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Matilde Téllez Robles, a Unifier of Prayer and Action

Interview With Postulator, Father Sáez de Albéniz

ROME, MARCH 16, 2004 ( John Paul II will beatify a Spaniard religious this Sunday, an event that takes on extra significance in the wake of the Madrid terrorist attacks.

Scheduled to be beatified is Matilde of the Sacred Heart Téllez Robles (1841-1902), founder of the Congregation of the Daughters of Mary Mother of the Church.

Mother Matilde combined contemplation and the apostolate in her life, dedicating herself to aiding the neediest, particularly the sick, the postulator of her cause, Father Antonio Sáez de Albéniz, says in this interview with ZENIT.

Q: Who is Matilde Téllez Robles? Why is the Church proclaiming her blessed?

Father Sáez de Albéniz: Matilde Téllez Robles was born in Robledillo de la Vera, province of Caceres, on May 30, 1841. She was baptized the following day.

When she was 10 years old, her father, who was a notary, moved their home to Bejar. Matilde received a good education in that city and manifested her early religious concerns. She was president of the Daughters of Mary, an active [member] of the Conferences of St. Vincent of Paul, and dedicated to pastoral work in the parish, etc.

Matilde was, without a doubt, one more person in the army of women who throughout the 19th century, each one in her way and with her own characteristics, dedicated themselves body and soul to the faith and to the mission of the Church in all realms of society.

By beatifying her, the Church recognizes her virtue, the power of intercession, and the teaching of her example.

Q: Was the future blessed a woman more inclined to contemplation or to action?

Father Sáez de Albéniz: Contemplation and action are not separate but concomitant.

A contemplation that is bare and removed from the needs of men would be far from what Christ was: the Son who lived in perpetual intimacy with the Father, and the One Sent who journeyed on the roads, preaching, teaching and curing the sick and the possessed because that was the will of the One who sent him.

Action without prayer would be, perhaps, only philanthropy.

From her youth, Matilde was delighted to be at the foot of the tabernacle. She very soon discovered the value of reparation, and if she ever had the thought of shutting herself in a cloistered convent, in fact, she decided to go out to the streets to look for sinners, the poor, the sick, and all those who are Jesus' favorites.

"I will bring you, Lord, all the hearts that I can, so that they will love and adore you," she said. Throughout her life, she was profoundly rooted in prayer and determined to take the love of Christ to the neediest.

Q: What inspired Matilde Téllez Robles to found the Congregation of the Daughters of Mary Mother of the Church?

Father Sáez de Albéniz: Being president of the Daughters of Mary, she had some friends who wished to go further in following Jesus.

After much discussion and consultation, they decided they would constitute themselves in a religious association that they called "Lovers of Jesus and Daughters of Mary Immaculate."

However, the day established to begin their life in common, the whole group, with only one exception, changed their mind. Only Maria Briz stayed with Matilde.

They began their life in common and their apostolate with the sick, orphans, etc., in a poor little house. They soon moved to Don Benito, where the institute began to grow. In Matilde's lifetime, it extended to eight houses.

With the outbreak of the plague in Don Benito, the sisters offered their heroic assistance, to the point that Matilde's first companion, Maria Briz, was infected while working with the sick and died, leaving an aura of good memories and heroism.

The name "Lovers of Jesus and Daughters of Mary Immaculate" lasted until 1962, the date on which they changed it to Daughters of Mary Mother of the Church.

Q: How did she combine her Eucharistic life with care for the neediest?

Father Sáez de Albéniz: Matilde had no problem in combining the two: love of God and of neighbor. Love is only one, with two aspects, if you will, but inseparable. This is how Jesus understood it and explained it in the Gospel.

When Matilde went out into the streets to care for the sick or to do any other work of the apostolate, she had the smile and love that she had received before the tabernacle.

When she returned home, she went to the chapel to give an account of what she had done to Jesus and to open her heart in loving compliments and gratitude. Her life was truly "unified."

Q: What Marian features colored Mother Matilde's life and the foundation she carried out?

Father Sáez de Albéniz: From a very early age she learned to love Mary. Her family constantly prayed and honored the Mother of God.

I have already mentioned that in her youth she was president of the Daughters of Mary. But I would not be able to say if it was Mary who took her to the tabernacle or if it was the tabernacle that made her understand Mary's unique place in the history of salvation.

The fact is, she was able to unite her two devotions in an admirable way. "Mary accompanies me at all times and does not cease to remind me of the tabernacle," she once wrote -- and also, "Mother of mine, love him with your heart for mine. ... Cover my uselessness before Jesus in the Sacrament."

For Matilde, Mary was a mother, teacher, guide and confidante. She loved to go before the image of the Virgin and tell her everything about herself, her worries, her love of Jesus.

Q: Did Mother Matilde wish to change social structures?

Father Sáez de Albéniz: She was very aware that the change of structures was not her competence directly. What she always tried to do was to act with kindness and justice, with love and understanding.

She did what she could to have things change and be closer to the Gospel and, of course, she was not silent when she had the opportunity to speak with someone who could contribute to improving the structures.

Q: What would Mother Matilde say today to our societies, all of them characterized by enormous needs, by loneliness, and by many forms of marginalization?

Father Sáez de Albéniz: I think she would very much have liked what John Paul II has cried out from the very first moment of his pontificate: "Open the doors to Christ!"

Matilde proclaimed it with all her strength, because she was convinced that where Christ enters there is light, life and love, because he, and he alone, is the Way.


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