Posted by: wordofthevine | December 20, 2018

Christmas and the Cross with Venerable Concepcion Cabrera

Concepcion and the Living Cross of the Apostolate of the Cross

Maybe you’ve noticed that I have not posted many things for awhile. I have been in a difficult spiritual place, where my sense of God has gone away and I really feared that I wasn’t pleasing God in my prayer life. Team this with a move across the State of Iowa in order to direct a department of spiritual care for a Catholic hospital, away from my support system and spiritual director, I felt weak spiritually. In the midst of this, I continued to be faithful to prayer and desire for God but I reminisced about fervent times. Maybe you can relate to such times in your own life.

Now I sense that God continues to move me and ground me. He has brought me back to an awareness of my mission and love for  God and my spiritual mother, Venerable (and soon to be Blessed)  Concepcion Cabrera. A wonderful book, Priestly People by Father Richardo Zimbron Levy, M.Sp.S. summarizes Concepcion’s experience of winter in the spiritual life. Concepcion called this difficult spiritual time as “sorrowful union” as she found herself with Jesus in his union on the Cross where he bleated, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me.” In the midst of this sorrowful, cold union, Concepcion wrote, ” Oh, Jesus, in the midst of my coldness, I love you! Hidden in your apparent disdain, I love you. In my doubts, in my struggles, in my pain, I love you.

Father Zimbron Levy interprets this for us writing, “we discover how Concepcion’s love had been purified through the path of suffering until it had become a total and selfless abandonment, firm and irrevocable” (53).

Maybe this Christmas, in the mixed experience of both joy and struggle, we can find that God is similarly forming and gifting us! Our job is to let God have us, to surrender all to him! What is one way you can give yourself to God this week?  ~Mary Kaufmann

Posted by: wordofthevine | December 16, 2018

Christmas with Blessed Concepcion Cabrera, Day 2

From every Saint, we can learn new dimensions of holiness and of the nature and reality of God. Blessed Concepcion Cabrera shows us that we each are called to profound holiness. Let’s not waste the time we have on Earth but garner everything as a means to encounter God and to reflect His love.  Concepcion experienced the Mystical Incarnation, a grace beyond mystical marriage, one that the very fruitfulness of God becomes present to others from the soul’s union with God.

Concepcion writes, as it is quoted in You Belong to the Church, (11)  ,”The Father loves this mystery of Love (The Incarnation) so much that He delights in reflecting it, realizing it mystically in some souls…From all this He makes a channel of graces for the world, communicating a most pure fruitfulness that engenders souls for heaven.”

This Christmas, let us pray for a resolute heart to seek Jesus with new intensity and purity so God can touch us as He wills with the power of the Holy Spirit.  Let us ask God to make each of us as a channel of graces for others and the Church.~ Mary Kaufmann


Posted by: wordofthevine | December 13, 2018

Christmas with Blessed Concepcion Cabrera!

For nearly the last twenty years, I have been attracted to the life and writings of Blessed Concepcion Cabrera (1862-1937). Her beatification will be celebrated May 4, 2019 in Mexico City. What has attracted me? Maybe it has been that she was a wife and mother, a wonderful example that life in the world can lead to holiness of exemplary nature. I am a faithful Catholic, a professional chaplain in healthcare ministry and a mother of six young adults so my life in many ways has some similar dimensions as Concepcion.

She experienced deep graces of union with God, the mystical incarnation, a grace where she was overshadowed by the Holy Spirit in much the same fruitfulness as the Virgin Mary. Christ became present in her soul so profoundly that Concepcion loved others with the living presence of God. She had an uncanny knack of carrying and imparting Jesus to others that she came in contact with, like a living monstrance.

As we approach Christmas, we can reflect on Concepcion’s words in order to become fruitful this Christmas with Jesus. He wants to come into the world through each soul that is properly disposed. Concepcion wrote, “Mystical incarnations also come from this divine overshadowing, so little meditated and appreciated; from the fruitful gaze of the Father, who coming to rest in this special priestly manner on the soul, communicates to it, being that He is with him a single Divinity, as in Mary.

