After 1954, I had the opportunity to talk with her children. Here was the living portrait of their mother such
as comes out of the authentic testimonies, which I was able to collect, and to which I joined the oral replies to a questionnaire properly conducted, faithfully taken down in shorthand.
What impressed me most when questioning her children was their identical views about their mother despite each one's different temperament. All recognized the elementary nature of her early instruction in contrasting it with the sublimity of her writings. Pancho said: "Her instruction, at San Luis, was that of all young girls of the society of her times. There was only a question of finery, embroidery, piano playing, etc. It was not then as it is today." Her son Ignacio remarked to me that his mother was "highly intelligent." It is certain that with the feminine formation of the present-day world, Conchita would have stood out through her intellectual qualities, through her ability to synthesize, getting right down to the essential.
Christ, her Teacher, made up for everything and, under His dictation, her mystical genius developed. "All that she wrote was by divine inspiration," stated her eldest son.
Her daughter, Lupe, received from her mother true confidences about her intimate life with her husband. After the time of their wedding, she had been attracted to him by a great love. She saw in him a Christian spouse, of great morality, a person of strong character, in which time wrought a gentle change. "My mother has always fulfilled the obligations of her state of life. She was very attentive and full of tenderness toward my father, ever submissive and seeking to please him in every way. My father was her sole love."
"For his part, my father was for her an exceptional husband. He in no way interfered, leaving her full freedom. He did not stop her from writing and left her in peace" (Pancho).
All her children testified to her fidelity to her duties as a wife and mother. "She looked on her marital relations with a great simplicity. Their conjugal life always went along peacefully. It was truly Christian, carried on with mutual understanding. I have heard it said that she never lost her baptismal innocence. There is no doubt she insisted strongly on purity in our education, but I also understood that she judged human things, without seeing sins everywhere. She judged all this as quite natural. She understood life, which was a good thing. Later, she spoke to
me about my conjugal duties with my wife. I realized then that what she meant by purity was not ignorance" (Ignacio). This testimony of a father who had eight children deserves to be kept in mind.
"There was no affectation between them. They were perfectly sure of each other" (Lupe).
There was the same attestation on the part of her children about Conchita's perfect attitude toward the house servants and farm hands and other hired help who worked on the
haciendas of Mexico at this period. I questioned an elderly servant and some employees, and all spoke with great reverence of Señora Concepción Cabrera de Armida. She was most cordial with everyone, firm, sometimes annoyed but never offensive.
Her style of living
Pancho, the eldest, is still the main witness. She was a "marvelous" mother of a family. "We adored her, but as an ordinary mama, with nothing extraordinary about her. It is, I think, what God intended. It would not have been comfortable living with a saint, with someone who had to be constantly shown veneration, without ever being able to be treated informally, as we did with mama. Everything about her was normal. Nothing was exaggerated in her behavior, no, never. For instance, when she attended Mass, certainly she showed great devotion, but just like everybody else. Do not imagine she spoke directly to the Lord in our presence. We others, did not have the slightest idea of anything."
"In her social life she enchanted everyone. She was most amiable and pleasant. She lived a family and social life which was quite normal, and this to such an extent that we, who lived so close to her, did not have any concept of her saintliness."
Mother and Teacher
Her children are constantly praising her qualities as wife, mother and teacher." There were nine of us. As the eldest child, I can state that my mother was under every aspect a model. First as a wife, for my father was demanding as to all that concerned the life of the home. As mother, she took care giving each one a complete formation on every plane: not only religious, but profane, cultural and social. After my father's death we were not rich. Her brother Octaviano helped us. She imposed on herself great sacrifices to assure our education in the best schools, with the Jesuits, for the boys and with the Madames of the Sacred Heart, for the girls. As the eldest brother I helped her in this difficult task. She was the first to give us a good example and corrected us severely but never losing her temper. Despite all the time she spent on spiritual matters, she never neglected her duties at home, as wife and mother. None of her children have gone astray" (Pancho).
"The most admirable thing in my mother's life was the naturalness and simplicity of her existence. Her prayer and her Communions seemed to me perfectly normal. She never used moments set aside for carrying out obligations for her prayer life. I never noticed any extraordinary phenomena in her daily behavior. I think my brothers and sisters will wholly agree. In society she was at ease with important people as well as with ordinary ones· I noticed nothing special as to what she ate, for it was what was eaten habitually in Mexican families. Everything in her life was absolutely normal. I must admit that throughout my mother's life, I was covered, as it were, by a veil which hid from me her saintliness. It was not until her death that we appreciated the mother we had.
"I cannot recall my mother without seeing her writing. She wrote books of which great quantities were sold. She also carried on a voluminous correspondence."
In conclusion, her eldest son used a magnificent word which revealed to us the secret of this life: "She loved Jesus Christ above all else."
