The Cristero defenders of the faith invariably went to their deaths shouting "Long live Christ the King!"
On May 21, 2000, Pope John Paul II canonized 25 saints and martyrs who died in Mexico’s Cristero War. Most of the newly canonized were Catholic priests. Six of the priests were members of the Knights of Columbus.
These heroes and defenders of the faith invariably shouted “Viva Cristo Rey” (long live Christ the King) as the executioners’ bullets tore into them or the hangman’s noose crushed their throats.
Meet 3 heroic priests who died in Mexico’s Cristero War
Here are a few of our family heroes:
1Faithful priest, faithful son, and faithful friend
On September 19, 1886, Julia Delgadillo gave birth to a baby boy. She and her husband, Cristobal Sanchez, were humble people and faithful Catholics and they were thrilled with the arrival of their new son. They named him Jenaro.
Jenaro Sanchez was a fine student. After finishing his primary grades, he received a scholarship to the Archdiocesan Seminary at Guadalajara. He was ordained to the priesthood on August 20, 1911, and immediately began his priestly ministry. His primary focus quickly turned to care for the sick in his parish and teaching catechism to the children.
In 1923, with the bishop in exile in Texas, Father Sanchez became the vicar of the town of Tamazulita. He had been jailed once and released several days later for reading a letter from the archbishop, which attacked the government for its anti-Catholic policies. Plutarco Calles had become president in 1924 and had taken an extremely hard stand against everything Catholic.
Public worship had been prohibited and the ban strictly enforced under Calles. Father Sanchez and other priests had found places where they could celebrate Mass in secret. A family had given him and his mom and dad shelter in their home located outside the parish boundaries. He had no idea the authorities had been told of his whereabouts.
On January 17, 1927, he and five friends were in hiding. When his friends saw soldiers coming, they told the priest to run and hide. He refused. The soldiers let the others go but they had other plans for Father Jenaro Sanchez. They tied his hands behind him and dragged him to a nearby mango tree. Then, as they taunted and mocked him, they hanged Father Sanchez
St. Janero Sanchez Delgadillo, please pray for us.
2A spiritual father and his sons
These four Cristeros went to their deaths together: Father Luis Batiz Sainz and three laymen: Manuel Morales, David Roldan, and Salvador Lara.
- St. Luiz Batiz Sainz: He was born in 1870, entered a minor seminary at the age of 12, and was ordained a priest in 1894. He devoted most of his time to catechesis, had a deep devotion for Eucharistic Adoration, and was a member of the Knights of Columbus, Council 2367.
- St. Manuel Morales: He was born in 1898 in the small town of Mesillas. He entered the seminary but had to drop out to go to work to help support his poor family. He became a baker, married, and had three children. He was a member of the local Catholic Workers Union.
- St. David Roldan Lara: He was born on March 2, 1907. His dad, Pedro Roldan, died when David was just one year old. He entered a seminary but, like Manuel Morales, had to drop out to help support his struggling mom. He was an outspoken critic of the Calles government and was the vice-president of the National League for the Defense of Religious Liberty. He was only 19 at the time of his execution.
- St. Salvador Lara Puente: He was born in 1905, and grew to be tall and strong and a fine athlete. He became a miner to help support his widowed mother and was an outspoken critic of the secular government.
The four men listed above were jailed together. Father Luiz was older, and he became not only their spiritual father but also a father-figure to provide the young men comfort as they all knew what was about to happen to them.
On August 15, 1926, all four were loaded into two cars and driven out to the nearby mountains. They took the prisoners out of the cars and told them they were guilty of conspiracy against the government.
They were directed to a spot where they were to be executed. Together they prayed and then began to walk toward the designated location. As they walked, they all cried out together, “Long live Christ the King and Our Lady of Guadalupe!” Then they all were shot to death by firing squad.
We ask these martyred saints to pray for us all.
The saint who died rather than give up his rosary