Blessed Maria Concepción Cabrera de Armida – The Cross and Love Embrace

Engaged at the age of thirteen, a solicitous wife, affectionate mother and foundress of congregations of priests, lay people and contemplative religious, Blessed Conchita’s life followed a mysterious plan of Providence.

The extravagant Queen Christina of Sweden liked to apply the following maxim to herself: “There are people for whom everything is permitted and nothing goes wrong.1 Analysing the axiom as a rule of conduct, common sense would certainly correct the queen’s presumption… But viewed in the horizons of Faith, it is well suited to certain souls chosen by God: the love that descends upon them from Heaven and their crystal-clear correspondence allows them to do whatever they want, because their actions always shine with honesty. Thus St. Augustine’s famous “Dilige, et quod vis fac2 applies.

It is difficult to summarize the story of these chosen ones, even more so when we are talking about a fervent Catholic who was engaged at the age of thirteen, a solicitous wife, the mother of numerous offspring, a great mystic without ceasing to be a zealous housewife, a widow and the founder of congregations that included priests, lay people and contemplative religious, who, having died canonically as a religious, never abandoned her family, all this in the midst of a troubling religious persecution in Mexico.

In fact, the life of Maria Concepción Cabrera de Armida, familiarly known as Conchita, followed a mysterious plan drawn up by Providence.

A peaceful childhood

She was born on December 8, 1862, in San Luis Potosí, Mexico, to a large family: she had eight brothers and three sisters. Her parents were excellent Catholics from the local aristocracy and gave her a solid religious upbringing and the constant example of integrity and devotion.

Her childhood was spent working on the farm and at home, or playing with her siblings, especially horseback riding, which she enjoyed immensely. Her mother never left her idle, taking her to the hospital to help care for the sick, so as to guard against laziness and conceit. She did not put much effort into her intellectual education, but she did dedicate herself to learning music, both singing and the piano.

Maria was sincere in saying that she had very good inclinations, as she took great pleasure in prayer and was interested in imitating the penances of the Saints and their purity; but she later commented that her mistake was not to have cultivate these good inclinations as much as she could.

At the age of eight she went to Confession for the first time and at the age of ten she made her First Communion on December 8, 1872.

Meeting her future husband

At the age of thirteen, due to the demands of high society, Conchita was already expected to go to the balls, which were still very decent at the time. She tells us that at first she did not like them. However, as time went by, she began to like being asked to dance and was delighted when she could count twenty-two suitors, a fact that greatly embarrassed her later on. At this very young age, she met her future husband, Francisco Armida, at one of these gatherings.

With her family’s consent, they began a relationship by correspondence, in which she, with great concern for her suitor’s spiritual life, encouraged him to be devout: “I urged him to frequent the Sacraments as often as possible. Later, I never stopped being concerned about his soul.”3 This correspondence lasted nine years, until their marriage.

When discussing her engagement and her duties of piety, the young woman revealed that she had never found it difficult to reconcile them. Conchita received Communion every day and went to balls with the sole intention of seeing her fiancé. She wore a sackcloth around her waist under her dress, rejoicing in doing penance and pleasing the Jesus she would receive at Communion the next day.

Her brother’s death brings a great change

The desire to please God, however, caused a dichotomy within her, as it forced her to fight against vanity and attachment to life’s little pleasures. As the fragile vessel of her soul was sailing the sea of temptations without much experience, she often found herself overcome under the weight of worldly solicitations, taking pride in receiving compliments on her beauty. Realizing that this did not fill her heart and was nothing more than frivolity, she sought the confessional. Thus, through her docility to the voice of the Church’s pastors, she made spiritual progress.

The sudden death of her brother, however, tore her away from earthly prospects, as she was visited by an unexpected form of suffering. Turning from her capricious and distracted ways, she began to think more about Our Lord and give herself more completely to Him. She learned to sanctify herself by offering her emotional sufferings to the Most High and by intensifying her prayers.