Ignacio Armida has the same view as his brother, but in keeping with his own temperament. "l had the great pleasure of living with her for forty-two years of my life, being forty-four years old when she died. During the first two years of my marriage, I did not live in the same house with her but we had two neighboring houses and saw each other at the hour for dining." So we have here another testimony of exceptional value. Conchita had retired to her own house where she lived with her eight children, and died in their arms. "Mother was a very active woman. She received visitors all the time. There was nothing striking or unusual in her style of life. She had a very sweet character but was firm and energetic. When she had decided to act in a certain way, no human power could deter her. With her, one had to obey. This was also true of the works she undertook. She had her plan, her inspiration, her ideal and followed it to the end.
"Her life was most normal. Ever joyful, very much so indeed, she had a wonderful sense of humor and loved jokes. She had written a notebook full of them and would bring them out most gracefully and naturally. When she went to San Luis Potosi to her brother Octaviano's home, a prominent and rich person, who received many guests, mama was always the center of attraction.
She spoke to the guests, ably directing the conversation, turning them toward Christ. She entertained them most charmingly. If she was invited to come to a ranch for a ride on a horse, she was quite ready to do so... She was ever with the poor. As soon as one of them died, even though an unpleasant person, she was there ... helping in every way. In her eyes it did not matter...
I do not know whether one day she will be proclaimed a saint or not, but without any doubt at all, she was one
of God's souls. She always had a pleasant smile, sympathy, and her blue eyes were the color of the sky! They were very penetrating. When she gazed with her eyes into yours, she looked deeply within.
"She had perfect equilibrium! Indeed, she was very well balanced. In difficult situations, her serenity pacified everything. No one can say she was unbalanced, nor that she was nervous, excessive jealous. She was very sensitive to the sufferings of others, which to me seems a great virtue.
"With her, family life was not sad, painful, tearful. Of course, she suffered a great deal, but she kept it to herself.
"Here, Father, are the memories I have kept of my mother. She was a mama like yours, like all mamas."
Salvador, the youngest, said the same things in his own way. "There was a great equilibrium in her judgments. Many people consulted her. Never was there any self-deceit, nothing was eccentric about her behavior. Her life was most ordinary, the most normal in the world. When she became a widow, she went out often, visited people, other members of the family, relatives and friends. They often came to see her. She was very affectionate, but severely rebuked them when they did something that was wrong. She dearly loved the Blessed Virgin and frequently went to the Basilica of
Our Lady of Guadalupe.
"I lived with her until I married when I was twenty-three. I can testify to her character. It was joyful, simple, balanced.
Her charity toward others was truly admirable. Whenever she knew of anyone suffering she made every effort possible to help them.
"She was charitable toward everyone, even those who offended her or opposed her works. When she learned that certain persons were standing aloof or angry, she made arrangements to meet them. With those who were ill, members of the family or strangers, she was extremely tender, doing all she could to assuage their ailments. She always offered to assist the dying, to go to their funerals, even when there was question of persons of the family who did not esteem her. She lent herself voluntarily to perform all the services and chores of a servant. Everybody loved her."
Finally, here is the testimony of her daughter Lupe, who is ever refreshing and spontaneous. This testimony from a woman reveals many a detail that escapes a man. She too has kept remembrances of her mother which are as perfectly balanced as those of her brothers and sisters. She knew her intimately. "I always lived and slept with her, from my father's death until my marriage. She always seemed to me to be a most normal woman. She reprimanded me quite a bit. We never saw her go into ecstasy. She was a model mother-in-law. Once we were married, she never interfered by moralizing, but left us in complete freedom."
Her daughter Lupe, picked up one day a most important piece of confidential information which Conchita gave to her daughter-in-law, Salvador's wife. "I have always been very happy with my husband." In every point Lupe's testimony is like that of her brothers and sisters, concerning her qualities as wife, mother and mistress of her household, her warmth and her sociability, concerning her strength of soul when faced with the difficulties of life, and her great piety.
"Throughout her life she appeared to us endowed with an admirable natural spontaneity. During her married life her submission to her husband was absolute. She used to say: 'First of all, what pleases Pancho.' She was very attentive to him and full of amiability. She always paid the servants of the house what was due them. When I got married, she advised me to do likewise, indicating for me in writing the just wage I should pay them. She always showed her acknowledgment of the least things.
"Each one felt loved by her, even strangers who approached her." Her only fault, pointed out by Lupe, was a touch of gluttony. "She was very fond, perhaps overmuch, of candy." 'If I go by a jewelry shop, it is all the same to me, but when I go by a confectionery store in Celaya, my mouth waters,' she told me.
"She led an absolutely normal life, just like everybody else at home and in society. She laughed, told pleasantries, gossiped, played the piano, sang, and amused her nieces and nephews even more than their own mama. She went through all this with a smile and gave me this advice: 'What God asks you to do, do it with a smile.' She told us time and again: 'Everything passes, except having suffered for God out of love.'
"As for me, I have always felt she was present at every moment of my life."
"And now, Lupe, do you feel she is ever present?"
"Yes, Father, she protects and watches over us in the shadow of the Cross."