Saint February 25 : Saint Toribio Romo González a Martyr Priest - Patron of Immigrants who said "Lord...grant me this favor: do not leave me a day of my life without saying Mass..."

 Priest and Martyr
Roman Martyrology: In the village of Tequila, in the territory of Guadalajara, in Mexico, saint Toribio Romo, priest and martyr, who because of his priestly status was assassinated in a time of religious persecution (1928).
Patron of Immigrants
Canonization date: May 21, 2000 by Pope John Paul II.
Prayer: My Father, you who listen to me and that you like us to ask you for favors; as your children and souls in need, through the intercession of Santo Toribio Romo, your beloved servant, shower your graces on me. Help me to be simple and humble of heart to know how to adore you as he did; who gave his life “Loving God above all things” I want to give you the best of me without any condition; and just as Santo Toribio was faithful to You, until martyrdom, I also offer you my fidelity, my jobs, my sacrifices and my prayers, to praise and bless you tirelessly. Grant me this special favor that I ask of you today, if it is within your divine plan: (make the request) Give me what you think I need and let it be for my salvation; I ask you with great faith, with great humility and with great hope. So be it. Holy Toribio, pray for us! Pray three Our Fathers, three Hail Marys and three Glories. Make the prayer and prayers for three consecutive days.
He was born in Santa Ana de Guadalupe, a ranchería (currently with 390 inhabitants) that belongs to the municipality of Jalostotitlán, in the area of ​​Los Altos de Jalisco, on April 16, 1900. He was the son of Patricio Romo Pérez and Juana González Romo, who took him to be baptized the day after his birth in the parish of the Virgen de la Asunción.
Like all children, he attended the parochial school of his town and at the age of twelve, on the advice of his sister and with the support of his parents, he entered the Auxiliary Seminary of San Juan de los Lagos. María, in addition to being a sister, was a zealous promoter of Toribio's education. Her parents opposed her studying, because she was a support in the tasks of the field. "Quica", as María was familiarly called by her closest relatives, even contributed to instilling in him his vocation and was the one who accompanied him to all his destinations to help him.
After eight years he went to the Guadalajara Seminary. at 21 years of age he had to request a dispensation of age from the Holy See before proceeding to receive the priestly order. Archbishop Francisco Orozco y Jiménez conferred the diaconate on him on September 22, 1922, and on December 23 of the same year he administered priestly ordination. He rendered his ministerial services in Sayula, Tuxpan, Yahualica and Cuquío. In the parish of this last destination he met the priest Justino Orona, a kind father who offered him his friendship.
Callista persecution against the Catholic Church inflamed the spirits of the inhabitants of Cuquío and on November 9, 1926, more than three hundred men took up arms to repel the oppression of the Government, which persecuted to death the parish priest and the priests, who went to jump of kills fleeing from one place to another, waiting for death from one moment to another. Father Toribio wrote in his diary: ..."I ask the true God to order this time of persecution to change. See that not even the Mass can we celebrate your Christs; get us out of this ordeal, to live as priests without celebrating the Holy Mass. However, how sweet it is to be persecuted by justice. God has allowed a storm of harsh persecutions to come upon my sinful soul. Blessed be He. To date, June 24, ten times I have had to flee hiding from the pursuers, some outings have lasted fifteen days, another eight... some have kept me buried for up to four long days in a narrow and stinking cave; others have made me spend eight days on the top of the mountains at the full will of the elements; to sun, water and serene. The storm that has wet us, has had the pleasure of seeing another one that comes to not let us dry, and so on until the ten days are wet..."
His great love for the Eucharist made him repeat this prayer frequently: Lord, forgive me if I am daring, but please grant me this favor: do not leave me a day of my life without saying Mass, without embracing you in Communion. Give me a great hunger for You, a thirst to receive You that torments me all day until I have drunk of that water that springs up to Eternal Life, from the blessed rock of your wounded side. My Good Jesus! I beg you to allow me to die without stopping saying Mass for a single day.
In September of 1927, Father Toribio had to retire and from the hill of Cristo Rey he cried sadly because he had to leave the town, say goodbye to his beloved parish priest; because the superiors ordered him to take charge of the parish of Tequila, Jalisco, which was not an appetizing mission since the municipality was then one of the places where the civil and military authorities most persecuted priests.
He was not intimidated by it and located an old tequila factory that was abandoned near the Agua Caliente ranch, he used it as a refuge and a place to continue celebrating masses.; he sensed that his inevitable death would be there, and he said: "Tequila, you give me a tomb, I give you my heart."
Due to the serious dangers, Father Toribio could not live in the parish of Tequila, and he stayed in the Agua Caliete ravine in the house of Mr. León Aguirre. In December 1927, Toribio's younger brother was ordained a priest and also sent to Tequila as cooperating vicar; A few days later, his sister, Maria, also arrived to attend to them and help them.
