Saturday, May 26, 2012
Conchita, Pentecost, and the Mexican Martyrs
The United States awaits the opening of For Greater Glory next Friday, June 1. It promises to be a very informative movie and a timely one as well. The story revolves around the persecution of the Catholic Church in Mexico and has a top notch crew of actors and actresses. Did you ever wonder what sort of a person runs into a burning building? Remember the firefighters and emergency personnel who were running up the stairs of the Word Trade Center on 9/11? Remember the soldiers who went into enemy territory to capture and kill Osama Bin Laden? What type of a person does such a thing? A person of great heroism and a person of great passion. This is what the church needs from Catholics right now. It is time to live the life of faith of the martyrs. Listen to the story of one priest who arrived in Vera Cruz Mexico on August 14, 1914. Father Felix Rigiuer was the confessor and spiritual director of a mystic named Concepcion Cabrera de Armida ("Conchita"). Conchita was the eneducated mother of nine who would go on to write some incredible doctrinal works-all dictated to her by Our Lord. The preface to the book Conchita by M.M. Philipon, O.P. notes: " The laity in particular is called today to witness before the whole world to an outstanding holiness. Does not God give us an example of this in this mother of nine children on her way to the altars? Conchita lived on earth, simple and joyous among her own, wholly given over to God in the secret recesses of her soul in which dwelt the Holy Spirit, living in an intense apostolic splendor radiating from the horizons of the church, creatrix of a new style of holiness accessible to all." Which brings us back to Fr Felix. Conchita had shared with him her dreams of four new religious communities in 1904. Fr Felix was sent back to France and now, in the midst of a terrible persecution of the church, he is returning. Listen to Fr. Philllipon's, O.P, words: "God had placed close to Conchita a saint. When not having seen her for ten years, Father Felix was to see her again, his first words were simply: 'I have not changed my opinion about the works of the Cross.' On his return to Mexico, at the very moment of his disembarking at Vera Cruz August 14, 1914, he met some Mexican bishops who (driven out by the persecution) were going to leave on the same ship. They knew him and loved him. They did not hide their amazement upon seeing him disembark, but Father courageously responded: 'The Lord wants me to found His work during the agony of the nation.'" Listen to the heroic first hand accounts of this saintly woman. They serve as a historical backdrop for the movie For Greater Glory: "August 15. A day of anguish. They intend to requisition la Casa de la Cruz (the convent of the contemplatives), to be used as general quarters and as a lodging for officers. Today some twenty thousand Carranzistas arrived. Some three or four times more are to come. I felt in my soul a mortal sadness, as if Satan had entered Mexico. It was a terrible oppression. It is the scourge of God. The war unleashed against the Church , is accentuated. My spiritual director had to go into hiding. A persecution, a frightful one, draws near. God has put nearby us some neighbors, members of the government, who love the sisters and offer to save them....August 17 Things get worse every day. Horrible blasphemies, outrages, deaths, rapes and pillaging of homes occur. Gunfire is heard throughout the day. We are afraid to go out. A holocaust of priests exists. Religious have been expelled. The goods of the church are going to be confiscated. There are forced loans and a thousand other pitiful things.'" Needless to say, these are pretty dramatic accounts. Here are more of her words: "Today we begin another month of a thousand anxieties. Puebla has been overtaken by the anti-clericals. They have profaned this Cathedral so dear to my heart! They expelled the canons and burned the confessionals. They have taken over the Episcopal palace and committed thousands of vexations against the priests. Outrages and horrors are everywhere! When I complained to the Lord about what was happening to Peubla, He told me: 'The trial will pass.'" On May 26, 1927 Conchita wrote to a friend: "We already have a great number of martyrs in Mexico who are granting us favors. God be blessed! He knows how many there are. We must adore his designs. For God, everyone is a means which he uses and how often it pleases Him to accomplish things counter to all human means in order to make His glory shine out all the more. It is the hour of suffering and of prayer but we must also adore His