Thursday, 19 February 2015

Conchita

Today I went to the Requiem Mass of a remarkable woman. Her name was Maria Jesusa Gutierrez y Rodriguez, but I and everyone else always knew her as Conchita.

Born around 1926 in rural Spain, the Civil War therefore was the dominant fact of her childhood, and indeed of her life. She came from a profoundly Catholic family; two aunts were Carmelite nuns, and two or three uncles belonged to a men's order, which I forget. It was told today at her Requiem how the communists took her aunts with the rest of the community out of their convent, raped them and shot them in front of the little girl, her family and the village. The memories of her aunts' bare shaven heads, stripped of their wimples, and the look of horror on their faces after the rape stayed with Conchita all her life.

Shortly after that, her uncles were hanged from the town bridge, again in front of Conchita, her family and the other villagers. Their bodies were left to rot on the ropes until wild animals disposed of their remains.

The next to be executed was the parish priest, who was merely shot. The young Conchita, brave girl, managed to get into the sacristy of the church, where she found a box of unconsecrated hosts. She also found the tabernacle key, and went to the tabernacle. She removed the Sacred Hosts, pushed them up her sleeve, and substituted unconsecrated breads, closing and locking the tabernacle, and leaving things as she found them.

Rounding the corner, she ran into a communist band coming to desecrate the church. 'Where are you going?' she was roughly asked. 'Off to play with my friends', she calmly replied, and they let her go.

She took the Hosts to a young priest of her acquaintance—one Fr José Maria Escriva de Balaguer—who gave them in Communion to those with him. Though she was never a member of Opus Dei, she and he continued to correspond for many years, though in later years, her mind failing, she lost his letters.

In later life, she made her way to England where she married and then, when widowed relatively young, and left very well-off, settled on the South Coast of England. There, living simply herself, she spent her fortune on others—for instance she paid for the education of a priest. She was very kind to me, too. And she loved to entertain.

There were six priests today at her funeral (including the priest whose education she had supported, and a representative from Opus Dei), a testament to the strong power of her faith. I think she would have been surprised, for she never thought herself anything special.

Rest in peace, Conchita. I count it a privilege to have known you.

8 comments:

Pelerin said...

I am surprised nobody has commented on this post.

What a remarkable lady she must have been. And even after witnessing such horrors she still retained her Faith - a lesson to us all. And to read that she spent her fortune on others especially for the education of a Priest is truly wonderful to read.

Thank you Father for telling us about this great lady. It makes such a change from reading about the shallow lives of people who are famous for being famous.

May she rest in peace.

gemoftheocean said...

What a post Father Sean. It must have been a privilege to know her. How brave she was, because the same thing that happened to her aunts could well have happened to her.

Anonymous said...

Although your tribute is useful and interesting and moving I wonder if anyone who knew her very well will or has written a fuller memoir or essay about her.She seems to be a real modern saint unaligned with any group or order. Thank you Father.

pie said...

Thank you so much for this.

Unknown said...

Dear Father:

Could I reprint your post about CONCHITA (after you assisted at her Requiem Mass) from February 19 on my parish blog, www.salemcatholic.org? I would give you credit with a link, etc. It is a beautiful story of heroic virtue!

Thank you.

Fr. Martin E. Lawrence

Pastor in Monte said...

Fr Martin: of course!

Sixupman said...

Father,

I read this with tears in my eyes, if only I prove to have such faith in the face of adversity [what an understatement the use of the term 'adversity'].

catholicprayersonline said...

Thank you for this post Father. I know I am late to comment on this blog. Please keep writing.