Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Viva Cristo Rey

On November 23 we remember Blessed Miguel Pro. Fr. Pro was a hero for the faith during the persecution of Mexican Catholics in the early 20th century. Yesterday I shared this story of Fr. Pro with my junior classes. You could hear a pin drop. Silence pervaded the room when they saw his short documentary. In this visual culture, young people become glued to the screen.

Padre Pro had to dress up in disguise to outfox those who were chasing him down. He secretly brought the sacraments to the Catholic people of Mexico while it was illegal to do so under the Anti-Catholic government.
He was born on January 13, 1891 in Guadalupe, Mexico. Miguelito was, from an early age, intensely spiritual and equally intense in his mischievousness, frequently exasperating his family with his humor and practical jokes. As a child, he had a daring precociousness that sometimes went too far, tossing him into near-death accidents and illnesses. 

Miguel was particularly close to his sister and after she entered a convent, he came to recognize his own vocation to the priesthood. Although he was popular and had plans to manage his father's business, Miguel renounced everything for Christ his King and entered the Jesuit novitiate in 1911.
He studied in Mexico until 1914, when anti-Catholicism crashed down upon Mexico.In 1915, Miguel was sent to a seminary, where he remained until his ordination to the priesthood in 1925. Miguel suffered from a severe stomach problem and after three operations, when his health did not improve, his superiors, in 1926, allowed him to return to Mexico in spite of the grave religious persecution in that country

The churches were closed and priests went into hiding. Miguel spent the rest of his life in a secret ministry to Mexican Catholics. In addition to fulfilling their spiritual needs, he also carried out the works of mercy by assisting the poor. He adopted many interesting disguises in carrying out his secret mininstry. He would come in the middle of the night dressed as a beggar to baptize, bless marriages and celebrate Mass. He would appear in jail dressed as a police officer to bring Communion to Catholics. When going to fashionable neighborhoods to procure for the poor, he would show up at the doorstep dressed as a fashionable businessman with a fresh flower on his lapel. His many exploits could rival those of the most daring spies. In all that he did, however, Fr. Pro remained obedient to his superiors and was filled with the joy of serving Christ, his King.

Falsely accused in the bombing attempt on a former Mexican president, Miguel became a wanted man. Betrayed to the police, he was sentenced to death without the benefit of any legal process.
On November 13, 1927, orders were given to have Pro executed under the pretext of the assassination, but in reality for defying the outlawing of Catholicism. The execution was carefully photographed to frighten the rebels who were fighting against his troops. However, they had the opposite effect.

On the day of his execution, Fr. Pro forgave his executioners, prayed, bravely refused the blindfold and died proclaiming, "Viva Cristo Rey", "Long live Christ the King!"