By Mark Smith | Published 13 Dec 2014 in The Madera Tribune | Used with Permission | All rights reserved |
Flurries of rain hours before sunrise didn’t keep the Guadalupanos Society of Madera and others from traditional Mexican songs and prayer Friday, Dec. 12, during the annual celebration of the Virgin of Guadalupe.
More than a thousand Maderans waited inside St. Joachim’s Catholic Church as the Guadalupanos carried a statue of Our Lady of Guadalupe across 4th Street before 5 a.m. as heavy rain continued to fall.
Carlos Rodriguez, the group’s president, said the traditional ceremony served to honor the “Virgen de Guadalupe,” — a title for the Virgin Mary, mother of Jesus Christ — and her “birth” into Mexican culture in 1531 A.D. via an unusual image, one well known across the world as a miracle.
Across four days in December of 1531, Rodriguez said Mary appeared from Heaven to 57-year-old Juan Diego, a widower, farmer and weaver belonging to the native Chichimeca people and the first Roman Catholic saint of the Americas. She allegedly asked him to have a new church quickly built on the outskirts of Mexico City.
As she spoke in his native Nahuatl — aka Aztec — language, Diego became convinced she was truly the mother of Jesus. He spoke to Mexico City’s archbishop Juan de Zumarraga, who asked Diego — a convert to Christianity — for proof of her identity.
On the final day she appeared to Diego, Dec. 12, Mary told him to gather flowers atop the city’s Tepeyac Hill. There he found a swath of Castilian roses in bloom out of season and out of place — the plants are native to Spain, not Mexico.
Mary arranged the roses in Diego’s tilma, a sort of cloak or poncho, before he went to the bishop. When Diego opened his cloak before him, the roses fell to the floor and on his tilma was the image of a pregnant Mary standing on the moon and in front of the sun. Some interpreted this as a sign that her child Jesus was superior to the Aztec moon and sun deities.
After the building of the requested chapel, Diego lived as a hermit in a small hut nearby and shared his story to those who came to see the tilma until his death in 1548.
Rodriguez said recalling that powerful image, as well as the love provided by the Virgin of Guadalupe to her people, was a worldwide tradition and one celebrated in Madera, California, since the Guadalupanos chapter was formed in 1927.
“Friendship, love, and unity is what she gives us,” Rodriguez said. “The whole continent celebrates this date. It’s like being a family. We feel like a family with this. She has a lot to give all of us.”
Once the group entered St. Joachim’s with the statue of Mary upheld, the audience rose to sing many songs such as “Las Mananitas,” a traditional Mexican birthday song, before they prayed for the “blessed mother” and participated in a Catholic mass service.
After that, free breakfast was served to hundreds in Holy Spouse’s Hall across the street from St. Joachim’s, as they celebrated past sunrise with more music and dancing.
Normally, without the heavy rain that spent most of Thursday and Friday drenching the state, the Guadalupanos would walk from Clinton and Tozer streets to St. Joachim’s with the statue of Mary and sang to Madera as its citizens woke.
Because of Friday morning’s stormy weather, however, the group instead carried Mary across 4th street from Holy Spouse’s Hall to St. Joachim’s in a shorter, but powerful procession.
That joined eight previous days of rosary prayer by Guadalupanos members in front of the Catholic church to honor one of their most holy figures, members said, as strongly as the group could each year.
“Every year, whether it’s rain or shine, we celebrate her birthday every single time,” said Adrian Medina, a 20-year-old Guadalupanos member who helped set up the event. “Even with the rain, everything is for our blessed mother, Juan Diego, and for our community to represent who we are.”
For information on the Guadalupanos Society of Madera and the events they hold all year, call 559-647-5200.
By John Rieping | Published 31 Oct 2014 in The Madera Tribune | All rights reserved |
This Saturday, I will start a new “lectio divina” (“reading God”) group from 11 a.m. to noon at St. Marello Bookstore, 211 N. J St., Madera, California, on “Learning to Pray in Scripture.”
