by Delores Riley
“That in the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those
that are in Heaven,
on earth and under the earth:
And that every tongue should confess that
the Lord Jesus Christ
is in the glory of God the Father.”
Christ Himself speaks of his own kingly authority in his last discourse in reply to the Roman magistrate, who asked him publicly whether he was a King or not. After Jesus’ resurrection when giving to his Apostles the mission of teaching and baptizing all nations, he took the opportunity to call Himself King, confirming the title publicly and solemnly proclaimed that all power was given Him in heaven and on earth. These words can only be taken to indicate the greatness of His power and the infinite extent of His Kingdom. It was surely right then, in view of the common teaching of the sacred books, that the Catholic Church, which is the Kingdom of Christ on earth, destined to be spread among all men and all nations, should with every token of veneration salute her author and founder in her annual liturgy as King and Lord, and as King of Kings.
The Church celebrates the Feast of Christ the King annually on the last Sunday of the liturgical year and coincidentally, in my research of little known Saints and Blesseds, I came upon the fact that the liturgical memorial of Blessed Miguel Pro is celebrated on Nov. 23 while the feast of Christ the King will this year be celebrated on Nov. 25, which is a fitting connection with the life and martyrdom of Blessed Miguel Pro and his devotion to Christ the King.
Miguel Pro was the son of a Mexican miner, known for his piety and sense of humor. He entered a Jesuit novitiate at age twenty, but in three years was forced to flee Mexico with his order due to religious persecution. He studied and was ordained away from his homeland, and when he finally returned, he entered a country fraught with conflict. The government had enacted laws restricting priests from administering the sacraments and had seized church buildings. In response to the murder of priests and suppression of religious practice, the Catholic population of Mexico rose in arms. At the risk of torture and death, Father Miguel wore disguises to evade the police and administer the sacraments. He would dress as a beggar to baptize and marry, and even wore a policeman’s uniform to bring Holy Communion to condemned Catholics in prison. His quick wit came to his aid many times in his exploits, but eventually authorities caught on. Falsely accused of an assassination plot, Fr Miguel was sentenced to death without trial and was sentenced to face a firing squad on Nov. 23, 1927. In front of the firing squad, he forgave his executioners, stretched his arms out in the form of the cross and shouted, “Viva Cristo Rey!” – “Long live Christ the King!” The execution was well documented and flaunted throughout Mexico by the government in hopes that it would help quell the revolution, but the uprising only gained fervor, eventually resulting in justice. His funeral became a public demonstration of faith. He was beatified in 1988 by Pope John Paul II. During his homily at the beatification Mass, Pope John Paul II said that Father Pro “is a new glory for the beloved Mexican nation, as well as for the Society of Jesus.”
The life and death of Blessed Miguel Pro teaches us to serve Christ the King in all that we do and remain close to the mercy of God. In Blessed Miguel Pro’s writing, we read: “I believe, O Lord, but strengthen my faith; Heart of Jesus, I love Thee, but increase my love; Heart of Jesus I trust in Thee, but give greater vigor to my confidence; Heart of Jesus, I give my heart to Thee, but so enclose it in Thee that it may never be separated from Thee; Heart of Jesus, I am all Thine, but take care of my promise so that I may be able to put it in practice even unto the complete sacrifice of my life.” Miguel Pro will be a saint appropriate for our time. Unfazed by the threat of the grave, he served Catholics in the midst of religious persecution and with his final words he saluted Christ as King, and proved his loyalty by his death. Blessed Miguel Pro, pray for us!