Father Toribio had offered his blood for the peace of the Church and soon the Lord accepted the offer. On Ash Wednesday, February 22, Father Toribio asked Father Román (his brother) to hear him in sacramental confession and give him a long blessing; Before leaving, he gave her a letter instructing her not to open it without an express order. He also spent Thursdays and Fridays arranging parish affairs to bring everything up to date. At 4 in the morning on Saturday the 25th he finished writing, lay down on his poor otate bed and fell asleep.
Suddenly a troop made up of federal soldiers and agrarians, notified by an informer, besieged the place, jumped over the fences and took the rooms of Mr. León Aguirre, in charge of the farm and an agrarian, shouting: "This is the priest, kill him!" His father and sister woke up to the scream and he answered scared: "Yes I am... but don't kill me"... They didn't let him say more and they shot him; With hesitant steps and dripping blood he went towards the door of the room, but a new discharge knocked him down. Her sister Maria de Ella took him in her arms and shouted in his ear: "Courage, Father Toribio... Merciful Jesus, receive him! And long live Christ the King!" Father Toribio gave him a look with his clear eyes and he died.
When her brother was already dead, they tied her back to back with the corpse, while they assembled a stretcher of branches to transport the body of Father Toribio.
The executioners stripped him of his clothes and looted the house and then took his sister María prisoner on foot to the town of "La Quemada", without allowing him to bury his brother, but before they had passed in front of the municipal presidency with the body of the Martyr Toribio on the improvised stretcher with sticks that some neighbors were carrying, but there, the soldiers who, in addition, were whistling and singing obscenities while the others prayed.
María, already freed from her brief imprisonment, barefoot, as she was, traveled on foot to Guadalajara, to her parents' house, to isolate herself from hatred, take shelter in paternal love and mourn with her family the loss of her "dear child" .
The Plascencia family got permission to hold a vigil at his house and the next day, Sunday, February 26, with many people praying and crying, they buried him in the municipal pantheon.
After a few days his brother, Father Román, obediently opened the letter in Guadalajara, finding that it was Father Toribio's testament and read its contents: "Father Román, I entrust our elderly parents with much, do everything you can to avoid suffering. I also entrust to you our sister Quica, who has been a true mother to us... I entrust all of them to you. Apply two masses that I owe for the Souls in Purgatory, and pay three pesos fifty cents that I owed to Mr. priest of Yahualica..."
Father Toribio died as a martyr for the Christian faith on February 25, 1928. Twenty years after his sacrifice, the remains of the martyr Toribio Romo returned to their place of origin, and were deposited in the chapel built by him, in Jalostotitlán. On November 22, 1992 he was beatified, and on May 21, 2000 he was canonized along with 24 companions.
niece of Santo Toribio
It is still possible to rescue the historical memory of our Holy Martyrs, since witnesses, relatives and people who had personal contact with them or with a direct relative survive. Such is the case of Margarita Romo Enríquez, Santo Toribio's sexual niece. Daughter of Francisco Romo, brother of the saint and resident of the traditional neighborhood of Santa Teresita, -a place intimately related to the life of the Romo-, she has a lot to say about Santo Toribio. At 73 years old, her figure is upright; with white skin and blue eyes, like those of many beautiful people from Los Altos, her friendly, serene face and great lucidity in her speech, discover in her the enviable maturity and satisfaction that duty leaves compliment.
From her father, Francisco, and her aunt María, "Quica" for the people closest to her, she keeps fresh in her memory the words, expressions and anecdotes she heard them say.
Margarita relates that since he was a child, Toribio began to show traits of his vocation:
«On one occasion, there in Santa Ana de Guadalupe, Jalisco, where the saint, `Quica´ and his sister Hipólita, who was affectionately called `Pola´, were born. , they were making an alb under a mesquite, for the Cantamisa of Father Juan Pérez, who was going to celebrate there.
Little Toribio, four or five years old, was hanging around the place; reaching them he touched the dawn and asked Quica: -What are you doing?... -A dawn for the father. -`Will I wear one of these one day?... Pola turned around and said: `The honey was not made for the donkeys' snouts.' Quica, as if rebuking his sister, replied to Toribio: `Yes, the honey was not made for the donkeys' snouts, but you will wear one of these', to the admiration of the little boy and `Pola' herself». .. These words proved prophetic.
Doña Margarita smiles as she remembers the pranks of her uncle, today a saint: «Both Toribio and his brother Román were very mischievous when they were little. On one occasion, Toribio asked his brother-in-law Luis to lend himself to a prank; the latter would pretend to be dead and Toribio would be the one to make the announcement. Of course the joke was heavy; caused uproar, mourning and shock in those who were there. The farce lasted until they stuck a lit cigarette in the "deceased's" mouth. It is understood that everything ended there, not without serious claims for the two pranksters.
