ROME, NOV. 20, 2005 (ZENIT.org).- Among those who witnessed the 1928 martyrdom of a now-beatified teen-ager in Mexico was a friend who went on to found the Legionaries of Christ and the Regnum Christi Movement.
Marcial Maciel was only 7 years old when he saw the execution of his 14-year-old friend JosÃƒÆ’Ã†â€™Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â© Luis SÃƒÆ’Ã†â€™Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â¡nchez del RÃƒÆ’Ã†â€™Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Âo. JosÃƒÆ’Ã†â€™Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â© Luis was among 13 martyrs beatified today in Guadalajara, Mexico.
JosÃƒÆ’Ã†â€™Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â© Luis had joined the Cristeros, a large group of Mexican Catholics who rose against the religious persecution of the government of Plutarco ElÃƒÆ’Ã†â€™Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Âas Calles.
In Part 1 of this interview with ZENIT, Father Maciel, now 85, recalls his friend's martyrdom. Part 2 of this interview will appear Monday.
Q: You were a witness of JosÃƒÆ’Ã†â€™Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â© SÃƒÆ’Ã†â€™Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â¡nchez del RÃƒÆ’Ã†â€™Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Âo's martyrdom in Mexico. After almost 80 years, what do you remember of those moments? How did you meet JosÃƒÆ’Ã†â€™Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â©?
Father Maciel: JosÃƒÆ’Ã†â€™Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â© Luis -- as we, his friends, called him -- was from Sahuayo, Michoacan, a village not far from Cotija, my native village.
My maternal grandmother, Maura GuÃƒÆ’Ã†â€™Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Âzar Valencia, had her home there, and we often went to visit her. I was six years younger than JosÃƒÆ’Ã†â€™Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â© Luis. He liked to organize games for the children. He would speak to us of Jesus. I remember that he took me to visit the Blessed Sacrament. He was very good.
When the religious persecution began, he wanted to join the Cristeros to defend the faith. He asked for permission several times, and in the end was received.
In February 1928 -- I was 7 years old, almost 8 -- I was in Sahuayo when we learned that JosÃƒÆ’Ã†â€™Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â© Luis had been arrested and had been locked in the parish's baptistery.
One of the windows looked out on the street and from there we could hear him sing: "To heaven, to heaven, to heaven I want to go," while awaiting his sentence. The federals were using the parish as a prison, and also as a corral. Rafael Picazo, who controlled the village of Sahuayo, put as a condition to release him that he deny his faith before Picazo himself and his soldiers.
We all heard about this, and we were very worried and in a tremendously emotional and sad state. We, his friends, met together to pray for him. We cried a lot, asking the Most Holy Virgin that he not be killed but, at the same time, that he not renounce his faith. In fact, JosÃƒÆ’Ã†â€™Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â© Luis wanted no part in [renouncing the faith].
And at the end of two days we learned, in the afternoon, that he had been taken to the Refuge inn. That night they cut off the soles of his feet and forced him to walk barefoot to the cemetery, which was several blocks away.
We -- a few relatives, friends, village acquaintances -- followed him from a distance. I remember the stains of blood left by his footsteps. He went with his hands bound behind his back and I remember the federals pushing him, insulting him and demanding that he stop crying out "Hail to Christ the King!" And his answer was always to cry: "Hail to Christ the King and Holy Mary of Guadalupe!"
We were only allowed to go to the cemetery's wall. They put him next to the grave. They say he was stabbed several times and that they kept insisting that he renounce his faith, but he answered: "Hail to Christ the King and Holy Mary of Guadalupe!" His father wasn't with us. He wasn't there. And they asked him mockingly: "What do you want your father to be told?" He answered: "That we will see each other in heaven."
Finally they shot him in the temple. I heard the shot that put an end to his life. You can imagine the profound impression this made on us, especially the children.
I have a very beautiful, profound memory of this friend of mine who gave his life for Christ; he has always been for me a testimony of what authentic love of Christ means. I also remember him with some nostalgia, because I would say to Our Lord: "Why did you choose him to be a martyr and leave me behind?"