Blessed Miguel Pro Juarez was born in Guadalupe on January 12, 1891. He was the oldest boy in his family, a very spiritual child who also loved practical jokes. He was often in trouble with his daring spirit, and had close calls with accidents and illness.
Miguel was close to his older sister, and when she entered a cloistered convent, he felt a calling to the Jesuit life. He entered the novitiate in El Llano, Michoacan, when he was 20.
In 1914, while Miguel was studying, the Mexican government initiated an intense period of anti-Catholic discrimination. Miguel’s order was forced to disband and flee to Los Gates, California.
The next year, Miguel went to a seminary in Spain. He was ordained a priest in Belgium in 1925. Back home in Mexico, all the Catholic churches were closed, and religious members were being deported or imprisoned. Anyone trying to escape was shot, and celebrating the sacraments was punishable by imprisonment or death.
Fr. Pro returned to Mexico, with permission from his superiors, and began to celebrate Mass and distribute the sacraments secretly. He became known throughout the city as the undercover priest. He would make house calls in the dead of night, dressed as a street sweeper or beggar, to perform baptisms and marriages, hear confessions, and distribute Communion. He used a police disguise to sneak into the prisons and distribute sacraments to Catholic prisoners before their executions.
It is reported that when he celebrated Mass the day before he was arrested, at the Consecration, a brilliant light surrounded his entire body, and his face, hands, and vestments were so bright that no one could look at him. The next day, Fr. Pro and his brother were betrayed by an informant and arrested, and spent 10 days in jail, falsely accused of attempting to assassinate the president-elect.
On Nov. 13, 1927, Fr. Pro was sentenced to execution, allegedly for his part in the assassination plot, but in reality because he continued to practice the Catholic faith. As he went from his cell to face the firing squad, he blessed the men about to kill him, and then prayed silently. He refused a blindfold, and, holding a rosary and a crucifix, held his arms in the form of a cross. As he prepared to die, he said, “May God have mercy on you! May God bless you! Lord, thou knowest that I am innocent! With all my heart I forgive my enemies!” Just before he was killed, he cried, “Viva Cristo Rey!” (“Long live Christ the King!”)
Fr. Miguel Pro was beatified by St. Pope John Paul II on Sept. 25, 1988.