"He was a particularly devoted and hard-working child - abounds -. In addition to attending school in Jalostotitlán, he spent his time running errands: he delivered tortillas to the houses, delivered the clothes they were spinning, but he also went early to the parish to fulfill his duties as an acolyte. He was often seen visiting the Blessed Sacrament and it was surprising to see him very dedicated to prayer since he was a child. He himself invited other youngsters, children, to the recitation of the Rosary on the banks of the river». Many memories suddenly crowd Margarita's mind and heart, and her eyes are flushed with emotion.
He completed his preparation for the priesthood in Guadalajara, at the San José Seminary, where he spent the month of October 1920. There he distinguished himself not only for being a good student, but for other merits as well as for being very playful and cheerful. That is why his companions gave him the alias "El Chirlo". There is a very special anecdote in the life of Father Toribio:
Since he was a seminarian, he had worked hard to build a little chapel in his native ranch, and it was remarkable that, on January 5, 1923, practically a few hours before his Cantamisa, the last vault that was missing in said building was closed, which allowed him to say his first mass with great devotion, in the company of his family and friends.
His initial destination was Sayula, Jal., but people there, in general, did not understand him, causing him many difficulties, to the point that the ecclesiastical hierarchy had to move him to the parish of Tuxpan, Jal., a town that is located practically at the foot of the Colima Volcano and whose inhabitants treated him with true affection.
Little by little they changed him again, but now to Yahualica, Jal., a region totally different from the previous one, but with “alteños airs” and very close to his birthplace. Perhaps that gave him a lot of energy to work in his apostolate but, as a paradox, they stopped him there, prohibiting him from praying the rosary in public and celebrating mass, which led him to the archbishopric to clarify things.
The result was a new change, now to Cuquío, Jal., which had as parish priest Justino Orona Madrigal (now Holy Martyr). In him he found a kind father who knew how to understand him and support him in his enthusiasm to carry out pastoral work. Callista persecution reached Cuquío inflaming the spirits of the inhabitants, of whom it is said that "Christians fell at night and Cristero woke up."
In December 1927, the deacon Román Romo González, the younger brother of Father Toribio, was ordained a priest. He was also assigned to Tequila, Jal., as cooperating vicar and the ministerial work was shared between the two brothers, and a few days later his sister also arrived. María, to assist them with housework and help with catechism.
Francisco and Toribio were always very brotherly, -explains Margarita-; They were practically close throughout their lives.
«In the vicinity of Tequila, my uncle Toribio and my father were hiding, `salto de mata´. They were being followed by the 'guachos', as they called the federals, and they couldn't find a place to go, because the terrain there was more or less even. Then they discovered a Ferris wheel and went into the water. There, among the weeds and reeds that grew abundantly on the inner edges, they managed to circumvent the inspection; they remained hidden there all night and the following day. They took care of each other, nodding off with sleep and weakness from excessive fatigue.
The seventh day of the week is the most used by the faithful to visit the temple where the remains of Santo Toribio are venerated. They come from various parts of Jalisco, Zacatecas and Aguascalientes, although some from Tabasco, Sinaloa and Michoacán have also arrived.
1.-In the improvised parking lot, cars with American license plates, but Mexican owners, can be seen. In one of them travels Otilio, a dark young man who wears cowboy boots and a Texan hat. He comes from Nevada to see the saint, who helped him cross the border a little over a year ago.
"A friend and I left Jalos with the intention of working on the other side, but being close to the border they robbed us and beat us. They took all our money and we were heartbroken," says Otilio, opening his eyes as if he could see again what happened that night. "We didn't have enough to pay the pollero or to return home. Suddenly, a car stopped next to us and a priest invited us to get in. We told him about our situation and he told us not to worry, that he would help us." to cross the border. And that's what he did. We don't know how, but he passed us by a lonely path. When we realized it, we were already in the United States. When we got off he gave us money and told us to look for work in a nearby factory, that there They were going to hire us."
Otilio's voice still cracks with emotion as he narrates that, extremely grateful, they asked the priest for his address so they could pay him the loan with his first salary.
"He told us: 'You're from Jalisco, right? When you earn enough, go to Santa Ana and ask for Toribio Romo. That's my name.' He mentioned us. A few months later we came to Santa Ana. When we entered the church and saw the portrait on the altar, we later identified him as the father who helped us. When we asked about him, they told us that he had died 70 years ago. cry and gave our testimony". Since then, he visits at least once a year the temple of whom he has become his protector.
2.- Jesús Buendía Gaytán, a 45-year-old peasant from Zacatecas, says that two decades ago he decided to go to California as an undocumented immigrant to look for work on a plantation. He got in touch with a "pollero" in Mexicali, but as soon as they crossed the border, they were discovered by the border patrol and Jesús went into the desert to escape.
