During the Pope’s brief meeting at the Apostolic Nunciature last evening with Jesuits in Mexico, his confrères gave Pope Francis a relic of Blessed Miguel Pro, a Martyr killed in 1927, during the anti-clerical regime of President Plutarco Elías Calles. Blessed Miguel Agustin Pro, S.J. (1891-1927). Born January 13, 1891, at Guadalupe Zacatecas, Mexico, Miguel “Miguelito” Pro was the son of a mining engineer and a pious and charitable mother. From his earliest days, Miguel had a special affinity for the working classes which he kept all of his life. At age 20, he entered the Jesuit novitiate and shortly thereafter was exiled because of the Mexican revolution. He traveled to the United States, Spain, Nicaragua and Belgium, where he was ordained a priest in 1925. Father Pro suffered from chronic stomach ailments and when, after several operations his health did not improve, his Jesuit superiors allowed him to return to Mexico in 1926 despite the horrible religious persecution underway in Mexico.
Churches were closed and priests fled into hiding. Father Pro spent the rest of his life in a secret ministry to Mexican Catholics. He strengthened people in their faith and was deeply involved in serving the poor in Mexico City. He was known for wearing all kinds of disguises that enabled him to work quietly among the poor. Miguel would dress as a beggar and go during the night to baptize infants, bless marriages and celebrate Mass. He would appear in jail dressed as a police officer to bring Holy Viaticum to condemned Catholics. When going to wealthy neighborhoods to provide for the poor, he would show up at the doorstep dressed as a fashionable executive with a fresh flower on his lapel. His was the stuff of a modern spy movie or award winning television series! However in all that he did, Fr. Pro remained obedient to his superiors and was filled with the joy of serving Christ, his King.
He was falsely accused in the bombing attempt on a former Mexican president and declared a wanted man. Handed over to the police, he was sentenced to death without recourse to any legal process. On the day of his execution by a firing squad, Fr. Pro forgave his executioners, bravely refused the blindfold and died proclaiming, “Viva Cristo Rey”, “Long live Christ the King!”
There exists very powerful images of Blessed Miguel Pro, boldly kneeling before his executioners and forgiving them, before proclaiming the real kingship of the non-violent Lord. Christian faith is rooted firmly in Jesus of Nazareth who was declared a king at his execution. He was not a king who craved for power, nor a dictator who dominated and trampled underfoot those who encountered him. In his kingdom, his poor subjects were cherished and loved; they were his friends, the little ones, his brothers and sisters who partook in his very life. Worldly kingdoms will come and go. The kingdom of Jesus Christ will never pass away. Together with Blessed Miguel Pro of Mexico, Pope Francis and Christians throughout the world acclaim their King: Viva Cristo Rey!