Let us leave Father Félix for
now in the school of the town of Saint Chamond, very
nervous, but asking Jesus for more and more patience.
Let us see what Conchita
Cabrera and a few good friends who believed in her were
First they wrote letters to
France, trying to persuade Father Félix' superiors to allow
him to return to Mexico and take charge of the foundation.
These letters were written by
the Most Reverend Leopoldo Ruiz (Bishop of León), Msgr.
Emeterio Valverde (Canon of the Cathedral in Mexico City),
the Most Reverend Ramón Ibarra, Archbishop of Puebla, and
Conchita herself, who wrote two letters. It would take too
much space to transcribe them in full, but the main ideas
presented in these letters include the following:
a) Mrs. Cabrera has been
examined by several bishops and theologians, and they all
agree that her spirit is of God, that she is not suffering
from delusions. Therefore, the petition of the Lord that
Father Félix found the Congregation of the Religious of the
Cross is real and authentic.
b) The Archbishop of Mexico
has already given his approval for this foundation. We are
therefore within the legal norms established by
c) It seems to us that Father
Félix has all the qualifications required of the founder and
teacher of the new religious.
d) We propose that, putting
aside Mrs. Cabrera's revelations, the idea of the foundation
be studied in itself as to the benefits that would accrue
from it and its usefulness and convenience to the Church.
c) The fact that a member of
a religious community should found another religious family
is not new in the Church; on the contrary, who better than
an experienced religious to form new religious.
Conchita's second letter to
Father Martin includes other elements. We therefore
transcribe the relevant paragraphs:
"I know that you have no
reason to believe me, and that you may well consider me a
victim of delusions. But, what am I to do, if I feel that
the Lord urges me on and I am acting in obedience to my
"If when you give Father
Félix permission to come, you wish to forbid him to see me
again, I am in agreement. I do not want to be in the way of
the realization of God's plan. I know very well that I am
the source of the problem. But, what am I to do, Father
Martin, if the Lord impels me to continue struggling for his
cause although I make a fool of myself?
"For me, the evidence that
this is of God is as follows:
1. That I did not even know
Father Félix, and it was the Lord who providentially led me
to him. He has told me many times that He has chosen Father
Félix to found the Religious of the Cross.
2. That I never acted based
on my own judgment, but rather I opened my soul to wise and
saintly priests and they have all told me that this is of
3. That since Father Félix
became acquainted with the Works of the Cross, the Holy
Spirit has wrought admirable changes in him.
4. That the Church has
already approved the Apostleship of the Cross and the
Sisters of the Cross of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.
5. That both Father Félix and
I have chosen the path of holy obedience.
6. That the perfection and
end of the Work we are trying to implement is for the glory
of God and the good of many souls."
Of course the Superior
General of the Marists and his Council also had their
reasons to deny the permission time and again. In all their
answers they repeated the same reasons:
a) We have no proof that the
revelations to Mrs. Cabrera are authentic.
b) Therefore, we have no
assurance that it be the will of God that Father Félix
establishes that congregation.
c) Moreover, we think that
Father Félix lacks the necessary qualities to be the founder
of anything, because when he becomes enthusiastic he loses
sight of the just mean of prudence.
d) We think Father Félix is
too much under the influence of Mrs. Cabrera, and that he
would be no more than her instrument.
e) Father Félix' departure
would not be a good example for the other Marists, and would
set a negative precedent.
f) We need Father Félix
because we are short handed.
g) If Father Félix would wish
to ask to be dispensed from his vows to start the
foundation, we would not oppose it, but it is he who does
not wish to do it without our total approval; but we cannot
support his project because of the reasons mentioned above.
This summarizes the reasons
given by the French superiors. As we can see, it is true
that not two persons think alike.
And so, days, months and
years passed with reasons going back and forth. Father Félix
continued to hold to two convictions which seemed to be ever
more contradictory: on the one hand, his decision to obey
faithfully till the end; and on the other, the firm
conviction that the promise God had made to him through
Conchita would be fulfilled, like Abraham: "he believed God
and hoped against all hope."
By his letters we know that
his health had its ups and downs during these years and that
his work increased because Father Félix had a lot of
initiative and could not remain still for long. His diary
also reveals to us his most intimate feelings.
The following letter to
Father Naval summarizes them well:
"...So you see, Father, that
I have nothing in my favor to be a founder, neither science,
nor virtue, nor degrees of prayer, nor revelations from God,
because I have never seen anything, or heard anything. I see
nothing in myself that would make me worthy of such a
mission. All that I have, and Jesus has given me that, is
the wish to do nothing of my own will, but rather to be a
completely docile instrument of God by means of holy
"Since the novitiate I have
loved obedience, happy and prompt, and if this foundation is
to be implemented, I want it to be by means of the most
"Since I decided to undertake
this Work, I have spoken to my superiors with childlike
simplicity. I made perfectly clear everything related to
Mrs. Cabrera: so many words of our Lord, so many
revelations, so many direct orders, so many promises for the
future, so many supernatural things... I said everything
clearly, although I knew what the consequences would be. And
they thought that Mrs. Cabrera was very good but perhaps
deluded, and that I acted in good faith, but that my mission
was doubtful. So they prudently separated me from Mexico and
decided to wait. Had I been in their place I might have done
the same. They have always been very good to me. But they
say that they cannot and ought not to grant me the
permission I requested.
"However, my faith in this
foundation has only grown. My heart wishes violently that we
begin, but I do not want to be in a hurry, because I know
that Jesus has His own hour and time.
"These years of separation,
of reflection, of obedience, of humiliation and unwavering
hope in the word of Jesus have been a precious time for me.
