Reprinted from Magnificat (

Credible Witness: Servant of God Luis María Martínez

By Heather King

Servant of God Luis María Martínez (1881–1956), Archbishop of Mexico City, was also a philosopher, theologian, and poet. Among his books are The Sanctifier, Only Jesus, and Secrets of the Interior Life. 

Martínez was born in the Mexican state of Michoacán, studied at the diocesan seminary in Morelia, and was ordained a priest in 1904. He later taught at the seminary and was eventually installed as dean. 

After serving as auxiliary bishop of Morelia, in February 1937 he was appointed the archbishop of Mexico City by Pope Pius XI. He served until his death in 1956, and guided his flock through a difficult transition following a period of virulent anti-clericalism and Masonic-led persecution of the Church in Mexico.

Lázaro Cárdenas, an old childhood chum of the archbishop’s from Morelia, was President of Mexico between 1934 and 1940. Martínez was instrumental in helping Cárdenas, who was far-left in his political leanings, to achieve the beginnings of a reconciliation between Church and state. 

During World War II, Martínez was courageously vocal in his opposition to fascism. He championed democracy and urged Mexican citizens to vote. During the regime of Cardenas’ successor, General Manuel Ávila Camacho, the archbishop instituted a national Catholic campaign to wipe out illiteracy. He obtained government assistance to refurbish the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe.

He was known as well for his tender pastoral care, his religious poetry, and his wisdom as a spiritual director. At the core of his life, thought, and work was always Christ. 

In a videotaped introduction to a 1942 Spanish film called Jesus of Nazareth, the archbishop observed: “There has never been, nor will there ever be, any figure so sweet, so great, so saintly, so human, so divine, as the figure of Jesus. He is the center of this story. He is the fountain of civilization and, above all, the perennial spring of grace for our souls.”

In 1951, he received the title Primate of Mexico, the first in the Mexican Church to hold that honorific. 

He died on February 9, 1956, in Mexico City and was buried beneath the altar of the Metropolitan Cathedral. An estimated hundred thousand mourners came to pay their respects before the funeral. 

Only Jesus, widely regarded as the archbishop’s magnum opus, was published posthumously in 1962.

“God’s love for us is not a sterile love, confined to heaven,” he observed; “it is an active love, provident, watchful, solicitous; it is a love that does not forget us one moment, that protects us unceasingly, that keeps arranging minutely all the events of our life from the most far-reaching to the most insignificant.”

In conjunction with the opening of his cause for canonization, his remains were exhumed in May 2011 and moved to a side chapel. 

“We priests must be victims by reason of our loving sacrifice; we must be altars by reason of our purity,” the archbishop stressed. “The soul that shares in the mystical priesthood of Jesus must necessarily be priest, victim, and altar, that is, that soul must be Jesus.”