“Viva Cristo Rey!”
This cry echoed around the courtyard as one last act of defiant faith from a man who had lived his priestly vocation to the fullest. His resounding words were followed by the vicious report of rifles. The priest fell to the ground. He was still alive, so a soldier approached and fired one final shot to his head at point-blank range.
The earthly life of Fr. Miguel Pro had come to a close. Although the secular authorities of 1920s Mexico thought they had silenced him, they had only ensured his final victory: the victory of martyrdom.
Miguel was born in Guadalupe in 1891, nineteen years before the Mexican Revolution tore the country apart. His was a bright, joyful disposition, interwoven with a deep and serious spiritual life. He loved to laugh, play guitar, play practical jokes, and spend time both with his beloved family and with his Lord in prayer.
After joining the Jesuits in 1911, Miguel was forced to flee to Spain in 1914 to continue his studies due to religious persecution from the anti-Catholic Mexican government. He studied further in Belgium and was ordained there in 1925.
He returned to Mexico the following year, during the presidency of the virulently anti-Catholic Plutarco Calles. Churches and schools were closed, public worship was banned, and priests could be punished just for wearing their cassocks. Religious activity was forced underground.
Fr. Pro threw himself into this challenging environment with all the energy of his vivacious personality. He clandestinely celebrated Mass—his portable altar neatly hidden inside an ordinary-looking suitcase—distributed Holy Communion, heard confessions, and cared for the poor who were suffering under brutal conditions.
Sometimes the fearless priest would employ clever disguises—an auto mechanic one day, a dandy in a dapper hat the next—to outfox government officers on the lookout for priests.
The government had to resort to a false accusation to catch Fr. Pro. A bomb was thrown at the president from a car that once belonged to Fr. Pro’s brother Humberto. Though the true conspirators confirmed that the Pro brothers had no involvement, the association was enough.
Fr. Pro, Humberto, and their younger brother Roberto were arrested and condemned to death without trial. Roberto was released, but Fr. Pro and Humberto faced the firing squad.
The government brought in news photographers to capture the execution, hoping the photos would spread fear and intimidation among Catholics when they saw a cowardly priest pleading for his life and being dealt a brutal death by the all-powerful government.
This turned out to be a serious miscalculation on the government’s part.
As he was led to execution on November 23, 1927, Fr. Pro, brave and peaceful, asked for a moment to pray. Then, taking a rosary in one hand and a crucifix in the other, he forgave his enemies, extended his arms in the form of his Crucified Lord, and proclaimed His Kingship for all to hear.
There was no stopping the crowds who gathered to pay their respects to the brothers’ funeral procession. Thousands lined the streets, standing on balconies, throwing flowers, filling the cemetery where the bodies were laid to rest.
As for the photos, they quickly became such objects of devotion and strength for the people that the government tried to ban them. They are some of the best-known images of Fr. Pro today.
You too can venerate Fr. Pro through one of these beloved photographs. At The Catholic Company, we offer the famous image of Fr. Pro with his arms outstretched in a cross, the immortal words he spoke that day printed on the photo. Framed in elegant black with a white mat. Order yours today!