A Mother's Spiritual Diary


We present the posthumous work of the great spiritual theologian, Marie-Michel Philipon, O.P., a theological work on the spirit and doctrine of the Servant of God, María Concepción Cabrera de Armida.  He entitles it simply: Conchita, a Mother's Spiritual Diary.  This study took up most of his time during the last years of his life, for he realized it would bring us a spiritual message of capital importance, a gift of Providence for the Church of today.

The first contact Father Philipon had with Conchita's life and doctrine took place during a voyage he made to our Scholasticate in Mexico.  He arrived in 1954 to give a series of spiritual conferences.

His intuitive talent – as he himself said – discovered this great treasure for the Church.  It aroused in him the desire to make her known, especially to his European readers.

For quite a few reasons not only the publication of his book was delayed but also its elaboration.  Not the least reason was the problem of understanding a foreign language, considering the style so characteristic and so personal of Conchita's writings, as well as the overpowering task of bringing together such massive documentation.

Yet God, in His Providence, opened the way and the Father's spirit of obedience was decisive in the matter.  Prominent ecclesiastics and his religious superiors let him know he would render a service to the Church by making known Conchita's spiritual doctrine, especially today when there is coming about, a certain neglect or loss of the meaning of essential Christian values.

Father Philipon returned several times to Mexico to become acquainted in depth with the environment.  He also, in keeping with his method, wanted to collect some authentic testimonials from living witnesses, and so, once he had an over-all view, he set himself to, edit the work.  When it was almost completed, the Lord willed to call him to Himself.

The first part, which he entitled The Story of her Life was fully edited by him.  The first two chapters of the second part, "Great Spiritual Themes," i.e., "The Mystical Writer" – which he might well have wanted to revise somewhat more, but which we present fully respecting the text – and "The Doctrine of the Cross," which he called the central chapter, are entirely from his pen.  He only failed to point out some perspectives on the last three themes, The Virgin of the Cross, The Mystery of the Church and The Abysses of the Trinity.  When he was in the course of writing about Mary, God called him, but he left behind some notes, outlines and a choice of texts.  I have only taken over the responsibility of putting them in shape, and making them available because of the spiritual wealth which they contain, and I say this publicly out of an elementary concern for literary honesty.

Quite simply, I admit why I was induced to do what I have done and make this resolution.

I knew Father Philipon in 1994, when I was prefect of studies in our Scholasticate.  There came about a deep affinity of thought between us, and from this moment on he chose me as his main assistant and counselor, due to my knowledge of Conchita’s writings.

After lengthy conversations, he told me again and again humorously and sincerely: "I keep my full freedom and my own way of thinking."  In his notes he wrote: "I have spoken with Father de la Rose hundreds of times."  That is why I think I know his innermost thoughts wholly objectively and why I have taken on myself the responsibility of finishing this work, following, with the greatest fidelity, his thinking which I know perfectly.

Father Philipon intended to write a prologue to explain some principles of method for clarifying the meaning, the intent and the limitations of his work.

Everyone knows that this is as a rule the last page an author writes when he himself judges his work as a whole.  Fortunately he wrote the main ideas, ideas which would have been expressed most carefully and elaborated in his own personal literary style.

I present below his notes which I think are essential for the understanding of his posthumous work.

"I did not want to write about Conchita.  Despite myself I was impelled by the force of events, that is by Providence.  Prominent ecclesiastical personages who knew Conchita or who were acquainted with her doctrine, convinced me to write.

"Without the slightest pretense of wanting to say everything, rather on the contrary in full awareness of the partial and imperfect nature of this book, I have simply wished to respond to the manifest call of God and be the pen which endeavors to present the spiritual message of an admirable daughter of the Church of God.

"The fundamental document: The Account of Conscience is not a biography but a Diary, and not a complete one which jots down day after day all the happenings of human existence.  Rather it is a Spiritual Diary which only relates mainly the intimate relationships she had with God.  These relationships she faithfully wrote down during more than forty years in obedience to the formal command of her spiritual directors.

