BLESSED ARE THE PERSECUTED
It happened what Father Félix
feared. Government agents discovered the Apostolic School
and Novitiate. But they accepted a bribe and did not report
them. Father Félix did not know the Mexican words to
designate that type of transaction. He wrote to Father
‘If we continue working by
giving alms to the police, I thank the Divine Providence
with all my heart.”
In a letter to the students
in Rome he told them:
“Our church in Morelia is
closed. The two fathers live in different homes; they do not
dare get together because it could be even more dangerous.
But from where they are, they do good to a lot of people.”
"In our church of “Los
Remedios”, Father Ramón del Real has behaved very
courageously, and in certain cases, heroically. He has not
wished to abandon the parish despite the danger of
imprisonment or something worse. He has continued to
administer the sacraments there and in a neighboring parish
whose pastor disappeared months ago.
"As for Santa Clara, now the
priest cannot even get near there for fear of being
imprisoned. He is hiding in Mrs. Cabrera's house."
(February 1, 1928).
A year later, due to the
pressure of the "Cristeros", who were increasingly strong
and victorious, the government decided to look for peaceful
solution to the religious conflict. And so on the 21st
of June, 1929, the “agreements” were signed between interim
President Portes Gil representing the government and Bishops
Pascual Díaz and Leopoldo Ruíz representing the Church.
Those agreements were not in the least favorable to the
Church. The adverse laws were not modified at all. Very
limited freedom was granted for worship. Why were the
agreements signed? Why were the Cristeros told to lay down
their weapons when their movement was on the way to
overthrow a government repudiated by more than 95% of the
It would take a long time to
explain all of this. What is certain is that the order came
from Pius XI, who based his decision on the information
presented by certain Mexican bishops. Their argument was
that "since the government was seeking peace, the Church
ought to support it to avoid more bloodshed."
Later, Pius XI himself wrote
an encyclical (Acerba nimis) in which he bitterly laments
the religious persecution in Mexico and the lack of
compliance with the agreements reached in 1929. But it did
not do any good. It was too late. The political mistake of
three years before could not be remedied.
We can hardly understand the
suffering which Father Félix underwent because of that
prolonged religious persecution which lasted from 1914 until
1937, shortly before his death. We have to consider in
realistic terms what it meant to live hiding in someone
else’s home, without being able to take good care of his
Congregation, or gather new vocations or exercise his
ministry. How he must have suffered when his churches were
closed, his sons dispersed and his whole Work threatened...
And this, day after day and year after year living constant
ups and downs in a foreign country.
However, in his letters we
find no complaints, but rather a complete acceptance of the
will of God, trust in Him, prayers for his enemies,
gratitude to the Lord for having granted him the blessing of
being persecuted for His sake, and the sincere desire to be
The example which Father
Félix left us is that of a person who knew how to translate
into the reality of his daily life his offering to the
Father in Heaven to be a victim in union with Christ, for
the salvation of all; but with simplicity, optimism, with
joy, "with much pleasure", as he frequently said.
The following are some
randomly selected lines from his letters corresponding to
the period we are analyzing:
"Mexico is suffering a very
difficult test. We are living through sad times, but we have
faith in God. This Work, these vocations are His. How could
they perish?" (To the students in Rome).
"We have five houses that
only God can preserve from total ruin given the law
governing the confiscation of property. For my part, I am
ready to say AMEN to everything God wants, and I will say it
smilingly because God is infinitely fatherly and what He
permits will be for our greater good. I see a furious wave
approaching. But perhaps it will be the last one. And, if
not, may God's will be done; I say it with all my heart."
(Letter to Father Rieu).
"It is said that a great
crisis is approaching. But... Does anything happen without
God permitting it?
need is patience, love and trust. Jesus will take care of
us and nothing will happen. Who is there like God?" (Letter
to Father Iturbide).
"Jesus has left us under the
power of His enemies until this Holy Week. May His will be
done! And may He who pardoned the good thief, also give them
an opportunity to repent, and pardon them the many evil they
have done. The mercy of God is infinite and reaches all."
