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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In this chapter I intend to gather the testimonials of some of the persons who lived with Father Félix because through them we can get to know better the founder of the missionaries of the Holy Spirit.

Many who knew him are still alive. They say that Father Félix was stocky, and almost six feet tall. He had a healthy shock of wavy, prematurely white hair. His eyes were dark blue and his eyebrows thick and black. He had a kind look which inspired peace and an always welcoming smile.

We have many black and white pictures of Father Félix and he was definitely not photogenic. Very few pictures of him are good.

Father Manuel Hernández, one of those Morelia seminarians who contracted the "French fever", gives us the following account:

"Father Félix was an extraordinarily active and hard-working person. I never saw him waste time. He was very responsible and his constant example help up before us novices the habits of work and responsibility. He was a natural leader. Without his trying, we all admired him and loved him and wished to be with him. During free time, (he called it "recreation" as it is called in French) he was the center of the small group of novices and he always created a cheerful atmosphere, told jokes and recounted interesting things. He taught us that during recreation no one had the right to be sad, for the good of the brethren. He used to tell us: "Recreation is re-creation."

"Although he spoke Spanish very well, he pronounced the "r" with a French accent. Sometimes, after he had been writing letters and notes in French, he confused words in Spanish. For example, one day he called me and another novice and said to us: 'When you go to downtown Mexico, you will buy me this medicine for the 'amibos'." We looked at each other and burst into laughter. Our father laughed also and said' "I said it wrong, didn't I? Forgive me, I have been writing in French all morning."

"Sometimes he translated French expressions literally into Spanish. This was funny and made us laugh.... He adopted the word "Chorcha", which is a word used in Guadalajara to mean a get-together or fiesta. Every so often after supper he would say: "Now take your chairs and we will go to the living room because we are going to have a "chorchita" to celebrate... I remember that one 5th of May he organized a "chorchita" "because we defeated the French."... (On that day in 1862, the Mexican army defeated the French troops in the battle of Puebla, translation note). He had a sense of humor.

"What did these celebrations or "chorchitas" consist of? We would adjourn to the living room and place our chairs in a circle around our Father and He would bring from his room all the tidbits that had accumulated in his desk drawers. When our families came to visit us they brought many wonderful snacks, but to teach us religious poverty, our father told us we could dispose of nothing and should hand over everything to the superior to be enjoyed later by the community. At the "chorchas" Father Félix distributed all these things. He had the cook prepare cocoa or at least tea. And we novices would eat the snacks while our father talked to us about things as they came up: about the vocations he had found during his latest trip and who would soon be with us, about the churches that bishops had offered him, about some new foundation he planned to start... And we asked questions, made comments, laughed... that was the "chorchita"... for me the smile and fatherly kindness of Father Félix were the best party." (From a conference given by F. Manuel Hernández at the Apostolic School. April 18, 1947).

Father Ramón del Real says:

"I was particularly impressed by the simplicity and poverty of Father Félix, he was always clean but poor in his dress; I would say almost shabby.

"One day we were going out together to visit the Sisters of Perpetual Adoration and I pointed out to him that the right sleeve of his coat was worn and torn around the elbow. He told me: "It doesn't matter, son; everybody in Tlalpan knows who I am..." And it happened that two days later we were going h) Mexico City to buy some books for the novitiate. Again I pointed out the state of his coat sleeve and he told me: "It doesn't matter, son, nobody in Mexico City knows who I am..."

"He was poor but very generous with the poor. He always gave alms to the poor. And he didn't just give them something, he would help them generously.

"One day we were walking down the street when a little old man approached him asking for alms. Father Félix put his hand in his pocket and took out a coin which he gave the beggar. I said:

-Father, that is gold "hidalgo"!

-Yes, he answered, the man also needs it.

And as he watched the man go on his way, our father shook his head and said:

"Poor people… poor people...Only God knows how much they have suffered!"....

"Another day I watched him embracing a little old lady who came to tell him her problems and ask for help.

"And when it was my turn to answer the door and telephone at the novitiate, the beggars would knock and I would go to the bursar who always gave me something for them. But the poor would ask:

“Isn't the father with white hair around? When can we see him?'

One day we went to the taxi stand and I started walking toward the newest car. Father Félix said:

"Let's take this older car. Look how poor the driver looks. We can help him a little."

"When the children who sell chewing gum offered him their wares, he would always buy a few and then gave them away to some other child.

"Once he talked to us about the poor and about the love we owe them because they are beloved of the Father and because Christ is in them. And then he added:

-When a poor person knocks at our door, do not ever turn him away empty-handed; remember that we have made a vow of poverty, not of avarice. Give and God will give you more and more." (Father R. del Real. Talk to Novices. January 10, 1950).

Father Vicente Méndez was also one of those seminarians from Morelia whom Father Félix "captured" for his incipient congregation.

He had many recollections of the kind founder, told them wittily and even wrote some down.