All who respect the Bible will be welcome as I (and I hope others) look at how people in the Bible prayed and what we can learn from them about prayer. Contact me about it at my website (wambly.weebly.com).
Viva Cristo Rey
Less than a century ago, my grandfather left Mexico with a price on his head, set by the state of Jalisco. His homeland’s atheistic government wanted to cripple the church and had no pity for one who stubbornly taught his creed and assisted priests.
Yet the United States wouldn’t be entirely welcoming, and he never abandoned Mexico in his heart.
Higinio Lozano first worked as a cook for a railroad line crew in the South. Once, he received a strong dose of poison oak while carrying water to wash the pots and pans. That evening his younger brother Natalio, seeking medicine, walked miles along train tracks to the nearest town.
Natalio arrived at a drugstore cold and wet from a storm. As he scraped off his muddy shoes, someone yelled, “What do you want?! Don’t you get on my floors. You wait out there until I’m ready!”
Natalio waited as a customer loitered. Eventually the pharmacist came to the door and took his order for calamine lotion. A sign in the window explained: “No Negroes, Mexicans, or Dogs Allowed Inside!” The experience soaked in as Natalio made his way back to camp in the dark.
The brothers now spoke often of heading west.
By the late 1920s, they did so. Though lacking strength and agility, Higinio worked in the fields of San Fernando, California. But he applied his mind to his church and community. He volunteered with the Catholic Association for Mexican Youth, and wrote, directed, and performed in religious dramas.
The execution of Rev. Miguel Pro, SJ, in Mexico City on Nov. 23, 1927, inspired one such drama. My grandfather portrayed the priest. A young Maria del Carmen Najar played another role. This led to a relationship, marriage, and my own existence.
But the truth behind that play deserves repeating.
Born in Mexico of a mining engineer, Miguel Pro joined the Jesuit order Aug. 14, 1911, at age 20. Three years later he left his homeland due to its revolution. He fled to Texas and California before studying in Spain, teaching in Nicaragua, and learning theology in Belgium, where he was ordained a priest Aug. 31, 1925.
He wrote: “How can I explain to you the sweet grace of the Holy Spirit, which invades my poor miner’s soul with such heavenly joys? I could not keep back my tears…”
Though he had a serious side, Pro loved quips and pranks. As a seminarian, he’d amuse with tricks, stories, American English slang, and by singing random lines of popular songs.
He ministered first to Belgian miners. But his superiors let him return July 8, 1926, to Mexico, in hopes the food and climate would ease his chronic stomach problems. Despite the nation's deportation of many Catholic priests, no Mexican authorities bothered to check his passport or bags.
Pro created “Eucharistic Stations” throughout Mexico City to secretly distribute Holy Communion to hundreds daily. He aided the sick and poor. He even impersonated a prison guard to pray with prisoners and hear confessions.
He once met policemen guarding a house at which he’d planned to offer Mass. He strode up, opened his vest as if showing a badge, and declared, “There’s a cat bagged here.” Hoodwinked, they saluted and let him in.
Another time, police invaded a home while Pro celebrated Mass. He rushed everyone into other rooms, hid the Eucharist in his suit pocket, and then joined police on their fruitless search for a priest. When Pro left, he told a guard posted at the door he’d have helped longer but he had a date with his girlfriend. He later wrote, “I returned to the place, but, somehow or other, the priest had not yet appeared…”
He would be jailed repeatedly, which aided his prison ministry.
Finally, the Mexican government had enough. A few days after a bomb injured former president Alvaro Obregon, Pro and his brothers were arrested on false charges of attempted assassination. A trial was set for the next day, but morning brought a firing squad.
President Plutarco Calles had requested the execution six months beforehand, and photographers had been hired to document a cowardly death. But instead Pro forgave his guard, prayed, and blessed his executioners. He refused a blindfold and with arms outstretched yelled, “Viva Cristo Rey!” Long live Christ the King.
