José Sánchez del Río

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José Luis Sánchez del Río
Statue of José Sánchez del Río with relic
Layman; Martyr
Born(1913-03-28)March 28, 1913
Sahuayo, Michoacán, Mexico
DiedFebruary 10, 1928(1928-02-10) (aged 14)
Sahuayo, Michoacán, Mexico
Venerated in Catholic Church
Beatified November 20, 2005, Guadalajara, Mexico by Cardinal José Saraiva Martins
Canonized October 16, 2016, Saint Peter's Square, Vatican City by Pope Francis
Feast February 10 [1]
  • Persecuted Christians
  • Children
  • Adolescents [2]
  • Sahuayo

Saint José Luis Sánchez del Río (March 28, 1913 – February 10, 1928) was a Mexican Cristero who was put to death by government officials because he refused to renounce his Catholic faith. His death was seen as a largely political venture on the part of government officials in their attempt to stamp out dissent and crush religious freedom in the area. He was dubbed "Joselito".

Canonization Act by which churches declare that a person who has died was a saint

Canonization is the act by which a Christian church declares that a person who has died was a saint, upon which declaration the person is included in the list of recognized saints, called the "canon". Originally, a person was recognized as a saint without any formal process. Later, different processes were developed, such as those used today in the Roman Catholic Church, the Eastern Orthodox Church, Oriental Orthodox Church and the Anglican Communion.

Mexico Country in the southern portion of North America

Mexico, officially the United Mexican States, is a country in the southern portion of North America. It is bordered to the north by the United States; to the south and west by the Pacific Ocean; to the southeast by Guatemala, Belize, and the Caribbean Sea; and to the east by the Gulf of Mexico. Covering almost 2,000,000 square kilometers (770,000 sq mi), the nation is the fourth largest country in the Americas by total area and the 13th largest independent state in the world. With an estimated population of over 129 million people, Mexico is the tenth most populous country and the most populous Spanish-speaking country in the world, while being the second most populous nation in Latin America after Brazil. Mexico is a federation comprising 31 states plus Mexico City (CDMX), which is the capital city and its most populous city. Other metropolises in the country include Guadalajara, Monterrey, Puebla, Toluca, Tijuana, and León.

Cristero War 1926–29 Mexican rebellion

The Cristero War or the Cristero Rebellion (1926–29), also known as La Cristiada[la kɾisˈtjaða], was a widespread struggle in central-western Mexico in response to the imposition of secularist, state atheism, anti-Catholic and anti-clerical articles of the 1917 Constitution of Mexico. The rebellion was instigated as a response to an executive decree by President Plutarco Elías Calles to enforce Articles 3, 5, 24, 27, and 130 of the Constitution, a move known as the Calles Law. Calles sought to eliminate the power of the Catholic Church and all organizations which were affiliated with it as an institution, and suppress popular religious celebrations in local communities. The massive, popular rural uprising was tacitly supported by the Church hierarchy and it was also aided by urban Catholic supporters. US Ambassador Dwight W. Morrow brokered negotiations between the Calles government and the Church. The government made some concessions, the Church withdrew its support for the Cristero fighters and the conflict ended in 1929. It can be seen as a major event in the struggle between Church and State which dates back to the 19th century with the War of Reform, but it can also be interpreted as the last major peasant uprising in Mexico following the end of the military phase of the Mexican Revolution in 1920.


He was declared to be venerated on June 22, 2004 by Saint Pope John Paul II and was beatified by Pope Benedict XVI – through the Cardinal-Prefect of the Congregation of the Causes of Saints – on November 20, 2005 in Mexico. Pope Francis approved a miracle attributed to him on January 21, 2016, allowing for his canonization to take place; a date was determined at a consistory on March 15, 2016 and he was proclaimed to be a saint on October 16, 2016.

Pope Benedict XVI 265th pope of the Catholic Church

Pope Benedict XVI is a retired prelate of the Catholic Church who served as head of the Church and sovereign of the Vatican City State from 2005 until his resignation in 2013. Benedict's election as pope occurred in the 2005 papal conclave that followed the death of Pope John Paul II. Benedict chose to be known by the title "pope emeritus" upon his resignation.

