July 12 is the day that Mexico celebrates one of the most important Feast days in its history. “¡Viva Cristo Rey!” was the resounding battle cry of the resistance movement.
It is the day that celebrates the 27 martyrs who gave their lives defending the right to freedom of worship. The history has been well documented. Speaker and author, Patrick Madrid, whose relatives fought in that uprising, spoke eloquently about the background of this bloody war.
The Mexican Government, under the rule of President Plutarco Calles, ordered the anti-clerical, anti-Catholic state to begin. While the Mexican Constitution had been altered in 1917 in which such an imposition could be enacted, it took the will of this cruel dictator to put it into practice.
Churches were immediately shut down. Catholic schools were closed. Children were ordered to be schooled in the government run facilities alone in order to impose government doctrines on their malleable minds. Priests were rounded up and murdered by hanging or firing squad. Those in the charitable organization of the Knights of Columbus were persecuted.
Meanwhile, back in the United States…
Here in the United States, the Ku Klux Klan were favored the persecution of the Church in Mexico. And one individual close to President Coolidge was reputed to have written to a Protestant Pastor that there are two things causing uprising, and both must be eliminated – prostitution and the Catholic Church.
But the U.S. Knights of Columbus cried loudly to Unites States President Coolidge in order to stop this persecution. The Ku Klux Klan were disliked by President Coolidge (LINK https://coolidgefoundation.org/blog/the-ku-klux-klan-in-calvin-coolidges-america/ ), and President Calvin Coolidge listened to the Knights of Columbus instead. He sent his Ambassador to Mexico for peace negotiations.
Raising up of the martyrs…
From 1927-1929, thousands of Mexican citizens, soldiers, and clerics were murdered. Many of those who fought in the war spoke of their firm belief in their victory to the Mother of God – Our Lady of Guadalupe. They cited not only their protection, but their utter defeat of the opposition when they, with far fewer resources and soldiers, successfully won battle after battle until the Generals surrendered.
25 martyrs were recognized and canonized by Pope John Paul II in 2000 for their courage, to their death, of the Catholic Faith.
In 2005, Pope Benedict XVI canonized another 13 martyrs including that of 14 year José Liuz Sánchez del Río who had the bottom of his feet skinned off. He was then ordered to walk to the place of execution by the Mexican soldiers where they shot him.
The most famous was Blessed Father Miguel Pro. A newly ordained Jesuit priest, Father Pro returned to Mexico right after President Calles initiated the persecution of the Catholic Church. He went to the faithful clandestinely to serve the faithful.
The fate of a martyr…
In November 1927, a bomb was tossed from a car previously owned by one of Father Pro’s two brothers. All three were rounded up, but the youngest received a pardon. Father Pro and his brother Humberto were to be executed by firing squad. Reporters gathered like moths to the flame, eager to see this allegedly cowardly priest being shot. But much to their surprise, Father Pro flung out his arms in the form of a cross and cried out, “¡Viva Cristo Rey!” as the bullets riddled his body.
The persecution of Catholics in Mexico had the opposite affect desired by President Calles. Instead of eliminating those he hated, it increased the courage and strength of those who kept their Faith.
Let us not forget history…
Even today, much of this history is not taught either to the citizens of the United States or those in Mexico. It has been whitewashed for decades, until recently.
I watch with astonishment at the Catholics in our world today. And I am surprised at how many have no idea what their Faith actually is. A President attends a Mass presided over by a priest who was under scrutiny by the Vatican before his inauguration. His political actions demonstrate that he defies the dogmas of his own perported religion. Lay people don’t even understand why they even attend Mass at all. Defending the doctrines and precepts isn’t even on their radar. And Sunday has become just another day to shop.
The belief in the transubstantiation of the Body and Blood at every Mass no longer exists. It has been relegated to the annuls of figurative theory in the hearts of those who claim their Catholic loyalty.
I wonder just how many of these same people would be willing to lose their lives. After all, many still say they are Catholic. Will they have the same courage as our Mexican brothers and sisters in Christ? Will they be willing to lose everything for the sake of future generations?
Let us not forget the bravery of the relatives of the immigrants who now share the freedoms we still enjoy in the country. With great respect and honor, remember and visit the relics of these great martyrs. These individuals showed the way to eternal freedom. Risking it all for the sake of those who would come after them.
Be willing to defend the freedom of religion, especially Catholicism, as the bullseye begins to focus more narrowly on the Catholics who live peacefully in our nation and beyond. If the Catholics are persecuted here, it will be sure that all Christians will be next in line to fall.