FEATURING CONCHITA CABRERA
Cabrera had a jovial personality; she was unpretentious and
accessible. Her personality was the result of a life lived
both in the countryside and in the city.
She was born in San Luis
Potosi, Mexico, on December 8th, 1862. She did not have much
schooling because she spent her childhood on the family
ranch. She studied the equivalent of third grade in grammar
school, took piano lessons and learned embroidery. Her
mother taught her the rest: cooking, sewing, horseback
riding, milking the cows, making cheese, teaching catechism
to the daughters of the hired hands...
Her adolescence was simple
and commonplace, but she felt a strong interior call to a
life of prayer. In her Journal we read:
"During the time I was 16 to
20 years old, I lived a period of dances, theater parties,
trips, vanity and the wish to please, although only Pancho
(her boyfriend), because the others did not matter.
But in the midst of this sea
of vanity and parties, my soul felt a vehement desire to
know how to pray."
At 22 she married her only
boyfriend (Francisco Armida) and had nine children, 7 boys
and 2 girls.
When she had been married for
a short time, there was an amazing change in her spiritual
life. She tells us about it in her Journal: "When I had been
married only a year and a half, the Lord started to call me
very forcefully to perfection. Extraordinary things started
to happen from then on."
We can distinguish two kinds
of extraordinary graces in Conchita’s life: some were the
graces the effected her personal sanctification; they were
graces of purification, illumination and very intimate union
with God. The other extraordinary graces were those that
made of Conchita an instrument of God to accomplish certain
external works in His church. These graces are related to
the charism of "prophecy". This charism does not always
consist in the announcement of things to come, but rather in
receiving messages from God by means of words or visions.
These messages were given to enrich the Church with sublime
teachings regarding the mysteries of God, the ways of prayer
and the Christian virtues. The purpose of the other message
was to make it possible for five new institutions called
"the Five Works of the Cross" to be established in the
When Conchita was 24 years
old, she wrote in her Journal:
“Today I don't know what to
write. I don't know how to express what my soul experiences.
Oh, my God, you have taken hold of me! You fill me
completely. I don't know what you will ask of me, but I am
ready for anything." (Journal)
Regarding her prophetic
charism, Conchita explains it thus:
"Sometimes I do not wish to
hear, and I hear; I don't wish to understand, and I
understand; I don't want to turn in the direction of the
Lord so as not to become committed and He comes to meet me
and reproaches me.
Sometimes He dictates phrases
or words. Other times, He imprints within me a torrent of
things at once.
Sometimes He is very laconic,
but He leaves me with a clear grasp of what He wants me to
My senses as well as my
memory and imagination quiet down as if responding to a
signal from the Lord, and I remain like a clean sheet of
paper, somehow empty of myself. And without my coordinating
the ideas, there comes to me a sequence of words or thoughts
already formed, or paragraphs which I understand all of a
I interrupt this interior
talking with questions or with emotions, and then the
dialogue takes place, because the Lord deigns to explain the
message to me. I do not hear His voice with the ears of the
body; this has only happened a few times.
Sometimes there arise within
me temptations as to whether I invent, or deceive; but when
I am at peace, I cannot doubt that these things are of God.
And besides, I verify that if the Lord does not give this to
me, even if I spent many hours in prayer, I cannot produce
even a line by myself; I could not invent things, even if I
Sometimes months go by
without the Lord talking to me. However, there are times
when I do not have time to write everything He tells me.
Another way in which the Lord
communicates with me is by means of writing. I hear His
voice which tells me "Write". At first, I resisted, but then
I began to obey and the moment I took the pencil in hand,
the Lord started dictating pages and pages, sometimes of
very involved things, that I could not possibly invent."
Eight years after the Lord
"started to call her very forcefully", that is to say, when
Conchita was 32, God granted her the grace of what
theologians call "spiritual marriage." This is a mystical
grace, which means the person does not bring it about, but
rather it is God who unites one to Himself in a special and
intimate way which only the saints experience. Conchita
describes this extraordinary grace in this way:
January 23 (1894). "I was
immersed in contemplation, without moving, understanding
many things in great depth in the words Jesus was saying to
me. He did everything. He put His hand on my head. His
glance enveloped me. And all I could do was cry and keep
still. What was I to tell him, if I could think of nothing
except to humble myself? Jesus said:
-Now you are my bride, and
you are beautiful in my eyes, with the veil of innocence and
the robe of penance. I love you very much, and beg you to
call me Spouse.
-No, Jesus, not that, because
I am ashamed.
-But, is it not true? Don't
you know that nothing is impossible for Me? You have no idea
how I rejoice in you because you are bedecked with my
favors. I contemplate my own image within your soul. Never
blur it, my spouse.
