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Under the patronage of St. Tammany
Mark C. N. Sullivan is an editor at a Massachusetts university. He is married and the father of three children. Email
Miss Mexico is redesigning her Miss Universe pageant dress, which was belted by bullets and included sketches of hangings and firing squads from Mexico's 1920s Catholic uprising.
"Dressed to kill," ran the clever headline. But Rosa Maria Ojeda's dress conveyed a message out of the Mexican past, recalling a period of history in that seemingly most Catholic of countries in which Catholicism was outlawed and Catholics persecuted and killed for their faith.
Critics have denounced the outfit as too violent and out of place in a beauty pageant.
"It would be like Miss USA wearing a dress showing images of the Ku Klux Klan in the Deep South, with their hoods, their burning crosses and beer cans," wrote a columnist for La Jornada, Jorge Camil, in a recent article.
He misses the point, it says here. Another sees no point at all.
"It's inappropriate to use images of this Cristero war that cost so many lives and was so pointless," writer Guadalupe Loaeza said.
On Nov. 22, 1927, a man dressed in street clothes was led through a crowd of photographers and politicians on his way to a firing squad in Mexico City. The photographers were present for this illegal execution — there had been no trial or even formal charges — because the Mexican president, Plutarco Elias Calles, the most rabidly anti-Catholic leader in the world at the time, wanted them to record the humiliation of a man desperately pleading for his own life. Calles badly miscalculated. The man walked calmly to the place of his death, asked to be allowed to pray, and then, in a voice neither defiant nor desperate, intoned the words Viva Cristo Rey! — "Long Live Christ the King!"
Through photographs distributed worldwide, the Jesuit priest Miguel Augustin Pro thus became the most famous martyr in Mexico’s anti-Catholic revolution early in the twentieth century.
But Pro was hardly alone. Thousands of Catholics died in the same anti-Catholic wave, though few people anywhere, especially in the United States, remember their martyrdom today. President Calles was not only wrong about how Pro would die, he was wrong about Mexico as a whole. Though anti-clerical propaganda long tried to portray the Mexican clergy as corrupt, few of them, few enough to count on one hand, renounced the Faith or caved in to government pressures, even facing death. They all showed a heroic faith so deep that many, like Christ, calmly forgave their executioners before they died.
Americans who go to Mexico today rightly think of it as among the most Catholic nations on earth. Churches and religious festivals are everywhere. Most Mexicans are deeply devout and specially attached to Our Lady of Guadalupe. It is hard to believe that for several decades the Mexican people were subjected to religious outrages equal to anything that even Communism and Nazism perpetrated.
Twenty-five other martyrs from the Cristero War of 1926-29 have been canonized, and their shared feast day is May 25.