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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We have reached the year 1936. Father Félix was 76 years old, but continued to be the leader and unifying force of his small Congregation. 

This year the political situation in Mexico continued on the same track. Father Félix's letters reflect this reality. For example, we have one letter from the 23th of March: 

"The theft of our houses has been completed. They have put us out on the street. But everything has been to our advantage, because God has given us many graces for having suffered for his sake. We have lost all our material things, but we have gained everything spiritual: more faith, more trust in God, a better spirit, hope in a better future. We owe all this to God. Blessed be His name" (To Margarita Boulagnon, March 23, 1936). 

Besides the cross of misunderstandings and persecution, God willed that Father Félix also bear often the cross of illnesses. They were an opportunity of personal purification for him, and of a greater union with Christ Crucified.  It will be worth our while to focus on this aspect of his life because it gives us priceless examples which we can imitate should we become ill. 

When he was very young, he suffered from arthritis and while in Barcelona he suffered tuberculosis of the lungs. When in Mexico, at 63, in January of 1923, his leg became gangrenous for lack of care of an infected sore. The doctors' diagnosis was worrisome and many feared for his life. But he finally got over it: 

“I am well now, thank God. I was very ill. What a life! It can end when we least expect it to... Ask the Lord that I serve Him better in the little time I have left." (To Maria de Jesús Madrigal, January 10, 1923). 

Father Félix regained his health and continued to work intensely, but in 1927 he became very ill again. The cause was amoebic dysentery but the doctors had failed to diagnose it correctly. 

"For the first time in my life, our Lord has kept me in bed for a long time. Since March 1, I have tried to get up to celebrate Holy Mass, but I have had to interrupt it. Praise be to God! Illnesses make us suffer, but they do us spiritual good. 

"From my bed I have been able to settle much pending business, thinking that the Lord may want to take me to my eternal abode. But the doctor is confident that I will get well again." (To Alice Calamy, March 25, 1927).

In the early part of 1928 he suffered from extreme exhaustion, because of excessive work, little sleep and many concerns: 

"I have touched bottom in terms of exhaustion. Praise be to God! But I am sure I will get well again, if that is the holy will of God. And if it is not, whatever God wills. Today I had to stop in the middle of Mass. The doctor forbade me to celebrate for a few days. Our Lord has given me patience. Thank you, Lord! 

"For me, the worst sacrifice is not to be able to do anything... Well, I hope to be able to give you good news soon. Thank you for your prayers." (To the students in the house in Rome, February 19, 1929). 

The doctors again diagnosed amoebic dysentery and attacked the illness by means of such strong intravenous shots that they almost killed Father Félix. After the first injections he wrote to Bishop Maximino Ruíz: 

"I am much worse. I can no longer write to you. I am extremely weak. But I can still dictate these lines. I want to be cured or to die happily surrounded by my sons. That is why I will move in with them in the novitiate. I will renew my religious vows there, receive the Holy Viaticum and the Anointing of the Sick, and I will remain in the midst of my own as long as God wills. I commend myself to your prayers and ask for your blessing." (May 16, 1928). 

No sooner said than done. The next day he moved to the novitiate. He asked for the Anointing of the Sick, which he received with great devotion, and then he prayed: "My Father, if You wish to take me, I accept your most holy will. If You wish to leave me here longer, I also give myself to You to do as you wish." 

Later that day he wrote to Archbishop Ruiz: 

"I want to let you know that I am at the novitiate. Today was a very happy day for me, because I returned to my center, with my own. I have great hopes of getting well because that is what we have asked the Father repeatedly, in the name of Jesus. I commend myself to your prayers and beg you to bless me and all the rest." (May 17, 1928).

Father Félix regained his strength, little by little, and with a great deal of optimism he wrote to the students in Rome:

"I am very well, thanks be to God. I eat everything, even beans and tortillas, but not chilies. I can lead my normal religious life. I continue to express my gratitude to God after having been so close to death." (July 2, 1928). 

The following year, 1929, in the month of March, the amoebic dysentery returned in full force:

"The doctors say that the same illness I had last year has returned and I think this time it will take me because I am getting weaker. May the will of God be done! The rest is nothing." (To Father Iturbide, March 24, 1929). 

On Good Friday he wrote to the missionaries in Rome: 

"Human life is a day of work and love. But it finally reaches its limit. But just as Jesus died to continue living and loving, so the missionaries of the Holy Spirit will also die to continue living in heaven a more active and more fruitful life. We will continue to work and love in heaven, as Jesus does for all His Church."(Good Friday, 1929). 

The year 1930 was not a good year for Father Félix's health. His appetite disappeared, as he tells Sister Ana María Gómez: 

"Every day I have to struggle with my 'atole'" (a thick, hot milk drink). (March 20). 

On June 28 of that year, he wrote the following: 

"For the last five years I have been struggling between health and extreme weakness. May God's will be done! I hope these sacrifices have been beneficial for the Works of the Cross". 

Two days later, he wrote to the Superior in Morelia: 

"I am more or less healthy. But who is healthy any longer? It is no longer in style. I am in bed and not feeling well since I returned from San Luis. Nevertheless, I hope to recover because, I cannot be accepted as a victim, for being who I am. God knows how to choose souls that are valuable to be His victims. Unfortunately, I am not one of them; rather, I am run of the mill. That is why I ask the Eternal Father to cure me, in the name of Jesus, and I am sure He will grant it." (To Father Treviño, June 30, 1930). 

