In the two decades following the Mexican Revolution of 1910-20, a rabidly anticlerical government waged an ongoing war against Catholicism, confiscating church property, expelling missionaries and closing Catholic schools and seminaries. The Church hierarchy opposed the Mexican Revolution and bishops suspended services in the country to protest the increasing restrictions that Mexico’s new national government placed on the Church. They placed the entire country under interdict.
Catholic priests, laymen and Knights of Columbus joined a rebellion movement, the Cristeros ("Christers"), in response to the Mexican government’s actions. Dedicated to “Cristo Rey” (Christ the King), scores of those involved in with the Cristeros were killed defending their faith. The number of Priests in each state were also limited. In the state of Tabasco, only one Priest was allowed for the entire state. Priests and Nuns wee forced to marry. Bombs wwere set off in the Cathedrals of Guadalajara and Morelia. Priests and laypersons alike were ordered to publicly denounce their faith; those who refused were tortured and executed. By the time it was over, upwards of 50,000 Catholics were dead.
Here ever so briefly, is the list of the 25 Mexican Martyrs Canonized by Pope John Paul II on the 21st of May 2000 in the Jubilee year. They collectively have the Feast Day of the 25th of May after the Primary Saints' Birthday in Heaven, their dies natalis.
St. Cristobal Magallanes Jara (parish priest, started secret seminaries, shot to death alongside St. Agustin Caloca in Colotitlan, Jalisco, Mexico on 25 May 1927)
St. Julio Alvarez Mendoza (priest, shot to death in San Julian, Jalisco on March 30,1927)
St. Agustin Caloca (priest, seminary prefect, shot to death along with St. Cristobal Magallanes Jara in Colotitlán, Jalisco on 25, Mayo 1927)
St. Atilano Cruz Alvarado (parish priest, shot to death in Teocaltiche, Jalisco on 1, July 1928)
St. David Galvan Bermudez (priest, seminary instructor, shot by firing squad in Guadalajara, Jalisco on 30, January 1915)
St. David Roldan Lara (layman, officer of "Catholic Action" and a religious liberty league, shot to death at age 21 in Suchil, Durango on 15, August 1926 along with St. Salvador Lara Puente)
St. David Uribe Velasco (parish priest, shot to death in San José Vistahermosa, Morelia on 12, April 1927)
St. Jenaro Sanchez Delgadillo (parish priest, hanged from a tree in Tecolotlán, Jalisco on 17, October 1927)
St. Jesus Mendez Montoya (parish priest, shot to death in Valtierrilla, Guanajuato on 5, February 1928)
St. Jose Isabel Flores Varela (parish priest, tortured, throat cut, in Zapotlanejo, Jalisco on 21, June 1927)
St. Jose Maria Robles Hurtado (parish priest, founded women's Congregation of Victims of the Eucharistic Heart of Jesus, hanged in the hills of Quila, Jalisco on 26, June 1927)
St. Justino Orona Madrigal (parish priest, founded Poor Clare Sisters of the Sacred Heart, shot to death in Cuquío, Jalisco on 1, July 1928)
St. Luis Batiz Sainz (parish priest, seminary's spiritual director, shot by firing squad in San Miguel del Mezquital, Zacatecas on 15, August 1926)
St. Manuel Morales (layman, father of three, officer of "Catholic Action" and a religious liberty league, shot to death in Sombrerete, Zacatecas on 15, August 1926)
St. Margarito Flores Garcia (parish priest, shot to death in Atenango del Río, Guerrero,on 12, November 1927)
St. Mateo Correa Magallanes (parish priest, gave First Communion to Bl. Miguel Pro, shot to death in Durango, Durango on 6, February 1927)
St. Miguel de la Mora de la Mora (priest, shot by firing squad in Colima, Colima on 7, August 1927)
St. Pedro Esqueda Ramirez (parish priest, catechist of children, shot to death in Teocaltitlán, Jalisco on 22, November 1927)
St. Pedro de Jesus Maldonado Lucero (parish priest, promoter of nocturnal adoration, blinded and beaten to death in Santa Isabel, Chihuahua on 11, February 1937)
St. Rodrigo Aguilar Aleman (parish priest, poet, hanged in Ejutla, Jalisco on 28, October 1927)
St. Roman Adame Rosales (parish priest, founded Daughters of Mary of Nocturnal Adoration, shot to death in Nochistlan, Zacatecas on 21, April 1927)
St. Sabás Reyes Salazar (Parish priest, tortured and shot to death in Tototlán, Jalisco on Holy Wednesday, 13, April 1927)
