Principles of Foundation
Familia Victricis is an Association of the Faithful in the stage of preparation with the aim of the establishment of a Society of Apostolic Life in the Archdiocese of Santa Fe in accordance with Can. 731-755.
Our name is a Latin rendering of Family of the Conquistadora, the oldest madonna in the United States with a miraculous history of conquering hearts for Christ's Love through gentle beauty and protecting those in the peril of armed conflict.
Our foundational principle is to offer consolation to the Hearts of Jesus and Mary, and open the hearts of the world to God’s Love, through apostolic works embracing a unique charism of the fine, traditional, and performing arts. We convey our art through all available media to spread the message of God’s mercy and Love in direct response to the uniquely troubled state of the modern world.
This charism has both “inward” and “outward” dimensions from this central point. The consolation of the Sacred and Immaculate hearts begins inwardly, in individual prayer, before it can be effectively expressed in the work of the Society. Outwardly, our work must seek not only the end of beauty but of charity, and address the material and security needs of our world as the Holy Spirit leads us.
“The world is not hungry only for food, but also for beauty!”
- St. Teresa of Calcutta
“Beauty is the arrowhead of evangelization.”
- Bishop Robert Barron
“Art and the saints are the greatest apologists for our faith.”
- Pope Benedict XVI
The community is blessed to exist in the historically unique Archdiocese of Santa Fe and is a daughter of the area’s profound Catholic tradition under the special patronage of La Conquistadora, Our Lady of Conquering Love. We also invoke St. Michael the Archangel as our defender and guide. Their patronage lends a martial character--particularly necessitated by our times--to a charism of love and mercy.
We embrace "the three Teresas" (of Avila, Lisieux, and Calcutta) as mothers of our spirituality and examples of its execution in the world. A first-class relic of Therese of Lisieux, a treasure of Santa Fe's Lujan family, is to be housed and venerated in our chapel. As patrons of our artistic charism, we embrace Fra Angelico, who Pope John Paul II declared patron of all Catholic artists, and St. Cecilia, patroness of musicians. We also invoke Padre Pio's spiritual fatherhood (and his love of opera--one of our principle arts). Our major human rights outreach is dedicated to St. Catherine of Sienna and St. Katharine Drexel, and San Pasqual is the patron of our call to hospitality.
Our spirituality is rooted in the Catholic faith traditions of Northern New Mexico and their counterparts in the Teresan Carmelite spirituality originating in 16-century Spain, which serves as the basis of our individual prayer life. Our life is Eucharistically centered and Marian in devotion.
Familia Victricis emerged organically from a long history of associates collaborating to produce works in line with our charism. A recent example is the television special Saving San Miguel Mission aired to over 250 million homes globally on EWTN in 2015. It typifies our work by presenting a classical music concert in which Catholic history and evangelization are gently and engagingly presented through the medium of emotionally and devotionally stirring music and visual art. The concert program, in its turn, generated substantial funds to restore the bell tower of the oldest church in the United States, thereby preserving an essential piece of our faith history.
Similarly, for more than 7 years, our associates have hosted annually an average of 150 of Catholic college students, parish groups, and other pilgrims to New Mexico for in-person educational experiences in which service to the community, along with experiences of music and art, are the principle means of communicating our Catholic culture and drawing people nearer to their Faith.
We recently received a grant from the National Endowment of the Arts to continue producing art and musical film projects sharing the Catholic history of New Mexico, and our association with EWTN is long-standing and ongoing. Therefore, this type of work is one cornerstone of our activities, as is continuing our outreaches for visitors. We have a special interest in assisting in the development of high-quality liturgical music and musicians, and have a page devoted to this project here.
Our members who are established artists and professionals are called within Familia Victricis to consecrate their work and make the pursuit of its development and perfection their apostolate within our charism, even when this work is not of an explicitly religious variety (as in the example of a traditional Spanish Colonial artist who produces both devotional and utilitarian items, or a musician who performs both sacred and classical works). One of the most vital ends of our charism is to influence society from within secular culture, producing art that “lifts up hearts to the Lord.”
