We tend to think of Mexico as one of the most Catholic countries around, but for a time in 1920’s it was illegal to celebrate the Mass there. That did not stop priests like Blessed Miguel Pro, S.J. from ministering to people clandestinely. After many close calls, Fr. Pro was captured by the police and sentenced to death on false charges that he was somehow connected to a bombing assassination plot.
When he was led out for his execution by firing squad, Fr. Pro blessed the soldiers, knelt and quietly prayed for a time. He declined a blindfold and faced his executioners with a crucifix in one hand and a rosary in the other. He held out his arms in imitation of the crucified Christ and shouted, “May God have mercy on you! May God bless you! Lord, you know that I am innocent! With all my heart I forgive my enemies!” Just before the firing squad was ordered to shoot, he proclaimed, “Viva Cristo Rey!” (“Long live Christ the King!”) When the initial shots failed to kill him, a soldier shot him point-blank. The anti-Catholic government had a photographer on hand to capture these moments for propaganda purposes, but soon after the images were published their possession was made illegal; seeing the Catholic priest, dying bravely and faithfully, was an inspiration to the oppressed people.