By John Rieping | Published 18 Jan. 2014 in The Madera Tribune | All rights reserved |
A week and a half ago the mysteries of my genetic programming were tentatively explained to me. For a $99 fee, a California-based genomics company analyzed my DNA.
It estimated my heritage is 67.2 percent European, 18.5 percent Native American, and 1.7 percent African (the remainder is unclear). Delighted, I forgetfully shared only the first two aspects of that result with a co-worker Wednesday.
"Well, that was kind of obvious," he replied. "We already knew what you were."
He had a point. Those who know me well are aware my father immigrated from Germany, and my mother's parents came from Mexico. You don't need a degree in Mexican history to know the nation's population is heavily "mestizo" (a Spanish term for someone of mixed Spanish and Native American descent).
Yet, to me, my ancestral ties to Germany, Mexico, Spain and, unexpectedly, Africa felt a bit more solid now, like tilled adobe clay of a local farmer's field under my feet.
My genes hold more than markers to my family's past, however. Apparently I also am sensitive to alcohol because of a shortfall of proteins to break it down in my bloodstream. So it may be more harmful for me than for others. Fortunately I've never been much of a consumer of the beverage, despite living in wine grape territory.
I'll spare you details on my earwax type, muscle performance, and more. Needless to say, I've been amazed at this glimpse of how much about me had been influenced already at the first moment of my conception. I am reminded of a song lyric of Scripture: “For it was you (God) who formed my inward parts; you knit me together in my mother’s womb…
"My frame was not hidden from you, when I was made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes beheld my 'embryo' (in Hebrew, “golmi” or “golem”). In your book were written all the days that were formed for me, when none of them as yet existed.” (Tehillim/Psalm 139:13, 15-16).
Naturally my parents played a pivotal role in my formation. Some may recall my tale a year ago about their courtship (see http://goo.gl/2ZGACN). Fifty years ago today, Saturday, Jan. 18, they wed in my mother's childhood church, St. Alphonsus of Liguori, on historic palm tree-lined Kearney Boulevard in Fresno.
This (Saturday) afternoon at 1 o'clock, Joseph and Theresa Rieping, their five children, 16 grandchildren, and two great grandchildren will thank God with a Mass at St. Joachim Catholic Church. Anyone reading this who wishes to attend will surely be welcome.
In one of the Scripture passages my father chose for the Mass, the apostle Paul writes, "If God is for us, who can be against us?" (Romans 8:31b)
It is a statement of the obvious that we believers seem to forget in times of uncertainty, pain, or menace. After all, if we believe God is all-knowing, all-powerful, all-good, and loves us, then what do we have to fear? We should always overflow with confidence.
Needless to say, we don't. Most of us falter in it at times, and for some of us insecurity or anxiety is normal. This is partly because we know firsthand how situations can twist against us, despite even our best efforts. We remember or we imagine, and our heart quakes.
Yet Paul went on to write: "Can anything cut us off from the love of Christ -- can hardships or distress, or persecution, or lack of food and clothing, or threats or violence?" (Romans 8:35)
Trusting in God doesn’t mean we’ll never suffer trials, as my parents well know. In marriage, your beloved won’t just be with you amid trouble -- your spouse may sometimes be the source. As my mother once told my father: I will always love you, but right now I just don’t like you.
And there are some marriages, unlike that of my parents, in which it seems evil has the upper hand, or has triumphed. Who of us have not encountered this?
Even so, Paul rightly wrote, "No; we come through all these things victorious, by the power of him who loved us." (Romans 8:37)
How can he say this? Because this is true victory: that "nothing already in existence and nothing still to come ... will be able to come between us and the love of God" (Cf. Romans 8:38-39).
If God is truly as we believe, there is no greater achievement than to have such a lover.
