Sunday, July 02, 2006

Even for you, there is a blessing (Elias Socorro Nieves)

During the Cristero rebellion, Augustinian Fr. Elias Socorro Nieves kept himself on the margin of the revolutionary movement that in ways barely echoed among the local population which was very distant ideologically and geographically from the socio-political problematic underlying the revolution. At the end of 1926 when persecutions of the Church broke out, despite his timid character, instead of obeying the government order to reside in the big urban centers, he established himself in a cave near the hill of La Gavia, assuring his faithful in this way of religious assistance, usually under the cover of night. In the fourteen months during which that situation lasted, someone to administer the sacraments or celebrate daily Mass was never lacking.
In March, 1927, Fr. Nieves was captured by government forces in a village near his parish after the captain in charge threatened to torture the villagers if they did not reveal the priest’s whereabouts. Two ranchmen, the Sierra brothers, who refused to leave him were arrested with him. A wealthy Catholic offered a large bribe for the release of the three prisoners, but the offer was not accepted.
Once interrogated, he declared his status as a priest. He also had the occasion to discuss religious topics with two of the officials who had custody of him, but his luck had run out.
At dawn on 10 March 1928 the military and prisoners set out in the direction of the small urban center of Cortazar upon which La Cañada depended. In his first order, the captain, facing the troops, gave the order to execute the two companions of Fr. Nieves, who after going to confession to Fr. Nieves died valiantly proclaiming Christ the King as victor. At the next station which was connected to a beautifully landscaped mesquite, near the town, the captain addressed Fr. Nieves, saying “Now it is your turn; let us see if dying is like saying Mass.” To which the servant of God responded, “You have spoken the truth, because to die for our religion is a pleasing sacrifice to God.” He requested a few moments to collect his thoughts, then gave over his watch to the captain.
Nieves gestured to the soldiers, “Kneel down, I will give you the blessing of a priest – and along with it my pardon, for you do not know what you are doing.” The soldiers knelt down and made the sign of the cross as the priest blessed them. Then, he turned to the captain and said, “Even for you, there is a blessing.” This angered the captain that he drew his pistol and shot him on the spot.


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