As much as the Jesuits have educated me, and have influenced my way of thinking, and interacting with the world as a whole, it really wasn’t until last year that I found a model within the Jesuits that I could really relate to.
I mean, yes, St. Ignatius’ story of redemption, and then spiritual contemplativeness in action is a great “comeback story” of sorts, but I never trained as a soldier. I’m a farm boy. I also don’t know much about mischief and women and being a gallant and courtier. The closest I come to that is a one off romance that hardly survived into college.
St. Francis Xavier was too bent on missionary work, and inculturation, which I can respect, I feel doesn’t really fit my own missions and apostolates. No, I don’t see myself traveling to India, then Japan, and then (trying to enter) China, all under different guises to relate to people, and then to begin preaching the Gospel. I do respect his attempt at preaching the Gospel in these ways, and I do see myself as a missionary in a strange culture more often than most would think, but something about his story still seems above me.
No, the great historic Jesuit I find my own story most related to isn’t all that Historic. 100 years ago, he was still hardly a Novice, and his death was only 88 years ago today. The Jesuit I speak of is Blessed Fr. Miguel Agustín Pro, SJ.
His full name is José Ramón Miguel Agustín Pro Juárez. He was born in the state of Zacatecas, and he died in Mexico City. His story is beautiful, and I wish I could recount it all right now. But, it’s not really my place to do what others have already done so well. So, here’s one link to his Wikipedia article, here’s another link, this time to his story (in short form), another short form, and a very, very long form, detailed version of his story.
Suffice to say, the Wikipedia article might be enough, but the second and third links are also good for just an overview, while you might want to check out the last one if you want what equates to a half hour read on the story of the priest.
I was drawn to Bl. Fr. Pro (or, as I’ll refer to him in the rest of this blog, Fr. Pro) for a few reasons. Of course, he was a Jesuit, and my appreciation for the Jesuits is rather great. But he was Mexican Jesuit, sharing the same homeland as me, speaking a common tongue, joined together in very similar cultures, and both understanding the beauty and importance of the Most Blessed Virgin of Guadalupe.
But the more I looked at his story, the more I could relate to. Like my own father, he suffered stomach problems, his being ulcers, and my father’s being a hernia. He also was referred to as Miguel, the same name as his father, just as me with mine. I also carry with me a childhood nickname, Chochi, and he carried his, Cocol.
He was an actor, a singer, a prankster, and a man of great humor and very personable soul. I… have acted, play many instruments and sing, enjoy life with plenty of humor, and I enjoy being able to relate to people.
But there was also another Pro, very serious, studious, and prayerful. People often get surprised at how well I jump between entertaining and being humorous, and being a serious, passionate, and prayerful person. I always praise myself for carrying both the light and the heavy in my arms.
I think that Fr. Pro found me, sometimes. And he found me through humor, and love of Mexico and my people, and my love of art and of serving, as he spent his last 15 months of life in Mexico as a priest, serving in anyway he could to his Mexican people, living now in a land where Catholicism was basically outlawed. He would pay the price of his life for caring so deeply.
In this compassionate person, I found myself drawn further and further into the person of Christ the King, whom Fr. Pro proclaimed with his final breath.
I guess Fr. Pro, through his intercession, and my asking him to pray for me, brought me closer to my faith, and continuously brings me closer to the person of Jesus.
But also, in a non-religious (but, in a very “AMDG” way, still very religious) way, he brought me closer to my fellow brothers and sisters, even those who don’t share my faith. Fr. Pro forgave his executioners, and his enemies, and prayed for them before being murdered for an attempted assassination attempt on the former President of Mexico (at that point) of which he was innocent. He worked tirelessly to minister to his deprived Catholic brothers and sisters, the poor, and those in jail. He also prayed a lot, and worked to always do God’s will. But he was still so humble!
I wish often to be like him, to work tirelessly for the greater good of all, and to remain humble in it.
I pray for his intercession, because I see him as an older brother.
Oh, and his name is Miguel. Miguel is also my brother’s name.
I love my brother.
Thank you, older brother. And thank you, spiritual older brother.