Monday, November 21, 2011

November 21 - Miguel Pro, Martyr, Priest, Man of Prayer

Miguel had spent many years among the mining towns of Mexico. Born the son of a miner and his wife in Guadalupe, Zacatecas, he didn't experience the same kind of affluent lifestyle of some other saints. Rather, Miguel was born on the poverty line and was one of eleven children. As one of the elder children, he helped take care of his siblings. The Mexican people were Miguel's passion even as a child and he studied so that he might become a priest and serve them. Of particular interest to Miguel were people with similar humble beginnings who struggled to survive in a world that was rarely suited for their success and health.Throughout his life, Miguel was a man of prayer--often saying that the only thing that truly kept him going was prayer. At the age of 20, he began his studies with the Jesuits so that he might offer himself to the clerical life among the people of Mexico.Regrettably, however, he could not stay in Mexico long after this time.

In 1915, the surging tide of opponents to Roman Catholicism in Mexico became too much for Miguel and his superiors. He was sent to Spain to continue his studies so that he might not be arrested or killed by the government that had taken power after a rigged election. After finishing his studies, he was sent as a professor to Nicargagua. His heart yearnedto be back in Mexico but it was becoming increasingly less hospitable to priests and he was assigned to Belgium. As his heart pined for the people of Mexico, his health deteriorated and the laws of Mexico became increasingly restrictive. The people who dared to follow after Jesus were forced to meet in secret and avoid detection--again. Priests were being framed for crimes and executed. Others were being arrested and abused. It was a bad time to be Christian in Mexico. It was a worse time to be a minister in a country that now forbade the wearing of clerical vestments or the speaking of clerical thoughts and commentary in public. The goal was the excision of the Roman Catholic church from Mexico and it was very nearly successful. It very well may have been if not for Miguel's testament to the faith in his dying words.

In Belgium he was ordained to the priestly ministry. His life was even more prayer filled after his ordination and after a short time in Belgium, it became clear that his deteriorating health was partially due to his discomfort with the climate and his homesickness for the people of Mexico. Against the better judgment of some of his superiors, he was sent back to Mexico. Miguel prayerfully thanked those over him and went gladly. His life in Mexico included priestly duties held in secret. He was overjoyed to visit and pray with the people entrusted to him and broke bread in many homes under the cover of darkness and the confident peace of prayer. When the ruler of Mexico--Plutarco Elias Calles--was nearly assassinated, he took a chance to put a stop to Miguel's work. He insisted that the planning had been the work of Miguel and had him arrested. There was a short--and ludicrous--trial but eventually Plutarco simply decreed that Miguel be executed.The pretext for the execution was an attempted assassination but the real reason was theconstantly grasping desire of the State to subvert and excise the Church in Mexico. Miguel was drug from his cell in the early morning and granted one last request: to be allowed to kneel and pray (see above picture). They took him to the firing range and secured him so that he might present a target for the rifles. They did not secure his arms and so he offered a blessing and prayer over the men holding the rifles that would soon bring his death. He declined the blindfold offered to him,--he was not afraid to look upon the State's atrocities-- grasped his crucifix in one hand and his rosary in the other and offered a loud shout proclaiming his desire to forgive the ones who now held his earthly life in their hands. "Ready," yelled the commander and Miguel offered a sweet smile as the men raised their rifles."Aim," continued the commander and Miguel stretched his arms out as if he were being crucified (see picture). The firing squad directed their rifles at his heart now exposed in his cruciform posture. "Fire!" yelled the commander. The men shot and hit Miguel who crumpled to the ground. He was not dead but he was dying. As the commander approached the bleeding body of Miguel, Miguel cried out:"Viva Cristo Rey!" or "Long live Christ the King!" The commander drew his sidearm and shot Miguel in the head at pointblank range.

No comments: