This calendar of saints is drawn from several denominations, sects, and traditions. Although it will no longer be updated daily, the index on the right will guide visitors to a saint celebrated on any day they choose. Additional saints will be added as they present themselves to Major.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

November 25 - Miguel Pro and Catherine of Alexandria

 NB. The Feast of Blessed Father Miguel Pro is November 23, not 25th.  I am leaving the original post up, but I recommend celebrating his feast on its proper day.  If you are reading this too late, please make plans for next year. 

November 25 offers a sharp contrast in martyrs. Catherine, unattested in any record for five centuries after she (may have) lived, was another Bride of Christ who rejected the love of Roman nobles and suffered mortal consequences after miraculously thwarting attempts on her life. Miguel, on the other hand, is a twentieth century priest, martyred by a government trying to bring the Church under its control, and is reliably attested by historical records.

Catherine appears in the ninth century records of the Abbey at Mount Sinai, to which angels carried her remains. She had lived in the fourth century, according to the records, and had been amorously sought by the Emperor Maxentius. These emperors seemed to have a thing for Christian girls, but sadly, the infatuation was not reciprocal. But she was not immediately killed for having spurned the love of the Emperor. Fifty philosophers debated theology with her, and all fifty were defeated. The Emperor called for her to be broken on the wheel, but instead the wheel was broken on Catherine, injuring spectators when the spokes, gears, and sprockets flew in all directions. When she was subsequently beheaded, milk flowed from her body instead of blood. She was proclaimed, therefore, the patron of: nurses (milk), philosophers, students, young girls, and wheelwrights. Her popularity exploded and dozens of churches were named for her, but in 1969 the Church suppressed her cult because there was no real evidence that she ever existed.

Miguel Pro Juarez is a beatus rather than a full saint, probably because there are no miracles to his name. But at least he really existed. The son and assistant of a mining engineer, Miguel felt a strong vocation to serve the Church. Unfortunately, a series of Mexican leaders, including Venustiano Carranza, Pancho Villa, and Alvaro Obregon felt strongly that the Church should have no place in Mexico. The Mexican Constitution effectively banned the Church (adopted 1917, in effect 1926); Father Miguel began an underground ministry. He was eventually arrested on the spurious charge of trying to assassinate President-elect Obregon and sentenced to death. Declining a blindfold before the firing squad, he extended his arms in the form of a cross and shouted Viva Cristo Rey just before he was shot to death. Although a public funeral was forbidden, twenty thousand people lined the streets to see his hearse pass. Sympathy in Mexico and around the world was definitely on his side, though the Vatican curried favor with Mexico by delaying his nomination for beatification until 1952.

So we get to choose -- for some, an ancient, legendary miracle worker, a plucky girl who stands up to Roman brutality. For others, a gritty, modern victim of religious intolerance, brave but not supernaturally resistant to state-sanctioned violence.

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