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Persecutions of the
José Luis Sánchez del Río (March 28, 1913–February 10, 1928) was a young Mexican Cristero who was put to death by government officials because he refused to renounce his Catholic faith. He has been declared a martyr and was beatified by Pope Benedict XVI on November 20, 2005.
José Luis Sánchez del Río was born on March 28, 1913, in Sahuayo, Michoacán. He attended school in his home town, and later in Guadalajara, Jalisco. When the Cristero War broke out in 1926, his brothers joined the rebel forces, but his mother would not allow him to take part. The rebel general, Prudencio Mendoza, also refused his enlistment. The boy insisted that he wanted the chance to give his life for Christ and so come to Heaven easily.
The general finally relented and allowed José to become the flagbearer of the troop. The Cristeros nicknamed him Tarcisius, after the early Christian saint, martyred for protecting the Eucharist from desecration.
During heavy fighting on January 25, 1928, the general's horse was killed, and José gave his horse to the general so that the battle could go on. Then he sought cover and fired at the enemy until he ran out of ammunition. The government troops captured the boy and imprisoned him in the sacristy of the local church.
José's killing was witnessed by two of his friends from childhood. One of those friends, Father Marcial Maciel, reported in a book he later authored that José was “captured by government forces,” who ordered him to “renounce his faith in Christ, under threat of death. He refused to accept apostasy.”.
To break his resolve, he was made to watch the hanging of another Cristero that they had in custody, but instead José encouraged the man, saying that they would soon meet again in Heaven. In prison, José prayed the rosary daily and wrote an emotional letter to his mother, saying that he was ready to fulfill the will of God. His father attempted to raise a ransom to save him, but was not able to appease the government in time.
Father Maciel recalled the gruesome events that transpired after the government's failure to break José's resolve on the evening of February 10, 1928: “Consequently they cut the bottom of his feet and obliged him to walk around the town toward the cemetery. They also at times cut him with a machete until he was bleeding from several wounds. He cried and moaned with pain, but he did not give in. At times they stopped him and said, ‘If you shout ‘Death to Christ the King’ we will spare your life.’ José would only shout, "I will never give in. Viva Cristo Rey." When they reached the place of execution, they stabbed him numerous times with bayonets. He only shouted louder, "Viva Cristo Rey." The commander was so furious that he pulled out his pistol and shot Blessed Jose Sanchez del Rio in the head. After being shot in the head, he drew in the ground a big cross with his blood in his last few seconds on earth.
Recently it has been discovered that Maciel's family left Michoacan in 1927 to escape from Cristero War and went to Jalisco. Maciels came back to Michoacan in 1929. It is plausible that Maciel, whose age was seven, followed his family and was not present at José's killing.
- Ferreira, Cornelia R. Blessed José Luis Sánchez del Rio: Cristero Boy Martyr, biography (2006 Canisius Books).