CROSS OF OBEDIENCE
While Father Félix was
preparing his trip to France, an unfortunate incident
occurred. He had written some letter to his brother Manuel,
whom was a Marist priest working in the Oceania missions,
telling him some of his thoughts.
Father Manuel became worried
about the strange confidential information shared by his
brother Félix because he felt Félix was falling prey to a
dangerous deception. He therefore decided that the best
thing to do was to send the letters to the Superior General
indicating his fears.
Naturally, Father Manuel also
wrote to his brother. Although the letter is dated April 26,
Father Félix did not receive it until May 19th. Manuel
"My dear Félix: I have
received your letters recently and now I understand enough
to be able to speak openly with you, as brothers that we
"I have sent all your letters
to our Superior General so he can have sufficient
information on which to base his answer to this question
which is of capital importance to you. I hope you will
forgive me and see in my actions only my sincere desire to
help you do what God want you to do.
"I have noticed that your
judgment is influenced more by a vivid imagination than by
common sense. I think you are going down the wrong path,
acting under the influence of a mirage, as if hypnotized. Do
not allow yourself to be deceived. Do not pay attention to
visions, apparitions, holy religious women, etc... Do not
change your path. Everything you have been doing in your
parish in Mexico is admirable. You will never do more good
than what you are doing now..." Father Félix noted in his
"Today I received a letter
from Manuel in which he treats me as if I were
hallucinating, lie must think I am crazy.
"I offer this sorrow to Jesus
and feel joy at having something to offer Him.
"Manuel tells me he sent my
letters to the Rev. Father General. I wonder what he
thought. I wonder what comments Manuel made.
"Oh, my brother, I forgive
you with all my heart!" (Diary, May 19, 1904).
The next day, Father Félix
wrote the following letter to his Superior General:
"Mexico, May 20, 1904.
Reverend Father: Thank you for your letter of April 20th, in
which you grant me permission to go to France. I do indeed
have to speak with you at length about very important
matters I cannot discuss in a letter. Manuel tells me that
he has forwarded to you the letters I sent to him; and he
treats me as if I were crazy. I trust your opinion will be
very different. In any case, I will continue to walk, as
always, down the royal path of obedience.
"If the work to which I wish
to consecrate my life is of God, He will open the doors. But
if after having heard me, you tell me that I am mistaken and
send me to the most humble place, I will go without
hesitation, joyfully, happy to obey. I will not start
anything without your approval and will not do anything
without the blessing of the Vicar of Christ."
The Provincial Superior also
wrote to Father Félix:
"I have learned that among
the reasons you have to go to France, the principal one is
that you feel yourself called by God to a special work. I am
very sorry it was not possible for me to go to Mexico to
discuss this with you. I was not aware of the seriousness of
your resolve. I thought your vocation as a Marist was
stronger than the one you believe to have received by means
of a new calling from God. I should have forbid you to
direct those religious women. I am afraid that the excessive
care given that community is responsible for your having
neglected the principal work, the good direction of the
parish entrusted to you. With sorrow, as I am sure you
understand, I have written in this vein to the Rev. Father
General." (P. Descreux, June 1, 1904). Father Félix wrote to
his superior explaining his case and clarifying many points,
his letter ends as follows:
"Finally, please let me
clarify something you said regarding my vocation as a
Marist. I am very devoted to my Marist vocation, but if my
new calling is judged to be authentic, I am even more
devoted to the will of God. In any case, if the Rev. Father
General, after having listened to me tells me I am mistaken,
that I am misguided, that I should never mention this again
and he sends me to Oceania, I assure you that I will not
hesitate for one second. I will see the will of God in the
will of my Superior and I will happily go to die on any
island lost in the ocean..."
Finally, the Superior
General, having received the unfavorable reports of Father
Manuel and Father Descreux (Provincial), immediately wrote
also to Father Félix. This letter arrived in Mexico when
Father Félix had already left for France. It was dated July
1st and one can see that several aspects of the question
have been misinterpreted:
"I have heard that you are
taking steps to ask Rome for a dispensation from your vows
and you say that I do not object to this.
"Until you have indeed
received that dispensation, I will continue to be your
Superior and therefore, while I can, I have to do my duty on
"I do not understand why you
want to change your Marist vocation to that of a secular
priest, since always before you had been devoted to your
religious vocation. I think you are letting yourself be
influenced by certain success or praises and so consider
that the Marist ideal of living "ignored and hidden from the
world" is no longer appropriate for you. But, is it really a
light from above which makes you see things this way? Act
honestly and ask the Blessed Virgin to let you find the true
road that will lead you to heaven.
"I therefore command you, by
virtue of holy obedience, that before you take any more
steps to obtain the dispensation from your vows, you make
spiritual exercises during nine days with the Trappists at
Dambez or at Sept Fonts; and if after doing this you think
God wants it so, and insist in asking Rome to be dispensed
from your religious vows, I will not only not place any
obstacles in your way, but rather I will help you all I
can." (Father Antonio Martin, Superior General).
As mentioned above, Father
Félix never received that letter, which is found in the
archives of the Marist Fathers, because he left on July 15
by train to Veracruz. The next day he boarded the boat
"Alfonso XIII" bound for France.
He landed in Santander. From
there he went to Lourdes and arrived in Lyon on August 5th.
That very day he spoke with Father Antonio Martin, Superior
General of his Congregation.
