It is said that every book is a kind of autobiography. Because what does an author have to draw from but his or her own life? Kathleen Beckman’s latest book, Beautiful Holiness: A Spiritual Journey with Blessed Conchita to the Heart of Jesus, is a “dialog of two hearts” between the author and Blessed Conchita Cabrera de Armida (1862-1937), Mexican mystic and mother of nine.
From the depths of her own intimacy with God, the author plumbs Conchita’s writings on fruitful suffering, purity, and prayer, especially for priests. The author’s insights from her experiences of trauma, interior suffering, and the healing that comes from prayer, are the “connective tissue” that gives a lifetime of Conchita’s writings a narrative thread that takes the reader on a journey to the heart of the Holy Trinity. Further, the author’s spiritual path has been greatly informed by Conchita, not least that both founded communities that pray for priests.
An ordinary woman
Conchita grew up on her family’s haciendas (farms) and ranches, a child full of life and fun that people were invariably drawn to. She learned to work hard, with “everything from scrubbing the floor to embroidery,” already in charge of the family’s finances at age 12.
Early signs that she was destined to lead others closer to God included this memory: “I was athirst for something very big with which to fill my poor soul, a thirst that longed for the
Supreme Good.” She was engaged to be married at age 13, married at 21, and gave birth to the first of her nine children the following year.
Conchita’s story reminds us that the saints were real people with hopes and disappointments, just like us, and that even with extraordinary gifts, they found God in performing their daily duties. For example, “Conchita transitioned effortlessly from the heights of mystical prayer to preparing dinner, training children, and accompanying her husband to gatherings around town.” And again, “Her cloister was Christ.”
After her death, her children reported that they knew she did some writing, but had never noticed her in any extraordinary state of prayer.
“Sometimes Jesus would ask her, ‘What are you doing?’ and she’d say, ‘I’m cooking.’ Jesus would say, ‘Don’t forget about me.’” Here we have an ordinary woman open to being guided by Jesus to “mystical incarnation” by means of the life-sustaining duties of any housewife.
A “yes” worthy of Mary
If Conchita was ordinary, her yes to God was extraordinary. Beckman boldly states that Jesus chose Conchita to extend the life of Mary mystically on earth. But what can this mean?
We get a hint in Conchita’s diary, which includes the following words of Jesus: “To my mother I gave my perfect likeness in her interior, after My Passion, with all my Heart underwent. It is in this aspect that you will imitate her….And do not think that this manifestation of Mary in her solitude, in her martyrdoms of absence, will bring sadness to men: her sorrows will be celebrated, in the fruit of multiplied graces and mercy for mankind.’”
Apostolate for priests
As Mary’s prayers with and for the Apostles in the Upper Room resulted in an explosion of the Holy Spirit in their hearts to glorify God and save souls, so Conchita’s primary mission became drawing down grace for priests, Mary’s most dear sons.
As Mary rejoiced at the Resurrection of her Son, his absence after his Ascension was agonizing for her. The author explains that God has ordained that the floods of grace needed to help our holy priests comes from uniting with the fruitful, crucified heart of Mary. Conchita often reminded herself to “Let yourself be done and undone by Jesus.”
She asked Jesus how she would pray for her family if she were sacrificing everything for priests. Jesus answered, “The same sacrifice will be on their behalf, too…I promise it to you. Besides, I am taking care of them.”
Fruit of suffering with love
We read about saints who suffered for love of God, but we are often left wondering what exactly the benefit of sacrificial suffering is.
The author remarkably unpacks the specific benefit of our union with Mary. “I believe the hour has come when Conchita is of great importance for the Church. Jesus told Conchita that He desires a new priestly Pentecost. Priests are leading a Eucharistic revival now. We pray that a priestly Pentecost will follow.
“Jesus told Conchita, ‘The world needs to be regenerated, respiritualized, and saved. But the only way to arrive at this end is the transformation of priests into the eternal, pure, holy, and only Priest and Savior….’”
How will this renewal of the priesthood and new Pentecost happen? Jesus told Conchita: “A new period, which belongs especially to the Holy Spirit, is coming into the world for its renewal; but He wants to make Himself felt especially in His priests transformed into Me.”
And what does it mean to be a “crucified soul”? It is to develop a habit of offering to God, through Mary, all our joys and sorrows that she, by the power of Christ crucified, which is the Holy Spirit, may transform them into a new Pentecost for the Church and the whole world.
Our call to sainthood
The call to a new holiness on the part of the laity is presaged in Scripture, echoed by Vatican II and many 20th-century mystics, and proclaimed with a new urgency in the words of Jesus to Conchita: “In these latter days, sensuality has set up its reign in the world. This sensual life obscures and extinguishes the light of faith in souls. That is why more than ever, it is necessary that the Holy Spirit come to destroy and annihilate Satan who under this form penetrates even the Church.”
Beautiful Holiness reminds us that Jesus is Victor over sin and death; that the battle has already been won. And it renews our hope that by our uniting with Mary and her Divine Spouse, the Church and the world are being cleansed and renewed as we are “filling up what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ on behalf of his body, which is the church” (Colossians 1:24).
As Jesus told Conchita: “It is time that the Holy Spirit reign….in each soul and in each heart, in all the structures of My Church….The Father and I, the Word, We desire an ardent and vitalizing renewal of His reign in the Church.”
Beckman’s unpacking of Conchita’s union with God in the most ordinary circumstances of family life, and the inclusion of so many of her prayers, lift the reader up and provide powerful hope that we, too, can live this Spirit-filled life.
We are invited to pray with the housewife-saint: “O God of love! You desire that I be all Yours, and out of the abundance of your love, You desire to be all mine….I desire that all the rights You have over me as God be a mutual expression of our love….that You deal with this poor creature according to Your will, to accomplish Your designs of Love, with no consideration of my will, which belongs to You….Along with my body may my soul become Your tabernacle, Your Cross, Your throne, on which You reign as King of Love.”
Beautiful Holiness: A Spiritual Journey with Blessed Conchita to the Heart of Jesus is available from Sophia Institute Press.