Miguel Pro vs. Constantine

Congratulations! You have successfully made it to day two of Lent Madness 2021. If Lent Madness is part of your Lenten discipline this year - and we sincerely hope it is - you're doing great so far! Our competition continues today with an intriguing matchup between Miguel Pro and Constantine. You might say there are PROS and CONS to be weighed as you decide for whom to cast your vote.

In yesterday's opening matchup, Camillus de Lellis trounced Matthias in a Biblical beatdown 71% to 29% to advance to the Saintly Sixteen. If you'd like to see an updated bracket, you can simply visit the Bracket Tab each day. Bracket Czar Adam Thomas updates it daily for your viewing pleasure. He also shares links to each previous battle, which comes in handy when you seek a refresher in the later rounds.

Speaking of brackets, in case you missed the incredible peg doll video featuring all 32 saints in this year's bracket created by the talented team at the Cathedral of St. James in South Bend, Indiana, you can watch it here. Seriously. Do yourself a favor and revel in two minutes of joy that we could all surely use.

Finally, don't forget to tune in tomorrow for the ONLY Saturday matchup of Lent Madness as Tarcisius takes on Egeria.

Miguel Pro
José Ramón Miguel Agustín Pro Juárez was born in 1891 in Guadalupe, Zacatecas. After entering the Jesuit novitiate and completing theological studies in Europe, Miguel Pro returned to Veracruz in 1926. His ministry quickly went underground on account of the violent anti-Catholic repression, and he signed his letters with his childhood nickname of “Cocol” to obscure his identity.

Telling the story of Miguel Pro requires entering into a fraught period of Mexico’s history called the Cristero rebellion, when the Roman Catholic Church’s official and unofficial institutions engaged in a ten year, violent rebellion against the anti-Catholic regime.

For many Mexican Roman Catholics, including Miguel Pro, the Cristero Rebellion was the heroic story of the faithful engaging in overt and covert resistance against an extremely violent and repressive anti-Catholic effort. One of the most famous images is of railroad tracks in Jalisco lined by the executed bodies of Cristero rebels. The Cristeros are frequently presented by the Roman Catholic Church as heroes who took up arms against such repression.

In contrast, when I studied Mexico-U.S. border relations in el Tecnológico de Monterrey in Querétaro, Mexico, this period was presented as part of a broader set of internationally led efforts to undermine the 1917 Constitution, a socialist-inspired document whose agrarian reforms had aligned Mexico’s elite Roman Catholic families with U.S. interests. Indeed, America’s fingerprints are all over this conflict, from funneling money to the rebels to negotiating a peace agreement that led to the church’s withdrawal of support for the Cristeros.

In 1927, an innocent Miguel Pro was executed without trial for the attempted assassination of former Mexican president Álvaro Obregón; photos of his execution became a rallying point in the final years of the rebellion. Miguel Pro was pointedly beatified by Pope John Paul II in 1988, a period when the Roman Catholic Church was once again deeply engaged in resisting socialist and communist governments and Latin American liberation theology.

At his execution, Miguel Pro raised his arms in imitation of Christ and shouted ¨Viva Cristo Rey!” — “Long live Christ the King!”, the defying cry of the Cristeros.

Collect for Miguel Pro
Almighty God, who gave to your servant Miguel boldness to confess the Name of our Savior Jesus Christ before the rulers of this world, and courage to die for this faith: Grant that we may always be ready to give a reason for the hope that is in us, and to suffer gladly for the sake of our Lord Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

—Miguel Escobar

 

Constantine
Constantine the Great is a complex character in the history of Christianity. What is without debate is that he profoundly influenced the direction of Christianity. He is a saint in the Orthodox tradition.

Constantine was born in 272 ce in modern-day Serbia to one of Rome’s four emperors, Constantius. His mother, Helena, was not of noble birth and may have been simply Constantius’s concubine. She was a deeply pious Christian and, no doubt, shaped Constantine’s relationship to Christianity. Constantine excelled as a military leader and ultimately succeeded his father as the emperor of Britain, Gaul, and Spain. A series of power struggles and civil wars led to his consolidation of power as the sole emperor of the Roman Empire.

One of the most significant battles was with Maxentius, a rival to the throne, on the Milvian Bridge. Shortly before the battle, Constantine had a vision in which he (and purportedly also his army) saw a cross of light in the sky with the words, “In this conquer.” The following night, Christ appeared to him and told him to make his standards with the chi-rho Labarum ☧ (chi and rho are the first two letters of Christ in Greek). Constantine obliged and his army under that sign did indeed conquer.

