Blessed Miguel Pro
Blessed Miguel Pro: “Mexico’s Merry Martyr”
- When he lived: Bl. Miguel Pro lived from January 13, 1891, to November 23, 1927.
- Where he lived: Bl. Miguel Pro hailed from Guadalupe, Mexico City, Mexico, and spent the majority of his life there.
- Notable world events during the time of his life:
- The Mexican Revolution (1910-1920): Bl. Miguel Pro’s life unfolded amidst the tumultuous period of the Mexican Revolution, a time of political and social upheaval in Mexico. This revolution aimed to overthrow the long-standing dictator Porfirio Diaz and establish a more just and equitable society.
- The sinking of the RMS Titanic (1912): In 1912, tragedy struck the world when the luxury ocean liner RMS Titanic, considered unsinkable, struck an iceberg and sank. This catastrophic event captivated global attention, as the loss of life revealed the vulnerability of even the most advanced human creations.
- The outbreak of World War I (1914-1918): During the early years of Bl. Miguel Pro’s life, the world witnessed the outbreak of one of the deadliest conflicts in history, World War I. This war embroiled nations across the globe and introduced new weaponry and warfare tactics, leaving an indelible mark on the collective consciousness.
- The Russian Revolution (1917): The Russian Revolution brought about radical political and social change in Russia, leading to the overthrow of the Tsarist autocracy and the establishment of the Soviet Union. This event marked a significant shift in global power dynamics and inspired revolutionary movements worldwide.
- Albert Einstein’s Theory of General Relativity (1915): In the realm of scientific discoveries, one of the most groundbreaking events during Bl. Miguel Pro’s time was Albert Einstein’s publication of the Theory of General Relativity. This theory revolutionized our understanding of gravity, time, and the fabric of the universe.
- The Roaring Twenties: Bl. Miguel Pro experienced the vibrant and transformative era known as the Roaring Twenties. This period was characterized by cultural dynamism, economic prosperity, and the emergence of jazz music, flapper fashion, and significant advancements in technology and entertainment.
- His patronage: Bl. Miguel Pro is the patron saint of those who face persecution, especially in Mexico. His intercession is sought by those who encounter challenges due to their faith, as well as individuals confronting oppression and injustice. Bl. Miguel Pro’s courage and unwavering commitment to his beliefs make him a source of inspiration and strength for countless individuals worldwide.
Religious Persecution in Mexico
Fr. Miguel Pro Suarez was born on January 13, 1891 in Guadalupe, Mexico. He was one of eleven children of a mining engineer. From an early age, Miguelito, as what his family called him, was intensely religious yet equally intense in his mischievousness. He frequently exasperated his family with his humor and practical jokes.
Miguel was very close to his older sister. After she entered a convent of cloistered nuns, Miguel began to discern his own vocation. This led him to enter the Society of Jesus, or the Jesuits, in El Llano, Michoacan in 1911 at the age of twenty. He studied in Mexico until 1914 when a wave of governmental anti-Catholic movement broke out in Mexico. The Jesuits were forced to flee to Los Gates, California. He taught in Nicaragua from 1919 until 1922.
In 1925, Miguel was ordained to the priesthood in Enghien, Belgium. By that time, the political situation in Mexico had drastically deteriorated. All Catholic churches were closed. Bishops, priests and religious were hunted for imprisonment or deportation. Those who tried to escape arrest were shot dead. The administering of the Sacraments was punishable by either imprisonment or death. With all of these circumstances, the Church was driven underground.
Fr. Pro Returns to Mexico
After granting him permission by his superiors, Fr. Pro returned to Mexico secretly. Due to the very dangerous situation, he carried on his ministry undercover. He successfully slipped into Mexico and immediately began to celebrate Mass and administer the Sacraments under imminent threats of discovery by the police.
Fr. Pro was known throughout the city as the undercover priest who would show up in the middle of the night dressed as a beggar or a street sweeper to baptize infants, hear confession, distribute Communion or solemnize marriages. He even disguised as a policeman and slipped unnoticed into the headquarters itself to bring Viaticum to Catholic prisoners prior to their execution. He used clandestine meeting places, wardrobe of disguises and coded secret messages to the hidden Catholics to carry on his ministry.
A Testament of Love and Forgiveness
In November of 1927, the President of Mexico was nearly assassinated. He survived the attempt and left him wounded. The incident provided the pretext for arresting Fr. Pro with his brothers Humberto and Roberto. They were imprisoned and held without trial for ten days, accused of the attempted assassination. President Calles ordered Fr. Pro to be executed, ostensibly for his role in the attempted assassination but in reality, it was because of his defiance of the laws prohibiting Catholicism.
Ten days after he was arrested, Fr. Pro was sentenced to be executed. As he walked from his cell to the prison courtyard, he blessed the firing squad and asked for some moments so he could pray before his execution. He refused to be blindfolded and stood facing the squad. With a crucifix in one hand and a Rosary in the other, Fr. Pro held his arms outstretched in the form of a cross and cried out in a clear, loud voice: “May God have mercy on you! May God bless you! Lord, Thou knowest that I am innocent! With all my heart I forgive my enemies!” As the soldiers lifted their rifles, he exclaimed, “Viva Cristo Rey!” (“Long live, Christ the King!”).
A volley rang out and Fr. Pro fell to the ground riddled with bullets. A soldier approached him and discharged his rifle at point blank range in the priest’s head, thus ending the life of the blessed martyr. Fr. Pro was beatified by Pope John Paul II on September 25, 1988. His feast day is November 23.
Five Interesting Facts About Blessed Miguel Pro
- Because of Blessed Miguel Pro’s cheerful attitude, he was called “Mexico’s Merry Martyr”.
- Despite the government’s ban on a public funeral, an estimated 30,000 people came to Blessed Miguel Pro’s funeral.
- One of the soldiers who had arrested Blessed Miguel Pro led him out of jail to be executed. The soldier begged Fr. Pro to forgive him. The blessed martyr put his arm around him and said, “You have not only my forgiveness but my thanks.”
- Blessed Miguel Pro was executed in front of news cameras brought by the government to record what they hoped would be the embarrassing view of a priest pleading for mercy. It was one of the first modern attempts to use media images to manipulate public opinion for anti-religious motives.
- Blessed Miguel Pro’s last words “Viva Cristo Rey!” (“Long live, Christ the King!”) became the motto for the Cristero movement, the resistance group of Catholics that fought the Mexican government. In subsequent executions, the tongues of martyrs were cut out so that they could not profess Christ the King with such a cry at the moment of death.
Prayer to Blessed Miguel Pro
Written by Blessed Miguel Pro shortly before his execution
I believe, O Lord; but strengthen my faith…Heart of Jesus, I love Thee; but increase my love.Heart of Jesus, I trust in Thee; but give greater vigor to my confidence.Heart of Jesus, I give my heart to Thee; but so enclose it in Thee that it may never be separated from Thee.Heart of Jesus, I am all Thine; but take care of my promise so that I may be able to put it in practice even unto the complete sacrifice of my life. Amen.