Blessed Elías del Socorro Nieves
Elías del Socorro Nieves (1882-1928) was martyred during a twentieth century persecution of the Church in Mexico.
Mateo Elías Nieves del Castillo was born September 21, 1882 on the Island of San Pedro, Yuriría, Guanajuato, Mexico. His parents, Rita and Ramón, were farmers. Mateo Elías was raised in a deeply religious atmosphere.
He wanted to become a Priest from an early age. When he was 12, he nearly died from tuberculosis. Shortly after he recovered, his father was killed by robbers. Mateo Elí had to drop out of school and work on the farm to support his family.
In 1904, in spite of his minimal early education, he was admitted to the newly opened Augustinian seminary in Yuriría. Studies were not easy for him, and were made even more difficult by poor eyesight.
But he continually felt the help of God. When he professed his vows as an Augustinian, he changed his name to Elías del Socorro (help) in grateful recognition of the help God had given to him.
After being ordained a Priest in 1916, he served in parishes. He was sent to La Cañada de Caracheo in 1921. This was an obscure, poor, primitive town of some 3000 persons. There, in conditions of poverty, he ministered to both the spiritual and material needs of the people.
When a persecution of the Catholic Church began in Mexico in 1926, Elías defied a government order to leave La Cañada. Instead, he went to live in a cave, ministering to the faithful under cover of night.
After 14 months of this clandestine life, he was arrested, along with two ranchers who were with him. Elías readily admitted that he was a Priest, and proclaimed his faith in Jesus Christ.
After their arrest, the prisoners and their soldier captors set out for a nearby town. Along the way, the Captain ordered the two ranchers, José de Jesús Sierra and his brother José Dolores, shot. Refusing to leave Padre Nieves, they died courageously, proclaiming Christ as their King.
They continued on their journey, and a short time later, the Captain said to Padre Nieves, "It is your turn now. Let's see if dying is anything like saying Mass."
Padre Nieves replied, "You are speaking the truth. To die for our religion is a pleasing sacrifice to God."
After giving his watch to the Captain and blessing all the soldiers, Elías began to recite the Creed as the soldiers prepared to kill him. His last words were, "Long live Christ the King!"
His execution took place March 10, 1928.