Never Alone: The Life and Afterlife of Santo Toribio Romo
Fr. Ed Benioff - Added on Tuesday, July 01, 2014

Loneliness can be the worst sort of suffering. It cuts against our nature. God made us to live with others — to live in society — to live in love. At the creation of the first man, Adam, God said: “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suited to him” (Genesis 2:18). God wants what is good for us, and so he has always provided us helpers. When Hagar was suffering alone in the desert, God sent an angel to console and save her (Genesis 21:17-19).


We are made to be social — to live in connection with others. The Church fulfills this need because it is a great society, designed to include all the earth and all of heaven.


Still today, when we suffer, we can know the presence and help of “so great a cloud of witnesses” (Hebrews 12:1). God gives us angels and saints as our special patrons. Sometimes these are recognized officially by Church authority, and sometimes they arise spontaneously from the devotion of ordinary people.


Santo Toribio Romo (1900-1928) has emerged as a beloved, though “unofficial” patron of undocumented Latino immigrants in the United States.


As the angel appeared to Hagar, so Santo Toribio has reportedly appeared to many immigrants in distress. They say he has led them to safety, water, food, and money to get them through. He arrives to give hope and encouragement and advice.


Many of those who receive help eventually make pilgrimage to thank the saint. They go to the town of Santa Ana de Guadalupe in Jalostotitlán, Mexico.


Santo Toribio died as a martyr in 1928, killed by Mexican soldiers during the Cristero War. A young man ordained in a time of intense persecution, he was a victim of unjust laws. The government restricted his ministry and confined him to his family home. But he continued to serve his people with total dedication, inspiring them to persevere in the faith. In the middle of the night on February 25, 1928, soldiers came to his house to silence him once and for all. He was roused from sleep and shot repeatedly as his sister looked on.


But Santo Toribio could not be silenced, even by death. His courageous witness inspired others to still greater courage. Nor, apparently, would he cease to care for his people.


In 2000, he was canonized by Pope Saint John Paul II. By that time he was already well established as a friend to immigrants in distress.


Whatever our troubles may be, we should know that we are never alone. God made us to keep good company. He made us to live amid a great cloud of witnesses. He made us to know the help of heaven in the care of the angels and saints. This is what we learn from the Bible, and from the traditions of our faith — and from the personal witness of those who have known the help of Santo Toribio Romo.

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