A Mother's Spiritual Diary

Transfigured Daily Life

Conchita is not to be thought of as a mystic with ecstatic eyes and fixed attitudes. Her children told me over and over again: "There was nothing more natural than her external appearance." This is the point they stressed most of all. "Even in church, we felt she was with us."

We read in her Diary pages revelatory of her manner of conceiving Christian perfection in the true spirit of the Gospel. It is interesting to analyze also what she entitles her Retreat resolutions she wrote at the end of her Spiritual Exercises, ten days, from September 20 to 30, 1894. Conchita was thirty-two at this time. They are not resolutions of a nun but of a married woman, mother of a family and mistress of a household. Her director advised her to divide them thus: seventeen points concerning her relations with her husband; twenty-three for her daily conduct with her children; and a final page, seven points, for orienting her attitude in justice, kindness and charity toward the servants of the house.

Here are some extracts:

"My husband: I will make every effort not to lose his trust in me but rather to increase it more and more. I will keep myself informed about his business, I will ask God for light to make some sage suggestions... I will act in such a way that he will find in me, consolation, holiness, sweetness and total abnegation. Equanimity will be evident under all circumstances, to such a point that he will see God working through me for his spiritual profit'... Never in any way will I speak ill of his family, I will always excuse them, I will keep silent, and trust they will respect me... I will reasonably be concerned about economy, that nothing be lacking to anyone, and to carry out myself many things which involve expense. I will be ingenious under all circumstances. I will give as much alms as I can... As to the education off my children I will so act that we will always be in agreement, energetically and correctly on both parts...

My children: I will be very much concerned and vigilant about them... I will recommend that they should be charitable to the poor, and suggest they deprive themselves of what they have for their personal use... I will not weary them by overloading them with prayers and making piety tedious. On the contrary, I will make every effort to make it agreeable to them and they will practice it, especially in the form of ejaculations... I will study each one's character and will encourage them in so far as it is proper, without ever giving way to my natural affection. As a rule, I will never yield and, without swerving, I will not change my decisions and resolves. I will learn how to impose them on them and at the same time gain their confidence... I will arrange it so that they see certain acts of piety, practiced by their father, so that his example benefit them in everything he does... I will make men out of my sons teaching them to control themselves in the least things, without ever offending God. May He deign to grant me it. Rather death, a thousand times, than sin. I ask this of the Lord with all my heart... I will act toward my daughter in a very special manner."

House-servants: "I will see to it they act morally... I will give them monetary assistance and, I myself will if I can, help them when ill... I will be very much concerned about their souls, giving them opportunity to hear sermons, instructing them in religion, and seeing to it that they carry out their obligation to hear Mass" (Diary, Oct. 6, 1894).

This is how Conchita appeared to us. This young woman, thirty-two years old, was a model wife, mother and house mistress. She composed a "Rule of Life," for herself, which guides her conduct, but not rigidly, with concern for fidelity to God and service to others out of love.

Here are some more notes evocative of the spirit which animates her: "I propose to do ever what is most perfect. I propose to seek in all things Jesus and His Cross, in conformity with His holy will. I propose in my actions to pursue the interests of Christ and not my own."

But then she adds realistically, and with a fine sense of adaptability: "I will never be disquieted should circumstances prevent me from observing my 'Rule of life.' I will go on tranquilly. I will be flexible in the face of difficulties, humbly... then onward, ever onward!" (Extract from her "Rule of life," Aug 21. 1894).

Her social relations brought her to meetings and a variety of amusements, as a woman of the world and mother of a family. She did not shun them. She went everywhere with a smile, but her heart was all given over to Christ. "In a short while, I am going to the theater. I, who fled the world with all my heart and soul, must go there with my husband. I will have to go smiling and happy, taking great care not to show the Ieast discontentment lest it displease him very much. Here I am on the cross on all sides. O Jesus, help me! Give me the grace to know how to compose myself and keep my heart inviolably faithful, learning how to control myself so that nothing betrays me in the presence of those who cannot understands me" (Diary, May 17, 1894).

