Before the Fall of 2011, I had never heard of Blessed Jose Sanchez del Rio. I first heard of the young Mexican martyr when I was teaching at a Catholic high school in Texas. The Spanish Club moderator and head of the Spanish Department knew of him and she made him their patron saint. Once I did learn about this very courageous young martyr, I researched information about him, which I actually coincided with the release of the film, For Greater Glory. I would highly encourage you to check out this film, if you have not seen it yet. At the very end of this post, there is an embedded clip from the film.
Saint Jose Sanchez del Rio was born on March 28, 1913 in Sahuayo, Michoacán, Mexico. Desiring to protect the religious freedom of his own faith and the faith of all Catholics in Mexico, he asked his mother for permission to join the Cristeros – the Mexican freedom fighters who fought against the Marxist government and soldiers. To learn more about the Cristeros War, I would encourage you to read about it here on Catholic Answers.
Two of his older brothers had already joined the movement, but his mother refused his request at first stating that he was too young. His response is saintly, “Mama, do not let me lose the opportunity to gain Heaven so easily and so soon.”
On February 5, 1928, St. Jose Sanchez was captured during a fight. He was placed in in a church sacristy. He was forced to watch the hanging of another Cristeros fighter, in the hopes that this would make him afraid and he would tell his captives information about his unit’s whereabouts. Before the man died, St. Jose said yet another saintly comment – “You will be Heaven before me. Prepare a place for me. Tell Christ the King I shall be with him soon.”
While in prison, St. Jose would pray the Rosary and sing hymns of faith. He wrote a letter to his mother telling him that he was in the hands of God now and ready to do God’s will. Although Jose’s father tried to ransom him out of prison, he was not able to attain the money he needed in time to save his son’s life.
On February 10, 1928, St. Jose was tortured in a very brutal way – the soles of his feet, the very skin of his feet, were sheered off by a knife. He was then forced to walk on salt, through the entire town, even walking up stone steps, to the cemetery where he would eventually be buried. Although he would scream in pain, the young saint refused to give in to his captor’s requests. During this long walk, the soldiers would taunt him and say, “If you shout ‘Death to Christ the King’, we will spare your life.” His response, “Long live Christ the King, Long live Our Lady of Guadalupe!”
Upon arriving at the cemetery, St. Jose was asked one last time if he would deny his faith in Jesus Christ, he responded with great strength and conviction, “Viva Cristo Rey!” (Long Live Christ the King!). He was first stabbed and then eventually shot in the back as he lied on the ground kissing a cross that he had drawn with his bloody hand.
Pope St. John Paul II declared St. Jose Sanchez del Rio a martyr. In 2005, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI beatified him, and today, Pope Francis declared him a Saint of the Universal Church. During his homily at the Canonization Mass today, Pope Francis said the following about St. Jose Sanchez del Rio and the other six saints canonized with him,
“The seven witnesses who were canonized today also fought the good fight of faith and love by their prayers. That is why they remained firm in faith, with a generous and steadfast heart. Through their example and their intercession, may God also enable us to be men and women of prayer. May we cry out day and night to God, without losing heart. May we let the Holy Spirit pray in us, and may we support one another in prayer, in order to keep our arms raised, until Divine Mercy wins the victory.”
Let us pray this day for the intercession of St. Jose Sanchez del Rio. Let us remember that St. Jose stood against a tyrannical Marxist government seeking to destroy the Catholic Church and let us take consolation in his life that Christ is always in control and will always be with us.
Viva Cristo Rey!
Our Lady of Guadalupe…Pray for Us!
Here is the scene of St. Jose Sanchez del Rio’s torture and martyrdom from the film, For Greater Glory –
Source for article:
“Biographies of New Blesseds – 2005.” Eternal Word Television Network, n.d. Web. 16 Oct. 2016.