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St. Jose Sanchez del Rio: Child Soldier and Martyr of the Cristero War

Oct 20, 2016 By Gretchen Filz

St. Jose Sanchez del Rio served with the Cristeros army in the defense of the Catholic Church against the Mexican dictator Plutarco Calles. From a young age he had a great love for Christ and strongly desired to die for his faith.

Although a child, he pleaded to be allowed to fight alongside his brothers in the Cristero War, for freedom of religion in his country and for the love God.

While in battle, after giving his horse to his general who had been dismounted, the boy was captured and locked up in a church sacristy that had been converted into a prison. On the way to his execution, government soldiers struck him with machetes and cut off the soles of his feet.

With every blow, the young boy cried out,

"Viva Cristo Rey!"

The stones where he walked were covered in his blood. He said to the soldiers,

“We’ll see each other in Heaven. I want you all to repent.”

The soldiers offered him an escape instead:

"If you shout, ‘Death to Christ the King’, we will spare your life."

Jose only answered:

"Long live Christ the King! Long live Our Lady of Guadalupe!"

Jose Luis Sanchez del Rio was then stabbed and shot dead on February 10, 1928.  Some accounts say before his final breath he made the sign on the cross with his blood.

He was beatified by Pope Benedict XVI on November 20, 2005 and canonized by Pope Francis at St. Peters Square on September 16, 2016. His feast day is February 10—the day he died. He was 14 years old.

¡Viva Cristo Rey!

The story of St. Jose Sanchez del Rio, child soldier and martyr of the Cristero War

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Gretchen Filz Gretchen Filz

Gretchen is a Lay Dominican with a passion for fostering an increase in Catholic faith and devotion through content writing and journalism. She works as a digital content writer, creator, and marketer for The Catholic Company. In addition to blogging at, she is also editor of the daily devotional email and author at She holds an M.A. in Christian Apologetics and converted to the Catholic Church in 2011. She is also active in R.C.I.A., pro-life work, and various faith-based web projects.

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