The Martyrs – They Died for Christ
Our dear Lord has been so good to us. Now, in this period of our ministry, we find ourselves not only bringing you on a Journey of Faith (pilgrimage overseas) but also very often in your home through radio and television. We find ourselves being swept as if by a strong wind by the Holy Spirit speaking to us through books and programs we have written years ago. When we first began to reread our books, (some written as far back as 1986), we had the funniest feeling, like they were being written, now, for this time in our Church and in our country. As we turned one page after another, we found ourselves crying for what had happened, and asking ourselves, how do we share this with you? You have heard us, from the very beginning, say at the end of each of our programs on EWTN, “We love you.” And we do! Our newspaper is called The Good Newsletter, and we strive to bring you always the Good News. On that vein, we hesitated to share some of the sadness and price our brothers and sisters paid for us and our privilege to worship Jesus.
Lately, the thought keeps coming – Our Lord has given us the privilege of traveling and walking through the lives of Jesus, His Mother Mary, and the Saints not for ourselves; but for you. Please read on and ask yourself if God wants to reach you with these real life stories that really happened. As for us, we believe nothing is by coincidence, except by Holy Coincidence. Somehow, we believe God, always in charge, wants us to share some thoughts from our book “Martyrs – They died for Christ”, which we published in 1993! When we first wrote about the Martyrs and then made it into a series for EWTN, little did we imagine it would be for not only that time, but for time in memoriam, history sadly repeating itself. P.S. We found it strange, at conferences; the young always chose our book on the Martyrs. Now seeing so many of our youth in uniform going off to fight wars overseas, us walking up to them telling then we are praying for them, and their gentle polite response, Thank you, Sir and Thank you, Ma’am, you have to fight back the tears and you want to shout, Bring them home, Now!!
When our book was introduced on Mother Angelica Live October, 1993, the audience response was overwhelming; and the momentum has never stopped. But never as much as now!
As we became more and more emotionally involved with our brothers and sisters, the Martyrs, who gave their lives for our Church, we knew that the Lord wanted these words to come to life for not only those who would read our books, but for their families and friends who only watch television. That’s when the Series was born in our hearts. We stepped out in faith and began traveling to different parts of the world to videotape the lives of the Martyrs. But our dream to share this with you did not become a reality until Mother Angelica, and all those who pray and work so very hard at the Network, became excited. The date was set, and now we had to go to all the shrines we had as not yet covered on videotape.
Humbly, we cannot praise our Lord enough for each day of our lives serving Him. But as it is a blessing, it can often be a mixed blessing. We are joyful because He gave us the gift of tracking the lives of those brave men and women who gave their lives for Christ and their Church. The overpowering selfless courage we encountered, as we spoke to those who knew these martyrs. As we stood on ground made holy by their blood, we became part of the vibrant thread which bound them all together. They were brothers and sisters; they became our brothers and sisters. As we ate, drank and slept with the memories of the Martyrs who would not die, who would not be stilled, death not the end, we could still hear their cries – “Long Live Christ the King!, and we knew we would never be the same, and we pray you will not be, either.
As Bishops and Promulgators of the Causes of Beatification and Canonization of the Martyrs, shared the Glorious Resurrection of our Church through their willing deaths, our hearts felt as if they would burst. It was, as Mother Angelica says, “awesome!” But the Glorious Mysteries follow the Sorrowful. We had to walk the Way of the Cross; we had to share in the sadness, the abuse, the torture, the suffering – physical as well as spiritual – endured by the Martyrs; we had to look into the face of man’s inhumanity to man. It made us want to reach out and touch our Priests and Religious, our brothers and sisters of the Laity who had given their yes to the last ounce of their blood; we needed to hug them, to hold them, to try to make it better. But we were grieving from man’s viewpoint, not from God’s. These dear brothers and sisters had been “washed in the blood of the Lamb”. There was no more pain and suffering for them. They are basking in the Light of the Kingdom. They are interceding for those of us who have followed. And because of that, we have the motivation to share what we found when we researched their lives. Although we have written about Poland and her Martyrs, and those of Ireland, America, England, and Auschwitz, at this time we would like to bring you some Martyrs close to home, our neighbors to the south of us.
The beginning of the end – The Mexican Revolution
To look upon Mexico, and the Mexicans, as backward and different from us, is to make a major mistake and to learn nothing. The Mexico that rose from the ashes of the Mexican Revolution of 1810 was not the Mexico who was for 150 years, after Our Lady of Guadalupe came, one of the greatest nations in the world.
Ironically, the actions of a Priest, Miguel Hidalgo, who might have been well-meaning initially, brought about revolution! He began only wanting some equity for the Indians. The Priest was about social justice; what he accomplished was social uprising, against the wealthy landowners, and (possibly not part of his plan, in the beginning) against the Church. As we have said, over and over again: Social justice without Jesus is Judas revisited. We end up selling out our Lord, once more. This Priest may have had good intentions, but without God in charge, he had to turn against Him.
