Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Happy Feast day of Blessed Miguel Pro

Blessed Padre Miguel A. Pro you were a simple man who was protecting by the Almighty in your life, i hope you become a saint, rest in peace! Remembering you 83 years later Father Pro! Remembering you on your feast day!

Blessed Miguel Agustín Pro Juárez (January 13, 1891 – November 23, 1927), also known as Blessed Miguel Pro, was a Mexican Jesuit priest, executed during the persecution of the Catholic Church under the presidency of Plutarco Elías Calles after trumped up charges of involvement in an assassination attempt against former President Álvaro Obregón. Fr. Pro was beatified by John Paul II as a martyr on September 25, 1988.

Arrest and execution
An assassination attempt by bombing against Álvaro Obregón (which only wounded the ex-president) in November 1927 provided the state with a pretext to capture Pro and his brothers Humberto and Roberto. A young engineer who was involved and confessed his part in the assassination testified the Pro brothers were not involved. Miguel and his brothers were taken to the Detective Inspector's Office in Mexico City.

On November 13, 1927, President Calles gave orders to have Pro executed under the pretext of the assassination, but in reality for defying the virtual outlawing of Catholicism. Calles had the execution meticulously photographed, and the newspapers throughout the country carried them on the front page the following day. Presumably, Calles thought that the sight of the pictures would frighten the Cristero rebels who were fighting against his troops, particularly in the state of Jalisco. However, they had the opposite effect.

When the initial shots of the firing squad failed to kill him, a soldier shot him point blankFr. Pro and his brothers were visited by Generals Roberto Cruz and Palomera Lopez around 11 p.m. on November 22, 1927.

The next day, as Fr. Pro walked from his cell to the courtyard and the firing squad, he blessed the soldiers, knelt and briefly prayed quietly. Declining a blindfold, he faced his executioners with a crucifix in one hand and a rosary in the other and held his arms out in imitation of the crucified Christ and shouted out, "May God have mercy on you! May God bless you! Lord, Thou knowest that I am innocent! With all my heart I forgive my enemies!" Before the firing squad were ordered to shoot, Pro raised his arms in imitation of Christ and shouted the defiant cry of the Cristeros, "Viva Cristo Rey!" -"Long live Christ the King!" .When the initial shots of the firing squad failed to kill him, a soldier shot him point blank.

The Cristeros became more animated and fought with renewed enthusiasm, many of them carrying the newspaper photo of Pro before the firing squad.

Fifty-two years after Pro's execution, the Pope visited Mexico, was welcomed by the President, and celebrated open-air Masses before thousands of people (an act which would have been a crime during Pro's life and was still technically illegal at the time of the pope's visit, though unenforced). At his beatification on September 25, 1988, Pope John Paul II honored Fr. Pro with these words:

Neither suffering nor serious illness, neither the exhausting ministerial activity, frequently carried out in difficult and dangerous circumstances, could stifle the radiating and contagious joy which he brought to his life for Christ and which nothing could take away. Indeed, the deepest root of self-sacrificing surrender for the lowly was his passionate love for Jesus Christ and his ardent desire to be conformed to him, even unto death.

Blessed Miguel Pro - "Viva Cristo Rey"

There is a law in Mexico, which states that no religious ceremony may be held outside of a church. The same law exists in many communist countries, or at least did exist, until the revolutions in 1989. Mexico and perhaps a few other hard line countries still maintain that law.

There are only two times in the last twelve years that an exception to that law has been allowed, and that was when His Holiness, Pope John Paul II, came to Mexico in 1979 and 1990. At those times, Masses were celebrated openly in large outdoor areas. But with those exceptions, the law is very clear and very strict.

However, on September 25, 1988, a fairly large group of Mexicans, led by a priest, walked to the National Lottery building, located on a busy thoroughfare in Mexico City, and celebrated Mass there. The crowd was large enough to attract the attention of the police, and we're sure the police did notice. But the faithful were not stopped, or hindered in any way. We were very surprised to hear of this, until we were told of a little bronze plaque on the wall of that building. It reads very simply, "This is the spot where Padre Miguel Pro was executed on November 23, 1927." And the day the Mass was celebrated was the day Miguel Pro was beatified by Pope John Paul II, at St. Peter's Basilica in Rome.

