Missionary Saints – St. Christopher Magallanes and Companions

Turning our Cheek, Enemies May Be Turned to Friends So All May Be Turned to Christ.

On May 21, the Church remembers Christopher Magallenes and companions, Mexican saints and martyrs who were abducted, tortured, and killed during the Cristero war. Pope John Paul II canonized this group of 25 saints and martyrs who had died in the conflict. These Catholic priests and lay leaders were executed for carrying out their ministry during the persecution and suppression of the Church under the anti-clerical laws of Plutarco Elías Calles in the 1920s and 30s. It is interesting that priests who took up arms, however, were excluded from the beatification process.

Christ who had the power to raise Lazarus did not raise a finger in resistance to those who nailed him to the cross. Stripped naked, whipped, mocked, and crucified, Christ our Lord exercised only the infinite force of Divine mercy from His tree of torture.

The greatest command is to lay down one’s life for a friend. But wouldn’t it seem to be an even greater love to lay down one’s life for an enemy? Christians are to love our enemies and to do good to those who persecute us. If we still consider someone an enemy and die for them, our love is not truly reflective of Christ. We are to love such that our enemies become our friends. No one is to be considered an enemy. St Thomas Aquinas helps us understand that through our will, through a conscience choice born of Divine love, and grown in Grace, we can will to love so as to make an enemy a friend.

Do I love as friends those who insult me, ridicule me, speak falsely against me? Would I lay down my life for them as I would my dearest friend? How can we love others as Christ loves?

There is a very simple first step: celebrating the Sacrament of Reconciliation. When we truly believe with all our heart that God has forgiven us, we see others differently. Simultaneously aware of our own sinfulness and God’s great mercy, we perceive others with greater compassion. The grace of the Sacrament of Reconciliation helps us to forgive those who trespass against us.

Christian missionary witness often takes the form of martyrdom. This highest expression of love does not harbor ill will, even toward those who cause our suffering. Recall Jesus’ words on the cross: “Forgive them Father, for they know not what they do.”

Missionaries always seek to foster union with God and union among persons. In the model of Jesus, all the Baptized are missionaries of mercy, motivated by love not by violence or vengeance. Most of us reading this are not tempted to take up swords against our oppressors, but what about subtle ways we retaliate? We may fire off a terse text. We may ghost someone, ignoring them online and in person. We may embarrass, ridicule, or humiliate someone one who offended us feeling justified thinking they need to be brought down a notch. We may seek the sympathy of others and tell how we have been wronged, spreading division in our community. We may stop talking to a neighbor because of a political sign in their yard or block a high school friend for their social media post. We may feel anger toward those who did not wear masks at Mass or toward those who asked us to wear masks. In all these ways, we would not be following Christ. Like the martyrs of Cristero we are to carry on in humility with charity turning our cheek and turning enemies into friends for whom we would lay down our lives. Then, through the power of the Spirit, our authentic missionary witness may turn souls to Christ.

Saint Christopher Magallanes and Companions, pray for us.