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St. Jose Luis Sanchez del Rio
Patron: of Persecuted Christians, Children, Adolescents and Sahuayo
Birth: March 28, 1913
Death: February 10, 1928
Beatified: November 20, 2005
Canonized: October 16, 2016 by Pope Francis
St. José Luis Sánchez del Río was born on March 28, 1913 in Sahuayo, Michoacán, Mexico as the third of four children in his family. José loved his faith and grew up with a strong devotion to Our Lady of Guadalupe.
José was 12-years-old when the Cristero War began in Mexico. During this time, the Mexican government wanted to extinguish the influence of the Catholic Church throughout the country. They started executing priests, seizing the Catholic Church's property, and closing religious schools and convents, in accordance with anti-clerical laws that were written into the Mexican Constitution.
People from many of the central and western states in Mexico rebelled against the government in defense of the Catholic Church. José's brothers joined the rebel forces, but his mother would not allow him to participate. Prudencio Mendoza, the rebel general, also refused José's enlistment because he was too young to join the rebellion.
But José desperately wanted to be a Cristero. He wanted the chance to stand up for his faith. He begged his mother to let him join, saying, "Mama, do not let me lose the opportunity to gain Heaven so easily so soon."
The general finally allowed José to become the flagbearer of the troop. José was nicknamed Tarcisius by the Cristeros, after the early Christian saint martyred for protecting the Eucharist.
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On January 25, 1928, General Mendoza's horse was killed during heavy fighting. José gave his horse up for the general so that the fight could continue. José sought cover, firing at the enemy troops until he ran out of ammunition.
José was ultimately captured by the government troops and imprisoned in the sacristy of the local church. During his captivity, José was ordered to renounce his faith in Christ. Even under the threat of death, José refused.
He was forced to watch the hanging of another Cristero. Instead of breaking his resolve, José encouraged the man, telling him they would meet again soon in Heaven.
During his time in captivity, José prayed the rosary daily and wrote a letter to his mother. He told her he was ready to fulfill the will of God. In an attempt to save him, José's father tried raising the funds for a ransom, but he was not able to do so in time.
On February 10, 1928, after realizing they would not break José's faith, the government troops cut the bottom of his feet and forced him to walk around the town toward the cemetery. During his walk, José recited the rosary, prayed for his enemies, and sang songs to Our Lady of Guadalupe, despite being cut with a machete several times.
He cried out in pain, but José did not give in. They told him if he shouted, "Death to Christ the King," they would spare his life. Instead, José would shout, "I will never give in. Viva Cristo Rey y Santa Maria de Guadalupe!"
At the age of 14, St. José Luis Sánchez del Río died as a martyr on February 10, 1928.
His remains are enshrined above a side alter in the Church of Saint James the Apostle in his hometown, Sahuayo.
St. José Luis Sánchez del Río was beatified by Pope Benedict XVI on November 20, 2005 through the Cardinal-Prefect of the Congregation of the Causes of Saints. On January 21, 2016, Pope Francis approved a miracle attributed to him and he was officially canonized on October 16, 2016.
St. José Luis Sánchez del Río is the patron saint of persecuted Christians, children, adolescents and Sahuayo. His feast day is on February 10.
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