The Mexican Martyrs

The Mexican Martyrs

A painting by renowned Mexican portrait artist Martha Orozco features six priests – members of the Knights of Columbus – who were canonized by Pope John Paul II on May 21, 2000. The feast of the Mexican martyrs is celebrated on May 21st.

The 1920s brought a revolution to Mexico, along with the widespread persecution of Catholics.

Missionaries were expelled from the country, Catholic seminaries and schools were closed, and the Church was forbidden to own property.

Priests and laymen were told to denounce Jesus and their faith in public; if they refused, they faced not just punishment but torture and death.

During this time of oppression and cruelty, the Knights of Columbus did not retreat in Mexico but grew dramatically, from 400 members in 1918 to 43 councils and 6,000 members just five years later.

In the United States at the time, the Knights handed out five million pamphlets that described the brutality of the Mexican government toward Catholics. As a result, the Mexican government greatly feared and eventually outlawed the Order.

Thousands of men, many of whom were Knights, would not bow to these threats or renounce their faith, and they often paid with their lives.

They took a stand when that was the most difficult thing they could do, and their courage and devotion have echoed down through the decades.

For more on the Mexican Martyrs see the following articles from the online edition of Columbia magazine:

St. José María Robles Hurtado