The Catacombs

Full Version: Father Pro of Mexico
You're currently viewing a stripped down version of our content. View the full version with proper formatting.
The Angelus - July 1981

Father Pro of Mexico
by Mary E. Gentges

Part I of II

[Image: ?]

On the evening of the men's retreat, I stepped into the street about 9:30, as red as a tomato from the lecture I had just delivered. I spotted two strangers awaiting me on the street corner. Detectives! "This time, my boy," I said to myself, "good-bye to your skin!" Then, remembering the old adage that he who takes the first move also takes the second, I sauntered up to them and asked for a match.

"You can get them in the shop!" they snapped.

With an insulted air I walked away. They followed. I turned a corner. So did they. Surely it wasn't coincidence! I hailed a taxi. They caught one too. "The jig's up this time, "I thought.

Luckily for me my driver was a Catholic and understood the fix I was in. "Look, son," I told him, "slow down at the next corner while I jump out. Then you keep going." I stuffed my cap in my pocket, opened my jacket so my white shirt would show up . . . and jumped.

I fell hard, but sprang to my feet and stood leaning against a tree. My bloodhounds passed a second later. They saw me all right, but it never dawned on them who I was. I left the place quickly, thinking as I limped homeward, "Clever, my boy, you are free until the next time."

+ + +

The letter1 on which these lines are based was written by a Jesuit priest in Mexico in 1927. His name was Michael Pro, and he is sometimes called "The Edmund Campion of Mexico." Like his sixteenth-century counterpart, Miguel was forced to leave his homeland to study for the priesthood. Like the Jesuit Campion, he returned during a bloody persecution and ministered to his people in secret. Both men were witty types who went about in disguise just ahead of the priest hunters. Both were captured after a short ministry and condemned to execution on false charges.

Edmund Campion has been canonized. Hopefully Father Pro's turn is coming. Word last year from the vice-postulator of his cause in Mexico was that he might be beatified in 1981. May it be so. This is his story.

Early Years

Miguel Agustin Pro was born to Josefa Juarez and Miguel Pro on January 13, 1891, at Guadalupe in the heart of Mexico. He was the third child of eleven, four of whom died in infancy or childhood.

It appeared that death would also claim Miguel at an early age when the little tot consumed an enormous quantity of native fruit that seems to have poisoned him. For a year he lingered in a strange stupor, unable to speak, with hanging head and vacant stare. Doctors said he would certainly be mentally retarded. When he went into convulsions, his anguished father could bear it no longer. Holding the little boy up before an image of Our Lady of Guadalupe he cried out, "Madre Mia, give me back my son!" With a shudder the child coughed up a large volume of blood, and from that moment speedily recovered. His first words were, "Mama, I want cocol," a favorite bread. Years later the hunted priest would sign his letters with the nickname, "Cocol."

The good-natured little boy was once again the life of the house. Although he told his mother offhandedly that he would love to die a martyr, he showed no early indications of great piety. Instead, his biographers fill pages with anecdotes of his merry mischief.

His quick wit manifested itself early. For example, little Miguel was riding a donkey—boasting of his horsemanship, but not paying attention to his mount. The animal lowered its head, and off he slid with a thump. Everyone was amused when Miguel, as unruffled as though he had done it on purpose, snatched up a clump of grass, "I just wanted to cut some fodder for my burro!"

He grew up at Concepcion del Oro, where his father was an overseer in the mines. The boy Miguel loved to go down into the earth and visit the miners, sharing his candies with them. His parents set a beautiful example of Christian charity and he would never forget how his mother expended herself helping the poor and the sick. His favorites were always the working people and the poor. Seeing a gang of workmen going home at the end of the day, the priest Miguel would say, "Those are the souls that I love."

The boy Miguel could hardly have been called sanctimonious, but he seriously fulfilled his religious duties along with the family. The Pros enjoyed a close-knit family life, praying the Rosary nightly and whiling away happy evenings together. The children often serenaded their parents with their own small orchestra; and Miguel, the natural mimic, amused them all with his recitations. He might play all the parts in a skit, changing his voice from bass to a shrill treble.

His pranks were legion. One of the best-known occurred when he was out with his older sister Concepcion and they came upon an outdoor auction. Imitating Concepcion's voice, Miguel made the winning bid on a flea-bitten donkey ... and disappeared. She had a hard time convincing the auctioneer that she hadn't said a word, and had no intentions of buying the donkey!

Despite his pranks, Miguel's strong suit was always obedience. One evening he and his sister were coming home along the railroad tracks and saw a load of molten ore from the furnaces approaching them. Remembering their father's orders that they should never stay near one of these red-hot conveyances, they had moved well away from the footpath when the firey load tipped over right on the spot where they had been. The sleepy driver climbed down, slipped into the pool of flame and was killed instantly. The gruesome incident made a deep impression on Miguel, who frequently cited it to show the necessity of perfect obedience. In all his pranks he was never disobedient, and if he carried a joke too far he was always contrite.

He also always loved Our Lady. Once he slipped and caught his foot in the railroad track. He could hear a train coming, but could not free himself, and already felt the hot breath of Purgatory. Promising works of sacrifice, he called on the Blessed Virgin. His boot separated and he was free! He told his family, "I have since made a pact with the Blessed Virgin that she will never let me go to Purgatory, and I will ever be her faithful servant."