"A unique, providential fact which permits us to follow step by step from the age of thirty-two to seventy-five, the progressive ascent toward God of a privileged soul, a soul of exceptional heroism, endowed with a spiritual message, for the whole Church and for all men of today, a soul which had received from God the mission of recalling to the world that apart from the Cross, there is no salvation.

"There is seen no literary concern in this veracious account in which we find scattered and at random in the course of her life, most sublime mystical elevations in close proximity to the daily concerns of a mother and the recipes of a perfect mistress of her household.  While she is writing about the generation of the Word and about God's eternity, here she is called to come to dinner.  Happily she hastens to sit down at table with her children but when dinner is over, she goes back to her writing and continues taking down what the Lord says about the abysses of the Trinity and the other mysteries of God.

"Her diary does not report everything but it does explain everything.  We must begin with the psychological and concrete data whence sprang the mystical intuitions and the spiritual doctrine.  Both are inseparable.  Whence we have two complementary parts: Her Life Story, thence The Doctrine, the Great Spiritual Themes.

"It was impossible to say everything and to set within one single volume the myriad of pages of this mystical author, seemingly the most prolific of contemporary literature.

"Did we manage to express the essence of a Spiritual Diary which has at least sixty-six thick bundles of manuscripts?  We had no other ambition, no better intention than that of revealing to the world the inexhaustible riches of the Cross and of the mysteries of God contained in these writings.  We think they constitute one of the present day treasures of the Church of Christ.

"This Church along will judge it, for the Lord has entrusted it to bring men to God and He has granted it, with the help of His Spirit, the gift of an infallible discernment of spirits.

"We submit unreservedly this attempt to recall to the world the mystery of the Cross which is set at the innermost center of the Gospel and at the heart of the Christian mystery.

"To be sure, on certain points, before this life and doctrine of a Mexican woman who spent her days far from Europe, there is aroused a feeling of surprise and a questioning of its suitability for our modern way of thinking.

"The danger lay in modifying what she wrote according to our contemporaneous categories which, besides, will very soon be outmoded.  We are ever annoyed at and distrustful of what we read about Chinese thinking or Hindu mysticism by a Westerner.  There is always a danger it is Europeanized and consequently altered.  We do not modify a Chinese thought without deforming it.

"It seemed to us preferable and truer to bring the reader into a personal contact with the original by way of a translation as faithful as possible, expressive of Conchita's psychological reactions and her characteristic mentality, for Conchita's Spanish text is filled with Mexicanisms.

"Mexican folklore is fashionable today.  Radio, TV have taken on a more and more planetary sense which makes us better understand and feel the resemblances and differences which bring together or separate men, their civilizations and their cultures, the various expressions of their religious sentiments.

"Vatican II has made us experience that the Catholicity of the Church is not uniform but is unity amid variety.  Never have men measured, with such comprehension and objectivity, at the same time their basic unity and their legitimate diversities.  Christ was an oriental.  Nonetheless all men recognize themselves in this man.

"The same holds true for all the saints of Catholicism.  No matter what their origin, their race and the color of their skins, no matter what their social class and the forms of their culture or even of their illiteracy, we feel ourselves one with them in Christ.

"Conchita, a Mexican, is a saint of our own.  She is our sister in Christ.  She has become through her apostolic zeal and her heroic immolation the spiritual mother of a multitude of souls who, as did she, want to walk in the footsteps of Christ to be crucified with Him and save men with Him.

"Conchita is close to us.  This daughter of Mexico is bound by the communion of saints to all her brothers and sisters in Christ.   She is a model for all, not in her personal and inimitable charisms but in her love for Christ, in her life offered up for her Church.

"It is in this spirit of Catholicity, her example and her writings are to be approached.  Then it is, we marvel at the multiform riches of the capital grace of Christ.

"Let us distrust our Cartesian, Hegelian, existentialist and western mentalities.  The center of the Church is in Rome, but its radiance extends no more to Europe alone than to all the countries of the Universe.

"Conchita is a witness of this Catholicity.  Her message is addressed to priests and religious souls but also to the laity.  She is a model for all.

"Thus appear to us the designs of Providence."

Such were, then, the notes and comments brought together by Father Philipon.

Roberto de la Rosa, Missionary of the Holy Spirit