-Jesus, I promise to love you
always, with all my strength.
-Ask me whatever you want.
Today I can deny you nothing. -I ask to do your will always
and to save many souls."
Three months later, on April
18, Conchita drew up the statutes of the first of the Works
of the Cross which was called "The Apostleship of the
took the statutes of the Apostleship to Jesus, for him to
bless and give them life. And after communion he told me:
The purpose of this Apostleship is to offer up suffering
lovingly in order to obtain the salvation of many souls."
In the statutes we are told
that: "The Apostleship of the Cross is a group of Christians
who, moved by the Holy Spirit, take it upon themselves to
offer Jesus to the Heavenly Father, and to offer themselves
together with Him, as victims for the salvation of all. In
this way they make an effort to participate intimately in
the priesthood of Christ, offering themselves with Him on
"the cross of every day." Matthew 10:38
This Work is open to all
Christians who seek to live their baptismal priesthood and,
in this way, respond to the universal vocation to holiness.
Later we will explain the
apostolic and social ramifications of this Work.
On February 9, 1897, Conchita
received another extraordinary grace which the mystics call
"the transforming union", which is one of the highest peaks
to which God leads His elect. After receiving this gift,
Conchita tries to describe it to her spiritual director:
"Last night, since one
o'clock, the call to pray was very strong. From the time the
Lord awakened me, I felt full of Him; not in the usual
sense, but rather in a special and complete manner. Without
knowing why, I felt the weight of the divine majesty. It
surprised me to find that when I awoke I was repeating these
words, as if they flowed naturally from my heart: 'Most Holy
Trinity, have mercy on us. You who are one God!' And I could
not interrupt these praises.
Jesus told me:
-Arise. Here are the Father
and the Spirit. They have come because I want to introduce
them to your soul as my Spouse.
I threw myself down and with
my forehead touching the ground, I humbled myself and felt
confused. And why shouldn't I be, since I felt the real
presence of the Three Divine Persons!
The fire in my soul lasted
for two hours without diminishing until I felt something
like a swoon produced by the impact which my spirit
My soul continued to be
filled with fervor. And there has also remained an effect
which I continue to experience: a constant growth in love,
respect and intimate knowledge, no longer obscure, of the
Most Holy Trinity. Oh my God, three and one, blessed be you
forever, forever and ever."
Three months later, on May
3rd, through the intervention of Conchita, the second of the
Works of the Cross was founded, that is to say, the first
convent of the Sisters of the Cross of the Sacred Heart of
Jesus. The Lord had told her:
"You will be the foundation
of this work. The foundations are invisible but the building
rests on them."
In the Constitutions of this
Congregation we read:
"God has called the Sisters
of the Cross of the Sacred Heart of Jesus to follow Jesus
Christ, Priest and Victim, very closely. Therefore, guided
by the Holy Spirit, they have come to live united with
Christ and in His likeness, becoming a permanent offering to
the Father, on behalf of the Church and the world.
They will seek God in a life
of contemplation, solitude and silence, of humble and simple
work, and in order to participate in the redemptive oblation
of Christ Jesus, they will unite themselves to Him in the
Sacrifice of the Mass, and will adore Him constantly in the
In the following years, the
Lord talked to Conchita several times about a religious
congregation of men with the same spirituality. She was
anxious for the hour to arrive for this new foundation to
Meanwhile, the Lord continued
to prepare this handmaid with even greater gifts, for the
central grace of her life: the mystical incarnation.
And so we come to 1903, and
to the 4th of February, when Conchita had that providential
encounter with Father Félix Rougier.
She was 41 then, a widow,
caring for and educating her nine children, and without
their knowing it, practicing rigorous penances, praying
three hours daily, constantly writing pages inspired by God
and advancing in an incredible way in the mystical life.
When Conchita Cabrera met
Father Félix, she was already extraordinarily holy.
For a saint to emerge, two
conditions are necessary: On the part of God, special
graces, which go beyond the common level of those all good
Christians receive (and which, by the way, are enormous).
But besides this, on the part of the person, there is needed
an extraordinary fidelity to the graces received, an
uncommon generosity and surrender to God. And it is in this
that the saints are models for us all; not in the
exceptional gifts they receive, but in the exceptional
generosity with which they give themselves to God.
Conchita’s case is out of the
ordinary on both counts, even when dealing with the
privileged level of the saints. To know her well, I once
more suggest that those interested read my book "Priestly
People" (this book has not been translated into English yet)
which I describe in detail, not only the external happenings
of her life, but especially the stages of her spiritual