Of special importance in the Cathedral is a relic of Saint Toribio Romo Gonzalez encased within the main altar. This Saint was a Mexican priest who was shot in his bed in 1928 as part of the persecution of Catholics in the “Cristero War” (also known as La Cristiada) in Mexico.
The Cristero War is a little-known chapter of Mexico, and of the faith, where after the Mexican Revolution, in 1917 the practice of Catholicism was banned in Mexico. The Mexican government sought out priests and other practitioners to stop the faith. Over a period of 3 years battles raged among Mexican government soldiers and inadequately-armed Christian supporters whose battle cry was Viva Cristo Rey! (Long Live Christ the King!); and over two hundred thousand were killed. Toribio Romo Gonzalez was born on April 16, 1900 in the poverty of rural Santa Ana, Jalisco, Mexico. Through devotion to the Blessed Virgin and support of his family, he attended seminary and was ordained a priest in Guadalajara on December 22, 1922. Father Toribio followed his calling and administered to his flock in spite of government prohibitions which eventually required him to go into hiding in Tequila, Jalisco. It was here, for the final five months of his life that he held clandestine Masses and catechism classes, administered the Sacraments, and visited the sick. Early on the morning of February 25, 1928, Mexican troops entered his bedroom and shot him. He staggered outside to die in the arms of his dear sister Quica. After initial burial in Tequila, Father Toribio’s remains now lie in a hill in Santa Ana near his birthplace that is now a place of pilgrimage for those who come to honor and ask intercession of the Saint canonized by Pope John Paul II in May 2000. Saint Toribio Romo is looked to as a special intercessor for immigrants crossing from Mexico into the U.S. There have been many reported appearances and miracles attributed to his guidance and intervention. The miraculous stories involve immigrants in desperate situations such as crossing the desert from Mexico to the United States, or looking for work, when out of nowhere, a man appears to lead them to safety or to find work – or even from death. The only thing the mysterious man asks in return is that they visit him in his hometown of Santa Ana which they later come to find is the final resting place and pilgrimage site of Saint Toribio Romo.
The Saint’s relics are located in several churches in the U.S. and Mexico; and the Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament is a particularly special location due to the many relatives of the Saint who live in the Sacramento area. Each year, over three hundred cousins gather in Sacramento to celebrate his life. The Reverend Monsignor James T. Murphy has written an informative book about the “Saints and Sinners” in the Cristero War, including a full chapter about Saint Toribio – see reference to the book below.
Murphy, James T., Reverend Monsignor. Saints and Sinners in the Cristero War. San Francisco: Saint Ignatius Press, 2019.
Wikimedia Commons photo of St. Toribio Romo by Franchisco Persua – licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license