Warnings and Voices from Beyond the Grave
By Maria Concepcion Zuniga Lopez
It was the year of 1960; I was living in Mexico City, since the beginning of 1951, where we came, four companions with me, to work for our economic, social and moral support, carrying in our hearts a profound disenchantment. In Zamora, Michoacan, we had undertaken successfully the Work of Atonement, since June of 1942; later, on Oct. 23, 1950, our community had been disintegrated.
All of this very bitter period, for my companions that followed me and for myself, was nothing more nor less than a tragedy, a period filled with vicissitudes, with dangers and with a thousand accidents of life that we were very far from imagining, nor did we want them, nor did we conciliate them, but we had to suffer them and face them with the strength that our Christian faith gave us. In such circumstances, although we had faith that the beloved work of God would revive, nevertheless we thought that we would play in it only a secondary role, helping indeed when the work was reborn.
Such were the circumstances on that date that I mentioned above, August 1960. I should say that all the sisters were very devoted to gaining each year the plenary indulgence of the Portiuncula, given to St. Francis and that is gained in all churches of his Order, on August 2.
For this reason, I remember that I hastened to gain the indulgences on August 1st with repeated visits to the church of San Francisco that is located on Madero street of this city, because on August 2 I had a task that I could not put off; therefore on that day, about 3 p.m., I left for my appointment. I went first to the downtown post office to deposit my correspondence: newspaper collaborations that I had written. I left the post office by the side street that runs on to Cinco de Mayo; then on this street I turned right, entering Filomeno Mata, in order to go to Gante, where I had to take a bus. I had scarcely entered onto this small, silent street, that was completely deserted, and I heard behind me a very sonorous voice that called out: "Sor Maria Concepcion!"
I stopped walking and turned around, but I saw no one, and I immediately felt, by the effects that it causes in one, any call whatsoever from beyond the grave. I continued walking and I approached the corner of Madero street, when the same voice called me again, but now supplicant, it added: "Daughter, pay attention to me."
I had no doubt: it was the soul of my Rev. Mother Abbess in 1931, when I was a novice with the Capuchin Sacramentarian Nuns in Tlalpan, D.F. Nevertheless, I mentally asked if it was she, and her explicit answer came: "It is I, Maria of the Holy Ghost." I was moved to the point of tears, because I loved this religious very much, and besides that, her life was full of painful trials and she had died a holy death, as I was informed by witnesses who were present.
Now I did not want to be occupied with anything except her, and I ran to the church of San Francisco, just a step away. When I finished the first station, that I offered for her soul, weeping intensely and without caring if people looked at me, I heard her voice again that said to me: "Listen to me," and I remained quiet, awaiting her speech; but it was not that; rather she then added: "Ask me something."
Mentally I asked her, first if she was in Purgatory, to which she answered: "My pain is only not having the full possession of God. Yesterday, when you offered the last station for the most needy and forgotten soul, the indulgence was applied to me. Why did you not remember me in other years?"
Certainly, thinking that her soul would now be rejoicing in Heaven, I had forgotten to pray for her. Her humble remonstrance made me ashamed. Then she consoled me, saying: "No! There, we understand everything." It was as if saying to me: "Do not be troubled; I understand that it was not lack of affection nor gratitude in you, for my soul."
When I became aware of her answer, I wanted to take advantage of it and I asked her something, something that continued being for me a mystery. From 1951 to 1960 God still detained me, outside in the world. And I asked her: "Why has Our Lord permitted me to be taken out of my cloister again?" And to this, she answered: "There are things that happen on earth opposed to the designs of God, but He permits many things in order to draw out benefit for faithful souls.
"Never abandon your faith, and the practice of that faith. You have always been pleasing to God, because you are docile to his designs, but remain faithful until the end. All of the doctrine that He has taught you about Divine Justice is very certain. You are still obliged to labor for the Work of Atonement."
Comment: There was no doubt: that visit was most opportune for me in those moments precisely; for I should confess that both my companions and myself, during those days, were confused because of the long wait and the situation that we suffered. It seemed almost impossible for the Work to be reestablished, and therefore we all had in mind very personal projects. For these reasons, during those days, of my companions there only remained one at my side: the nun Josefina Lopez, who was so faithful that she never abandoned me one single day since she joined the Work in Zamora.
