Saint of the Month: Salvador Lara Puente and the Martyrs of the Cristero War

Feast: May 21

Although Mexico is now known as a predominantly Catholic country, it experienced a great upheaval involving the Church in the late 1920s that resulted in the Cristero War.

In 1926, President Plutarco Calles issued an executive decree enforcing secularist and anticlerical articles from the 1917 Mexican Constitution. One particular article, Calles Law, limited and suppressed the Catholic Church and its organizations. While resistance to these new laws began peacefully, over time violence and persecution became commonplace.

Public worship was suspended. Priests and religious were forbidden from exercising any type of ministry. Those who were associated with Catholic organizations were deemed enemies of the state. Those who were part of the resistance — those fighting the persecution — were known as Cristeros because they called on the name of Jesus Christ using the cry: “¡Viva Cristo Rey!” (“Long Live Christ the King!”)

Salvador Lara Puente, who was only 21 when he was martyred, began life as a seminarian but was unable to finish his studies because he had to support his family. He lived his faith each and every day. He served in prominent Catholic roles and was an outspoken critic of the persecution. When soldiers arrested him for his Catholic associations, he freely identified himself: “Here I am,” he is reported to have said, and walked with a smile to the place where he and his companions would be shot. They learned of their parish priest’s passing and prayed until the end.

Salvador and 24 other martyrs of the Cristero War were canonized on May 21, 2000, by St. John Paul II. They are remembered individually and as a group. This bloody conflict ended in 1929 with the assistance of American diplomatic efforts and financial and logistical relief from the Knights of Columbus.

By Candace Bryant-Lester | Art by Matt Watte

Author: The Central Minnesota Catholic

The Central Minnesota Catholic is the magazine for the Diocese of St. Cloud.

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