Conchita: Wife, mother and mystic
One of the greatest gifts from the Second Vatican Council to the whole world was the dogmatic constitution Lumen Gentium (Light of the Nations). In section 39 and subsequent sections of this document, we are all urged to delve into the magnanimity of our vocation as Christians, which means that we all are called to sanctity — and that we all can achieve it.
Although it is true that in every age there have been great women and men of undeniable sanctity, the mentality of Christians in the past was to believe that sanctity was virtually a privilege granted only to consecrated religious women and priests.
The imminent beatification of the Mexican Conchita Cabrera de Armida infuses us with the gift of faith that propels us to God, who is the beginning and end of all true love. Our Creator’s love enables us to reach the fullness of our human and Christian vocations, regardless of our personal circumstances — whether we are single, married, priests or living a consecrated life.
In her autobiography, Conchita simply confesses: “Courtship never bothered me in the sense that dating somehow impeded my spiritual life by making me less focused on God. I found it so easy to join both together. At bedtime and when I was alone, I thought of Pancho and then the Eucharist, which was my delight. Every day I would receive holy Communion, and I would go see him afterward. The thought of Pancho did not keep me from my prayers.”
We can find sanctity in life by improving daily upon our service, regardless of the circumstances under which our Lord decided to put us. Thus, in Leviticus 11:44 we find that God tells his people: “I, the Lord, am your God. You shall make and keep yourselves holy, because I am holy.” For his part, Jesus urges his disciples, “Be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (Matthew 5:48)
In her autobiography, Conchita writes that Jesus told her one day: “You married for higher purposes, to make my power shine, for your sanctification and that of other souls; to become yourself a living sacrifice in favor of holy purity. All this in order to prove that marriage is not incompatible with him (having Christ as a spiritual husband); to show that the obligations of a mother and wife (a husband and nine children) were not inconsistent with piety, as well as for other purposes of his wisdom.” She writes: “The fire continued to grow, and so did the life, the divine love in my poor heart, as much as the lights of purity, the desire to belong to Jesus, to be all his.”
This great Mexican mystic found the strength to live each stage of her life with joy and confidence thanks to the Eucharist. Her daily participation in the celebration of the Eucharist made it possible for her to penetrate the mysteries of the passion, death and resurrection of Jesus. That intimacy with Jesus in the Eucharist allowed her to join in the most intimate sentiments of the loving heart of our Lord, so she could share them with her husband, children and friends and with all those who surrounded her.
All of us who were baptized are called to be saints. Just like Conchita, we can discover that earthly love is our way to perfection when it is nurtured by the divine love that created us and that sends us to the world to be mirrors and missionaries of that eternal love.
In the same way as all human love is nurtured by and grows with words and gestures between lovers, our love relationship with Jesus is nourished by the gestures we have toward him in our daily human life. God is present in all aspects of our world, which is obvious to those who are in love with God — like any person in love who is reminded of their loved one in everything they see. To be able to grasp all those external signs and see the presence of a loved one in them is what turns us into true mystics in this world and makes us live joyfully.
St. Teresa of Ávila used to say, “God is moving among the pots and pans.” While she prepared lentils or other meals for the convent community, they would find her entranced thinking of Jesus, her loving God.
We all are called to a sanctity that not only is compatible with our earthly reality, but that further improves it and gives it the real dimension according to our Lord’s plan. That is to say, so that we can begin to experience, on earth, the true joy of the kingdom of heaven that Jesus desired when he became part of this world.
The love for the Eucharist made Conchita grow in love for the priests who give us that sacred heavenly food and gave her the need of that exalted holiness in them. Let us draw ever closer to the Eucharist, in such a way that this holy bread turns our lives on earth into a sacrifice of loving service in all circumstances of our daily lives.
Mary learned simple “homemade” sanctity in Nazareth, Bethlehem and Egypt, in the Temple, in the kitchen and in carpentry. Saints such as Conchita learned to imitate her. May her intercession help us grow in homemade sanctity.
Read the Spanish version of this column.
Northwest Catholic - March 2019
Eusebio Elizondo, M.Sp.S., is auxiliary bishop of Seattle and vicar for Hispanic ministry.Website: www.seattlearchdiocese.org/Archdiocese/auxiliaries.aspx