For a time the teen-ager Miguel was inexplicably moody, and less pious than usual. Unknown to his family he had a non-Catholic girlfriend. The episode ended in typical Pro-fashion when he went off to a nearby parish mission and his peace of soul returned. While there he wrote letters to his mother and the girlfriend ... and then accidentally switched them in the mailing envelopes! His mother was grieved. Miguel spent a night weeping and praying on his knees because he had hurt his dear mother. And the girl? She jilted him!

For lack of good schools Miguel received most of his schooling at home. Meanwhile he was a great help to his father in the mine office where he was a whiz at typing and complicated record-keeping. His future was still unsettled when his two older sisters entered the religious life.

Sensing that the divine calling was to be his also, Miguel resisted for a while, struggling within himself. But at last, convinced that God called him to sanctity he entered the Jesuit novitiate at El Llano. It was August 15, 1911, and Miguel was twenty years old.

The Novitiate

In formal pictures Miguel's long face and large well-shaped mouth are always serious, his dark eyes solemn. But his companions assert that he could laugh out of one side of his mobile face and cry out of the other at the same time. He was soon a sought-after companion among the novices, always in demand at recreation and entertainments. His friend Father Pulido remarked that he "had never seen such an exquisite wit, never coarse, always sparkling." His friends noticed too that he was always unassuming and very charitable, and could cheerfully slip pious thoughts into a conversation without boring anyone.

Father Pulido noted that there were really two Pros in one: the playful Pro and the prayerful Pro. He was always faithful to his religious exercises, and during retreats spent more time in chapel than anyone. He never lost his joyous spirit; grace only mellowed it and made it more flexible.

The wise novice master shaped him in humility at every opportunity. Once at recreation the irrepressible Pro climbed a pole and delivered a witty "sermon" to his fellow novices. They were all in stitches when the novice master came along and ordered Miguel to repeat the performance for him. Red-faced, the novice complied, but somehow it wasn't so funny the second time around!

On August 15, 1913, Miguel made his first vows as a Jesuit. But events in the outside world would soon shatter the peace of El Llano.

Background to Terror

When Mexico gained her independence from Spain in 1821, she was unable to form a stable government. Instead, for the next century her history would be one of short-lived rulers and cunning would-be rulers. The spirit of the French Revolution, aided by Freemasonry imported from north of the Rio Grande, caused the Revolutionists to turn with hatred on the very Church that had given Mexico a high level of literacy, proportionately more schools than Great Britain, and universities that were advanced beyond those of other nations. Catholic institutions were destroyed, schools and hospitals closed, monasteries deserted, members of religious orders exiled—and this in a nation 95% Catholic! Mexico has never recovered.

In 1877 Porfirio Diaz, "the benevolent dictator," seized power and held it for thirty-four years. Miguel Pro grew up during this peaceful time when the anti-Catholic laws were largely ignored and the Church could breathe again.

When Diaz fell from power in 1911, adventurers sprung up on all sides. Venustiano Carranza, with the aid of fortune-seeking generals and the bandit Villa, pillaged the country amid unspeakable barbarity and sacrilege, looting and murdering, and finally taking Mexico City. Churches were turned into stables; horses paraded in the Church's priceless vestments. And no Church official from the bishops down to the youngest novice was safe from harm.

Meanwhile at El Llano news came that Senora Pro and the children had fled to Guadalajara, and that Senor Pro had been forced to go into hiding, his whereabouts unknown. In addition to this, the only professor in the house broke down, and Miguel was appointed to keep the students busy. Under this strain he began to develop stomach ulcers. Bothering no one, he concealed his own troubles from all, cheering up the others when he himself felt more than depressed.

In August of 1914 the seminary was attacked and partially sacked. To continue was impossible. On the feast of the Assumption, wearing lay clothing, the seminarians made their exodus.

Miguel's little group made their way slowly to Guadalajara, and along the way helped some priests who were in hiding. Miguel was convincing in his disguise as an Indian peasant and servant of the rest, and his presence of mind repeatedly saved the group from soldiers and bandits who infested the roads.

He found his mother and the four younger children living in one miserable room. She was reduced to doing manual labor to support them. All she had managed to save from their comfortable home was a large picture of the Sacred Heart. She said heroically, "I am content to have left everything for the cause of Christ. Now nothing is left to me but this image of the Sacred Heart which will bless my house and children."

Though wracked with headaches and stomach pain Miguel enlivened the family's spirits with his songs and clever impersonations.

The seminarians met for Mass in secret places, and once, with one of their priests, dared to enter the wrecked cathedral for a clandestine Mass. Miguel's great priestly heart had already been formed. Hearing of an abandoned old woman who was dying, he spent an entire night assisting her in her last agony.

When transportation was somewhat restored, the young Jesuits received orders to set off for the United States. It hurt Miguel to leave his mother in such circumstances, yet she would have had it no other way. His first parting from her had been a sore trial; now as she accompanied him to the train station they both held back the tears. He looked upon her aged face for the last good-bye. It was the last time on earth he would see his dear mother.

Passing scenes of destruction and desolation, they finally reached the Jesuit house at Los Gatos, California. Miguel, now twenty-three, maintained his jovial exterior, and enjoyed picking up American slang. Later in Europe he would greet a hospitalized American Jesuit, "You poor sap!"

