SAN ANTONIO • The feast day of Santo Toribio Romo, known as the patron saint of Mexican immigrants, was observed Feb. 26 with a Mass at San Fernando Cathedral, celebrated by Archbishop Gustavo García-Siller, MSpS.
The feast day of Santo Toribio Romo, known as the patron saint of Mexican immigrants, was observed Feb. 26 with a Mass at San Fernando Cathedral, celebrated by Archbishop Gustavo García-Siller, MSpS. Jordan McMorrough | Today's Catholic
On that date, the young martyr of the Cristero War in Mexico had his life taken from him in the pre-dawn darkness simply because he was a Catholic priest, who was faithful to his vow of service. At only 28, he awakened in the early hours of the morning and was shot twice by government soldiers. As he landed in the arms of his sister, she cried in a loud voice, “Courage Father Toribio ... merciful Christ receive him! ¡Viva Cristo Rey!”
“While Santo Toribio never was an immigrant himself, he is a symbol for what it means to risk everything on your journey of life. He himself confronted the dangers that lay before him and armed with only his faith he undertook a perilous journey fueled by hope and led by the Holy Spirit,” said Archbishop Gustavo in his homily. “Santo Toribio understood the courage it takes to live out ones vocation. Santo Toribio baptized hundreds of babies, married many couples, celebrating Mass in a one room chapel, realizing that to do so signed his own death warrant.”
The archbishop said that Santo Toribio saw Jesus in the faces of those who risked everything for what they believed. “Let us follow his example and see Jesus in the faces of all those who suffer physical, emotional and spiritual pain. Let us see the face of Jesus Christ, in everyone who needs to hear his voice and feel his love. Let us see him in the families who are struggling, those who are poor and homeless. Let us see Jesus in the tears of hungry, abandoned and abused children. Let us see the face of Christ in the elderly and forgotten, the undocumented immigrant, the stranger among us and refugees seeking freedom and hope.”
Santo Toribio, said Archbishop Gustavo, reminds everyone that in the dark of night, Mexican immigrants, mothers, fathers and sons, carrying all they own on their backs, are left to follow a perilous path as they seek a life of dignity and hope for themselves and their families. “Hidden in ravines, crawling through the brush, and crossing the burning desert, they follow a dangerous path that begins with promise and all too often ends in despair and even death,” he stressed.
Santo Toribio is the patron of immigrants because he has become a sign of God’s mercy in the darkest moments of, especially an undocumented immigrants’ life, explained the archbishop. “It is said that sometimes he appears to immigrants on their hazardous pilgrimages toward hope. Yet, even when their journey is complete, migrants face separation from their families for indefinite lengths of time,” he explained. “They hide in the shadows of fear, accepting the lowest wages, risking everything if they speak out for their own human dignity. If discovered, they often find themselves entrapped in a bureaucratic nightmare that robs them of due process, separating families and thrusting their children in foster homes.”
Archbishop Gustavo continued, “In a world that offers the technology to bring all people closer together, we find ourselves drifting further apart, lost in isolation and division creating a distance of the heart that we seem to not have the will to bridge. We are called to reach into the darkness of the lives of undocumented immigrants, and all those who live hidden lives of suffering and pain and be a sign of God’s mercy.”
The archbishop emphasized that Jesus is calling everyone to a faith that is active and dynamic; that is more than prohibitions and “Thou Shalt Nots,” but is a faith that calls everyone to an advocacy for the full spectrum of human life, from conception to natural death.
Archbishop Gustavo told listeners that they have given an uncommon opportunity to put God’s signature on how society welcomes the stranger; and that this can be done by being advocates for immigration laws that can be shaped by the values this land of immigrants has symbolized for generations. “Now is the time to act, simply because this victory of mercy is within our reach. Now is the time to heal a broken system that has broken so many lives and restore hope. Now is the time for us to reflect the Father’s love and mercy, speaking as one voice for laws that reflect real ‘family values,’ offer ‘freedom and justice,’ and declare with our lives that we are ‘One nation, under God.’”
In the Gospel at the liturgy Jesus said, “Stop judging and you will not be judged. Stop condemning and you will not be condemned.” Yet, lamented the archbishop, so often the church’s voice in the public debate to fix a broken immigration system, to fight for human dignity and human life, is met with rancor and divisiveness. In the immigration debate, the church’s cause is based on the belief that “...every person is created in God’s image. Our Catholic faith affirms that all peoples have the right to conditions worthy of human life, and if these are not present, the right to migrate.”
Archbishop Gustavo asked, “In that light we see that undocumented immigrant are not less worthy of hope? Why do we, with laws that often make it nearly impossible for so many to legally migrate, condemning our brothers and sisters to lives in the darkness of fear, or even condemn them to tragic death?”
The archbishop affirmed that he and his brother bishops support the right and obligation of a nation to regulate and protect its borders. “However, when our laws are unjust, then our laws must change. When our laws inflict pain and division, then it is time to unite in support of comprehensive immigration reform in the spirit of compassion, justice, and yes, even practicality,” said the San Antonio prelate. “It is time for us to stop judging our migrant brothers and sisters and condemning them, lest we be judged harshly by their shattered lives and broken dreams. ‘For the measure with which you measure will in return be measured out to you.’”
He urged attendees at the Mass to use this time of Lent to not only search souls, but let us be diligent in seeking out and serving those who need the most. “We must let our Lenten reflection strip away the clutter in our lives so that we can hear God’s voice and know what he is leading us to do,” said the Missionary of the Holy Spirit. “We must prepare ourselves to live the New Evangelization by using the gifts that have been freely given to us by God to ignite the light of faith in the hearts of those around us.”
Archbishop Gustavo closed his homily by recalling when the Virgin de Guadalupe appeared to San Juan Diego, himself with no status or power, and he was told to not fear being her messenger of truth. Mary said, “Nothing should frighten or grieve you. Let not your heart be disturbed ... I am here; I am your mother ... Do not grieve nor be disturbed by anything.”
“Let us reach out to our Blessed Mother, so that through her intercession, we can be light and life to the world,” he concluded. “For we are all immigrants, on a journey of faith, seeking God’s peace and love in his kingdom for eternity.”