St. David Galván Bermúdez was a teacher, a priest, and a martyr of the Mexican Cristero War. David was born in 1881 in Guadalajara, in the state of Jalisco in western Mexico. His parents were José Galván and his wife Mariana Bermúdez and José operated a shoe store. Mariana died when David was just three, and José eventually remarried assuring that David and his sisters did not have to grow up without a mother. From his childhood, David was trained to help in the shoe shop. He attended the Guadalajara high school seminary, beginning at age fourteen. He was a good student, but he discerned out of seminary five years later, and went back to work for his father. For the next three years, David seemingly lost his moral compass, living his life far away from God’s ways. He was even arrested for striking his girlfriend.
After a deep conversion, he requested readmission to the seminary. He was allowed to reenter, on condition that he undergo a one-year probation, which was filled with tests of his maturity and his fidelity. It was clear that he had put his worldly ways behind him, and he advanced in his seminary studies.
After his 1909 ordination, Father Galván was assigned at the young age of twenty-eight to teach at the seminary, and he was the chair of the Latin, sociology, and natural law courses. Soon afterwards, he was named rector of the seminary. Among his many duties, he founded a seminary magazine and served as chaplain of both a hospital and an orphanage in Guadalajara. He became known for his careful attention for the suffering and the poverty of those placed under his care. During the early years of the Mexican Cristero War, the arrests of priests began to take place. After 120 priests were arrested, Francisco Orozco y Jiménez, the Archbishop of Guadalajara permanently closed the seminary. During 1913-14, revolutionary followers of Venustiano Carranza formed one of the factions of the Cristero War, and Father Galván was arrested and temporarily jailed. While he was imprisoned, Father helped the other prisoners by praying with and for them and hearing their confessions. After his release, he spent much of his time spiritually and physically tending to the wounded. He placed himself in great danger doing so, for he was actually out on the battlefield.
COMMITTED TO THE SALVATION OF SOULS
In 1914, he was appointed as vicar for the municipality of Amátitân, just north of Guadalajara. During his time there, he stood up for the sanctity of marriage, when he defended a young woman from a young married lieutenant who demanded to marry her. On January 30, 1915, there was a violent battle taking place in downtown Guadalajara between the Carranzistas and the Villistas (supporters of Pancho Villa). The streets of the city became filled with dead and wounded men. When he learned of it, Father Galván set out to tend to the wounded with another priest, Father José María Araiza. When a friend warned him that doing so could cost him his life, he said, “And if I am killed? What greater glory is there than to die saving a soul?”. On the way into the city, the two priests were arrested by some soldiers and taken before none other than Enrique Vera, the man from whom Father Galván had protected the young woman in Amátitân. By then, Vera was a lieutenant colonel, and he ordered their execution without a trial. Father Araiza obtained a last-minute pardon, but Father Galván was taken before firing squad. He declined to be blindfolded, and just before the shots were fired, he pointed to his heart, to let the soldiers know where to aim. His death on January 30, 1915, was the day after his thirty-fourth birthday.
St. David Galván Bermúdez was beatified in 1992 and canonized in St. Peter’s Square in May of 2000, one of the twenty-five martyrs of the Mexican Cristero War. In June of 2022, his remains were taken to a shrine prepared for him in the beautiful Church of Our Lady of the Rosary, very close to the place of his martyrdom. The Mexican Cristero martyrs feast day is May 21, and St. David is especially remembered on January 29.