The people followed this Priest, believing he was speaking the Church. Farmers and peasants, without weapons other than pitchforks, knives and the like, rallied round Hidalgo, and marched on the towns and villages of Mexico. The force swelled to over a hundred thousand, at which point, Hidalgo lost control of his followers completely; it became a bloodbath. Hidalgo was not a military man; he became the dupe for ambitious men, who would use him for their own ends. Finally, he was killed, a year after his ill-begun revolution. And from that poor beginning, revolution upon revolution has continued. The Spanish regained control of the towns after Hidalgo was killed, but they never quite controlled the country again.
We went to Mexico
We had been looking for the final resting place of Blessed Miguel Pro for some years. We finally tracked down the church where a beautiful shrine has been built to the Martyr of the 1920’s. December 1993, we left a week before our annual Pilgrimage to Our Lady of Guadalupe begins. We wanted not only to be able to videotape Miguel’s shrine, but we wanted to bring our pilgrims to it. For years, we have been looking for the place where he was executed. We finally found it. We knew it was off the main boulevard in Mexico City; where this brave and holy priest was martyred, today, a monument to greed stands – the National Lottery building. We got our driver to bring us there, and we kept walking around the building looking for a plaque designating the place where Miguel Pro had been executed. We couldn’t find it. Our guide and friend, a Mexican, went inside the National Lottery building to ask if anyone knew where it was. Nobody there knew anything about it. But as we stubbornly walked around the building, searching, a guard on the other side of the street, in back of the National Lottery building, called us over. He pointed to the wall in back of him, which was almost completely covered by electric cables. There it was, about 8 by 12 inches. It said (I’m paraphrasing now), “Across the street from this place, at the beginning of the stairway, is the spot where Fr. Miguel Pro was executed on November 23, 1927.” We stood there. It was a strange feeling. All he had to do was hide, to deny Christ and the Church; instead, on this spot Bl. Padre Pro, Martyr, raised a Rosary in one hand and the crucifix he was given on the day of his ordination in the other, blessed his executioners and cried out “Viva Cristo Rey! – Long live Christ the King!
In our book on the Martyrs, we wrote about the three children of Tlaxcala who were the first three Martyrs of the Western World; they were beatified with Juan Diego in 1991 (who has since been canonized). We had planned on traveling out to the state of Tlaxcala, solely to interview the priests who had worked on the Beatification of these three children.
But in November, 1992, as we were watching EWTN, which we do exclusively, we saw the Beatification of Twenty Five Mexican Martyrs, all of whom had been murdered during the persecution of the Church in the 1920’s and 1930’s. We were amazed at what we heard. Most of these were in their late 20’s or early 30’s. When we looked at their photos, they looked so young, barely more than children. Fifteen of them were graduates of the Seminary of Guadalajara. We went to the Seminary and interviewed some seminarians. We asked one of the young men, “Why are you here, to become holy?” At which he replied, “I am here to become a Saint!”
We contacted the priest who had finalized the work on the Beatification, and pushed it through to its successful completion, Fr. (now Bishop) Oscar Sanchez.
He set up appointments for us in every church or shrine to these twenty-five martyrs, possible. He found eyewitnesses to the Martyrdom of these priests. We found that our own Luz Elena’s uncle Jose‚ was an altar boy to two of the martyrs in Cuquio, Mexico, a small town outside of Guadalajara. We interviewed him, as well as his younger brother, Marcos Sandoval, Luz Elena’s father, who was very young at the time, but remembered the events of the 1920’s. We interviewed many of the people who had been alive during the Martyrs’ lifetime.
We went to the ranches where these priests ministered, to the poorest villages in Mexico, and once, we actually found ourselves in a jungle, or a rain forest, outside of Tequila, Mexico, where the people still live in adobe huts, have no electricity, and wash their dishes in a brook; and their smiles were radiant. In the midst of this brush which no ordinary transportation could bring you, was the house where one of the priests, Blessed Toribio Romo lived and celebrated Mass underground, and where he was finally caught and executed by the soldiers.
There are many stories of pain and persecution, many efforts to rob the Mexican people of their God and Madre, Our Lady of Guadalupe, but the holy stubbornness quality that our Blessed John Paul II loved will live on.
We’ve said it from the beginning, and the Lord bears us out. In times of crisis, God sends us “Powerful Men and Women in our Church,” God sends us Martyrs! God sent us Miguel Pro, not only for the Mexican people, but for God loving people everywhere, to let us know loud and clear that God is alive!
There are many messages in the story of our modern day Martyr, Miguel Pro. Perhaps the greatest lesson, the most important truth we will ever learn, is Blessed Miguel Pro’s battle cry, the victory cry of Christians everywhere, for all the world to hear, “Vivo Christo Rey!” Long live Christ the King!
This is taken from Bob and Penny Lord’s book, Martyrs, They died for Christ.
Link to our page about the Mexican Martyrs
View video clip – Mexican Martyrs