Following this victory, one of Constantine’s first legislative acts was to issue the Edict of Milan, which brought about the universal toleration of Christianity and the return to Christians of all property that had been taken from them. Whatever his personal convictions, his preferential treatment of Christians was a hallmark of his reign. He helped guide the Christian church through major controversies, including the Arian debate for which he gathered the bishops from across the Roman Empire for the Council at Nicae—and funded the meeting entirely out of his coffers.

Constantine was also a major patron of the church—he gifted a villa that would become the foundation of St. John Lateran, he gifted the Vatican fields, and in Jerusalem he supported the construction of the important Church of the Holy Sepulchre and Church of the Holy Nativity. In 321, Constantine legislated that Sunday be a day of rest.

Constantine was baptized on his deathbed in May 337. Throughout the Middle Ages, he was revered as both a godly man and as a model ruler.

Collect for Constantine
Almighty God, you have surrounded us with a great cloud of witnesses: Grant that we, encouraged by the good example of your servant Constantine, may persevere in running the race that is set before us, until at last we may with him attain to your eternal joy; through Jesus Christ, the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

David Creech

 

Miguel Pro vs. Constantine

  • Constantine (62%, 4,722 Votes)
  • Miguel Pro (38%, 2,946 Votes)

Total Voters: 7,668

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Miguel Pro: Grentidez / Public domain
Constantine: Ramazanov Nikolay / Public domain

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180 comments on “Miguel Pro vs. Constantine”

  1. While reciting the credo Nicene
    Spare a thought for the wise Constantine.
    When protests resounded,
    A city he founded:
    A response that we’d call “byzantine”.

    1. Miguel Pro, known for his assistance
      while Cristeros fought for existence,
      should be the clear choice--
      use your vote and your voice,
      not for power, but rather, resistance.

      1. Miguel Pro - who, in imitation of Christ, forgives his executioners. Whose last words, before the bullets fly...with outstretched hands, will proclaim: ¨Viva Cristo Rey!” — “Long live Christ the King!”

  2. Mexican politics, or Roman politics? Miguel Pro gets my vote because Constantine had an earthly crown.

  3. Well, this was a no-brainer. This is like pitting Michael Jordan against a five-year-old picked-last dodgeball player. This part of the bracket . . . fixed! Fixed!!!! 😉

    1. It's not a popularity contest, is it? I, too, have admired Constantine and never heard of Miguel. But Constantine came from privilege, Miguel not so much.

  4. It's just hard for me to vote for Constantine when I think about how the Church has often abused it's power, as is evidenced in the history lesson in Miguel Pro's biography.

    1. Me, too. I think Calling Constantine a supporter of Christianity is like calling Henry VIII a reformer. But t hat's just me.

        1. Lisa, I have a different take on Miguel Pro. To paraphrase Brittany Spears, I'm not so sure he was all that innocent. He was, after all, a leader of the Cristero Rebellion, which pretty much had a goal of overthrowing the government. Brave in the face of death? No doubt, but innocent? I think not.
          Constantine, on the other hand, good, bad or otherwise, did save the entire Christian faith from persecution.
          Keith Opdahl would be proud.

    2. Another Ann Smith totally agrees with you. I know that he was a patron of the early church, but he had some very strange ideas of what that entailed.

    3. God works together for good for those who love God. Constantine was not perfect; Henry VIII was certainly not perfect, but look what opportunities we have now that we probably would not have had.

  5. I looked up Miguel Pro online and after reading a more detailed account of his heroic life, he got my vote. Your writeup did not do him justice.

    1. Thank you for your comment. It encouraged me to look him up, because, like you, I felt I didn't really get a sense of the man. He got my vote too.

      1. I absolutely agree. If wikipedia is too boring, try the trailer of "For Greater Glory". I thought it incredibly important that people understand how recently the actual practice of religion was officially *banned* in what is a very religious country.

    2. My sentiments exactly - the write-up contained more mexican history and politics than personal about Por. Constantine is easy to vote for (and I have, in past Lents). But something about Por's writeup compelled me to look him up on wiki, and it was a no-brainer for me. I think he was touched by God, and I would love to learn more about him if he wins.