As complicated as this may seem, Concepcion helps us appreciate that the Spirit of God desires to reach out and touch His creatures. She describes that the Holy Spirit overshadows the soul bringing the fruitfulness of the Father in a way that brings great benefit to the interior life of the person in greater wisdom, of purity and of a fruitfulness that can impact other souls with God alive within.

This Advent, meditate on the divine overshadowing of Mary which produced Jesus. The Lord is inviting us to take part in this same grace, a big part of what we celebrate this Christmas. For more on Blessed Concepcion Cabrera go to


Posted by: wordofthevine | December 11, 2018

What the Present Moment Offers us as we Approach Christmas!

I have been impressed lately about how we may suffer frustrations when we are trying to respond to God’s will for us. Maybe you’ve noticed that I have not posted anything lately. I have attempted to but somehow logging into my account became very difficult. I work with a partner who also had this blog linked to her account and between us we got passwords messed up. Well, anyway, today I was successful in resetting the password and gaining access. All of this is humbling as I like to think that I am computer savvy.

Let’s move into Advent and preparing for the coming of the infant Jesus. I am once again drawn to the writings of holy lay women like Servant of God, Elisabeth Leseur in her journal, My Spirit Rejoices. More than one hundred years ago, in December 1911, Elisabeth wrote this short prayer, “At the approach of this sweet feast of Christmas, I ask the dear Child Jesus for His most far-reaching blessings upon everyone. To put more supernatural spirit, more of the spirit of prayer, into my life; and through penance of the heart and of action to attain the interior joy that is its fruit.”

What about you? What type of frustrations and set backs are you experiencing today that you can collect with intention as a little offering to pad the manger of baby Jesus this Christmas? Today, I offer up my log in struggles as straw for the manger! Everyday life can be lived in a way that helps enliven prayer in our hearts! ~ Mary Kaufmann

Posted by: wordofthevine | April 5, 2018

Venerable Concepcion’s Practical Desires for the Virgin Mary

If you were raised Catholic or even if you weren’t and wish you could understand a healthy devotion to the Blessed Mother, reading the spirituality of Venerable Concepcion Cabrera de Armida, a Mexican Mother and Mystic who lived close to our time, can really bless you. Consider the following words penned by Venerable Concepcion that were include in the book, Priestly People by Richardo Zimbron Levy, M.Sp.S., a member of the order of priests that Venerable Concepcion inspired:

“I want to do everything in union with Mary.That’s why I wonder how she would receive the sacrament of the Holy Eucharist; how she would pray, how she would offer her divine Son to the heavenly Father; with how much generosity she would sacrifice for Jesus; how she would live in the presence of God; how many times she would chat with Jesus; how organized she would be; how she would eat; how she would rest as she dreamed about her Jesus; how she would offer advice; how meek and how sweet her words must have been. And thus, I want to imitate her more and more. May the Lord deign to help me and may I not live, nor love, nor work by myself, but in union with this Virgin of my soul, this Virgin who is my Blessed Mother (99).”

To order Priestly People by Richardo Zimbron Levy, M.Sp.S. contact the Sisters of the Cross of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, 1320 Maze Blvd., Modesto, CA  95351, 1-(209) 526-3524

Posted by: wordofthevine | March 29, 2018

Holy Thursday Reminds Us We Are Baptismal Priests!

I can’t say enough that I have found a resource called Priestly People by Ricardo Zimbron Levy, M.Sp.S. who brings fresh light on our common call to holiness using the Spirituality of the Cross through the life and writings of Venerable Concepcion Cabrera (1862-1937), a Mexican mother, mystic and spiritual writer. “Conchita” as Concepcion was known, was an “ordinary” mother, who God called to bring to light a further development of our Christian calling. Today, as we celebrate the priesthood on Holy Thursday, we come to see that this celebration is not just for ordained priests but is for all of us. Each of us, through Baptism, are priests or people called to let God lead us to offer our lives as a redeeming force for others. The priesthood starts for all of us, ordained and lay alike, from baptism, a call that continues for all of us into heaven.

