This past Sunday we celebrated the feast of Christ the King, the culmination of the Church’s entire liturgical year, and on Nov. 23 we remember the martyrdom of Blessed Miguel Pro, S.J. whose death came only two short years after the very first Feast of Christ the King.
Blessed Miguel Pro was a Mexican priest in a time of great revolt and religious persecution. Consequently, it was also a time of anti-clerical hounding based on a militant enforced atheism. This turmoil left many religious and priests with no option but to flee Mexico’s borders or take the Church underground. Fr. Miguel Pro S.J., only 36 years-old, fearlessly continued serving the poor, the destitute and the oppressed. As he biked from town to town, it was only a matter of time before he was eventually identified as a Roman Catholic priest and a warrant was issued for his arrest.
Fr. Pro was able to evade authorities for nearly a year as he continued his ministry, but on Nov. 23, 1927 he was caught and immediately sentenced to death without trial.
Mexican dictator, Plutarco Calles, sought to use the priest’s death as a public example of the fate of any Christian and ordered that a professional photographer document the event. He wanted every countryman to see the gruesome death he too could face for proclaiming faith in God.
A firing squad and crowds were efficiently assembled and as his last request, Fr. Pro was brought before the people to pray in silence for two minutes. Upon rising, he said to the firing squad, “May God have mercy on you. May God bless you. Lord, You know that I am innocent. With all my heart I forgive my enemies.”
He was offered a blindfold, but declined. Instead, with a rosary in one hand and a crucifix in the other, he outstretched his arms as Jesus on the cross and said in a firm, unshaken voice, “Viva Christo Rey!” “Long live, Christ the King!”
The next day, as the priest’s lifeless body was carried to the cemetery, nearly 10 thousand Mexicans risked their own lives to accompany it, courageously passing in front of the dictator's house. They chanted Fr. Pro’s words throughout the somber walk. “Viva Christo Rey! Viva Christo Rey!”
Copies of the execution photo with Fr. Pro’s arms outstretched spread madly across the country and were immediately banned. People everywhere knew the power of his words and the power of his witness.
Communion and Liberation follows the call of the Italian bishops to pray Sunday, November 21 for the Christians of Iraq, “who are suffering the tremendous trial of blood witness to the faith” (Final communiqué of the Assembly of the Italian Episcopal Conference, November 11, 2010).
The Movement invites all its members to participate in Mass according to the intentions of Benedict XVI, who the day after the grave attack in the Syrian Catholic cathedral of Baghdad that left dozens dead and wounded, said, “I pray for the victims of this absurd violence, all the more savage because it struck defenseless people gathered in God’s house, which is a house of love and reconciliation. I also express my affectionate closeness to the Christian community, struck once again, and encourage the pastors and faithful to be strong and steady in hope. In the face of the heinous episodes of violence that continue tearing the populations of the Middle East to pieces, I renew my grieved call for peace: it is the gift of God, but also the result of the efforts of people of good will, of national and international institutions. May everyone join their strengths to put an end to all violence! (Comments after the Angelus, November 1, 2010).
Addressing all members of Communion and Liberation, Fr. Julián Carrón said that “participation in Sunday Mass according to the intentions of the Pope and the bishops is a gesture of real communion and charity because we feel that the Christians of Iraq are our friends, even if we do not know them directly.”
As Fr. Giussani said, “If the sacrifice is accepting the circumstances of life, as they happen, because they make us correspondent, participants in the death of Christ, then sacrifice becomes the keystone of all life […] but also the keystone for understanding the history of man. The entire history of man depends on that man dead on the cross, and I can influence the history of man – I can influence the people who live in Japan now, the people in danger at sea now; I can intervene to help the pain of the women who lose their children now, in this moment – if I accept the sacrifice that this moment imposes.” (L. Giussani, Is It Possible to Live This Way? Book 3: Charity, McGill-Queen’s University Press, pp. 74-75.)
For this reason, added Carrón, “if a gesture of prayer can influence the change of people in Japan, it can also change something in Iraq. May the sacrifice we make for the Christians of Iraq and Sunday’s prayer be a gesture with which we invoke, implore from God protection for them.”
The CL Press Office
Milan, November 18, 2010
Iraq's Christians have experienced deeply the meaning of life because they have experienced its joys after having tasted the bitterness of grief. They have lived in hope after experiencing the power of tragedy. They experienced laughter after having paid tears, and have experienced smiles after seeing their will broken by violence. These are really the Christians of Iraq with their good hearts, who love everyone, their country, and life, and these are those who forgive their enemies, and sow goodness wherever they are, spreading the spirit of peace. And despite their great suffering, they never forgot to live their Christian spirit in every place they went.
As an example of all this I can show you the Church of Our Lady of Salvation, which speaks on behalf of all Christians in Iraq, and which give examples written with the blood of its martyrs.
Have you heard how they died in this massacre, the two brave priests, and Wasim Sabieh and Thaier Saad Abdal? Did you know that they defended the faithful and tried to save their lives by offering their own from the first moment the criminals set foot in church? Did you know that a father protected his son by covering him completely with his own body while they were lying on the floor, and died in a hail of bullets so that the child would survive? Have you heard that the killers murdered a four-month-old baby girl and a young woman who, on the day of her death, had received the best news, namely that she was pregnant, and so went to church to thank God for this gift?
O people of the world, these are the Christians of Iraq. Hear and evangelize to everyone!