Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Notes on the Memorial of Bl. Miguel Agustin Pro.

Today the Society of Jesus remembers Miguel Agustin Pro, a Mexican Jesuit who exercised his priestly ministry in secret during years of intense religious persecution and died a martyr. Not long after Pro entered the Society in 1911, Mexico entered a lengthy period of civil unrest and political turmoil. A succession of fiercely anticlerical governments attacked organized religion, banning public worship and making all clergy into wanted criminals. After completing his formation outside Mexico, Pro returned to his home country in June 1926 to offer the sacraments and spiritual counsel to Catholics who continued to gather in secret. For over a year, the brave and ingenious Pro managed to serve a circuit of underground parishes while evading arrest. In November 1927, Pro was captured by the Mexican army and sentenced to death. As he faced the firing squad without a blindfold, Pro spread his arms in the form of a cross and shouted "Viva Cristo Rey!" Hoping to make an example of the defiant priest, the authorities took several photographs of Pro's execution; much to their consternation, these memorable images only served to encourage popular devotion to the martyred Jesuit. Pro was beatified by Pope John Paul II in 1988.

As is the case with a number of other 20th century saints and beati, there are still people alive who knew Miguel Pro personally. I haven't met any, but at Santa Clara I lived with a ninety-year-old Jesuit who had known some of Pro's novitiate classmates. However, it isn't necessary to resort to exercises like "six degrees of Miguel Pro" to make this modern martyr relevant to our times. Miguel Pro was killed for being a Catholic priest in a century that was rife with religious persecution, a century in which dying for one's faith was unfortunately far from unusual. The circumstances of Pro's death should neither shock nor surprise us, for many other modern Christians have died in similar ways. As we commemorate the witness of Miguel Pro and countless other martyrs, let us also reflect on how each of us can help build a world free from religious violence. Only by hoping for such a world - no matter how remote or impossible it may seem - can we sincerely echo our brother Miguel's dying cry: "Viva Cristo Rey!" AMDG.


At November 24, 2005 10:04 AM, Blogger Lisa said...

Your reflection on Miguel Pro SJ and the significance of contemporary martyrdom is very meaningful.

I took a few minutes to peruse the link to the Chicago Jesuit's webpage. I am curious about the picture of a group of SJs at the top of the page but cannot find a caption.

The Church is alive and well and the SJs continue to light the way!

God bless you all,

At November 24, 2005 1:57 PM, Blogger Lisa said...

By the way, "Blessed Thanksgiving Day!"

I posted a reflection at that you might enjoy.


At November 26, 2005 10:26 AM, Blogger Joseph Koczera, S.J. said...

Lisa -

Thanks for the kind words - I appreciated the Thanksgiving post on your blog. As for the pictures on the Chi Prov website, below the intro blurb next to the photo ("The Chicago Province of the Society of Jesus is composed of...") is a link that says "About this image." If you click on that, you'll find captions for the different photos that appear on the site. AMDG,



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