(The Sacred Art Series will feature and explain the artwork which will be included in the Our Lady of Belen Chapel. The chapel is scheduled to be completed in the fall of 2021.)
Blessed Miguel Agustín Pro was born in Guadalupe, Zacatecas, Mexico, on January 13, 1891. He was born into a mining family and was the third of eleven children. Two of his sisters entered the convent. He entered the Society of Jesus at El Llano on August 15, 1911.
Miguel Pro studied in Mexico until 1914 when, as a result of the Mexican Revolution led by General and, later, President Alvaro Obregón, a massive wave of governmental anti-Catholicism forced the closure of the novitiate and the Jesuits to flee to California in the United States.
He later studied in Spain, Belgium, and worked in Nicaragua. He eventually returned to Mexico in 1926 where the Constitution of 1917 had five articles specifically targeted at suppressing the Catholic Church and all religious services. Thus, began what American author Graham Greene called “the fiercest persecution of religion anywhere since the reign of Queen Elizabeth.”
The Jesuits in Mexico were forced to go underground and Pro began to celebrate the Eucharist and other sacraments clandestinely, always careful to avoid the authorities. In 1926, a warrant for his arrest was issued and a year later he was eventually arrested.
Miguel Pro was executed without trial by firing squad on November 23, 1927, at the age of 36. He was beatified on September 25, 1988, by St. Pope John Paul II. On the occasion, the Pope said, “Neither suffering nor serious illness, nor the exhausting ministerial activity, frequently carried out in difficult and dangerous circumstances, could stifle the radiating and contagious joy which he brought to his life for Christ and which nothing could take away.”
Outstretched Arms: On November 23, 1927, after being arrested for celebrating a Mass and hearing confessions, Miguel Pro was taken to stand in front of a firing squad. As he walked into the courtyard he blessed and forgave the soldiers who were going to execute him, then knelt in prayer. He declined a blindfold, he faced his executioners with a crucifix in one hand and a rosary in the other. Before the firing squad was given the order to shoot, Pro extended his arms in imitation of the crucified Christ and shouted the words found on the phylactery held by an angel above his head, Viva Cristo Rey! (“Long live Christ the King”).
Suit: Miguel Pro is depicted wearing a suit instead of the traditional black cassock typical of his day. The anticlerical Constitution of 1917 made wearing religious habits not only illegal, but dangerous. Because of this, Pro used various disguises in order to avoid being recognized by the authorities as he visited Catholic families around the country.
Crucified Christ: The image of the crucified Christ is placed slightly above and directly behind the martyr. The combination of the two images refers to the celebration of the Eucharist. In the painting, Pro serves as a priest and also an altar where the sacrifice takes place.
Angel(s): The angel to the left of the crucified Christ contemplates the face of his Lord as he collects, in a chalice, the blood that pours out of his side. This image not only refers to the blood of Christ shed for the salvation of the world and received at Mass, but also the bloodshed by Miguel Pro for the sake of Jesus Christ and his Church. The angel located on the top and to the right of the crucified Christ holds a palm branch, the symbol of martyrdom. The green and red loincloths worn by the angels along with the white loincloth of Jesus combine to represent the colors of the flag of Mexico.