ANALYZING THE FACTS
Now that time has passed and
the life of Father Félix belongs to history, we can analyze
these happenings objectively.
We can ask ourselves: Was
what Father Félix chose to do, the best thing?
This question is valid
because ecclesiastical law foresees the case of the
religious who, having made vows in any congregation, later
discovers that he/she has another vocation and sincerely
believes that the will of God for him/her is to follow the
other path. In this situation, the religious has the right
to ask for a dispensation from his/her vows and incurs in no
fault, rather, he or she is seeking to be faithful to the
will of God through legitimate channels.
In fact, Father Félix's
General Superior tells him as much in his letter July 1st,
"If after having completed
nine days of spiritual exercises in the monastery of the
Trappists, you believe it is the will of God that you ask
for a dispensation from your religious vows, I will not put
obstacles in your way, but rather I will do all I can to
On the other hand, we know
that Father Félix often said that he "had not the slightest
doubt regarding his new vocation," and that "he is
absolutely sure that his calling is from God." Moreover, in
order not to depend on his own judgment, Father Félix
consulted with several bishops and other "very competent"
priests. And he received their unanimous, enthusiastic
Under the circumstances, I
believe it was a mistake for Father Félix to condition the
projected foundation on the decision of his superiors who
lived in France and who, because of the distance, could not
have either the information or the necessary criteria to
evaluate this case correctly. For example, they lacked
direct and sufficient knowledge of Mrs. Cabrera, of her
charisma, her spirituality, her writings, of the two Works
of the Cross already approved, of the intelligence and
importance of the bishops and theologians who supported the
idea of the foundation, and of the gradual process which
Father Félix had lived the last fifteen months.
It was natural that Father
Martin, and especially his Council, would deny Father Félix
the permission to found a Congregation based on the supposed
revelations of a certain Mexican lady...
But the Superior General
himself points to the real cause of the impasse in a letter
addressed to Bishop Leopoldo Ruiz, of León:
"In order to found that
Congregation, Father Félix would have to leave the Society
of Mary and ask Rome for a dispensation from his religious
vows. However, it is Father Félix’s decision not to ask for
this dispensation until I am fully in agreement and will
give my unconditional consent. But I cannot do this as long
as my Council is against it" (December 1, 1904).
The problem could not be
solved due to Father Félix’s posture. My personal opinion is
that Father Félix ought to have asked for a dispensation
from his vows, based on his own conviction and that of the
Mexican bishops and theologians. Since at that time the
bishops could establish new congregations without Rome's
approval, Father Félix could have started the foundation
that very year, under the auspices of the Archbishop of
Mexico City. The Congregation would have been "of diocesan
right" for a time and later, as is normal, would have become
"of pontifical right".
Father Félix's dispensation
would have been processed without difficulty, with the
support of the Superior General himself. In this way our
founder would have saved ten years and ten tons of health
since he suffered considerably due to the constant stress of
the psychological wear and scar produced by the tension of
strong opposing forces when they have taken over our life.
But Father Félix judged
things from another point of view. He was sure that the Lord
wanted him to establish the fifth Work of the Cross, but he
wanted to know if the hour chosen by God was at hand. And he
believed that God would give his superiors enough light to
discern His will. That is why he decided to obey regardless
of the cost.
His obedience was heroic. It
was terribly difficult for him to give up an ideal upon
which he had centered all his enthusiasm, derived from a
strong and impetuous temperament. But he gave it up; for the
time his Superiors saw fit, or even forever...
Nothing sanctifies a person
more than to give up his own wishes in an effort to submit
to the will of God. Nothing purifies a person as much as
this because then the heart is empty of everything, of the
self, and totally available to God. That is why I am sure
that after these ten years, Father Félix was a real saint.
What for some of us seemed to be a mistake, was the road to
sanctity for Father Félix. Sometimes God leads His elect by
paths we don't understand. He himself tells us so in Isaiah:
"My paths are not your paths, or my ways your ways." (Is.
And what did Father Félix do
in Barcelona? If we consider his experience and human
caliber, we would say he wasted his time. But if we see
things with the eyes of faith, we must say that he was
dedicating himself to becoming a saint.
The first task Father Gauven
assigned to him was to seek alms for the support of the
French Chapel which the Marist Fathers had in Barcelona.
Father Félix writes in his diary:
"Yesterday I made five calls
for alms. I find it so very trying. But I do it with great
pleasure, because that is what God wants of me."
He was also assigned to teach
a small group of children ages 5 to 12:
"I am teaching my little
students, teaching them to spell. The youngest is five. In
the beginning I found this very difficult, but not anymore.
As long as I am doing the will of God, what difference does
it make to do this or that?"
His superior ordered him to
visit several convents of women religious and offer his
services as confessor, but he did not have much luck.
"They all consider me a poor,
jobless worker. Sometimes I blush before I enter the house,
but holy obedience gives me courage and when I offer it all
to Jesus I even feel joy in the midst of my shame."
Later he was put in charge of
the association of governesses and domestics and he accepted
it "with great pleasure."
In the first months of his
"exile," as he characterized this period, he wrote
frequently to the Superior General, insisting with filial
respect that his case be reconsidered and always giving new
reasons to do so. The answer he received included the
"You wrote to me a short time
ago, and your writing every month is excessive. Moreover, it
is useless, because my resolution, which is also the
Council's, will not be changed either by pleading or by the
passage of time, be it days or months. Be calm, waiting for
God's time to arrive, if it is to do so. But if you feel
compelled to write to me once in a while with the same
request, I may not respond, since I will have nothing new to
say. But be assured of my paternal affection for you, and of
the ardent desire I have that you grow in sanctity and that
you do all the good that God expects of you."