Therefore, those words of the nun, I remember that they again enkindled in my soul fire and zeal to labor for the Work of Atonement, and they increased faith in my conscience that, thanks be to God, never abandoned me, that the Work had to return. I remember that I made an act of faith so intense, that I applied to myself the words of holy Job (13, 15): "Although he should kill me, I will trust in him." Immediately the nun added: "Everything that is united on earth for the love of Christ remains united in heaven. I suffered here on earth, offering everything for the Work of Atonement. You also, and all those who left in the first house, can offer it for this intention. But you will still live, perhaps until you again see the Work accomplished. Then, it will never end. But you: work!"
I remember that this last word was for my heart like an in-flamed dart of fire, that from then on did not leave me indifferent, although at that time I did not understand what should be my immediate commission. Then her voice spoke to me of other persons, about whom I think that through discretion I should keep silent here. She concluded asking me and my companion (Josefina Lopez) a novena of communions, Masses and rosaries, that we then offered for her.
That afternoon her presence and her voice were prolonged greatly, for even the time of a Mass arrived, that I heard for her, and during these liturgical acts she continued instructing me. I was still asking her various questions about my own destiny, mainly whether or not I would be relieved of the pain in my hands, that as I already said, no physician could diagnose correctly, or in reducing the pain, that attacks me unexpectedly at times or almost always without any cause. To this she answered: "Perhaps you will not be relieved, but what does it matter? Life is short, and eternity without end. You should offer everything for the intentions that Jesus has taught you, because all this is very certain, and everything is realized in you, today, as yesterday, and as tomorrow also."
There was no doubt: for my soul that was a call to attention, a divine lesson, by means of the voice of this soul from beyond the grave, a soul that lived with me all my spiritual life, and who knew my external life also, who lived my own ideals. In the year 1931, when I tried to promote the Work of Atonement for the first time in the metropolitan chancery office, she would have been the foundress of the Order of Atonement in its feminine branch, according to the agreement with the Archbishop. And now, she seemed as one sent by God who came to give me strength in my discouragement, and to continue walking on the path of my true vocation! There was no doubt! And I immediately understood it then, although I did not know nor understand with what activities I should begin.
I remember her nearness was felt by me even with sighs and weeping. On one occasion, I told her that I loved her very much, to which she answered: "Yes, I love you also, and also Josefina; I love you very much!"" How marvelous, these holy loves in Christ extend to the other life! All this happened when I was praying the holy Rosary for her and the Mass was beginning. Then she told me: "Follow the Holy Mass with much devotion, and offer it for the soul of my mother. I beg you. And the communion also. And never abandon the sacraments." Here, I felt that she withdrew.
When Josefina and I were making the novena that the nun, María of the Holy Ghost had asked of us, in the church of the Rosary, near us, on Aug. 9, 1960, at holy Mass, (feast of the holy Curé of Ars), and since the priest celebrated a solemn Mass for the faithful departed, I remembered in those moments a priest, who was killed a few years before in a crime, and about whose life nothing edifying could be said. Nevertheless, trusting in Divine mercy, one may offer suffrages for all the souls of the departed, and for that reason I proposed to offer that Mass for that priest, because my companion and I had already heard the Mass and communion for the nun María of the Holy Ghost, and she had already left for her work. Then, scarcely had I made that intention for the deceased priest, and the voice of the nun came to my hearing again and she told me categorically: "No! Offer nothing for that soul, because it would serve him for torment, because he is in the mansion of darkness for having died impenitent, for he exceeded Divine Justice." I was horrified, and I felt intense sorrow, especially since that priest was considered at one time as virtuous, and the nun herself esteemed him thus.
Then she explained to me: "There, whatever Divine Justice determines, exalts His heavenly court with joy." This was equivalent to clarifying in my judgment what I considered as a misfortune for the condemnation of that priestly soul.
Immediately I remembered another priest who still lives, and for whom both she and myself professed great admiration. I wanted to ask, mentally, what would become of him, and she answered me: "His end is not yet known. Write to him, and tell him that I have spoken to you, and ask him to pray for me 30 times the Divine Office of the deceased, and to offer for me all the Masses that he can."
