Many Mexican bishops, learning of the good offices of the Apostolate of the Cross and the fervor of the contemplatives, ardently wished there be a similar foundation of Priests of the Cross, of which Conchita was likewise the inspirer.
They addressed a petition to Rome, motivated by the pastoral needs of Mexico. After some consideration, Rome granted the permission requested.
But alerted by some defamatory and calumnious maneuvers, a telegram suspended the application of the prescript, until an examination had been made into the private revelations, linked to the founding of the Congregation of men.
By order of the Congregation for Religious, Conchita had to send to Rome nine volumes of her
Life in which, utilizing her Spiritual Diary, despite her repugnance, in all simplicity and loyalty she revealed all the secrets of her soul and of her life to the supreme authority of the Church.
The Holy Father himself wrote to Msgr. Ramon Ibarra, Archbishop of Puebla, her spiritual director, as to a brother and to a friend: "I have read your letter in which you express your regret for the delay in granting permission to found the Congregation of the Priests of the Cross.
I beg you to forgive me as well as the Congregation for Religious, if in so grave a matter we have thought it our duty to proceed with great seriousness before granting approval.
For the rest, we assure you that this matter will be promptly submitted to the judgment of the Sacred Congregation and that with God's help, a solution will be arrived at according to your desires and that of your brothers (in the episcopate).
So have courage, for a work acceptable to God, despite all difficulties, cannot be stayed by any opposition. In this hope we give you the Apostolic Blessing. Dearly beloved brother" (March 10, 1910, Pope Pius X).
To hasten this definitive solution, at the opportune moment, Msgr. Ramon Ibarra decided to bring Conchita to Rome, for a direct examination, on the occasion of a Mexican pilgrimage to the Holy Land.
So she left for Europe and the East. She chose to bring with her two of her children, delighted with this voyage: Ignacio, a sturdy youth of twenty and Lupe, a very pretty young girl of fifteen.
On this voyage at stake were the fate of the Congregation of the Cross and the return of Father Felix, as founder.
To Conchita's mind, this long tour was above all a "Pilgrimage to Lourdes, the Holy Land and Rome," as is shown by the title of a detailed and quite humorous booklet in which she wrote the account.
It was a very fine voyage in perspective, with an itinerary inspired by devotion but equally by tourism, culture and the desire of a solution by Rome of a matter for the future which involved a primordial work of the Apostolate of the Cross.
The voyage was to last six months.
The Departure from Mexico
"August 26. At half past six in the morning, we left for Veracruz. I felt very bad about leaving my friends and relatives.
"August 27. Pancho and Elisa came to say good-bye. I received Communion at the parish church at half past three in the afternoon.
The ship sailed majestically, leaving the land behind. It hurt having to leave my children behind.
Archbishop Ibarra and Ruiz, Bishop Amador and thirty-two priests prayed we might have a bon voyage and we sang the very moving hymn to the Holy Spirit.
"August 30. Arrival at Havana. Since I was not well, I did not go ashore.
"August 31. Vigil in honor of Archbishop Ibarra's saint's day, attended by the Captain" (Diary, Aug. 1913).
In route to Europe
The sea was very rough, awful, and all the pottery was smashed. Conchita became horribly seasick. "This must be one of the sufferings of Hell," she said laughing.
After ten days of a tedious crossing, they came to Cadiz, then passed through the Straits of Gibraltar with a splendid view, and arrived at Barcelona.
On September 22, marveling at the sanctuary of Notre Dame de Monserrat, a unique panorama, her daughter suffered an attack of appendicitis. They later rejoined the group of voyagers at Marseilles, on a German ship.
"October 7: arrival at Alexandria. We go by express to Cairo. I kept saying to myself. 'Here I am, in the land trodden by the feet of and where lived, breathed and suffered the divine exiles, the Holy Family.
My soul is filled with emotion. All along the way, I give thanks to God, admiring the camels, the pals, the Bedouins crossing the Nile several times, reminding me of the moving passages in Holy Scriptures.
I remember, deeply moved, the Prophets, the Pharaohs, the Israelites, upon seeing the fertile fields of sycamores, oranges, acacias whereas the captives labored.
I felt another milieu, another atmosphere which impregnated my heart with memories and raised my soul to God" (Diary, Oct. 7, 1913).