Finally, we remain open to the guidance of the Holy Spirit and respond as we are called to assist in material and security needs of those around us. Within this final aspect of our charism, we are particularly drawn to combat human trafficking and the exploitation of children, both at home and in the current Christian persecutions of the Middle East.
A number of our founding members are former counterterrorism professionals with military, federal, private, and corporate security backgrounds. This makes us acutely sensitive to the extent and gravity of this symptom of the illness of the modern world, as well as adept at addressing it. Two of our concert and media projects have already served as fundraisers for the largest anti-trafficking organizations, Polaris Project and Covenant House. Our principle human rights project is a rescue operation and orphanage vital to the needs of our time. We have a page devoted to updates on this project here.
“Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me.”
- Matthew 18:5
Once a vocation is carefully discerned by both the individual and by Familia Victricis, we admit men and women into formation as brothers and sisters without upper age restriction, and rejoice in their unique gifts and abilities—encouraging them to develop their talents to the fullest potential for use in the world in furtherance of our foundational principle.
Because we are willing to consider the admittance of adults of any age, it is likely that vocations will emerge from established artists and other professionals well into their careers. In this case, the brother or sister’s career, as long as it remains within the aims of our charism, becomes their apostolate under obedience within Familia Victricis in a model similar to that of the Daughters of the Heart of Mary.
WAY OF LIFE
In order to facilitate our work in the world, we embrace fraternal living and the evangelical counsels in accordance with the state of our vows. As is the case with a number of orders, congregations, and societies whose foundation was in response to a pressing need within the secular world, we require great freedom with regard to the way in which fraternal living is carried out.
However, the fraternal bond is never neglected and is especially emphasized in those whose apostolate or state in life requires that they live away for any period from established houses. Here again, pre-existing and well-functioning models exist in the Daughters of the Heart of Mary, a religious institute whose sororal living is expressed as a “convent without walls,” in the Knights of Malta, a military order who support themselves and live individually without loss of the sense of their binding fraternity, and in the living arrangements of most secular institutes.
Familia Victricis possesses two large houses in the Archdiocese of Santa Fe which we are currently preparing for the potential needs and work of the brothers and sisters. As this work progresses, we ardently wish to pursue the appropriate channels to seek the guidance of the Archdiocese and prayerfully hope for the Archbishop’s approval of these houses in accordance with Can. 733. This, if granted, would constitute the final step in our establishment as a Society of Apostolic Life.
VOWS & STRUCTURE
Because we seek approval as a Society of Apostolic Life, rather than a Religious or Secular Institute, public vows are not required by the Church. However, in accordance with Can. 731 §2, we are free to develop private vows and promises according to our own constitutions and traditions. These private vows, while witnessed by the community, are made directly to God rather than to a religious superior, and are equally morally binding upon the individual as the public vows of Institutes of Consecrated Life. Nevertheless, enterance, even under vows, does not alter the lay or clerical state of the individual.
A great number of Societies of Apostolic Life (such as the Daughters of Charity and the Pallottines) do include brothers and sisters who have fully vowed the evangelical counsels of poverty, chastity, and obedience. In our own Archdiocese, this includes the Society of Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity, which encompasses both professed brothers and sisters and lay persons whose promises accord with their state in life. Familia Victricis embraces a similar model, and our vows are to be structured in four categories. It is critical to note, however, that the categories are not intended to impose hierarchical superiority, as brothers and sisters from any category share equal dignity and fraternity with the others.
Category I – Professed Apostolic Brothers and Sisters:
Single Brothers and Sisters without impediment in the Catholic church, after a period of formation typically including living at least one year under spiritual direction and in the perfect spirit of the vows they intend to make, and at least two years in Familia Victricis as a secular brother or sister, may request to make temporary vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience, typically for a period of one year. The member may continually renew temporary vows for life or, after living at least three years in temporary vows, may request to make perpetual vows.
In the case of professed brothers and sisters, the vow of poverty is one of not drastic material poverty, but of the offering of one’s material goods and income to the maintenance of Familia Victricis and the pursuit of one’s apostolate within the charism. Financial self-maintenance is allowed and necessary at times, especially due to travel and professional obligations. The vow of chastity implies perfect chastity (celibacy). The vow of obedience is both to careful discernment of and obedience to God’s will in one’s own life and obedience to one’s superior within Familia Victricis as a conduit of this discernment, along with fidelity to the charism and principles of foundation of the association.