Hearing this from her, I asked her if she was still in Purgatory, and she again answered me: "There is still lacking for me, rejoicing in the fullness of God." Her answer was almost the same as the one she had given me on the 2nd of that same month, the day of the Portiuncula indulgence.
I remembered still more to ask her on that day: I remembered two old nuns of the community of Tlalpan, who were already dead, and she told me: "Sister Imelda and Sister Clare are already with God." Here, I asked about Archbishop Pascual Díaz Barreto, whom I loved very much, and she answered me, and also for the soul of Rev. Father Carlos M. Mayer, S.J.: "Those souls flew directly with God." I remembered then that some time before, according to a revelation about Archbishop Díaz Barreto, He told me that his soul was in a place that is destined for souls who offer themselves as victims until the end of the world. And nevertheless, the nun told me again: "With all that, they enjoy God."
"To enjoy God"ó what will it be, to enjoy God? But above all, what will it be to enjoy God fully? I was as if engulfed in these considerations, when the nun told me: "Do you want to know something about yourself?" And immediately she told me, solemnly: "Behold, daughter, behold, you have forgotten about heroic virtues; and consider that God has asked them of you always. Do not deny them to Him!"
Why did she ask me this? Perhaps I should have done something that I had not yet understood? Then I asked her: "Should I go to some convent?" With my question I wanted to express, that in this way I would avert any danger that there might be in my path, while we were waiting for the re-establishment of the Work of Atonement. If we were in the midst of the world, it was not because we wanted it, but because we were obliged by circumstances. Therefore, I did not understand to what virtues the nun was referring, when she told me that I should offer God heroic virtues, that I should not deny them to Him; I did not understand, frankly, to what she was referring, but she answered me:
"That is not the will of God now. This stage of your life is a part of your vocation. For those who have been instructed by God, it is not necessary to be far from the world, but they can serve Him in contact with the world. After all, you are very far from attaching your spirit to anything of the world, but endeavor to practice virtue, as it was taught you by God, as you yourself teach it, whenever there is an occasion."
There was no doubt: the nun was sent by God to advise me that certainly I had become lax in the practice of virtues. And I began to weep for my sins and imperfections, abundantly. She allowed me to weep a good while; then she told me, as if to console me: "You still have much time to repair everything. Blessed are those who, still living in the place of merits, know the path."
She then again insisted, as if she had the commission of encouraging me to take once more the arduous road of beginning the work of Atonement. "Labor for the Work of God, daughter. Remember that it was commended to you. Although now you may be outside, you will always be the one directly chosen by God, although you do not deserve it, for these predestinations are gratuitous. It is suitable for you that you should walk through many humiliations, in order to attain the end."
Here the Holy Mass came to the time of the offertory, and she told me: "Attend with devotion to the solemn moments of the holy Sacrifice. The suffrages that you and Josefina are offering for me have earned much for me before God, but never leave me in oblivion, for neither have I ever abandoned you."
I asked her why she did not speak to me before, and she told me: "I was awaiting the favorable moment in you perfect state of grace in your soul." After these words her presence went away from me.
When the Mass ended I was going to leave, but then she returned and told me to stay for Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament and the prayers that were going to be offered for deceased priests, and she asked me to offer them in suffrage for the priest who was her sponsor at baptism, who was from Cotija, so that his accidental glory might be increased.
I wanted to take advantage of her presence, and I asked her if it displeased God our Lord that I went about dressed in secular clothes, and with a certain luxury, adapted to the social conditions of the life that we were then leading, and to this she answered: "You well know that in the presence of God exterior things do not count, when within the soul there is uprightness of conscience and of intentions. All of you are suffering a stage of your life of victims, who offered themselves for the world precisely, for they have to endure the world, in order to rescue it. But have confidence that before God, every merit is rewarded."
I remembered then a person who a short time ago had died in a crime, who caused great harm to me, and I offered it precisely in ransom for her soul, and God gave me a most evident sign that my prayer was heard and my sacrifice accepted, and in this respect, I experienced consolation when the nun told me: "She is in purgatory, but it is not allowed her to ask for suffrages. However, you may pray for that soul, so that her purgatory may be more benign, for she is purging many crimes."