The following is a brief account of a visit to Cairo. "There was the University Al-Azhar, with its five thousand students, who were studying the Koran, and there were the Tombs of the Mameluks.
We see a wonderful sunset over the Nile. Later, a Turkish ship brings us to Jaffa. 'Lord, I now approach the land where You dwelt, where You spread Your doctrine and Your blood, for me, miserable me' " (Diary, Oct. 13, 1913).
"October 13. A happy and great day of my life! My God, may You be blessed! We move on toward Jerusalem and passed through extensive groves of oranges and olives, meeting with numerous herds with their Turkish shepherds.
Numerous camels were stalking along. We passed through Hebrew colonies and historical sites.
When the Holy City came into view, we fell down on our knees. Personally I recited
a Te Deum. When the train stopped, the Archbishop kissed the ground, as did all the pilgrims with him.
We arrived at the
Casa Nova. In my room I began to pray giving thanks to God with all my soul.
"At three, singing and in procession, we made our visit to the Holy Sepulcher. What pious emotions! My tears flowed as I kissed it.
"October 14. I have seen Calvary! What impressions, my God! I, under the altar, my forehead in the opening of the Cross.
My tears flowed abundantly. There, He pronounced the seven words, out of an infinite heart; there He gave me Mary as Mother; there, they pierced His Heart.
Thereon, the Beloved of my soul was nailed. I stayed there as long as I could. I did not want to tear myself away from this blessed place.
I put my arms in the opening of the Cross. I did so in such a way that my tears fell within it.
I touched the hardness of the rock. I saw with my own eyes the place where the Most Holy Virgin and Mary Magdalene stood at the foot of the Cross.
"I saw the place where they stripped Jesus of His garments, there where they nailed Him onto the Cross.
We saw the place where my Love was found while waiting for them to crucify Him. I kissed many a time the stone of anointment.
Emotions followed one upon the other and my heart was too small to sustain them.
"In the afternoon, I returned to the mount where my Jesus taught the Our Father. There are some nuns (Carmelites) there and the
Our Father is written in thirty-five languages on colored
tile in the cloister. Then we went to the Garden of Olives and into the grotto of the agony. From there we went to the tomb of the Blessed Virgin which is near the garden.
Joyously we visited it. It is from there that our Immaculate Mother was assumed into heaven, filled with joy" (Diary, Oct. 13-14, 1913).
"We stayed in the Holy City and visited other holy places nearby: Bethlehem where the Savior of the world was born in a cradle; Ain-Karin with its memories of John the Baptist and of the Magnificat of the Virgin Mary in response to the salutation of Elizabeth, her elderly cousin. Later, good-bye to Jerusalem and we departed to Jaffa, Nazareth and the other Holy
places of Galilee. Nazareth dominates all. It is the Virgin's town, the place where the greatest miracles were performed, where the most important event in the history of man and of the universe, the Incarnation of God, took place."
"October 25. Very early in the morning I went to the holy grotto where the Incarnation of the Word of God took place.
I would not be able to explain what I felt. There is an altar and above it an inscription announcing:
Here the Word became flesh. I was exuberant. I heard many Masses and the hours I could stay there, I spent happily in this so loved place!
"The Lord told me: 'It is not by chance that you have come to this place: My bounty has drawn you here to grant you another grace.
Here you will consecrate yourself very especially to the Most Holy Trinity. The Mystical Incarnation in your soul is not an illusion, even though you do not know how to appreciate it.
It is a reality which will spread over this cold world and very especially among priests in view of its holy purposes: love of the Word of God by the Holy Spirit thereby to honor the Father' (Diary, Oct. 25, 1913).
"The visit to the Holy Land was over in Damascus and in Lebanon. Now we were on our way to Rome passing through Beirut, Port Said, Alexandria and Italy.
In Italy we passed through Brindisi, Naples, Pompey, Capri, Sorrento, celebrated names in the history of the Mediterranean basin" (Diary, Oct. 1913).
"Finally we are in the Holy City. After Jerusalem it is the city in which I was most interested. It is here the outcome will be decided, the triumph or the defeat of the Works of the Cross. That decision will be final, definitive.
Yet, why doubt since the Lord wanted me to come. He told me I would be subjected to humiliations and sufferings but that the Works would soon triumph.
Faith and trust! God knows how to fulfill His promises and He never abandons anyone who trusts in Him.