On March 25, 1905, Father
Martin died and Father Raffin was elected Superior General
of the Society of Mary. Father Félix wrote him a memorandum,
asking him as new Superior General to please review his
case. His long letter ends thus:
"But should you feel that the
time has not yet come, I will remain calm and resigned in
our dear 'Nazareth' and will continue to wait and to obey,
until God's time comes.
"I will not deny that I will
do this while experiencing a most cruel desolation; but the
desire I have to obey faithfully and till the end, will
enable me to accept this most heavy cross with special
The answer of the now
Superior was the same:
"The unanimous opinion of the
Council is that you should not be given permission to make
that foundation. But, if to implement the mission that you
think God has entrusted to you, you wish to ask for a
dispensation from your vows, we will not stand in the way."
Father Félix answered this
negative answer thanking Father Ruffin and the Council for
having reconsidered his case. He would continue to wait
until God willed something different. He ended with the
"Humanly everything seems
ended since I was counting especially on your help; but in
the midst of the sacrifice I make by obeying you, I feel
such confidence in the promises of God it seems to me that I
will be starting his Work very soon."
I believe that given this
answer, Father Raffin started to esteem and admire Father
Félix, not only for his obedience, but also for the
steadfastness of his ideal.
Three years went by in this
fashion. And in February of 1908 Father Félix health broke.
He wrote in his Diary:
"I have reached a state of
weakness such as I had never experienced before, and I have
a chronic bronchitis."
The doctor was afraid for his
life and ordered complete rest. His opinion was that the
Barcelona climate was mortal for the patient, and advised
that he should go to France. His superiors sent him to the
baths at Bourbule to recuperate. Father Félix wrote:
"I pray to God for patience
and that He grants me the grace never to complain. I have
offered God my sickness in reparation for my innumerable
It happened that about this
time, Father Ruffin also had to go to the same resort to
recuperate, and without Father Félix bringing it up, Father
Ruffin asked him to explain in detail everything referring
to his new ideal. Father Félix recounts in his Dairy the
result of these conversations:
"I opened my soul to him with
great case and presented the reasons that could persuade him
in favor of my petition. The Father General seemed very
pleased with my absolute obedience during these past years,
and during our last trek to the mountains together he told
me: 'In the beginning, I not only did not believe in your
new vocation, but I felt that your projects were
inconsistent, and I even made fun of them in the presence of
the Fathers. But now, because of all you have told me, I
believe that Our Lord is calling you to make that
foundation, and we will give you the permission you
wish if the Holy See is willing."
Father Félix returned to
Barcelona with new hope and his health improved noticeably.
The following year Father
Raffin visited the Barcelona community and spoke again with
Father Félix. The latter told him that he was tormented by a
doubt: since he was so sure that God was calling him to
begin the foundation, should he continue to wait
indefinitely without doing anything about it? The Father
General gave him the following answer in writing:
"Leave everything in God's
hands. Let Him be the one who decides the time. Continue to
obey as you have until now because this is the safest and
quickest means to obtain our permission to start the
foundation you long to establish."
Moreover, he gave Father
Félix permission to write to Mrs. Armida "once or twice a
year, but without mentioning the foundation."
However, Father Raffin had
told Father Félix several times that should he wish to
obtain a dispensation from his vows, he would not be
opposed. For this reason, during 1906 Father Félix consulted
with various persons regarding his obtaining a dispensation.
These persons included: Cardinal Casanas of Barcelona;
Archbishop Ibarra, of Puebla; Father Alejandro Cepeda and
Father Salustiano Carrera. They all hesitated to recommend a
radical change in the life of Father Félix and suggested
that it would be better to keep on waiting, enjoying the
security offered by obedience.
Father Félix commented:
"Let's be confident! Jesus
has said it and His word will be fulfilled despite all
obstacles. While that happy day arrives, I will apply myself
to be more faithful in everything; giving myself to the Lord
without taking me back; letting Him do with me what He will;
filling me ever more with the spirit of the Works of the
Cross, and preparing myself with the grace of God, to be the
first male Religious of the Cross." (Diary)
By the month of August of
that year (1909), Father Félix' health was again very poor.
The doctor insisted that the Barcelona climate was very bad
for him, and he was therefore sent to the Marist Fathers'
school in Saint Chamond. This was a small town of 13,000 who
lived from mining coal and working in iron and steel
factories. The Marist school was the best in the region. It
had 35 teachers and more than 500 students, almost all of
Father Félix wrote in his
"They have given me very
little work because of my poor health.
"I can hear the whistle of
the locomotives from my room; and I make believe it is the
train that will take me to Mexico..."
For five more years Father
Félix stayed in Saint Chamond, obeying and waiting for the
When his health was normal,
he taught 12 hours of class a week, prepared his lessons,
corrected notebooks and was in charge of disciplining the
students. He did not like this, but he felt happy:
"My current occupations are
opposed to my natural tastes, but I feel happy because I see
clearly that Jesus wants me here. And what else can I wish
for, but to do His will? Every day I thank the Lord for
bringing me to this town, to this silence, to this solitude
where I know nobody except my brothers and my students. I
feel called to this life, away from the world, with time to
pray and to fulfill my daily tasks."
But despite the apparent
tranquility, at the beginning of the 1910 school year, he
wrote the following note in his diary:
"I have noticed that I have
become very nervous, and cannot stand anything against the
rules. I make an effort to be patient, but it is very
difficult. What is happening is that there are one or two
people here more nervous than myself... but with no malice.
"Jesus, I want to be