I also remembered a certain person, who lives, and for whom I have great affection, and she told me: "Pray much for that soul, so that she may not die impenitent; may she not continue obstinately in sin." The services had ended at the altar, and I did not want to leave the church, but she told me: "Daughter, go to your duties."
But afterwards, I was at home doing my chores, at about 11 in the morning, absorbed in what I had heard from the nun, reviewing things, a little pensive and worried, without understanding what was to be the future of my life, and how I would again have to make exertions for the religious work of Atonement, since I had already made efforts years before, uselessly.
Immediately she returned and approached me, and in an affectionate tone said: "Daughter, do not lose peace! You have always been simple; do not change your spiritual physiognomy. Allow God to do with you what He wills. You are not the one indicated to evaluate your acts nor the circumstances of your life. You have always acted uprightly; then: have peace, much peace! You know well that in the hands of God, the instruments only need docility. And remember: everything concurs for the benefit of those who love God."
Nevertheless, I told her: "O dear little mother, for the love of God, tell me one concrete thing that I should do, and I will do it, cost me what it may." But she continued keeping silence. I again asked and the same; she did not answer me. And when I insisted other times, she told me: "Do not insist. We only do what God commands us or permits us. The rest does not pertain to us." And she went away completely, but she left me tranquil.
These warnings from beyond the grave worked in my soul a firm decision, making me give up certain projects I had in my mind at that time, and I surrendered myself to meditate before God and to consult my spiritual father, who was a priest of the metropolitan curia, and that was when it was decided, and very formal efforts were made, to establish the Work of Atonement for the third time, although the attempts did not produce an immediate result. The months passed, and on November 2, 1960, at 5 in the morning, when I was still asleep, the voice of our nun awoke me again, and on that occasion she told me:
"Daughter, gain for me five times the indulgence, because today is the moment of leaving for my eternal happiness. Gain also whatever you can for your parents and sister, because there is still much lacking, in order to arrive at the final point of their glory."
To hear these words, to consider them, and to burst into tears, was all one thing. For my parents and sister died many years ago, and they died with very much spiritual help, and my father with signs of a soul confirmed in sanctifying grace, according to what his confessor told us on that occasion. They had Gregorian Masses immediately. Moreover they were virtuous.
I was making these considerations, when the nun told me: "All those suffrages are on the list to be applied to them when the debt that they have with God is satisfied, for having prevented your Work and for having been the cause of the evils that you suffer. But no one except yourself should attain for them everything that they need, in order to pay for this account: first, offering your present sufferings, all the suffrages that you can, Masses heard, applied, Ways of the cross, indulgences, but above all: Labor to reestablish the Work of Atonement, for they will not leave fully to their rest until that day."
I cannot tell the impression that her words made on me. Afterwards she again spoke to me of other persons, about whom discretion forbids me to speak here. I should only say the following. She indicated to me that I should write to the Bishop of Zamora, in conscience, asking his support, so that the Work of Atonement would be reestablished, a thing that I obeyed almost immediately, and that was when, one more time, official efforts were made, which were those that at last produced as a result my first trip to Rome in 1963, in which the Work was reestablished.
On that same occasion she told me these very consoling words. "From Heaven I will help you, dearest little daughter, for you well know that I always loved this Work, and that I belong to it. But no one except yourself has been chosen by God to found it. The nuns of the Villa are very acceptable to God, but you should again make efforts for the Work."
Note: I should clarify why the nun mentioned the nuns of the Villa. She referred to the Capuchin nuns who at present live on Morelos 10, of the Villa, and who in ancient times were those who lived in the house next to the Basilica. And it is that during those days, I had gone to them, delivering to them a trunk filled with the entire archives of the Work of Atonement, asking them to be the trustees, and that perhaps it would be incumbent upon them in the future to bring this work to completion. Thus the nun Maria of the Holy Ghost was sent by God to remove this idea from me, and again make me responsible for the Work of Atonement. However, I still left the trunk of the archives in their hands until after I returned form Rome in 1963 and on the eve of our going to the foundation in Chilapa.
During this, her third and last visit, I remember that I felt her so close to me, as if she were seated on the edge of my bed, almost as if she had me clasped to her heart. I felt very happy with her; I did not want her to leave, and I was not afraid of her at all, and with the joy of the news that the Work was going to return, the sorrow of my parents being in Purgatory was softened in me.