Pope Francis 266th and current pope

Pope Francis is the head of the Catholic Church and sovereign of the Vatican City State. Francis is the first Jesuit pope, the first from the Americas, the first from the Southern Hemisphere, the first to visit the Arabian Peninsula, and the first pope from outside Europe since the Syrian Gregory III, who reigned in the 8th century.


The Cristero War began when the government began eliminating church privileges and seizing church properties throughout the country, in accordance with anti-clerical laws written into the Mexican Constitution. President Plutarco Elias Calles, who took office in 1924, focused on the Roman Catholic Church, which led to seizure of church property, the closing of religious schools and convents, and the exile or the execution of priests. [1]

Life and Cristero War

José Luis Sánchez del Río was born on March 28, 1913, [3] in Sahuayo, Michoacán.

Sahuayo Place in Michoacán, Mexico

Sahuayo is a city in the state of Michoacán, in western México, near the southern shore of Lake Chapala. It serves as the municipal seat for the surrounding municipality of the same name. Sahuayo was an important center for the industry and the city always has been an active center of commerce for the Chapala lake region, specially crafts, sandals (huaraches), hats (sombreros), made by Sahuayenses. The name means "turtle shaped pot" it has been called the Athens of Michoacán because of its many important poets, writers and painters. Today it is the seat for Arts Propositions Association. The city had a 2005 census population of 59,316 persons, while the municipality had a population of 61,965. The area of the municipality is 128.05 km².

Michoacán State of Mexico

Michoacán, formally Michoacán de Ocampo, officially the Free and Sovereign State of Michoacán de Ocampo, is one of the 31 states which, with the Federal District, comprise the 32 Federal Entities of Mexico. The State is divided into 113 municipalities and its capital city is Morelia. The city was named after José María Morelos, one of the main heroes of the Mexican War of Independence.

He attended school in his hometown and later in Guadalajara in Jalisco. When the Cristero War broke out in 1926, his brothers joined the rebel forces, but his mother would not allow him to take part. The rebel general, Prudencio Mendoza, also refused his enlistment. The boy insisted that he wanted the chance to give his life for Jesus Christ and so come to Heaven easily. The general finally relented and allowed José to become the flagbearer of the troop. [4] The Cristeros nicknamed him Tarcisius, after the early Christian saint, martyred for protecting the Eucharist from desecration.

Jalisco State of Mexico

Jalisco, officially the Free and Sovereign State of Jalisco, is one of the 31 states which, with Mexico City, comprise the 32 Federal Entities of Mexico. It is located in Western Mexico and is bordered by six states which are Nayarit, Zacatecas, Aguascalientes, Guanajuato, Michoacán and Colima. Jalisco is divided into 125 municipalities, and its capital city is Guadalajara. Jalisco is one of the most important states in Mexico because of its natural resources as well as its history. Many of the characteristic traits of Mexican culture, particularly outside Mexico City, are originally from Jalisco, such as mariachi, ranchera music, birria, tequila, jaripeo, etc., hence the state's motto: "Jalisco es México." Economically, it is ranked third in the country, with industries centered in the Guadalajara metropolitan area, the second largest metropolitan area in Mexico. The state is home to two significant indigenous populations, the Huichols and the Nahuas. There is also a significant foreign population, mostly from the United States and Canada, living in the Lake Chapala and Puerto Vallarta areas.

Tarcisius Child saint

Tarsicius or Tarcisius was a martyr of the early Christian church who lived in the 3rd century. The little that is known about him comes from a metrical inscription by Pope Damasus I, who was pope in the second half of the 4th century.

Eucharist Christian rite

The Eucharist is a Christian rite that is considered a sacrament in most churches, and as an ordinance in others. According to the New Testament, the rite was instituted by Jesus Christ during the Last Supper; giving his disciples bread and wine during the Passover meal, Jesus commanded his followers to "do this in memory of me" while referring to the bread as "my body" and the cup of wine as "the new covenant in my blood". Through the Eucharistic celebration Christians remember both Christ's sacrifice of himself on the cross and his commission of the apostles at the Last Supper.

During heavy fighting on January 25, 1928, Mendoza's horse was killed, and José gave his horse to the general so that the fight could go on. [4] Then he sought cover and fired at the enemy until he ran out of ammunition. The government troops captured the boy and imprisoned him in the sacristy of the local church.

