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 children, 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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