After walking for several days through desolate paths and more dead than alive from heat and thirst, he saw a truck approaching. An individual with a youthful appearance, thin, white complexion and blue eyes got out of it, who in perfect Spanish offered him water and food. He told her not to worry because he would tell her where they requested pawns. He also lent her a few dollars for incidentals. By way of farewell, the Good Samaritan told him: "When you have money and work, look for me in Jalostotitlán, Jalisco, ask for Toribio Romo."
After a season in California, Jesús returned and wanted to visit Toribio. In Jalostotitlán they sent him to the Santa Ana ranch, about 10 kilometers from the town. “There I asked for Toribio Romo and they told me that he was in the temple. He almost gave me a heart attack when I saw my friend's picture on the main altar. It was the priest Toribio Romo, assassinated during the cristero war. Since then I entrust myself to him every time I go to the United States to work.”
Little by little, the faithful were carrying the relics that they had guarded with zeal and those that remained in the coffin when they exhumed him: the clothes that Toribio wore when he was killed, his scapular, his Bible and carefully kept drops of his blood in cotton tassels.
From that moment he began to be worshiped in his church and in Tequila. Almost immediately miracles began to be attributed to her through his intercession. Father Toribio's brother, Ramón Romo, also a priest, and other relatives were in charge of compiling testimonies in small notebooks that they treasured for decades in the hope that they would serve to canonize him.
Despite numerous miracles, the canonization process took years, due to the complexity of the process.
According to the Second Vatican Council, "the disciples of Christ who can be sanctified have been called not according to their works, but according to the design and grace of God." For the same reason, the investigations have to be very precise. Each process of investigation or collection of evidence must be carried out by the bishop, with the prior permission of the Holy See. They have the right to investigate life, virtues, martyrdom, fame of holiness and miracles.
To do this, first unpublished documents or writings are collected and witnesses are questioned. Then the examination of the attributed miracles and that of the virtues and martyrdom is elaborated. The investigations are sent in duplicate to the Commission, together with a copy of the books of each Servant of God, so that an account of the judgment can be carried out and sent to the Vatican, where they proceed to the same investigation again.
Surveys carried out in recent months by the Mexican Episcopate Conference revealed that Toribio is one of the most popular saints, of the 29 Mexicans canonized so far, thanks to the favors he grants to those who emigrate legally or illegally to the United States.

Author: Luis Alfonso Orozco
Source: Book "Wood of Heroes"

One of the currently best known Mexican saints in the country and also in the United States. He is popularly known as the Patron of the Wet.
Father Toribio Romo González is one of the currently best-known Mexican saints in the country and also in the United States. He is popularly known as the Patron Saint of the Wet, that is, of the Mexican workers who spend time in the United States in search of family support. Many of them today entrust themselves to his protection and are not disappointed.
Some weekends, the town of Santa Ana Guadalupe, which has 300 inhabitants, in the region of Los Altos de Jalisco, contemplates the arrival of more than 50 buses full of pilgrims from various parts of the country, who go to pray before the tomb of Saint Toribio Romo, to ask him for favors or also to thank him for his protection during a difficult time while they were working as day laborers in the neighboring northern country. At the entrance to the town stands a monumental arch made of pink stone, erected in 2000, the year of his canonization, by a group of grateful Zacatecas braceros who recognize him as their protector.
Some unique cases are counted. Among them, that of Mr. Jesús Buendía, a 45-year-old peasant from Zacatecas, who in the 1980s decided to move to California as an undocumented person in search of employment on an agricultural plantation. A “pollero” in Mexicali made him cross the border, but they were discovered by the surveillance patrol and that man abandoned him to his fate. Buendía went into the desert to escape from the guard.
After walking for several days through desolate paths, and fainting from heat and thirst, he saw a truck approaching. A thin young man with white skin and blue eyes got out of it, who in perfect Spanish offered him water and food. He told her not to worry because he would tell her where they requested pawns. He also left her a few dollars as help.
By way of farewell, that good Samaritan from the desert told him:
- When you have money and work, if you return to Mexico look for me in Jalostotitlán, Jalisco. Ask for Toribio Romo.
After a few years in California, Jesús Buendía returned to Mexico and wanted to thank Toribio for his important help on that dramatic occasion. He went to Jalostotitlán and from there they sent him to Santa Ana Guadalupe, about 10 kilometers from the town.
“There I asked for Toribio Romo and they told me that he was in the temple. I almost had a heart attack when I saw the photograph of my friend and protector on the main altar. I learned that it was the priest Toribio Romo, killed during the Cristero War. Since then I entrust myself to him every time I go to the United States to work.”

Priest at the age of 23
It arouses interest to know why this saint from Jalisco, who died at the age of 27, has become the protector of the workers who emigrate to the great country of the north in search of better means of subsistence. God knows, surely. There are some details of his biography that suggest his concern, from a very young age, to improve the situation of the workers and their social and moral progress. Perhaps for having experienced in his own flesh since he was a child the harsh conditions of poverty and work, since Toribio as a child helped as a shepherd to collaborate in the family sustenance. In addition, there is the fact of being born in a land of emigrants, who know the hardships that are spent far from loved ones.
