Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Blessed Miguel Augustin Pro, SJ

Today we celebrate another martyr's life for the Church, for the people of God.  In Mexico, Jesuit Father Miguel Pro, was executed on this day in 1927 because of his faith and this refusal to live by the Mexican government's legislation that strictly limited public worship.  Anti-Catholicism was rampant in government offices and activities.  The public celebration of Mass by a priest was cause for severe punishment, even execution.  He was known for the different disguises he would wear so that he could minister to the physical and spiritual needs of those who were poor even the rich and in some cases members of the government party and other political parties in Mexico.  In the spirit of Ignatius Loyola, Pro was truly a man of genuine evangelization.  His life in Mexico was indeed a proclamation of the Gospel. His deep spirituality was complemented by an extraordinary sense of humor which brought so many to him.  One of his recognized comments made clear his simplicity and his determination:  Pointing to his crucifix, he said: "Here is my weapon.  With this I do not fear anyone."  

In November, 1927, there was a failed assassination attempt against the President of Mexico.  Because a car used in the crime had once been owned by Pro's brother, it was used to tromp an accusation against Pro and his brother.  On this day in 1927, the priest was taken from his jail cell to the site of execution.  After kneeling in prayer, he stood before the military men who would fire their rifles against this holy man.  As rifles were raised, Pro shouted out "Viva Cristo Rey" (Long live Christ the King).

Such a threat to the national government, Padre Pro's execution was photographed and published throughout Mexico.  Why?  The President wished to intimidate priests and others who were had not fears in practicing their faith.  The consequences of this government order were the opposite.

Our Church has many men and women who have willingly acted to proclaim their faith in the most dangerous situations.  Their commitment to Jesus Christ, the Church and the people of their ministry enabled them to face their deaths with much peace of mind and heart.

Today, throughout the world, there are still forces that are threatened by the lives and faith of men and women who struggle of justice and peace.  There is scarcely a year that passes when the Holy See does not publish a list of men and women recognized by the Church as men and women who gave their lives because they believed and were not afraid to proclaim their faith.

And what does this man's life and feast today stir up in your heart?  Does it make you consider the times when you may have been called upon to stick up for your Church, your faith but you backed away because of possible embarrassment or ridicule?  We do live in a culture that daily challenges the Ten Commandments and the life of the gospel that Jesus Christ preached ... and for which he also died!

As we prepare to celebrate Thanksgiving Day, we might include among the many reasons we hold gratitude as so important in our lives the fact that there are many who have died and others who have suffered and continue to suffer for the sake of their faith and the ministry of evangelization to the people of God.