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VIVA CRISTO REY! Long Live Christ the King!

Posted by webprayze Admin on November 19, 2011 at 5:45 PM

The Feastday of Christ the King is celebrated November 20 this year and as Christians worldwide commemorate the day & consider its significance, it might also serve us to ask who is Father Miguel Pro, S.J. & how does he figure in this important remembrance?

Father Miguel, a 36-year-old Jesuit priest, was shot & martyred on November 23, 1927 on trumped up charges brought against him by the repressive Mexican government at that time. At his execution by firing squad, he was holding a rosary in one hand. He asked to kneel down in final prayer, stood up then spread out his arms to form a cross and cried, "Viva Cristo Rey! (Long Live Christ, the King!)," as he faced oncoming bullets. He is now Blessed Father Miguel Pro, beatified by Pope John Paul II in 1988 & his cause is awaiting elevation to final sainthood! His heroic life & witness is recounted in detail here...

Related link: Thanksgiving & Another Feastday

The True Servant of the Crucified King

by Fr. Roger J. Landry - Catholicity, November 23, 2007

Christ the King (detail) in Michelangelo's Last Judgment at the Sistine Chapel.

The Solemnity of Christ the King, which is celebrate on Sunday, is a relatively young feast. Pope Pius XI instituted it in 1925 at the request of bishops and faithful from around the world. They sought such a feast as a prayerful response to the militant atheism spreading at the time that was trying to repress belief in Christ and suppress Christian presence in the world.

Just eight years early, Bolshevik communism began to show its evil head. The Communists — who were experts in the art of lying — claimed to be working to "free" people from the "opium" of belief in God, which they said was only a means used by others to keep them subjugated. Since there really was no God, they insisted, the churches and Christians were just seeking greater foundation for their pursuit of political power.

To counteract these lies and proclaim both the fact of Christ's kingship in the Universe and the true spiritual aims of that kingdom, the Holy Father proclaimed this feast.

A dramatic illustration of why this feast was so needed came just two years later in a place relatively close to home, Mexico City.

In 1910, there was a revolution in Mexico against the "old order" and one of the first results was anti-clerical persecution based on a militant atheism. Religious orders were banned. Many priests, brothers and nuns needed to flee across the border into the United States. Churches, monasteries, convents and other religious buildings were confiscated by the State.

To survive, the Church needed to go underground. Many Catholic priests, at the risk of their lives, donned various disguises to try to bring the sacraments to those who were dying, to celebrate Mass and confessions in people's homes, to teach the catechism to young children, to attend to the needs of the poor and destitute, and to care for the many orphans the government was making by the summary executions of parents.

One thirty-six year-old Jesuit priest named Fr. Miguel Pro used his younger brother's bicycle to crisscross the city, doing all of these things and more. He was eventually identified as a cleric and a warrant was issued for his arrest.

For almost a year he evaded the authorities so that he could continue his priestly ministrations, but he knew that eventually he would be caught and killed.

Actual photo of Fr. Miguel Pro's execution.

He was.

81 years ago today, November 23, 1927, Fr. Miguel Pro was arrested and sentenced to death by the Mexican dictator, Plutarco Calles, without a trial.

Calles wanted to use Fr. Pro as an example, to teach other clandestine Catholic priests and the Catholic faithful who sought their pastoral care what would happen to those who continued to try to practice the Catholic faith in defiance of the government's dictates. So Calles sent out his henchmen to assemble a crowd and photograph the event.

They crowd gathered and Fr. Miguel Pro was brought before the firing squad. He was asked if he had any dying wishes. He requested two minutes to pray.

After he was done, he stood up and said to those who were about to end his life, "May God have mercy on you. May God bless you."

Then he turned to the one who would give him his life back and said, "You know, O Lord, that I am innocent. With all my heart I forgive my enemies."

As the firing squad raised their rifles and took aim, in a firm, clear voice, Fr. Miguel Pro said his last words, "Viva Cristo Rey!" — "Long live Christ the King!"

Fr. Miguel Pro cries: VIVA CRISTO REY!

"Viva Cristo Rey!" Those words began to echo throughout Mexico. The photographs of the execution, taken at Calles' instigation to terrify Christians, emboldened them. The photographs spread so fast as a witness to Pro's faith and Calles' brutality that the dictator soon banned their publication and use.

But it was too late. The following day about ten thousand Mexicans, at the risk of their lives, accompanied Fr. Pro's body to Dolores Cemetery. The cortège diverted itself by the Dictator's home so that they could be sure he saw it, and as they processed, the Mexicans echoed the message Pro preached so effectively in life and in death: "Viva Cristo Rey! Viva Cristo Rey!"

These ordinary Christians, and the valiant priest they had come to honor, were all giving witness to a truth that no amount of firing squads could kill: the truth that there is a God, that that God sent his Son into the World, and that he, their Creator and Redeemer, is Lord and King of all.

Calles and the members of his ruling party tried to console themselves with the thought that such an acclamation was absurd. To their own mind, the very fact that they were able with impunity to do whatever they wanted to Christ's followers was proof that Christ was no king. Just as Christ was taught a lesson by the Romans who gave him a crown of thorns and a cruciform throne, so they thought they were teaching his followers the same lesson, and proving that Christ was powerless to defend his subjects.

But they were wrong. Calles, his supporters and their movement are now long dead. The disciples of the crucified King of the Jews, however, will be convening in great numbers this Sunday to give him homage. While Calles has taken up his place with Stalin, Hitler, Pol Pot and the other wicked dictators of the 20th century, Fr. Miguel Pro was enrolled in the eternal hall of fame, beatified by Pope John Paul II in 1988.

Michelangelo's Last Judgment

Christ the King indeed lives. So does Fr. Miguel Pro. And so do Christ's true followers.


"Father Landry is pastor of St.Anthony of Padua Parish in New Bedford, MA, and executive editor of the Anchor,the weekly newspaper of the Diocese of Fall River. His articles and homiliesare found at catholicpreaching.com."                


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