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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Archbishop Ibarra was firmly convinced of the authenticity of the revelations to Conchita, and that God willed the foundation of the Religious [Men] of the Cross-. This conviction moved him to plan another trip to Rome, but this time taking the "black eye", that is to say, Conchita, with him. To this end, Archbishop Ibarra organized a pilgrimage to Rome and Palestine. Circumstances were unfavorable because Mexico was in the midst of a revolution since 1910. Although there was poverty and trips were dangerous, 123 persons signed up. That is the way Mexicans are! Conchita and two of her sons were part hi' the group. 

Archbishop Ibarra wanted Conchita to be known and examined in person in Rome. Moreover, he had with him two very authorized opinions about her and her writings: that of Msgr. Maximino Ruiz, who had been Conchita's spiritual director for 7 years and that of Father Poulain, a well-known Jesuit who had written a "Treatise of Mystical Theology". Both opinions were very favorable. 

The pilgrims left Mexico on August 26, 1913 and arrived in Rome on November 13, after visiting the Holy Land. 

Bad news awaited Archbishop Ibarra in Rome: Cardinal Vives had died the 7th of September and Msgr. Caroli had been named Bishop of Ceneda on October 19th. These two men were the principal sources of support Archbishop Ibarra had in the Sacred Congregation for Religious and both had left.

Those who had examined Conchita’s writings by order of Cardinal Vives had rendered an unfavorable opinion. In their judgment, everything seemed to be due to an exaggerated sensitivity and to an exalted imagination. 

Moreover, false accusations had reached Rome to the effect that the said Mrs. Cabrera, against the wishes of the Holy See, directed the Sisters of the Cross of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. 

In short, at the Sacred Congregation for Religious everything related to the Works of the Cross and to Mrs. Cabrera had lost prestige. Therefore, all the petitions related to the matter of the Religious of the Cross were sent to "the basement file." 

However, Archbishop Ibarra requested an audience with the Pope for himself and Mrs. Cabrera which was granted for November 17. 

In the few days that preceded the audience, Archbishop Ibarra visited all the members of the Sacred Congregation for Religious who had anything to do with the foundation and tried to dissipate prejudices, clarify doubts, explain situations and remedy misunderstandings.  He delivered the new reports from Msgr. Maximino Ruiz and Father Poulain. He wrote several letters to important Vatican figures and, above all, he prayed a great deal, together with Mrs. Cabrera and all the Mexican pilgrims. 

On the day of the audience, Archbishop Ibarra entered the Pope’s office first and spoke with him alone; then they called Conchita. In her diary she recounts the meeting with Saint Pius X: 

"The Pope was sealed behind his desk and Archbishop Ibarra was in front of him. 

"I knelt down and, crying, kissed his feet. Finally I regained my composure. He stretched out his hand and asked me what I wanted: 

-That your Holiness approves the Priests of the Cross, I said without letting go his hand. 

They are approved, he answered and before this year is over, this whole matter will be settled. 

-Most Holy Father, I do not wish to stand in the way of the Works o£ the Cross, and I beg you to leave me out, do not take me into account, forget all about me, so they can continue. 

I already spoke with Archbishop Ibarra about this, and everything will be settled this year. Do you wish anything else?

-A special blessing for the Sisters of the Cross of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, the Works and my children.

Yes, and for you too, in a special way.

He looked into my eyes with a penetrating and sweet glance, and I felt I was at the feet of our Lord Jesus Christ. He blessed me several limes and said:

Prega, prega per me. (Pray, pray for me.)

Then he spoke for a long time with Archbishop Ibarra. Finally I heard the Pope telling Msgr. Ibarra to see the doctor and take care of his health, under obedience."

Archbishop Ibarra and Conchita were delighted with the audience.

They were surprised that so many obstacles had been overcome, and did not tire of thanking God.