He also wrote to the Daughters of the Holy Spirit: 

"My health is very good...That is to say, it is the way God wishes to give it to me these days. And God only gives His children good things. 

"The truth is that I have been working a great deal, beyond what I am capable of doing, and now I am paying the price. But the worst days are the best if we know how to take advantage of them.

"I promise to be prudent and take care of myself. I am sure that very soon I will be fine." (July 30, 1930). 

He got much better during the month of July because the doctors discovered he was anemic and gave him four blood transfusions. 

"Just imagine, I would have died very soon if they had not given me a blood test. Instead of five million red corpuscles that I should have, I only have one and it is impossible to live that way.

"All the novices want to donate their blood. How grateful I am!" (Letter to Archbishop Ruíz).

After the fourth transfusion, Father Felix told the doctor: 

"Now you should congratulate me because I have a lot of Mexican blood. I even dreamed that I participated in a cock fight!" 

On August 26, he took a few days' rest in the home of Conchita Cabrera and his spiritual director, Archbishop Ruíz, ordered him to take advantage of that "vacation" to write what he remembered about his participation in the Works of the Cross. Conchita wrote in her diary: 

"That very afternoon we started working. He dictated to me and I wrote it down. We covered a lot of ground, remembering so many painful events, so many grace filled moments and also so many successes. Later he dictated a short autobiography." (August 30, 1930). 

On January 6, 1931, he suffered an intestinal occlusion and was taken by ambulance to the French Hospital for emergency surgery. The operation lasted two hours. There followed several days during which he struggled between life and death, suffering greatly. The sleepless nights seemed endless. Sometimes he would ask what time it was and then he would comment: "Oh, Lord, this clock is not working!". 

But he got over the danger and recuperated rather quickly, so that by the end of February he could return to the novitiate. And the 20th of April he wrote to his niece, Ivonne, as follows: 

"I have started to celebrate Mass again, after three months of enforced abstention. Praise be to God for everything! Everything comes from God and He is our Father. He is infinite love." 

"I will be in bed for some time. How long? ... only God knows. But if this is His will, that is what I want." 

In September he wrote: 

"I am much better. However, I feel as if I had wooden fingers and I can hardly manage them. How instructive illnesses are! Pain purifies and unites one to God. This time it has lasted a year already. I hope I have suffered with love and resignation." (To Teresa Lozano, September 21, 1931). 

The year 1932 and 1933 were good for Father Félix's health.  He wrote to the students in Rome: 

"I am pretty good, suffering from the ailments proper to my age which, thank God, do not keep me from working." (July 4, 1933). 

And two more years passed with ups and downs in terms of ailments, but not bad considering his age. At Christmas in 1934 he wrote: 

"I am well, very well. I have some problems with my legs. My illness consists of having celebrated 74 on the 17th. They tell me I look 50. That is what they say... Please pray to God that in the same way that my health has improved, my soul will improve also..." (December 24, 1934). 

Father Félix made his spiritual exercises in May of 1935, although he complained of a sharp pain in the area of the liver. After the week's retreat, he wrote his resolutions: 

"I will pray four hours a day and I will be patient and kind." (Diary, May 30, 1935). 

Around this time, Father Félix agreed to staff another church: Nuestra Señora de la Merced (Our Lady of Mercy) in Celaya. This was the fourth church the Congregation served. 

In 1936, Father Félix accepted the church of Nuestra Señora del Rosario (Our Lady of the Rosary) in San Luis Potosí on October 25. And the next year he was given El Santuario de Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe (the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Guadalupe) in Saltillo. This was the last foundation established by Father Félix. 

Of the last two years, 1936 and 1937, Father Félix had the following to say: 

"I went through everything: colds, exhaustion, fevers, rheumatism and strong headaches that forced me to go to bed. God be praised!" 

On March 3, 1937 Conchita Cabrera died. It was a terrible blow to all the Works of the Cross, but even more so for Father Felix. 

By this time, his eyesight was failing him. 

On June 29, he petitioned Archbishop Ruíz: 

"I beg you to grant me permission to pray fifteen mysteries of the Rosary instead of reading the Breviary. The last two years I could still read the Breviary, although my right eye was almost gone, but now the left one is also losing strength. For this reason my confessor advised me to ask for this permission." 

Such was the state of his health when he celebrated his Golden Jubilee as a priest on September 24, 1937. 

This is the short speech he made after a dinner offered in his honor: 

"There is a great deal of truth in the words of St. Paul to the Ephesians: that we ought to spend our life being grateful for God's gifts. We have received so many spiritual gifts, gifts of the body as well as material gifts. He gives us all these benefits. 

"But there are special graces that we are unable to truly appreciate, such as the grace of the priesthood, which has been the reason for this celebration during which you have congratulated me with such undeserved affection. 

"I am deeply grateful to all of you who wanted to be with me to thank God for so many benefits which I have received throughout 50 years of priestly life. 

"May the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of Jesus, and mother of all priests, obtain for us the grace of responding completely to our holy vocation. And that after having worked following the footsteps of Jesus in this temporal world, we will be united in the possession of God in the world that endures forever, in an eternal life of happiness, gratitude and love."

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