Able to make friends with anyone, he sought out poor children and taught them catechism in broken English. He was always a superb catechist who could attract young and old and adapt his teaching to all levels of understanding.

In the summer of 1915, Miguel and his fifteen companions sailed for sunny Spain.


Who would have guessed when the seminarians arrived at Granada that the lively Pro had been chosen by God and was being formed by Him to die a martyr for Christ the King. Indeed, one of the priests asked him if his jokes weren't a reflection on the level of education in Mexico! Brother Pro assured him that his jokes weren't exactly a Mexican type, but a "Pro type."

They soon discovered that he covered the depth of his soul and many exquisite acts of virtue under a cloak of humor. Like St. Philip Neri he humbly hid his growing holiness by making himself look ridiculous.

One day he decided to treat his fellow Mexicans to a picnic, and told them to make preparations. When the food was ready the only thing lacking was permission! Brother Pro approached the rector and asked if he would do them the honor of joining them. He replied that he was too busy, and added, "Besides, do you have permission?"

"No, Father, but we thought we wouldn't need it if you came with us."

The rector smiled at Brother Pro's ingenuity and let them go.

But Miguel's merriment never deprived him of inward reflection; he was a man of prayer, spending many hours with his dark eyes riveted on the tabernacle. Also, he was always ready to forfeit his own free time to help or console someone else.

Though the news from home often broke his heart it never disturbed the serenity of his soul. At such times Miguel had to work hard to be joyful, and his companions always knew when the news was especially bad because then he displayed more gaiety than usual.

He had advanced to a high degree of self-control, so that only occasionally would a sudden gesture betray his excruciating stomach pain. And the more he suffered, the more sensitive he became to the sufferings of others.

He visited the home for the aged poor and did the humblest tasks for them; sought out hardened sinners and drew them back to the Faith; rounded up the men loafing in the market place and ushered them into Mass.

In 1920 he was sent to Nicaragua, Central America, to spend two years teaching before beginning his theology. Though he never lost his cheer, it was a difficult time for him in the steaming jungle climate, dealing with undisciplined boys, and finding that many people around him did not appreciate his humor. He was thirty-one when he returned to Spain to begin his theology.


Miguel Pro had many natural abilities; his verses and clever caricatures were treasured by all. But he had difficulties with some of his studies, lacking a natural bent for metaphysical subjects. While he did not shine as a student, his superiors valued his common sense and special gift for knowing how to deal with souls. Convinced that he had a natural ability with workmen, they sent him, the year before his ordination, to the Jesuit house at Enghein, Belgium, to study Catholic labor organizations there.

At this time Brother Pro could no longer hide his worsening physical torture, for sometimes he could not eat or sleep. His companions wondered how he could look so refreshed after a sleepless night, and he replied, "One is never alone." He had reached a high degree of union with God, and lived in the presence of God.

Early in 1925, he was tortured with anguishing doubts, fearing his ordination would be put off due to his poor health. However, he was ordained as planned on August 31, 1925.

He wrote, "How can I explain to you the sweet grace of the Holy Ghost, which invades my poor miner's soul with such heavenly joys? I could not keep back tears on the day of my ordination, above all at the moment when I pronounced, together with the bishop, the words of the Consecration.

"After the ceremony the new priests gave their first blessing to their parents. I went to my room, laid out all the photographs of my family on the table, and then blessed them from the bottom of my heart."

The following day he said his first Mass at Enghein. "At the beginning I felt rather embarrassed, but after the Consecration I felt nothing but heavenly peace and joy. The only petition I made to Our Blessed Lord was that of being useful to souls." His zeal for souls now leapt forth as a devouring flame.

The young Father Pro was once again "El Barretero" (the miner) when he descended into the earth to visit the coal miners at Charleroi. Some of them were Socialists, and likely to sneer at the cassock. Father Pro climbed into a train compartment at the end of the day and the workers inside informed him that they were all Socialists. "So am I!" he exclaimed, getting their attention. "I find just one difficulty; when we get all the money away from the rich people how are we going to keep it?" Then he explained some facts of Socialism to these deluded souls.

Next they told him they were also Communists. "Good!" said Father Pro, "So am I, and since I am very hungry I am going to have a banquet with the meal you are carrying." They laughed, and wanted to know if he wasn't afraid of them. "Afraid? Why should I be? I'm always well-armed." They were a little tense as he rummaged in his pockets for his "arms," but came out with a small Crucifix. Some of them removed their hats as Father Pro explained the love of Christ for the working man. At the end of the ride they shoved a bag of chocolates into his hands.


Three months after his ordination his health broke. The ulcers had become so acute that surgery was ordered. He endured three operations, and his sufferings were agonizing. The nursing sisters marveled at his patience and courage. He kept them convulsed with laughter, laughing first at himself, and never referring to his pitiful condition except in a humorous way. Prayer was the source of his courage: "I pray almost all day and during most of the nights. After this I find myself refreshed."

In the midst of his physical sufferings he received word of the death of his mother. Crucifix in hand, he wept during the night. Though he accepted the will of God, and believed her to be in heaven watching over him, he called it "the hardest trial of my poor heart." His dream of giving Holy Communion to his mother had faded away.

