By Jean M. Heimann
Today is the feast day of Blessed Miguel Pro, a celebrated Christian hero of the twentieth century. This courageous young Jesuit priest was martyred by the Mexican government in 1927 for performing his priestly responsibilities.
Miguel Agustin Pro was born January 13, 1891 in Guadalupe Mexico. He was the eldest son of eleven children born to Miguel Pro, an affluent mining engineer, and Josefa Juarez, a holy and loving mother. Miguel had an extraordinary empathy for the poor and the working classes. He was known for both his playfulness and his piety. He had a wonderful wit and a great sense of humor. At the same time, he had a strong prayer life and was zealous in living out his faith.
In 1909, at the age of twenty, Miguel Augustin Pro joined the Jesuits as a novice in Mexico. One year later, a revolution broke out and by 1914 the Jesuits were forced to flee. Miguel received his seminary training en route to Belgium, where he was ordained in 1925. Father Pro suffered from a severe stomach disorder. When his health did not improve after several surgeries, his superiors sent him to Mexico City in 1926, hoping this return home would alleviate this ailment. However, just a few weeks after he arrived, the government banned all forms of public worship. All the churches were closed and the entire state was cleared of priests. Many were killed, while a few served secretly, risking their lives.
Since he was not well-known as a priest, Father Pro went about clandestinely—often in disguise—celebrating Mass and the sacraments, providing for his flock's spiritual needs. He also assisted the poor and needy with their corporal needs. They, in turn, helped hide him from the authorities.
In 1927, someone tossed a bomb at the Mexican president’s car from an automobile previously owned by one of Miguel’s brothers. All three brothers were arrested on false charges. The youngest was exonerated, but Father Pro and his brother Humberto were sentenced to death (without the benefit of a trial) via a firing squad.
On November 23, the day of his death, Father Pro prayed and forgave his executioners. He bravely refused the blindfold, but faced the firing squad with a crucifix in one hand and a rosary in the other, extending his arms in the form of a cross, crying out, "Viva Cristo Rey!" ("Long Live Christ the King!)
Although the Mexican president had outlawed public demonstration, thousands of Mexicans defiantly lined the streets, honoring Father Pro, the martyr, as he was carried in procession to his grave.
Father Miguel Pro was beatified on September 25, 1988 by Pope John Paul II as a martyr, killed in odium fidei (in hatred of the faith).