The Lord gave Concepcion the mission to save souls by teaching her to make her life an offering, that once united to Jesus’ offering, becomes a redeeming force for others. Gradually Jesus showed Concepcion how to focus on Him and offer the present moment as an acceptable sacrifice for others, while she cared for her family and during the Eucharistic offering at Mass. Concepcion came to deeply desire to share in the Passion of Jesus and collaborate with Him in the salvation of the world by genuinely taking up the cross each day.

Father Levy describes Venerable Concepcion as “the perfect secular model” of holiness and says of us in the world, “that just because  they (lay people) are busy does not mean that they are not invited to holiness. It is precisely by offering up their daily work, which is many times painful  and full of suffering, that they progress in holiness (30).”

Think of this the next time you wake up early to go to work to support your family or return tired and still jump up to fix dinner for your loved ones. Now is an acceptable sacrifice where you remember that you are a baptismal priest that can made a spiritual difference for others by uniting the self-rub or sacrifice to Jesus for the good of others! ~ Mary Kaufmann, Director of Incarnate Institute and Word of the Vine Blog

Posted by: wordofthevine | March 27, 2018

Our Calling: Total Surrender to God!

As we near the end of Lent this year, we want to perk our efforts in order to really receive the graces has for us this Holy Week. This is not a selfish thing but something practical if we are growing in humility. It only takes one set back to realize that the good we do for others is possible because we are acting on good graces that God shares with us. Like Jesus, we are to accomplish the Father’s will in us.

As I consider this for myself, I am blessed this year to have read one of the most powerful and impactful books that I have ever read, Priestly People by Richardo Zimbron Levy, M.Sp.S.. The book is available from the Sisters of the Cross in Modesto, CA. This resource is the best book in English that summarizes and then applies the Spirituality of the Cross that God brought to us through the life and writings of Venerable Concepcion Cabrera de Armida.

One thing that jumped out at me with my first reading, among many things, were the words: “God does not ask us for complete perfection, but rather, for a total surrender to him.” Today I can go to work, come home, reach out to friends with the hope that I release control of my life and the moments to God who will make something beautiful.  Today as you go about your day, say a little offering to God…I give this moment to you, Lord, help me. ~ Mary

To contact the Sisters of the Cross of the Sacred Heart to purchase this book:  Sisters of the Cross of the Sacred Heart at 1320 Maze Blvd, Modesto, CA  95351, 1-209-526-3525.

Posted by: wordofthevine | March 8, 2018

Why is Sustainable Living Part of a Plan for Holiness?

When we cultivate a fascination with cultivating health by eating healthy, whole foods that we take part in producing or making, we become more able to integrate all aspects of our life with the fullness of God. God created us for such a worthy purpose. With a modern fast paced lifestyle, many times we have lost sight of our true potential for well-being grounded in creating.

While we all live in different situations and settings and have unique lives and gifts, tapping into the creativity  that is part of our gift of life will look different for each of us. Genesis 1: 26-31 describes that God made human persons in his image and gave them a charge to be fruitful, to multiply, fill the earth and subdue it. God said, “Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed which is upon the face of all the earth and every tree with seeds in its fruit; you shall have them for food…I have given every green plant for food. And, it was so. God saw everything that he had made and behold, it was very good.”

What are we to do with this? Start taking time to learn how to cook more whole foods and how to cultivate a starter garden. If you don’t live where you have garden space, try a container garden on your patio. Check out farmers markets this Spring where you can purchase organic produce. Let yourself be amazed with the peace that surpasses understanding that comes from gardening and from cooking. In doing so, you become a truer steward of God’s gifts to us on the earth. Holiness is something real that has roots in welcoming all aspects of life, even eating and procuring food, as a gift to us from God. Cultivate this sense of gratitude in living right now! ~ Mary Kaufmann, Director of Incarnate Institute  (Certified Chaplain and Spiritual Director & Registered Dietitian.)

