Saint of the Day – 13 April – St Jose Sabás Reyes Salazar (1883-1927) Priest and Martyr of the Cristero War, Teacher, Catechist, Protector of children and the youth of Mexico, he had a special devotion to the Holy Trinity and the Souls in Purgatory – born on 5 December 1883 in Cocula, Jalisco, Mexico and died by being shot at 9pm on 13 April 1927 in a cemetery outside Tototlan, Jalisco, Mexico.He was 44 years old.
He was born in Cocula, Jalisco, the son of Norberto Reyes López and Francisca Salazar Castillo. He was Baptised on 8 December. Due to the poverty of the time, his family was moved to Guadalajara for work prospects, where he had an extremely poor childhood. To mitigate hunger and poverty, he was a newspaper seller and was unable to complete primary school.
He entered the Conciliar Seminary of Guadalajara, where according to the criteria of the time, his lack of education disqualified him to become a clergyman for Guadalajara Diocese, however, taking into account his noble and devout nature, the superiors themselves, recommended that he join a diocese in need. St Sabás was humble and constant in his vocation and was received in the Diocese of Tamaulipas, where he was Ordained to the sacred orders, on 24 December 1911. He celebrated his first Mass in Guadalajara in 1912 in the company of his family and friends.
For two years he exercised the priestly ministry in Tantoyuca, Veracruz. In 1914 religious persecution was unleashed in the State of Tamaulipas, Father Sabás asked permission to move to the diocese of Guadalajara.
In the year 1919 he went to the parish of Tototlán, Jalisco, to collaborate with the priest Francisco Vizcarra Ruiz, first as chaplain of the San Antonio de Gómez farm and sanctuary and later in 1921, he was transferred to the main Parish Church.
When the worship had to be suspended in the Churches of the Republic, the Parish Priest of Tototlán left the town and Father Sabás was left in charge, administering the sacraments. Father Sabás then gave the orphaned children asylum in his own home.
When the federal troops arrived, they murdered the innocent and desecrated the closed Church by using it as stables and destroying all the holy images, then they set it on fire. When the soldiers left, Father Sabás and the faithful came to extinguish the flames. His parishioners begged him to leave the area but he said: “My superiors sent me here and my parish priest entrusted me with the care of the parish. If it is God’s will, I will gladly accept martyrdom”
At Easter in 1927, warned that the federal troops would attack Tototlán, he went into hiding at the home of Mrs María Ontiveros, along with three companions – the young José Beltrán and the orphan children Octavio Cárdenas and Salvador Botello From that moment until his capture, he kept praying the rosary and although, when the soldiers reached his hiding place, the owner of the house denied that he was there, to protect her, her family and the orphans, Father Sabás came out from his hiding and said: “Here I am, what is do you wish with me? “ In response, they tied his arms tightly and dragged him away.
He was dragged to the parish church, which was now a stable and headquarters for federal soldiers and was tied to a column in the harsh rays of the sun. For several hours he was denied drinking water and finally, a woman was allowed to provide him with food. She asked the parishioners to pray to God for him. For three days through hunger and thirst and with unspeakable sadism they burned his hands because they were consecrated. On the night of 12 April, tied by the hands and tied to the neck by a rope he was taken before the General who interrogated him, seeking the whereabouts of other priests. To continue tormenting him, two bonfires were lit, one next to his face and another next to hiss feet. The latter, meanwhile, muttered over and over again: “Lord of Heaven, my Mother of Guadalupe, grant me strength.” The brutal torment lasted until the first hours of dawn. Occasionally, one of the soldiers would stab him with a burning stick and scoff: “You who say God comes down into your hands, let Him come down now to free you from mine.”
At dusk on Holy Wednesday, he was dragged to the cemetary where he was riddled with bullets. One of his executioners later commented: “I am very sorry to have killed that Father, he died unfairly. We had already given him three or four shots and he still got up and shouted “Viva Cristo Rey!” “Long live Christ the King !”
The next day, 14 April, at seven in the morning, two men who were going to prepare a grave for Don Aurelio de la Torre who was murdered for hiding Father José Dolores Guzmán, saw the body of Father Reyes which was lying outside the cemetery, already rigid, with four bullet wounds – two in the chest, one in the right arm and one in the forehead. The neck, ribs and ankles bore the marked signs of the ropes, his hands were burned and virtually all his bones were broken . They requested the necessary permission to bury him in Don Aurelio’s own grave.
They placed the body in a box and buried it on Maundy Thursday afternoon. Later, his remains were transferred to the parish church of San Agustín, in Tototlán. All the people considered Father Sabás Reyes Salazar as a martyr of Jesus Christ and as such, venerated his relics.
The process and cause for his Canonisation along with other priests and laymen murdered during that period began in 1954. The Decree recognising his martyrdom and that of his fellow martyrs was promulgated on 7 March 1992. He was Beatified on 22 November 1992 in Rome and Canonised on 21 May 2000, the Jubilee Holy Year, by St John Paul II.
People who knew him and dealt with him during the interrogations of the Cause of Canonisation, related that he was simple, humble and selfless in his care of others.
Saint Sabás Reyes, you dedicated your life to teaching and educating children, assisting your parishioners and spilling your Blood for Christ the King, pray for us!