Holy Father: Since my adolescence and almost since my childhood, God Our Lord has taught me to hold in great esteem the holy liberty of the children of God. This holy liberty consists not in an evil sense of uncontrolled vicious human libertinism, but rather, the will of the creature purified, to mold it in the Divine Will of its God, who wisely foreknew the path of His children. That is why since early in my life I longed to isolate myself from my family, because I saw that, following the impulse of the flesh and blood, souls are misled, and I understood that a misled soul is saved with difficulty, nor does it realize its vocation, understanding as a vocation precisely what God our Lord wanted to send to each one of us on earth.
From these principles, so rooted in my conscience, it is easy therefore to understand the reason for my great joy later when, my father having died so well aided by the Holy Church, and with obvious indications of his eternal salvation, he left an express mandate that my family was not to detain me any more from going and serving God, who, on the other hand, was calling me irresistibly to found His Work of Atonement. I thought then, that the hour of my liberty had tolled; but it was not so. And the end of that battle without truce for a decade of years that had then passed since my father withdrew me from the path of God, was still reserved for me. And that time was not short, but rather long again, and perhaps the hardest, for it began with my father's death, which was in April of 1940, and it ended only in January of 1942. I am going to relate to you how those huge battles were, for they seemed to be, now not with flesh and blood, but against Satan in person. Because after the first days of sentimentalism and of condolences, when my mother offered to give me my liberty quickly, she returned then to her previous obstinacy. Since she became sick from the grief of her widowhood, she alleged that, for her restoration, it was necessary for me not to speak any more of sorrowful separations. In this, the doctor was an accomplice, and even the parish priest as well. I, following in everything divine inspiration, but subject to the legitimate obedience of my spiritual director, never rose in rebellion, but was maintaining my rights, asking with urgency for what I felt, in conscience, to be my duty: to leave in order to work on behalf of the mission commended to me by God. There was another adverse factor: my sister, who was a young woman older than I, for she was the firstborn and I the last of five children of the marriage, stated that she had the right to choose her state in life first, especially since she had spent many years in silence, and was engaged to be married, and she had abstained in order not to give that grief to my parents. My mother, then, supported her and not me. And my spiritual and ecclesiastical superiors advised me that, if she chose her state before I was able to leave home, canon law prohibited my abandoning my mother, for she was alone and ill, although she had plenty of financial means, but she did not know how to avail herself of them to administer them, and she needed one of her daughters.
And I turned my heart to God and abandoned myself in His arms, in conformity to the Psalm: "Commit thy way to the Lord; delight in Him, and He will give thee the requests of thy heart." (Ps. 36, 4). And thus it was realized with God once again working wonders on my behalf, demonstrating in it His predilection for the Work commended to me. It happened that, my sister being ready to marry, her fiancé became ill with severe pneumonia, from which he did not die but was prostrate for more than two years as a result of the first illness, and the wedding ceremony had to be postponed exceedingly. Meanwhile I was able to proceed by means of correspondence written to some prelates, and I obtained an agreement with His Excellency Bishop Fulcheri of the diocese of Zamora, Michoacán, and he even indicated the path for me: he wanted me, with prudence, to leave my house, saying that I desired to enter, for a while, a religious school to study some subjects, and thus, morally, the separation for my mother was gentle. And in this manner I entered the school of the Nuns of the Sacred Heart. But the purpose was another, not properly to study in the college, but rather, to live in the same city as the prelate, in order to confer personally with him about the project, the Work, that I was proposing to him. In this manner, from January of 1942, Bishop Fulcheri made himself the trustee of the most exalted things of God our Lord. And he was studying them at leisure and they were ripening in his soul, and after three months of meditating on it, he gave me his permission to begin a trial of the religious life, and to see if Providence would respond, since the Work of Atonement was to be made without funds, solely from charity, so God might thus show His pleasure, sustaining it and making it grow in all senses, spiritually and materially. And I began to proceed first, with regard to the clergy, following in everything the indications of my Prelate, who was like a good father to me.
Holy Father: How can I express the ineffable? For that first moment in which the Work of my God was finally going to begin was ineffable for me. But then many of my first superiors had already died: His Excellency, Bishop Pascual Diaz Barreto, Bishop Luis Benítez y Cabañas, those who were the first ones to know about the Work in 1931, and also I could not rely on the one who had been my superior in the Capuchins, for she was occupied in the reformation of a house of Poor Clares from which she could not move. The will of God concerning me, then, manifested itself, and I had to initiate everything, although in the role of a secular. That was when we used the prospectus that I left in the album for your consideration, and it was the means through which souls quickly came... many souls to second the Work.
Thus God our Lord manifested His providence and His power, bringing everything from nothing, giving me full liberty to serve Him, and I was exultant in joy.
Magnificat... anima mea!
