Today, November 23, is the Memorial of St. Clement of Rome, pope and martyr.
Pope Clement was pope from AD 88 – 99. He is regarded as a Father of the Church. His only extant writing is a letter he wrote the Christians in the city of Corinth addressing the deposition of priests from the church there. St. Clement affirmed the apostolic authority of the bishops and priests of the Church. In his letter, one can already recognized the organization of the Church and the importance of bishops and priests as ministers of the gospel. I have said many times that, when one reads the Fathers, one recognizes the Church. This is true of St. Clement and his Letter to the Corinthians. You can read St. Clements Letter to the Corinthians here.
Not much is known about St. Clement’s life. Tradition has it that he was exiled from Rome by the Emperor Trajan and martyred by being tied to an anchor and cast into the Black Sea. As such, St. Clement is patron saint of mariners.
Today is also the Memorial of Bl. Miguel Pro, SJ, priest and martyr. Bl. Miguel was a Catholic priest of Mexico in the years of the Cristeros rebellion against the anti-Catholic policies of President Plutarco Elias Calles. Bl. Miguel served as priest to the Catholics, who were forced to practice their faith clandestinely. Bl. Miguel was arrested but set free, though he was kept under surveillance.
An assassination attempt against Alvaro Obregon, a Mexican general and former president, gave the government an excuse to arrest Bl. Miguel again. This time, though a conspirator who confessed to his involvement in the assassination attempt testified that Bl. Miguel was not involved, Bl. Miguel was sentenced to be executed without trial. He was shot by firing squad on November 23, 1927. His execution was photographed in hopes that it would incite fear in the hearts of the Cristeros. It had the opposite effect. Many Cristeros who fought against the anti-Catholic government did so with pictures of Bl. Miguel’s execution. 40,000 people lined his funeral procession and 20,000 more awaited at the cemetery where he was buried.
When Bl. Miguel was taken to of his execution, he blessed the soldiers there to execute him. He knelt in silent prayer. Refusing a blindfold, he held a crucifix in one hand and a rosary in the other. He shouted out, “May God have mercy on you! May God bless you! Lord, Thou knowest that I am innocent! With all my heart I forgive my enemies!” Then, he raised his arms to form a cross and shouted, “Viva Cristo Rey!”
Pope St. Clement and Bl. Miguel Pro represent vastly different ages in the life of the Church. But, they both died for Christ, killed by those who hated the faith and would not tolerate any who desired to live faithfully the gospel of Jesus Christ. May their prayers embolden us when we face those who hate our faith and may we struggle vigorously against any attempts to suppress the life of the Church in our world.
Be Christ for all. Bring Christ to all. See Christ in all.