St. Salvador Lara Puente (layman, officer of "Catholic Action" and a religious liberty league, shot to death at age 21 in Suchil, Durango on 15, August 1926 along with St. David Roldan Lara)
St. Toribio Romo Gonzalez (parish priest, shot to death at age 27 in Tequila, Jalisco on 25, February 1928)
St. Tranquilino Ubiarco (parish priest, hanged at age 28 in Tepatitlán, Jalisco on 5, October 1928)
There were many more Priests and laypeople who were martyred. This first group was canonized in 2000. In 2005, another group of Martyrs specifically from the Archdiocese of Guadalajara was beatified. Collectively they do not have a Feast Day yet, although it could be anticipated to be the 1st of April. A list of them follows;
Bl. Anacleto Gonzalez Flores, and seven companions (Anacleto was a laymen, married, member of Catholic Association of Young Mexicans (ACJM), would give up information where Bishop Orozco y Jimenez was in hiding, tortured and feet slashed, shot in Tepatitlán, Jalisco on 1, April 1927 with José Dionisio Luis Padilla Gómez and Vargas González brothers below)
Bl. José Dionisio Luis Padilla Gómez (Layman, promoter of Eucharistic Adoration, member of Catholic Association of Young Mexicans (ACJM), shot in Tepatitlán, Jalisco on 1, April 1927 with Anacleto Gonzalez Flores and Vargas González brothers)
Bl. Jorge and Bl. Ramón Vargas González (Laymen, gave refuge to Priests, members of Catholic Association of Young Mexicans (ACJM), tortured and shot in Tepatitlán, Jalisco on 1, April 1927 with Anacleto Gonzalez Flores and José Dionisio Luis Padilla Gómez)
Bl. José Luciano Ezequiel Huerta Gutiérrez (Laymen, Father of 10, tortured and shot in Tepatitlán, Jalisco on 3, April 1927 with his brother Salvador Huerta Gutiérrez)
Bl. Salvador Huerta Gutiérrez (Layman, Father of 12, tortured and shot in Tepatitlán, Jalisco on 3, April 1927 with his brother José Luciano Ezequiel Huerta Gutiérrez)
Bl. Miguel Gómez Loza (Layman, Lawyer and defender of Catholic rights, shot near Atotonilco, Jalisco on 21, March 1928)
Bl. Luis Magaña Servín (Layman, shot in Arandas, Jalisco on 9 February 1928. He took the place of his brother who was going to be shot.)
Along with this group of Companions are the following;
Bl. Jose Trinidad Rangel Montaño (Priest, tortured and shot in Rancho de San Joaquín, Guanajuato 25 April 1927 along with Bl. Andres Sola Molist and Bl. Leonardo Perez Larios)
Bl. Andres Sola y Molist (Priest, tortured and shot in Rancho de San Joaquín, Guanajuato 25 April 1927 along with Bl. Jose Trinidad Rangel Montaño and Bl. Leonardo Perez Larios)
Bl. Leonardo Perez Larios (Layman, arrested for assisting at Mass of Fr. Sola, tortured and shot in Rancho de San Joaquín, Guanajuato 25 April 1927 along with Bl. Jose Trinidad Rangel Montaño and Bl. Andres Sola Molist)
Bl. Dario Acosta Zurita (Priest, shot in Veracruz, Veracruz on 25 July 1931 exactly three months after his ordination as a Priest)
And fourteen-year-old, Bl. Jose Sanchez del Río (Youth, followed his older brothers into battle to defend the Faith. Captured and tortured in a church Sacristy. Forced to watch an execution. Had feet slashed and forced to walk on salt to cemetery in Sahuayo, Michoacán on 10, February 1928)
There are many more people who were martyred for the Faith in Mexico who are honoured for the ultimate sacrifice that they gave during this time. One of them is Blessed Father Miguel Pro Juarez, SJ. It is important to note that he was not a Cristero but was in fact a pacifist, who was an underground Priest who baptized and secretly celebrated the Sacraments for the Faithful in and around Mexico City. He even studied briefly at the Jesuit novitiate that was once in the hills of Los Gatos near San Jose, CA. His is a famous story, but here is how his life ended. He was falsely accused of an assasination attempt on former President Obregon of Mexico, and arrested along with his two brothers. Without trial they were sentenced to execution. President Calles ignored a court order delaying the execution, and on the morning of November 23, 1927 Father Pro along with one of his brothers was shot while holding his arms in the form of a Cross, and saying, "Viva Cristo Rey! (Long Live Christ the King!)" It is believed to be the only martyrdom captured on film although the film is still hidden in Mexican government archives, and was photographed as well.President Calles wanted plenty of photographs of this execution so as to discourage the Catholic population.
