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Saint Toribio Romo

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Patron of Immigrants

Toribio Romo was born on the Santa Ana Ranch in Guadalupe, in the state of Jalisco, Mexico on April 15, 1900. He was baptized the next day by Father Miguel Romo. He received First Communion at the age of 7. He grew up in a small town of reverent and humble people, where the custom was to adore Our Lord Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament every night. Through this influence, he developed a great devotion to Our Lord Jesus in the Eucharist and Our Lady of Guadalupe. As a child he was an altar boy and was known for his devotion and the conscientious manner with which he carried out his duties.

At 13 years old, he began his studies at the Minor Seminary of San Juan de los Lagos. He received his minor vows in February, 1919 at that Seminary. That same year, he entered the Major Seminary of Guadalajara to continue and conclude his studies He consecrated his life to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, Our Lady of Guadalupe and Saint Joseph.

He was ordained deacon on Sept. 3, 1922 and on the 23rd of December of the same year he was ordained priest by his local Bishop. The joy that Father Toribio had so longed for had reached its peak that day.

He celebrated his first Mass at his Parish Church at the age of 22. in the same church where as a seminarian he had dedicated himself to La Morenita, the dark-skinned Virgin of Tepeyac. He dedicated his works to the establishment of Catechism. He founded centers, commissioned catechists and organized a collective First Communion which was memorable. He was transferred to Coquio, but religious persecution had begun and he found himself along with Fr. Justino Orona and his associate, Fr. Atilano Cruz, living a nomad's life which paralyzed his pastoral activities. The strong Catholic atmosphere in which he was raised, only served to increase his faith and to propagate devotion for the Eucharist

When his Bishop asked him to take charge of the parish in Tequila, he did this obediently, since it was a parish that already had been refused by many priests. To be the parish priest in Tequila was akin to signing a death warrant.

Toribio overcame his natural fear, since Tequila was a place when the military and civil authorities most hated priests. Two days after he received his orders and his last blessing from his Bishop, he left for Tequila to fulfill a mandate that would lead to his martyrdom. When the persecution forced him to hide in the thick brush, he prayed constantly for his parishioners and he suffered tremendously knowing what the townspeople were going through at the hands of the military and the reformers.

Due to the political situation in the area Fr. Toribio had to establish as the center of his activities an abandoned tequila factory near a ranch known as "Agua Caliente." It was near some ravines thick with vegetation. In one room he had a prayer Chapel where he taught religious classes to the people of the area and catechism to the children. When the troops were in the area they would celebrate Mass and other sacraments while they hid among the heavy brush.

It was here in the ravines that he baptized hundreds of children, united many couples in marriage and when necessary traveled secretly at night to the town of Tequila to minister to the sick.

He was accompanied by his older sister, María and later his brother, Roman, now a priest, who were there to help him. Often times the two priests would have to hide because the persecutors would be in search of victims.

On Thursday, Feb. 23rd, he asked his brother Roman to go to Guadalajara and try to settle urgent business concerning his parish. At 4 a.m. Fr. Roman, said Mass and Fr. Toribio Romo Gonzalez concelebrated.

On Friday the 24th after celebrating the Holy Mass, and lunch, he told his sister María, "I'm going to be very busy, I want to bring everything up to date." He worked on this all day only stopping to pray the Rosary and Liturgy of the Hours. All night he continued with his work, putting in order all the documentation for baptisms and marriages.

On Saturday the 25th of Feb. of 1928 at 4 a.m. He awoke his sister, who had been sleeping in a chair and said, "I'm very sleepy, I going to celebrate Mass and later lay down." While preparing for Mass he said, "Better I sleep for a while and later I will be able to celebrate Mass better."

He returned to his room, removed his alb, and threw himself upon his straw bed and covered his face with his arm . María laid down on Fr. Roman's bed and instantly they both were in a deep sleep.

At 5 a.m. the federales, acting on the tip of an informant, quietly arrived at the "Toma de Tequila" (factory). They jumped over the fence and went the room of the custodian. When he opened the door, one of the soldiers said, "This is not the priest." They later opened the door to the room where Father Toribio slept, and when he pulled back his arm from his face, he yelled, "That's the priest; kill him!" The surprise awakened Fr. Romo immediately, and he said, "Yes, I am the priest but please don't kill me..." and before he could finish the sentence, he was riddled with bullets amid insults. He staggered to the door and a second round of bullets were fired and this made him fall. His sister ran to take him in her arms and in a strong voice said, "Courage Father Toribio... Merciful Jesus, receive him! Viva Cristo Rey!"

With one last glance, Fr. Toribio Romo Gonzalez said good-bye to the sister who had guided him to the priesthood and now to his martyrdom. The soldiers stripped him of his clothes while they sang vulgar songs and transported his body in a straw cot made by the local peasants. The blood of that future saint bathed the ravines as they drove the rocky roads back to Tequila, where they threw his body in front of the municipal court house. His sister María, was arrested, made to walk barefoot and not allowed to rescue her brothers body.

An influential family pleaded with the president of the municipality to be allowed to pick up the body, prepare him for the wake at their home. There he was viewed by many of the townspeople, and amid tears and prayers, they filed by the body of their beloved priest.

The next day he was buried. In a very emotional ceremony he was processed to the cemetery. A cross and a plaque were put up which expressed the gratitude of the townspeople for his service and loyalty to the people. On it was inscribed, "The good shepherd lays down his life for his sheep."

Twenty years after his death, his body was laid to rest in the place of his birth, in his parish church of Santa Ana de Guadalupe, and in the Chapel which he himself had built. The body of this hero of the Catholic Church is here for the faithful to venerate to this day.

Toribio Romo's letter written at his ordination

Oh my brother, the Eucharist is to make one's heart beat, but that expression falls short of the mark.

The heart skips a beat - the heart of the coldest priest explodes with the Eucharist. I believe the Lord will give me a long life.

After many years of ministry, aged by those many years, I would have no better remedy nor the sharpest spur to keep me going than to remember the day of my ordination and my first Mass, to reach the goal, to go up to the Altar to take bread for the first time to say "THIS IS MY BODY'

He wrote, "To you divine, Sacred Heart of Jesus, to you Sweet Lily of Tepeyac, my Beloved Mother and my only sovereign, to you most chaste Saint Joseph, I consecrate today and always my vow of perpetual chastity. Beginning today at 7 a.m. at the feet of my Prelate Archbishop Orozco y Jimenez, help me and take me by the hand as I begin my walk." Reference: Mexican Martyrs of the 20th Century

Bob and Penny Lord are renowned Catholic authors and television hosts on EWTN, Global Catholic television. They are prolific writers about the Catholic faith, especially the Saints. Their website is http://www.bobandpennylord.com

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Bob and Penny Lord
Catholic Faith - Saints
joseph@bobandpennylord.com
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