Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Saints South of the Border

Today the Catholic Church honors St. Christopher Magallanes and several other Mexican priests martyred for their faith in the 1920's.
If you have not seen the film "For Greater Glory" I strongly suggest that you find a copy and see it. Or, you can purchase a copy from any of the Pauline Books & Media Centers (www.pauline.org)
 in the USA or Toronto.
In the beginning of the film Peter O'Toole portrays Father Christopher Magallanas a kind pastor in Mexico. The country's president, Plutarco Elias Calles, had ordered all Catholic churches to be closed. Many churches were desecrated. It became a crime to be a believer.
Priests were denied a right to vote, the right to a trial by jury, as well as the right to wear clerical garb.   It became a crime to be caught doing priestly things, such as celebrating Mass, baptisms and processions. An atheist imbued with a hatred for Catholics, Calles was not officially a Communist.
However he allowed Mexico to be the first country to host a Soviet embassy. Priests, nuns, religious brothers, active lay Catholics and any who dared to speak out against the Calles government were arrested. It was even a crime to advise a young an to enter a monastery. When arrested some were shot immediately. Others were first tortured and then executed.
Blessed Jose Sanchez del Rio
For Greater Glory reveals how Blessed Jose (Joselito) Sanchez del Rio, a teenager, witnessed the murder of Father Magallanes. Only 15 years old, Jose became part of the Cristero movement which opposed the Calles regime. Jose was captured by the Federales -- government troops -- and tortured.
His captors cut the soles of his feet and marched him barefoot to his place of execution. Like so many of the  martyrs of Mexico, Joselito cried out "Viva Cristo Re", Long live Christ the King! as he died.
Andy Garcia plays the Cristero General in For Greater Glory
St. Christopher Magallanes
Even after Calles finished his term as president, he held on to power as the Jefe Maximo, Head Chief of State, until 1934. The US ambassador to Mexico arranged a truce between the Cristeros and the government. The Cristeros were to lay down their arms and be given amnesty. Calles did not honor the treaty. Instead he had former Cristeros executed in their own homes.
One of the martyrs whose superiors first sent him to the USA to avoid arrest is Father Miguel Pro, SJ. He mastered many disguises as he ministered to the spiritual needs of his people before his arrest. Falsely accused of political insurrection, Father Pro died heroically, forgiving his executioners and proclaiming Viva Cristo Re, y Viva la Virgen de Guadalupe.Long live Christ the King and long live the Virgen of Gualadlupe.
Blessed Fr. Pro at his martyrdom

Calles died in Mexico in 1945. 90,000 people died during the years of his time in office. His political party managed to re-write text books or to eliminate the facts of Calles' anti-clerical and ferocious anti-Catholicism from Mexico's educational system. Unless they were instructed at home about the Cristero movement and the religious persecution many Mexican people were unaware of the dark days of the Calles government.Only in the 2000's did one of the Mexican presidents speak plainly of the evil perpetrated during the 1920's and early 1930's in the country which lies to the south of these United States. As we celebrate the holiness of Father Magallanes, Joselito and their fellow martyrs, we ask that God will grant religious freedom to all.

We continue to pray for those grieving the loss of life in Oklahoma, Texas and other areas suffering from floods, tornadoes and other natural disasters. May many generous people respond with help for those in need. I am sure that Catholic Charities USA will be helping along with other community relief organizations.
Have a blessed night and a good day tomorrow.

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