Several FSSP seminarians spent their Christmas vacation this year exploring the sites of Mexico’s Cristero martyrs.
Their journey began with a visit to Mexico City’s majestic Cathedral of the Assumption, which features exceptionally ornate choir stalls, and was followed by a visit to the site of Blessed Miguel Pro’s martyrdom.
“Being able to hear their stories from skilled tour guides really brought their sacrifices and holiness to life!” one pilgrim exclaimed. “The man at the front desk at Blessed Miguel Pro’s museum let us examine (and touch!) one of his bones that wasn’t covered in glass. That was truly unique!”
The pilgrims celebrated Mass at the FSSP chapel of the Immaculate Conception the next day before exploring Chapultepec Castle (the former palace of the President of Mexico) which includes excellent perspectives of the city, gardens, and ornate rooms.
The seminarians then travelled to Mexico City to see Our Lady of Guadalupe’s shrine and the churches built in her honor on Tepeyac Hill.
“Our visit to Our Lady of Guadalupe was the most impactful element of the Mexico trip,” one seminarian said. “The tilma bears evidence to Our Blessed Mother’s love and presence.” “Words cannot explain the emotions of finally seeing the actual thing after praying in front of innumerable copies and attending a seminary dedicated to her patronage for 5 years,” said another. The organ of Mass was blaring, and you’re saying a Memorare before the genuine tilma, like I’ve done hundreds of times before the seminary’s image of Our Lady.
Later, the pilgrims traveled to Guanajuato to see Mexico’s Christ the King monument atop a mountain.
One pilgrim stated that the peak was “a place where the nuncio during the beginning of the Calles’ legislation called on Catholics to make a pilgrimage in reparation.” Though the early statues were demolished by the government, the current one stands near the geographical heart of the country, and many people still visit it to atone for Mexico’s sins.
They conducted a Sung Mass at the base of the Cristo Rey statue that evening, the day before the 100th anniversary of the first statue being placed on that spot. Because it was full of life, compassion, and energy, the stop at the small seminary in Lagos de Moreno was a favorite among the 75 high school age seminarians there.
“We had just finished dinner, and they asked us to chant a Marian song, so we did the season appropriate Gregorian Alma Redemptoris Mater after the meal, however, Brewer and Johnny, who can sing in polyphony, joined together later to sing a polyphonic Tota Pulchra Es. The entire seminary was buzzing with noise from teenagers from every direction and a plethora of groups only seconds before they sang. Everyone became silent the instant they began singing! They were fascinated by sacred music! Then we all piled in for a group selfie!”Toan Cao, Leader of the FSSP group
The next several days were spent visiting Our Lady of San Juan de Los Lagos, Mexico’s second greatest pilgrimage destination, as well as a few martyrdom sites, including that of St. Tranquilino Ubiarco. St. Tranquilino was an assistant pastor who gave the sacraments even while imprisoned.
When St. Tranquilino was sentenced to death by hanging, the saint blessed the rope with which he was to be hung and inquired as to who would hang him. When he learned that it was a captain, he immediately forgave him, causing the captain to repent on the spot. The seminarians were deeply moved by seeing the tree from which he was hanged.
They also went to the pillar where another assistant pastor, St. Sabas Reyes, was tortured. When he was taken prisoner, the federal soldiers focused all of their rage on him and tied him to a column in the parish church. They then tormented him with hunger and thirst for three days before burning his hands since they were sanctified. On Holy Wednesday, April 13, 1927, he was taken to the cemetery. They killed him with bullets, yet the martyred priest was able to exclaim, more with his soul than with his voice, “Viva Cristo Rey!” before dying.
The pilgrims then went to see the relics of St. José Sánchez del Rio, a 14-year-old Cristero martyr.
One seminarian explained:
“His via dolorosa (the actual path he took to his martyrdom) is now covered by buildings, but they placed metal footprints as a walking path on the nearest street leading to the cemetery entrance. We toured the places where José was imprisoned: St. James’ Church where he killed two roosters that were roaming on the altars and the little side chapel where he was locked up where his friends came to talk with him during his imprisonment. We then followed the path that José took on the night of his martyrdom to a horse stable where his feet were sliced open and then forced to walk his via dolorosa. Afterwards, we saw the actual spot where he was martyred and buried.”
Visiting St. Sabas’ pillar and walking St. José’s via dolorosa barefoot were both highlights for the seminarians, and one enthusiastically expressed,
“I loved walking barefoot the same walk that Joselito walked up to the place where he was martyred and visiting the pillar where St. Sabas Reyes was tortured.”
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