Birth and early years

Ramon and Florentina- Maria’s parents

Sometimes it has been said that “to know History is to know mankind”. To some extent it’s true, because a person’s life is always marked by the surrounding historical circumstances that contribute to shape his personality.

The world in which our Mother had to live was, undoubtedly, a changing world. María Félix was born on August 25th, 1907, at the very beginning of the 20th century, when there was still hope for mankind’s potential. The technical breakthroughs, the economic welfare that the wealthy enjoyed, the fascinating artistic and literary movements, the existentialist and religious problems… Europe was living a true “historic acceleration”, and social transformations were growing dramatically.

It is not necessary to insist on the importance that the family has in the development of personality. So much so that it might be said that a child’s genetic inheritance is not as important as the education and example that he receives from his parents. In the case of María Félix the figure of her father will have a remarkable influence in her life.

Mr. Ramón Félix Surigué (1882 – 1942) was a man well-ahead of his time. His humble origins were not an impediment for taking his Engineering degree by correspondence at Cervera College in Valencia, and he made sure that he cultivated his spirit with good books.

He worked as a civil engineer when he met his future wife, Florentina Torres Fumás (1889 – 1973), the youngest daugh-  ter of one of the wealthiest  families in the village of Albelda in the province of Huesca. She was his perfect counterpoint. Educated in the love for traditional values, despite her young age, she was very much aware of her relevant role in her family.

María Félix always adored her father. The fact that she was the only girl who survived amoung the four children of the Félix family was not an obstacle to receiving a carefully thought-out education. Mr. Ramón always thought that the best legacy he could leave his children was a solid humanitarian and academic education, and he did not neglect this subject with his only daughter.

Her  early childhood was spent peacefully between the village of Albelda (Huesca), where she was born and baptised, and the industrial colony of Seira, located in the Aragonese Pyrenees, where they moved because of her father’s job when María was only 5 years old. Engineer Ramón Félix, as head of the construction of the Santa María de la Peña dam, enjoyed a privileged position in the quiet social life of the town.

But even in the simplicity and normality of her life, María Félix stood out. Her intelligence made her stand out. In a matter of a few years, the village teacher would find out that she did not have much more to teach this bright girl, who read everything that came into her hands. A friend of Mr. Ramón’s, a Mathematics Professor, would vividly recommend that he send his daughter to Lérida so that she could continue her secondary school studies there. She also stood out, no doubt, due to the influence that she exerted on her playmates, to whom she served as a leader despite being the youngest. And, finally, she stood out, although it wasn’t visible to the naked eye, because of her sensitivity towards religious matters.

We can find the best example of this on the day of her First Communion. The catechesis had been intense; María devoured the priest’s words, who insisted on the importance of not being distracted by the details that accompanied the celebration. With great simplicity, in a language that the girls could understand, he told them that they should not be vain, that it would be a pity if they spent the whole day just contemplating how nice they looked in their dresses, while they forgot about Jesus, whom they were going to receive for their first time.

The latter registered deeply with the girl. As such, every time she went to the dressmaker with her mother to try on the dress for the ceremony, she closed her eyes tightly not to see anything, while she repeated to herself: “I shouldn’t be vain”. However, once, curiosity was stronger than her will and she opened her eyes. A few minutes later, María ran to the confessional to heartily apologize to The Lord.

First Comunion

It would be easy to judge these kinds of reactions as exaggerated. But we should perhaps think that a delicate conscience means a bigger capacity to love, and this is a gift of God that María, undoubtedly, received and preserved all her life.

So she wrote in her personal notes:

“I had an enormous capacity to LOVE and sacrifice myself for those I loved; a capacity not attributed to children and which, for their own sake, should be taken into account. When I loved, I didn’t ask for anything in return; I gave myself totally. That was the way God made me in nature to make me love him with total generosity… What I would give for people to understand that the moral calling of children should be even greater than the material one!”

These lines superbly reflect her vocation as a Christian educator: God Our Lord gave her a special sensitivity to know children’s hearts. Mother María Félix was an exceptional pedagogue; she had the rare gift of being able to educate with delicate firmness, being demanding and understanding at the same time, to teach the young the way of the real commitment, always in need of effort and self denial. Our Mother’s heart was made for loving and, because she loved so much, she could and knew how to demand a lot.

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