Hoping it would improve his heath, Father Pro's superiors sent him to a Franciscan convalescent home in southern France. He insisted on being allowed to say the first Mass each morning so that the other priests might rest longer. "As I can't sleep anyway, it is no sacrifice for me." Then he would serve the next Mass. Told that he was doing too much, he replied, "I only wish I were able to serve all the Masses that are celebrated."

He helped anyone he could, and read souls like an open book. The Mother Superior said that at prayer he gave her the impression of not living in this world. He told her, "I must get better so I can go back to Mexico where I shall die as a martyr."

During this period he wrote beautiful passages on the priesthood. To a friend soon to be ordained: "I am in the habit of joking, but today I wish to speak to you in all sincerity. For nearly a year I have had the happiness of going up to the altar—a happiness which has nothing of the earth, but is spiritual and divine. You are going to undergo a complete transformation. The Holy Ghost will come down on you in a very special way on your ordination day. Trust the experience of this poor miner; you will no longer be tomorrow what you are today. There is something in me which I have never felt before. It is nothing personal or human. It comes from the priestly character the Holy Ghost stamps on our souls. It is a more intimate participation in the divine life." He tells some of the good he has been able to work as a priest, but adds humbly that it is not because of himself, but because of the grace of his priesthood.

Home to Mexico

In the summer of 1926, Father Pro's health had not improved. It seems that as a last resort his superiors decided to send him home to his native climate. He asked permission and the necessary alms for a quick trip to Lourdes. He said Mass in the Basilica, and spent the day at the Grotto, calling it one of the happiest days of his life.

"The Blessed Virgin inundated my soul with immense happiness and intense consolation. How did I manage to kneel there such a long time, when usually I can only bear a few minutes on my knees? I really don't know. I was not the same miserable being as other days.

"My voyage will not be as hard as I thought it would be, for the Virgin has told me so. I was finding it hard to go back to Mexico: my health gone, my country destroyed by this government, and once there, not meeting my mother again. However, Our Lady of Lourdes has given me courage."

After a pleasant voyage, he landed at Vera Cruz on July 8, 1926. "It was by a special dispensation of God that I re-entered my country. I do not know how I did it. No one looked at my passports; they did not even examine my luggage." Father Pro had stepped onto the stage where would be enacted the great drama of his life; the other characters were already present.

In 1918 Carranza had eased up on the persecution of Catholics ... and swiftly met his end. The next "president," Obregon, harassed the Church in a more insidious manner. Then, since the President could not succeed himself, Obregon and his friend Calles arranged the next "election" to fall to Calles, and planned to juggle the presidency back and forth between them.

Plutarco Elias Calles had ridden to the top on the coat-tails of the Revolution. His weakness for cruelty was blood-chilling. One example will suffice: When an old man offended him, he had him hanged with barbed wire.

As president he waged a fierce persecution of Catholics, claiming uncounted hundreds of martyrs—among them 150 priests—from 1926 to 1929. He vigorously enforced the anti-religious Mexican Constitution, and amplified it with thirty-three new laws, which he had tacked up on the church doors. By these laws all Church property was confiscated by the State; all public worship was restricted to the interior of churches and put under State control; religious orders were dissolved and all education laicized (actually made atheistic); priests were forbidden to criticize the government and could not wear clerical garb in public.

The Lodges congratulated him; but the Church could not recognize such infamy as legal. With the approval of the Pope, the bishops of Mexico agreed that the Church, rather than submit, would go underground. The laws were to go into effect on July 31, only three weeks after Father Pro's arrival.

He was reunited with his family and then plunged into parish work. The people turned out frantically for the last public spiritual exercises. Father Pro heard confessions eleven hours a day. "My confessional was a jubilee," he wrote, "having just left the clinic's smooth pillows, my annoying constitution was unaccustomed to the hard bench of the confessional. Twice I fainted and had to be carried out."

On the 31st of July, feast of St. Ignatius Loyola, Father Pro celebrated his last public Mass. The churches were closed, and the priests commenced their "underground" ministry. A few lines from a poem composed by Father Pro pathetically describe the situation:

O Lord, Thy empty tabernacles mourn
While we alone upon our Calvary,
As orphans, ask Thee, Jesus to return
And dwell again within Thy sanctuary.
Since Thou hast left Thy earthly door ajar,
Our lovely temples bare and dismal stand;
No chant of choir, no bells resound afar;
Dread silence hovers o'er our native land.
By the bitter tears of those who mourn their dead,
By our martyrs' blood for Thee shed joyfully,
By the crimson stream with which Thy Heart bled,
Return in haste to Thy dear sanctuary.

To be continued ...

1. Sources of reference for Father Pro's letters used in this article will be given in a bibliography at the conclusion of Part II, which will appear in next month's issue.
The Angelus - August 1981

Father Pro of Mexico
by Mary E. Gentges

Part II of II

[Image: ?]

MIGUEL PRO'S entire life had been a preparation for the next sixteen months when he would outwit the police and unselfishly give of himself for souls. New in the country, he had the immediate advantage of being unknown to the ten thousand secret agents in Mexico City. While other priests had been exiled, executed, or forced into hiding, he took on a heavy workload. It is said he did the work of seven priests.