Category II - Apostolic Brothers and Sisters:
This category is most typical of the state of most members of Societies of Apostolic Life. The requirements and expectations are the same as those of the professed brothers and sisters. However, rather than making vows, apostolic brothers and sisters simply live perfectly in the spirit of the evangelical counsels according to the norms and traditions of the community expressed above. Like secular brothers and sisters, they may choose to make personal promises in place of the vows of the professed.
Category III - Secular Brothers and Sisters:
Single or married men and women in good standing with the Catholic Church, after a period of formation typically including at least one year as a lay associate living in the perfect spirit of the commitment they intend, may request to make vows or personal promises of poverty, chastity, and obedience, according to their state in life, in a model resembling the “third orders” of the Carmelites, Franciscans, and other orders. If vows are chosen, the member is typically under spiritual direction and follows the recommended timing applicable to professed brothers and sisters. Seculars may also choose to live without vows under the same expectations and requirements as their counterparts under vows.
In the case of secular brothers and sisters, the vow of poverty is not one of drastic material poverty nor of the turning over of goods to the Familia Victricis, but of living in the freedom of material detachment. The secular brother or sister’s financial obligation is to the support of their family if they have one, their self-maintenance, and to the pursuit of their professional apostolate. The vow of chastity implies marital chastity (fidelity as opposed to celibacy) if the secular brother or sister is validly married in the Catholic Church. The vow of obedience is to the careful discernment of and obedience to the will of God in one’s life and to the intention and charism of Familia Victricis as a conduit of this discernment.
Category IV - Lay Associates:
Single or married men and women, either in full communion and good standing with the Catholic Church, or even outside the Catholic Church but seeking a closer relationship with God and drawn to peruse this relationship through our charism, may share in the fraternity of Familia Victricis, and are in a special way the beneficiaries of the prayers of the apostolic and secular Brothers and Sisters. A precedent for this model exists in the inclusiveness of the Benedictine Oblates.
These members are to grow to embrace the evangelical counsels as they apply to their state in life as they develop in their study of the Catholic Faith. As they progress in their relationship, and especially if they aspire to fuller vows, they may make promises of these counsels.
A superior may be elected from either Category I or II, because of their free and undivided commitment to Familia Victricis, but this superior must seek to be advised by at least one member of each other category if possible. Current administration lies with our much-beloved principal foundress, Giovanna Cardinalli, to whom we owe all our joy in our lives' journey as siblings in Familia Victricis.
While maintaining the flexibility to meet the obligations of their varying types of work in the world, our brothers and sisters are to maintain a firm schedule of individual daily prayer, the timing of which they may determine based upon their unique circumstances. Professed members are expected to devote at very least one silent hour to individual prayer daily in addition to the requirements of our charism below.
Attendance at daily Mass, the daily rosary (recited in community when possible), and fasting on all days except Sunday and Major Feasts (or when hospitality requires otherwise) is expected of Professed members. Members in other categories may adopt these practices according to their abilities and circumstances.
We hope to establish a Society of Apostolic Life, meaning that our apostolate--our active work in the world--is the primary reason for our foundation. However, we see our relationship to contemplative prayer much like that of a bow to an arrow. The more effectively we hope the "arrow" of our work to impact the world, the heavier the bow we must train ourselves to draw. It is truly for each brother and sister to begin with goodwill at the strength for contemplative prayer they possess, and to strive always to deepen their "draw"--their personal relationship with God's love.
Secondly, our time for prayer must not be limited to the time on one's knees, but must both pervade and consecrate our work. The tedious practice of a musician with a metronome or the loving care and difficulty with which one tends a garden beautifully are examples of occasions of the prayer lived through work we embrace.
"He who labors as he prays lifts his heart to God with his hands."
- St. Benedict of Nursia
Every person called to religious or apostolic life is called to continually pursue an increase in holiness. Our approach is uniquely tied to our charism, and as the practice of our arts is a prayer, we are called to pursue and increase devotion through exceptional excellence in these arts.
