Fourteen year old Mexican martyr to be beatified

Monday, September 5th, 2005

José Luis Sánchez del Río, a 14-year-old martyr, is to be beatified in October along with 12 other Mexican martyrs.

Fr Marcial Maciel, founder of the Legionaries of Christ, and Enrique Amezcua Medina, founder of the priestly confraternity of the Laborers of the Kingdom of Christ, both met the young martyr, and are able to recount years later the heroism he exhibited.

José Luis of Sahuayo in the state of Michoacan joined the Cristeros, a large group of Mexican Catholics who rose against the religious persecution of the government of Plutarco Elías Calles a year before he was executed on Feb 10, 1929.

A 7-year-old Marcial Maciel witnessed the martyrdom of his young friend. José Luis "was captured by government forces, which wanted to give the civilian population that supported the Cristeros, an exemplary lesson," said Fr Maciel in the book, Christ is my life.

"Under pain of death, they asked him to give up his faith in Christ. José Luis refused to do so. His mother was overwhelmed by sorrow and anguish, but kept encouraging her son," he said. "Then the skin of the soles of his feet was sheered off and he was obliged to walk through the village towards the cemetery.  He wept and moaned with pain, but would not give in."

Fr Maciel continued: "Every now and then they stopped and said: 'If you cry out "Death to Christ the King," we will spare your life. Say 'Death to Christ the King!' But he answered, 'Hail to Christ the King!'"

Fr Maciel said that at the cemetery, "before shooting him, they asked him once more if he would deny his faith. He refused and was killed right then and there. He died crying out as many other Mexicans did: 'Hail to Christ the King!'

Fr Medina, then 9 years old, said in the history of the confraternity he founded that he considers providential his meeting with the young martyr. He met the child-martyr of Sahuayo and asked him if he could follow him but, seeing that he was so young, the future martyr told him: "You will do things that I will not be able to do," which, eventually, led him to the priesthood.

The confraternity's seminary in Salvatierra, Guanajuato, has been named Christ the King Seminary, and the boarding school was called José Luis, in honour of the future Mexican blessed.

The remains of José Luis rest in the church of the Sacred Heart of Jesus in Sahuayo.

Anacleto Gonzalez Flores was the most prominent of the other twelve martyrs. They all died defending the Cristeros uprising against the Masonic persecution of 1926-29.

Anacleto Gonzalez Flores was born into a large and poor family in Tepatitlán in the Mexican state of Jalisco in 1889. His love of culture and his desire to gain an education in order to defend the faith against the anti-clerical attacks of the Masons led him to become a lawyer in 1922, the same year in which he married.

He became a teacher of history and literature in Guadalajara and in 1925 became president and founder of the “Popular Union of Jalisco.? At the outbreak of the Masonic Mexican Revolution in 1926, Anacleto worked to prevent an armed rebellion against the revolutionaries as he was opposed to resorting to violence against anti-Catholic attacks. He became a successful leader of the boycott launched by Catholics against the Masonic media and businesses. His example and teaching became a symbol for the Cristero uprising, which resulted in his imprisonment in April 1927.

He was brutally tortured in an attempt to get him to disclose where Bishop Orozco y Jimenez was hiding. As they began to torture his companions with him, he continued to encourage his companions not to give up. He and his companions were sentenced to death for “supporting the rebels.?

Upon hearing the sentence, Anacleto responded, “I will only say one thing, and that is that I have unselfishly worked to defend the cause of Jesus Christ and His Church. You shall kill me, but know that the cause will not die with me. Many will come after me willing to defend it unto martyrdom. I go, but with the confidence that from heaven I will soon see the triumph of the faith of my country.?

Anacleto began to recite the Act of Contrition and was joined by his companions. At the end of the prayer, his companions were executed by a firing squad.

Still standing despite his pain, Anacleto said to the general in command at the execution, “General, I forgive you from the bottom of my heart. Very soon, we shall see one another before the divine court. The same judge who will judge me will judge you; at that time you find in me an intercessor before God.?