The wedding: challenge and apprehension

Finally, it was time for the nuptials. When she saw her wedding dress, elegant and adorned with jewels, she felt a deep inner sadness which caused her indescribable suffering. She wanted to live a life of perfection, having taken decisive steps in this direction, and marriage presented itself as a challenge.

Although happy as a wife and mother, she felt the fleetingness of human love, and sought in God that infinite goodness that would fill her soul
Conchita and her husband on their wedding day

She loved her husband very much, but never in isolation from her love for Jesus. She therefore made two requests of Francisco: “I remember that at the wedding banquet, when toasts were being made, I got the idea to ask him, who was now my husband, to promise he would do two things for me: allow me to receive Communion every day and never to be jealous.”4

Conchita was very happy with her husband, who was the model of a respectful man. However, as a good Catholic and mother of a family, the difficulties inherent to her condition soon arrived, and she was a true example of acceptance and conformity to God’s will in this situation.

One of the hardships she went through is recounted in her diary: “The Lord made me undergo painful humiliations by my sisters-in-law. He willed that I appear in their eyes as useless and not very agreeable. No matter what I did, I never could please them. […] This torment was quite beneficial for me, the more so since my husband often agreed with them. This resulted in my being able to forget about myself and brought me to think I was capable of nothing – neither in my relations with others, nor with myself.”5

Difficulties and greater union with God

God forges the holiness of His elect in the vicissitudes of daily life and, in the case of this lady, in the occupations of the home. She often expressed her joy at being a wife and mother, while at the same time realizing how ephemeral human love is, like everything else in this world. Thus, she looked to God for the infinite good that filled her soul: “Upon seeing, despite my husband’s great goodness, that marriage did not correspond to what I regarded as life’s fullness, instinctively my heart drew closer and closer to God, seeking in Him what was wanting in it. The inner life of my soul had grown in spite of all the joys of the earth.”6

As the years went by, her children were born and she had the satisfaction of being the mother of a Jesuit priest and a religious daughter. Another four were her lifelong companions, and three died prematurely: two died of typhus, and the youngest drowned in the water fountain of the house, a tragedy that Conchita offered up with her sights set on the life to come. On top of these sorrows came the early death of her husband, which meant total destitution for her.

This simple and serious housewife saw – through the veils of her state of earthly trial – the highest reality that exists, the life of God, which strengthened her for the struggles and sufferings of this vale of tears
Conchita surrounded by her children

These sufferings were a preparation for the great spiritual enlightenment that Providence would soon bestow on her.

Intense mystical life and the beginning of the foundation

At age twenty-seven, Conchita did the spiritual exercises for the first time, which were the starting point for a profound meditation on her calling: “One day when I was getting ready with all my soul for all the Lord would ask of me, at a certain moment I clearly heard in the depths of my soul, without any doubt at all […]: ‘Your mission will be to save souls.’”7 Her vocation as a foundress could be glimpsed in this communication.

A relationship of such intimacy was consolidated between Our Lord and her that it resembled a mystical espousal – and of course, the spouse of a crucified King can only rejoice in pain. Jesus revealed to her that she should found a work based on the apostolate of the Cross, which would be a very important part of Conchita’s mission. A new spiritual path was opening up before her eyes.

Our Lord confided to her: “The Apostolate of the Cross is the work which continues and completes that of My Heart, which was revealed to Blessed Margaret Mary. I tell you that this does not mean only My external Cross as a divine instrument of Redemption […]. The essence of this Work consists in making known the Interior Sufferings of My Heart which are ignored, and which were the greatest suffering for Me.”8

Conchita hastened to follow God’s call and resolutely began the apostolate of the Sorrowful Heart of Jesus. In 1894 she founded the Apostolate of the Cross, a work aimed at lay vocations. Three years later, she started the contemplative institute of the Religious of the Cross of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, in which her own daughter would be a member. Finally, as will be described in more detail, in 1914, in the midst of religious persecution in Mexico, the Congregation of the Missionaries of the Holy Spirit was established, which would soon include numerous priests. This group of foundations became known as the Works of the Cross.

Close to the Holy Trinity

Conchita also received mystical communications on sublime mysteries of the Faith, which confirmed and clarified her mission and raised her to greater heights of sanctity.