The dialogue continued until
the 9th of August. Father Félix was completely open with his
superior and gave him the letters of recommendation he had
obtained from the Apostolic Delegate, from the Archbishop of
Mexico and from Leopoldo Ruiz, Bishop of León.
"I opened my soul to him with
all the frankness of which I am capable, and I hid nothing,
not even those things that I knew were going to cause a bad
impression." (Letter of Father Félix to Bishop Ruiz, August
In addition to the personal
interviews, Father Félix handed Father Martin a document
entitled "Brief Summary". It states:
"1. WHY THIS FOUNDATION. Only
because our Lord has asked Mrs. Concepción Cabrera
repeatedly for it. And because of the admirable fruits that
the Works of the Cross have yielded through both
institutions: the Sisters of the Cross of the Sacred Heart
of Jesus and the Apostleship of the Cross, already approved
by the Holy See.
2. WHENCE HAS THIS NEW
VOCATION COME TO
ME? I have never experienced temptations against my
vocation as a Marist: I have always been firm. But I had
always felt in me a desire for greater perfection which I
was not able to satisfy until I came to know the Works of
the Cross. But I do not pretend to implement this ideal
outside the Society of Mary, which I love and will serve as
much as I can and with my whole soul. It is our Lord who has
clearly manifested His will to me in a variety of ways which
I have mentioned to you. I am ready to suffer any kind of
martyrdom rather than not respond to God's call.
However, I solemnly declare
that I will not take another step without your approval and
I will never stray from the royal path of holy obedience.
3. WHY I BELIEVE IN MRS.
CABRERA: Because I have personally verified and confirmed
the authenticity of her mission. Because I have consulted
the persons who know her best: the Archbishop of Mexico, the
Archbishop of Puebla, the Apostolic Delegate, the Bishop of
León, and the priest who was her confessor for ten years.
And every one of them has told me enthusiastically and
without hesitation to go ahead because this is God's work.
They know the marvelous graces this woman has received from
God, about which I will speak to you in detail later.
Another proof is the
authenticity of her virtues: her admirable humility, her
constant wish to be ignored, her unwavering obedience, the
holiness of her life, her penances which are so
extraordinary that they would be impossible if God were not
supernaturally sustaining her; and the special favors which
God has granted her, which we cannot doubt.
4. DOCTRINE AND SPIRITUALITY
OF THE WORK. Mrs. Cabrera has written a great deal, and her
writings carry the seal of God. They touch the heart, and
are full of theology even though she has never studied it.
The Archbishop of Mexico had the best theologians of this
capital city examine her writings and they were in
admiration at their depth and accuracy.
WHAT I INTEND TO DO
1. Obtain your full consent
and approval in order that it may be known, now and also
later, that the Work was begun in perfect obedience.
2. If your refuse me the
permission, I will obey willingly and happily because I know
that to obey you is to obey God, and I do not have in mind
to do anything else than the holy will of God.
3. If you give me permission,
I will go to Rome immediately, I will talk my project over
with Cardinal Vives so that he can speak on my behalf with
the Holy Father and I will ask the Vicar of Christ to bless
me and give me the habit of the Religious [Men] of the
4. I will start looking for
vocations immediately and will take the men to Mexico to
begin the novitiate, under the auspices of the Archbishop of
Father Antonio Martin asked
Father Félix to give him time to consult about the matter
with the General Council, and asked him meanwhile to go
visit his family. For this reason the decisive interview did
not take place until the 19th.
On that day Father Martin
received Father Félix cordially, asked him to sit down and
"I am going to read you this
paper. I wrote it down to be sure of what I am going to say,
and so you can keep it and remember my orders better and
accept faithfully the will of God."
The paper said the
"My dear Father Félix, after
having prayed and reflected, and consulted my council, and
counting on your promise to obey my decision regarding the
mission to found a new religious congregation, I order you
to comply with the following:
"1. Not to have anything to
do with the founding of the new Congregation.
"2. Not to communicate with
Mrs. Cabrera by letter or by any other means, be it direct
"3. Regarding your penances,
confessions and spiritual direction, follow the directives
given in the rule of the Society of Mary in Article III of
After Father Martin read
these orders and gave them to Father Félix, he said:
"Now, if you have no
objection, I will send you to Spain to our house in
Barcelona where Father Gauven will be your superior."
Father Félix answered:
"I will gladly go, because I
am sure I am doing the will of God and I want nothing else."
Mrs. Cabrera received the
last letter from Father Félix the 11th of September. And she
did not communicate with him again. On the 14th, she wrote
the following to the Superior General:
"I received a letter from
Father Félix in which he informs me he has been transferred
to Barcelona and that he has been forbidden to write to me.
Very well, Reverend Father, do not be afraid that I will
contradict your will in any way. It is your duty to do what
you think is best. But I hope the Lord will make the truth
of his wish known to you." (Mexico City, September 14,
For ten years Father Félix
remained in Europe without communicating at all with Mexico,
in silence and obedience; praying and concerned with
fulfilling faithfully the will of God.
I have no doubt that these
ten years of hidden life and heroic obedience were the most
fruitful in terms of purification and spiritual progress for
this man whom God had elected to be one of those we call
The same day in which he
received the painful negative answer from his superior,
Father Félix wrote in his diary:
"Now I am isolated. Alone
with Jesus... It is here, Lord, the hour I feared, the hour
of trial. My Superior’s words are yours, and as such I will
obey them joyfully, all my life, if this is Your Will,
although my heart is already suffering martyrdom..." (August