Very frequently the liturgical calendar of the church takes odd twists and turns with events in the modern world. The irony of yesterday's feast of St. Christopher Magallanes and companions coming on the heels of the President of Mexico being received warmly by a joint session of Congress and given the opportunity to lecture us about human rights is strange indeed.
St. Christopher and his companions (20 diocesan priests and 3 lay persons) were executed as traitors by the Mexican government between 1915 and 1937, a period in Mexican history when by provisions in the national Constitution, property of the Catholic church was confiscated, seminaries were closed, priests were deprived of the right to vote and forbidden to appear in public in clerical attire and preaching criticizing the government could be a capital crime.
The priests and people in certain dioceses of Mexico formed resistance movements to these anti-Catholic provisions of the Mexican constitution. One of these more formally organized groups was called the Cristeros. It was for membership in this group and resistance to the government's policy against the Catholic church that these martyrs were either shot or hanged.
I wonder if I would have the courage to be a martyr if the landscape around me suddenly changed and witnessing to Christ in one act became necessary rather than a reasonably quiet life of daily commitments to Christ.
John Paul II was criticized for beatifying and canonizing these saints, since it was (and remains) quite politically incorrect to even call attention to the persecution of the Catholic church by the Mexican government, and even worse to canonize individuals who were executed as traitors. Since these martyrdoms were so recent, documentation surrounding the circumstances of their deaths are relatively easy to find and read.
To make matters a bit more complicated, one of the saints (Fr. Toribio Romo) is invoked as a patron of immigrants making their way into the United States from Mexico with documents or without.
Read about these martyrs and decide for yourself: traitors or saints?