From that day on there was enkindled in my soul the lively desire of surrendering myself to efforts for the Work, and to face the difficulties that I would again find on my path, although I thought that I would not have any place in it again, except only to begin it.
I told her that I wanted to see her, and she answered: "You will soon see me, for there we will be united always." And with this, I felt that she left; and I saw a very clear light that flooded my room, and that a little flame of very vivid light went out of my window.
The practical result of these things was that I exerted myself again to reorganize the Work of Atonement. And in preparation to have some atmosphere of collaboration, I took a very direct part in some activities also, that some persons were inviting me to begin to form, which was called "The National Institute of Mexican Women."
But undoubtedly, this was not the path that God wanted, because He permitted a new visit from beyond the grave for me. This happened on Monday, Sept. 25, 1961, a little more than a year since the last visit of the nun. This time it was the turn of my sister, Esther, to visit me, who died in 1945.
The nun María of the Holy Ghost had informed me in her last visit that my parents and sister were detained in Purgatory, for having prevented my vocation and delaying the foundation of the Work of Atonement. I believed it, and I redoubled my suffrages for them. However, God permitted me to have an even profounder notice of this delicate question, such as is the debts that we contract with God for our activities in opposition to his divine plans.
It was about 8:30 a.m.; my companion had gone to work, and I needed to stay under the covers of my bed so that my pains, that increase with the cold, might be mitigated while the sun rose a little and heated the room. Therefore I shut my room very well, and pulled shut the thick curtains, so that everything was in obscurity.
Soon I saw that the entire room was illuminated with a fully white light. This is always the sign of a visit from above. Immediately I heard my sisterís voice, unmistakably.
"Sister, I come to tell you what you should do." I opened my eyes, desiring to see her, but it was granted me only to listen to her. The voice continued: "Pass by everything else; free yourself of all other occupations, and dedicate yourself to finishing your writings, for they will give glory to God."
This was equivalent to saying to me concretely, that I was not to look for other jobs, for I still persisted in looking for some work, since I had spent several months there, at my companionís side, completely at the expense of her efforts, and it was painful for me, even more because my companion has always been most faithful and fraternal.
It is suitable to mention here, although in passing, that in the years that had passed since we had arrived in the capital, I had worked without rest; but God permitted that in everything we had economic losses, absolutely, so that in those days I found myself in complete bankruptcy, and I was exerting myself in looking for employment of such a nature that it might be possible for me to write books, one of which was my autobiographical novel: "Windows facing West." So that, upon my sister telling me to dedicate myself to writing, I could suppose that she referred precisely to that book. But her voice continued, saying to me: "Leave Mexico City and go to Guadalajara, and ask Luis to help you. If you have need of money, let him give you work or loan it to you, but you need to dedicate yourself to writing many things, and among them, speak about my defects. I need it! Above all, speak about how pride is displeasing in the eyes of God. You know that it was my dominating passion and vanity, and of all my familyÖ selfishness."
I am going to explain who was the person to whom my sister referred, upon saying to me: "Tell Luis to help you." Luis was the Licenciado Luis G. Carrillo, district judge in Guadalajara, a person from whom anyone could hope for any help, especially the members of my family and myself, whom he esteemed as one of his own family, because of his having been my sisterís fiancé and having loved her in an extraordinary form, as I will have to refer to it in another place, almost writing it like a novel, in order to deal with it properly.
My sisterís voice continued: "We made you suffer very much, and now we are paying for it very dearly. Speak about it!" And my sisterís accent was serious upon saying to me, "Speak about it!" It was like a command, to which I felt myself obliged from that very moment, understanding that upon my doing it thus, it would be something palliative for their souls. Then she added solemnly: "You should also labor tenaciously to found the Work of Atonement, that we obstructed for you so much, and for which we are detained here. We will not go to Heaven, until you come to join us. I have come for you. Now God commissions me to help you. I experience much pleasure in seeing you. You have to send a writing to the Holy Father and to the Bishop of Zamora. Let him help you in this."
