In 1927, the Mexican government’s persecution of Christians took a cruel turn. They arrested a priest called Miguel Pro for preaching and ministering to the poor inspite of government ban on religion.
“What do you plan to do with this priest?” a junior minister asked in confidence.
“We will put him before a firing squad, watch him deny his faith in an attempt to save his life, then capture his cowardice on film and thereby disgrace Christians throughout the world,” replied President Elias Calles with a smirk while signing the order for Pro’s execution.
The president then invited government officials, members of the press and photographers to be present for the execution to witness and to capture on film the spectacle of disgrace that he was certain was about to occur.
On the morning of execution, a guard appeared at the cell door and called for Pro. Uncertain of what was awaiting him, Pro got up from the game that he was enjoying with the other inmates, squeezed his brother Roberto’s hand, and then turning to the other prisoners exclaimed, “Good-bye, brothers, till we meet in Heaven!”
The policeman who escorted him out was filled with remorse over the whole affair, and asked Pro to forgive him for his part in this injustice. Pro, by now easily guessing his fate, threw his arms around the officer and said, “Not only do I pardon you, but I am grateful to you, and I shall pray for you.”
The thirty-six-year-old Pro was led onto the firing range. He was still squinting, having come from a dark cell into the morning sunlight. But he could see from the outlines before him where he was. The major asked him, in a matter-of-fact way, whether he wished to express any last will. Pro answered firmly, “Permit me to pray.” Pro then knelt down, totally oblivious to the fact that he was on film and was having his picture snapped repeatedly. He very slowly blessed himself for the last time, kissed the crucifix that he held tightly in his right hand and crossed his arms over his chest. While in this posture he moved his lips in inaudible prayer.
Refusing a blindfold, the prisoner stood erect, and said calmly, “Lord, you know that I am innocent.” He raised his hand, blessed the spectators. Then, addressing himself to those who were about to kill him, he said, “May God have mercy on you. May God bless you?”
He walked briskly to the wall, faced the rifles, held out his arms so as to perfectly resemble the Crucified, and exclaimed, “With all my heart I forgive my enemies!” Then just before the order to fire rang out, he quietly, though not provokingly, spoke the immortal ejaculation of the Mexican martyrs, Viva Cristo Rey! The guns sounded, and he fell dead, riddled with bullets. To make sure he was dead, the soldier fired a shot at close range into his head just to make sure.
Ana Maria, Pro’s sister was the only one of her family present at the execution. When she heard the shots, all she could do was stand beyond the fence and weep.
Then something strange began to happen, something the Mexican government had not anticipated. Hundreds of spectators knelt down in the road Pro’s remains passed by in the ambulance on the way to the hospital. When the bodies were laid out for view Ana Maria was the first to venerate them. Crowds of mourners immediately gathered outside the hospital.
On the following day, thirty thousand people swelled the funeral procession. As they silently drove along, flowers were strewn before the martyrs’ path and dropped down from hundreds of balconies. Then the chanting started. Before long, thousands of people chanting in unison a thundering roar that shook the capital city, “Viva Cristo Rey!Long Live Christ The King!”Long live the martyrs! If you want martyrs, here is our blood!” This was the beginning of the end of the Calles’ government.