Mexico is such a contradiction. How can a country which is 97% Catholic, and 99% Guadalupean, be ruled by Anti-Catholic governments since 1825? Or better yet, how has the Catholic Church been able to survive, under the heel of such domination? We, in the United States, find it almost impossible to believe that only 75 years ago, there was such wholesale persecution and slaughter of Catholics, just south of the border, down Mexico way.

The situation between the State and the Church had been going downhill for many years. To make matters worse, the Constitution of 1917 took away the Church's official standing in Mexico. Priests were not allowed to wear clerical garb. Previously, all church property had been confiscated by the State. Now, the church was forbidden to accumulate any new private property. The priesthood was classified as a profession, like a doctor or lawyer. Priests had to have licenses to practice their profession. If they had no license, they could not preach. If they did have their license, the government had its finger on them at all times. Foreign missionaries were banned in Mexico; and native Mexicans were forbidden to train in the Mexican seminaries. So the faithful were not allowed to have Mexican priests, and not allowed to have foreign priests come in. The idea was to kill off Catholicism in Mexico, by eliminating the priesthood. When none of this seemed to work, the president, Plutarco Elias Calles, issued an order that all clergy were to leave their duties and report to Mexico City. None of them left their parishes, which made them outlaws in the eyes of the State. God only knows what Calles would have done with them, if they had all come to Mexico City.

Most of the world knew very little, or nothing, of what was going on in Mexico. Those Catholic priests, nuns and lay people who had been murdered, might have remained unknown statistics of man's inhumanity to man, and Satan's hate for God, had President Calles not made a move that backfired on him, and all of Mexico. The execution of Miguel Pro, and the publicizing of that execution, was a huge mistake on the part of the Mexican government in 1927, which they have never been able to live down, or sweep under the carpet. It highlighted the persecution of the Church by the government. Padre Pro just refused to go away, and based on his recent beatification, he never will.

Who is Padre Miguel Pro?

Miguel Agust¡n Pro was God's clown. He was born on January 13, 1891. His early days remind us very much of St. Francis of Assisi. Miguel came from a well-to-do family, which was a feat in itself, at the turn of the century, in Mexico. His father was an executive in a small mining village in the state of Zacatecas. Miguel grew up, embracing all the beauty of his surroundings. He was of the upper class, but he never thought of himself that way. His greatest love, as a child, was to wander down into the mines, to be with the workers. To Miguel, this was the best way to spend his life. It gave him a chance to meet and become close to those unfortunates who had to be in the mines, working long hours, under terrible conditions. But when Miguel was there, he cheered everyone up. All was fun.

He was a natural comic, which would be of great help to him in his unorthodox priestly ministry. He was a very happy boy in school, the leader of the crowd. We would call Miguel a very normal boy; yet there was a sensitivity in him that his mother noticed from his earliest age.

He went to work for his father in the office of the mine, before he had finished school. That was fine with Miguel. He would rather be around the mines than at school, anyway. He adapted beautifully to the office. His natural talents emerged. He picked up all the office procedures, especially details, and mastered them. He was great on the typewriter; he could type 100 words per minute. But whenever he could, he would sneak down into the mines. He became friendly with the miners. He picked up their colloquial language, which was different from what his parents spoke in the house.

One talent Miguel acquired early in life, which would be extremely important to him later on, was as a caricaturist. He was able to capture, in exaggerated form, the peculiarities in people's faces. At first, he sketched them on paper; they were hysterical. He would embellish noses, thick bushy eyebrows, long chins, funny eyes, buck teeth. He had an aptitude for these things. But he grew from drawing them, to disguising himself in the same theatrical masks. This ability to disguise himself was to prove crucial in later years.

His focus was not on spirituality, at all. He was having too much of a good time. He learned to play the guitar and mandolin, as was required of a young man of his station. His two sisters decided to join the convent. Miguel became furious! Things were changing. He didn't want that. He was enjoying his family. Miguel became very angry. He blamed it on the Jesuits. They had been the girls' spiritual directors. He developed a great animosity toward the Jesuits. He really didn't believe his sisters would go through with this insanity; he thought for sure he could count on his mother and father to step in and stop them. But they didn't!

On the day, his sisters left for their new life in Christ, an irate Miguel bolted out into the woods. He was gone for days. His mother was really worried about him. Anything could happen in the woods. He was not experienced in hiking or camping. She went out looking for him. When she found him, as she knew she would, she spoke very gently to her son. She was concerned about the way, he had reacted to his sisters' entering religious life. Miguel couldn't understand either, why he had reacted so angrily. He just knew it bothered him terribly.

