Postcard from Guanajuato, Mexico: Times call for pulling this holy card out of the deck

Having spent the past week a stone’s throw away from Templo de San Roque in the heart of Guanajuato, it seemed imperative to discover more about the saint. He definitely falls into my category of “saintly stories nuns never taught me.”

Hard for a boy born with his breast emblazoned with a red birthmark in the form of a cross to avoid his calling. Following the death of both of his wealthy parents by the time he was 20, San Roque (1295-1327) (although “San” was not what Saint Roch, or Rock, was named until more than a century later) sold his inherited worldly goods and distributed the proceeds amongst the poor in his native home of Montpelier, France. Joining the Third Order of Saint Francis (Does this mean he was married?), he headed out to Italy with an eye to visit the tombs of the apostles.

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Postcard from Guanajuato, Mexico: Templo de la Compania de Jesus

The florid details of the Churrigueresque façade of the church of La Compania de Jesus in Guanajuato are striking. The church was constructed between the years of 1747 and 1765.

But, as always, the details inside the church are equally as interesting. A rectangle of red velvet hung on the wall next to an image of Saint Lucy to encourage petitioners appealing for better eyesight to pin their silver milagros of eyes there. But, regarding proximity as more potent, several fortified their prayers by taping their charms directly on her image.

One day El Nino Medico almost was submerged completely in a sea of boys’ toys, but he was liberated from them the next week. Only a few photos, milagros and a lone baby shoe remained by his feet. A new crop of toys probably has arrived in his case by now.

Holding El Nino securely in one arm, the Virgin Mary somehow uses her other to hoist up some lad. She rescues him from the fierce-looking jaws of a black, toadlike version of the devil, surely by some artist from another time period than whoever sculpted the original statues in the ornate Baroque niche.

A few-peso fee grants admittance to the sacristy containing a small collection of paintings. But the appeal for me was not just the art. The docent pulled aside a heavy floor-to-ceiling drape to reveal the true treasures – first-class reliquaries containing major bones of several saints.


Ah, and the bloody feet pictured on the poster for a pilgrimage taking place tomorrow. Those feet represent those of Jose Sanchez del Rio, who will be canonized a saint in Rome tomorrow. Born in Sahuayo, Michoacán, in 1913, the teen left home to serve as the flag bearer for the Cristeros, who were rebelling against the enforcement of rigid anticlerical laws in 1926 by President Plutarco Elias Calles. Foreign Catholic priests were expelled from Mexico, and monasteries, convents and Catholic schools were closed.

Violence escalated, and the armed Cristeros, primarily rural peasants with no military training, even managed to inflict several defeats on federal forces. When Blessed Jose was captured, he refused to recant his faith. He was imprisoned in the seized parish church, and his jailers attempted to extract a ransom from his family for his release.

In addition to captured Cristeros, a government official was using the church to house his prized fighting cocks. According to the website of Ive Minor Seminary:

When Jose arrived he saw the roosters running around the church and was indignant, and said, “This is not a barnyard!” He took them all by the neck and killed them, hanging them from a banister. According to some, Picasso (the name of the government official) had imported some of those very fine birds all the way from Canada, and this was the last straw; he was so indignant that he commanded that they execute the boy by firing squad.

The soldiers carried out their own gruesome ritual prior to the execution. As he was marched to the firing squad:

…they began to strike him with the machetes they carried. Even worse, they chopped off the soles of Jose’s feet, and they forced him to walk along the rocky unpaved road to the cemetery. Instead of complaining, he shouted, “Long live Christ the King!” Witnesses said that the stones where Jose had trodden were all soaked in his blood, and although he moaned from the pain, he never weakened in his resolve.

Blessed Jose obtained his martyrdom on February 10, 1928.

The roster of Mexican saints now numbers about three dozen. No doubt, a few of the faithful will make the pilgrimage tomorrow barefoot in honor of the canonization of the new saint.

Postcard from Puebla, Mexico: Mexico’s first charro bestows blessings on travelers

At first glance, he doesn’t look very good. But you have to know the backstory. He didn’t die yesterday.

Blessed Sebastian of Aparicio was 98 when he died and was buried, briefly, for six months. And that was more than four centuries ago.

Blessed Sebastian of Aparicio is among the group of saints, or in his case almost-saints, whose bodies have withstood the normal ravages of time. God chose to leave their bodies incorrupt, or intact, and they remain on display for the faithful.

While San Sebastian de Aparicio seems handsome for a 500-year-old man, in his youth his beauty caused great problems for him. He was so “comely,” according to the website Roman Catholic Saints, “wicked women frequently set snares for his purity.” The pious 31-year-old finally fled the lascivious ladies of Spain and settled in Puebla.

Blessed Sebastian de Aparicio began making ploughs and wagons for the primitive farmers he found there, and he plowed fields at no charge. So produce could be moved around the country, he set about building roads. This included a 466-mile stretch connecting Zacatecas, where there happened to be a lot of silver, to Mexico City. His farming, ranching and transportation endeavors made him wealthy.

Taking pity upon a young girl whose parents could afford to pay no dowry, Sebastian finally married at age 60. After her death at a young age, he entered a second “virginal marriage,” according to American Catholic. (Try to avoid falling prey to skepticism at this point.)

Finding himself a widower again, he distributed his worldly goods to the poor, funded a convent and entered the Franciscan order at age 72.

He died in 1600, and miracles attributed to him began to multiply and accumulate. He was beatified in 1787, but he’s still on the waitlist for sainthood after all this time.

If you are traveling through Puebla, you should make a pilgrimage to his shrine in the Church of San Francisco, particularly if you are from Texas. Although Blessed San Sebastian de Aparacio might not be canonized, he’s regarded as particularly helpful in granting miracles to travelers and was Mexico’s, which included Texas, first cowboy.