"We arrived in the evening. Msgr. Ruiz was at the station and gave me the bad news about the situation here of the Works of the Cross.
Patience and trust in God. I hope against hope! My God! What a City so full of memories!
How many saints shed their blood here! It is the cradle of our religion. But all this is only the consequence of Jerusalem.
If there had not been a Savior there, there would not be a Savior here, nor a Church, nor martyrs, nor confessors, nor anyone who would love God. I think of Nero, the Caesars, the pagan and the Christian history of this center of Christianity.
"What an impression in my soul on arriving in this Holy City! After Naples, I came, saying prayers, and was thrilled at seeing this place of so many of my dreams, an awesome place, the place where the Church alone can approve of the Priests of the Cross.
So here I am right close to the Pope. I can hardly believe it. I desire to see him and I tremble at the sole thought. My God, I am at Your disposal, even to martyrdom, if such be Your will" (Diary, Nov. 1913).
"Yesterday, in the evening, I learned that the private audience with the Pope was scheduled for ten-thirty today.
A wonderful surprise! The moment arrived. They called me and I presented myself to the Vicar of Christ on earth.
I do not know what emotion I felt. The Holy Father was at his office with Msgr. Ramon Ibarra in from of him. I knelt with tears in my eyes.
He spoke to me. Finally, I regained my self-control and he asked me what I desired. 'I beg Your Holiness to approve of the Works of the Cross.' I expressed this while his hand was still touching my face.
"They are approved, do not fear, and I give you my very special blessing for you, your family and for all the Works."
"I said to him, 'Most Holy Father, I do not want to be an obstacle to these Works. Let them be apart from me and take no account of me.'
"I have spoken with Monsignor. Everything will be arranged this year."
"He looked at me with penetrating and gentle eyes, and I felt as if I was at the feet of Our Lord. He blessed me many times: 'Pray for me,' he said. He placed his hand on my head, and looked at me for a long while.
I made bold to take his pectoral cross and kiss it, I kissed his feet and again he blessed me.
I left radiant and joyous giving thanks to God. Oh what an unforgettable date! My God, may you be blessed" (Diary, Nov. 17, 1903).
Finally came the hour, so dreaded by Conchita, of an interview with Msgr. Donato Sbaretti, Secretary of the Congregation for Religious.
He questioned her about her country, her life. Above all else he asked for explanations on the origins of the Apostolate
of the Cross and on the contemplative nuns. He asked her also whether she herself had written the manuscript volumes sent to Rome.
He wanted to know whether she wrote with ease. "I answered him: 'Yes, although I do not know grammar.'
But he would not believe it" (Diary, Dec. 7, 1913).
He had her state precisely the manner in which her visions of the Holy Spirit, of the Heart of Jesus, of the Cross of the Apostolate took place.
Did she see all this with her bodily eyes? She gave him the account of the monogram, of the
dictates of the Lord, of the division that occurred among the Sisters of the Cross. Conchita affirmed that she did not live with the nuns, but with her children.
This satisfied him…"I understood that on diverse points he saw quite clearly. I begged him earnestly that they do not require me to be part of the Works of the Cross, for I neither wanted to be, nor appear to be committed to them.
I also told him that I would obey in everything with the Holy Church" (Diary, Dec. 7, 1913).
Conchita wrote to Rome to Msgr. Sbaretti sending him, as he requested, the Spanish edition of her book
"Ante el Altar" (Before the Altar), asking him to return her manuscripts,
'intimate matters of her conscience', which she wanted back, leaving it, however, up to the decision of the Holy See.
"I tell you again, your Excellency, my greatest desire is to be a submissive and loving daughter of the Holy Church, obeying Her in all She will judge good to command. I have never wanted to deceive or delude myself, remaining ever disposed to follow God's voice in His Church, who is never deceived, while I can be. Thanks to God, I have always let myself be guided by obedience.
"I have no other ambition than to live a hidden, obscure life. I will follow with all my heart the path the Holy Church will lay out for me.
I commend myself to your prayers, your Excellency, that I may be able to raise my children as good Christians" (Dec. 9, 1913).
In order to facilitate matter, in agreement with her, Msgr. Ibarra proposed the title Priests of
the Cross be changed to Missionaries of the Holy Spirit, a change which Pius X personally approved.
"My soul is overflowing with joy. I think I am dreaming. My God, the God of my life, it has been eighteen years since you announced it to me.
