Saintly Vesture

Saintly Vesture
Father Saint José María Robles Hurtado
Linen, cotton bobbin lace, ribbon
Gift of the Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, Mexico
W/Mount and Case: H 45 1/2 in. X W 40 1/4 in. X D 2 1/4 in.

Father Saint José María Robles Hurtado

Father Saint José María Robles Hurtado (1888 –1927) was one of a group of 25 martyrs, saints of the Cristeros War (1926-29) canonized by Pope John Paul II on May 21, 2000. For the most part, they were priests who did not take up arms, but refused to leave their flocks, and were executed by federal forces during the persecution of the Catholic Church under President Plutarco Calles. Following the 1910 revolution — and the virulent anti-Catholic articles of the 1917 Constitution — Catholics in Mexico were viciously discriminated against and tortured for their faith.

Father José was born on May 3, 1888 in Mascota, Jalisco, and was ordained a priest for the Archdiocese of Guadalajara, Mexico on March 22, 1913. He was martyred on June 26, 1927, assassinated by the State authorities as he was preparing to celebrate Mass at the home of a family hiding him during this cruel and evil time. He had been targeted for practicing his faith — from the government’s perspective, being too Catholic.

The surplice was worn by the late St. José María Robles Hurtado, priest, Mexican martyr, Knight of Columbus (Council 1979) and founder of a women's religious order in Mexico. It comes from the Motherhouse of the Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, a religious order for women he founded at Guadalajara, two years after his ordination, in 1913. The community is known today as Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Their Motherhouse also includes a museum devoted to this priest’s life and martyrdom, featuring many objects that belonged to him. The surplice is one of those items.

The garment is a vestment of fine white linen, reaching slightly below the hips, having wide sleeves and ornamented with lace . All clergy normally wear the garment over their cassock, although in its infancy, it was originally a choir vestment and to be worn at processionals, burials and on similar occasions.

The name “surplice” comes from the Latin term meaning “ a garment” and was worn by the clergy, especially in northern Europe, over fur-lined cassocks in the 12th century. It probably first appeared in France or England and then gradually spread to Italy, becoming the lower clergy's distinctive dress outside of Mass.

This surplice is fashioned from white linen and fine bobbin lace showing five different patterns. A narrow frilled edge is found along the square neckline and a white ribbon that passes though two buttonholes on either side closes a front slit placket opening. The wide lace border has a multi-pointed peaked hemline. The bodice carries an embroidered monogram of Father José's three initials “J M R” below the opening.

During his installation as supreme knight on Feb. 3, 2001, at the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City, Carl Anderson received a silver reliquary in the shape of a cross containing the relics of six Knights of Columbus priest martyrs of Mexico, including St. José María Robles Hurtado. A 2012 relic pilgrimage traveled to several U.S. cities seeking to make known the testimony of these priest martyrs and all those who sacrificed their lives for their faith.