God’s Jester and Our Lady of Guadalupe
“If I meet any long-faced saints in Heaven I will cheer them up with a Mexican hat dance!”
Blessed Miguel Pro
I love Blessed Father Miguel Pro, SJ. He was always ready with a joke and a quip and the sheer joy with which he radiated the faith of Christ throughout his life was a wonder to behold. From early in his life he was dedicated to Our Lady of Guadalupe. When a small child he had a bad case of food poisoning that spread infection to his brain. For one year he could not talk and could barely recognize his parents. Eventually he seemed near death. His father took him in his arms and kneeling before an image of Our Lady of Guadalupe prayed, “Madre mia give me back my son.” At that moment the boy came out of his coma, vomited blood and began his recovery.
Hagiography often relates the perfections of saints in their younger days. No such accounts are possible with Father Pro. He was a mischievous boy fond of practical jokes. As a teenager his path to the priesthood began when he heard a priest preach a sermon on the Passion. “All this, Jesus Christ did and suffered for us, and we, what are we doing for Him?” Miguel was overcome with the thought that thus far he had done nothing for Him.
Joining the Jesuit novitiate in 1911, he studied in Mexico until 1914 when a wave of anti-clericalism arising from the Mexican Revolution forced the Jesuits out of Mexico. Miguel comtinued his studies in Spain and taught in Nicaragua from 1919-1922. He completed his studies in Belgium and was ordained a priest on August 31, 1925. His health was always precarious and after several surgeries from ulcers he returned to Mexico. Because of the anti-clerical Calles laws, he became an underground priest, using many disguises as he went around saying Mass and providing the sacraments. He went about his duties with a glad heart and seemed to get a kick out of the “cloak and dagger” aspects of his undercover priesthood.
His service as an underground priest made him a marked man. A man who loved jokes and to laugh, Father Pro was also a man of unbelievable courage. His execution being specifically ordered by President Calles, on November 23, 1927 he disdained the proffered blindfold, before he was executed by firing squad, and calmly stared at the men who would send him to God. He said to them, “May God have mercy on you. May God bless you! Lord, thou knowest I am innocent! With all my heart I forgive my enemies.” He then raised his arms, making of himself a crucifix, and shouted out the battle cry of the Cristeros, “Viva Cristo Rey!” (Long live Christ the King!) The Mexican government took copious photographs of the execution, and published them in newspapers, thinking to frighten Catholics. They quickly learned that Catholics treated the photos as relics and began to ask the intercession of Father Pro with God. Cristeros in battle would often carry with them one of the newspaper photos of Father Pro.
President Calles was said to have looked down from his office at the funeral procession of Father Pro in Mexico City which consisted of approximately 40,000 people with another 20,000 waiting at the cemetery. Cries of Viva Cristo Rey rang out, and Father Pro was hailed as a martyr for the Faith and for Mexico.
Father Pro was beatified by Pope John Paul II on September 25, 1988. An honor I am sure that would have caused him to say he was not worthy is that some of his relics may be seen at the Shrine of Our Lady of Gaudalupe. Father Pro lived his life in accord with this message from Our Lady of Guadalupe:
“Am I not here, I, who am your Mother? Are you not under my shadow and protection? Am I not the source of your joy? Are you not in the hollow of my mantle, in the crossing of my arms? Do you need anything more? Let nothing else worry you, disturb you .”