The wife, mother and mystic of Mexico.
To celebrate the end of this awesome Year of the Priest, I wanted to share with you the amazing life story of Venerable Conchita Cabrera de Armida. She was one of the most amazing mystics of our time; seeming simple and tangible because of her normal life as a daughter, wife, mother, widow, grandmother, friend and companion. Yet in the spiritual reality of her life she lived in a juxtaposition of earthly normality and in an enigmatic union with God. Her children were to say of their mother that they were unaware of anything supernatural in thier her life except that she was the "best mother in the world".
What Blessed Anna-Maria Taigi was for Italy in the 18th/19th century Venerable Conchita was for Mexico in the 19th/20th century both as wives, mothers, and mystic. She wrote more than any other mystics of the Church. In all she did for Christ Crucified, she did in hiddenness during her period of being a wife, homemaker, serving her husband and family. I will try to paint, and all, but incomplete picture of her here; please discover this remarkable inspiration spiritual mother for yourself, she is a model to us all.
Concepcion Cabrera was born in San Luis Potosi the seventh of twelve children. Her mother was very ill after her birth, so Conchita was taken from her mother to a farm a distance away to be feed by a wet nurse. (Notice this compares to another great spiritual mother patron, St Therese, at the beginning of her life).
She was brought up in a family where her father, the head of the home, led the family spiritually with the rosary being said daily. She loved piano and horse riding and was given many responsibilities in the home from a young age. She was attracted to prayer from an early age and after reading about the lives of the saints commenced doing mortifications and sacrifices imagining how she could imitate the holy people who inspired her.
I quote now from: CONCHITA - A Mother's Spiritual Diary:
For understanding Conchita.... A brief statement in her Diary reveals to us her state of soul as a young married woman: "Upon seeing, despite my husband's great goodness, marriage did not correspond to what I regarded as life's fullness, instinctively my heart drew closer and closer to God, seeking in Him what was wanting in it. The inner life of my soul had grown in spite of all the joys of the earth". In the very bosom of the greatest joys of love, she feels the limitations and the ephemeral nature of all human love.
Their first child was Francisco born on September 28, 1885.
Then came Carlos who was born on March 28, 1887. He died of typhoid fever at the age of six. Conchita tells us, “His death was heartbreaking for me, and I felt such pain as I had never felt before.”
Manuel her third child, was born in January 23, 1889. He became a Jesuit priest, while living in Spain he wrote to his mother about his decision to become a priest. She wrote back to him, she gave him this advice
“Give yourself to the Lord with all your heart, and do not hold anything back! Forget about creatures and forget especially about yourself! I cannot imagine someone consecrated to God who is not a saint. One cannot give only half of oneself to God. Be generous with him!”
Manuel (1889-1955) -
Ordained a Priest in the Society of Jesus on July 31, 1922 in
Ordained a Priest in the Society of Jesus on July 31, 1922 in
Maria de la Concepción, (Concha) born on September 29, 1890, was their first daughter. At six months she got seriously ill and they young couple prepared for the worst, she recovered. She got terrible ill once again in the year of her first Holy Communion contracting typhoid fever. For 40 days and nights she clung to life but God had other plans as he wanted this beautiful pure flower for Himself . He dictated to Conchita;
"Concha was an angel, extremely pure, filled with hidden qualities and virtues. Modesty was her dominant note. How many virtues I saw her practice in the bosom of the family and in the intimacy of the home! She was a jewel, a pearl, a precious 'shell' a lily... At fifteen she made a vow of virginity, and at seventeen and a half she entered religion... A pure jewel not made for this world... The Lord chose her for Himself “She entered the convent of the Sisters of the Cross of the Sacred Heart of Jesus on October 23, 1916.
Maria de la Concepción (1890-1925)
Conchita and Pancho had five other children: Ignacio, Pablo, Salvador, Pedro, and Guadalupe.
While she was sewing one day she suddenly heard a voice that said to her, “Pedrito is in the pool in the garden.” She ran to him but it was too late. Had drowned in the garden pool; he was only six.
Ignacio1893 - 1979
Salvador 1896 - 1975
Guadalupe (Lupe) 1898 - 1980
Conchita loved her husband and family but she had a burning desire of love toward Our Lord. She asked permission to mark herself with a monogram of Christ and had the initials J.H.S cut into her chest (Jesus Salvator Hominun – Jesus, Saviour of Men). After this she had a supernatural force which threw her to the ground and from within she burned with the flames of love for Christ. Vehemently and zealously I asked the Lord for the salvation of souls! Jesus Saviour of souls, save them, save them!
She was transformed and the Spirituality of the Cross was born. Subsequently she began to understand more deeply the imitation of Christ and the joy of suffering. In a vision she saw the Holy Spirit as a cross with a dove, a flaming heart encircled by thorns with tiny crosses fastened to it. This image became the symbol of her spiritual works which she founded, the “Works of the Cross” . She now had a mission outside of her family life yet never neglecting her duties to the state of her life as wife and mother. She considered these duties sacred and carried them out perfectly.