All these words of my sister were so seriousÖ of such weight and meaning! And I understood them thus immediately! Then she added: "Your health is worse than what you believe. Do not spend this winter in this place." And she again inserted the commission that I should write many things, for she still said: "It is suitable that you write the entire history of the Work that God has commended to you, and of all the divine revelations. My parents would like to come to speak with you and see you, but it is not permitted to them. We are all awaiting you, to enter Heaven together, but before, you should make the Foundation again, and it cannot be made, if they do not give permission from Rome. Pray for us a great deal, sister; it is a great relief to offer Masses for us who suffer in Purgatory. Offer Communions for us. For myself, offer acts of humility; I need them very much, for having been so proud."
Here, my sisterís voice took on modulations of sweetness. Poor little one! Truly, she was proud; nevertheless, he who remembers her does not have the impression except that she was virtuous, because she certainly was virtuous, as much as she was beautiful. And on this occasion I would like to give young ladies an admonition, similar to that Christ Our Lord gave in the course of His sorrowful life, to the women who wept upon seeing him burdened with the cross and suffering, and He told them: "Daughters of Jerusalem, weep not over Me, but weep for yourselves and for your children. For if in the green wood they do these things, what shall be done in the dry?"
Here it occurs to me to think, upon considering that my sister, who was virtuous, in many virtues almost heroic, who was a good daughter, a prudent and modest young lady; her fiancé himself took her for holy, and after her death, he said that she performed miracles. And only for her pride, perhaps for the vanity of seeing herself beautiful, and because she contributed to the circumstance that my parents did not allow me freedom in my vocation, she purges long years without entering into eternal rest. I present her in a photo where she appears more or less about 22 years old, posing for a studio photograph, and another that was a snapshot, and that I myself took in my parentsí garden, where, in spite of being taken on a date close to her death, she still looks beautiful, for she was beautiful from childhood until death; but God permitted her cadaver to suffer total deformation almost instantaneously, due to the cause of her death: acute peritonitis that swelled her face completely. Ah! If she could have seen herself then! Her features were totally decomposed, poor little one!
But I continue writing what she told me: "Forgive us everything, sister! I know that you have forgiven us everything, but it is suitable that you say it in a book, so that other persons may read it, and their souls may profit by it, knowing the evil that we caused you, and how we delayed the Work of God. You helped us to attain conversion, with the same sacrifices that we lavished upon you, and that you were offering patiently for the benefit of our souls. Reveal this! It will be a suffrage for us. If we had been docile to the plans of God, the Work would have been realized much sooner than it was, and you would not have had to suffer so much. But this suffering will be worth a great deal to you.
"Sister, I have to tell you your hands will not be relieved; it is suitable that they hurt you thus until the end of your life. Endeavor to have patience, but leave this climate now, and you will become better. In order that you may labor in what I am telling you, go to Guadalajara and advise Luis that very soon I am going to come for him. Let him help you, now that he can, and go to see our relatives, and suffer from them everything that they do to you, so that you may offer it as a suffrage for us."
And my sisterís voice was limpid, clear and paused, in such a way that I could sit down at the typewriter and make my notes. Her presence did not frighten me, although the words that she was saying to me were all of a revelation for me, and of a very strong emotion. That very day, upon my companionís returning from work, she informed me how, providentially, she had succeeded in renting another apartment in Unidad Narvarteówhere we soon went, and the climate, being favorable, changed my health.
I was likewise able to make a trip to Guadalajara, and to have an occasion of offering a great suffrage for my parents and sister, suffering some uncommon humiliations from some relatives, and on behalf of Licenciado Luis G. Carrillo, at least much understanding, that was sufficient to furnish me with a more favorable atmosphere for my collaborations and other efforts, that were soon carried to completion, in favor of the Work of God, about which the Licenciado still had the pleasure of being informed in 1964, the year in which he died, effectively, as my sister had warned him.
Would to God, then, that now that I have published these commissions fully, great suffrages may be applied in favor of the souls of my own, and that His Divine Majesty may quickly dispose that I may go to join them in eternal rest, and also that some souls, upon reading this relation, may become more aware of how delicate is the other life, where we render accounts, when the body expires here, and the soul leaves to enter into the presence of its God, Who created it for Himself and for His glory.
Mexico City, November 2, 1970
María Concepcion Zuniga Lopez