"The Mexican soul had never
been revealed as heroic and full of faith. But the
persecution is becoming daily more cruel. Many are afraid,
and I too have a thorn stuck in my heart, namely the fear of
seeing the novitiate and Apostolic School closed and the
boys put out on the street. But the Father is more powerful
that all of them. If He punishes us, we richly deserve it.
If He purifies us, it is out of love. But I feel sorry for
those who now serve as His stick to punish His children. Let
us keep them in our prayers; I do so with all my heart. They
also are our brothers, may Jesus forgive us all." (To the
students in Rome).
"Mexico is being physically
and morally martyred. The persecution is causing so much
suffering! I am not concerned about the humiliations and
grief which we have gone through; what pains me is the many
souls that are lost because of it." (Letter to Father Angel
"Currently the house in
Morelia is the hardest hit, but they are all happy and
smiling. God our Father takes care of us. Therefore we are
taken care of.” (To the students in Rome).
"Although we are internally
full of anguish, we accept this trial joyfully because our
Lord has told us that we will be blessed if we are
persecuted for His sake. What consoling words! They fill us
with encouragement since it is only because of Him that we
are being persecuted right now." (Letter to Alice Calamy).
"I have to remain in hiding
because they are looking for me. It is very sweet to be
persecuted for being a disciple of Jesus. I feel calm and at
peace. Ando also happy, why not? If I see myself persecuted,
it is because I belong to him." (To Blanche Giraud).
"I move around a lot, because
the Masons persecute mercilessly those who serve the Church.
Since the persecution started in 1929, more or less 150
priests from this country have received the crown of
martyrdom. A thousand times blessed those who share this
fate! They have already warned me about it. I wish that
happiness with all my heart, although I do not deserve it."
(Letter to Alice Calamy).
"Humanly speaking, there is
no way out of this situation. But we have faith in God who
has intervened thousands of times throughout history in
favor of those he loves. They tell us now that we will be
living tragic because of the triumph of socialism and
atheism. If this is so, the only request we can make is that
God give us the strength to resist even until martyrdom or
exile, or any kind of persecution, and thus we will follow
the Lord even more closely." (Letter to Rev. Mother Isabel
"I had to come here to hide
until the tempest blows over. If this continues to get worse
and they take everything from us, God be praised, because we
know and firmly believe that everything comes from God and
we also know that the trials He sends to those He loves are
for their benefit." (To the novices).
He writes the following to
the Superior of a religious congregation of women:
"You are also persecuted
solely because you are Christ's. I know that your house has
been reported. Happy you and happy us! Happy those of us who
suffer for the sake of Jesus because our reward will be very
great. We want whatever the Lord wants, everything He wants.
So we are not going to tell Him, Lord, deliver us from this
or that. No. Everything He wants is what you and we want.
Isn't that so?" (To Rev. Mother Isabel Padilla).
"The missionaries of the Holy
Spirit are seriously threatened everywhere. But I see them
calm. They know everything comes from God and God is our
Father. If they take everything from them and persecute them
with cruelty, they will accept it. Persecution is a very
great grace; it is the pledge of immense favors for the
future if we accept it as we should. (To the students in
Despite everything that has
been said, and thanks to those "agreements", the years 1930
and 1931 were reasonably favorable to the Church and the
Congregation. In fact, it was in 1931 when Father Félix
could finally organize well the "House for Priests",
intended to offer spiritual and material help to priests.
This house, situated in Coyoacán, continued to give
excellent service until the 15th of April, 1936, when the
government confiscated it.
One the 7th of December of
the same year (1931), Father Félix agreed to have the
missionaries of the Holy Spirit staff the church of San
Felipe de Jesús, located in Avenida Madero 11, in the heart
of downtown Mexico City.
Father Félix' letters help us
understand how the community was developing during these
years, in 1930 he wrote:
"We are now 115 (counting the
students of the Apostolic School, novices, students and
priests). What small numbers in 16 years! But I thank God
because I think that everything we have done is solid."
(Letter to Teresa Lozano).
