Cora Evans: Mystic, wife and mother

Mystical Humanity of Christ Publishing has released “Gems” ($14.95), a collection of spiritual writings by Servant of God Cora Evans (1904-57), a convert from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints who lived in Utah and California and claimed to have had mystical experiences throughout her life. The cause for Evans’ canonization is underway in the Diocese of Monterey, California. The collection is edited by Michael McDevitt, executive director of Mystical Humanity of Christ Publishing, named for the spirituality Cora dedicated her life to promoting.

McDevitt will be discussing Cora’s life at Mystical Humanity of Christ’s 25th anniversary retreat, “The Greatest Prayer the World Has Ever Known,” which will be held at the St. Clare Retreat Center in Soquel, California, Aug. 18-20.

Raised a Latter Day Saint

Cora spent the first part of her life in Utah raised as a Mormon. She married Mack Evans in the Latter Day Saints temple in Salt Lake City, and the couple had three children. It was a happy home, recalled Dorothy Ruth Evans, 87, Cora’s only surviving child. “I had a good father and mother, and I never remember any fights in the house,” Dorothy said.

Yet Cora had doubts about key aspects of Mormon teaching, and in 1924 embarked on a 10-year study of other religions. Her conversion to Catholicism began in 1934 when, while living in Ogden, Utah, and sick in bed, she heard the radio program “Catholic Hour” with Msgr. Duane Hunt (who later became the bishop of Salt Lake City). The radio program prompted Cora to contact her local Catholic parish, St. Joseph, to discuss the Catholic faith further. She met the associate pastor in her home. He introduced her to Catholic teachings and in subsequent visits would debate the Mormon elders her husband, Mack Evans, invited over to refute the priest’s beliefs.

Cora converted to Catholicism in 1935. Mack and their two daughters converted as well (their son died from an infection while he was a toddler). Dorothy remembers how her mother would school her in the Catholic faith, encouraging her to invite Jesus into her heart whenever she received Communion.

The anti-Catholic sentiment in Ogden ran deep, and Cora paid a heavy price for her conversion, Dorothy said. Members of her extended family disowned her, and Mack was fired from his job as a milkman. The family ultimately moved to Los Angeles so Mack could find work. Yet despite the persecution, Cora’s example drew many converts from the Latter Day Saints, Dorothy said.

The Mystical Humanity

Cora’s mystical experiences began with an apparition of Mary at age 3. After an experience of ecstasy in 1938, she resolved to serve God for the remainder of her life. She wrote, “It was necessary for me to live my chosen vocation with him as my companion. By loaning Jesus my humanity for him to govern as well as dwell within would make my life a living prayer, for he was life, living life within me, and my body now dead to me was his living cross, his cross to take to Calvary — Calvary, the door to eternal life.”

The way of prayer entrusted to Cora is known as the Mystical Humanity of Christ, a Eucharistic spirituality encouraging the faithful to live each day with a heightened awareness of the living, indwelling presence of Jesus in their lives.

Teachings on the Mystical Humanity of Christ
Cora Evans
“Jesus rose to His feet and spoke these words as He seemed to gaze in raptures upon the symbol of souls, ‘May the sublime calling of the Eternal Father bless each soul here represented with the grace of eternal love. Through them may His eternal love be manifest in and through each of their actions, words, and deeds. May their cloak of wisdom be a constant guide to a living motto, “All for God’s glory.” May each word, action, and deed remind them of humility, kindness, and charity, as if the whole world depended upon their actions in the moment, lest perhaps the earth dissolve into nothingness because of their fault through unfaithfulness to God. May their love and devotion to My Humanity be the fires and pillars of strength in the foundation to the world’s last devotion, in the world’s last half hour, My Mystical Humanity.’”

“The Mystical Humanity of Christ focuses on the human state of the divine,” said Father Gary Thomas, pastor of Sacred Heart Church in Saratoga, California, in the Diocese of Monterey. “The Mystical Humanity makes Christ a real and tangible human person but retaining his divinity. It expresses the imminent nature of God who is both transcendent (the Creator) and imminent (the Savior/Redeemer).”

McDevitt leads retreats around the country promoting this spirituality. McDevitt’s uncle, Jesuit Father Frank Parrish (1911-2003), served as Cora’s spiritual director and in 1992 asked McDevitt to be the custodian of Cora’s writings. It was Father Parrish, McDevitt noted, who believed Cora to be an authentic mystic early on and encouraged her to write about her experiences.

As a boy, McDevitt was introduced to Cora through his uncle. When he received first Communion, Cora gave him a book about the Our Father as a gift. He recalled her as “well-respected, humble and kind.”

Stigmata and ecstasy

Cora also was said to have a number of mystical gifts, McDevitt said, including the stigmata (wounds of Christ), bilocation and the fragrance of roses associated with her presence, which is known as the odor of sanctity. Dorothy recalled seeing the stigmata herself on different parts of her mother’s body, including the palms, wrists and side.

Cora tried to keep such experiences hidden from her family. Dorothy recalls seeing the stigmata for the first time when she was in the eighth grade. It was also this time that Dorothy began observing her mother in ecstasy.

“I remember coming home from school one day and I couldn’t wake my mother up. It was after that she explained to me what was going on,” Dorothy said.

Bishops, priests and theologians were frequent visitors to her home while growing up, recalled Dorothy, who’d ask her mother many questions about her experiences.

“It was interesting being the daughter of such a great lady,” she said. “But as a child you get used to what’s around you.”

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Cora spent the last two years of her life in Boulder Creek in northern California before dying of cancer in 1957. She has been declared a Servant of God as her cause for canonization is considered, and the Diocese of Monterey is investigating her life and writings. Monterey Bishop Richard Garcia is “100 percent” behind the investigation, McDevitt said, and has done much to assist the process.

McDevitt anticipates that the investigation will be complete in another year, with the findings soon turned over to the Vatican’s Congregation for the Causes of Saints. He hopes that it won’t be long until she is declared a saint.

“Cora was a laywoman whose life centered on doing the will of God,” McDevitt said. “The choices she made, we can make; like the saints, there are many aspects of her life we can emulate.”

Father Thomas noted: “It amazes me that this woman touched so many people in her short life through her faith and miraculous visions, yet her humility covered over her notoriety until so recently.”

Dorothy added: “I have so many good memories of my mother. She loved God so much and helped me to know and to love God, too.”

Jim Graves writes from California.