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Interior Pentecost of the Heart

Sometimes we struggle to find heroic lay people to emulate. The stories of many Saints and much spiritual literature describe the spiritual lives of consecrated and/or ordained Christians. But, what about the rest of us, the remaining 99.9% of the Church, do we have any hope for holiness? Vatican II answers in the affirmative with the universal call to holiness (Lumen Gentium, 39).

Venerable Concepcion Cabrera de Armida, (1861-1937), a Mexican woman, a wife, a mother of nine Venerable Concepcion Cabrera de Armida 2children, a co-founder of the Five Works of the Cross and a mystic, presents us today with a unique and applicable witness of holiness achieved in the midst of ordinary family life. Don’t be deceived! Her “ordinary” life is an adventure in grace that teaches us all what happens when we cultivate holiness and are filled “with the utter fullness of God to know the breath, the length, the height, and depth of the love of Christ that dwells in our hearts” (Ep 3:16-19).

That being said, sometimes we get distracted by mystical manifestations, because usually mystical union for most of us doesn’t come with extraordinary phenomenon. However, mystics who experience extraordinary movements of grace show us all what our true destiny is as Baptized, Catholics.

Concepcion, or Conchita for short, received the unitive grace of spiritual marriage February 9, 1897, after she ducked into daily Mass while her husband watched their children.  Later, as a young widow, on March 25, 1906, the supreme unitive grace of the Christian life, the mystical incarnation enveloped her soul.

The what?  While more than just intimate union with God, as in spiritual marriage, the mystical incarnation is a Who, the gift of Jesus growing and remaining substantially within the soul, continuing to attract and love His people through the person. With this gift, the Lord showed Conchita the necessity of purifying her actions and intentions with her simple human choices in daily life so she could resonate more and more with the priorities of His own heart. In this way, she could radiate or mediate His saving love to others.

Lay people are blessed in this light, according to Carmelite Father, P. Marie Eugene, O.C.D., “for these purifications are more intense because the fire is fed with more external difficulties and persecutions, and demands and comes with more occasions for humiliating oneself.” He continues, often “the purification may even be more rapid in the world if the soul knew how to use them to flee from its torment and go only to God through faith and self surrender.”

Conchita describes a mind-boggling renewal of the World that can be ignited by ordinary Christians living and offering the demands of everyday life faithfully as spiritual sacrifices for others. How did she make her life a living sacrifice for others? When she started something new, or when she noticed a powerful emotional reaction to something, she glanced to Jesus and offered the present moment to Him. She swept the floor, imagining Jesus gazing on her. With the quick wink of her attention, she glanced towards Him and gave Him the boredom of the task, which he offered to His Father to draw grace into the World. In this way, she wasted nothing and found the ordinary fodder of her life, like bread and wine, a fruitful gift to God that He readily transformed into graces for others. In this way, she lived a priestly mission for others.

Each of us can live a priesthood if we are moving in the priorities of the heart of Jesus who earnestly desires to infuse the World with His healing Holy Spirit. Rather than a limp arm, half-strength spirituality, Conchita practiced a priesthood of the heart with Jesus lifting the joys and junk of her experiences to the Father for the very people causing the rub. Likewise, sharing the intentions of Jesus, the ordained priest, with his hands, raises the bread and wine to the Father to mediate renewal in the Holy Spirit through the Sacraments.

While the revelations of the Sacred Heart of Jesus to Saint Margaret Mary Alacoque, in France show us that Jesus’ loving presence, is a heart that desires our loving response, Conchita held the mystery of the Crucified Heart of Jesus. Jesus told her,

“On sending a new Pentecost, I want it inflamed, purified, and illuminated by the light and fire of the Holy Spirit. He must reign in Hearts.”

The Baptized Christian has a tremendous power at his disposal to help others if he or she learns to offer their lives as living sacrifice in union with Christ. Divine union, far from just animating ourselves, can ignite us with the priorities and the fiery love of Jesus so we care about the salvation of others in a very personal way.

