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Blessed Miguel Pro, S.J.

Today is the feast day of Blessed Miguel Pro, S.J., who was martyred 80 years ago today in Mexico.

Pro was born in Guadalupe in 1891. He entered the Jesuit novitiate in 1911, the same year that Mexican president Porfirio Daz was overthrown. In the resulting chaos, an anti-clerical government came to power in the country and the Jesuit novices had to flee to Los Gatos, California. Pro eventually found his way to Belgium, where he was ordained in 1925. A year later, he returned to Mexico to find a church suffering under what writer Graham Greene called the fiercest persecution of religion anywhere since the reign of Elizabeth. In his book The Lawless Roads, Greene described Pros clandestine efforts on behalf of Mexicos Catholics:

Within two months of Pro's landing, President Calles hadbegun the fiercest persecution of religion anywhere since the reign of Elizabeth. The churcheswere closed, Mass had to be said secretly in private houses, to administer theSacraments was a serious offence. Nevertheless, Pro gave Communion daily tosome three hundred people, confessions were heard in half-built houses indarkness, retreats 'were held in garages. Pro escaped the plain-clothes policeagain and again. Once he found them at the entrance to a house where he wassupposed to say Mass; he posed as a police officer, showing an imaginary badgeand remarking, 'There's a cat bagged in here', and passed into the house andout again with his cassock under his arm. Followed by detectives when he left aCatholic house and with only fifty yards' start, he disappeared altogether fromtheir sight round a corner - the only man they overtook was a lover out withhis girl. The prisons were filling up, priests were being shot, yet on three successivefirst Fridays Pro gave the Sacrament to nine hundred, thirteen hundred, andfifteen hundred people.

Pro was finally captured by the government in November1927.  President Calles ordered himexecuted by firing squad.  As he wasbeing led to his execution, he forgave the soldiers.  Declining a blindfold, he stood with his armsout in imitation of the crucified Christ. His last words were Viva Cristo Rey! (Long live Christ the King!).

Pro was beatified in 1998 by Pope John Paul II. His story is an inspiring one and is worth remembering as we prepare to celebrateSundays feast of Christ the King.

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Fr. Pro was a hero and clearly a martyr in the best sense and a rather attaractive character as well. But doesn't Greene have his age wrong? If he was born in 1891, he would have been ordained when he was 34/35, which is what one would expect for a Jesuit.