Humanly speaking, and given the state of things, the Pope's approval did not seem to the forthcoming, since he himself had canceled the permission in 1910. Therefore, what was to be expected was rather that he would have ordered that everything be studied in depth; this would have been the most tactful way to say no.

How could one then explain his approval and promise that within the year everything would be favorably completed?The only explanation is that God's good time had arrived.

Fearing that new difficulties would arise because of the relationship between the new foundation and Conchita’s writings, Archbishop Ibarra wrote to Msgr. Sbarreti proposing that the name of the future congregation be changed from Religious of the Cross to missionaries of the Holy Spirit. This would make it caster to separate it from Conchita’s revelations and writings. Msgr. Sbarreti answered that he would bring the matter up at his next audience with the Pope which was scheduled for September 16, and the Pope would decide.

Finally the day of the decision arrived. Archbishop Ibarra and Conchita spent the day in prayer, awaiting the final and official decision of the Holy Father.

Not until the next day did Archbishop Ibarra learn about the Pope's answer: he had granted the permission for the foundation.

On the 18th he received officially and in writing the decision of Pius X. The letter was written by Msgr. Sbarreti and said:

“I hasten to communicate to you that the Holy Father, at the audience granted the Cardinal Prefect on the 16th of this month, has graciously consented to the request you and the Archbishops of Mexico and Michoacán have presented for authorization to found a new congregation of men religious: especially in light of the fact that you have declared that the said institute will be completely unrelated to the supposed revelations of Mrs. Cabrera de Armida.

However, the Holy Father has set the following conditions:

1. That the new institute be called "missionaries of the Holy Spirit".

2. That neither Father Alberto Cuscó y Mir nor Father Félix Rougier, both former spiritual directors of the above-mentioned Mrs. Cabrera, ever belong to the institute."

The hour of God was at hand, but a problem had arisen... The Pope himself was commanding that Father Félix not be a part of the institute.

What to do now? Look for another founder? But...who? Who else was so imbued with the spirit of the Cross? Who else was so enthusiastic about the work? Who else but Father Félix was worthy of having the work entrusted to him, since he had waited ten years for the permission? Moreover, what about the Lord's promises?

Archbishop Ibarra thought through the wording of Msgr. Sbarreti's letter: it said that Father Félix was not to be a part of the institute, that is to say, that he was forbidden to join it as a missionary of the Holy Spirit, but it did not say that he was forbidden to be in charge of the foundation and formation of the first missionaries, remaining himself a Marist. Maybe the solution lay in some arrangement along these lines....

So as not to make a mistake, Archbishop Ibarra decided to express his doubts to the Pope himself. So it was that on December 22, in a last audience which he had requested to say good-bye and thank Pius X, he asked the Pope about it. The Pope answered that his intention was that Father Félix not leave his congregation to enter that of the missionaries of the Holy Spirit, but rather, that with the permission of his Superior General, Father Félix would be responsible for forming the new priests until they could rule themselves.

The Pope’s answer calmed Archbishop Ibarra's concerns; its mission in Rome was over. Now all he had to do was to fetch the founder. With this goal in mind, Archbishop Ibarra left for Lyon, France, with the company of a small entourage which included Conchita and her sons.

They arrived in Lyon on the afternoon of the 3rd of April. Right away, Archbishop Ibarra send a letter to Father John Raffin, Superior General of the Marists, in which he requested an interview and in which he explained the reason for his trip to Lyon. The next day, after consulting his Council, Father Raffin went to the hotel where Archbishop Ibarra was staying and told him that he was very sorry, but the Council had decided that due to the shortage of priests, it was impossible to grant Father Félix permission to go to Mexico to be in charge of the foundation. He explained that the shortage of priests was so acute that the school in Mexico was on the verge of closing because France could no longer send teachers.

Archbishop Ibarra and Mrs. Cabrera, most sorrowful, and considering the case hopeless, left for Mexico. They arrived in Paris on the 9th of January and the next day Conchita received an unexpected visitor: Mr. George Gréville, an Englishman in the diplomatic service and his wife, Elizabeth. Father Félix was the couple’s spiritual director, and they also had known Conchita since the time Mr. Gréville had worked in Mexico as plenipotentiary minister of Great Britain. That is why they knew so much about the works of the Cross.