What pains, sufferings, penances, disappointments! What blood, prayers, calumnies, feelings of envy, persecutions, tears all this has cost.
But it all is as nothing when I think that it was for purifying Your Works for Your greater glory (Diary, Dec. 22, 1913).
"While I was praying before the Blessed Sacrament, the Lord said to me: 'Thank Me. All is definitively concluded.' And right away I said the
Te Deum" (Diary, Dec. 17, 1913).
Through Italy to France
The main purpose of the voyage was attained! After spending some ten days visiting places of art and religion in the Eternal City, the pilgrims visited Florence, the most artistic city in the world, Padua, Venice, Milan with its admirable cathedral.
By way of Geneva, they reached France visiting Lyon and Paray-le-Monial, where she was drawn by her ardent devotion to the Heart of Jesus. "I would have loved to have stayed there for the rest of my life" (Diary, Jan. 9, 1914).
Now they moved on toward Paris. They arrived there at night, going along the grand avenues: "Paris, what a great city!" From Paris, Conchita went to Lisieux to entrust the Works of the Cross to
"January 19. I went to Lisieux to visit the tomb of Sister Therese of the Infant Jesus, her covenant and her house.
It was snowing and unbelievably cold. I went to thank her since I had precisely commended to her all the Works of the Cross the cause of which had just triumphed. 'Little Therese of my soul, Thanks! Thanks!'
We visited the monastery and her sister Pauline, now prioress, received us.
"January 20. We left Paris, Monsignor left this morning, the other pilgrims a bit later. Along with Mrs. Greville and Mrs. Paz Fernandez del Castillo, we took a night train at eleven in the morning" (Diary, 1914).
"January 21. We spent a bad night on the train. We arrived at Pau at eight o'clock and continued on to Lourdes.
What a gorgeous panorama of snow-capped mountains! The Pyrenees are enchanting.
"We arrived at the station. We ate hungrily, then at once, we went on over a thick layer of snow. We visited the principal church, the Grotto and the beautiful Basilica of the Rosary. What lovely feelings! Here we felt the presence of the Blessed Virgin, her passage, her most particular protection.
Kneeling in the grotto, we stayed contemplating this site in all its beauty, this place where Mary stood, in the course of eighteen apparitions. My mind went back to the past and my soul thrilled, recalling the number of graces and miracles lavished here.
"How often I remembered my mother who used to read to me enthusiastically, when I was a child, Henri Lasserre's book! How much she wanted to come to the scene of these religious events! My whole family dreamed of coming here with me, the most unworthy, the most miserable and so undeserving, the most indifferent.
And here I am contemplating, marveling at this enchanted place. Thousands and thousands of candles were burning.
The whole Grotto is black with smoke, even around the statue of Mary, located where Her apparitions took place. Only the rose bush, at the feet of the Virgin, keeping its freshness, flourished in the midst of the snow and smoke. What a marvel of God!
"We recited the Rosary walking along the ramps. We went to confession at the crypt. I prayed a great deal for the Works of the Cross, for my own, for poor Mexico. What sweet feelings! What charity on the part of Mary!
At each hour the bells chimed the
Ave Marias inviting us to glorify Mary. This produced an impression of enchantment.
One feels so strongly here, Mary's presence, that there is no wish to leave" (Diary, Jan. 21, 1914).
In Spain with her son Manuel
The travelers took the train to Spain where her son Manuel awaited her. They enjoyed long hours of joy and togetherness.
They went together to pray at Loyola and Manuel celebrated his twenty-fifth birthday with his mother.
His brother Ignacio and his sister Lupe were there also. "How good God is to bring me here this day with him.
We slowly walked about the countryside, with its beautiful scenery. On the bank of a stream I read him the diary of my voyage" (Diary, Jan. 1914).
On the way back
The entire group of pilgrims made their way back: there was San Sebastian, Pamplona, Barcelona, Valencia (Feb. 11). Then there was Malaga, Cadiz, Las Palmas, the Canary Islands, Puerto Rico (March 1), and Havana, Veracruz and Mexico (March 14, 1914).
On returning to Mexico, Conchita's first concern was to embrace her children. Then she hastened to the sanctuary of Nuestra Señora of Guadalupe, to thank the Blessed Virgin for her help in her triumph.
Conchita returned from Rome giving thanks to God. The Church had spoken.