Year B – 34th Sunday in Ordinary Time

On the Cristeros

[Ezek.34:11-12,15-17; 1Cor.15:20-26,28; Mt.25:31-46]

Today we mark the end of our liturgical year by celebrating the Feast of Christ the King.

Pope Pius XI established this celebration in 1925, at a time when the world was in deep trouble. WWI was over, but Nazism, Communism and Fascism were on the rise, and Pope Pius wanted to warn the world. He wanted to remind us all that life comes only from God and that it’s a mistake to put our faith in politics. 

In that same year, 1925, Blessed Miguel Pro was ordained a Jesuit priest in Belgium. He was Mexican, but he had to study for the priesthood in Europe because Mexico had become very dangerous for the Church.

Blessed Miguel Agustín Pro

The Mexican government had been persecuting Christians for 100 years, but things got much worse in 1926 when President Plutarco Calles tried to destroy the Church completely. He closed all Catholic schools, confiscated all church property, banned any teaching or public expression of the faith and he exiled or executed huge numbers of priests and nuns.

When the archbishop of Mexico City complained, his house and the chapel of Our Lady of Guadalupe were bombed. Priests and bishops then went into hiding and all public worship stopped for three years.

Fr Miguel Pro returned to Mexico that year, but he had to go ‘underground’, serving the people in secret. In 1927 he was arrested and falsely accused of bombing and attempted assassination. On November 23 that year, without any trial, he was sent for execution. [i]

As he walked from his cell to the firing squad, he blessed the soldiers, knelt and prayed quietly. Then he faced his executioners with a crucifix in one hand and a rosary in the other, and held out his arms like Christ on the Cross. 

‘May God have mercy on you! May God bless you!’ he cried out boldly. ‘Lord, you know I’m innocent! With all my heart I forgive my enemies!’

Then he shouted ‘Viva Cristo Rey!’

Long live Christ the King.

And he died in a hail of bullets. [ii]

President Calles had photos of Fr Miguel’s execution published in all the newspapers, expecting this to scare off any opposition. But it had the opposite effect.

Some 40,000 people attended his funeral procession, while another 20,000 waited at the cemetery. 

Calles had said that after a year without the sacraments, the people would surely forget about their faith. But he was wrong, because they started to rebel. 

For Greater Glory movie review (2012) | Roger Ebert

Have you seen the movie For Greater Glory (2012)? It tells the story of the Cristero (‘soldier for Christ’) Rebellion in Mexico (1926-29). It shows how ordinary people believed that there’s no greater glory than to give one’s life for Jesus Christ. Some chose to fight back non-violently, through economic boycotts or civil disobedience, while others chose armed resistance.

One story in that movie is that of José Sánchez del Rio, a boy who was canonised by Pope Francis in 2016. He was only 14 when the Cristero War broke out. When his brothers joined the resistance, he wanted to offer his life for Christ, too. So, he became the flagbearer for his rebel troop. 

In one battle, the leader of the Cristeros lost his horse and José gave him his own. But he was captured by government troops, and they tried to get him to renounce his faith. They said, ‘If you shout, “Death to Christ the King” we’ll spare you’. But José refused. He said, ‘I’ll never give in. Viva Cristo Rey!’

20th Century Martyrs: Tell Christ the King I shall be with him soon (Jose  Sanchez del Rio)

So, they tortured him violently. A month before his 15th birthday, he was forced to march to the cemetery on cruelly bloodied feet. Just before they shot him, he called out, ‘Viva Cristo Rey!’ 

Long live Christ the King.

Now, why did Pope Pius XI want us to celebrate Christ the King?  It’s because our world has been working steadily to banish him. We can see it in the media, in our politics, and in the culture of our society. There’s long been a concerted campaign to banish Jesus Christ from our world, and it continues today.

Our world is full of fear, violence and greed, and vested interests are working hard to control the way we think, speak and live.

Jesus, however, represents something very different. He represents justice, peace and hope. He represents truth, love and mercy – all the things we need to thrive and be happy.

The Feast of Christ the King has nothing to do with crowns, palaces or robes. Rather, it’s about getting our priorities straight. It’s about the way we live, the decisions we make and who we follow in our day-to-day lives. [iii]

Jesus Christ is our king.

Long live Christ the King.

Viva Cristo Rey! [iv]



[iii] Bausch, W.J. Once Upon a Gospel.  Twenty-Third Publications, New London, CT. 2011:315.