Modern Day Saints

 

Blessed Anacleto Gonzalez Flores

and Cristero Companions

 

The current film For Greater Glory tells the story of a recent but almost unknown civil war in Mexico in the 1920s and 1930s. This film was of a war against our Faith and the heroic resistance of everyday Catholics against it.  Based upon the current antireligious fervor in our own government, many Americans see it as a timely film. This war began with the rise of a socialist regime in 1917 under President Calles and was supported by freemasonry.

 

All things Catholic were banned or taken over by the government. Priests were killed even as they said Mass. Catholics responded by taking up arms and defending their faith – they became Cristeros.

 

Much has been written about Blessed Father Miguel Pro and Blessed José Luis Sanchez, the boy martyr. However, many saints emerged in the war against the Catholic Church. Ordinary Catholics became heroes and martyrs. As Archbishop José Gomez stated, “Martyrs are not defined by their dying but what they chose to live for.”

 

One of these martyrs was Alacleto Gonzalez Flores. At the time of his death in Mexico he was a husband and a father of two young children, a lawyer and a leader in the resistance against the anti-clerical, anti-Catholic regime of President Calles.  Alacleto was born in 1888 into an impoverished family of the Jalisco region of Mexico. Being quite an intelligent boy, he was sent to the seminary; however, despite excelling at his studies Anacleto realized God was not calling him to the vocation of priesthood. In 1922 he completed studies to become a lawyer and married Maria Concepcion Guerrero. Anacleto’s faith was not just for Sundays: he was an active participant in the life of the Church, attending daily Mass, youth group, teaching catechism, visiting prisoners, writing articles to spread the faith and engaging in works of charity.

 

From the beginning of the persecution in 1914, Anacleto had taken part in many kinds of non-violent resistance. He encouraged his fellow Catholics to seek peaceful methods of change. The climate of persecution did not improve, and in 1926 four members of Anacleto’s youth group were murdered. This atrocity signaled that peaceful resistance was no longer effective, and thus, the Cristeros War began. Continuing to use the pen rather than the sword, Anacleto defended Catholics through pamphlets, speeches and by encouraging people to provide resources for those who had none. By early 1927 Anacleto was forced to go into hiding but remained a prolific writer for the Catholic cause.

 

Anacleto was soon arrested and accused of a murder he did not commit. Enduring the tortures of being hung by his thumbs, having his shoulder fractured and his feet slashed with knives, Anacleto did not give up the whereabouts of his bishop nor any other information. Together with his fellow prisoners who were also part of the resistance, Anacleto was brought before the firing squad on April 1, 1927. Valiantly standing despite the pain, he offered not only forgiveness to the general in command but also a promise of intercession before the judgment seat of God. He led his companions in the Act of Contrition and then those companions were executed. The soldiers lost their nerve when ordered to shoot him, so the general ordered his captain to stab Anacleto with a bayonet. With his last words he continued to proclaim his faith in God and the impossibility of stamping out God’s good news, “I die but God does not die!”

 

One of Anacleto’s companions was José Dionisio Luis Padilla Gómez. He was born in 1899 in Guadalajara, Jalisco, Mexico. He was an active member of the ACJM and worked closely with Anacleto in the activities of the League, helping in a special way poor children and youth. The young man, known to all as Luis, spent much time praying before the Blessed Sacrament and held a deep devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary.  On the morning of April 1, 1927, Luis was arrested in his home together with his mother and one of his sisters. He was repeatedly beaten and insulted, then sentenced to death.

 

Two other companions were Jorge and Ramón Vargas González. They were born in Ahualulco de Mercado, Jalisco, Mexico, in 1899 and 1905 respectively. During the persecution, the Vargas González family gave refuge to a number of priests and seminarians. Anacleto González Flores was staying with them in March of 1927. On the morning of April 1, 1927 the secret police completely surrounded the family home, shouting: "Open the door in the name of the law!” They stormed in and arrested everyone. The Vargas González family was accused of having hidden a "wanted" priest in their home and were taken to the Colorado jail.

 

Taken out to be shot, the four recited the Act of Contrition. Before the bullets were fired, Ramón made the sign of the cross, and Jorge held a crucifix against his chest.

 

On June 27, 1929, the church bells rang in Mexico for the first time in almost three years. The war had claimed the lives of some 90,000 people: 56,882 on the federal side and 30,000 Cristeros. At least 40 priests were killed and thousands were exiled from Mexico. In addition, numerous civilians and Cristeros were killed after the war ended.

 

On November 20, 2005, Anacleto and his companions were beatified by Pope Benedict XVI. The Pope also declared nine additional victims of the anti-Catholic, Masonic regime as martyrs on that day, thus paving the way for their beatifications.

 

With the secularization of American Society the aggressive anti-Catholicism of our current administration, the reluctance of our bishops to defend the Church and our own silent acceptance of all of this, we need a campaign -- a virtual barrage -- of prayer, asking Blessed Miguel Pro, Blessed Jose Luis Sanchez, Blessed Alacleto Gonzalez Flores, all of the other Cristero martyrs and the Virgin of Guadalupe to give us strength and to intercede for America.

 

If we do not demonstrate our Faith, if we do not vote against those who suppress us, if we do not speak out against evil in politics, education, entertainment or the media, if we do not act as Catholics, then we may need to train our children and grandchildren to be Cristeros.

Jim Fritz

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