Late childhood and youth

Secondary education in Lérida. Her conversion

María at the begining of secondary (1921)

During the 1921-1922 academic year, having just turned 14 years old, she moves to Lérida to study her last three years of Secondary education at the town’s High School. She lives as a boarder at the school of the Company of Mary. There, the simplicity and austerity of the sisters’ life had an enormous impact on her.

While at the boarding-school her spiritual life develops. She comes across books whose authors have added the initials “S.J.” to their names to show they belonged to the “Company of Jesus”. Although she did not know the meaning of these initials, she always preferred the “S.J.” books to the other ones and read them avidly. That was the delicate way in which Our Lord was leading her, through his sons, to the father, Saint Ignatius of Loyola.

She will have the real encounter with Saint Ignatius – and, through him, with Christ – during the Spiritual Exercises, led by a Jesuit priest at the boarding-school.

There, Our Lord would grant her a “great grace”. In her conversion, like in all her life, it was God who took the initiative. We transcribe her own words:

I came by the altar, knelt down at the praying desk, raised my eyes to the altar and saw an immense flame that burnt me with a clarity and softness that filled me with ineffable sweetness. I opened my eyes wide, I wanted to be certain about it. But that flame with no outlines, golden and luminous, motionless and penetrating into my spirit, was not fire from earth; it was heavenly fire which consumed my soul”.

That Holy Thursday, 1922, María consecrated herself to God.

“With a thorough knowledge, with an extraordinary clarity about what I was doing, irresistible and sweetly attracted by Our Lord, I offered myself to Him forever…”  

She is hardly fourteen years old, but her conviction is so great when she states:

“I’m His, totally and consciously His forever”.

María finishing secondary (1924)

These Exercises would be the turning point from infancy to youth in María’s life. When we observe photographs from this time, it is surprising to know that the only desire that this young girl, with long plaits and penetrating eyes had, was to consecrate herself to God totally and forever.

Every year she returned to Seira to enjoy her holidays with her family. The games with her brothers on the snow, the jokes and the family happiness, hid to everybody the deep change that had taken place inside her.

The summer of 1924 was decisive for María, who for the first time showed in her actions her wish to take God to all those who surrounded her. She has a religious vocation, she is sure. Therefore, when her parents ask her, concerned by the strange transformation that has taken place in their daughter (she spent a long time praying, she gathered all the children in the village to teach them the catechism, etc.), María answers firmly that she wants to become a nun.

But she is a minor, and her parents demand that before making such a definitive decision, María must obtain a university degree. Mr. and Mrs. Félix favour a career in medicine, because at the time, it was the longest lasting degree program, and thus, recommend this option to their daughter.

University (1924 – 1929)

Maria Felix (1930)

As a result, a new stage begins in her life, marked by her passage to University. María only studied one year of Medicine in Barcelona; in 1925 she moved to Zaragoza to study Chemistry.

The Chemistry school in Zaragoza had a great reputation at the beginning of the century due to some excellent teachers, as Rocasolano Savirón o Rius, who knew how to raise the academic level through some really dynamic classes. Not in vain, Chemistry was considered at the time as “the degree of the future”.

The presence of women at University was also a novelty, with only three female students! Out of them, only María obtained her degree in 1930.

During her College years, in Barcelona as well as in Zaragoza, she actively participated in Catholic Action and all types of apostolic works. She not only went to the poor boroughs of the city to teach catechism and to try to raise the cultural standards of those who wanted to, but her work also extended to encourage the piety amongst her classmates, who cared for her deeply. Her brother Angel’s friends, talking about her, commented that she was the most delightful person they knew.

           Her spiritual directors (who were Jesuits, both in Barcelona and Zaragoza), trained her, according to her testimony, as if she was a novice. Consequently, her enthusiasm for the Ignatian Spirituality increased day by day.

           We have saved some notes from that period which show the desire this university student had to devote herself to Our Lord:

           “Saying yes to whatever God demanded from me, and always, only for pure love, for being His will; being entirely His, with no reserve, forever, only to please Him…”.

           The calling she felt, when she was 14 years old, to be consecrated to God has been maturing, and she can clearly see that Our Lord wants her to be Ignatian. During those university years in Zaragoza she meets the Handmaids of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, of Ignatian spirit, and she asks to be admitted to their Order. Several of her friends, who also frequented the Handmaids, driven by her enthusiasm, joined the Institute, but María did not.

What is the reason for it? The young girl could not give any logical human explication, but it is fertain that she feels within her that God Our Lord does not want her to become a “Handmaid”. Her spiritual director does not understand her; he believes that her decision to not join the Institute is due to an excessive love for her parents. That was a moment of intensive suffering.

So far she had lived with enthusiasm all God’s things. Prayer and apostolic work were a continuous source of joy and profound peace. But, suddenly, she finds herself plunged into absolute darkness. She cannot see anything, she cannot understand anything, nothing seems to make sense to her. It was a time of torment and darkness. It was a test that God allowed to make her grow in faith and love.

To her parents’ surprise, who had already granted her permission to join the Handmaids, María does not mention the subject, although she strongly feels, deep down inside her and with a strenght that doesn’t let her doubt, that God wants her for Him. In this position, the great love that she feels for her parents becomes very painful to the young girl. In her diary we read a revealing confession: “Family life was absolutely delightful, but it was not made for me”.

It was not easy to make such a decision, and even less to carry it out. The first thing that she did was to leave her parents’ house definitively in order to break up all human and family bonds. From now on, her life will only be to seek God’s will and fulfil it, with simplicity, without exaggerations. There will not be any more external obstacles. María Félix breaks loose…

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