Rafael Guizar Valencia was born in Mexico in 1878 and ordained a priest in 1901. With the start of the Mexican revolution in 1910, persecution of the Catholic Church became severe, and the outspoken priest became a target.
He went underground, disguised as a junk dealer, to continue his ministry. In 1915, when the Mexican government ordered that he be shot on sight, he escaped to the United States, and then went on to Guatemala and Cuba.
While in Cuba, he was consecrated bishop of Veracruz, Mexico. He returned to Mexico in 1920 with the end of the revolution, and he joined Knights of Columbus three years later.
As bishop, he founded a clandestine seminary. “A bishop can do without a mitre, a crosier, and even a cathedral, but never without a seminary, because the future of his diocese depends on the seminary,” he is known to have said.
He was forced to flee Mexico again in 1927 during the persecution of the Church under President Plutarco Calles. He returned in 1929, when the Church reached an accord with the Mexican government, in part because of successful lobbying by the Knights of Columbus to get the U.S. government to take an active role in solving the crisis.
Through his life’s work, Guizar became known as “the bishop of the poor.” He died in 1938 of natural causes; he was beatified in 1995.
Six other Knights, who were martyred in Mexico during the persecutions of the 1920s and 1930s, were canonized in 2000.
.- Bishop Rafael Guizar Valencia will become the seventh Knight of Columbus and the first bishop/Knight to be declared a saint. Pope Benedict XVI will canonize the bishop in Rome on Oct. 15. According to the Knights of Columbus, Supreme Knight Carl Anderson will attend.