November 23, 2011 - Memorial of Blessed Miguel Pro, Martyr

Today we commemorate Blessed Miguel Pro, who died about 90 years ago. He was a Catholic at a time when it was illegal to be Catholic. He was a priest at a time when it was illegal to be a priest. He celebrated Mass though the Mass was illegal. He used to sneak around from place to place in disguise, celebrating the sacraments for all those criminals who refused to stop worshiping God in the way handed down to us from the apostles. Then they caught him and shot him.

Miguel Pro is special among the saints. We only have photographs of the most recent saints, those who lived during the last hundred years or so, and these photographs are precious relics. Yet even in this case Blessed Miguel is special, for we have a photo of him taken at the moment of his martyrdom. We actually are able to see how he died. He was shot by Mexican soldiers while standing like this – like Jesus on the Cross. This was a very common way of praying in Mexico and it is a perfect image of how we ought to live and how we ought to die.

In his posture, Blessed Miguel is giving the meaning of his own martyrdom. He is unified to Christ in that moment captured in the photo. Christ told us that the world would hate us for believing in him. Blessed Miguel experienced their hatred. The hatred of the world is an ugly thing; human suffering and death is repulsive, but his death became beautiful because he joined it to the Cross.

We might not see the kind of persecution that arose in Mexico in the 1920’s, but then not many people would have expected that to happen in Mexico until it did. Christians are the most persecuted religion by far. Though we have no persecution right here, there are Christians suffering throughout the world. Perhaps someday there will be a persecution right here. Whether we face martyrdom someday or we go on living as we are and die as we expect, we can learn how to die from Blessed Miguel. Whether we die suddenly or after a long decline, whether we suffer much or little, if we die like this – like Jesus – then it will be a beautiful death.