Father Pro celebrated Mass in the homes of faithful Catholics; he witnessed marriages, baptized babies and took the sacraments to the sick. He was constantly occupied in hearing confessions. It gave him great joy to reconcile sinners to the Church and to assist the dying. He gave conferences and retreats, and also taught a band of 150 select youths to go about giving lectures.

He writes: "I have what I call 'Eucharistic Stations' where I go around every day to distribute Holy Communion. To baffle the agents who go about here like night birds, I go some days to one place and other days to another, with an average of 300 Communions daily." One First Friday the number reached 1,200!

He passed under the scrutiny of the police in a variety of guises: "I look so much like a student that no one can possibly guess my real profession. Day and night I go from place to place doing good, sometimes with a beautiful police dog following at my heels, sometimes riding my brother's bicycle to which I owe a bruise on the arm and a bump on my head."

How did the sickly Father Pro do it all? His superiors, it seems, had sent him home to die of his ailments. Yet the assurance he had received at Lourdes was real. After eight years of agonizing daily attacks, the ulcer had subsided to an occasional "fluttering of wings," and his health held until the end. He wondered himself,
Quote:"How do I stand it ... It proves that without the fullness of the Divine Element which uses me merely as an instrument I'd have made a mess of everything. I know that of themselves my person and results are worthless." He adds, "Not I, but the grace of God in me."


In response to the anti-religious laws the League for the Defense of Religious Liberty organized a boycott, encouraging Catholics to buy only necessities, abstain from all luxuries and entertainments, and withdraw their funds from banks. A variety of leaflets, promoting the boycott and proclaiming the Kingship of Christ, flowed from secret printing presses. Calles executed League members at every opportunity. In life, or in death, the slogan of these confessors of the Faith was "Long live Christ the King!"

Father Pro's brothers, Humberto and Roberto (both in their early twenties and living at home with their father and sister Ana Maria), were active in the League. They gave religious conferences and helped priests who were in hiding.

[Image: Father_Pro_Family.jpg]

The Pro Family
Standing: Edmundo, Miguel, Ana Maria
Seated: Maria de la Concepcion, Roberta, Senora Pro, Humberto (executed with Miguel), Senor Pro, Maria

Father Pro had his pockets filled with League leaflets once when he was picked up by the police. On the way to the station he distracted the driver of the car while he surreptitiously threw the incriminating leaflets out the window!

In October of 1926, on the Feast of Christ the King, over two hundred thousand pilgrims defied the anti-religious laws and assembled at the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe. Father Pro was deeply moved to see people of all classes marching on bloodied bare feet, or inching forward on their knees. As the singing was rather subdued, he elbowed his way into the crowd and loudly intoned a hymn. In minutes thousands were singing in unison, proclaiming Christ their King. 
Quote:"There is no doubt about it," he wrote, "the whole of Mexico is Catholic! Our Lady of Guadalupe is Queen of the Mexicans!"

He continues,
Quote:"The number of martyrs increases day by day. I hope I shall have the luck to be among the first, or among the last, but to be one of the number. If so, prepare your petitions for Heaven!"

His Poor People

Father Pro's heart went out to the poor, to those living in dire misery because their breadwinner had been imprisoned for the Faith. Though begging humiliated him, for his poor people he begged homes and provisions, and was soon supporting a hundred families. He would give his own coat to a poor man. Or he might be seen laboring along in the heat carrying a heavy sack of flour, or boarding a bus with a half-dozen live chickens in his arms.

He organized a dozen volunteers to help with this work. 
Quote:"Officially I call them 'Investigation and Commissariat Section' but between ourselves they are 'beggars on the go'! I am in close touch with what we read of in the lives of the Saints (Oh, don't take me for one of them!) for without knowing who the benefactor is I receive at one time fifty kilos of sugar, or biscuits, coffee, chocolate, rice, and even wine ... Ordinarily my purse is as lean as the spiritual part of Calles, but this causes me no anxiety, for the Heavenly Procurator is so generous .... I see the hand of God in everything and almost fear they won't kill me in these adventures, which will be a fiasco for me who sigh to go to Heaven and play arpeggios on the mandolin with my guardian angel."

He found himself taking in abandoned babies. Once as he had paused for a railroad crossing someone slipped a baby onto the back seat of his car! He describes how he took a baby to its foster parents:
Quote:"I made the mistake of putting the baby by my side on the car seat. At the first jolt the baby bounced up and had I not caught it on the fly I should have had to take it to the cemetery instead!"

"Nobody knows where I live. I receive letters, and beans for my poor people, at four different addresses. I have even heard confessions in prisons. Really, I go there more often than anywhere else because they are overflowing with Catholics. I take food, blankets, money. If the guards only knew what sort of bird passes right under their noses!"


Twice Father Pro was arrested, but released. Without ever denying his priesthood, he could calmly make witty remarks to divert his interrogators, as on the day when two policemen stopped him on the street. He was so relaxed that they began to have second thoughts. When he took them into a cafe and treated them, joking all the while, they decided they had the wrong man after all!

By February of 1927 there was a reward out for his arrest; traps awaiting him everywhere. He approached a house to say Mass and saw two policemen guarding the door.

