The other day, I was imagining Mother Cándida before me as I asked my question, “What gift would you like from me for our 150th anniversary?” There were many good things, but all of a sudden, I remembered her words, “You know I want you to be very holy”, a phrase which is constantly found in her letters.

The Congregation of the Hijas de Jesus published two volumes of Mother Candida's letters in Spanish in 1983.[1]  The English translation followed in 1988.[2]  From a total of 1,046 letters in the Archives, 476 letters had been selected for publication.  They were addressed to various persons: Hijas de Jesus, bishops, priests, religious, and lay people. Out of the 389 letters written to Hijas de Jesus , in 352 (more than 90 percent) Mother Candida closes by expressing her desire that the Sister(s) "be very holy."  In fact, it is said of the whole collection of letters in the Archives: 

On November 29, 1892, a statement comes for the first time, then it starts to be frequent and later remains unchangeable as the complimentary close in all her letters to the Daughters of Jesus: “. . . you know I want you to be very holy and I bless you.  Your mother”.[3]

Mother Candida, in writing her Sisters, not only used the complimentary close "and you know that your mother wants you to be very holy" (or a close variation) quite consistently, but also repeatedly expressed the same desire, for herself and for all Hijas de Jesus, in the body of the letters. 

At this time of the pandemic, it is good for us to remember that many letters expressing her concern for the sick Sisters and reassuring them of her prayers state clearly that she prayed that they might recover, but above all that they might become great saints [not just saints, but great saints!].  When it was necessary, she did not hesitate to tell some Sisters that she loved them, but this reassurance came with the reminder that she wanted them to be holy.  And this desire even went beyond the Sisters to everyone she knew and loved.

Deaths, whether of priests they had known or of Hijas de Jesus, served as occasions to stress the necessity of preparing for a happy death and passing on to eternal happiness by means of living a holy and virtuous life, a life of fidelity to God.  She spoke of attending to this business as most important, as the principal thing, as the only thing that really mattered.[4] And when she expressed her wish for her Sisters' holiness, she used the words "sobre todo" (above all).[5]  It was her main wish and prayer for Sisters on their feast days and birthdays, for those who were just about to enter the Congregation or to enter a new stage of formation, and even for those who left them.  It comes as no surprise, then, that her complimentary close should include the words "You know that."  It is clear that the Sisters at that time knew of this desire of hers, and that she was simply reiterating it. It would be interesting to ask: how many sisters today know of this desire of hers?

The following excerpt shows the pains she took to impress upon her Sisters the importance she laid on it, especially at a time when “we see death coming to our neighbors and it might be approaching us too”:

I received your letters and I suppose that all of you are now very fervent and with good resolutions after your holy retreat, which, who knows, might be the last. It is necessary to look after the sanctification of our souls with much attention and care, because we see death coming to our neighbors and it might be approaching us too.

It has been very warm here the past days; a man who was traveling on train to Bayona was suffocated and died: another man who was coming from a town suffered the same misfortune; and. as poeple say, it happened in many other places. So you see the danger we live in now and how important it is for us to make sure that that hour be happy and joyful (and that it lasts) for all eternity. Read this paragraph to my dear daughters; tell them that I love them dearly and that they must pray for me, for charity’s sake, and God will repay them.[6]

 

So in our present day, how does this “holiness” or sanctification translate into ordinary language? For us Hijas de Jesus, we do not have to look very far nor very long. It is very clearly stated in a little book we all have at hand. Perhaps the question to ask is, “After all these years, has it been burned into our hearts?”

In the 1985 Constitutions, Mother Cándida wrote in the Formula (CFI 2), “Whoever desires to belong to this Congregation of ours, which I wish to be called of the Daughters of Jesus, and to serve God our Lord in it, should exert all effort to sanctify herself in the practice of Christian virtues, in praying daily the Little office of our Mother and Lady, the most Blessed Virgin Mary, and in faithfully fulfilling the vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience; and with the same earnestness she must endeavor the spiritual welfare of souls and the Catholic education of peoples by means of prayer and other works of piety and charity; and especially through the teaching of catechism to the children of both sexes, and by the Christian education of girls, teaching them all the arts and works fitted for Christian women...” And those heavily loaded phrases are then spelled out subsequently in clear detail in the rest of the CFI.

We can live the Constitutions wherever we are – alone or with others, with our hearts or with our hands, in our youth or in old age, even if we cannot “work” anymore. We can choose to strive to be holy, as Mother Candida wished so fervently (and as God wants), wherever we are, by knowing and living our Constitutions, for whose approval Mother Candida gave so much of her time and her life, effort and care. Or we can choose to settle for comfort and convenience and, in the name of relevance, invent our own manner of living the religious life, far removed from the heart of Mother Candida and from the Church.

Do we wish to offer her this gift that we know she so wished for, and celebrate our 150th anniversary with deep joy and enthusiasm?

Anna-María Cinco, FI - Philippines

 

 

 

 

[1] Madre Cándida María de Jesús, Cartas, ed. Teresa Lucía, F.I., 2 vols. (Madrid: La Editorial Católica, 1983).

[2] Candida Maria de Jesus, Letters, ed. Teresa Lucia, F.I., trans. Isabel Perez-Candela, F.I., 2 vols. (Quezon City: Daughters of Jesus, 1988).

[3] Introduction to Letters, 1:xxiv.

[4] See, for example,  Letter I, L 43 (p. 108 – “Let us live a good life, because as life is, so death will be. If we live a holy life, we will die a holy death for this is our final goal: to save our soul. This is very important and we have to be mindful of it always.”

[5] See L 53 p. 141 – “Tell her that I pray much for her so that she will get well soon, but, above all, (I pray) that she be a great saint...”, and L 88 p. 218 – “Did you receive any news about Sr. Irene? Because in her last letter M. Isabel said that she was not so well. May God grant her good health, and, above all, make her a great saint.”

[6] L 25, 1:67.

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