The execution of Blessed Miguel Pro, 11/23/27
· What sacrifices am I willing to make in order to offer the Mass or to practice my Catholic faith freely?
· What suffering would I be willing to endure for my Catholic faith?
· Would I be able to hold fast to my Catholic faith in the face of torture or a threat of death?
· How much do I value religious freedom?
· Would I have the courage to proclaim: “¡Viva Cristo Rey!” like the Cristeros?
The above questions keep haunting me. I just returned from seeing the film For Greater Glory.
When I saw the sacrifices that the Cristeros made and the tortures that they endured for their Catholic faith, I was speechless with a pain deep in my heart. During a three year period (1926-1929) in Mexico’s history, approximately 90,000 people died in what was called the Cristero War. In an interview with Ruben Quezada, the author of For Greater Glory: The True Story of Cristiada, he explains the background to the war:
When Plutarco Calles took over as president of Mexico, he did not want the church to be part of any moral teachings to its citizens. He did not want God to be a part of anyone’s life. After the Mexican Revolution the two presidents that followed (Venustiano Carranza and Alvaro Obregon) abused their power to wage their personal attacks against the Catholic Church as well. There were similar persecution incidents and abuses towards the clergy and Catholics alike, and we have a few Mexican Martyrs from those persecutions who were not part of the Cristero War. When President Calles came into power, he wanted to bring Mexico’s population to belong to a Socialist state. He would insist that the Church was poisoning the minds of the people and that its teachings were a threat to the Revolutionary mentality which it stood for. Calles wanted to ensure that all citizens were going to be educated under the government’s dictatorship and secular mindset. He wanted to ensure that only the government would have the freedom to form the minds of its citizens and insisted that the church was poisoning the minds of the people. In order to enforce this new law it was necessary to expel all clergy, except for a few priests who would oversee the spiritual needs of the people and with the supervision of the state authorities. This led to various states of Mexico going without a single Mass being celebrated for a long time.
A total of 35 martyrs have been canonized and fifteen were beatified as a result of this persecution. The motto of the Cristeros was “¡Viva Cristo Rey!” (“Long Live Christ the King!”) which so many refused to denounce even when facing torture and death.
Special recognition needs to be given to the Knights of Columbus who helped the Mexican people during this war. Again, according to Quezada:
In August 1926, just days after the Calles Law took effect, the U.S. Knights passed a resolution to support the Church in Mexico. They established a fund that raised over a million dollars to offer relief services for those exiled from Mexico, to provide for exiled seminarians to continue their priestly formation, and to educate the American public about the true situation. The Order printed and distributed five million pamphlets about the Cristiada and two million copies of the Pastoral Letter of the Catholic Episcopate of the United States on the Religious Situation in Mexico. The U.S. Knights also sponsored over 700 free lectures and reached millions by radio.
The film, which only had only a very limited run in our and in most areas, is a story of fidelity to the Catholic faith in the face of torture and persecution. It is a story of what people are willing to sacrifice to preserve religious freedom.
I could never do justice to the situation in a brief column such as this. When the DVD comes out, maybe you could buy it or rent it. (Beware of the intense violence at times—the reason it received an “R” rating.)
It is well worth watching!
Fr. Ed Namiotka