Quote: "To go in was very risky. To turn back was to desert the faithful, and to my mind a disgrace. I pulled myself together, and coolly walked up to the house. With an air of being in on the secret I jotted down the house number in a notebook, drew back the lapel of my coat as if to show a detective's badge, and said, 'There's a cat bagged here.' Convinced that I was a secret agent, they let me go in. I ran up the inside stairs thinking, 'Now there is a cat bagged here!' "

After conferring with the faithful, Father Pro left as he had entered, and received a superb military salute from the policemen!

Early one morning he was distributing Holy Communion at one of his Eucharistic Stations when a servant ran in shouting,"The cops!" Father Pro calmly told everyone to scatter through the house. He hid the Blessed Sacrament over his heart, and, attired in cap and overcoat, went to the door. The police took him to be the owner of the house. They insisted that there was public worship inside and were determined to search the premises. Father Pro told them to go right ahead, and to prevent greater harm he accompanied them through the house. Finally, he left them, saying that if it wasn't for an appointment with his girlfriend he would stay until they seized the insolent priest who made sport of such keen policemen. And he went off on his rounds distributing Holy Communion!

At times, for his own safety, Father Pro's superiors ordered him into hiding. He obeyed, remarking, "Obedience is better than sacrifice," but it was a heavy cross for him to hide when he knew that souls needed him. He pleaded with his superiors. "They fear for my life. Would it not be to save it if I gave it for my brethren? Certainly we must not give it foolishly. But the most they can do is kill me, and that only in God's good time .... Permit me to stay at my post until this persecution passes." Though he desired martyrdom, at the same time he had no intention of willingly deserting his flock, and he took every means to preserve his life.

Retreats in Unusual Surroundings

Toward evening a man in a business suit and straw hat might be seen entering an office building. It was Father Pro coming to give a retreat to office employees after their day's work. The retreatants knelt among the typewriters, unafraid, while agents prowled in the street below.

[Image: ?]

In his lighthearted fashion Father Pro described another retreat given to chauffeurs (taxi or truck drivers). He called them "the people of pro," (A pun, for pro means "worth").
Quote:"Imagine fifty noisy chauffeurs, fine types with their rough unpolished manners. To my astonishment I found that the language of the common people flowed quite naturally from my lips. I thought I had forgotten it in the sixteen years since I left the mines, but strike me pink! it was as though I had left but yesterday. I gave these conferences in a large yard with the usual junk lying around, myself disguised as a mechanic in cover-alls with a cap drawn down to my eyebrows, and giving a spiritual shove to my responsive audience. God bless all the chauffeurs of the world!"

Next, he tackled some eighty sophisticated professional women, influenced by modern thinking,
Quote:"They feared nothing—not even the devil, denied the existence of hell, and refused to submit to the sweet truths of our religion. I strained every nerve, but was more than repaid by seeing them all receive the sacraments."

He added that it was not anything of himself, but the grace of God that worked in these souls. "Blessed be mi Padre Dios Who is so very good!" This loving term, "my Father God" was his life-long expression.

Depth of Soul

The witty Father Pro was deeply spiritual, and his true holiness was unconsciously revealed in unguarded moments. A young girl who sought him to deliver a message related,
Quote:"I found him with his hands joined and his eyes cast down. His whole being was transformed by prayer and recollection. I quite forgot my message. I fell on my knees and went to confession."

Father Pro imitated the hidden sacrifices of St. Therese of Lisieux, whom he greatly admired. When he was slandered, he refused to defend himself, imitating Our Lord by his silence. Often he was too busy helping souls to stop for food or sleep; but in his incessant activity he never neglected prayer, the source of his strength.

In his dealings with souls there was never a joking word. Speaking of temptations against purity, he said,
Quote: "Nothing is so noble as the terrible struggle known to God alone and to the soul ... I do not dread it; the Blessed Virgin is so kind to me, so motherly."

His flock cherished his words: 
Quote:"I endeavor to do all my actions in the presence of God, my Father .... I am ready to give my life for souls and want nothing for myself .... When a heart has once drawn its sap from the wood of the Cross, it can no longer turn away .... Do you know where I learned to love? In the Heart of Jesus."

Quote:"If life daily becomes harder and more burdensome, a thousand times blessed be He Who wills it so! If life becomes harder, love also grows stronger.

"Heart of Jesus I love Thee, but increase my love; Heart of Jesus I trust in Thee, but strengthen my hope; Heart of Jesus I give Thee my heart, but sink it so deeply in Thine that it will never break away; Heart of Jesus I am all Thine, but keep my promise that I may redeem it unto the utter sacrifice of my life."

Toward the Supreme Sacrifice

As the months wore on, Father Pro lived under a continual strain, criss-crossing the city, eyeing those who eyed him, with threats at every turning. At times he sighed for the quiet and order of the Jesuit houses; but he hung on, always marvelling at the special care and graces of God, and could still find a humorous way to describe his life:

Quote:"Here things are getting on like a house of fire! Christians are dispatched to heaven for the slightest trifle. When one of us leaves the house, instead of saying adios, we make an Act of Contrition. We have officially said goodbye to each other until we are reunited in heaven. But instead of weeping we have uncontrollable fits of laughter. Wouldn't it be wonderful to go straight to heaven for so noble a cause!