Conchita brings new insight into the spiritual life-giving capacity of the cultivated human soul in union with Jesus and into the redeeming priorities of the Heart of Jesus. Jesus wants to activate divine life in souls through the Cross and bring renewal in the Holy Spirit. United to the Heart of Jesus, we too can become redeeming conduits of divine grace and actively work for the salvation of others.

Venerable Concepcion shows us a pattern of holiness where we slow down, fan the flame of our ordinary experience, and return the blows with a simple gesture of love.  She shows us what this Love hopes to accomplish through us: the redemption of the World, and the divine infilling of men and women through a new interior Pentecost of the heart.

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About Mary Kaufmann

Ms. Mary Gannon Kaufmann, M.A., M.S. is Director of Incarnate Institute and co-founder of Word of the Vine Online. Through Word of the Vine Online Ministries, Mary offers face to face and also online interactive retreats. She teaches internationally on vocations, priesthood, the role of the laity, the Theology of the Body and topics of spiritual growth. Information can be found at www.incarnateinstitute.org. Mary holds a post-graduate certificate in Spiritual Direction and Retreats from Creighton University in Omaha, NE, a Masters in Theology from Loras College in Dubuque, IA and a Masters in Nutrition from the University of Minnesota in the Twin Cities. She attends classes with her husband John, who is in formation for the Permanent Diaconate for the Archdiocese of Dubuque. They live in Cedar Rapids, Iowa with their six children.

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  • Wretched Sinner

    Encouraging! “the Lord showed Conchita the necessity of purifying her actions and intentions” How do we purify our actions and intentions?

    • frtrue75@att.net

      Wretched Sinner: You pose a good question, and one I’m anxious to see the comments of others. I don’t have an opinion, but I want to share a special moment this morning that may have a bearing on actions. The morning is overcast and cool so I stepped into the backyard for my ‘good morning God’ time while the coffee perks. The lillies are in full bloom, purple and yellow and so delicate in their beauty; the honeysuckle scent is strong. For a moment I had a glimpse of the peace of God’s presence. God bless you and may you have a blessed day. Donald

      • marygannon

        There are certain virtues that facilitate spiritually engendering life in others, and there are certain common obstacles or vices. Conchita wrote in her diary, “All the virtues form a garden of beautiful flowers and each virtue is beautiful, delicate and has a most brilliant distinct flower.” Each virtue has a specific vice that tries to limit it.
        Four virtues are particularly helpful to pay attention to to ignite the soul in the way of Conchita: 1. active love, 2. a freedom to offer or sacrifice for others, 3. purity of heart, 4. humility. These four help our own receptivity to God and our effectiveness in being life-giving to others.
        Each of the vices have an element of disorderliness to them.Look at where you struggle to pull yourself together and start to grow there. To begin, look at yourself honestly, pray with your experiences, feelings, and thoughts to see which virtue to begin working with. When you grow in one virtue the others come along like fingers on a hand.
        I could write a longer post on growing in the virtues using the writings of Venerable Concepcion if there would be interest. She wrote a wonderful book called “Virtues and Vices.”

        • Wretched Sinner

          Thanks Mary! Yes, please keep writing!!!!! (imagine thousands of exclamation marks!) :o) Upon a quick research I’d like to offer my findings on “purity”.

          What is Purity?
          It is Freedom from anything that weakens or impairs or changes the nature of a being or its activity.

          How many categories of purity are there?
          There are four categories.

          What are the categories?
          1) Purity of faith
          2) Purity of intention
          3) Purity of conscience
          4) Purity of morals

          What is purity of faith?
          Purity of faith means the absence of error or what is contrary to the revealed truth.

          What is purity of intention?
          Purity of intention is the exclusion of self-will in the desire to perform the will of God.

          What is purity of conscience?
          Purity of conscience is the absence of any sense of guilt in the performance of a moral action.

          What is purity of morals?
          Purity of morals commonly refers to the virtue of chastity and therefore freedom from wrongdoing in sexual activity, but on a broader level it means the absence of misbehavior, especially in one’s external or publicly recognizable conduct.

          The following set of questions to be answered then would be, how do we grow in these purities deliberately?

