Saint of the Day – 10 February – St José Sánchez del Río “Joselito” (1913-1928) known as “Joselito” – (28 March 1913 – 10 February 1928) Boy Martyr 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. Patronages – Persecuted Christians, Catholic Children and Adolescents, Sahuayo, Mexico, his birthplace. He was declared to be venerated on 22 June 2004 by St Pope John Paul II and was beatified by Pope Benedict XVI – through the Cardinal-Prefect of the Congregation of the Causes of Saints – on 20 November 2005 in Mexico. Pope Francis approved a miracle attributed to him on 21 January 2016, allowing for his canonisation to take place and he was proclaimed to be a saint on 16 October 2016.
José Sánchez del Río was born on 28 March 1913 in Sahuayo, Michoacán, Mexico. Wanting to defend the faith and rights of Catholics, he followed in the footsteps of his two older brothers and asked his mother for permission to join the Cristeros. She objected, telling him that he was too young. “Mama”, he replied, “do not let me lose the opportunity to gain Heaven so easily and so soon”.
At that time, the laws banned religious orders, deprived the Church of property rights and denied priests civil liberties, including the right to trial by jury and the right to vote. As the restrictions on religious liberty increased, Catholics could be fined or imprisoned for teaching Church doctrine, wearing clerical attire, meeting together after their convents were disbanded, promoting religious life or holding religious services in non-church locations.
On 5 February 1928 the young boy was captured during a battle and imprisoned in the church sacristy. In order to terrorise him, soldiers made him watch the hanging of one of the other captured Cristeros. But José encouraged the man, saying, “You will be in Heaven before me. Prepare a place for me. Tell Christ the King I shall be with Him soon”.
In prison, he prayed the Rosary and sang songs of faith. He wrote a beautiful letter to his mother telling her that he was resigned to do God’s will. José’s father attempted to ransom his son but was unable to raise the money in time.
On 10 February 1928 the teenager was brutally tortured and the skin of the soles of his feet was sheered off; he was then forced to walk on salt, followed by walking through the town to the cemetery. The young boy screamed with pain but would not give in.
At times the soldiers stopped him and said, “If you shout, “Death to Christ the King’, we will spare your life”. But he answered: “Long live Christ the King! Long live Our Lady of Guadalupe!”.
Once he arrived at the cemetery, José was asked once more if he would deny his faith. The 14 year old shouted out: “Long live Christ the King!”, and was summarily shot. (vatican.va)