I have understood better than ever my incompetence, and that
I must not expect anything of myself, but that what will be
done, will he done by Jesus, despite so much opposition, and
despite the worthlessness of the instrument He has chosen,
so that it will be seen more clearly that it is the work of
God and that He Himself has done it all."
In his diary he writes:
"It now seems that nothing
favors the foundation of the Religious of the Cross. I think
the Lord has wanted everything to come tumbling down and
that everyone gives his back to us, to show without a doubt
that it is all His work. He wants to do it and will indeed
carry it out. Sometimes I am tempted to despair, but I react
right away. Jesus has said it and He always keeps His word,
if we are faithful to Him. Obstacles are not important.
Jesus has said it, and I have so much evidence that this is
so, that I could not ask for more."
On July 16, 1916, Pope Pius X
had issued a decree withdrawing from the bishops the
authority to establish new religious congregations without
the permission of the Holy See. Therefore, they not only
needed a founder, but also the authorization of the Pope.
So towards the end of 1909,
after many fruitless letters, Archbishop Ibarra decided to
go to Rome, where he arrived in early January of 1910.
He was very well received by
Cardinal Vives, Prefect of the Congregation for Religious.
The Cardinal promised him that he would not return to Mexico
without obtaining his wish. He likewise agreed to be the
protector of the Apostleship of the Cross and obtained the
papal approval for the Sisters of the Cross of the Sacred
Heart of Jesus (February 17). He also obtained numerous
indulgences for the Covenant of Love, which was the third
Work of the Cross, founded in Mexico with the approval of
Archbishop Ibarra on February 30, 1909. He also examined the
constitutions of the Religious of the Cross, prior to
negotiating their approval by the Pope.
On February 26, Msgr. Caroli,
who was in charge of the religious communities of men,
informed Archbishop Ibarra that the permission for the
foundation had been granted.
Archbishop Ibarra immediately
sent a cable to Conchita Cabrera and she in turn immediately
informed Bishop Ruiz, Bishop Valverde and the Sisters of the
Cross of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Everybody rejoiced.
But something very unexpected
happened. The 1st of March, Pope Pius X ordered that the
permission for the foundation remain pending and that all
the writings of Mrs. Cabrera related to the Religious of the
Cross be sent to Cardinal Vives to be examined in detail.
Archbishop Ibarra was dismayed by this news...
He wrote both to Cardinal
Vives and to the Pope, begging them to study the matter of
the foundation of the Religious of the Cross completely
apart from the writings and revelations of Mrs. Cabrera,
considering the work in itself, as they would any other
congregation. But he received a negative answer.
The Pope himself (now Saint
Pius X), wrote Archbishop Ibarra the following letter in his
"Venerable brother: I have
read your letter, in which you lament the fact that the
permission to found the Congregation of the Priests of the
Cross has been postponed. I beg you to forgive me as well as
the Congregation for Religious, if in such an important
matter we have felt we should proceed with great caution
before giving permission. But I assure you that this matter
will soon be turned over to the Sacred Congregation for its
study, and God willing, will be resolved according to your
wishes and those of your brothers.
"I have confidence, because a
work which is pleasing to God, although it meet many
obstacles, will overcome them all. And with this hope,
Venerable Brother, I extend to you my heartfelt apostolic
blessing. Pope Pius X, Rome, March 2, 1910."
Archbishop Ibarra shared all
this with his friends in Mexico. In his letter to Conchita
he details everything, transcribes the Pope's letter, and
ends by saying:
"I do not tire of reading
this letter time and time again. And I feel a great deal of
peace in my heart and an indescribable joy, because I have
tried, with all my strength, to do God's will."
Archbishop Ibarra returned to
Mexico with a great deal of peace in his heart, but without
the desired permission.
Conchita’s writings regarding
the Religious of the Cross were sent to Rome according to
the Pope's instructions.
A year and a half went by....
On August 3, 1911, Bishop
Ruiz sent the Pope another petition, signed by the five
Mexican Archbishops then living in Mexico and two bishops.
Msgr. Caroli answered this
letter as follows:
"Today I received the letter
in which you bring to my attention the matter of the
foundation of the Priests of the Cross. It is something that
concerns me directly because I am in charge of matters
referring to institutes of men in the Sacred Congregation
The persons who support this
application are above all praise and encomium. However,
given our past experience, I foresee that success will not
be forthcoming, at least in the near future. Believe me, I
shall do all I can to obtain what you wish." (August 17,
The "past experience" to
which Msgr. Caroli referred was the inevitable relationship
which existed between Conchita's revelations and this
foundation: its origin, its spirituality, its goals, its
founder, and even its constitutions; everything flowed from
the affirmations and writings of this Mexican woman... and
from God. Taking into consideration the strictness of the
Roman criteria, "the past experience" couldn't be worse.
More than a year went by and
nothing arrived from Rome. No answer, no news, good or bad.
Then Archbishop Ibarra wrote
to Msgr. Caroli:
"Considerable time has passed
since the experts named to examine the writings of Mrs.
Concepción Cabrera submitted their reports to the Sacred
Congregation for Religious. But until now, no decision has
been made. I think the time has come for you to please move
on this matter, so that the permission be granted at once
for the foundation of the Priests of the Cross." (February
Msgr. Caroli answered:
“…Regarding the matter of the
Priests of the Cross, I believe the foundation will not be
authorized. The writings you know are still being examined,
but, from what I can conclude from the things that 1 know,
it is not possible to talk about a foundation. That is the
truth, at least for now. Therefore, there is nothing I can
do." (February 22, 1913).