In 1931 he writes:
"Things are going very well
here and we are living in relative peace. Our Lord blesses
our Works, and they grow despite great difficulties. We are
already 135. The spirit of our young people is excellent,
thank God. We are planning new foundations as soon as our
new priests arrive from Rome." (Letter to his niece
In 1933 he writes:
"We number 154, of which 17
are in Rome completing special studies. They had never had
such good grades before. I continually thank God for having
blessed their studies in this fashion. They are the future.
In all our houses I find fervor and full observance and a
great love for Our Most Holy Mother."
On the 13th of October of
this year (1933) he wrote to a novice as follows:
"I established this
foundation without resources, and I did not have to look for
handouts because our Lord, with the tenderness of a mother,
sent everything we needed every day and we never lacked
food, or dress or anything. And that constant intervention
of Jesus was not felt only in the beginning but rather has
lasted until today. And as the number of members of the
Congregation has grown, so have the resources He has sent.
What admirable things, how grateful must we be to Our Lord!"
(To Brother Ramón López).
In 1935 he wrote to
Archbishop Leopoldo Ruíz the following words:
"Three new missionaries have
just been ordained. We now have forty priests. Blessed be
God! The formation has been long, but we are sure that it
has been solid". (August 13, 1935).
In 1936 he writes to the
Superior General of the Marists, his friend, Father Ernesto
"This year, which has been
rich in crosses, is about to end. This small Congregation
has lost its principal houses. The Government confiscated
the apostolic school, the novitiate, and the house for
students of philosophy and theology. But the vocations have
increased and we are forming them well. We are almost 200
and we thank God for having helped us so mightily these
first 22 years, because although trials have not been
lacking, God's consolation has been superabundant."
(December 30, 1936).
In his previous letter,
Father Félix refers to the new religious persecution of
President Cárdenas, which lasted until 1937, and which
stripped the Congregation of almost all its houses. The year
1935 was the worst of the persecution.
The 25th of March of that
year, (1935), Father Félix wrote:
"Here we are, half defeated.
The students of the apostolic school are staying in a
temporary location, the students of philosophy in another
and the students of theology in a third. They number 130
altogether and we have not lost a single vocation. All of
them have demonstrated their love for Christ and for His
Cross. Happy are those persecuted for the sake of Christ,
because their reward will be very great!
"I have visited the 52 boys
of the Apostolic School, and I see them happier and more
determined than ever. This is a blessing from God. Education
in times of persecution is more solid and effective because
the learners see heroic examples which are forever engraved
in their memory." (Letter to Father Angel Oñate).
Towards the end of May,
Father Félix described the state of things in the following
"The situation remains the
same. But it is a great joy; a blessing that they take away
our houses, furniture, beds, clothes, etc....only because we
are Christ's. I have not heard a single complaint.
They all have had to suffer:
sleeping on the floor, and having few clothes and little to
eat, etc. From the house in Rome we have been congratulated
for having overcome the trials. And we feel happy and know
that Jesus is pleased. We are not considering leaving Mexico
because we have found good vocations here, a living faith,
very Christian families, good education, people already
formed for the religious life." (Letter to Blanche Giraud.
May 5, 1935).
He tells his spiritual
"We have resisted the
persecution, pardoning those men from the bottom of our
heart, and commending them to God. We have suffered much,
"The Apostolic School is now
experiencing the worst trials, but we have not lost a single
vocation. Our boys have understood that being persecuted for
the sake of Our Lord is a blessing and they have shown
themselves to be courageous, happy, optimistic and full of
trust in God. They have received excellent grades in school,
for which I am grateful to God.
"Despite so many
difficulties, we are moving ahead. There are now 141 of us
besides the ones in Rome. Shouldn't we thank God?" (Letter
to Archbishop Ruíz, May 30, 1935).
And how was Father Félix?
His strong constitution was
very broken down despite his invincible optimism. So much
suffering and so many concerns had harmed his health. In
Conchita’s diary we find this very telling note:
"Father Félix visited me
again. Each time I find him progressively thinner and
holier." (April 1935).