Sunday, May 27, 2012
Some thoughts on "Conchita" and the spirituality of the Work of the Cross
Concepcion Cabrera de Armida ("Conchita") was a housewife, mother of nine, and a mystic. Although she lived from 1862-1937 in Mexico, her spirituality speaks to us today. God is outside of space and time and so are his saints. The information I will share with you below can be found in a book published by Alba House titled Conchita: A Mother's spiritual Diary. It is edited by M.M. Philipon, O.P. and was published in 1978. Conchita has a very special connection to priests. Her life was dedicated to praying for them and making sacrifices for them. She even had the great joy of seeing one of her own sons become a Jesuit priest. What was the stirring of this unique vocation? This is how she describes it. The year was 1889 and Conchita was twenty-seven, married, the mother of a family, a house mistress with an exacting and somewhat jealous husband. Nevertheless she made a retreat with Father Antonio Plancarte y Labastida. She says: "One day when I was getting ready with all my soul for all the Lord would ask of me, at a certain moment I clearly heard in the depths of my soul, without any doubt at all, these words which astonished me. He told me 'Your mission will be to save souls.' I did not understand how I would do this. It seemed strange and impossible. I thought there was question simply of sacrificing myselg for my husband an, my children and our servants. I made very practical resolutions, filled with fervor, redoubling my desire to love Him who is my love beyond measure. My heart had found its refuge and peace in solitude and prayer. But now I had to return to the world and my duties, having to pass through fire without burning myself, while at the same time this flame glowed more and more in my heart. The zeal to share with others the joy of what I had learned, devoured me and ardently increased." Saints do not always have the prudence that you and I may have. St. Francis of Assisi was known to throw himself in a thornbush when experiencing temptations against purity. Conchita received permission from her spiritual director to engrave the initials J.H.S. on her bosom on Jan 14, 1894. In her words:" No sooner had I done this than I felt a supernatural force which threw me, face down, on the floor, my eyes filled with tears and a burning flame within my heart. Vehemently and zealously I then asked the Lord for the salvation of souls: Jesus, saviour of souls, save them! save them! I remember nothing more: souls, souls for Jesus! That was all I desired...the ardor of my soul far surpassed the burning sensation of my body and I experienced an ineffable joy on feeling I belonged wholly to Jesus, just as a branded animal to its owner. Yes indeed, I belonged wholly to Jesus; to my Jesus who will save so many poor souls called to bring Him glory. Enraptured, I spent the rest of the day with an ardent desire of solitude and prayer but awaiting a visit I was to receive." What an expression of love. Jesus still needs people to work with Him in the work of saving souls. Are you willing to be His Apostle? Are you willing to unite yourself to the cross, surrender your will and let Him use you as He wishes? By virtue of our baptism all Catholic Christians are called to be saints. So many hear the call but out of fear or lack of encouragement come to the threshold of holiness and then draw back. Conchita did not draw back. What she shares next is extraordinary: Some time after the monogram, while Conchita was praying in the Jesuit church at San Luis Potosi, her native town, there suddenly appeared to her the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Love, illumining and enkindling from on high all the Works of the Cross. " I was meditating devoutly on God, when all of a sudden I saw a vast tableau of very vivid light, growing brighter and brighter at its center. A white light! And most surprising, above this ocean, this abyss of light with its thousand rays of gold and fire, I saw a dove, an all white dove, its wings spread, covering, I know not how, this whole torrent of light. I understood that there was here a vision most elevated and impenetrable, profound and divine. It left me with an impression of suavity, of peace, of love, of purity and of humility. How can the unexpressible be expressed? Two or three days after this vision-an inexplicable thing-I saw, one afternoon, in the same Jesuit church-a happy afternoon-I saw again a white dove in a large hearth whence flared brilliang and sparkling rays of light. The Dove, once again with its wings outspread, was perched at the center, and beneath it, at the bottom of this immensity of light was a large Cross, a very large one with a heart at the center (Aut 1, 211-213). The Cross seemed to float in a twilight of clouds of fire from within. From below the Cross there flared myriads of rays of light, which could be clearly distinguished from the white light of the Dove, and the fire of the clouds. They were like three different grades of light, how beautiful! The heart was alive, beating, human, but glorified, surrounded by a material fire which seemed to glow, and sparkle as in a hearth. Above it there flared other different flames, like tongues of fire of a higher quality or grade, I shall say. The heart was surrounded by luminous rays, longer at first and then becoming smaller, distinguishable from the flames which were below, and from the dim light and the most brilliant disc which encircled it. The flames which blazed up from the hearth ascended rapidly as if dispatched with great force, covering and revealing the tiny crosses fastened within the heart. The thorns which encircled the heart hurt us on seeing them as if they pressed against this so delicate and tender heart. I was able to describe all this because, many a time, day and night, this bery beautiful Cross was presented to me, though without the Dove. What does this mean? This is what I asked myself. What does the Lord wish? I rendered an account to my director. At first he told me to disregard this, then, inspired by God, I think he wrote me a letter for my soul in which he said: 'You will save many a soul through the apostolate of the Cross.' He never thought that this formula could designate the name of the Works of the Cross. As far as I was concerned, on reading this, I only know what I felt: this name must characterize the Work which the Lord began and of which I was now speaking." The Lord chose this young woman, married and the mother of a family, a simple lay person, to make us be mindful of the mystery of the salvation of the world by the Cross. "The Lord told me: 'The world is buried in sensuality, no longer is sacrifice loved and no longer is its sweetness known. I wish the Cross to reign. Today it is presented to the world with my heart, so that it may bring souls to make sacrifices. No true love is without sacrifice. It is only in My crucified Heart, that the ineffable sweetness of my Heart can be tasted. Seen from the outside, the Cross is bitter and harsh, but as soon as tasted, penetrating and savoring it, there is no greater pleasure. Therein is the repose of the soul, the soul inebriated by love, there its delights, its life.'"..." I was praying, when, all at once, there was presented to my interior view, a lengthy procession of nuns, bearing a great red cross...They passed along two by two, looking at me often on going by. Some days later the Lord told me: 'There will also be a Congregation of Men, after this foundation for women, but I will speak to you of this laterr, at a more opportune time.'" There are now (as of 1978) some four hundred nuns in Mexico, in Guatemala and in Spain. In a letter to Father Jose Alzoa, Jesuit provincial, Conchita has some amazing revelations: " The Apostolate of the Cross is the work which continues and completes that of My Heart which was revealed to Blessed Margaret Mary. I tell you that this does not mean only My external Cross as a divine instrument of Redemption. This Cross is presented to the world to bring souls toward My Heart, pierced on that Cross. The essence of this Work consists in making known the interior sufferings of My Heart which are ignored, and which constitute for Me a more painful Passion than that which My Body underwent on Calvary, on account of its intensity and its duration, mystically perpetuated in the Eucharist. I tell you, up to this day, the world has known the love of My heart manifested to Margaret Mary, but it was reserved for present times to make known its suffering, the symbols of which I had shown simply and in an external way. I say again, there must be a penetration into the Interior of this boundless ocean of bitterness and an extension of knowledge of it throughout the world for bringing about the union of the suffering of the faithful with the immensity of the sufferings of My Heart, for their suffering is mostly wasted. I wish for them to profit from it by way of the Apostolate of the Cross for the benefit of souls and for the consolation of My Heart." This Pentecost, let the Holy Spirit remind us of the sufferings of Christ. The sufferings of the heart who could only love. The Lord's own words to Conchita regarding the Holy Spirit should inspire one and all: "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 consubtantial 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." A big Amen to that! Happy Pentecost!