The main data of the life and martyrdom of this holy priest are well known31. Father Toribio had not yet turned 27 years old when he was assassinated by a group of government soldiers and agrarian peasants, opposed to the Cristeros, in the place where there was a tequila factory in Agua Caliente, Jalisco. He had been a priest for only four years, since he had been ordained very young, shortly before his 23rd birthday.
From the heights of Jalisco
Toribio was the son of Patricio Romo and Juana González, two simple peasants from the Santa Ana de Guadalupe ranch, belonging to the Jalostotitlán parish, where he was born on April 16, 1900. The day after his birth he was baptized by the parish priest D. Miguel Romo. At the age of seven he received his First Communion. Toribio grew up and was educated in a Christian family, in a simple and fervent town that used to perform nocturnal Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament and lived a filial devotion to the Blessed Virgin of Guadalupe; It was a deep-rooted custom in all homes to pray the rosary in honor of the Blessed Virgin, every night upon returning from days in the fields, generally after dinner and before going to restful sleep.
Since he was a child, he was very close in a special way to his older sister María, “Quica”, who acted as a second mother and instilled in him a great love for the Blessed Virgin. He was also very close to Román, his younger brother, who also became a priest and lived like him the hardships of persecution against the Church and its ministers. From an early age, Fr. Toribio expressed his desire to go to heaven, and he often spoke of it with joy and hope. One night, contemplating the sky studded with bright stars, he said to his sister:
—Quica, I think that the sky is at the top of the “Mesita”. How I wish to go there! (On that small summit a chapel was built years later).
sensitive to the needs of the poor
Toribio spent his childhood as a shepherd. He was a simple, jovial boy, accustomed to austerity, and very perceptive of the needs of others. From a young age he also showed his inclination for the priesthood, since he served as an acolyte or altar boy in his parish and was distinguished by his piety and attention when helping the priest at Holy Mass.
At the age of 13, his dream of starting a priestly career came true. He first entered the Seminary of San Juan de los Lagos, a city where he also joined Catholic Action, and since then he has shown a special sensitivity for the social and trade union problems of workers and their families, whose existence passed between marginalization and poverty.
He was very interested in the education of children. As a seminarian, the young Toribio was very dedicated to prayer, attended Holy Mass, took communion daily and made frequent visits to the Blessed Sacrament during the day. Every day he prayed the rosary in honor of the Mother of God. When he turned 20, he went to the Guadalajara seminary to continue and complete his priestly studies.
Finally, the year of his ordination arrived, in which he was able to culminate all his efforts and hardships that seemed very little to him in the face of the great gift that God gave him: to be a priest of Jesus Christ. He was very aware of those words of Jesus: “You have not chosen Me, but I have chosen you”. Father Toribio received the diaconate on September 3, 1922, and on December 23 of the same year he was ordained a priest. In his diary he wrote down his purposes and resolutions upon receiving holy orders. There is the consecration that he made of his priestly commitment to the Heart of Jesus:
“To you, Divine Heart of Jesus, to you Azucena del Tepeyac, my adored Mother and my only sovereign, to you most chaste Saint Joseph, I consecrate today and forever the vow of my perpetual chastity. Help me and lead me by the hand along this path.”
He sang his First Mass in a solemn way in Santa Ana, on January 5, 1923, in the temple dedicated to the Virgin of Guadalupe, whose foundations he himself had begun, while still a seminarian, and where one day his mortal remains would rest. . His four years as a priest were spent in various rural parishes, where he stood out for the zeal with which he worked in his priestly ministry during the years of persecution, especially caring for children and workers, who lived in harsh conditions of poverty and marginalization.
Father Toribio showed great love for the Eucharist, aware that it contains all the grace and strength of the priest for his ministry and to face the hardest trials such as martyrdom. I used to pray before Jesus Christ in the Blessed Sacrament:
“Lord, forgive me if I am daring, but I beg you to grant me this favor: do not leave me a day of my life without saying mass, without embracing you in communion... give me a lot of hunger for you , a thirst to receive you that torments me all day until I have drunk of that water that springs up to eternal life, from the blessed rock of your wounded side.
vocation to martyrdom
In September 1927, when the Cristero War was at its peak, the Archbishop of Guadalajara, Francisco Orozco y Jiménez, gave him the order to take charge of the Tequila parish, which was then one of the places where the civil authorities and The military hated the priests more. Another priest had refused to go to the town of Tequila for this reason. Father Toribio, meekly obeying his prelate and overcoming the natural fear that the new mission inspired in him, prepared to go there after receiving the blessing of his bishop to fulfill a mandate that would also lead to martyrdom. .