  6. Not really a fan of either. Constantine started the devil's bargain of the coopting of the Church by the state, and the Cristeros had blood on their hands, too. This is the first time I haven't voted. I guess I would vote for Miguel Pro if I were forced to vote.

    1. I would agree totally, but for one consideration. Years ago I was teaching Sunday school. A couple of lessons featured OT stories I didn’t know (and don’t remember now) about some pretty awful people. I talked about it to one of our priests who pointed out that throughout the Bible, God works through some extremely flawed individuals, and always look for Him and His works in these tales. So - same here for me. Not yet sure which yet, but I will vote.

    2. I totally agree with your thoughtful analysis. I think people think persecution of the church is something that only occurs in distant atheist countries, totally not realizing that it occurred right here on our doorstep within our parents' and/or grandparents' lifetimes.

    3. Emily, I hear you. I thought of abstaining from voting for the first time as well.
      Under Constantine's rule Christianity was protected and the faith spread. Without him what would have happened? My question forces me to vote for Constantine.

      1. I can‘t believe we‘re actually faced with this choice. Miguel Pro may have been sincere but misguided, but Constantine was in it for himself all the way — and becoming the official religion of the Empire was the deatblow to a Christianity in imitation of Jesus — and the beginning of millennia of murderous persecution of Jews and Muslims. As a Jesus-follower, an Episcopalian, a student of history, and a friend to humanity, I am appalled by this bracket.

  7. Tough choice! I went for the pro, would like to have had more about his humanitarian good works, but Constantine was a warrior and while he did much for Christianity he also established some of the more objectionable parts of orthodoxy.

  8. Tricky one today. I don't feel I really know anything about Miguel or about the conflict he was engaged in. I am suspicious of Constantine's impact on Christianity by legitimising it and opening up the possibility of worldly power. A reluctant vote for by proxy for Helena in most part because of the novel about her which contains a wonderful description of the feast of epiphany and the blurring of ecclesiastical and political power.

  9. I'm not in love with Constantine necessarily, but I think it's also fair to say that in the 21st century West, he gets a lot of flak for our ambivalence about the following millennium and a half of Christianity. Not all his fault!

    1. You know, I think I'm with you... I went into this expecting to not vote for Constantine (regardless of whom he was up against), but between not following at all Pro's bio (brain fog?) and reading Constantine's and realizing that much of the negativity we associate with him may not have been (was likely not?) what he intended at all. Then again, only God knows his true motives... but still...

      Also fascinating to me that both were caught up in various political webs and outworking even from different places in that web.

  10. Such a difficult early round match up: a modern-day saint who fought for the right of the church to exist or the ancient emperor who legitimized Christianity throughout the Roman Empire and who returned their confiscated property. We need them both, especially today when Christians in many parts of the world are under attack by their governments. I'm going to vote for Miguel Pro as a way to amplify his voice as he is less well-known than Constantine.

  11. Many years ago, when I was without a church home, I read Graham Greene's novel about the Cristeros and it affected me a great deal. I'm voting for Miguel for walking with God through his life and during a time he might have survived if he had pretended he had no faith.

  12. don't like the CE used. have we become so politically correct that BC and AD can't be used even in a church publication? i've never heard of Miguel Pro but he got my vote because he was not given a trial-or a fair one.

    1. It amused me when I learned that theologians use CE while almost everybody else still uses BC and AD. Not sure it’s as sinister as it might seem on first glance but definitely an example of how things can flip in such surprising ways.

      1. I’m sure that many people still use BC and AD in common parlance, but BCE and CE were used exclusively in my (secular) college and university studies. I appreciate it as a way to be more inclusive ... and more accurate, since Jesus wasn’t born in Year 0 anyway. 😉

      2. CE is a more accurate timeline designation. It has been well-established at the BC/AD calendar was off by several years at minimum. Most scholars believe that Jesus was born about seven years BC. This is why using CE is more precise. CE is used by many disciplines but particularly to avoid the confusion when looking at particular years.

    2. Archeologists & historians are using CE, so it's time for the rest of us to get with the program, so to speak. Voted for Miguel.

  13. All comments are excellent, making a difficult choice more difficult. Going to have to think hard on this one.

    1. So after researching on my own, and reading the many excellent comments here, I put my vote to Miguel Pro. His underground ministry in Mexico reminded me of the faith journey exemplified by Bishop Desmond Tutu in South Africa during apartheid.