The following is an excerpt from a talk Father Méndez gave to students of philosophy:

"I loved our father very much and he relied on me. He called Father Alvarez and myself "the 'cuatos'; he meant to say 'cuates' which means 'twins' because we were ordained at the same time.

"I will tell you something I remember of the time when he named Novice Master, when he had to go hide at Elenita Aceves' house because of the religious persecution.

"Sometimes he would leave his place of hiding at night to go briefly to the novitiate and see how things were going. He asked me many things about the novices, starting always with the same question: Are any of the boys sick?

"One day I told him: "Mon Pére (I liked to call him "Mon Pére" and even spoke to him in my terrible French), brother nurse has told me that several brothers are constipated for lack of exercise.

"Of course," he commented, "if they do not walk, a brick will form in their stomach."

"Then the supper bell rang and when we had finished eating, our father told the novices:

"The Novice Master has told me that several brothers are constipated. Please raise your hand if you have this problem so the nurse can take note.”

"The novice who was next to me raised his hand and since I knew him well I said to him:

"Brother, did you understand what our father said? Well... I think he said that those of us who were distracted should raise our hand..."

"Father Félix directed the nurse to give them papaya for breakfast every day, but I asked for permission to buy baseball equipment and a football. Our father said:

"In France, religious men don't do such things but… if you believe that will keep the novices healthy, go ahead."

"A few days later, on a Wednesday, I invited our father to the first baseball game. He didn't know anything about it, but he agreed as a good father to be with his children for that special celebration.

He watched with great wonderment the batting and the balls flying around, and after awhile he pointed to the catcher wearing a protective mask and told me in a serious tone:

"Buy all of them a protective mask before they break their nose."

"Another night our father and I talked until very late. All of a sudden he said:

-How the novices sleep?

-Very well, I suppose...

-You suppose? It is necessary to see them once in a while. Bring a flashlight and let's go see them.

"And we went to the dormitory.... He flashed the light on each bed. In one he just saw one mattress on top of the other. Our father got closer and slapped the mattress, saying in a low voice:

"Brother.... brother!" And Brother Pedro stuck his head out, turtle-like from under the bedspread...

-"My God!" our father exclaimed, "why do you sleep like this, Brother?"

-"I am very cold," the boy explained.

-"All right," said Father Félix, "but all that weight is not good for you. The Novice Master will see that tomorrow you be given two woolen blankets."

Then he found another one wrapped up from head to toe, like a mummy.

-My God! And who is this?

-It's Brother Juan, mon pére.

-Oh, that's why he is so yellow...He does not inhale enough oxygen at night... You have to teach him to sleep with his head uncovered. Then he added jokingly, "or make a hole in the blanket so he can at least stick his nose out..."

Another time he told me:

-I don't think that boy has a vocation...

-Why, mon pére?

-Because he resembles a fish... He never talks, just looks at us... "And his diagnosis was correct. The young man could not adapt to community life and asked to return to his family.

"It was customary in the novitiate for the brother who set the table to place a piece of bread on each plate. One day our father was making the rounds and he saw the brother distributing the bread as fast as he could. ! He got near and told him:

-Brother, the bread has a face; it should be put on the dish with the face up, like this, like this, like this...

“Another day he arrived for supper and I said to him:

"A telegram has just arrived for Brother Isidro. His mother is very sick." Our father advised me: "Don't give it to him until tomorrow morning. Never give anyone bad news at night, because you deprive him of sleep, unless, of course, it is something very urgent... Let us pray for Isidro and his mother..."

"He was so fatherly and kind that even the animals were objects of his care and concern. We had a female cat in the novitiate and one day our father saw that she was in heat and mewed sadly... After a while he went to the phone and talked with Sister Paz Ular:

"Sister Paz, could you please lend us your cat? Ours is in such a state one feels sorry for her..."

"Father Félix had an inexhaustible sense of humor, and instead of getting upset, he looked for the amusing side of disagreeable things. One day he asked me to accompany him to visit a family and when we were close to our destination, he look out from his coat pocket new dentures which didn't fit, showed them to me and said:

"These dentures are only good for smiling..."

“He then put them in his mouth kind smiled mischievously.

"I remember that on another occasion when I went with him to visit people, we arrived in the novitiate very late and I escorted him to the dining room.

"Let me see what they saved for us for supper," I said. I looked in the kitchen, and the refrigerator, in the pantry. Nothing!

-They didn't save anything for us, mon pére!

-Well, they probably want us to sleep longer... let's go to bed right away.

“They say that when they told him that the government had confiscated the four houses of the Congregation, he remained silent for a moment, with his eyes closed as if talking to God, and then, to encourage the fathers, he smiled and said: "Well, let us thank God we didn't have five houses, because our loss would have been greater..."

"That is, how our father founder was: simple and kind, optimistic and saintly... It was so easy to love him!

"I remember so many things about him that if I should try to share them all with you we would be here all night. Some other day I will some more of my recollections with you." (Father Vicente Méndez. Presentation. January 10, 1952).

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