Adorned with churches, religious statues and crosses, Mexico is known for having a large Catholic population. But did you know that last century there was a period of time where a number of Catholics were tortured and even sacrificed their lives for what they believed in? The persecution of Catholics took place during the Cristero War. You can find a good summary of the events here.
What tipped me off to this historical lesson was a walk though Templo el senor del Perdon in Zapotiltic, Jalisco (115km south of Guadalajara). This grandiose church in a city of about 30,000 people has a display honouring Rodrigo Aguilar Aleman, a priest and martyr that was once based in the town.
In a time when it was essentially forbidden to practice Catholicism, he did not waver from his faith. He was able to escape persecution for a short period of time. But soon the government would become aware of his location, soldiers captured him and on Oct. 28, 1927 he was taken to the Plaza de Ejutla, where it was arranged for him to die. Before being hung on a tree, he blessed and pardoned his executioners and even gave one of him his rosary after refusing to renounce his faith.
He received canonization by Holiness John Paul II on May 21, 2000, making him a saint in the eyes of the church.
I was certainly not aware of this story before visiting the church and am interested in learning more. While some details are “hollywood”-ized, I understand the film “For Greater Glory” is a fairly accurate depiction of the time. I might have to download it for the next plane ride…