Finally, besides prayer and work, our daily schedule should also include ample attention to our relationships within Familia Victricis, our families, our community, and those perhaps in need. We are called to celebrate and nurture these relationships through hospitality and fellowship.
ARMS AND MOTTO
The motto "Firmum Retineamus," typically rendered "Steadfast," is displayed beneath our arms. Its source is Hebrews 3:14-15.
For we are made partakers of Christ, if only we hold the beginning of our confidence
steadfast until the end; while it is said 'if today you hear His voice,
harden not your hearts...'
The passage associates the partaking in Christ, which is our ultimate end, with steadfast trust, presumably through times of turmoil in the world like those we face, and with a continual softening of the heart, of deep significance to Famila Victricis.
The three principal images, those of the crucifix, the anchor, and the heart, represent the cardinal virtues of faith, hope, and charity, in a design our foundress remembered fondly from her childhood. The heart, however, is transfixed by a sword that forms the top portion of the anchor, allowing it to represent the Immaculate Heart of Mary, referenced in Luke 2:35.
The heart is notably located at the foot of the cross, because it was there, in witnessing and partaking in the suffering of her divine Son, that Mary’s heart was wounded. Her compassion consoles His Sacred heart most perfectly. Therefore, it is our hope that our hearts be conformed to Mary’s and likewise wounded at the suffering of her Son, for it is in this breaking of the heart, this “unhardening,” that compassion for His suffering in the world is awakened in us.
This contemplative understanding moves us to action, because we know that Christ suffers now in the members of his body, particularly in the persecuted children to whom we hope to offer a motherly love. We hope also to take up this sword, to reach out to pierce though other hardened hearts, by means of our apostolate of art, that they may be softened to perceive and receive the gentle anchor of hope in God’s love.
It is therefore in this image that our foundational principle repeats itself—to offer consolation to the Hearts of Jesus and Mary, and open the hearts of the world to God’s love.
The use of the habit reveals much about the mission and character of Familia Victricis. Years ago, two of the founding members were to blessed listen to the words of a Cardinal addressed to a group of Catholic performing artists. He emphasized importance of Catholic artists influencing the secular world without distancing themselves from it so drastically by their clothing that doing so would immediately hinder their message. He recounted the tale of Kierkegaard’s clown, whose warning of a fire was tragically unheeded, not because it was untrue but simply because the messenger was “wearing the wrong clothes."
We recognize, sadly, that at times today a religious habit can be such an obstacle to effectiveness and communication in certain circumstances. Therefore, regarding the practical wear of the habit, we draw on the military background of our membership and see it necessary to wear either the right formal uniform or the right camouflage for the operating environment, in order to achieve maximum mission effectiveness. Regardless of the clothing we wear in any circumstance, we must stand apart in that our appearance conveys elegance, modesty, decorum, and the special dignity of our call.
However, we believe the habit to be an important witness of faith and reminder of the special gift of our vocation. Among our current associates, we have a foremost world-class visual artist (with portraits in world collections and work catalogued in the Smithsonian), whose talents extend even to clothing design. We are deeply honored that this artist has offered to design a habit, and a full sketch will be available as we proceed further in our stage of preparation.
The design involves a simple deep brown habit, which recalls both our rootedness in the culture and history of Santa Fe and the often desert cultures globally where we serve, with the collar and interior lining of the head covering a rich turquoise blue, representing our special Marian consecration to the Conquistadora, our very unique charism of the pursuit of beauty, and again our Santa Fean identity. Our military heritage is represented in the ability to roll the lower sleeves of the habit and secure them with buttoned strips, as is the case with most military blouses. Both the Santa Fean and military themes are continued in the simple footwear of brown boots, resulting in a habit that is eminently functional and designed for an active, apostolic life--equally at home involved in desert operations, in the daily work of an artist, in practical, even agricultural activities, or in keeping up with young children through school corridors. (Learn about our plans here.)
Our formal outerwear, the most distinctive piece of the full habit, is a cloak, the interior of which contains the insignia of Familia Victricis embroidered over our hearts. We do this because whether in casual clothing, the practical habit, or our most formal and distinctive dress, above all, our hearts must be habited in the identity of our community.