A Saint in My Family

I recently heard about the Mazatlecan connection to a saint who was canonized just a few weeks ago, on October 16, 2016. I spoke to the saint’s great-nephew, Samuel Parra Sánchez, and he kindly agreed to write an article for us about Saint Joselito. I am happy to share his story with you.


Saint Joselito, left, and baby Ximena with her mother, Paulina, on the right

I do not know how many Canadians or US Americans celebrate a day dedicated to a religious saint who answers people’s prayers with miracles. It’s difficult to believe if you are not a follower of Jesus Christ, maybe because faith means everything to us. I am referring to the people who practice Roman Catholicism.

The story I am going to tell you is difficult to believe because the main character is already dead. On October 16 of 2016, Pope Francis canonized as a saint a 14-year-old boy who gave his life in protest against a bunch of murderers who, at the beginning of the 20th Century, tried to banish Mexican priests. That boy was named José Luis Sánchez del Río—Joselito—and he was my great, great, grand-uncle.

According to PEW Research:

  • 81% of Mexicans self-identify as Catholic, 9% as Protestant, and only 7% as unaffiliated with a religion.
  • While 71% of US American citizens identify with the Christian religion, only 21% are Catholic. 23% are unaffiliated with any religious belief, and 6% are non-Christian (Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu, etc).
  • 39% of Canadians, in contrast, identify as Catholic, 24% as unaffiliated, and 11% with other religions.

Thus, I am not sure how am I going to convince you that there´s a saint in my family. Let’s start from the beginning  of the validated miracle.

The story opens with a baby girl, Ximena Magallón Guadalupe Galvéz, born on September 8, 2008 in the United States—so technically she´s American. After she was born, Ximena’s parents took her to the city of Sahuayo, located in the state of Michoacan, the same state where the Blessed Joselito had been born. When she was 15 days old Ximena fell into a fever that turned into meningitis and tuberculosis. She suffered seizures and a cerebral stroke. Paulina Gálvez Avila, Ximena’s mother, shared her baby’s story, saying that “humanly, Ximena had no hope of life.”

Her parents took Ximena to the pediatrician and he tried his best to help her, but she did not improve. They took X-rays to rule out pneumonia. Ximena was admitted to the Hospital of Santa María Sahuayo.

Doctors discovered she had fluid in her lungs, tests showed she had tuberculosis, and the smile on her face was lost after she fell into a vegetative state. Doctors induced a coma after they determined that 90 percent of Ximena’s brain was dead. They were going to disconnect her from life support.

“We went to Mass every day to ask God and Joselito to intercede for my baby, to perform a miracle. Before disconnecting her, I asked them to let me be with Ximena and hug her. After that they disconnected the machines. At that point, I put Ximena in the hands of God and the intercession of Joselito. Suddenly, my baby opened her eyes and smiled at me,” her mother said.

Ximena looked at the doctors and began to laugh with them. They could not explain what had happened, because they had done everything medically possible and it hadn’t helped. That is when they saw it was a miracle.

Medical personnel gave the baby a CT scan and an EEG, and 80% of her brain was somehow recovered. The next day her brain was completely healthy. Hospital staff advised that the baby would not be able to suckle. However, when her mother gave her the bottle she drank eleven ounces of formula. The doctors were amazed. They believed that if Ximena survived she probably would not walk, talk, see, or hear, because of the aftermath of the stroke she suffered.

Against all medical predictions, Ximena fully recovered and is perfectly fine, thanks to God and to the intercession of Joselito. Click on any photo below to enlarge it or view a slideshow.

José Luis Sánchez del Río was tortured and killed at age 14 during the 1924 – 1928 religious persecution of Mexican President Plutarco Elias Calles. José Luis had enlisted in the ranks of the Cristeros, under General Prudencio Mendoza.

He was captured by the federal army and his martyrdom took place on Friday 10 February 1928. They cut the soles of Joselito’s feet, and he was led barefoot to his grave. As he walked, José Luis prayed and shouted, “Viva Cristo Rey y la Santísima Virgen de Guadalupe!”—“Long live Christ the King and the Blessed Virgin of Guadalupe!”

At his tomb Joselito was hung on a tree and stabbed. One of the executioners asked him what message he would like to give his parents. The boy replied, “Que Viva Cristo Rey and that we’ll meet in heaven.” Hearing this response, the man shot him in the head and killed him.

Well, this is the story about a saint in my family. You can choose to believe it or not, you can say I am a dreamer, or a guy who likes witchcraft or mumbo jumbo. But do not waste time thinking about who has the best logic. Tell me, how great is your faith?


Contact Samuel via his websiteFacebook page, or YouTube channel.

Rite of Passage


Rites of passage. What images does that phrase bring to mind? Masai warrior rituals? Debutante balls? Walkabouts? Bar mitzvahs? Uros Indian boys knitting hats so tightly that water won’t leak through? Menstruation? Graduation? Marriage?

We moved to Mazatlán four years ago. Since that time, Danny and I have attended church every Sunday. Same church each week. Same Mass each week. Same people we see there each week. Four years. I love Sunday Mass. Love to sing. Love communal prayer. Love the people we celebrate with each week.

During that time, we have gotten to know the priest. We greet the greeters: those women at the entrance handing out bulletins. We sit in the same pew, pretty much, every week, too. There are about three women who will sit in our pew and greet us. I like them. They help me feel human, not just gringa. There are lots of other people who will sit in our pew and act as if they’ve never seen us before, even though of course they have seen us every Sunday the past four years. And, there are loads of people who avoid sitting anywhere near us. Maybe they’re afraid we won’t speak Spanish, or know the rules, or…

Now, it’s a Catholic church, and anyone who knows Catholicism will tell you that good Catholics don’t fraternize at Sunday services (written tongue in cheek, but true). You come, you pray, you leave. No small talk. The priests basically have to order us to shake hands with the person beside us in the pew.

Well, a few weeks ago we had something going on in the morning, and we went to the Sunday evening service instead. Lo and behold, the altar guild lady asked me if I’d do the collection! Wow! A rite of passage! I had never been asked to take up the collection before. I was becoming a regular part of the parish after all!

But this was not “my” Mass. It was the evening Mass, which I rarely attend. It was a welcome invitation, for sure. Now, in the parish’s defense, I have made no effort to get involved in the church outside of Sunday Mass. My schedule right now doesn’t allow it, my preferences right now aren’t prioritizing it. There are people who attend our Mass that I know outside of church. They of course greet us.

Well, unwittingly this am, as Danny and I knelt in prayer before the service started, the altar guild/greeter lady at OUR service, our church, came to our pew, and asked us if we would be so kind as to take up the gifts! “Would you take up the wine, and your Mami take up the bread,” she asked Danny.

Wow! How cool is that!

As if that wasn’t cool enough, one of the “friendly” ladies sat down beside us. She actually KISSED me during the giving of the peace.

Four years, people, but we feel included. We have received our rite of passage.

I will say I attended church in Tokyo and in the US longer than we’ve been here, and was never ad-hoc included in this way.

Now the Episcopal Church, where Danny used to serve Mass every Sunday morning, and I was the greeter, that’s a different story… 🙂