On one occasion, the Lord took her in ecstasy to the heights of divinity. Conchita – trying to explain herself in some way – recounts that she saw the eternal generation of the Son within the Blessed Trinity. It was a truly ravishing grace, which would immerse her in God and would remain imprinted in her heart and memory forever: “The impression I felt and experienced then about this divine generation was so vivid that I still tremble at the thought and become as it were mute. I saw a large hearth with a most live and pure light. From this uncreated light there burst forth dazzling rays of divine clarity […]. I understood how there was brought about the generation of the Word, of that Word which was from the beginning!”9

This very simple and serious housewife saw – through the veils of her state of trial on earth – the highest reality in existence, the life of God, which gave her a foretaste of eternal bliss and strengthened her for the struggles and sufferings of this vale of tears. She could only repay such a favour with boundless love: “I love You so that, if it were granted me to increase by an atom Your beatitude, even at the price of my life and of my damnation – provided it be without sin, I would do so.”10

The central grace of Conchita’s life, however, came with the mystical incarnation of Jesus in her soul on March 25, 1906. In this regard, Our Lord revealed to her: “With my incarnation in your heart I had My designs: to transform you into Me, the Man of sorrows; You must live out of My life and you already know that the Word became incarnate to suffer, not as Word but in My human nature and in My very holy soul.”11

Thus, the mystical incarnation in Conchita made her a participant in Our Lord’s sufferings, giving rise to the spirituality of love for the Cross and the sorrows of the Redeemer that characterized her foundations.

Before the Holy Father

The mystical graces and revelations she received drew the attention of the ecclesiastical authorities, who set about analysing their content. Initially, the Archbishop of Mexico, Most Rev. Próspero María Alarcón, ordered a thorough analysis of her life and writings. In 1900 Conchita was examined by theologians, who confirmed that she had been inspired by God.

The central grace of her life was the mystical incarnation of Jesus in her soul, which allowed her to participate in Our Lord’s sufferings, giving rise to the spirituality of love for the Cross that characterized her foundations
Conchita at different phases in her life

The benefits rendered to the Church and Mexican society by the Apostleship of the Cross and the Religious of the Cross were so great that several bishops decided to ask the Holy See for permission to found a work of priests under the inspiration of the great mystic.

The Congregation of Religious requested her writings and a detailed account of her life. But as the enquiry dragged on, Archbishop Ramón Ibarra of Puebla, Conchita’s spiritual director, decided to take her to Rome for a personal examination.

What a surprise for the foundress when she was told that she would have a private audience with St. Pius X, which she herself recounts: “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.’ […] ‘They are approved, do not fear, and I give you my very special blessing for you, your family and for all the Works.’ […] 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.”12

Thus, the Missionaries of the Holy Spirit, the last of Conchita’s foundations, was soon approved.

Victim for the Holy Church

Conchita also received various other private revelations about realities concerning the Holy Church, Christian virtues and the Blessed Virgin Mary.

The last stage of her life was spent in deep spiritual solitude, in which she conformed herself to Our Lady and offered herself as a victim for the Holy Church, especially its pastors.

Death came on March 3, 1937, to the woman who said to Jesus: “My God, if I could take anything from Your Being, I would take only love in order to love You!”13 ◊



1 HENRI-ROBERT. Os grandes processos da História. Rio de Janeiro: Globo, 1961, v.VI, p.3.

2 From the Latin: “Love and do as you will.” ST. AUGUSTINE. In Epistolam Ioannis ad Parthos. Tractatus VII, n.8. In: Obras. Madrid: BAC, 1959, v.XVIII, p.304.

3 PHILIPON, OP, Marie-Michel. Diário espiritual de uma mãe de família. São José dos Campos: Katechesis, 2020, p.30.

4 Idem, p.36.

5 Idem, p.41.

6 Idem, p.43.

7 Idem, p.44.

8 Idem, p.51-52.

9 Idem, p.65.

10 Idem, p.66.

11 Idem, p.82.

12 Idem, p.91-92.

13 Idem, p.154.



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