"We are seven and have just five chairs, four plates, four knives, eight bedsteads, three mattresses, and a broom. It is all loaned, but really it is a gift because it is certain neither we nor our heirs will return anything. In three recent police raids they left us without even a cuspidor, but as that article is not necessary to go to heaven, we gave it up without complaint!"

In October of 1927, that bloody October when three hundred citizens were slaughtered in its first week, Father Pro give a Triduum at Toluca for the feast of Christ the King. He was amazed at the numbers of people who risked detection by the police to attend the exercises, waiting patiently for Mass as he heard long lines of penitents. At times up to two hundred stout workmen would be crammed into the three little rooms where he preached. Disguising a postcard in the jargon of a salesman, and signing it "the Miner," he wrote to a priest friend, "I have come here to sell my wares ... I am rather tired, because my sale was more of a clearance than I expected."

As Father Pro viewed the reign of terror with its tortures and killings he had to admit, "I am broken, more and more broken by this barbariousness! Poor, poor people!" As he looked at the hopeless plight of his people, he longed the more to suffer himself as a victim for them. Though he humbly felt himself unworthy, he often asked his friends to pray that God would grant him the grace of martyrdom for the cause of the Faith in Mexico.

On November 13, 1927, he composed a touching prayer in which he asked the Blessed Virgin to let him spend his life near her, not enjoying the joys of Bethlehem, but rather sharing her sorrows in the ignominy of Calvary "to love my God and thy God in the immolation of my whole being." She took him at his word, for on that very day his fate was sealed.

The Bomb

On that fateful Sunday an attempt was made on the life of Calles's partner, "President-elect" Obregon. A bomb was thrown at Obregon's limousine from a passing car. The attempt was a failure; Obregon was barely scratched. Neither Father Pro nor his brothers had anything to do with the assassination attempt. In fact, Father Pro did not tolerate the desire of some Catholics for the deaths of Mexico's leaders. His look would become severe as he told them, "They are instruments of God to punish us for our sins. You should pray every day for Calles; I remember him every day in my Mass."

Father Pro had spent Sunday, the 13th, ministering to his flock, having dinner with his family, and entertaining them with some of his antics. When he heard of the assassination attempt he exclaimed, "Heaven knows how many people will have to pay dearly for this unfortunate affair!"

When Father Pro learned that the car used in the attempt was an old Essex that Humberto had used till recently in his League activities he heard his brothers would in some way be implicated in the affair. Though he wasn't worried for himself, he decided they should all hide out for awhile.

In hiding, on the 17th of November, Father Pro said his last Mass. That day agents bullied a young boy into giving away the Pros' hiding place, and during the night they broke into the room where the three brothers were sleeping. Father Pro immediately gave his brothers absolution, and encouraged them to join with him in offering up their lives for religious liberty in Mexico.

A police agent asked the lady who had sheltered the Pros if she knew she had been hiding conspirators. "What I know," she retorted, "is that I've been hiding a saint!"

For five days the three Pro brothers were confined in the damp filthy underground prison of the police station. The other prisoners were edified by Father Pro's spirit of joy and prayer. He led them in the Rosary, other prayers, hymns, and popular ditties. He scrawled on the wall in big letters, "Blessed be Christ the King! Blessed be Our Lady of Guadalupe!"

The prisoners were frequently summoned to make declarations to the courts. Two of the would-be assassins, Vilchis and Tirado, had been captured, and had confessed their guilt. When asked directly if he was a priest, Father Pro readily admitted that he was a priest and a Jesuit, and declared his innocence in the affair. He was never even questioned about having any part in the assassination attempt.

Calles knew very well that Father Pro was innocent but now that he had bagged the most popular priest in Mexico, a priest who stood in the way of his designs of wiping out the Church, he was not about to set him free. Calles, who according to Father Dragon, once affirmed in a speech to his Cabinet that he had a "personal hatred against Christ," ordered the execution of the Pro brothers out of sheer hatred for the Church.

Police Chief Cruz, like Pilate, was nervous about killing innocent men. Obregon was uneasy also. Cruz suggested that for appearances' sake the execution should be given some form of legality. Calles brutally replied, "I do not want forms, but the deed."

"Viva Cristo Rey!"

On the morning of November 23rd Father Pro woke with a headache. He had given his straw mattress to another prisoner and had slept but little during the night on the hard floor. At 10:20 a guard called out, "Miguel Augustin Pro!" Father Pro went up without his jacket, but when he was sent back for it he sensed what was about to happen, and squeezed Roberto's hand in farewell. In the corridor he exclaimed, "Goodbye, brothers, till we meet in heaven."

As he went out, an agent who had participated in his capture asked his forgiveness. Father Pro embraced the man and said, "I not only forgive you, but I thank you and will pray for you."

Outside in the courtyard a crowd had gathered: invited dignitaries, reporters, photographers. Calles's policy of intimidation included the publishing of photographs of condemned prisoners. In this case he provided us with a deeply moving record of a martyr's heroic death.

And what had the crowd come out to see? A young man in a rumpled suit and tie, calmly coming from the darkness of the prison to blink in the morning light. They were shaken by his quiet composure as he walked unbound between the guards, his eyes cast downward, his hands crossed before him.

He went to the place indicated by the guard. There, in front of a stockade of logs stood an ugly bullet-chipped row of human-shaped target boards. When he was asked his last wish he replied, "Permit me to pray."