By John Rieping | All rights reserved | Previously published 6/02/12 in The Madera Tribune
Yesterday the movie “For Greater Glory” debuted in U.S. theaters, which include nearby Fresno Stadium 21 and Manchester Mall 16. The film tells the widely forgotten story of Mexican resistance to a nation’s attempt to suppress Catholicism. While it is a tale of heroes, it also features more flawed characters such as a Catholic priest, Rev. Jose Reyes Vega, who fought in the war against the government of Mexico. Of the 4,500 priests in Mexico at the start of its persecution, Vega and one other, Rev. Aristeo Pedroza, became generals and perhaps three others joined the fight.
The church itself wanted a peaceful solution and worked to end the conflict. Moreover, its Code of Canon Law prohibits those who voluntarily murder anyone from being ordained or exercising the ministries of a clergyman. While killing combatants in a just defensive war would not be considered murder, at least one incident of the war may have crossed that line, and it involved a priest.
It would be the worst outrage committed by those who rebelled against Mexico’s persecution of Catholicism — the Cristeros.
On Tuesday, April 16, 1927, Vega led a holdup in the Mexican state of Jalisco. According to the Associated Press days later, Cristeros derailed a train engine and defeated federal soldiers, who according to witnesses fought from inside the passenger cars amid cowering innocents — human shields. Vega’s brother died in the attack, which lasted more than two hours.
Next the rebels seized a shipment of money intended for the Bank of Mexico, robbed passengers of $100,000 in valuables and cash, and ordered non-combatants to exit the train, which was then drenched with fuel and set afire. Unfortunately, not all were able or willing to obey. When Cristeros realized this, they reportedly helped rescue those they could, both the wounded and the dead.
Even so, about 46 soldiers and 50 or so passengers were burnt to death.
Mexico’s government used news of the disaster as “proof” the Catholic Church directly promoted violent fanaticism and that existing anti-religious legislation was justified. Support for the Cristeros weakened. All Catholic bishops were expelled from Mexico.
Now I could easily list government cruelties against Catholics in Mexico during this era, such as a priest who died after soldiers cut off his hands on Oct. 29, 1927, “to prevent him from ever again saying Mass.” Thousands were martyred for their faith in God.
But by reciting such injustices I fear I might downplay a genuine tragedy. The film “For Greater Glory” is honest enough to show blemishes of the Cristeros, and I think it is important to do so.
We Christians claim to know divinely revealed truths, yet we often fall short of divinity. This should be no surprise to us, because Christianity — like a hospital — exists for the healing of those wounded, albeit spiritually. Nevertheless how hard it can be to admit imperfection.
What’s more, the perfection we aspire towards as Christians is not that of comic book superheroes, mythological demigods, or the latest American idol. Rather it is the perfection of supernatural love, a love that demands a whole gift of self to God and others.
Missionary sister Mother Teresa once said, “In loving and serving, we prove that we have been created in the likeness of God, for God is love and when we love we are like God. This is what Jesus meant when he said, ‘Be perfect as your Father in heaven is perfect’” (Matthew 5:48).
Giving one’s self often means vulnerability and exposure. It could be no other way. Only an open container can give or receive. But there is treasure to be won!
Like many today, Jessica Powers (1905-1988) longed for escapades and romance on the high seas as an 18-year-old: “I would have wed a pirate chief, / had I lived long ago, / and made my home a ship that rides / wherever winds can blow!”
Instead she became a published poet before entering a Discalced Carmelite convent in December 1941 and becoming Sister Miriam of the Holy Spirit.
Her daring love affair would be with God.
In her poem “Beauty, Too, Seeks Surrender,” she wrote: “God takes by love what yields to love, / then pours a glowing allness / past the demolished walls and towers / into the spirit’s smallness.
“God’s beauty, too, surrender seeks / and takes in the will’s lull / whatever lets itself be changed / into the beautiful.”
The gift of divine love is worth its risks, for God is never outdone in generosity.
By John Rieping | All rights reserved | Previously published 5/04/12 in The Madera Tribune
My grandfather left Mexico and its religious persecution with a price on his head, set by the state of Jalisco, for his stubborn piety. Yet his reception in the United States wouldn’t be entirely welcoming; nor would he ever abandon Mexico in his heart.
