and it soon became illegal to possess copies of the picture.
Miguel Pro was beatified by Pope John Paul II on September 25th, 1988. A memorial to this saint’s life is celebrated on November 23rd.
Miguel's message today: Few of us are born with a faith strong enough to withstand the kind of pressure applied to Catholics in Mexico to abandon their beliefs during the early 20th Century. Attending Mass often, serving in a parish ministry, and frequent personal prayer will all help to strength our faith.