My youngest child, a thirteen-year-old, is preparing to receive the Sacrament of Confirmation this spring. For his Confirmation saint he’s chosen the recently canonized Saint Jose Sanchez del Rio. If you haven’t heard about this saint, you can read about him here or you can watch the movie For Greater Glory.
Saint Jose’s story in a nutshell: The President of Mexico was violently persecuting the Catholic Church (1926-1929). Priests were martyred, churches burned, and the people were forbidden to practice their faith. The Cristeros rose up to oppose this unjust religious persecution. Jose, a Catholic with deep devotion to Our Lord and Our Lady of Guadalupe, saw firsthand the effects of this persecution. Too young to join in the fight, he pleaded with one of the generals, who finally gave in and allowed him to deliver messages and supplies. Then one day, Jose was captured and imprisoned. The soldiers tortured him. And his only reply was, “Viva Cristo Rey!” Long live Christ the King!
Saint Jose was martyred at the age of fourteen because he refused to renounce his Catholic faith. This past October 16, he was declared a saint.
An example of faith and courage in the face of religious persecution, Saint Jose Sanchez del Rio is truly a saint for our times.
As I help my youngest to prepare for Confirmation, I think about my own journey of faith and the spiritual climate of our country then and now. I’m a cradle Catholic, raised in a two-parent family and who received religious education until Confirmation. I began to get excited about my faith in my teen years, largely due to one particular teacher who made the faith come alive. But I didn’t really take ownership of my faith until years later, after many falls and challenges and maybe because of those falls and challenges.
Today’s Christian faces more challenges than I did growing up. Violence, drugs, and immorality are on the rise. Our brothers and sisters in the faith are being tortured and martyred throughout the world. In our own country, we find a growing intolerance for Christians and Christian principles. And Christians are expected to embrace public policies that are contrary to their faith.
While I pray for an end to religious persecution and intolerance, I also pray that my children will have the faith and courage needed in these troubled times. I pray especially for my youngest and all of his classmates as they prepare for an outpouring of the Holy Spirit in the Sacrament of Confirmation.
Come Holy Spirit.
Pray for us, Saint Jose Sanchez del Rio.
Viva Cristo Rey!