A Prediction Fulfilled
Holy Father: When I began the Work in the diocese of Zamora, from the first day, I realized that a prediction that Jesus had made to me years earlier was going to be fulfilled. It concerned His saying: "There will be a bishop who will oppose you a great deal." Nevertheless, how far I was at that time from foreseeing the extent of that prediction. I am going to explain myself.
When His Excellency Bishop Fulcheri told me that the first thing I should do to carry out the trial of the Work was to see his clergy, he recommended that, in the first place, I should see his Auxiliary. He was at that time Bishop Salvador Martínez Silva. I did so immediately, and I thought I would find in him a patron, inasmuch as, in the college where I was studying at the time, he was visiting us. And at times he called me to the parlor to converse with me, demonstrating regard and sympathy toward me, for he explained to me that he was a sympathizer of pious and studious young people; and that if I desired to be a nun, he would help me to enter the Nuns of the Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, who had their convent right there, and whose superior was a sister of his. He even invited me on one occasion, with the permission of the nuns of the college, to go to his house and eat at his table. It was an honor I declined, fearful that he might then ask me about my motive for going to the bishop's residence three times a week, for he knew of it through the nuns, who were curious about it. But I avoided giving explanations, mentioning that Bishop Fulcheri was my confessor for some time past, for indeed, His Excellency himself had recommended for me to speak like that, through discretion. In such a way that, when he permitted me to reveal the true purpose that had brought me to Zamora, I was optimistic about seeing the Auxiliary Bishop, and with all simplicity, I related to him my happiness of having the approval of His Excellency, the diocesan prelate, hoping he, too, would give his blessing. But my surprise was most disconcerting, when I realized that Bishop Martínez Silva not only did not have the same opinion concerning the Work, but he became very angry, almost to the point of showing me out of his house, saying to me that if I already had the approval of the diocesan bishop, why did I want his? Besides, he inquired about the financial basis of the Work, and when he found out that it was Franciscan, and therefore of extreme poverty, he mocked my candor and said to me: "You will always have an enemy in me." I left confused, crying, but interiorly, I was thinking that it would be a trial that would pass. But it was not as I had desired, rather, the ill will of that prelate persisted, and always caused us great sorrow.
Whenever he came to our house, it was to humiliate us extremely; he saw everything with evil eyes; he censured everything and it seemed to him bad taste. But that was not all, rather, I was informed confidentially by Bishop Fulcheri himself, that when in chapter some matter related to our Work was discussed, he was apt to say: "As far as I am concerned, the Minim nuns would never exist. They produce nothing for the episcopal curia." Bishop Fulcheri said to me: "Do not let it concern you, my daughter, for if I love you and bless you, God loves and blesses you." But that lack of good will on the part of the auxiliary bishop was such that it had great influence on the clergy, in such a way that, on the one hand we had priest friends, and on the other, enemies, and these, without cause. It happened with us as with Jesus: "They hated us for no reason at all."
But in the background of these circumstances I did not notice at the time that another prediction that Our Lord had made to me was being fulfilled, and it concerns this: He told me to write in the Constitutions how the communities of His work of Atonement would represent Him, and thus, each member of the community would honor a year of His age, so that the community as a whole, reaching its maximum number of 33 members, would represent Him, the Victim of Calvary, before Divine Justice. This being so, later I was able to see very clearly that it was fitting, then, that the Work, in His imitation, should live, work, bear fruit, and then be killed and buried, without having committed any sin other than offering itself for the salvation of others. And we cannot say that we owe the persecution nor the death of the Work to the machinations of Bishop Martínez Silva, because it is not certain. But it was obvious that, when our father and pastor died, and we were left orphans, there was no one to defend us. And the new Prelate was not aware of the sacrifices with which the Work had been founded, nor did he ever wish to give credit to what I told him about the divine origin of the inspiration of the Work. As a result, it was not possible for him to understand it, as did Bishop Fulcheri, who had studied things to their depth, as you, Your Holiness, will do with what I tell you now. But I must not speak in this chapter of the end, rather, relating the events in their order. In the trial of the Work, everything was done in conformity with canon law. First, the opening of the house with particular approval, was done by the parish priest of the neighborhood, delegated by His Excellency, the diocesan bishop himself, on June 24, 1942, with the attendance of society people in the city and with great solemnity. Soon we had the official diocesan approbation, issued in the bulletin of the diocesan chancery, on October 2, 1942. From that date, we had the Blessed Sacrament and the assistance of a chaplain and ordinary and extraordinary confessors.
On the part of the community, we had an apostolate from then on with groups of young girls and women to whom were imparted classes in family and doctrinal formation, and spiritual exercises were given to them. All social classes showed great affection for the Work and responded with devotion and enthusiasm to whatever was suggested, and they were lavish in helping the community, in such a way that in this, too, the divine prediction was fulfilled.