In God's plans there are no coincidences. It is rather his holy Providence, which allows things and events for our spiritual good, even if we are slow to realize it. God had also chosen Father Toribio for the martyrdom vocation. He wanted his priestly blood to serve for reconciliation and for the good of the persecuted Church in Mexico, to shed abundant fruits of forgiveness and conversion in many souls.
During his years as a seminarian, Toribio had suffered many material limitations, such as lacking the necessary clothing, food, and books to complete his studies; his family was so poor that he could barely afford it. However, he was never heard to complain, but he fully trusted divine providence. He simply practiced the virtue of Christian fortitude and resignation in the midst of difficulties. He patiently suffered the ridicule and heavy jokes of some colleagues in the seminary, but that never made him stray in the slightest from his path, because he was very clear that God was calling him to the priesthood.
Later, in Tequila, with the appointment of head of the parish, he exercised his ministry especially in the administration of the sacraments, but without abandoning catechesis and the preparation of children for their First Communion. He carried out his ministry in Tequila in a heroic way, since Fr. Toribio knew that he could be assassinated, and yet he faced danger in order to assist the sick who requested it. In the towns where Saint Toribio Romo fulfilled his priestly ministry, the faithful always saw in him a selfless and apostolic priest; a pastor who loved the local people and tried to lead them to Christ.
Previously, in the first years of his ministry, he was in various towns in his native state: Sayula, then in Tuxpan and a little later in Yahualica, where he was ordered to seclude himself in his house and was prohibited from publicly praying the rosary and celebrating mass. It was a painful trial that God allowed and that Father Toribio carried with resignation and patience. Thus his spirit was tempered for the supreme sacrifice that awaited him.
Later he was assigned to Cuquío, another town in Jalisco, where he found a holy parish priest, the future martyr Fr. Justino Orona. In the hardest part of the persecution against the Church and its ministers, the two good priests spent extremely eventful months, always jumping from the bush and expecting death at the hands of the persecutors from one moment to the next. The joviality of Father Toribio allowed him to be always happy and seeking each day a greater intensity of spirit and constant prayer for the Church and the country.
to goat meat
Fr. Justino Orona, parish priest of Cuquío, had been a priest since 1904 and was sacrificed by his enemies on July 1, 1928 in a ranch near Cuquío35. It was early in the morning of that beginning of July when the soldiers arrived at the “Las Cruces” ranch and broke down the door of the room where Fr. Orona was, with his vicar, Fr. Atilano Cruz, also a martyr.
- Look who was around here... two priests, two big fish! How quiet they were! P'a out, bastards. Pray they will see what is good!..
With loud laughter and insults, the soldiers put a rope around Father Orona's neck and at the head of the saddle: they dragged him out of the ranch with their horses. His body was materially smashed against the rocks, bushes and thorns on the road. They put the bleeding remains of Father Orona in a sack and then they shot Father Vicar Atilano Cruz, in a remote area of ​​the town. All this happened at dawn to hide his misdeeds behind the shadows.
Then they went to Cuquío carrying the corpses of both martyred priests on two donkeys. Herding the animals, the soldiers reached the town square. They dismounted the bleeding corpses from the mounts and threw them like sacks onto the hard cobblestones. While the people left their houses to do the shopping or go to work, the soldiers began to shout like hell: “To the meat of the goat”, thus making fun of the priests who have just been assassinated.
With great consternation, with tears and impotence in their believing hearts, the good neighbors of Cuquío contemplated that terrible holocaust of their shepherds and the satanic mockery of the executioners. Finally, they withdrew and then they were able to recover both bodies to give them a Christian burial in the cemetery.
In the Tequila ravine
But a few months before these sad events, in September 1927, Fr. Toribio had already gone to the town of Tequila, where shortly after he was forced to hide in a distilling factory for this famous liquor that there was in a nearby ranch, sheltered by its owners. The Tequila parish house had been converted into a stable by the garrison soldiers. Otherwise, the town was not a safe place for him or for any priest.
From his hiding place in the ravine, the good priest gave himself no rest; He founded several clandestine catechetical centers for children, he visited the Catholics in their ranches, asking about their situation, and at night he entered the town, visited the sick in his parish and celebrated the Eucharist in a hidden way in the houses. In all these adventures he was assisted and cared for with motherly love by his older sister, Maria, who in everything shared the hardships and sacrifices of her priest brother.
That ravine, scene of his martyrdom, also witnessed the pastoral action of Saint Toribio Romo, because there he baptized hundreds of children, married many couples and gave talks of religious and moral instruction to the inhabitants of the place, who they watched over and protected when federal soldiers roamed.
In the various towns where Saint Toribio was, the faithful saw in him a selfless and apostolic priest, who was interested in his problems and tried to bring them closer to Christ. As he had to live his priesthood during the harsh test of persecution, for love of the souls entrusted to him, he accepted the greatest sacrifices and never stopped caring for them spiritually.