His mother made a suggestion that she knew would not go over well with Miguel. She asked him to go on a religious retreat, just for a few days, to try to come to terms with what was bothering him. She was right; he was not happy with the idea. But, praise God, he went anyway. No one knows for sure what happened on that retreat. The best comparison we can make is Paul's conversion on the road to Damascus. It was about as complete a turnaround as Paul made. This young man, a hothead like Paul, impetuous like Paul, came back from this retreat, converted like Paul, his vocation to the priesthood, sealed. And most unbelievable of all, he was going to be a Jesuit!

The parallels with Paul are so clear. We have to believe that Miguel Pro was given some insight on that retreat, some vision, whether physical or spiritual, which lifted him to the heights of Heaven. On August 11, 1911, he left his home and family, and entered the Jesuit seminary in El Llano, in the state of Michoac n. He was twenty years old.

The Church and the State

The relationship between the Church and the State had plunged to its lowest depths. The conflict had begun about a hundred years before Miguel Pro entered the seminary. Ironically, the actions of a well-meaning priest, Miguel Hidalgo, brought about revolution. He had only wanted some equity for the Indians, who had been mistreated at the hands of the Spanish from the days following Cortez' conquest. The priest was about social justice; what he accomplished was social uprising, against the wealthy landowners, and (not part of his plan) against the Church. The leaders of the Church have always been associated with the establishment. It was that way during the French Revolution; it was the same during the Mexican Revolution.

Farmers and peasants, without weapons other than pitchforks, knives and the like, rallied round Hidalgo, and marched on the towns and villages of Mexico. The force swelled to over a hundred thousand, at which point, Hidalgo lost control of his followers completely; it became a bloodbath. Hidalgo was not a military man; he became the dupe for ambitious men, who would use him for their own ends. Finally, he was killed, a year after his ill-begun revolution. He has been called the "Father of the Revolution" in Mexico. And from that poor beginning, revolution upon revolution has continued. The Spanish regained control of the towns after Hidalgo was killed, but they never quite controlled the country again.

After a period of ten years, many guerrilla attacks and much back-stabbing, a shrewd upstart took control of the country, and proclaimed himself its Emperor. His empire lasted less than two years, but accomplished two things. Spain was banished from Mexico, including its soldiers and governors, but also its money. The Emperor bled the country of what remained of its treasury, setting the stage for many to continue doing, down through the years. The bloodsuckers remained; only now they were home-grown Mexican opportunists, rather than the Spanish Overlords. In a period of fifty five years, from 1821 to 1876, Mexico was ruled by forty presidents, two emperors, and a few provisional governments. Everyone took their best shot at raping the people. It was also during this time that Mexico lost a good deal of her territory to the United States in the Mexican War of 1846: Texas, California, Nevada and Utah, in addition to parts of New Mexico, Arizona, Colorado and Wyoming.

The country had been looted of all its treasury systematically by Santa Anna, who had been in some degree of power for almost twenty five years. While he was exiled from the country three times, he was also asked to come back twice. Each time he returned, he wiped out the treasury again. Finally, in 1854, the people had had enough of him, and he was exiled his third and last time.

The country had been ruled for so many years by military men, who kept increasing and increasing their own personal fortunes, the people looked with hope to a strong non-military man, a full-blooded Indian, Benito Juarez. He was the only one who seemed to care about the people. During his eighteen years in power, he brought his country to financial ruin; not because he was crooked, he just didn't know how to run a country. Juarez, who has been called the "Thomas Jefferson" of Mexico, because of his reforms, was also most instrumental in persecuting the Church in Mexico. This seems strange for a man who was taken off the streets as a young boy and given his education through the generosity of a priest.

As soon as Juarez had attained even a small degree of power in the Mexican government, he passed a bill, forbidding the Church to buy property. He followed this with another law, called the Reform Laws, which confiscated all church property, broke up monastic orders, dismantled convents, and prohibited seminaries. Religious were not allowed to wear clerical vestments on the streets. The Reform laws of Benito Juarez, and his attitude, that of crushing the Church in Mexico, have existed in one form or another until this day. Once begun, the persecution never ended. Sadly enough, this man would not have remained in power, if it were not for the support he received from the United States. Into this setting, the Lord places Miguel Pro, a Powerful Man in our Church

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