The Work was begun just as the birth of Jesus, in a humble portal. Thus the Work was born in an old house that had been a seminary, the property being rented because we had nothing of our own. But we were happy because there was something great among us: that is, fraternal union, for in truth, it could be sung: "Behold how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity." (Ps. 132, 1). Soon we were growing, like Jesus, in age (that is, in the number of sisters) and in the formation of the spirit that we were to have. The souls responded with vigor, and God was served and glorified and praised and recognized, and souls received grace, both those in the community and those outside. The Work was a like a luxuriant plane-tree that gave both shade and fruit, and this no one who saw it or approached it could deny.
Our confessor was almost always Canon Enrique Amezcua, who is still living, and he wished us well, and from him we received blessings and favors paternally. The parish priest, Canon Nabor Victoria, still lives. And another of the priests who understood and aided us still lives; and he is now Rector of the seminary, a most virtuous and wise priest, now a Canon as well: Francisco Valencia Ayala. These three priests are witnesses of our labor, as well as of what we had to suffer without any fault. Holy Father: I tell you truthfully, suffering does not terrify me, and I even experienced happiness in being disrespected by some, because thus we resembled our Model; but I did not believe that this prediction was going to reach even to the end of life itself and to burial, and that the wait for the glorious day of resurrection would be so greatly prolonged.
A Manifestation of Divine Providence
Holy Father: It is fitting that I relate to you a full manifestation of Divine Providence on behalf of the Order.
I already related above, how, in my family home, my mother was sick and my sister about to enter the state of matrimony. And how I left home prudently, saying I was going to study for a while as a boarding pupil in the nuns’ school. But when the Work was founded it was obvious and logical that I, opportunely, would tell my mother and sister the truth of things. Well, my mother accepted it piously, but not my sister, for she was in a predicament, because, when married, she would have to live in another city and mother would remain alone; and mother did not want to move from the family home. Because of this circumstance so troublesome for my sister, she began to feel resentment against me. Her future husband, a lawyer of wisdom and of good family, was a judge in Guadalajara. And my sister assumed that, when she married, she would succeed in my being disinherited of my father'’ testamentary documents and other deeds for immovable goods. Because—she said—making use of certain expressions that my father at one time (when he was an unbeliever) had occasion to say: "Neither a monk nor nuns must be favored with my money." When I heard of it, it grieved me a great deal, not because money meant so much to me, for thanks be to God, I have always loved poverty, and I m convinced that, possessing God, one is immensely rich, because one has everything. Nevertheless, it grieved me for her sake, for her soul and for that of my father, for it could cause him harm in his spiritual state, now facing Divine Justice. I related my grief to His Excellency, Bishop Fulcheri, for he was my director and confessor, and my father and my everything after God, and he advised me to go one day to visit my mother, so that my sister and I might make peace. And I did so, and everything worked out well. My sister was persuaded that I had no guilt in having left the family before she did, for God had thus disposed it, and finally her nobility of soul inclined her in my favor.
When I made this visit to my house, my mother’s health was poor; the doctor predicted grave illness soon. My sister continued postponing her wedding for that reason precisely, for, in justice: she was always the very loving daughter of her parents. For that reason, she was preferred by them, and I found this just, for she was my mother’s consolation. During the visit, I did not wish to speak at all of inheritances. And neither my sister nor my mother offered me anything, not even the benefits of my goods, for my father had left exactly half of everything to each of his two daughters. At that time the Work had been founded two years and we were in need of a larger house, and I wanted a part, at least, of my inheritance to furnish the annex for the apostolate, but, I repeat: I did not want to mention anything. I left it all to God.
As it happened, not two weeks had passed since my visit when my sister died unexpectedly in an illness of only hours, but His Excellency ordered to go to and I reached her while she still lived. I was perplexed and confused by this divine design that did not permit my sister to realize her desire to marry, and also because, with her death, my mother was left alone and confined to bed, and needed me constantly at her side. After my sister’s burial, I pleaded with my mother to let me take her to my convent to care for her, for the Bishop permitted it, but my family was too proud, Holy Father, and for more than a month my mother resisted following me, until aggravating her condition so that, when she yielded and I took her with me, she died the following week. In less than six weeks God liquidated my family, leaving me an orphan and completely alone in life. But also, free, indeed now absolutely free to serve Him with whatever I had in my hands: the economic patrimony from my house, the money that my father had said at one time would not used by monks and nuns, was absolutely, entirely spent for buying and building the convent of the House of Atonement. God could not have spoken more clearly. In the midst of the grief of seeing one’s mother and one’s own depart, my soul always had the compensation of that divine manifestation in favor the things He himself commended to me.
