A Mother's Spiritual Diary

  Land of Volcanoes;
The Family Environment

Conchita is a daughter of Mexico. She is to be seen vividly in her Mexican environment, in this land of violence and antithesis, a land of volcanoes but also the land of Veracruz, the Nation of the True Cross, and of Our Lady of Guadalupe. Throughout her life there will be seen the contrast of a life more and more divine under the most ordinary appearances. One word was ever on the lips of those who had known her and whom I questioned during my first sojourn in Mexico: "simplicity." Conchita has an evangelical simplicity.

She spent her childhood and adolescence in the "haciendas" and on the "ranches," sailing in a boat along the streams, jumping into the water or pushing her companions and her father's employees into the water, laughing heartily, mingling with everyone, passionately fond of music and song, endowed with a fine voice. Later on, she will compose the first hymns of the Cross, and she herself will sing them while accompanying them on the piano.  She is young, jolly, fascinating and will have, down through her last years, a tremendous influence on everyone about her.

She tells us in her diary, spontaneously and with incomparable aplomb, about her early years living with her family.

"My parents were Octaviano de Cabrera and Clara Arias. Both were from San Luis Potosí where they were married and where I was born. My mother was very ill and so could not nurse me. She made every effort to assure that I would be nursed. One day she almost died.  The doctor, in this emergency, ordered that I sent far from town to a big farm. There, out of compassion for me, the porter's wife offered to nurse me, entrusting her own son to a wet-nurse. She saved my life. Her name was Mauricia. I loved her dearly and, upon reaching the age of reason, I realized more fully all I owed her. Later my mother told me that on the way to the farm, she was afraid to uncover my face, thinking at every moment she had a dead child in her arms (Aut., 1, 6-8).

"My birthplace was San Luis Potosí where I was born in a house owned by my parents, a house opposite the Church of St. John of God. There I was baptized. I have always lived in that house save for short times when we had to leave while it was being renovated. I lived there until I got married. There my son Ignacio was born when, for reasons of health, I was staying there. It was there that my father, my sister CarIota and my brother Constantino died (Aut., 367).

"My parents were excellent Christians. At the haciendas each day my father presided over the recitation of the rosary in the chapel, with the whole family, the farm workers and some county folk present.  When he did not do so, because of some urgent task, he had me take his place.  At times he returned before we finished saying the rosary, and, on the way out he would scold me for lack of devotion.  He said my "Our Fathers" and "Hail Mary's" would go along with me to Purgatory and that no one there would want them, they were so poorly recited.

"My father was very charitable to the poor.  Any time he saw someone in need he could not refuse to help them.  He was so jolly and so frank.  I helped him die a good death.  And he himself was so brave.  He himself prepared the altar for the Viaticum, begged pardon of his children for any bad example and disedification for which he might have been to blame.  When he took us into his arms one after another, kissing each one and gave each one a piece of advice.  In his will he requested that we bury him without any commemorative plaque, without a tombstone, not even with a name on the grave but one, a simple cross.  Despite the pain it caused us we carried out his last request, his dying wish (Aut., 365).

"My mother was a saint. She was an orphan when she was only two years old. She suffered much. She married when she was seventeen. She had twelve children: eight boys and four girls.  I was the seventh, born between Juan and Primitivo, the Jesuit.

"My mother passed on to my soul love of the Most Blessed Virgin and of the Eucharist.   She cherished me with all her heart and was quite broken-hearted when I got married. However, she told me that my husband was an exceptional person and that not everyone was like him. She had to undergo great suffering. She passionately loved poverty. She performed a great number of hidden virtues and her martyrdom was ever unknown to all. She had an attack and was unconscious for twelve hours. By dint of prayers, God granted her time to confess.  A second attack resulted in death. I assisted her to die and then laid her in her coffin (Aut., 366).

"I only attended three schools: as a tiny child, at the home of some little old servants, named Santillana; Later, but only for a short time, at Madame Negrete's; finally at a school run by the Sisters of Charity.  Whey they were expelled, I was still very young, being only eight or nine years old.  My mother did not want to send me anywhere else. Some teachers came to the house to instruct us and teach us music (Aut., 1, 23).

"My instruction remained very elementary, not due to any fault on the part of my parents but because of my stupidity, my laziness and also on account of so many changes and travels at that period of my studies. Above all I became addicted to music for playing the piano and singing was my great delight. I wasted many hours of my life in so doing! May God forgive me!

"My mother taught us how to run a household: from scrubbing the floor to embroidery. At the age of twelve I was already put in charge of the expenditures of the house. At the hacienda – farm – the cows had to be milked, the dough kneaded, and meals prepared. My mother never let us be idle.  She was very watchful and insistent we keep busy. We surely did: mending, darning, all kinds of sewing, preparing hors d'oeuvres, sweets and pastries.  Besides my mother taught us ever to be humble and not to give way to vanity. Poor momma labored beyond belief to train us properly, and made every effort possible to teach us not to be selfish.  Quite a few Sundays, inviting us to take a walk, she brought us to the hospital to see the dead and the dying.  From my earliest years, as soon as one of our friends fell seriously ill, we had to watch over and take care of that friend in every possible way.  She also had me attend men, women, children, rich and poor when they were dying and this taught me not to be afraid, but rather to help them by my prayers, clothe them and keep them neat and clean.

"Neither my father nor my mother could stand affectation.  When I was only six, I got on a horse by myself.  The horse was frightened, reared and threw me off.  Disregarding my tears, my father made me take a drink of water and then get back on the horse!  In this way I no longer had any fear of horses.  I was so proud I rode the most spirited ones, those which no one else could master.  I have always been extremely fond of horses.  How many times here in Mexico, when my husband took me for a ride, the only thing I noticed was the horses! As for people, they all looked alike. (Aut., 15-16).