Higinio Lozano first worked as a cook for a railroad line crew in the South. Once, he received a strong dose of poison oak while carrying water to wash the daily pots and pans. That evening his younger brother Natalio followed the train tracks on foot to the nearest town to get medicine.
After walking miles, Natalio arrived at a drugstore cold and wet from a storm. As he scraped his muddy shoes on a mat, someone yelled, “What do you want?! Don’t you get on my floors. You wait out there until I’m ready!”
Natalio waited as a customer loitered inside. Eventually the pharmacist came to the door and took his order for calamine lotion. A sign in the window explained it all: “No Negroes, Mexicans, or Dogs Allowed Inside!” The experience soaked in as Natalio made his way back to camp in the dark, and the Lozano brothers now spoke often of heading west.
By the late 1920s, they did so. Higinio found work in the fields of San Fernando, California, despite his lack of strength and agility. But he applied his mental vigor to his church and community. He worked with young people as part of the Catholic Association for Mexican Youth, and wrote, directed, and performed in religious plays.
The execution of Rev. Miguel Pro, SJ, in Mexico City on Nov. 23, 1927, inspired one such drama. My grandfather portrayed the role of the priest. A young woman, Maria del Carmen Najar, played another part. This led to a loving relationship that would result in marriage and ultimately my own existence.
But the true tale behind that play deserves repeating.
Born in Mexico of a mining engineer, Miguel Pro joined the Jesuit order Aug. 14, 1911, at age 20. Three years later he had to leave his homeland due to revolution. He fled to Texas and California before studying in Spain, teaching in Nicaragua, and learning theology in Belgium, where he was ordained a priest Aug. 31, 1925.
He wrote: “How can I explain to you the sweet grace of the Holy Spirit, which invades my poor miner’s soul with such heavenly joys? I could not keep back my tears…”
Though he had a serious side, Pro loved quips and pranks. As a seminarian he’d amuse others with tricks, stories, American English slang, and by singing random lines of popular songs.
He ministered first to Belgian miners. But his superiors allowed him to return to Mexico on July 8, 1926, in hopes the food and climate would improve his chronic stomach problems. Surprisingly, no Mexican authorities checked his passport or bags.
Pro created “Eucharistic Stations” throughout Mexico City to secretly distribute Holy Communion to hundreds daily. He visited the sick and brought aid to the poor. Excellent at disguises, he even impersonated a prison guard to pray with prisoners and hear confessions.
He once met policemen guarding a house he’d planned to offer Mass at. He strode to them, opened his vest as if showing a badge, and declared, “There’s a cat bagged here.” Hoodwinked, the police saluted and let him inside.
Another time, police invaded a home while Pro celebrated Mass. He rushed everyone into other rooms, hid the Eucharist in his suit pocket, and then accompanied police on their fruitless search for a priest. When Pro left, he told a guard posted at the door that he would have stayed to help catch the priest but he had a date with his girlfriend. He later wrote lightheartedly, “I returned to the place, but, somehow or other, the priest had not yet appeared…”
He would be jailed repeatedly, but that aided his prison ministry and inspired him to continue.
Finally, the Mexican government had enough. A few days after a bomb injured former president Alvaro Obregón, Pro and his brothers were arrested on false charges of attempted assassination. A trial was set for the next day, but morning brought only a firing squad.
President Plutarco Calles had requested the execution six months beforehand, and professional photographers had been arranged to document a fearful death. But instead the priest forgave his prison guard, prayed, and blessed his executioners. He refused a blindfold and with arms outstretched exclaimed, “Viva Cristo Rey!”
By John Rieping | All rights reserved | Previously published 4/27/12 in The Madera Tribune
My grandfather Higinio Lozano, son of Trinidad and Gorgonia, first saw the light in Atotonilquillo in the Mexican state of Jalisco on Jan. 11, 1897. His only sibling, 2-year-old Reynalda, died later that year, but eight more would be born in time.
