Today, 23 November, is the feast of Pope St Clement I, bishop of Rome and martyr but there is also an optional memorial of Blessed Miguel Pro, martyr in Mexico.
Very little is known about the life of St Clement (pope from 92-101 AD). According to the oldest list of Roman bishops, he was the third successor to St Peter in Rome.
He is the author of an Epistle to the Corinthians which was written c. 96 AD in the name of the Church of Rome to deal with disturbances in the Church at Corinth. The letter is one of the earliest witnesses to the authority of the Church of Rome and was so highly regarded that it was read publicly at Corinth with the Scriptures in the second century.
St Clement is revered as a martyr: fourth-century accounts speak of his forced labour in the mines during exile to the Crimea in the reign of the emperor Trajan (98-117 AD) and his missionary work there which prompted the Romans to bind him to an anchor and throw him into the Black Sea. Sometime later, the accounts continue, the water receded, revealing a tomb built by angels from which his body was recovered.
The relics of St Clement are reserved beneath the high altar of the basilica of San Clemente in Rome and the painting in this photo hangs in the refectory of the Dominican priory adjoining the basilica.
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Today's possible liturgical memorial of Blessed Miguel Pro, S.J. offers a fitting connection with yesterday's Solemnity of Christ the King and devotion to the Sacred Heart.
The memorable line of Pro's is his last, uttered before he was executed for being a Catholic priest and serving his flock: ¡Viva Cristo Rey! Long live Christ the King!
Blessed Miguel Pro teaches us to serve Christ the King all that we do and remain close to the mercy of God. He wrote:
I believe, O Lord, but strengthen my faith... Heart of Jesus, I love Thee; but increase my love. Heart of Jesus, I trust in Thee; but give greater vigor to my confidence. Heart of Jesus, I give my heart to Thee; but so enclose it in Thee that it may never be separated from Thee. Heart of Jesus, I am all Thine; but take care of my promise so that I may be able to put it in practice even unto the complete sacrifice of my life.
Born into a prosperous, devout family in Guadalupe de Zacatecas, Miguel Pro entered the Jesuits in 1911 but three years later fled to Granada, Spain, because of religious persecution in Mexico. He was ordained in Belgium in 1925.
He immediately returned to Mexico, where he served a Church forced to go “underground.” He celebrated the Eucharist clandestinely and ministered the other sacraments to small groups of Catholics.
He and his brother Roberto were arrested on trumped-up charges of attempting to assassinate Mexico’s president. Roberto was spared but Miguel was sentenced to face a firing squad on November 23, 1927. His funeral became a public demonstration of faith. He was beatified in 1988.
In 1927 when Father Miguel Pro was executed, no one could have predicted that 52 years later the bishop of Rome would visit Mexico, be welcomed by its president and celebrate open-air Masses before thousands of people. Pope John Paul II made additional trips to Mexico in 1990, 1993 and 1999.
Those who outlawed the Catholic Church in Mexico did not count on the deeply rooted faith of its people and the willingness of many of them, like Miguel Pro, to die as martyrs.
During his homily at the beatification Mass, Pope John Paul II said that Father Pro “is a new glory for the beloved Mexican nation, as well as for the Society of Jesus. His life of sacrificing and intrepid apostolate was always inspired by a tireless evangelizing effort. Neither suffering nor serious illness, neither the exhausting ministerial activity, frequently carried out in difficult and dangerous circumstances, could stifle the radiating and contagious joy which he brought to his life for Christ and which nothing could take away (see John 16:22). Indeed, the deepest root of self-sacrificing surrender for the lowly was his passionate love for Jesus Christ and his ardent desire to be conformed to him, even unto death.”
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The Last CONFIRMATIONS at Notre Dame de Lourdes de Cyrville
Following the study of the seven francophone parishes in Vanier, Overbrook and Lower Town, the committee recommended the closing of Notre Dame de Lourdes de Cyrville on Michael Street (to distinguish it from the parish Notre Dame de Lourdes in Vanier (administered by the Montfort Fathers) amid the bustling shopping areas adjacent to the St. Laurent Shopping Centre which is entertaining a proposal to become considerably larger.
The recommendations, which I have in the main accepted and announced, would see the parishioners from the Cyrville church (founded in 1873) invited to, according to where they live, attend St. Gabriel (in Gloucester), St. Louis de Montfort (with which it had been twinned) or St. Sebastien (nearby). Parishioners also have the option of registering in some other parish of their choice.
The parish will have a closing dinner this coming Saturday evening and I will celebrate a Mass of Thanksgiving for the graces of these many years on Sunday, December 13, Gaudete (Rejoicing) Sunday, though the joys remembered may be bittersweet for some. Finally, the last major celebration will be that of Christmas; there will not be regular parish Masses following the Nativity observance.
Last Wednesday, I celebrated Confirmations--the last of this parish--for some 20+ young people who attend Ecole des Pins and Ecole Secondaire Samuel Genest. Here are some photos from that occasion: