Life and Spirituality of Félix de Jesús Rougier

Risking the Future
Life and Spirituality of the
Venerable Félix de Jesús Rougier, M.Sp.S
by Ricardo Zimbrón L., M.Sp.S.



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February 4, 1903

It was ten o'clock in the morning in Mexico City. Father Félix de Jesús Rougier, Superior of the Marist Fathers who staff Our Lady of Lourdes Church, wanted to leave to take care of certain matters, but a strange force kept him inside. 

It was not long before the sacristan advised him that a lady wanted him to hear her confession. 

The woman entered the sacristy, made a brief confession and immediately proceeded to speak about an unexpected matter. Father Félix tells of the incident in a letter to his Superior General: 

"She revealed to me all the nooks and crannies of my soul. She told me what my thoughts were; that I needed to shake off the spiritual lethargy which had involved me; that I needed to make a conscious effort to give myself to the service of God; that I should make a new start. 

I was dumbfounded. I was moved and thanked God, whose call I had chosen not to hear so many times and who suddenly was lending me a hand". 

In his "Memoirs", Father Félix relates this same incident and adds: 

"This unknown lady spoke to me about personal matters which she could not possibly have known by natural means". 

That strange penitent was Mrs. Concepción Cabrera de Armida, an extraordinarily charismatic woman and an extraordinary saint. Because her friends called her Conchita so will we, because we consider ourselves her friends. 

She tells in her Journal that the morning of February 4th, while she was on her way to see her mother, she got off the trolley for some unknown reason, went to the Church of Our Lady of Lourdes and asked to have Father Félix, whom she did not know, hear her confession. Then she adds: 

"As if moved by an extraordinary impulse, I began to speak to him about the Works of the Cross, and about his spiritual life. I felt that the words were not mine, because my speech was fiery and I spoke with ease, in a way that could only have been inspired by the Holy Spirit. 

Not knowing how, I saw the impact my words made in the depths of the heart of Father Félix. I felt clearly that he was being transformed, enlightened, shown a way and given the strength to follow it". 

Conchita continued talking about the Works of the Cross. When Father Félix heard her refer to the Sisters of the Cross of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, a congregation of women, founded six years earlier, and to their spirituality, he asked if there was a congregation of priests with the same spirit. Conchita’s laconic answer was: 

"No, but there will be". 

Their meeting lasted two hours. In her Journal, Conchita reports that the dialogue ended like this: 

-I must have tired, you, Father; I am leaving. 

-I never tire of hearing about God. 

Then Conchita promised to give Father Félix a book on the Apostleship of the Cross and left. 

Father Félix commented in his journal: 

"During this conversation my life was redirected towards new horizons. 

One month later, on March 2nd, the Lord spoke to Conchita to tell her that it was His will that Father Félix found the new Congregation of the Religious of the Cross (later known as the missionaries of the Holy Spirit). 

But Conchita mentioned nothing about this to Father Félix. First, she consulted her spiritual director, Father Alberto Casco y Mir, S.J., who lived in Oaxaca. 

It was not until April 9th that Conchita spoke with Father Félix about this delicate matter. 

"And from that day on, I have never had the slightest doubt that God is calling me to this" (Letter from Father Félix to his Superior General). 

On April 10th, the Lord again told Conchita: 

"I want Father Félix to be the founder of the men's congregation. I want him for the Works of the Cross". (Journal).

However, life was not so simple for poor Father Félix. He had been a religious in the Society of Mary for 25 years and loved his Congregation very much. Should he ask for a dispensation from his vows and leave his community in order to found the new institute? 

On April 13th, Father Félix and Conchita had a long conversation about these matters during which Conchita spoke the following prophetic words: 

"When the time comes, you will see your Superior General. With his authorization and without leaving your Congregation, you will begin the work. In this way, you will not scandalize your brothers or anyone else. Later the separation can occur with little ado". 

Things happened the way Conchita had predicted, but not as soon as she and Father Félix wanted. God's ways are sometimes disconcerting to us.

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