delays, accept with love his designs, and hope against all hope for the triumph and peace that He, without any doubt at all, will bring us. Mexico will not lose the faith as long as it remains devoted to Mary." In the midst of these trials the Lord spoke to her firmly: "Offer yourself as a victim for my priests. Unite yourself to My sacrifice for gaining them graces. It is necessary that in union with the Eternal Father, you accomplish your priestly role, offering Me to My Father for obtaining from Him grace and mercy for the Church and her members. Recall how often I have asked you to offer yourself as a victim, in union with the Victim, for my beloved Church? Do you not see that you are all Hers? Precisely on account of this special union which binds you to my church, you have the right to share in Her anguish and the sacred duty to console her be sacrificing yourself for Her priests." What an immense gift! In the midst of tremendous persecution of the Church God sends a woman who offers shelter and protection for priests. Even more amazingly, her priest confessor, Fr. Felix returns to start the Work of the Cross and the Missionaries of the Holy Spirit! His life always in danger, Fr. Felix celebrates mass in the home and offers spiritual conferences and guidance to people who are suffering. What a model for priests today! I will conclude with the words of Our Lord to Conchita regarding the Holy Spirit. This Pentecost, let His words penetrate our hearts for an outpouring on the Spirit in the United States: "It is time that the Holy Spirit reign. And not a remote reign as something very sublime, even though it be so and there is nothing greater than he since He is God united and consubstantial with the Father and the Word. But it is necessary that He reign, here, right close, in each soul and in each heart, in all the structures of My church. The day on which there will flow in each pastor, in each priest, like an inner blood, the Holy Spirit, then will be renewed the theological virtues,now languishing, even in the ministers of My church, due to the absence of the Holy Spirit. Then the world will change, for all the evils deplored today have their cause in the remoteness of the Holy Spirit, the sole remedy. Let the ministers of My Church react, through the medium of the Holy Spirit, and the whole world of souls will be divinized. he is the axis around which revolve the virtues. There is no virtue without the Holy Spirit. The decisive impulse for raising up My church from the state of prostration in which she lies, consists in reviving the cult of the Holy Spirit. Let His place be given Him, that is, the first in intellects and wills! No one will be lacking anything with this heavenly wealth. The Father and I, the Wor, We desire an ardent and vitalizing renewal of His reign in the Church." Amen Conchita is now a Servant of God and her cause for beatification is proceeding. Fr Felix is not venerable and passed away on January 10, 1938. Conchita died in 1937. Although war and terror waged around them both, the cross proved to be the fertile soil for a new pentecost. M. M. Philipon, O.P. concludes his book Conchita with these words: " Yes, Conchita's prophetic mission is that of recalling to the modern and materialistic world, avid for liberty, that it will be saved only by a NEW PENTECOST and by the GOSPEL OF THE CROSS. This new pentecost, this sanctifying action of the Spirit, must begin with the priests and extend itself to the entire People of God, as on the first Pentecost the Holy Spirit descended on the Apostles and on the whole community assembled in the Cenacle. 'I want to come back to the world in my Priests. I want to renew the world of souls on manifesting Myself in My priests. I want a powerful impulse in My Church on infusing upon Her the Holy Spirit as on a new pentecost.' (Diary, Jan 5, 1928)But the Holy Spirit cannot descend on the world save by Christ's Cross since both missions, that of the Spirit and of the Son, are inseparable. 'The Holy Spirit will reign the day when My sacrifice of suffering will also reign; the Cross in hearts. In so far as the Cross will not reign in souls, the Holy Spirit, He too will not reign.' (Diary, May 26, 1901) May Mary, the Mother of Jesus and Mother of the Church, intercede that this progidy of Pentecost be renewed, and that the Church, this 'people brought together by virtue of the unity of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit' carry out the design of love which springs from the Father: may She truly be the Holy Church!" Conchita, pray for us! All you Mexican martyrs, pray for us! May the Holy Spirit reign in every heart that reads these words!