St Christopher Magallanes and Companions, martyrs of Mexico Feast Day: May 21

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Home > Media > News > St Christopher Magallanes and Companions, martyrs of Mexico Feast Day: May 21
St Christopher Magallanes and Companions, martyrs of Mexico   Feast Day: May 21

St Christopher Magallenes is one of a group of 25 Mexican saints – including three lay men - who lost their lives as a result of religious persecution by the anticlerical Mexican government during the Cristero War in the 1920s. 

Ordained a diocesan priest at the age of 30, one of St Christopher’s first assignments was to be parish priest of Totatiche, the small rural town where he had grown up. 

As parish priest for over 20 years, St Christopher was renowned for being a man who wanted to help his people - assisting parishioners find employment by establishing carpentry shops and founding schools that would assist the education of poor villagers.  

In the 1920s, under socialist president Plutarco Elias Calles, the Mexican government began passing many rigid anti-Catholic measures including the closing of all monasteries, convents and seminaries and deporting all foreign clergy. 

The celebration of Mass was banned in some areas and Catholic priests faced a fine for wearing clerical dress in public. 

In the face of the persecution, thousands of Mexicans were forced to emigrate to the United States and many Catholic priests were only able to minister to the faithful underground. 

St Christopher was forced into hiding, where he celebrated Mass and conducted baptisms in secret. 

While travelling in disguise to celebrate Mass on May 21, 1927, he was arrested and condemned to be shot without a trial.

Executed within days of capture, his last words were: “I am innocent and I die innocent. I forgive all those responsible for my death, and ask God that my blood may serve to unite my Mexican brethren.” 

Another notable Mexican priest who lost his life during the persecutions was Jesuit priest Blessed Miguel Pro.
Before his execution by firing squad, which was photographed by the government for political purposes, Fr Pro stretched out his arms like Jesus on the cross and shouted “Viva Cristo Rey” (“Long live Christ the King”) the motto of Mexican Catholics who had pledged allegiance to Christ during the persecutions. 

Numerous ordinary lay Catholics were also unjustly killed during the persecutions. 

St Manuel Moralez, a baker and married father of three, was sentenced to death for inciting rebellion after speaking at a public rally.

St Manuel responded to the pleading of witnesses to release the young father before his death: “I am dying for God, and God will take care of my children.” 

The persecution of Catholics by the Mexican government continued sporadically throughout the 1930s and eventually ceased with the election of a Catholic president in 1940.  
St Christopher, St Manuel and 23 other known martyrs of the Cristero War were canonised by Pope St John Paul II on May 21, 2000 – the date of St Christopher’s capture.