José Sánchez del Río

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Blessed José Sánchez del Río
Layman; martyr
Born (1913-03-28)28 March 1913
Sahuayo, Michoacán de Ocampo, Mexico
Died 10 February 1928(1928-02-10) (aged 14)
Sahuayo, Michoacán de Ocampo, Mexico
Venerated in Roman Catholic Church
Beatified 20 November 2005, Guadalajara, Mexico by Cardinal José Saraiva Martins
Feast February 10[1][2]
Attributes
Patronage
  • Persecuted Christians
  • Sahuayo

Blessed José Luis Sánchez del Río (28 March 1913 – 10 February 1928) was Mexican Cristero who was put to death by government officials because he refused to renounce his Catholic faith. His death was seen as a largely political venture on the part of government officials in their attempt to stamp out dissent and crush religious freedom in the area.

He was declared to be martyr on 22 June 2004 by Pope John Paul II and was beatified by Pope Benedict XVI – through the Cardinal-Prefect of the Congregation of the Causes of Saints – on 20 November 2005 in Mexico. Pope Francis approved a miracle attributed to him on 21 January 2016, allowing for his canonization to take place sometime within the year; a date shall be determined at a consistory in March.

Background[edit]

The Cristero War began when the government began eliminating church privileges and seizing church properties throughout the country, in accordance with anti-clerical laws written into the Mexican Constitution. President Plutarco Elias Calles, who took office in 1924, focused on the Roman Catholic Church, which led to seizure of church property, the closing of religious schools and convents, and the exile or the execution of priests.[3]

Life and Cristero War[edit]

José Luis Sánchez del Río was born on 28 March 1913,[4] in Sahuayo, Michoacán.

He attended school in his hometown and later in Guadalajara in Jalisco. When the Cristero War broke out in 1926, his brothers joined the rebel forces, but his mother would not allow him to take part. The rebel general, Prudencio Mendoza, also refused his enlistment. The boy insisted that he wanted the chance to give his life for Jesus Christ and so come to Heaven easily. The general finally relented and allowed José to become the flagbearer of the troop.[5] The Cristeros nicknamed him Tarcisius, after the early Christian saint, martyred for protecting the Eucharist from desecration.

During heavy fighting on 25 January 1928, Mendoza's horse was killed, and José gave his horse to the general so that the fight could go on.[5] Then he sought cover and fired at the enemy until he ran out of ammunition. The government troops captured the boy and imprisoned him in the sacristy of the local church.

Torture and death[edit]

José's killing was witnessed by two childhood friends. It was later reported that José was "captured by government forces", who ordered him to "renounce his faith in Christ, under threat of death. He refused to accept apostasy".

To break his resolve, he was made to watch the hanging of another Cristero that they had in custody, but instead José encouraged the man, saying that they would soon meet again in Heaven after death.[5] In prison, José prayed the rosary daily and wrote an emotional letter to his mother, saying that he was ready to fulfill the will of God to whom he dedicated himself to. His father attempted to raise a ransom to save him, but was not able to appease the government in time to do so, thus failing to secure the release of his son.

Others recalled the gruesome events that transpired after the government's failure to break José's resolve on the evening of 10 February 1928: "Consequently they cut the bottom of his feet and obliged him to walk around the town toward the cemetery. They also at times cut him with a machete until he was bleeding from several wounds. He cried and moaned with pain, but he did not give in. At times they stopped him and said, 'If you shout, "Death to Christ the King" we will spare your life'. José would only shout, 'I will never give in. Viva Cristo Rey!'" When they reached the place of execution, his captors stabbed him numerous times with bayonets. The commander was so furious that he pulled out his pistol and shot José.

Moments before his death, the boy drew a cross in the dirt and kissed it.

Burial and relic[edit]

The remains of Jose Luis Sanchez del Rio lie in the Church of the Sacred Heart of Jesus in Sahuayo – his hometown.[6]

There is a first class relic (a bone fragment) in the Immaculate Conception church in Taft, Texas.[7]

Sainthood[edit]

Tomb.

The sainthood proceedings opened in Zamora on 1 May 1996 in a diocesan process that spanned until 25 October 1996. A week prior to the conclusion of that phase the Congregation for the Causes of Saints declared "nihil obstat" (nothing against) to the cause on 21 October 1996; this granted him the title Servant of God – first stage in the sainthood process. The process was later ratified as being valid on 29 November 2002 and allowed for officials to draft and submit in 2003 the Positio on his martyrdom.

Pope John Paul II approved the findings on 22 June 2004 which would allow for his beatification. He was beatified by Pope Benedict XVI on 20 November 2005 in Mexico; the Cardinal-Prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints presided on behalf of the pontiff.[7]

The miracle needed for his canonization was investigated on a local level and concluded its work on 30 January 2015. Pope Francis approved the miracle as being directly attributed to his intercession on 21 January 2016.

Legacy[edit]

José Luis Sanchez Del Rio relic

The "Blessed Jose Sanchez del Rio High School Seminary" was established in 2008 in Mankato, Minnesota by Father Carlos Miguel Buela of the Institute of the Incarnate Word (IVE) (Spanish: Instituto del Verbo Encarnado), a Roman Catholic religious institute. The junior (middle) high school and high school is a preparatory seminary quartered on the 1854 parish grounds of the Saints Peter and Paul Catholic Church in Mankato, Minnesota. The school’s teen and young adult students are known collectively as “The Minor Seminarians”.

In popular culture[edit]

José Luis Sánchez del Río is one of the characters portrayed in the film "For Greater Glory" which depicts the story of the Cristero War and also depicts his martyrdom.[7]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

Further reading[edit]

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