[Image: ?u=https%3A%2F%2Fthecatholictravelguide....f=1&nofb=1]

Kneeling in the dirt he reverently made the Sign of the Cross. He was oblivious of the cameras as he crossed his hands on his breast and communed with his God in those final moments. What did he say? Did he once again ask his Lord to accept the sacrifice of his life? Fervently he kissed his little Crucifix.

Rising, he refused the blindfold, and turned to face the crowd, his expression gentle, almost meditative, as he drew his Rosary from his pocket. His demeanor was his most eloquent sermon.

Observers said his face bore a certain radiance. Had he beheld his patron St. Michael, the angel of the dying, going before him? Had he already glimpsed his King in eternity?

He raised the little Crucifix and gave the crowd his last blessing. "May God have mercy on you! May God bless you! Lord, Thou knowest that I am innocent. I forgive my enemies with all my heart."

With the crucifix in his right hand, the Rosary in his left, he stretched out his arms in the form of a Cross. He lifted his eyes to heaven, and in the low firm tone of the priest at the Consecration of the Mass he uttered his final words, "Viva Cristo Rey!" "Long live Christ the King!"

He closed his eyes, shots rang out, and five bullets pierced his breast. His arms were still outstretched as he crumpled to the ground. To be certain of death, a guard stepped up and delivered a final shot into his head.

[Image: ?]

Soon after, Humberto died bravely, and Vilchis and Tirado. Roberto had seen it all from his prison window. He would have been next, but in the last moments, through the intervention of the Argentine minister, Roberto, at least, was let off with exile.

Ana Maria was outside the gates trying to get in and had heard the shots. When the ambulances came out bearing the bodies she followed them to the hospital. She was there when she heard the voice of her aged father, Don Miguel, "Where, where are my sons? I want to see them." He kissed their foreheads, and with his handkerchief wiped the blood from Miguel's face. Ana fell into his arms sobbing, but he said gently, "My daughter, this is no cause for tears." That evening in their home he knelt between the two coffins and said calmly, "Miguel was an apostle; Humberto an angel all his life. They died for God and are already enjoying Him in heaven."

A continual stream of visitors poured into the house: diplomats, Father Pro's poor people, and even some of the police. They came to pay their last respects, and to touch religious articles to the venerable remains.

A priest smuggled in a consecrated Host so that Roberto, who was to be released, could receive Holy Communion. The promise was broken, however, and the Blessed Sacrament reposed during the night on Padre Pro's coffin, as if upon an altar. An all-night vigil was kept; confessions heard; and Mass celebrated the following morning. People continued to stream to the house. When the time came for the procession to the Dolores Cemetery the crowds were packed densely round the front door. "Make way for the martyrs of Christ!" shouted one of the priests. The thunderous response shook the windows: "Viva Cristo Rey!"

The funeral procession was composed of over five hundred cars, and thousands of people marching on foot. Risking arrest, they prayed and sang. And no one attempted to stop them. Flowers were showered down from windows; people knelt in the street as the procession passed. An estimated thirty thousand gathered at the cemetery.

Deep silence prevailed during the burial service. At the end, Don Miguel turned to the priests. "It is finished," he said,"Te Deum Laudamus." With that the Church's great hymn of thanksgiving rose from thousands of hearts and lips. Desolation had turned to triumph.

"Prepare Your Petitions for Heaven"

Father Pro did not forget his people. Favors of intercession began immediately. On the day after his death a poor blind woman commended herself to Father Pro and her sight was instantly restored.

At the beginning of December, 1927, a woman with inoperable cancer implored the help of Father Pro. Her doctor certified that when he examined her a few weeks later the terrible cancerous lesions were entirely gone.

These are only two out of thousands of favors that have been reported from all over the world; reports of physical cures; assistance in all sorts of difficulties; and most important, spiritual cures—the reconcilement of hardened sinners.

The story of Miguel Pro holds a perennial attraction, especially for young people. He does not tower over us; he is one of us. He makes sanctity attractive; showing us that it is meant for all, and that one need not be dismal to be truly holy. Joy flowed naturally from him, the joy that accompanies a perfect confidence in God. The practice of virtue, of self-sacrifice, of penance, did not stifle in him his most attractive good humor.

The cause for his beatification has moved forward step by step. The various processes are finished. Now we can only wait and pray that soon Mexico's beloved Father Pro, will see the honors of the altar. And may we never forget his greatest secret: that amid the worst trials of life, we can retain our true Christian joy.


Donnelly, W. Patrick, S.J. Father Michael Pro, Priest of the Working-man. Paterson, N.J.: St. Anthony Press Guild, 1956 (2nd edition).

Dragon, A., S.J. Father Pro. Mexico, D.F. : Buena Prensa, 1959 (new edition).

Dragon, Antonio, S.J. Miguel Augustin Pro. Montreal: The Messenger Press, 1930.

Forrest, Rev. M. D., M.S.C. The Life of Father Pro. St. Paul, Minn.: Radio Replies Press, 1945.

Kelly, Most Rev. Francis C. Blood Drenched Altars. Milwaukee: Bruce Publishing Company, 1935.

Norman, Mrs. George. God's Jester. New York: Benziger Brothers, 1930.

Royer, Fanchon. Padre Pro. New York: P. L. Kenedy & Sons, 1954.