The world gathered together to celebrate as Mother Teresa of Calcutta was raised to the altar of sainthood. Now, the Church will turn its eyes toward the upcoming canonization of two more saints in October, one of which is a precious 14-year-old boy who refused to denounce his faith and his love of Christ. That refusal cost him his life.
At the tender young age of 14, he had a love and affection for Our Lord Jesus and for Our Lady of Guadalupe. Blessed Jose Luis Sanchez del Rio also had an immense love and enthusiasm for the Blessed Sacrament, which continued to feed and sustain his deep faith and trust in the Lord.
Blessed Jose Luis Sanchez del Rio lived in Mexico during a time where there was a savage war between Catholics and an anger filled despot of a ruler named Plutarco Calles. Calles sought to kill every Catholic, specifically priests, he could find and the cruelty and humiliation had no limits from him. The more torturous and savage, the better.
He burned churches, killed priests, and used inhumane torture techniques to try and get Catholics to renounce their faith and their love of the Lord.
Catholics took up arms against this savage and ruthless ruler to defend their faith. They were called the Cristeros and would charge into battle shouting “Viva Cristo Rey!” ( Long live Christ the King!”
After his two brothers joined the battle against the ruthless President Calles, Blessed Jose Luis Sanchez del Rio wrote a letter to Prudencio Mendoza, a Cristero General, begging him to allow the young boy to join the ranks of other Cristeros and allow him to fight. The young teen was soon bearing arms and taking up the fight after General Mendoza agreed and told the boy he could join the Cristeros and fight.
He soon found himself rushing back and forth to bring fresh supplies of ammunition to soldiers. Sadly, it was during one of these runs that caused him to get captured. During one of the battles, he was making a trip to take a new supply of ammunition to a soldier when he noticed a general’s horse had been killed. The death of the horse had left the general vulnerable to being killed and Jose knew how important the generals were to the success of the Cristeros.
Young Jose made the sacrifice, knowing what it could cost him, and willingly offered up his own horse to the general. After giving the general his horse, the teen quickly found himself in the hands as a captive of the enemy. The Federalists had captured the young boy and locked him up in a church sacristy that had been converted into the enemy’s prison.
The misuse of the holy place troubled Jose and especially having seen that the Federalists had put some expensive fighting roosters inside the church in order to keep them safe. The boy became appalled at the thought of animals running around in the church and the way the holy place had been treated.
“This is not a barnyard! This is a place for God!” he said.
So, he chose to do something about it and caught all the roosters, killed them by snapping their necks, and….as a result….had set himself on the quick path to being killed himself.
As his executioners were leading him to the cemetery and to his death, they horrendously hit him with sharp machetes, leaving deep cuts. With every blow, the boy never relented and returned in reply with a loud “Viva Cristo Rey!”
The soldiers cut off the soles of his feet, forced him to walk on the salt, rocks, and dirt, sending excruciating pain through the teen’s body. The path was marked by a blood soaked trail. Despite being in agony and pain, the young teen never relented in his faith.
The soldiers told the teen “If you shout ‘Death to Christ the King’, we will spare your life”. Jose answered by saying “Long live Christ the King! Long live Our Lady of Guadalupe!”
After he arrived at the cemetery, the soldiers stabbed him and he returned each stab with a louder “Viva Cristo Rey!”
Jose died on February 10, 1928, after the commander of the Federalist forces became so angry at the teenager’s unrelenting commitment to his Lord and his faith that he shot him with his pistol.
He was declared to be a martyr on June 22, 2004 by Pope John Paul II and was beatified by Pope Benedict XVI through the Cardinal-Prefect of the Congregation of the Causes of Saints on November 22, 2005 in Mexico.
The miracle that paved the way for his sainthood was that of a miraculous cure of a baby with brain damage in Mexico. Doctors had said the child had “no hope of survival” due to various health problems, which included brain damage that had been caused by a stroke.
The child, Ximena Guadalupe Magallon Galvex, was taken to Blessed Jose’s birthplace in Sahuayo when she was only a few weeks old. The child developed a high fever, was placed in the hospital, and was told she would have to undergo a very delicate surgery.
The parents had the child baptized prior to the surgery. It was during this surgery the child had a stroke and caused 90 percent of her brain to be dead.
Her parents attended Mass every day and began asking God and Blessed Jose intercede for her child. The child recovered completely, leaving doctors without an explanation.
Blessed Jose Luis Sanchez del Rio will be canonized on October 16, 2016 by Pope Francis.