Posted by: wordofthevine | March 4, 2018

Baking Bread: A Spiritual Exercise

I’m so excited to bring together my passion for closeness with God and the priority I feel in living a simple, healthy life. Maybe it’s because, before being a theologian and a spiritual director, I was a dietitian with a degree in Nutrition as well as a mother of six kids and a wife. My family is so important to me.

When we live close to God, we are also close to that life-giving essence of life, maybe as gardeners or wanna be, or as cooks or physically active, healthy people. When we nurture our prayer life, we naturally want to be good stewards of God’s gifts and the fruits of this world. We can learn how to do this practically. It’s fun to try something our grandmothers or great grandmothers did and be successful at it. You can learn how to bake bread even when you are already busy and find it fun. Real bread that is flavorful, crunch and full of nutrition is so much better tasting and satisfying than the fabricated Wonder Bread that we can buy in the store that really doesn’t satisfy our cravings.

To get started, try a simple recipe that’s ready in one hour. Taste and savor it to see if what I’m proposing is true for you. Eating real locally grown or homemade food satisfies us at a deep level and doesn’t have to be time consuming.

Simple Whole Wheat Bread

1 pkg of active dry yeast                         2 1/2 cup lukewarm water

1/4 cup warm water                                1/4 cup margarine or butter or oil

1/2 cup brown sugar, packed                3 1/2 cup whole wheat flour

1 tablespoon salt                                      4 cup all-purpose white flour

Dissolve the yeast in the warm water and set aside. Use your mixer with a dough hook or in your bread machine (you can often find a bread machine at thrift shops for only a few dollars and use the dough cycle to mix this bread.) Stir the brown sugar and salt into the lukewarm water. Add yeast mixture, oil or butter, whole wheat flour and one cup of white flour, beat with your dough hook for three minutes to develop the structure and then stir in remaining flour until the dough leaves the sides of the bowl. Using your dough hook, beat for 3 minutes more.(This dough should have a slightly sticky feel but not stick to your finger.) Place the dough in a warm, not hot, place until it raises about double the size. Punch the dough down by plunging your fist into the dough and folding the sides into the center of the ball of dough. Cut the dough into three pieces, and shape the loaf by flattening the dough into a rectangle and rolling it into a loaf shape. Seal the seam and place seam side down in a greased loaf pan. Let each loaf raise until it doubles in size and bake it at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 25-30 minutes. Let the bread cool before cutting for best results if you can.

Blessings, Mary Kaufmann, Director of Incarnate Institute. Making this bread is a spiritual exercise.


Posted by: wordofthevine | March 2, 2018

Sustainable living: a Backbone to Practical Holiness!

You might not know this from my blogs but I am a whole foods, sustainable living guru in addition to being a Catholic chaplain and a spiritual writer. Each week, I bake my own bread after grinding my own organic flour. I prefer to eat low on the food chain focusing what we eat in fresh fruits, vegetables, legumes, whole grains with some low fat meats. Now don’t get me wrong. I bake cookies on occasion when my kids come home from college but right now I have a green house set up in my basement with new seedlings for my garden. I try to can all my own tomato products and savage from my neighborhood, apples, peaches, pears and berries that my neighbors grow but do not process.

You might not think that you have time for all this but actually it’s easy to work in and really part of a contemplative lifestyle for holiness. I think of this every time I read Genesis that we have been given every kind of vegetation and fruit bearing tree as a gift from God. Modern life has moved us away from a secret to contemplative peacefulness and health. When we are healthy, we pray better and are more charitable. We don’t want to squander God’s gifts to us and short change our well being. It only takes some creativity when you come home tired after a long day at work or with young children.

For the next month, as we approach the growing season, I want to focus my blog on some practical ideas to promote this simple, minimalistic sustainable living for holiness! Believe me, I am practical when I suggest this as I have six kids who were closely spaced by our choice. That’s all for now,for I am going to go shape my bread dough, but stay tuned. You will have a ball with me as we explore these simple healthy ideas for contemplative living and health! ~ Mary Kaufmann, Director of Incarnate Institute.

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