His family lived in the city of Tepatitlán, also in Jalisco. The state lies in the western part of Mexico, which along with the north was considered especially religious. Ranchera music, the mariachi tradition, and tequila all originated in Jalisco, a land of grasslands, evergreen and oak forests, scrublands, beaches, rivers, and lakes.
Years passed and Higinio, who never had a formal education beyond a third grade level, became a voracious reader. If his family visited friends, Higinio would look for any books they had, sit, and read. His father, upset at such presumption, stopped taking him places.
But when a school teacher visited to test children for grade placement, Higinio could already read everything the teacher had. So the teacher appointed the boy to teach other children. A local priest also had Higinio, who served at Mass in Latin, assist in instructing children in their faith.
These peaceful years would not last.
In 1910, President Porfirio Diaz allowed free elections for the first time since seizing power in 1876. Unlike leaders before him, Diaz had not persecuted the Catholic Church, but that would change as a failed revolt in late November ignited a revolution. Escaping the rising disorder and violence, Diaz fled to Paris and one leader after another took control yet could not keep it.
Finally, Alvaro Obregon, known to imprison priests and nuns and take church property, recaptured Mexico City in 1920 and began to rule Mexico. His handpicked successor, fellow revolutionary Plutarco Elias Calles, became president from 1924-1928 and continued to govern behind the scenes for seven years after he stepped down.
Under Calles, Mexico’s anti-religious constitution would be fully enforced. New laws against clergy were added June 14, 1926. Religious orders were outlawed, ministers lost basic civil liberties, and church property was snatched by the government. In some parts of Mexico, attending Mass could be punished by death. Most priests were imprisoned, killed, hid, or fled.
By now, my grandfather Higinio journeyed from village to village in Jalisco on donkey or horseback with a plainclothes priest who secretly administered sacraments to Catholics.
Higinio also would distribute literature on the Catholic faith in public together with young adults. They’d select a street corner to do so and hastily moved on if they thought soldiers were coming. Several times he was caught and jailed, and close friends had to get him out.
Across Mexico, the more people resisted, the more violent the government became. One could not travel from one town to another without seeing bodies hanging from trees or telegraph poles — a warning to would-be opposition.
Naturally conversations turned more and more to the dangers of my grandfather’s volunteer ministries. Under pressure from those who loved him, Higinio and his brother Natalio agreed to emigrate to the U.S.
They traveled on foot through Western Mexico by day and rested by night. One morning the brothers discovered they had unintentionally camped in a cemetery and slept, and another time they awoke to a mountain lion sniffing their bedrolls.
Yet they made it safely to Texas where their younger brother Trinidad already worked. Along with more than a dozen men, the three brothers set and repaired rails that ran from Texas to Oklahoma. They rode flat cars, slept in tents, and worked long days miles away from any town.
My grandfather lacked the strength and stamina to wield sledge hammers or lift rail, so he carried water and helped cook.
Back in Mexico, the cleverest victory by Cristeros (rebels against the persecution) over government troops happened April 19, 1929, in my grandfather’s home city of Tepatitlán. There 900 defeated 3,000.
That summer U.S. Ambassador Dwight Morrow helped negotiate a truce in which the Cristeros would lay down their arms in exchange for a pardon, some priests could register with the government and minister, and religious instruction would be allowed in private.
The Cristeros did so, and Calles then had about 500 Cristero leaders and 5,000 other Cristeros shot, often in front of their spouses and children.
Before the conflict, 4,500 priests served in Mexico. By 1934, only 334 priests were licensed to serve 15 million Catholics. A year later, 17 states had no priests at all.
By John Rieping | All rights reserved | Previously published 4/20/12 in The Madera Tribune
I watched a special pre-screening Monday night of the Mexican action film “For Greater Glory,” which will be in theaters June 1. Nearly a week later I am still processing my emotions about it.
