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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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 said: 

"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 are. 

"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 diary: 

"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 your behalf. 

"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 25, 1904.) 

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. 


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 Cross. 

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 Mexico City. 

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 said: 

"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 following: 

"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 or indirect.

"3. Regarding your penances, confessions and spiritual direction, follow the directives given in the rule of the Society of Mary in Article III of our Constitutions." 

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." (Diary) 

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, 1904) 

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 "saints". 

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 19, 1904).

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