Tuesday 20 June 2023

Mexican Martyrdom - Wilfrid Parsons - Firsthand Accounts of the Religious Persecution in Mexico 1926-1935

Mexican Martyrdom
Firsthand Accounts of the Religious Persecution in Mexico 1926-1935
Wilfrid Parsons
ISBN 9780895553300
eISBN 9781505104301

Mexican Martyrdom - Wilfrid Parsons

I will admit I was expecting something very different from this volume. I will be honest I had not looked closely at the book details. But the title and cover immediately captured my attention. I have read a number of volumes around the topics of the Cristero’s and Cristero War. Only after I got reading did I realise that this volume was written in part as a first-hand account and in part as direct primary research at the time. The description of the volume states:

“Mexican Martyrdom is a series of true stories of the terrible anti-Catholic persecutions which took place in Mexico in the 1920s. Told by the Jesuit priest, Fr. Wilfrid Parson, these stories are based upon cases he had seen himself or that had been described to him personally by the people who had undergone the atrocities of those times. Though most contemporary readers don t know it, a full-fledged persecution of the Church, with thousands of martyrdoms, took place in modern times, just south of our own border including the famous Jesuit priest, Fr. Miguel Pro, was martyred before a firing squad during this persecution. Between the conquest of Mexico by Cortes in 1521, and the Mexican Independence from Spain in 1821, Spain created in Mexico a great Catholic civilization to rival that of any nation in Europe. But when the Great Mexican Revolution began in 1810, this flourishing country began to wither and die. That Revolution was not to end until 1928, with the end of the brutal rule of President Plutarco Elias Calles, though in many ways it continues still. The heroic resistance of Mexican Catholics during this persecution is a great inspiration to Catholics today.Mexican Martyrdom proves that hatred for the Catholic Church exists even in our times and can still flare into open and bloody persecution in this so-called enlightened age.”

Another description states:

“From 1910 to 1917, Mexico underwent a turbulent revolution that turned the country upside down. The new 1917 Constitution sought to destroy Catholicism and subvert religion in the populace, with disastrous consequences. What followed in the 1920s and '30s under the atheistic, communist government of Plutarco Calles was a series of harsh, bloody persecutions and a counter-revolution by Catholics, collectively titled the Cristero War. 

Mexican Martyrdom is a collection of true stories from these terrible anti-Catholic persecutions. Told by Jesuit Fr. Wilfrid Parson, these stories are based upon cases he had seen himself or that had been described to him personally by the people who had undergone the atrocities of those times. These pages are filled with intense stories of those who chose to die rather than forsake Christ the King. 

The Cristero martyrs bear witness to the radical willingness we all must share to lose our own blood in profession of the Christian Faith. In our own times, when Christ the King is discarded and derided, such persecutions as happened only a century ago in Mexico do not seem far off from us. We must learn to be prepared like the martyrs of these pages. Riveting and haunting, Mexican Martyrdom will feed your faith with the blood of the Mexican martyrs. 

­¡Viva Cristo Rey!”

Both the beginning and the ending of this volume mention Blood-Drenched Altars—A Catholic Commentary on the History of Mexico, by Most Reverend Francis Clement Kelley. I have added that to my list of future books to read on these subjects. 

The chapters in this volume are:

Publisher's Note
Father Pro
Hidden Shepherds
Veiled Heroines
Three Months
Meditation At Tepozotlán
Political Interlude
Picking Up The Threads
Splendor Before The Storm
"I Will Strike The Shepherd . . . "
A Rivalry
"There Is No God"
"De Profundis"
Doom And Verdict
Decency Says Farewell

The end of the Publishers Note states:

“Almost all of today's reference books and most history books about Mexico paint the Spanish colonial period, 1521 to 1821, as an age of ignorance, repression, poverty, slavery and general deterioration of culture, but the era of the Revolution, 1810 to the present, as one of progress, enlightenment, freedom and prosperity. Blood-Drenched Altars proves just the opposite to be true, and Mexican Martyrdom is a strong exclamation mark in support of that thesis. Let the reader peruse these two books and decide for himself on which side lies the truth.”

And the forward begins with:

“This book is an attempt to illustrate by a recital of facts the nature of a struggle that has gone on in a neighboring country for the past ten years. It is not a controversial work, still less is it a work of scholarship on the Mexican situation. It is not an historical account of all Mexican events. It is designed to give the reader as vivid a picture as possible of how the Mexican people have lived during that time, particularly if they took sides with the Church in the struggle. It is frankly written with sympathy for these Mexicans, though a sincere effort has been made to understand and to present the point of view of those who are opposed to them.”

This volume was the May read for the Goodreads Catholic Book Club, I had voted for it a few times and am glad to have finally read. I only highlighted a couple of passages while read it. They were:

“This was the central headquarters of the Catholic labor movement in Mexico. Now the official Mexican labor movement is perhaps the most publicized feature of the Revolution. Its affiliation with the American Federation of Labor, its achievements in the Carranza movement dating from the Casa del Obrero Mundial and the brothers Magon, offshoots of the I. W. W. in the United States, the favor it enjoyed from the dictator Calles, all gave it a preponderating influence in public affairs. No politician dared to offend it, and it is generally true that it was at one time the very heart of the Mexican Revolution. It threw itself wholly into the war against religion. It was supreme, though its leader, Morones, was at the time in eclipse, following the murder of Obregon.”

“As he knelt there, the American could not help but think of all the people in the State who could not hear Mass, and who had not heard it for two or three years, and who might not for many years to come. Would their faith hold out? It had not in England, with whose conditions in penal days the present state of Mexico had such striking resemblances. And he resolved to tell the story of Mexico everywhere, so that the power of world public opinion might force the rulers of Mexico to abate their persecution.”

The book is not ordered in a linear fashion. And often the author states some was covered previously in chapters xx or will be covered in the future in chapters xx. I found that a little hard when reading it. A couple of times I had to either jump ahead and read, then reread when I got to that chapter, or jump back. It is something I struggled with a bit. 

The book is an excellent expose of the times. A clear history of what was happening nationally and even regionally in regards to these persecutions and anti-Catholic laws. It was great to have read it and add it to my knowledge about this time and these events. 

Note: This book is part of a series of reviews: 2023 Catholic Reading Plan

Other books about Catholic Mexican History:
The Mexican Crisis Its Causes and Consequences - Rev. Michael Kenny, S.J., Ph.D.
Blood-Drenched Altars: A Catholic Commentary on the History of Mexico - Francis Kelley
Saints and Sinners in the Cristero War: Stories of Martyrdom from Mexico - James Murphy 

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