November 23rd: Blessed Miguel Pro, SJ

Blessed Miguel Pro, SJ

Born : January 13, 1891
Died : November 23, 1927
Beatified :September 25, 1988

Miguel Pro was born in Guadalupe de Zacatecas, Mexico, and the son of a mining engineer. At fifteen he went to work in his father’s office in the Division of Mines until he was twenty. He was so moved when his second sister entered religious life that he asked himself: “Why shouldn’t I do the same thing?” So six months later he presented himself at the Jesuit novitiate at El Llano in Michoacan and started his formation. As he had not completed his secondary education and studies, he encountered difficulties in his studies. He compensated his lack of knowledge by devoting himself to prayer and the greater perfection of his soul. Because of his conviction, his fellow Jesuits referred to him as “the brother who is convinced that God wants him to be a saint.”

At the time when he took his vows in August 1913, the political climate in Mexico was fast changing and the people were harassed by the rebellious General Carranza and the bandit Pancho Villa, who directed attacks against the Catholic Church and the clergy, sacking church buildings and subjected priests and religious to torture and mutilation. On Aug 5, 1914, a group of Carranza’s men ransacked the novitiate’s main house and burned the library. Knowing that this was only the beginning, the rector after asking all the seminarians to change into street clothing sadly asked them to disperse, each to use his own ingenuity to cross into the United States. Michael and two other seminarians went to Texas and after a short stopover went to California. A building at Los Gatos was offered to the exiled seminarians by the Jesuits of the California province, and Michael spent a year there before going to Granada, Spain for his philosophy. In 1915, spending some years teaching in Nicaragua, Michael returned to Spain for his theology before going to Belgium to complete his theology and to study sociology. This was to help him in the workers’ movement, which was his interest, when he returned to Mexico.

Fr Pro returned to his homeland after his ordination on August 30, 1925, at age thirty-four at a time when the persecution of the Mexican Church worsened because the President was a rabid anti-Catholic. Within a month of his return, the government suppressed all public worship and closed the churches. Every Catholic priest was now a hunted criminal. The faithful Mexicans still sought out their priests to receive the sacraments. Fr Pro continued his priestly duties in secret, establishing stations in different parts of the city and visited them weekly to preach, hear confessions, celebrate Mass and distribute Communion. At times the number went up to 300 and this tripled on First Fridays. He stayed with his family who had moved to Mexico City. His two brothers, Humbert and Robert helped him in his work by printing and distributing literature for the Religious Defense League. Fr Pro lived without fear and he prayed that he might be accepted by God as a sacrifice for the faith in his country and if he was arrested, he would consider his prayer answered.

In Nov 1927, someone attempted to assassinate General Obregon with a bomb which exploded but did not kill him. Although Fr Pro and his brothers were not involved in the plot, a car owned by them previously and which they sold only a few days earlier was used in the assassination attempt. The three Pro brothers were thinking of leaving Mexico for the United States when they were arrested although the actual mastermind of the plot turned himself in when he heard that Fr Pro had been arrested. The president Calles wanted to make an example of the Jesuit even though the real culprit was in custody. On Nov 22, Calles invited friends to a special execution of the Pro brothers.

On the morning of November 23, 1927, Fr Pro was escorted to the prison yard. He had no inkling that he was going to be executed until he entered the yard and saw it filled with spectators. He clasped his little crucifix in his right hand and gripped his rosary in his left. When asked whether he had a final wish, he requested a few moments for prayer. He refused the blindfold offered him and when he saw the rifles pointing at him, his face turned into a smile for he knew God was accepting his sacrifice. He stretched out his arms in the form of a cross, and when the order to shoot was given, he reverently said: “Viva Cristo Rey!- Long live Christ the King!” It was 10:38 a.m. Humbert was next to be executed but Robert who was to be the third, was spared at the last minute.

Fr Pro’s father claimed the bodies of his two sons and at the wake that night, thousands of workers, as well as soldiers, came to see the martyr for the last time. Fr Pro was buried in the Jesuit crypt in the Dolores Cemetery and his brother Humbert was laid nearby. Fr Pro was beatified by Pope John Paul II on September 25, 1988.