Beatification of Maria Concepcion Cabrera de Armida

Father Gabriel Landis, OSB, of Atchison, Kan, and Kansas City-St. Joseph diocesan priest, Fr. Phil Luebbert, celebrate a Mass in English May 5 for the 30 members of their pilgrimage group in a balcony chapel in the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City. The portrait behind them is of Blessed Maria Concepcion Cabrera de Armida, beatified at the Basilica May 4. The two priests concelebrated the Beatification Mass with 200 Mexican priests and Cardinal Giovanni Angelo Becciu as principal celebrant. (Photo courtesy Fr. Phil Luebbert)

By Marty Denzer
Catholic Key Associate Editor

KANSAS CITY — He sat across the table, hands folded as he solemnly recounted the Mass and Rite of Beatification of Blessed Maria Concepcion Cabrera de Armida May 4 at the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico City. Father Phil Luebbert, of the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph and Benedictine Fr. Gabriel Landis of St. Benedict’s Abbey in Atchison, Kan., were among the 200 priests concelebrating the Mass with Cardinal Giovanni Angelo Becciu, Prefect of the Congregation for Saints Causes, who served as principal celebrant. The Mass was attended by an estimated 10,000 people. Blessed Maria was the first Mexican laywoman to be beatified.

The invitation to concelebrate the Mass was a surprise, Fr. Luebbert recalled. He and Fr. Landis were part of a pilgrimage to the sites of the apparitions of Mary to St. Juan Diego in 1543, which included the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe.

“The Beatification was not even on the original schedule of the pilgrimage,” Fr. Luebbert said. “I had never heard of Maria Concepcion Cabrera de Armida before. So, the invitation to concelebrate surprised both Fr. Gabe and me. And yet, it was the greatest blessing of the entire pilgrimage, in my opinion.”

The Beatification Rite and Mass were celebrated in Spanish, “however, Fr. Gabe and I were able to follow along because of the programs we were given as concelebrants with the multitude of Spanish-speaking priests who surrounded us. The Spanish very much resembled the ecclesiastical Latin I learned as a young seminarian.”

Maria Concepcion Cabrera de Armida, born Dec. 8, 1862, in San Luis Potosi, Mexico, was a Catholic widow, mother of nine children, grandmother of 16, prolific writer and mystic, and foundress of five Apostolates (works) of the Cross. The apostolates — the Apostolate of the Cross (founded 1895), the Congregation of the Sisters of the Cross of the Sacred Heart of Jesus (1897), The Covenant of Love with the Heart of Jesus (1909). The Fraternity of Christ the Priest (1912) and the Congregation of the Missionaries of the Holy Spirit (1914) — are still in operation.

Maria married Francisco Armida in 1884 and between 1885 and 1899, the couple had nine children. In 1901, Francisco died, leaving the 39-year-old widow to care for the children, the youngest of whom was two years old. That was difficult in itself, but in 1910, the Mexican Revolution broke out and its furor continued until 1921, with more than 900,000 casualties.

Maria’s spiritual life had begun in 1894, when she took spiritual nuptials, writing in her diary in 1896, “in truth, after I had touched God and had an imperfect notion of His Being, I wanted to prostrate myself, my forehead and my heart, in the dust and never get up again.”

She later revealed that she had heard God telling her, “Ask me for a long, suffering life and to write a lot. That is your mission on earth.”

Her religious writings totaled more than 60,000 handwritten pages, although her children said they hardly ever saw her writing. The extent of her writings have been compared to that of St. Thomas Aquinas.

In 1894, her mysticism and love for Christ impelled her, with the permission of her spiritual director, to have the Greek letters for Christ (JHS) “monogrammed” in her chest. Fr. Luebbert said she wanted to be branded as Christ’s slave. “There was nothing lukewarm about Maria!”

Maria died March 3, 1937, aged 74, and is buried at the Church of San Jose del Atillo in Mexico City. Her canonization process was started in 1959 by the Archbishop of Mexico City, who submitted 200 volumes of her writings to the Congregation for the Causes of Saints to be assessed. Pope St. John Paul II declared her Venerable in 1999, and she began the process of beatification.

The Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe houses the tilma (cloak) of St. Juan Diego in which he gathered roses in December to take to the bishop as proof of his vision of Mary. The tilma bears the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe. During the Beatification, a portrait of Maria Concepcion Cabrera de Armida hung nearby.

Maria’s portrait was unveiled as Sister Consuela Armida, Maria’s granddaughter, and Jorge Guillermo Trevino, who was miraculously cured of multiple sclerosis through Maria’s intercession, carried a relic of the newly beatified woman, a blood-stained bandage, to the main altar. Trevino’s healing was the miracle approved by Pope Francis which cleared the path toward her Beatification. Her feast day was set as March 3.

The day following the beatification, May 5, the two priests celebrated an English Mass in a side chapel in the balcony of the Basilica for the 30 pilgrims in their party. Fr. Landis was the principal celebrant of that Mass, with Fr. Luebbert concelebrating. Lay pilgrims served as lectors.

Fr. Luebbert was impressed by “the devotion and love of the Mexican people for Our Lady. The joy of the faithful present in the Basilica for the Beatification Mass was tangible.“

The Beatification Mass was held in the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe, the patroness of the Americas. Blessed Maria is still little known in the United States, but Fr. Luebbert thinks “the Mass could help spread her message since Beatification involves the whole universal church, not just the country and church where it takes place. Blessed Maria will be added to the Catholic canon of the Blessed,” he said.

He said sharing the experience of concelebrating a Beatification Mass gave him, as a priest, a greater sense of the of the universality of the Church and the nearness of Heaven. He hopes that some of his brother priests will have opportunities similar to the one he and Fr. Landis experienced.


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October 29, 2020
The Diocese of Kansas City ~ St. Joseph