          (btw the source of the above is Fr. Hardon’s Catholic Dictionary.) I just turned the definition of purity into a Q&A format! – it’s not me coming up with these ideas – that’s my point :o)

          • marygannon

            thanks WS. I guess we grow in these by making the choice to do so…learning from our mistakes in the presence of God and praying for their full release. It’s a one step forward, one step back process don’t you think. The good thing is our mistakes are as much a gift as our successes for they grow our humility. I like the Litany of Humility alot too. Watch out though for God loves that prayer and allows our deep growth. Like one confessor told me, “Watch out what your pray for!” Amen

          • Wretched Sinner

            a few ideas (these are mine)….

            How do we grow in purity of faith?
            By a deliberate study of what are the teachings of the Catholic Church and why.

            How do we grow in purity of intention?
            By a deliberate study of our duties in our state in life, preparing a rule of life and sticking to it!

            How do we grow in purity of conscience?
            By a deliberate examine of conscience (using the best resource available to us and/or seeking better resources) and receiving the sacrament of penance (Confession)

            How do we grow in purity of morals?
            First by a strict obedience to the Church’s sexual moral teachings (which we will have learned by being pure in faith) and by a deliberate modest behavior.

            ….. just my first thoughts….

          • JoFlemings

            Purity of intention is more interior than following a rule of life- it has to do with what motivates our love. This is a moment by moment refinement of the will in my experience- am I doing what I am doing for love of Jesus Christ alone or do I have some attachment or agenda working in there? Will I be detached from my own hopes and dreams for any outcome, releasing the results to the realm of His Majesty’s sovereignty alone? These kinds of things. I think the goal is for our hearts to beat as one with God’s- to have our hopes and dreams and aspirations completely in concert with His own, then from there a torrent (really) flows from within us to direct the course of our lives in well-doing. Sounds very high faluting, but does not really look so in my life- so, while I very much understand the concept and have been often through the process, I am still just barely a student of the theory.

          • Wretched Sinner

            Dear JoFlemings et al,

            Would this describe purity of intention better? Using St. Therese’s words

            “May I never seek nor find anything but Yourself alone. May creatures be nothing for me and may I be nothing for them, but may You, Jesus, be everything! May the things of earth never be able to trouble my soul, and may nothing disturb my peace. Jesus, I ask You for nothing but peace, and also love, infinite love without any limits other than Yourself; love which is no longer I but You, my Jesus.”

            - from Story of a Soul by St. Therese

            So change to:

            How do we grow in purity of intention?
            By a deliberate desire of wanting nothing but to do God’s holy will in everything we do.

          • JoFlemings

            I think this quote and your conclusion are beautifully expressed!

          • JoFlemings

            I think one knows one is in the company of a saint, when one hears ” I like the Litany of Humility” especially in print! I will not profess a love for that litany, but I know its efficacy because almost immediately when I pray it, I get all kinds of practical exercise in applying the graces requested in that prayer! :o) I think it requires courage, great courage to pray the Litany of Humility with sincerity, the second or more times!

          • marygannon

            Jo, please…….!ask my family! I like the Litany of Humility because its so helpful in reminding me and taking me where I’d most like to go…towards Jesus! Aren’t we each a work in progress.

          • Cooky642

            Me, too. When I pray it, my first thought has always been that I cannot do even the smallest of those things on my own. And I always hear a hearty gufaw just behind my ear. And He would say, ‘Haven’t you understood, yet, that you can do anything through My strength?’ So, now when I pray it and He says ‘Lets work on this’, I know I’m not only going to have some ‘opportunities’ to practice that virtue, but that I’m going to be successful with it because of His strength.

          • angeldia

            This is very true! I’m lost with the purity of intention….I feel completely lost and like “Now what?” with this whole self surrender thing. Any intention for clarification is appreciated! :)

          • marygannon

            Angeldia,
            Just a thought on “this whole self surrender thing.” You know Mt.19:19-22 when it says “You shall love God and your neighbor as yourself.” Just after this, Jesus said to the man, “Go, sell what you have and give to the poor and you will have treasure in Heaven, then come follow me. The man went off sad for he had many possessions.”
            Its about, not loosing oneself exactly, but allowing grace to move you off center stage and others into your room so you care about their concerns along with you own. It’s about inner flexibility to be moved and used for others welfare by God. This is the sacrifice that brings life to others!

