Today is the feast of St Christopher Magallanes and his companions, martyrs of Mexico, twenty-two priests and three laymen. I have blogged on these martyrs before, or at least on one of them, St Toribio Romo who was martyred in front of members of his family in 1928. Each of the twenty-five martyrs celebrated today have their own story and reveal that heroism which is be part and parcel of the Christian life.
Given issues we face today, I would like to highlight another of the martyrs from the group: St Mateo Correa Magallanes (no relation to St Christopher as far as I know). St Mateo was born in 1866 in Tepechitlan. In 1881 he entered seminary assisted by a scholarship for his fees. He was ordained priest in 1893. Among his appointments was parish priest of Concepcion del Oro and Colotlan. His claim to fame in these early years of his priesthood was his administering First Holy Communion to Blessed Miguel Pro on the 19th March 1898. At some point Fr Mateo joined the Knights of Columbus.When the government's persecution of the Church began in 1910, Fr Mateo went into hiding, as many did. Later, however, he took up an appointment as parish priest of Valparaiso in 1926.
Before long he was arrested on charges of being in league with the Cristeros. It sees there was not enough evidence to convict him and he was released. However the authorities kept their eyes on him. His health also began to fail at this time and by the following year he was quite frail though he was still only 60. As he was on his way to bring Viaticum to a lady who was dying he was arrested again. He was once again charged with being part of the Cristero movement. The commander, General Eulogio Ortiz, who had him arrested had been furious at the priest's release the year before and this time he was intent on making the charges stick this time.
Fr Mateo was imprisoned to await trial. In the meantime a number of Cristeros were condemned to death, and the commander Ortiz asked the priest to hear the confessions of those about to die. This was later revealed not to an act of charity towards the condemned, but a ruse to get information from them as they were about to die. After Fr Mateo had heard their confessions, Ortiz ordered him to reveal what the Cristeros had confessed: Fr Mateo refused. Putting a gun to the priest's head Ortiz told him if he did not reveal what was confessed he would be shot. Fr Mateo stood firm: the seal could not be broken. Furious, Ortiz ordered the priest's execution, and at dawn on the 6th February 1927 in a cemetery in Durango, Fr Mateo was shot through the head. Beatified in 1992, he was canonised in 2000 by St John Paul II.
St Mateo was a good, humble priest devoted to his flock. Among the martyrs today we find many other examples of good, holy men who sought simply to be faithful priests. May those martyr-saints, who now belong to all of us, not just to Mexico, watch over all our priests in these times and obtain from the Lord the graces we need to seek to be true to Christ and the Gospel.