Bl. Miguel Agustin Pro - 23 November 2004
Father Shannon M. Collins, CPM
"God our Father, You gave your servant Miguel Agustin the grace to seek ardently Your greater glory and the salvation of Your people. Grant that, through his intercession and following his example, we may serve You and glorify You by performing our daily duties with fidelity and joy and effectively helping our neighbor" (Collect).
i. St. Francis of Assisi could be described in many ways — a simple and poor friar — a preacher in word and example — a stigmatist — a lover of God's creation or the founder of the largest religious family in the history of the Church. But St. Francis of Assisi is best described as the herald of the Great King, Christ Jesus. He is first and foremost a knight of his Lord and Master. Yes, he is best described as a most loyal subject that has sworn complete allegiance to Christ the King and to His Kingdom, the Holy Roman Catholic Church. And if Francis knew any Spanish in addition to his native Italian and beloved French, he would cry out Viva Christo Rey. St. Francis becomes for us, in fact, the perfect example of the restoration of fallen man. He is a true model of how to end the rebellion in all of us and to become a subject in the Empire of Christ. Francis shows us how to correct the errors of that sinful revolution that sinful rebellion that began in the Garden of Eden at the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. But if Francis were to walk the earth today, he would be considered rebellious, even revolutionary for he would be going against the secular tide. St. Francis would be a mutineer in that he would want to overthrow — peacefully of course — the present order of things. He would be considered a rebel in that Francis would wish to cast down the mighty secular powers from their thrones, so that Christ's Kingship might be recognized by all. And yes, he would be considered a revolutionary in his utter obedience and subjection to Christ and His Kingdom, while many others continue to deny Christ's Kingship while serving worldly kingdoms.
ii. The modern world has been especially revolutionary toppling kings from their thrones and smashing altars. In the year 1917, for example, the Bolsheviks, the Communist revolutionaries in Russia overthrew and assassinated the Czar and his royal family. But months before this tragedy, a revolution occurred in Mexico. Yes, the 1917 revolution in Mexico established the world's first socialist constitution and Holy Mother Church suffered greatly. Authorities demolished, desecrated, and seized Catholic Churches and religious houses. In a satanic rebellion, revolutionaries destroyed sacred vessels, sacramentals, and sacred works of art. Priests, religious, and Catholic laity were persecuted and killed. In the Mexican province of Tobasco things were especially difficult. The socialist governor of Tobasco named his children Lenin, Satan, and Lucifer. He destroyed all churches, forced priests to marry, and persecuted any true Christian. Some sought to rise up in a bloody counter-revolution. Catholic men seeking to protect the Catholic Church and restore her altars took up arms and called themselves the Cristeros. But the hierarchy of the Church both in Mexico and Rome did not give their support to this violent solution. No, the Church which survived Nero and Caligula, the Church that survived Frederick Barbarossa, the Church that survived Luther, Henry VIII, and Elizabeth, the Church that survived Hitler and Stalin, knows that only the blood of martyrs brings peace and an end to rebellion. As one Mexican bishop put it, We cannot be responsible before God and man for bloodshed. Better that we should die, and that out of the martyrs' blood should come new growth. One such martyr was the Jesuit priest, Fr. Miguel Pro.
iii. Born in Guadalupe in the year 1891, Bl. Miguel Pro was more than a little rebellious as a youngster. While only a toddler, Miguel managed to escape the watchful eye of his nursemaid and crawl out onto a window ledge some three stories above a busy street. His horrified mother found and rescued him, Another time, when he was a teenager, he took a cassock from a Jesuit priest and went out to the neighborhoods preaching his own mission. Accepted as a priest by the simple country folk, Miguel collected all sorts of gifts, including cigarettes, eggs, and cheese. But eventually this practical joker would enter the Society of Jesus for real, although he would have to be both educated and ordained outside of Mexico because of the persecution connected with the Socialist Revolution. After ordination, Fr. Miguel was sent back to his beloved Mexico in 1926. Within a month of his arrival home, the socialist government suppressed all public worship and any priest found would be subject to arrest and prosecution.
iv. As a result of this difficulty, Fr. Miguel Pro adopted a number of disguises so that he could continue to serve the Catholic faithful. He once dressed as a mechanic and gave a religious talk to a group of chauffeurs. During one narrow escape from his pursuers, Fr. Miguel spied a beautiful young girl and linked arms with her whispering, Help me, I'm a priest. The girl reacted well and the two pretended to be a couple on a date. This good priest raced back and forth on a bicycle throughout the city administering Baptism, Holy Communion, and Last Rites, and heard many confessions. He also acted as true priest taking up a collection from those with funds and giving material help to the poor. Just previous to his martyrdom, Fr.Miguel was offering Holy Mass at a convent. He revealed to the Mother Superior his thoughts: I offered my life for the saving of Mexico some time ago, Sister, and this morning at Mass I felt that He had accepted it.
v. Fr. Miguel Augustin Pro and two of his brothers would soon be arrested and falsely charged with the attempted assassination of the newly elected socialist president of Mexico. The young priest received no trial. On his way to face the firing squad, the police officer that had caught the saintly priest begged forgiveness. Fr. Miguel put his arms around the officer saying: You have not only my forgiveness but my thanks. After praying for a full two minutes, Fr. Miguel stood with his arms stretched out in the form of a cross. In a firm and clear voice he shouted, Viva Cristo Rey — Long Live Christ the King. The firing squad did not kill the courageous priest — though mortally wounded he stilled breathed. A general walked over to him and fired his revolver into the head of the martyr. Thinking that this execution would place fear in the hearts of the Catholic population, President Calles had photographers and reporters cover all the gruesome details. His plan backfired, however, as the people grew more faithful, more Catholic. In fact, soon the government forbid anyone to have possession of the photographs of the martyrdom.
vi. The rebellion of modern man continues and as a result violence and injustice continue in this world. Come, let us break their fetters, come, let us cast off their yoke. Seeking to overthrow God's established order — plotting against the Lord, His Christ, and the Catholic Church — has proved disastrous. As Pius XI wrote in the encyclical Quas Primas— on Christ's Kingship — the manifold evils in the world are due to the fact that the majority of men have thrust Jesus Christ and His Holy Law out of their lives ...and as long as individuals and States refuse to submit to the rule of our Savior, there will be no hope for lasting peace. The only hope for the reign of peace and righteousness is to recognize Christ's reign in our hearts and to restore the Empire of Christ in our families — our cities — our nation — and yes in the universe — that all men may cry out with one accord —Viva Cristo Rey — Long Live Christ the King.