The image Jesus revealed to her for the “Works of the Cross”
The Apostolate of the Cross is an organization whose members unite their sufferings with the sufferings of Christ in order to save souls. The Lord revealed to her an order of contemplative nuns dedicated to this life and a congregation of men that would share this message of the cross for the salvation of souls, to the whole world. This is also shared with the lay man and woman in the Love Crucified Communities who seek to live the spirituality of Venerable Conchita as victim souls to do Gods will for the glory of the Father.
The Lord revealed Himself to her as Victim, Priest and Host. Her entire spiritual doctrine was marked be a priestly character. Our Lord sorrowfully revealed to her the lack of fervour of some priests. He told her," You are destined for the salvation of souls, most especially souls of priests. I want you to be My Host and have the intention of offering yourself with Me on all the patens on earth. I want you transformed in me by suffering, and by the practice of all the virtues, to raise heavenward this cry of your soul in union with me; ‘This is My Body, This is my blood." This was the essence of her Works of the Cross.
"This Cross will chase away the devil, spread warmth and life, cure souls and bodies, and make many miracles" - The Promise of Jesus to Ven. Concepción Cabrera de Armida.
Panco with some of the children
She knew on the night of her husband death that the Lord was asking her to sacrifice her husband, she accepted this within her soul but her present earthly being rejected and refused it. It was like a sword piercing her soul without consolation. Her beloved Pancho died a holy death on September 1901, she was by his side with her four older children, at the time her eldest was only 16. Our Lady was her source of strength, asking her to help in the upbringing of her young family. She suffered terribly the loss of her husband. She meet a priest soon afterward Pancho's death who gave her spiritual consolation and would help her develop and found the "Works of the Cross" – Fr Felix Rougier de Jesus. They would give counsel and advice to one another until the end of their lives.
Fr Felix de Jesus Rougier.
At 44 Conchita was inspired by God to rise up a group of spiritual elite to be consecrated to God in the service of the Church, called the “Chain of Love". This was the central grace of her life.
The Mexican Bishops learned of the Apostolate of the Cross and the desire for a foundation of priests; “The Priest of the Cross.” In 1913 Conchita was requested by the Congregation for Religious to send her writings to Rome which contained the secrets of her soul and her spiritual life. She had a private interview with Pope St Pius X and he gave his blessing and approval to the new congregation of priests with the new name of the Missionaries of the Holy Spirit.
Pope St Pius X
In the 1920’s Mexico was undergoing a political crisis and the Church was being heavily persecuted. Conchita prayed fervently for her country’s Church. She prayed without ceasing for priests and bishops and bravely hid them in her home. On March 3rd 1937 she died a quiet and holy death from bronchial pneumonia and other illnesses.
Modern Saints Their Lives and Faces, Book Two by Ann Ball.
Conchita A Mother’s Spiritual Diary. Edited by Marie-Michel Philipon
Conchita A Mother’s Spiritual Diary. Edited by Marie-Michel Philipon
“MOTHER, TEACH ME HOW TO BE A PRIEST!”
This is a beautiful article adapted from the booklet - Adoration, Reparation, Spiritual Motherhood for Priests. It has a different perspective from the top posting; it illustrates Conchita as a mother, a spiritual mother to her son Manuel:
Jesus prepared her to live a life of spiritual motherhood for priests. In the future, she will be of great importance for the universal Church.
Jesus once explained to Conchita,
“There are souls, who through ordination receive a priestly anointing. However, there are ... also priestly souls who do not have the dignity or the ordination of a priest, yet have a priestly mission. They offer themselves united to me… these souls help the Church in a very powerful spiritual way. … You will be the mother of a great number of spiritual children, yet they will cost your heart the death of a thousand martyrs.
“Bring yourself as an offering for the priests. Unite your offering with my offering, to obtain graces for them.” … “I want to come again into this world. … in my priests. I want to renew the world by revealing myself through the priests. I want to give my Church a powerful impulse in which I will pour out the Holy Spirit over my priests like a new Pentecost.
“The Church and the world need a new Pentecost, a priestly Pentecost, an interior Pentecost.”
As a young girl, Conchita once prayed before the Blessed Sacrament, “Lord, I feel so incapable of loving you; therefore, I want to marry. Give me many children so that they can love you more than I.”
Conchita as a very beautiful young lady.
She had a very happy marriage, and gave birth to nine children—two girls and seven boys, each of whom she consecrated to Our Lady, “I give them entirely to you as your children. You know that I am not capable of raising them. I understand too little of what it means to be a mother. But you...you know it.” She endured the death of four of her children, each dying a holy death.
Naturally, Conchita’s spiritual motherhood was very apparent in one of her sons who became a priest. She wrote about him, “Manuel was born in the same hour that Fr. José Camacho died. Upon hearing the news, I prayed to God that my son could replace him at the altar. … When little Manuel began to talk, we prayed together for the great grace of a vocation to the priesthood. … On the day of his First Holy Communion and on all the major solemnities, he renewed this prayer. … At the age of 17, he joined the Society of Jesus.”