On the other hand, it is especially worth mentioning to relate to you that my mother died piously repentant, asking forgiveness aloud before the priest who assisted her at death, who was precisely the parish priest himself of Zamora, and before the entire community; crying, very humbly, she begged God’s pardon and mine (my poor little mother) and had the benefit of the suffrages with her body present in the Chapel itself of the convent, and the Gregorian Masses offered by His Excellency Bishop Fulcheri.
With this manifestation of Divine Providence our prelate was astounded, although I, to offer still another sacrifice to God, when the deed was drawn up, did not want it to be in my name, but rather to remain free of goods, the deed was drawn up in the name of a wealthy person of society, honorable and without heirs. The construction of the property was begun in the year 1945 or 1946 (I cannot be exact now), and it seems to me that the same year our very dearly mourned Prelate died, precisely the year in which he had intended to send petitions to Rome, asking the approbation of the Work, which I am going to relate for Your Holiness in a separate chapter, in order to emphasize some details of importance.
The Death of Our Pastor
Holy Father: It was four years since the Work was founded, and it was flourishing like a plane-tree in the midst of waters, when God wished to test us with orphanhood, by the death of our paternal prelate.
That Easter, when he went away to rest on his vacation in Mexico City, he said to me: "My daughter, this year, God willing, we will send petitions to Rome. Prepare a portfolio with written narratives from the time you began to proceed with it, of your having founded it, finally, until my return, prepare something." But very soon, an urgent call on his behalf from Mexico City made me go and realize that he was dying. A bout of acute jaundice attacked him; he was another man: yellow, weakened, dying. I cried at his knees. He caressed me and said to me: "Go quickly to speak with His Excellency, the Archbishop Primate of Mexico; tell him that I ask him to compile quickly in his offices, some petitions in favor of your Work; and tell him, too, to come to see me. I want to ask him, if at my death my clergy continue being hostile toward you, to receive you in his archdiocese." I went, and did so, just as my beloved Pastor ordered me. His Excellency, Luis María Martínez, Archbishop Primate at that time, knew me well and seemed also to profess paternal affection for me, and at one time was my spiritual director, in such a way that, on that occasion, he was solicitous, and I myself accompanied him to the bed of pain of my sick Pastor. And in my presence he begged him, if at his death the clergy in Zamora continued being hostile to us, would he deign to receive us in his archdiocese, and His Excellency offered to do so. And I returned to Zamora, quickly, to bring the documents to annex to the Petitions. Your Holiness will find and read in the documents that I have attached, a letter form the Rev. Fr. Angel Oñate, who was the one assigned to compile the Petitions, who informed me that His Excellency Bishop Fulcheri did not survive, his death having come one week from the date on which Father Oñate had been assigned to compile the petitions.
Holy Father: I revealed the events without embellishment, without comment. For my part I can only say that: I am accustomed to receiving crosses from the hands of my Lord and God, and the secondary causes, I see them as merely accidental ones. What was certain was that we were orphans and at the mercy of those who did not like us. The Pastor who was taken from us to Heaven was succeeded by His Excellency Bishop José G. Anaya, who has now offered to present me before the Sacred Congregation of Religious and to Your Holiness. Under his crosier, the Work lasted six more years, until October 23, 1951, when he himself judged it prudent to disband it and to nullify it. The causes? Truly, Holy Father, I do not even know them. But he is living; he will be able to tell you them.
In conscience I know I must say that I was deeply resentful of him, and that this resentment grieved me a great deal for a long time, because my conscience was not accustomed to resentments with anyone. But a day came when I manifested it to him, and since then it seems that there has now been a bit of understanding between him and me. I cannot deny that, in recent years, he has shown himself to be paternal, and has offered letters in favor of the Work, recommending it. With his recommendations, I presented myself three times before Bishop Miguel Darío Miranda, Primate of Mexico; but the prelate informed me that he does not have priests who could attend to the community spiritually. Thus, eleven long years have passed, without success in reestablishing the Work. Meanwhile, I have lived my secular life, taking shelter among some of the sisters of what was my community, whose photos I present to Your Holiness in the album, with some brief words, since they and I are the first sisters who founded in Zamora, Michoacán, the first house which was: a trial of the Work of the Franciscan Minims of the Perpetual Help of Mary, the House of Atonement.
Since, throughout the length of the path that I have related to Your Holiness, it is evident that some of Jesus’ predictions have been fulfilled, this, Holy Father, gives me hope of seeing the other part of those predictions fulfilled: the one in which Jesus says that, when I present His things to His "beloved Vicar," he will approve them. With this confidence, I come, as always, optimistic, filled with faith, with zeal, with love. But if the result should be the opposite, still I will remain tranquil, because when the Vicar of my Jesus speaks, he will speak the truth in these things, and I will only respect that truth and that will, but assured now that God asks no more of me in this mission entrusted to me. Amen.
Ended in Genoa, October 2, 1963