At home in London they learned that Conchita was going to go through Paris and they went to greet her. She and Archbishop Ibarra told them the story of Father Félix and the Grévilles offered to go to Lyon to try once more to obtain the desired permission because they were good friends of Father John Raffin, and like good diplomats, they expected to be successful.

Father Raffin was happy to see his friends, Mr. and Mrs. Gréville and explained to them that the only reason why he could not lend Father Félix was lack of personnel. Then Mrs. Gréville had an idea. She made a proposal in the name of Archbishop Ibarra: if Father Raffin would lend Father Félix for the foundation, Archbishop Ibarra would provide three priests for the Marist school in Mexico to keep it from closing.

After consulting with his Council, Father Raffin accepted the proposal. Archbishop Ibarra also accepted it, and a formal contract was drawn up including the following clauses:

"1. The Superior General of the Marists agrees to lend Father Félix Rangier for at least two years, to work to establish the missionaries of the Holy Spirit.

2. Father Félix will go to Mexico after the school year ends at Saint-Chamond.

3. Archbishop Ibarra agrees to:

a) Supply three teachers/priests to the Marist school in Mexico City during the time that Father Félix is lent to work on the above mentioned foundation.

b) He will pay a thousand francs to the teacher who will take Father Felix’s place at the school of Saint-Chamond.

c) He will cover Father Felix’s travel costs to go to Mexico."

Once more, and when from a human point of view there was no hope, the obstacles were overcome, the doors opened and the way was clear. Truly, it was God's time and God had acted.

In her diary, Conchita reflected as follows:

"How faithful the Lord is in the fulfillment of his promises”.

As soon as the school year was over, Father Félix traveled by boat to New York and from there to Cuba. There he received alarming news: because of the Mexican civil war, the ship lines had temporarily stopped their travels to Mexico. But thanks to the efforts of some influential businessmen, Father Félix was able to get to Veracruz. There he met his Excellency Francisco Orozco, Archbishop of Guadalajara who, because of the religious persecution, was on his way to Havana. Father Félix shared his plans with the bishop who answered:

- Father Félix, it is not the time to found anything in Mexico. We cannot even minister to the people. All the bishops have had to go underground. Go back to Havana with me and I will help you do anything.

Thank you, Archbishop, but I have waited ten years to be able to return to Mexico, and from the beginning I had been warned that I would establish this community "in the midst of the agony of the country".

-You are out of your mind! But if God wills it, go in peace, because the country is in real agony..."

Father Félix took the train to Puebla while the revolutionary army of General Obregón entered triumphantly into Mexico City.

At the Conferences of Torreón (July 8, 1914), the revolutionary heads had agreed, among other things "to correct, punish and demand the proper responsibilities from the Roman Catholic clergy". And Francisco Villa, in his September 1914 manifesto exhorted to the fulfillment of these dispositions "because of the just resentment of the Constitutional Party against the members of the Catholic clergy who had a role in supporting the dictatorship". These were the excuses used by many liberals and masons who joined the ranks of the revolution to persecute the Church, confiscate its possessions, shoot many priests, close the seminaries and Catholic schools as well as the convents and churches.

And under these circumstances Father Félix came to found a religious congregation of men...!

He arrived in Puebla looking for Archbishop Ibarra, but its Excellency was in hiding in Mexico City because of the persecution. Father Félix himself had to remain in hiding in Puebla, in a house, together with his Marist brothers who worked in a school in that city. It was not until October 24th that he received a message from Archbishop Ibarra and at that time he went to the capital taking all due precautions.

That same day Father Félix went to Conchita’s house. For ten years they had no communication at all. Father Félix shook her hand and he simply said:

"I still feel the same way about the Works of the Cross."


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