The Priesthood according to the Venerable Conchita
Over the last months, God has placed the holiness of the priesthood before the eyes of the entire Church and mankind by the Canonization of the two Holy Fathers, St. John XXIII, the Good Shepherd, and St. John Paul II, the Prophet whose voice echoed over the whole earth.
The deepest mystery of the priesthood lies in the power to make God present in this world through the Consecration at Mass. This mystery was treated in a special way in the mystical writings of the Venerable Servant of God Concepción Cabrera de Armida, known better as Conchita of Mexico, Mother of nine children, one of which is a priest. Born in San Luis Potosí, Mexico, on December 8, 1862, and died on March 3, 1937, she was declared Venerable by John Paul II on December 20, 1999. She fulfilled all the vocations of a woman: fiancée, wife, mother, widow, grandmother, and even by a special indulgence of Pius X, without being deprived of her family status, died canonically as a religious in the arms of her children.
According to the brochure from the Congregation of Clergy on Eucharistic Adoration for the Sanctification of Priests and Spiritual Motherhood: "Jesus once explained to Conchita, 'There are souls, who through ordination receive a priestly anointing. However, there are … also priestly souls who do not have the dignity or ordination of a priest, yet have a priestly mission. They offer themselves united to me… these souls help the Church in a very powerful spiritual way. … You will be the mother of a great number of spiritual children, yet they will cost your heart the death of a thousand martyrs. Bring yourself as an offering for the priests. Unite your offering with my offering, to obtain graces for them'." (p 28).
In her mystical experiences and writings, she addresses herself to all categories of the People of God, to lay and to married people, to priests and to bishops, to religious and to all consecrated souls. By the profoundness of her writings Conchita is comparable to St. Catherine of Siena or St. Teresa of Avila.
In many of her works she explains the priesthood as seen from the Blessed Trinity and as related to Our Heavenly Mother [cf. To my Priests (5282 Berkshire Dr., North Olmsted, OH 44070), Account of conscience, and Life (quotations from J. E. Bifet, The Priesthood … in the Experience and Message of Concepcion Cabrera de Armida, available from Sisters of the Cross of Sacred Heart of Jesus, 1320 Maze Blvd., Modesto CA 95351)]. These texts express how highly God regards His priests and help us understand how much He is pleased with all that is done for their support. Following are some quotes from her writings explaining the relationship of the ordained priesthood to the Three Divine Persons and Mary.
1. God Father looks at His Son's priests
"The Father dedicated the priests eternally to the Holy Spirit: because I - the Son - won them by My infinite merits; because the same Holy Spirit, when incarnating the Divine Word in Mary, rejoiced also in divinizing the priestly vocation with the contact of the Word, the eternal Priest, and put in that vocation a fiber of the fruitfulness of the Father and a reflection of the purity of His Immaculate Spouse, the image of the Church... Never is the priest alone, but the Trinity Itself accompanies him in all dimensions with a special manner" (To My Priests, ch. 65).
"My priests on earth, after Mary, are the perfect work of the Father, by being reflections of His unique Son... The Father sees only one Priest in the multitude of priests; He sees in Me the priests simplified in Me" (To My Priests, ch. 72).
"In Me priests are transformed mystically after which My Father devised My Church, which was from all eternity. He set on Me a glance of infinite tenderness. In this eternal gaze, which I SAW AND FELT, priests were germinated into the eternal Priest" (To My Priests, ch. 77).
"The Father, with His loving gaze of infinite tenderness, put in Me, His Word, His intelligence or understanding, His power and His love. In that Eternal Gaze that I understood and felt, priests were engendered in the Priest... See, daughter, I cannot be separated from what is Mine" (Account of conscience, 51, 32).
2. The Son and His priests
"Through the mystical Incarnation, which every priest should hold very deeply, very intimately, very familiarly though respectfully, the work of the Incarnation is enacted daily at the altar in the sacrifice of the Holy Mass. At the altar, the Word incarnates mystically in each consecrated Host which he transforms by the transubstantiation of the species into Jesus.
"But as he is then Jesus, the trace of that very incarnation which the priest should keep in his heart remains in his soul. The priest incarnates Jesus in the host, but as he becomes Jesus, he becomes host and upon offering the host transformed into Jesus to the Father, he is also Host, he is also Victim" (Account of conscience, 50, 190).
