When we find ourselves weary from the troubles of life, we can find inspiration in the heroism of one of the Church’s new saints, said Cardinal Alberto Suarez Inda of Morelia, Mexico.
From its inception, “the history of the Church is the history of a martyr Church,” the cardinal told CNA. He pointed to the persecutions of the first Christians – including Peter and Paul – and those that took place in Korea, Japan, and even in countries with deep Catholic roots such as Spain and Mexico.
Still, the cardinal continued, “many of us don’t have the grace of a bloody martyrdom.” However, we are called “to be heroic every day, in ordinary life, and this calls us to not falter, to not be carried away by some trend, but to stand firm in the faith when there are more subtle persecutions.”
Cardinal Suarez reflected on the life of Jose Sanchez del Rio, who was canonized by Pope Francis on October 16, alongside 6 other Blesseds.
St. Jose Sanchez del Rio was born in Sahuayo de Morelos, Mexico in 1913. During the 1924-1928 religious persecution by Mexican President Plutarco Elías Calles, St. Jose became a Mexican Cristero, fighting against the anti-Catholic legislation.
At that time, the laws banned religious orders, deprived the Church of property rights and denied priests civil liberties, including the right to trial by jury and the right to vote. As the restrictions on religious liberty increased, Catholics could be fined or imprisoned for teaching Church doctrine, wearing clerical attire, meeting together after their convents were disbanded, promoting religious life or holding religious services in non-church locations.
At age 14, St. Jose was martyred by the Federal Army on Feb. 10, 1928. According to witness accounts, soldiers cut off the soles of his feet and forced him to walk barefoot to his grave.
Although he was tortured, he refused to renounce his Catholic faith. Moments before he was killed, the teen shouted, “Viva Cristo Rey!” which means “Long live Christ the King!”
Cardinal Suarez pointed to the story of the young saint as an example of Christian courage.
“Jose Sanchez del Rio, who in a courageous, generous and determined way, preferred to die for Christ, longed for martyrdom as a grace; and now that Pope Francis is canonizing him today, we can certainly recognize that we have a great intercessor and a great example for youth,” he said.
The cardinal recalled that the religious persecution in Mexico was a “bitter, dramatic epoch.”
Nevertheless, he said, “God’s providence has left (the Mexican martyrs) as the seed of many new, authentic Christians, and certainly young people like Jose Sanchez del Rio are a cause for holy pride. Not a conceited pride, but that of knowing that a young person can be brave, can be clear-sighted.”
Seeing heaven as an opportunity and refusing to turn back are a witness to us today that “what is truly worth most in life, more than money, is the treasure of our faith,” Cardinal Suarez said. He added that this also an example for Mexico today, “where they put a price on the lives of some people.”
The cardinal encouraged the faithful not to grow weary from routine, or a worldly spirit, or ideological colonization.
“We need to react and be truly faithful to Jesus in virtue, in an attitude of trust in God and also in facing all those obstacles presented to the Christian life in today’s world in whatever time or environment,” he said