Now here is how she conducted herself during Carnival time: "Yesterday, I could not write. In the afternoon, I had to agree to go with my husband for four hours in an open carriage in the midst of the uproar of a dreadful crowd. As much as I could, l multiplied acts of love, reparation and penitence" (Diary, Feb. 28, 1900). She was not a worldly woman who walked amid the follies of Carnival, she brought upon the men and women who are madly enjoying themselves the eyes of the Crucified.

She only felt at ease in her home and in the circle of her family and her friends. Then she became the life of the party and everyone wanted to meet her. She was fully aware that her place as mother and educator was above all with her children: "l must form the hearts of my eight children, fight against eight temperaments, keep them out of harm, introduce them to good and to make progress in it. A great deal of patience, great prudence and a great deal of virtue are necessary for carrying out this mission of mother in a holy way. In all my prayers, the first cry from my heart is to ask graces for my husband and my children. It is obvious I expect everything from above, front this infinitely bountiful God and from Mary, the Mother of us all, to whom I have entrusted and commended them in a very special way. She will be their shield, their light, their guide, their dearly beloved protectress. A loving devotion toward her will save them from all the dangers of this wretched world, so full of perils. Oh Mother, help us, clothe us all with the mantle of Your purity, never abandon us until our eternal happiness has been assured. O Mary, encompass. Your purity around my children! May they never stain their soul, so much loved! May they ever be devoted to God! May He alone be their very breath and life. Oh Virgin, watch over, safeguard them! They are Yours before they are mine" (Diary, Aug. 16, 1899).

Thus Conchita's daily life passed, as that of all mothers, in an alternance of pains and joys: "Yesterday, I celebrated my thirty-seventh birthday. Externally, it was for me a day filled with all the satisfactions I could wish from my husband, my children and other members of the family, and yet sadness, emptiness, filled my heart, still in suffering and struggling to control myself. I had had the joy of seeing my children receive many prizes at school and of hearing them loudly applauded. Yet this produced in me movements of vanity and I did my best to overcome them. I offered up to the Lord all the presents I received, remaining in my cherished poverty. I tremble when I think of my weakness, the world offers us so numerous occasions to give in and I feel myself capable of anything. Yesterday, I renewed my total oblation to the divine will, abandoning myself without reservation into the hands of God" (Diary, Dec. 9, 1899).

There were many household concerns and many health problems weighed heavily upon her at times. It was either she herself or her children who were seriously ill and death came into her home. "According to His superior designs the Lord reminded me of the gates of eternity, at the edge of the tomb. Hardly able to write, I took up my pen again to continue my Diary. An attack of pneumonia almost brought me to the grave. I am now convalescing but am weak and in pain, as well as undergoing many troubles. My youngest daughter too almost died. Another child has a contagious disease, which deprives me of seeing my eldest. What a heart-rending sorrow for a mother! Blessed be Thou, Lord!" (Diary, April 21, 1898). "And Jesus placed many another cross on my shoulders. Only God's help enabled me to bear all this patiently. I saw death very near. I had to practice truly and in the innermost depths of my soul total abandonment of my being into the arms of God, detached from my children, l, wife and mother, and this cost me dear. I found a great peace, at each instant, in keeping myself in the presence of God.

"At times fear came over me and one night, nestling myself in His arms, I said to the Lord: 'I am afraid.' He answered, 'Do not be afraid.' 'Be calm.' His words came true and from that moment on, I felt a peace of soul and a boundless confidence, with the certainty that I was not going to die" (Diary, April 21, 1898).

Thus her life passed on, sicknesses and infirmities piled up. She bore her suffering alone in her heart and on her face ever a smile. "The Lord told me: 'Do not complain about your sufferings before strangers. Do not let them see how you are in pain, that would lessen your merit. Suffer in silence, let me work in you and walk the earth silently and obscurely crucified'" (Diary, April, 1898).

Her home was filled with joy and animation. "Mama always smiled," her children told me. When, at the end of my first sojourn in Mexico, in 1954, after questioning them down to the most minute details, I stated to her children "Your mama was a great saint and a great mystic," they straightway replied, "Saint or mystic, we do not know, but mother, the greatest mother that ever lived!"