November 23

Bl. Miguel Pro

Blessed Miguel Pro

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

  1. Because of Blessed Miguel Pro’s cheerful attitude, he was called “Mexico’s Merry Martyr”.
  2. Despite the government’s ban on a public funeral, an estimated 30,000 people came to Blessed Miguel Pro’s funeral.
  3. 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.”
  4. 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 antireligious motives.
  5. 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 Theethat it may never be separated from Thee.Heart of Jesus, I am all Thine; but take care of my promiseso that I may be able to put it in practiceeven unto the complete sacrifice of my life. Amen.