  14. Glad to see how many people saw this as a kind of devil’s choice. To me Miguel Pro was more admirable because probably an innocent foot soldier in a broader conflict. But both were counter revolutionary cads in my view.

  15. Currently in year 3 of EFM which is focused on the history of Christianity. I have read lots about Constantine - the good, the bad and the ugly! Saints are not perfect, they are human after all. I voted for Miguel Pro because his struggle is more relatable for me in our current political climate. Plus, he is a new Saint for me to have been introduced to thanks to Lent Madness!!

    1. My sympathies. Year 3 was my least favorite year mainly due to the book chosen for us. I did find outside sources to help make sense of the history.

  16. Not enthusiastic about either. I did end up voting for Construction, but will not continue to support him through the bracket.

  17. Well, neither of these will make it past round two, will they. I’ll vote for Constantine to not support the other guy, in solidarity with Central American martyrs on the other side of the Roman hierarchy.

  18. Constantine was the moment when the church got in bed with the empire and we are still living with the consequences...I wish that the write up of Miguel had given a clearer sense of how those consequences played out in that and so many other conflicts.
    no votes for Constantine the Con here!

  19. I find them both distasteful,
    of human life they’re wasteful.
    when politics and faith collide
    compassion just gets set aside.

    Could not vote for either one

  20. Constantine does not deserve a place in any listing of saints. While he did not invent anti-semitism and the myth of redemptive violence in the Church, he is perhaps the most responsible for seeing that those ideas became deeply rooted. It was at his insistence that the Church forbid the celebration of Easter (or Pascha) on the same date (14th of Nisan) as the Jewish celebration of Passover (or Pesach), because “We should not allow the date of our most holy observance to be determined by the people who killed our God,” which led to the excommunication of otherwise orthodox Jewish Christians. Similarly, up until the time of Constantine, Christians almost uniformly understood non-violence to be a core requirement of Christianity. Even Constantine recognized this by requiring that his soldiers be baptised with their sword arms out of the waters of baptism. Constantine laid the groundwork for the acceptance of violence in “defense” of Christianity, and one can draw a straight line from Constantine to the violence of the Crusades, the Conquistadors, and the Inquisition.

    Those wanting to learn more are welcome to read my two books, “Excommunicating the Faithful” Jewish Christianity in the Early Church” and “Paradoxy: Creating Christian Community Beyond Us and Them” (free pdf copies available at our website: https://faithx.net/books/).

    1. Thank you for this perspective! I was already deeply disturbed by such a powerful, political, and militaristic figure, but you gave my vote against Constantine a deeper dimension.

      1. Thank you!
        As a Jewish follower of Jesus, I find it depressing that Constantine is so far ahead.
        The imperial approach to evangelism that he planted – "accept the official version of Jesus or face the consequences" (persecution or death) – plagues Christianity (and Western thought and even politics) to this day. I can't think of a worse representative of Christianity than Constantine. I will vote against him in every round. I would vote for Judas before I'd vote for Constantine.

    2. Thank you. You summarized the thoughts not quite formed in my head as I finish my cup of coffee.

  21. Messianic politics of late, second comings, King of Israel and QAnon have left a bitter taste for the embrace of pagan rulers. Pro was noted for his charity and ability to speak about spiritual subjects without boring his audience (very saintly). And Pro was prayerful, spending long periods in the chapel. I vote for the one least likely to hold up a Bible for a photo-op.

  22. Miguel Pro was of the same generation as my great grandfather, who was a priest in the Church. I am spending time contemplating their alternative destinies. However, my vote goes to Constantine. Today, we have a tendency to only look at the warts on historical figures and not appreciate how they used their power to get us where we are.

    1. So true. In this present time, we are quick to condemn, as if we ourselves are not sinners, too. We leave no room for a persons thinking to evolve and grow.

    1. I see your point; the flip side is that with two political choices matched against each other in the first round, you know one of them won't make it to the second.

  23. I needed to know more about Miguel Pro, and went to Wickipedia. It was a fascinating story about a truly devout man and martyr. I had had no idea about the anti-Catholic history in Mexico, with the vestiges finally removed from their constitution only in 1991 under President Salinas. While Constantine was a good man by the standards of his time, and certainly made a huge impact on the course of Christianity, my vote is for the humble and devout Miguel Pro who did not run from the danger he had to see, but remained steadfast in his love of Jesus and God.