        • frtrue75@att.net

          Dear Mary: I would appreciate a longer post of growing in virtues. I am working on a rule of life from the Navigating book we read and your post are a real help. Thank you and God bless you. Donald

        • Vivian Ike

          “I could write a longer post on growing in the virtues using the writings of Venerable Concepcion if there would be interest. She wrote a wonderful book called “Virtues and Vices.”

          Please do Mary it will be so so so much helpful to me, to those heartily desire to offer my life as a living sacrifice for their salvation and definitely for the our Christian community, in Jesus name Amen !!!!

          Many many thanks

          Vivian
          God bless!

    • MarytheDefender

      My spiritual director told me to purify my intentions earlier this year. I think it means intentionally offering up our work to God. Throughout the day, saying “All for You Jesus.” or “I love You Jesus.” It also means honestly asking ourselves why and for whom we are doing it. If we realize we are doing it for any selfish reasons; we repent, ask God for help and try to do better. Whether doing better means continuing our work for the right intentions or to stop doing it entirely.

    • LizEst

      First off, we direct and offer everything we do through the Immaculate Heart of Mary to Jesus in our morning offering. Then, we must get to know ourselves very well by a number of means: our daily examination of conscience, spiritual direction, confession, Holy Communion.

      We have to strictly examine–almost to the point of scrupulosity, without falling into scrupulosity–our thoughts and actions as we go through the day. So, if we say we are going to do thus and such for charity, we have to take a good look at why we are doing it. Do we do it for love of God? Good. Do we do it because it makes us feel better? That’s OK, but it is not pure love of God and we should not fool ourselves into thinking it is purely for God. Do we do it because people will pat us on the back and think well of us? If so, then we have an issue with our egos and this is definitely a problem. What if it’s all three? Then, we have to purify that. We must do it strictly for love of God. How do we know? Would we do it if no one was looking? Would we do it when we are tired? Would we do it when it is not popular to do? Would we do it without telling anyone, even our spiritual director? Would we stop doing it if the devil, or someone else, put obstacles were in our way? Would we stop, if we no longer had the physical strength to continue, thus giving it up because the Lord calls us to do so? A good model is Blessed Mother Teresa and all she did for others before it was seen as a good thing. A saint is someone who will always do what others will not do. Why? Because they are doing it for God and for love of Him. They follow Christ in giving up even their very lives if need be for love of Him…and because of Him, for love of neighbor.

      Lastly, if you click on the link within the article “Five Works of the Cross” that will lead you to specific books about her and, amongst them, no doubt you will find some writings that will explain this further.

      God bless you WS…and best to you as you pursue this. Please keep us posted on your research. Thanks.

  • Jeanette

    Jesus told her, “On sending a new Pentecost, I want it inflamed, purified and illuminated by the light and fire of the Holy Spirit . He must reign in hearts.” Please pray for our Life in the Spirit seminar at our parish of St. Mark’s. Next Tuesday, there will be laying on of hands upon the participants to receive the Baptism of the Holy Spirit (the release of the power of the Holy Spirit within us as baptized and confirmed Catholics). I have the privilege of being one of the facilitators and will, for the first time along with other facilitators, lay hands on some of the participants for them to receive this Baptism of the Holy Spirit. Please pray that the Holy Spirit will mightily energize His people for the glory of God!

    • LizEst

      I prayed for you at Mass this morning. God bless you Jeanette.

      • Jeanette

        Thank you and bless you Liz. You’re a soul sister!

  • http://www.facebook.com/patricia.budd.77 Patricia Budd

    A beautiful message! Thanks Dan!

  • LizEst

    This is beautiful, Dan. Thanks for introducing another mystic to us.

    • http://www.rcspiritualdirection.com/ Dan Burke

      Thanks but this post was written by Mary Kaufmann! I just fixed it.

      • LizEst

        Intellectual honesty! I love it! Thanks, Dan…and thank you, Mary.