In 1914, she met Manuel in Spain for the last time, because he never returned to Mexico. He wrote in a letter to her, “My dear little mother, you have shown me the way. Fortunately, I have heard from your lips since my earliest years the challenging and saving teaching of the Cross. Now I want to put it into practice.” His mother felt the pain of separation, “I took your letter to the tabernacle and told the Lord that I accept this sacrifice with my whole soul. The next day I was carrying your letter close to my heart when I received Holy Communion and, in this way, renewed my total offering to the Lord.”
“MOTHER, TEACH ME HOW TO BE A PRIEST!”
On 23 July 1922, one week before his ordination to the priesthood, the 33-year-old Manuel asked Conchita in a letter,
“Mother, teach me how to be a priest! Tell me about the immeasurable joy of being able to celebrate Holy Mass. I put everything back into your hands, just as when you held me to your chest as a very small child, teaching me the beautiful names of Jesus and Mary and introducing me to this mystery. I really feel like an infant asking for your light, your prayer and your sacrifice. ... As soon as I am a priest, I will send you my blessing, and then I will receive yours on my knees.”
On 31 July 1922, as Manuel was being ordained to the priesthood in Barcelona, Conchita woke up in the middle of the night so that she could participate spiritually in his ordination. She was overcome by the awareness, “I am the mother of a priest! … I can only cry and give thanks! I invite all of heaven to give thanks in my place because I am incapable of doing it, I who am so wretched.” Ten years later, she wrote to her son, “I cannot imagine a priest who is not Jesus, even less so in the Society of Jesus. I pray that your transformation into Christ, through celebrating Holy Mass, may help you to become Jesus day and night.” (17 May 1932) “What would we do without the Cross? Life would be unbearable without pain; it unites, sanctifies, purifies and attains grace.” (10 June 1932)Fr. Manuel died a holy death in 1955 at the age of 66.
The Lord enlightened Conchita regarding her apostolate, “I will entrust to you a different martyrdom: you will suffer what the priests undertake against me. You will experience and offer up their infidelity and wretchedness.” This spiritual motherhood for the sanctification of priests and the Church consumed her completely at the age of 74.
Prayer That a Child May Be a Priest or Religious
Blessed mother, Mary, the greatest joy and honour of a parent is to train their child, by word and example, to dedicate their entire life to loving your Son, Jesus. All of us are called to this love by whatever vocation we have. In the providence of God, I have been called to love God as a parent, and with your help and intercession, my child has grown to know and love God. I now pray that my child might have a vocation to serve God in a special way by entering into His holy service.
Freely do I give my child (mention name here) to God, for God freely gave my child to me. And in His all-pervading love for us both, we will be reunited in heaven. Let my child see the true values of living in holy and constant communion with your Divine Son. Encourage in the heart of my child a willingness to bear with any burden in order to love God more faithfully, and to love everyone in the world for God's sake.
Please make my child worthy of a call from God to a special and total dedication to God's family here on earth. I ask this of you, holy mother, only because of my deep love for your Son. Help me always to be a good example in my home, so that my child can learn how God's love has been ever with us.
LITANY FOR PRIESTS:
written by Venerable Concepción Cabrera de Armida, (spiritual mother of priests), September 18, 1921.
For our Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, R. Lord, give him your Heart of the Good Shepherd.
For the successors of the Apostles, R. Lord, give them fatherly concern for their priests.
For your Bishops chosen by the Holy Spirit, R. Lord, keep them close to your sheep.
For your Pastors, R. Lord, teach them to serve rather than to seek to be served.
For confessors and spiritual directors, R. Lord, make them docile instruments of your Spirit.
For those who announce Your Word, R. Lord, let them communicate your Spirit and Life.
For those who help the lay apostolate, R. Lord, encourage them to give witness.
For those who work with the youth, R. Lord, may they commit the youth to you.
For those who work among the poor, R. Lord, make them see and serve you in them.
For those who care for the sick, R. May they teach them the value of suffering, Lord.
For poor priests, R. Help them, Lord.
For sick priests, R. Heal them, Lord.
For elderly priests, R. Give them joyful hope, Lord.
For the sad and afflicted, R. Console them, Lord.
For anxious and troubled priests, R. Give them your peace, Lord.
For the ridiculed and persecuted, R. Defend their cause, Lord.
For lukewarm priests, R. Inflame them, Lord.
For the discouraged, R. Give them courage, Lord.
For those who aspire to the priesthood, R. Give them perseverance, Lord.
To all priests, R. Give them fidelity to you and your Church, Lord.
To all priests, R. Give them obedience and love for the Holy Father, Lord.
To all priests, R. Let them live in communion with their Bishop, Lord.
That all priests, R. Be one as you, Lord, and the Father are One.
That all priests, R. May promote the justice with which you, Lord, are just.
That all priests, R. Collaborate in the unity of the Presbyterate, Lord.
That all priests, filled with your presence, R. Live joyfully in celibacy, Lord.
To all priests, R. Grant them the fullness of your Spirit, Lord, and transform them into yourself.
In a special way, I pray for those priests through whom I have received your graces. I pray for the priest who baptized me and for those who have absolved me of my sins, reconciling me with you and with your Church. I pray for those priests in whose Masses I have participated and who have given me your Body as nourishment. I pray for those priests who have shared your Word with me, and for those who have helped me and led me to you.