"After I was enfleshed in Mary; after I placed Myself at the loving disposition of My Father, telling Him: HERE I AM: I did not place Myself in His disposition alone, but with ALL the priests in Me, created by My Father, through the work of the Holy Spirit, in Mary ... and coming with all the priests in Me, with the latter I was born in Bethlehem, I worked in Nazareth, I converted in Galilee, I suffered in Jerusalem, I died on Calvary and I resurrected. Always I have carried in My Heart this holy and fruitful fiber of My Father, My priests" (To My Priests, ch. 77).
"I want to infuse in them—transforming them into Me—My love for My Father and My Father's love for Me (To My Priests, ch. 98). "For this reason the day that My priests become other Me's, they will feel as I do, will love as I do and will lose themselves in unity as I was lost. I lived only from My Father and in My Father and in union with the Holy Spirit" (To My Priests, ch. 106).
"The intimate sorrows of My Heart (are) the origin and the birthplace of the priesthood, they will always be the fountains of vocations… There is nothing so intimate in My Heart as priests" (To My Priests, ch. 120).
"The perfected priest … let him reflect the Eucharist in his soul, let him be assimilated to Jesus in this universal charity, ALL FOR ALL and while giving himself totally, entirely at the holy exercise of his apostolate on behalf of souls" (To My Priests, ch. 112).
3. The Holy Spirit and the priests
"The Holy Spirit had an active part in the creation of the world. To the Holy Spirit, Who personifies Love, was given the fruitfulness realized in Mary... With the breath of the fruitful Holy Spirit, I founded My Church in My beloved priests; consequently, the Church also is the fruit of love, foundation of love in her priests" (To My Priests, ch. 134).
"By reason of the priesthood conferred and affirmed by the Holy Spirit, priests receive the power, as it were, to conceive the Word made flesh at Mass, where My Incarnation, Passion and Death are renewed" (Account of conscience, 50, 235).
The characteristic of the Holy Spirit is to give Himself, to communicate Himself (Life 9, 346). The Holy Spirit needs souls which consecrate themselves to Him —crucified souls—in order to descend to them (Life 1, 271-273). He makes the Work of the Cross fecund (Life 6, 230). It is He who guides and pervades the whole life of Jesus (Life 4, 135; 7, 1.85). One lives from Him through Mary (Life 9, 332).
4. Mary is Christ's gift to priests
"How can I not think upon leaving My priests—after leaving MY VERY SELF IN THEM—whom l loved most, whom they ought to love most, the most tender, delicate pure, holy heart on earth, Mary, so that she would be their consolation, their support, their warmth, their Mother; the very channel where all graces would come to them? ... (She) would see in them not others, not merely men, BUT ME IN THEM" (To My Priests, ch. 98).
"After Me, Mary ought to be everything for the priest. She is what prepares priestly souls for receiving the priceless grace of transformation which is continually worked out at the altar… Thus, forming the features of Jesus, one by one, in the heart of priests who surrender themselves to her, she helps the Holy Spirit with her maternal care to the perfect transformation into ME... Mary is a martyr of the priest, the Mother of Sorrows...
"For this reason Mary has in the Church such an important role, the role of Mother, because she communicates to each priest the eternal germ of the Father Who is in the Word, and Who by the Holy Spirit makes Himself fruitful in each priestly soul to form in it Jesus Host, Jesus Victim, Jesus Savior and Jesus Priest. Mary is … an active MOTHER and without rest, ... continually rendering her services to souls, but very especially to those of priests" (To My Priests, ch. 98).
"Ask, daughter, for priests to be priests, victims with the Victim, Who is Myself, with the same qualities of the Victim" ( Account of conscience, 49,62).
"The relationship of the priest with Mary appears at the Eucharist. It is a relationship of resemblance through the fact of making Christ present by the work of the Holy Spirit: "Mary engendered Me in her virginal womb through the Holy Spirit with the Father's fecundity; and at Mass the priest reproduces this sublime mystery which will be perpetuated on altars to the end of time. The Virgin Mary wants virgin priests" (Account of conscience, 50, 152).
We may pray for priests with these words:
God Our Father, we thank You for priests. They are Your active presence with us. Let us respond with prayer for them and love, with care and help. Let us remain with them in good and bad days.
Lord Jesus, You are with us until the end of time through and in Your priests. Let us always stay close to them that we may remain close to You. Give us always enough priests, in all parts of the world.
Holy Spirit, You were sent by the Father and the Son to renew the earth. Renew every day each priest in his union with Jesus. Remove all their failures. Multiply the good effects of their prayers, sacrifices and works.
Most dear Mother, you are the hidden joy of every priest in this life as a single man. May you be glorified on earth as in heaven for your untiring care for our priests. Keep them under your mantle and always obedient and pure in the Heart of Your Divine Son! Amen.
Fr. Titus Kieninger, ORC
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