Today’s post is about a woman not (yet) beatified—and not well-known to many of us outside the Hispanic community. Concepción Cabrera de Armida (1862–1937) grew up in a happy and devout home in San Luis Potosi, Mexico. She was lovely and bright and attracted many suitors, marrying Francisco Armida in 1884. They had nine children; one son died at age six. Even while married and bringing up a large family, Concepción maintained a robust spiritual life. She started ministries such as Brothers of the Cross, and Sisters of the Cross of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. She also did a lot of writing during those years, although her children knew little of it. After 17 years of marriage, Francisco died, and Concepción had to carry on as a single mother to her large family.
I remember those who have gone before me into Eternity, and my eyes are turned toward You, O Saviour of my soul, because it is there that I come across them. It is there that they wait for me, bathed in the brightness of Your pure and holy light.
Concepción was especially concerned for priests and their ministries. During her lifetime, the Mexican Civil War was raging, and anti-Catholic policies made it necessary for priests to hide and to celebrate sacraments in secret; Concepción helped many priests find refuge. One priest, Fr. Felix Rougier, became a friend and spiritual director to her. Together they founded The Priestly Fraternity, and The Congregation of Missionaries of the Holy Spirit.
She did not claim to have had elaborate visions, but Concepción’s writings were examined by the Catholic Church in Mexico and also in Rome (she had an audience with Pope Pius X) and received approval. She actually made several trips to Rome while establishing the various ministries she had helped to found. Concepción was dedicated to Eucharistic adoration, to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, and she encouraged others to unite their sufferings with those of Christ.
Jesus, God and Spouse of my soul! . . . I shall always find You disposed, O my Jesus, to listen to me, day, night, always! . . . You alone . . . shall console me in my sorrows, dry my tears, receive my last kiss, and be my companion at the hour of my death, when all others shall forsake me.
According to one estimate, Concepción wrote as many pages as did St. Thomas Aquinas. Her diaries are still being translated. Many people use her book, I Am: Eucharistic Meditations on the Gospel, for their own adoration practices. Seasons of the Soul looks at spiritual growth in terms of a process similar to nature’s seasons. A Mother’s Letters grew out of her years raising a family and growing in her faith. Go to Concepción’s Amazon page to find her various books, both in English and Spanish. Also, read about her in Saints of the Americas (Loyola Press, 2007).
Ronda De Sola Chervin chose a lengthy quote from Concepción to include in her anthology of women mystics. I love this quote because it shows how, as we mature in life, we are much more likely to see how much more we could do and be. And we are much more willing to depend on God’s mercy:
Oh yes, Jesus, my Life! The end of my day is approaching and I wish to keep quite close to You, for the cold chills me, if I withdraw from You ever so little. In order to be happy and at peace, I need the gentle warmth of Your heart, of Your words . . .
I have wasted the better part of my life in vanities, in imaginations, in vain pleasures and in foolish illusions. . . . There are immense voids in my life: I have not always done my duty to my neighbor, or to the members of my family. . . . Instead of seeking God, I have sought myself. I have desired comforts, I have been vainglorious and obstinate in defending my own opinion. I have taken pleasure in worldly friendships, and have sought myself even in my private devotions. . . . What excuses, what idleness, selfishness, sensuality and sluggishness in the service of God. . . .
What touchiness, cowardice and uncharitableness! O my Jesus, it makes me tremble when I consider that it is the end of the day, that night is coming on, and that my heart, Alas! remains full of vices, stains and iniquities! . . .
Where are the humility, the patience, the obedience, the gentleness, the costly victories? . . . Where are to be found the unlimited charity. . . the hunger for solitude. . . . in all of which I should have placed my happiness? . . .
O my Jesus! And this is why I suffer, because my hands are empty, and the Bridegroom will soon be here and I shall have neither the oil of virtues nor the ardent flame of love, to offer him! (from Before the Altar)