One of eleven children born to Prudenzio Guizar and Natividad Valencia, wealthy and pious land owners. Ordained in 1901. Conducted missions throughout Mexico. Founded the Congregation of Missionaries of Our Lady of Hope in 1903. Apostolic missionary in 1905. Spiritual director in the major seminary of Zamora, Mexico. Used his family’s money to found a school for poor girls. Founded two colleges for boys.
In 1911 a state persecution of the Church began. His Congregation was dissolved and his missionary work was prohibited, so Father Raphael continued his work illegally. He founded a Catholic magazine in Mexico City, which the government quickly shut down. Raphael went on the road, disguised as a travelling merchant or musician, ministering to the poor and preaching when he could. He was shot at several times by soldiers, and condemned to death in absentia. In 1916 the authorities were so close on his trail that Raphael fled Mexico, first to the United States and then to Guatemala where he spent a year preaching missions. Preached in Cuba from 1917 to 1919. Named bishop of Veracruz-Jalapa, Mexico on 1 August 1919; he received word of the appointment while preaching in Havana. He continued his missionary work in Colombia, but finally returned to Veracruz, Mexico on 4 January 1920.
The government persecution of the Church escalated. The diocesan seminary was shut down; Bishop Raphael transferred his students to Mexico City and continued their training covertly. In 1931 Governor Tejada of Veracruz decreed that there could only be one priest per 100,000 Catholics; Raphael shut all his churches in protest. Tejeda ordered that Raphael be shot on sight; Raphael went straight to the governor‘s palace and walked into his office. Tejeda feared the uprising that killing such a man would cause, and revoked the death sentence; Raphael spent the rest of his days fighting to continue the work of the Church in the face of government opposition.
The Gospel that we have heard helps us to understand the figure of Saint Rafael Guízar y Valencia, Bishop of Vera Cruz in the beloved Mexican Nation, as an example of one who has left all to “follow Jesus”. This Saint was faithful to the divine Word, “living and active”, that penetrates the depth of the spirit (cf. Hebrews 4:12). Imitating the poor Christ, he renounced his goods and never accepted the gifts of the powerful, or rather, he gave them back immediately. This is why he received “a hundred fold” and could thus help the poor, even amid endless “persecutions” (cf. Mark 10:30). His charity, lived to a heroic degree, earned him the name, “Bishop of the poor”. In his priestly and later episcopal ministry, he was an untiring preacher of popular missions, the most appropriate way at the time to evangelize people, using his own “Catechism of Christian Doctrine”. Since the formation of priests was one of his priorities, he reopened the seminary, which he considered “the apple of his eye”, and therefore he would often say: “A Bishop can do without the miter, the crosier and even without the cathedral, but he cannot do without the seminary, since the future of his Diocese depends on it”. With this profound sense of priestly paternity he faced new persecutions and exiles, but he always guaranteed the formation of the students. The example of St Rafael Guízar y Valencia is a call to his brother Bishops and priests to consider as fundamental in pastoral programs, beyond the spirit of poverty and evangelization, the promotion of priestly and religious vocations, and their formation according to the heart of Jesus! – Pope Benedict XVI, from the canonization homily of Saint Raphael
- “Saint Rafael Guízar y Valencia“. CatholicSaints.Info. 1 June 2015. Web. 2 June 2015. <>