The passionate movie attempts to summarize the true but generally forgotten story of the Cristero War, a 1926-1929 rebellion in Mexico sparked by the officially atheistic government’s attempts to crush Christianity. The film is well done and yet the slivers of history glimpsed are horrific enough that it is appropriately rated R “for disturbing images.”
Costing an estimated $20 million, it is allegedly the most expensive Mexican movie ever made.
The cast list is almost a “who’s who” of actors and includes Academy Award nominees Andy Garcia, Catalina Sandino Moreno, and Peter O’Toole as well as Eva Longoria (“Desperate Housewives”), Santiago Cabrera (“Heroes” and “Merlin”), Oscar Isaac (“Drive” and “Robin Hood”), Bruce Greenwood (“Star Trek” and “Super 8”), Nestor Carbonell (“The Dark Knight Rises” and “Lost”), Eduardo Verastegui (“Bella”), and others.
I think I cried often during the movie but I also felt sad whenever there was any killing, even when arguably in defense of liberty. On rare occasions a war may be just, but I would hesitate to claim any were or are holy. Thankfully the movie itself makes efforts not to whitewash its main protagonists.
For me, the movie wasn’t simply entertainment or education though. It is family history. My grandfather, Higinio Lozano, lived through part of it before fleeing his homeland to escape being killed by the government for teaching Catholicism, assisting clergy, and distributing Catholic literature, “crimes” for which he had already been imprisoned repeatedly.
After its independence from Spain, Mexico adopted two constitutions in 1857 and 1917 that significantly restricted or eliminated legal rights of the Catholic Church, of monks and nuns, and of priests and ministers for any religion. (Mexico’s 1917 constitution was used as a model for the one approved by the Russian Socialist Federative Soviet Republic a year later.)
In the 20th century, these laws ultimately enabled the government to seize and sell nearly all of Mexico’s monasteries and convents. They also banned clerical clothing and religious celebrations in public, limited the use of church bells, kept religions from gaining or managing property, and more.
This conquest of religion perhaps reached its most visible stage in the 1920s under President Plutarco Elias Calles, an atheist who admitted “I have a personal hatred for Christ.” Existing anti-religious laws were fully enforced and more added. Holy objects were desecrated, foreign-born ministers expelled, and religious schools, convents, and monasteries closed. In the state of Chihuahua only one priest was allowed to minister.
I should note that Catholics weren’t the only ones affected. For example, the Anglican church in Mexico was forced to rely on laymen to officiate for some services due to the loss of non-native clergy. Nonetheless, Catholicism suffered the brunt of the anti-religious laws as the dominant faith in Mexico.
In response, Catholics organized a strong boycott of non-essentials to pressure Calles, and similarly the bishops of Mexico voted to impose an “interdict” — suspending all religious services, especially the sacraments — in Mexico. It began August 1, 1926.
Two days later, 400 armed Catholics shut themselves in a church in Guadalajara, Jalisco, but surrendered after a shoot out with federal troops. A day later, 240 government soldiers stormed the parish church of Sahuayo, Michoacan, killing priests and others. Ten days later, the government wiped out a Zacatecas chapter of a Catholic youth organization and executed its chaplain. That outraged a band of ranchers who rebelled and took over northern Jalisco.
More uprisings and government reactions followed, and matters escalated. Yet a proposed amendment of the constitution’s anti-religious parts was rejected by Mexico’s Congress on Sept. 22, 1926.
In November, Pope Pius XI joined the voices in protest with his encyclical, “Iniquis Afflictisque,” but Calles stayed firm. By the end of the year the general mood had turned to armed rebellion, although no Catholic bishop ever endorsed such a response.
Organized opposition erupted in January 1927. In the next three years, more than 50,000 Mexicans fought against the government, which mockingly dubbed them “Cristeros” because they refused to say “Long live President Calles” and instead made “¡Viva Cristo Rey!” (“Long live Christ the King!”) their identifying cry.
More than 250,000-300,000 Mexicans were killed, but only 90,000 in the war. Most died after a mid-1929 compromise ended the Cristero rebellion.