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This blessed martyr celebrated Mass hidden in a cave

Religious persecution in early 20th-century Mexico brought with it many martyrs who offered their lives to defend the Catholic Church and its freedom of worship. One of them was Blessed Elías del Socorro Nieves. Today, his relics are venerated in the diocesan shrine of Cañada de Caracheo, municipality of Cortazar, Guanajuato.

Humble origins

Mateo Elías Nieves was born in 1882 in San Pedro, next to the Yuriria Lagoon in Guanajuato. His parents were farmers. He soon expressed his desire to become a priest, but the untimely death of his father at the hands of criminals forced Mateo to leave school to work to help support his family.

It was not until 1904 that, in spite of his limited education, he was able to enter the Augustinian seminary of Yuriria. There, his efforts were crowned with the priestly ordination that he received in 1916.

While studying in the seminary, he struggled with an eye affliction that was making him blind. He was cured by God through the intercession of the Blessed Mother under the title of Our Lady of Perpetual Help (Nuestra Señora del Socorro). It was due to this healing that, when he made his religious profession, he changed his name to Elías del Socorro.

Priestly ministry

At the beginning of his priesthood, he exercised his ministry in several communities in the Bajío region of Mexico. Then in 1921 Fr. Elías del Socorro Nieves y Castillo was assigned as vicar to Cañada de Caracheo. This community is located next to the hill of Culiacán, which currently belongs to the municipality of Cortazar, Guanajuato.

The community was poor and lacked sanitary services and a school. However, Fr. Nieves worked joyfully among his parishioners, adapting to the situation.

Mass in a cave

In 1926 the famous Cristero War began after the president in office, Plutarco Elías Calles, created the “Calles Law.” This legislation limited the functions of priests and forced them to leave their churches, which were closed to public worship.

Fr. Nieves decided to remain with his parishioners, hiding in a cave where he celebrated Mass and other sacraments. There he remained for 14 months.

Read more at Aleteia 

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