CACINA

Carry the gospel with you

Posted in christian, Christianity, inspirational, religion, scripture by Mike on November 23, 2011

Gospel reading of the day:

Luke 21:12-19

Jesus said to the crowd: “They will seize and persecute you, they will hand you over to the synagogues and to prisons, and they will have you led before kings and governors because of my name. It will lead to your giving testimony. Remember, you are not to prepare your defense beforehand, for I myself shall give you a wisdom in speaking that all your adversaries will be powerless to resist or refute. You will even be handed over by parents, brothers, relatives, and friends, and they will put some of you to death. You will be hated by all because of my name, but not a hair on your head will be destroyed. By your perseverance you will secure your lives.”

Reflection on the gospel reading: We know at this dawn of the third millennium that Jesus’ words about the cost of faith in Jesus have proven true. Real fidelity to the gospel can be very costly indeed. One recent estimate has suggested that 45 million Christians died for their faith in the twentieth century alone and that since the Lord’s death and resurrection, more than 70 million Christians died for the faith. The Church today celebrates the life and death of one such martyr, a Jesuit priest Miguel Pro, who died in a persecution of the Church in Mexico. No matter the price that we pay for our faith in Jesus, however, Jesus promises to remain with us until the end, giving us wisdom to refute lies and promising that no one will be able to injure our most essential self.

Saint of the day: Miguel Augustin Pro was born in Guadalupe de Zacatecas, Mexico on January 13, 1891 in a large family of seven brothers and sisters. Inspired by two of his sisters entering religious life, Miguel, at the age of 20, entered the Society of Jesus at Hacienda El Llano.

It was a time of political and religious persecution in Mexico under the rule of Presidents Alvaro Obregon and then Plutarco Elias Calles, described by writer Graham Greene as the “fiercest persecution of religion anywhere since the reign of [Queen] Elizabeth.” The Pro family suffered both financial and personal hardship. Miguel and his fellow Jesuit novices were also under threat, as Catholic priests and religious were particular objects of persecution in the reign of terror.

Following a raid of their religious house, the Jesuit superiors ordered Miguel and the other novices to flee Mexico. They went first to Los Gatos, California and from there to Granada, Spain (1915-19) and then Miguel did some teaching in Nicaragua from 1919 to 1922. Because of his background with miners in Mexico and his natural ability to relate well with them, he was sent to Enghein in Belgium to study the Catholic labor movement. He was also ordained priest there on August 31, 1925. His first assignment as a priest was to work with miners in Charleroi, Belgium and he was able to win them over.

A few months after his ordination he had several operations arising from stomach ulcers. He was also distressed by the situation back home. Yet, his companions noted that when he felt the most pain, he would seem at his most cheerful.

With the hope of helping him regain his health, in 1926 he was granted his wish to return to Mexico to be closer to his family, even though the Church in Mexico was facing major challenges from an anti-Catholic government under the presidency of President Calles. Constitutional amendments and legislation had recently been passed which severely restricted public worship. Any Catholic priest daring to celebrate the Eucharist or administer any of the sacraments risked harassment, arrest, torture and even execution.

Under such circumstances Miguel played a cat and mouse game with the police as he secretly ministered to the physical and spiritual needs of the people – rich, poor, business people or laborers, even some Socialists and Communists. Getting around by bicycle and variously disguised as a mechanic, a servant, or an educated person of culture, he was able to give spiritual sustenance to many people. In the spirit of St. Paul, he was all things to all people for the sake of proclaiming the Gospel. He won people over through prayer and his great sense of humor. While the army and police had their guns, Miguel used to say, pointing to his crucifix: “Here is my weapon. With this I do not fear anyone.”

He had also said: “I am ready to give my life for souls but I want nothing for myself. All that I want is to lead them to God. If I kept anything for myself, I should be a thief, infamous; I should no longer be a priest.”

Many of the details of his ministry come from his letters, which he signed ‘Cocol’. In October 1926, a warrant for his arrest was issued. He was arrested, released from prison the next day, but kept under surveillance.

An assassination attempt against former president, Álvaro Obregón, in November 1927 provided the state with an excuse to arrest Miguel and his brother Roberto. A young engineer who was involved and confessed his part in the assassination testified the Pro brothers were not involved but he was ignored. The authorities claimed to link the Pro brothers to the crime through an old car which had formerly belonged to one of the brothers. Even though they knew that the brothers were innocent, it was enough that they were both Catholic priests and so enemies of the regime. Simply on that basis, without due process or a trial, the two brothers were condemned to die. On the morning of November 23, 1927, Miguel Pro was led from his cell to his place of execution. The police and military ignored the shouts of a man outside the execution area who said he had a stay of execution for the two brothers. As Miguel was led to his death, a policeman responsible for his capture asked his forgiveness which was immediately given. Minutes before his execution and declining the usual blindfold, Miguel asked to be allowed to pray. He knelt down on the ground, in front of a wall already riddled with bullets from previous executions. Like his Master, he accepted God’s will, then stood up, stretched out his arms as if on a cross. Like his Master, he forgave his executioners and, as they raised their guns, he shouted in a clear and loud voice: “Viva Cristo Rey!” (Long live Christ the King). When the initial shots of the firing squad failed to kill him, a soldier shot him dead at close range.

Strangely, there is a detailed photographic record of the execution. This was done on the express orders of the president and they appeared on the front page of newspapers all over the country. The idea was to intimidate other rebels against the government but, not surprisingly, they had the opposite effect and are now a precious record of a martyr’s death. Miguel Pro was beatified in September 1988.

Miguel is remembered for his happy disposition, his extraordinary dedication to the priestly ministry under the most harsh conditions, and his devotion to Christ the King. One of his companions, Fr. Pulido, said that he “had never seen such an exquisite wit, never coarse, always sparkling.”

Spiritual reading We ought to speak, shout out against injustices, with confidence and without fear. We proclaim the principles of the Church, the reign of love, without forgetting that it is also a reign of justice. (Miguel Agustin Pro, S.J.)

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