A witness tells of those heroic years:
“On the day of Christ the King of the year 1927, some fifteen thousand faithful gathered in the town who attended Mass on an open hill and swore before the exposed Blessed Sacrament to defend the faith, even at the cost of their own lives. The mountain shook with the cries of ¡Viva Cristo Rey! Long live the Blessed Virgin of Guadalupe!”
Witnesses who knew him speak of him giving a list of qualities and virtues that make him equal to the other martyrs that the Church has engendered in its twenty centuries of history: strong spirit of charity, passion for the Church, love for the Eucharist ( Above all, this was seen in his way of celebrating Mass) and to the Virgin of Guadalupe, apostolic zeal, love for workers and children. Likewise, he stood out for his poverty of life and austerity. He lived in a fully cristero zone and yet, even understanding his motivations and his pain, he kept himself apart from any armed struggle. He was a priest and consecrated himself to exercise his spiritual ministry for the good of all.
The federal government, seeing that it could not break the resistance of the Catholics, used the technique of "reconcentration" of the rural population in order to cut off supplies to the Cristeros. This did nothing but increase the suffering and suffering of the poor people in Los Altos, who were forced to abandon their poor ranches and villages to concentrate in large towns or in cities like León, in conditions of extreme poverty. Father Toribio suffered dearly when he learned of all that the peaceful settlers suffered at the hands of the federal army and the agrarians. Perhaps for this reason he has become a special protector, from heaven, of migrants and workers who suffer poverty and forced removal from their homes.
forced emigration
All wars have dragged the ghosts of hunger, disease and forced population displacement to save life. In those hard years in which the mettle of the heroic Catholic people was tested, the emigration of thousands of Mexicans to the big cities or to the United States grew enormously, constituting a serious social problem. People left their towns or villages carrying their few material possessions, often having to wait several days and nights at stations to board a train or bus bound for the big cities where they could rebuild their lives.
It was the time when cities such as León and Guadalajara registered a considerable increase in population, mainly from the Altos de Jalisco region, which was the area most affected by the forced reconcentrations planned by the federal army, under the command of Joaquín Amaro , in his attempt to tighten the siege against the Cristeros.
Motor or animal-drawn vehicles left behind the poor ranches and towns teeming with people with their humble household goods, their little farm animals and what they could carry with them; many women with their children in their arms had no choice but to travel on their feet for up to twelve or fourteen hours in the trucks. It is estimated that the exodus to the interior of the country reached more than 200,000 people, while another 400,000 crossed the US borders.
The day of his martyrdom came
In Tequila, Fr. Toribio was accompanied by his older sister María, Quica; then for seasons of his younger brother Román, also a priest, who came to help him. Several times both brother priests had to hide, because the persecutors were continually looking for victims, and their favorites were precisely the parish priests and priests from rural areas, whom the federal government slandered with the lie of being the instigators of the Cristeros. From Fr. Toribio's own diary one can read this testimony:
"I have had to hide for whole days, sometimes in stinking caves, sometimes on the top of a mountain."
His enemies sought him out with rage and criminal hatred. On Friday February 24, 1928 he spent the day away from it and on Saturday the 25th he wanted to celebrate Mass at four in the morning, but he fell asleep. He went to rest for a while, dressed as he was and fell asleep. The soldiers discovered him in his hiding place on January 25, 1928, but for this there was a Judas who had already betrayed him in exchange for a few coins.
At five in the morning, following the instructions of the traitorous Judas who denounced him, they stealthily descended the ravine and entered the room of Mr. León Aguirre, who was in charge of taking care of the farm39. But upon opening the door, one of the agrarians exclaimed: "This is not the priest." Next they found the door of the room where Father Toribio slept, and one of the henchmen took away the arm that covered his face and shouted:
- This is the priest. kill him!
Very surprised, Father Toribio woke up, barely having time to realize what was happening and say:
- Yes, I am, but don't kill me...
He couldn't finish the sentence. The soldiers and agrarians immediately riddled him with bullets, shouting “Death to the priest!” With hesitant steps, Father Toribio walked towards the door and a second shock made him fall into the arms of his sister María de he who was with him at the house at that moment.
“Courage, father Toribio...! Merciful Jesus, receive him...! Live Christ the King!"
They were the words that his heroic sister shouted before the assassins. The soldiers took out the corpse of the martyred priest, while between mockery and with coarse words they mortified poor Maria, who at that time was also living a moral martyrdom in her own soul. The residents of the ranch, mortified by the great pain of seeing their holy shepherd assassinated, improvised a humble stretcher with sticks and branches and thus climbed the ravine, with the body of the martyred priest, towards the town of Tequila, in the middle of the troop of soldiers who sang vulgar songs and whistled.
The corpse was watering the stony ground of the ravine, the road and the entrance to Tequila with his blood. Behind him was her sister María de Ella praying the rosary, barefoot.