  • http://www.facebook.com/connie.rossini.9 Connie Rossini

    Thanks for introducing me to a new model of holiness! I love the fact that, like St. Therese, she found God in the ordinary things of daily life. This type of holiness seems doable. I have lots of “powerful emotional reactions” that I can offer to Jesus. I’m going to share this with Catholic Spirituality Blogs Network followers on Facebook.

  • Rachel Gehring

    Thank you for sharing about this married lay saint-in-the-making. Do you know if she left behind a diary or wrote anything?

    • marygannon

      Hi Rachel,
      Conchita left a massive collection of written work..8000 pages of an inspired diary and a lengthy Vida or Story of her life. She also published many spiritual books for adults and children. Her dairy from each of her yearly retreats, her reflections and her director’s reflections which have been published. Most of these works are still in Spanish. One of her yearly retreats that I like very much is “Loving with the Holy Spirit.”

  • BeckitaMaria

    Amen. Alleluia! I have loved Conchita for many years after first reading “A Mother’s Spiritual Diary.” It was so inspiring that I went on to read her additional writings which had been translated to English at the time. As a married woman, I wanted to emulate her virtues. Little did I know then I would follow in Conchita’s footsteps and become a quite young widow as well.

    I continue to seek Conchita’s intercession to live a life in the Holy Spirit with intentional awareness of His action and presence. He hovered around her constantly and she referred to Him as “Palomita,” her little dove.

    Our Blessed Mother tells us when we have the Holy Spirit we have everything. May we all be infused anew, at deeper and higher levels, with the Mighty Power of our Precious Palomita.

  • Grtgrandpa

    Lay people are blessed when performing the seven works of corporal mercy by the infusing of “Grace.” During the actual performance of compassionate deeds for the lessor among us, we are infused with ‘Acutal Grace,” which leaves us upon compleation of the volunteer or other type of acts or work performed.
    Matt. 25:35-40; identifies the means by which we find Jesus in our fellow human beings; feed the hungry; give drink to the thirsty; to clothe the naked; to house the homeless; to visit the sick; to visit the imprisoned; to bury the dead; “Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethern, ye have done it unto me (Matt: 25: 40).”

  • Alexandra Arias

    Thank you Mary for writing this beautiful Post. This was uplifting to me as a wife and mother striving for holiness. I have a question on this paragraph that you wrote — “sometimes we get distracted by mystical manifestations, because usually mystical union for most of us doesn’t come with extraordinary phenomenon. However, mystics who experience extraordinary movements of grace show us all what our true destiny is as Baptized, Catholics”. What do you mean by mystics who experience extraordinary movements of grace show us all our true destiny?Are you saying that we are all called to these extraordinary movements of grace? Or are you speaking of the glory we will experience in the Heavenly Jerusalem?
    Thanks for any clarification!

    • marygannon

      HI Alexandra, I meant that if union with God comes with living image prayer or other mystical signs, they are given to show the rest of us something of the mystery of God that is also available to us…namely that through Baptism we are created to be filled with the life of God. It’s a foretaste of the Heavenly Jerusalem.

  • Jean

    Please pray for the Holy Spirit Mission in our parish this week – that the Holy Spirit will light the fire of passion for the Faith and for evangelizing others in the hearts of our parishioners.

  • GAartist

    Thank-you Mary for bringing this saintly woman to us. This story and the Question to Fr. John about understanding the value of cloistered religious people and their prayers lead me to think about St. Josemaria Escriva, founder of Opus Dei. He struggled for years trying to figure out how to help the everyday person sanctify themselves in the work world. I’m reading his story right now in a book called ‘Uncommon Faith’. I’m trying to find a good foot print to follow for daily living, 75% of which is at the work place.

    Starting with a morning offering (as LizEst suggested). I offer up my day to the Two hearts, prayers, and then prayers at work with St. Josemaria offering up work related problems and trying to maintain a Christian perspective in our actions and conversations throughout the day. (basic call to holiness in our workplace with a good work ethic…be a good example.}
    Maybe the book club can look at this book in the future.