In my readings I came across a short account of Miguel Agustin Pro Juarez. Curious to learn more about this Mexican priest and martyr I found a home page about him. He was born in 1891 in Guadalupe, Mexico and entered the Jesuit seminary in 1911. However, the Mexican revolution had begun in 1910 and the fighting lasted until 1921, killing some 900,000 people in the process. After studying in Mexico he was forced to leave when the tidal wave of anti-Catholic and anti-religious persecution began under President Plutarco Elias Calles. The writer Graham Greene described the persecution of the priests and Catholics as the "fiercest persecution of religion anywhere since the reign of Elizabeth"
Mexico had adopted a new constitution in1917. It prohibited religious schools. It outlawed religious orders, it forbade public worship outside of church buildings, it restricted religious ownership of property and it took away civil rights from the clergy including the right to vote, to comment about public affairs and prohibited the right to wear religious clothing. Churches were closed, priests in hiding and those that weren’t we being arrested and imprisoned or shot.
Pro and the other seminarians traveled first to the United States to escape the persecution. From California he was sent by his superiors to Spain to continue his studies and was ordained a priest in Belgium in1925. Suffering from a severe stomach problem he underwent three surgeries without much relief and was therefore allowed to return to Mexico in spite of the persecution. In spite of his health problems he conducted a clandestine underground ministry. He would dress in disguises such as that of a beggar and would baptize infants, bless marriages and celebrate Mass. Dressed as a police officer he would bring communion to condemned Catholics.
What I found most interesting and inspiring was the way he died. In November of 1927 he and his brother Humberto, also a priest, were arrested and President Calles ordered them executed on the pretext they had been part of an assassination attempt. As Fr. Pro walked from his cell to the courtyard where he was to be shot, he blessed the soldiers. Rejecting a blindfold, he first prayed. After a short prayer, he shouted "May God have mercy on you! May God bless you! You know I am innocent. With all my heart I forgive my enemies." Holding his arms in the way Jesus was crucified, he shouted "Viva Cristo Rey!" (long live Christ the King) and was executed.
President Calles had the entire execution carefully photographed and then had the photographs published in all the newspapers the next day as an example and to intimidate his opponents. But the photos had the opposite effect. His funeral was attended by thousands and encouraged others to join the opposition. He became a celebrity after death and is famous today as a Christian martyr. The first photo above shows him being led to the court yard where he was shot. The second shows him just before the execution and the last is a photo of his funeral. He was an impressive person whose dedication and courage are to be admired.