Torture and death

José's killing was witnessed by two childhood friends. It was later reported that José was captured by government forces, who ordered him to renounce his faith in Christ, under threat of death. He refused to accept apostasy. [3]

To break his resolve, he was made to watch the hanging of another Cristero that they had in custody, but instead José encouraged the man, saying that they would soon meet again in Heaven after death. [4] In prison, José prayed the rosary daily and wrote an emotional letter to his mother, saying that he was ready to fulfill the will of God to whom he dedicated himself. His father attempted to raise a ransom to save him, but was not able to appease the government in time to do so, thus failing to secure the release of his son.

Others recalled the gruesome events that transpired after the government's failure to break José's resolve on the evening of 10 February 1928: "Consequently they cut the bottom of his feet and obliged him to walk around the town toward the cemetery. They also at times cut him with a machete until he was bleeding from several wounds. He cried and moaned with pain, but he did not give in. At times they stopped him and said, 'If you shout, "Death to Christ the King" we will spare your life'. José would only shout, 'I will never give in. Viva Cristo Rey!'" [3]

Burial and relics

The remains of José Luis Sánchez del Río are enshrined above a side altar in the Church of Saint James the Apostle in Sahuayo, his hometown. [5]


Wax image of saint with relic contained in reliquary cross. SanchezdelRioXochi.JPG
Wax image of saint with relic contained in reliquary cross.

The sainthood proceedings opened in Zamora on May 1, 1996 in a diocesan process that continued until October 25, 1996. A week prior to the conclusion of that phase the Congregation for the Causes of Saints declared "nihil obstat" (nothing against) to the cause on October 21, 1996; this granted him the title Servant of God, the first stage in the sainthood process. The process was later ratified on November 29, 2002 and allowed for officials to draft and submit in 2003 the Positio on his martyrdom.

Pope John Paul II approved the findings on June 22, 2004 which would allow for his beatification. He was beatified by Pope Benedict XVI on November 20, 2005 in Mexico; the Cardinal-Prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints presided on behalf of the pontiff.

The miracle needed for his canonization attributed to José Luis Sánchez del Río the inexplicable recovery of a baby in Mexico who doctors said had "no hope of survival", 2008-2009. It was investigated on a local level in Mexico and concluded its work on January 30, 2015. A medical board approved it in 2015 while theologians did so as well on 8 October 2015; the C.C.S. granted final approval on January 12, 2016 before submitting it to the pope for his approval. [6]

Pope Francis approved the miracle as being directly attributed to his intercession on January 21, 2016 and the pope confirmed at an ordinary consistory of cardinals on March 15, 2016 the date of which he would be elevated to sainthood. He was canonized as a saint of the Roman Catholic Church on October 16, 2016. [7]


The "Blessed José Sánchez del Río High School Seminary" was established in 2008 in Mankato, Minnesota by Father Carlos Miguel Buela of the Institute of the Incarnate Word (IVE) (Spanish : Instituto del Verbo Encarnado), a Roman Catholic religious institute. The junior (middle) high school and high school is a preparatory seminary quartered on the 1854 parish grounds of the Saints Peter and Paul Catholic Church in Mankato, Minnesota. The school's teen and young adult students are known collectively as "The Minor Seminarians".

José Luis Sánchez del Río is one of the characters portrayed in the film For Greater Glory which depicts the story of the Cristero War and also depicts his martyrdom.

See also

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  1. 1 2 Lichon, Katy et al. "¡Viva Cristo Rey! Honoring Saint José Sánchez del Río", University of Notre Dame
  2. "At 14, the martyr José Sánchez had more value than all the enemy troops: model for the young". Religion en Libertad. March 19, 2016. Retrieved March 20, 2016.
  3. 1 2 3 "14 year-old Mexican martyr to be beatified Sunday". Catholic News Agency. Retrieved March 19, 2016.
  4. 1 2 3 "Our Patrons". Archived from the original on March 4, 2016. Retrieved March 19, 2016.Cite uses deprecated parameter |deadurl= (help)
  5. "Image of where Saint Joselito's relics are enshrined" . Retrieved October 23, 2016.
  6. "One family's unimaginable suffering paves the way for a teen's sainthood", Catholic News Agency
  7. Villa, Carmen Elena. "St. José Sánchez del Río: The boy who died for love of Christ the King", Denver Catholic, October 25, 2016

Further reading