Miguel Agustín Pro, Mexico's first martyr

In 1927 the Mexican government shot the priest Miguel Agustin Pro. He is the first martyr on Mexican soil declared by the Catholic Church and Pope St. John Paul II beatified him in 1988.

Paloma López Campos-November 23, 2023-Reading time: 3 minutes
Miguel Agustín Pro

Blessed Miguel Agustín Pro (Wikimedia Commons)

Between 1926 and 1929, Mexico experienced years of great tension. The Cristero War, between the government and Catholic religious militias, took thousands of lives. In the midst of this conflict, a police squad shot the priest José Ramón Miguel Agustín Pro Juárez. Decades later, the Catholic Church recognized in this man the first martyr of the Cristero War in Mexico, and St. John Paul II beatified him in 1988. Therefore, on November 23 Catholics unite to remember the memory of the man known as Blessed Miguel Agustín Pro.

Miguel Agustín was born on January 13, 1981 in Guadalupe, Mexico. The son of a wealthy engineer, he and his ten siblings received an education based on respect and charity. At the age of fifteen, he began working with his father at the Mining Agency of the Ministry of Development.

The young Miguel was a direct collaborator of his father until the entry of one of his sisters into the convent forced him to stop in his tracks. His sister's vocation prompted him to rethink what he was doing. It was then that he made the decision to ask for admission to the Society of Jesus and on August 15, 1911, Miguel Agustín entered the novitiate.

Just four years later, the future Blessed traveled to Spain with the Jesuits. There he dedicated himself to philosophy and rhetoric. He remained in Europe until 1919, when he settled in Nicaragua to work as a professor. However, it was not long before he crossed the Atlantic again. After another stay in Spain, he settled in a community of 130 Jesuits in Belgium.

The Provincial of Mexico wanted Miguel Agustín to be trained in social issues while he was in Belgian territory. The objective was to promote the Catholic social movement and for the Jesuit to prepare himself for pastoral work with the Mexican workers.

Tour of Mexico

Finally, in 1925 Miguel Agustín was ordained to the priesthood. However, only a month later he became seriously ill with an infection and spent a long convalescence. Thinking he was going to die, his superiors sent him back to Mexico. On the return trip, the young priest passed through Lourdes and wrote that his visit to the grotto was one of the happiest days of his life.

When he arrived in his country in July 1926, the government had enacted several laws to repress and stifle the Catholic Church. Miguel Agustín decided to continue his ministry in a clandestine way, serving the people who needed it and fleeing from the police who persecuted him. He organized himself to distribute communion and at times he distributed it to 1,500 people.

Everything was cut short when in 1927 an engineer made an attempt against a general, a candidate for the presidency. The bomb that had been planted did not explode, but the general's guards responded immediately and suspected Miguel Agustín, already known for circumventing government restrictions.

The police arrested both the Jesuit and his brother and, although the author of the failed attack admitted his guilt, Miguel Agustín remained in jail. On the morning of November 23, 1927, the priest was shot together with his brother, without prior notice of the sentence.

When the blessed man realized what was about to happen, he opened his arms in the form of a cross and told the armed officer that he forgave him. He walked to the place of execution on his own, without being blindfolded, and asked to be allowed to pray before death. Waiting for the shot, he pronounced: "Long live Christ the King".

The Mexican government invited the press to the execution, thinking that they would succeed in removing the anti-religious sentiment of the population. On the contrary, the images of the last moments of Miguel Agustín became an object of devotion. The international echo of the event provoked a wave of indignation against the excesses of the regime.

The legacy of Miguel Agustín Pro

61 years later, on September 15, 1988, St. John Paul II beatified the Jesuit.Blessed Miguel Agustin Pro is the first martyr on Mexican soil declared by the Catholic Church and is a model for many people.

In addition, in his name there are now schools in Peru and Mexico, and foundations that fight for human rights.

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