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The Catholic Defender: Saint Cristóbal Magallanes and Companions

St. Cristobal Magallanes is one of 25 saints who are honored for refusing to be intimidated by the anti-Catholic policies of the Mexican government. They were killed for leading the faithful during the persecution of the Church in that country at the start of the 20th century.

Cristóbal Magallanes Jara, also known as Christopher Magallanes (July 30, 1869 – May 25, 1927), was a Mexican Catholic priest and martyr who was killed without trial on the way to say Mass during the Cristero War. He had faced trumped-up charges of inciting rebellion.

Cristóbal was born in Mexico in 1869 to a family of farmers—he grew up working as a shepherd, and entered the seminary at the age of 19.

After his ordination, he was assigned to a parish in his hometown. There, he started schools and helped the people initiate public works to benefit the town, such as a carpentry shop and the building of a dam. He began a mission in a nearby village to reach the local indigenous people.

Like Blessed Miguel Agustín Pro, SJ, Cristóbal and his 24 companion martyrs lived under a very anti-Catholic government in Mexico, one determined to weaken the Catholic faith of its people. Churches, schools, and seminaries were closed; foreign clergy were expelled.

Cristóbal established a clandestine seminary at Totatiche, Jalisco. He and the other priests were forced to minister secretly to Catholics during the presidency of Plutarco Calles (1924-28).

All of these martyrs except three, were diocesan priests. David, Manuel and Salvador were laymen who died with their parish priest, Luis Batis. They all belonged to the Cristero movement, pledging their allegiance to Christ and to the Church that he established, to spread the Good News in society—even if Mexico’s leaders had made it a crime to receive baptism or celebrate the Mass.

St. Christopher Magallanes, along with 21 other priests and three lay companions, were martyred between 1915 and 1937, by shooting or hanging, throughout eight Mexican states, for their membership in the Cristero movement.

These martyrs did not die as a single group but over 22 years time in eight Mexican states, with Jalisco and Zacatecas having the largest number. They were beatified in 1992 and canonized eight years later.

The last words heard spoken by Magallanes were from his cell, when he shouted, "I am innocent and I die innocent. I forgive with all my heart those responsible for my death, and I ask God that the shedding of my blood serve the peace of our divided Mexico".

Long live Christ the King! Long live the Virgin of Guadalupe! This was the cry of the Christeros, mostly peasant Catholics who opposed the fierce political and anti-Catholic oppression inflicted by the Mexican government on its citizens in the early twentieth century.

The Virgin Mary is our protector and defender when there is something to fear,

She will defeat the demons crying "Long live Christ the King!"

She will defeat the demons crying "Long live Christ the King!"

Soldiers of Christ let us follow the flag that the Cross shows the army of God!

Let us follow the flag crying, "Long live Christ the King!"

Pope John Paul II beatified the Cristero martyrs in 1992 and canonized them in 2000.

Every martyr realizes how to avoid execution, but refuses to pay the high price of doing so. A clear conscience was more valuable than a long life. We may be tempted to compromise our faith while telling ourselves that we are simply being realistic, dealing with situations as we find them. Is survival really the ultimate value? Do our concrete, daily choices reflect our deepest values, the ones that allow us to “tick” the way we do? Anyone can imagine situations in which being a follower of Jesus is easier than the present situation. Saints remind us that our daily choices, especially in adverse circumstances, form the pattern of our lives.

Saint Christopher Magallanes and Companions, you chose to die rather than give in to atheistic and anti-Catholic oppression. You valued the Catholic faith over your own lives. Please pray for me, that I will have the courage you each had so that I can give witness to my love of God, even to the shedding of my blood. Saint Christopher Magallanes and Companions, pray for me. Jesus, I trust in You.


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