She foresaw her martyrdom
Father Lauro L. Beltrán is of the opinion that Saint Toribio had a premonition of his death:
“On Friday the 24th he celebrated his last mass, with a devotion as great as if it were the first, when he was anointed priest, and as the last, of one who is already with one foot in the grave. All this day he spent like the previous one, in his agony of Gethsemane. At night, overwhelmed with forebodings, he wanted to sleep, but he couldn't sleep. At about three in the morning on Saturday the 25th, the day of his martyrdom, he told his sister to prepare everything for the celebration of Holy Mass. With the candles lit, around four in the morning, he put on his cassock and entered the Oratory. But he told his sister that his dream ruled him. He took off his cassock and, thus dressed, lay down on the bed, where he spent the last minutes of his life, because the federals had arrived at the ravine and were looking for him with relentless and foolish hatred to victimize him. If they had found him officiating the holy mass there could have been a profanation, a sacrilege. Did she sense it? She offered only her own sacrifice…she fell asleep on earth and woke up in heaven.”40
We shouldn't cry... he's already in heaven!
Most worthy, sister of the martyred priest, in everything it was María, Quica, who acted as a second mother to him and also Román, his younger brother, his priest. Upon reaching the town of Tequila, the soldiers and agrarians, making a great uproar, threw the body in the plaza, in front of the municipal presidency, as if it were an animal hunted in the bush. And they took her sister under arrest, on foot, to the soldiers' barracks in La Quemada. To bid farewell to her martyred brother, Maria knelt by her corpse and said a prayer. She soaked the shawl with her blood and on her forehead she gave him the last kiss.
Meanwhile, the townspeople claimed his body, but the military and the clerophobes prevented them; Finally, in the afternoon, with great difficulty, a neighbor of the town, after a violent discussion, obtained permission to remove the body and take it to his house, where they shrouded it to watch over it and prepare it for burial. People started arriving. The rosaries followed one after another; people prayed on their knees, watching over the body of the martyr. Many took cotton balls and dipped them in the blood, which still flowed from their wounds, to keep them as a relic. For two days that blood remained fresh and odourless.
On Sunday, February 26, in an imposing procession in the afternoon, the entire town led the corpse of the martyred priest to the cemetery, carrying it triumphantly on their shoulders. It was the popular canonization of him.
Finally, after three days of hunger, thirst, teasing and insomnia and with the pain of not having been able to accompany her brother to the funeral, María was freed by those unworthy men who do not deserve the title of soldiers. She was wearing, poor her, her humble clothes, still stained with her brother's blood, and on her soul the traces of the moral martyrdom to which her executioners also subjected her. She moved to Guadalajara, where her relatives received her with a big hug, between abundant tears and with all the love that she deserved. Although emaciated and weak, Maria knew how to comfort her family with these admirable words from a woman of faith:
“We must not cry: Father Toribio is already in heaven! Let us thank God because he granted him the palm of martyrdom, which he wanted to suffer for the triumph of the Church.”
Santa Ana de Guadalupe
On the ruins of the humble house where Saint Toribio Romo was born, today stands a hermitage consecrated to the Holy Family. At the top of La Mesita there is also a chapel, to look more closely at the sky and to remind the faithful that one gets there after fulfilling God's will on this earth and loving others for love of Christ.
Due to the Guadalupan fervor of Father Toribio and its inhabitants, the town is today called Santa Ana de Guadalupe, Jalisco.
The heroism of the priests
The priests, for their part, wonderfully imitated and made their own the constancy of the bishops in the midst of the greatest calamities; We propose and praise the egregious examples of virtues that they have given us and from which we have received great consolation before the entire Catholic universe, because they are worthy of it. And in this matter, we think that despite the fact that in Mexico all the artifices have been used, and that all the effort and all the vexations of the adversaries have been directed mainly to this point, that is, so that the Clergy and the people deviate from the sacred hierarchy and from the Apostolic Seda, and that despite all the priests, who exceed four thousand, only one or another has failed in his obligation, there is nothing that we cannot expect from the Mexican Clergy.
For these sacred ministers, closely united among themselves, obeyed reverently and freely the commands of their bishops, although most of the time this could not be done without serious damage to them... they had to endure poverty and need with patience and fortitude. ; they were to celebrate Mass in private; look after the spiritual needs of the faithful to the best of their ability and encourage and maintain the fire of piety in all; and furthermore, with their example, with their advice and exhortations, they tried to lift the minds of the faithful upwards, and confirm the courage to persevere patiently.
Who will wonder that the wrath and rage of the enemies has been directed mainly against the priests? But they, whenever necessary, did not hesitate to endure prison and death itself with a calm face and fortitude.
(Pope Pius XI, "On the very harsh situation of Catholicism in Mexico," in the letter Iniquis afflictisque, November 18, 1926).
This article is part of the book "Wood of Heroes" Semblance of some Mexican heroes of our time, by Luis Alfonso Orozco.
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