Reflections on Bl. Miguel Pro

Miguel Agustin Pro was born in Guadalupe, Mexico on January 13, 1891. His family was devoutly Catholic with a strong devotion to the Blessed Mother. Once when he was four years old, Miguel became fatally ill. His father brought him before an image of Our Lady of Guadalupe and said, “My mother… Give me back my son!” Miguel recovered miraculously.

As a young child, he was exposed to many religious devotions, but did not seem interested in participating in ways like being an altar server. He was not a very good student and was sent away to Mexico City to a non-Catholic boarding school. He was shocked when he found out that he was not allowed to attend Sunday Mass at the local church. When his father found out, he was withdrawn from the school. His mother opened a hospital for the poor mining families. But eventually the mayor shut them down and refused to allow Extreme Unction.

As a young man, he encountered two visiting Jesuit priests who were leading a parish mission. He was so moved that he soon went through the Ignatian Spiritual Exercises. His two older sisters entered the convent when Miguel was going through spiritual doubt. However with the help of a Jesuit priest named Fr. Telesforo Corta, he was able to come to faith and wanted to enter into the Society of Jesus. Early in his time as a novice, he became disillusioned. However, the Novice Master told Miguel that he was called to use his normally happy disposition to cheer up his fellow novices. He displayed both seriousness and mischief in his time of training.

Revolutions in Mexico caused much upheaval. Persecutions began in the Church and so Miguel had to move in order to continue his studies. He was in constant danger, but Miguel would still do acts of charity and he would cheer up his companions with songs and perform skits for their amusement. He studied in Texas and then in Spain. He was a serious student, but not very good at philosophy. However, he was intensely spiritual and loved to bring cheer to everyone despite his constant health issues. He later moved to Belgium to prepare for ordination, where he developed a familiar connection with the working-class people. He was ordained a priest on August 30, 1925.

Miguel’s health problems never were alleviated, and it seemed as though he would never be cured. He was soon ordered back to Mexico, where the Church was still being horribly persecuted. When he returned, the secret police did not know he was a priest. He spent the last sixteen months of his life secretly celebrating Mass, hearing confessions, leading retreats, and taking care of the needs of poor families. He used all his skills as a performer to stay ahead of the police. He would wear all kinds of costumes and disguises, sometimes even dressing as a police officer himself, to avoid capture.

After a failed assassination attempt on a presidential candidate, the Mexican government ordered Miguel’s arrest. After three days, he was executed without trial. His executioners begged his forgiveness. He said, “I do more than forgive you. I thank you.”

Miguel, like many of us, had to overcome his doubts. Even though he was surrounded by a family of faith, he struggled and needed guidance. He also struggled with terrible health. It amazes me that despite his interior agony, he pushed on with so many accomplishments. And finally, he had to overcome direct and lethal persecution, which he did with faith, courage, and cunning for sixteen months.

Most people focus on Miguel’s audacity. He was so creative in the ways he eluded the Mexican authorities. He took such large risks, and he did it with humor and style. He took all of his talents as a performer and used them to defy the Church’s enemies. He turned doing makeup and characters into the barrier between life and death. But his spiritual directors noted the deep and abiding spiritual life inside of him. While he was outwardly jovial, even to the point where some may have thought him frivolous, he was always deeply connected to the Lord in a profound way.

Miguel stood up against religious persecution. Every act was a bold statement of defiance against a tyrannical power that would try to oppose Christ. He helped keep the Church alive underground, raising up leaders and communities, showing that this world is not our home. Even his last words, “Viva Cristo Rey!” were a powerful statement that the leaders of this world are temporary, but Christ is King forever.

The most inspiring thing about Miguel to me is that he gave everything. I do not just mean that he died, although that is profoundly courageous. I mean he used everything that he was to build up the Kingdom of God. He was talented as a performer, so he used all of his performing talents. He was educated as a Jesuit, so he used all of his knowledge to teach the people about God. And he was ordained a priest, so he brought people the power and the glory that can only come from that sacramental encounter that he gave them.

Copyright WL Grayson, 2024

W.L. Grayson

W.L. Grayson

I am a devoutly Catholic theology teacher who loves a popular culture that often, quite frankly, hates me. I grew up absorbing every movie, TV show, comic book, science fiction novel, etc. I could find. As of today I’ve watched over 2100 movies and tv shows. They take up a huge part of my life. I don’t know that this is a good thing, but it has given me a common vocabulary to draw from in order to illustrate whatever theological point I make in class. I’ve used American Pie the song to explain the Book of Revelation (I’ll post on this some time later) and American Pie the movie to help explain Eucharist (don’t ask). The point is that the popular culture is popular for a reason. It is woven into the fabric of our lives and imaginations, for good or ill. In this blog I will attempt to bring together the things of heaven with the things of earth. Of course this goal may be too lofty for someone like me.

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