Not content with having fired a volley of bullets into Father Pro, another soldier went up to the body, and fired another shot into his head. The next day, over thirty thousand people were in the streets of Mexico City for the funeral.
There are yet other martyrs in Mexico of whom we know died heroically and as martyrs, but for various reasons, their cause for Sainthood to be recognized on Earth has not been advanced, even though they may surely be Saints in Heaven. Of some, there does not exist enough information. The photograph at the top of this post is of Father Francisco Vera, Parish Priest of parish of Sangre y Cuerpo de Cristo (Parish of the Blood and Body of Christ, or Corpus Christi) in the city of Jalostotitlan, Jalisco. While secretly saying Mass, Father Vera was discovered. Allowing his flock to escape, Father Vera was sentenced to death for the crime of being a Priest.
He was not allowed to take off his vestments. The photograph exists solely because the captain of the squad wanted to prove how zealous he was in the persecution of Catholics, so he had this photograph taken of Father Vera taken right before the volley of bullets struck him, and sent to President Calles. The best that this incident can be dated is to around early April of 1927. The faithful of the parish several years afterwards report that Septuagesima had begun, but that Father Vera was dead before Easter of that year. His body was dumped in a refuse pile outside of down and further desecrated.
Father Vera and others like him who were martyred do not have a case open for them for Sainthood, because there were no witnesses to his martyrdom other than those who executed him. In the case of martyrdom, the Church accepts the testimony of those who out of hatred, martyred someone for the Faith. Alessandro Serenelli, the murderer of St. Maria Goretti, was present at her Canonization, and had given testimony in her cause. In the case of Father Vera, there were no witnesses to his martyrdom, only a haunting picture of a 70 year old Priest, holding his hands in prayer, his back to the Church wall. He is still vested for Mass, the vestments indicating he is a Priest. You can clearly see his Maniple, the symbol of Christ's chains that bound him on that last day. This picture, that was taken to discourage Catholics, should instead give us joy. Tertullian said that the Blood of Christians is seed (Semen est sanguis Christianorum, Apolegeticum, 50, 13). We shall conquer in dying. Father Vera may not ever be raised to the Altars of the Church as St. Cristobal Magallanes, but we can be cetain that he died as a Priest, as an Alter Christus.
Someday, we will be able to paste into our Missals the Masses for new Saints that are on our Altars, such as St. Maximillan Kolbe. For these Mexican Martyrs, because of the date of, it will more than likely be a Third Class Feast along with St. Gregory that same day. The Mass will either be "Intret" if outside of Eastertide, or "Sancti Tui" if within. Do however, think of these and the other martyrs who have been the seed for our Faith. Know that this is a real Mexican holiday, unlike Cinco de Mayo. Cinco de Mayo commemorates a temporary victory over an occupying army that eventually beat Mexico anyway, and amounted for nothing. The Martyrs of Mexico (and all martyrs) are the eternal triumph of Jesus Christ the King over Satan. We shall conquer in dying. That counts for everything.
All information is taken from the Vatican website, and from various books, among them;
La Cristiada by Jean Meyer, 3 Vol.
El Clamor de la Sangre by Joaquin Blanco Gil
Los Martires Mexicanos by Fr. Joaquin Cardoso, SJ
Happy Feast Day of the Mexican Martyrs!