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God Always Surprises Us
INTERNATIONAL | WHO WE ARE | TESTIMONIES
Vocational Testimony of Fr. Alberto Quílez Figuerola, LC

Testimonio vocacional del P. Alberto Quílez Figuerola L.C.
Fr. Alberto Quílez Figuerola L.C.
Love always surprises us. And so, when God (who is love) comes into our lives, sometimes he provokes a sense of confusion, while at other times he strengthens our certainties. At any rate, it’s clear that the story of a follower of Christ is full of a sense of wonder. That’s how I’ve seen it in my vocation. But let’s start from the beginning.

On the day of my birth, September 24, Barcelona was celebrating its biggest feast: Our Lady of Mercy. God started me off in life on a day dedicated to the Virgin Mary, the Mother and companion of my vocation. I was born in a wonderful family in which I received the most precious gifts from God that a man could desire: life, faith from my baptism, and the love of God. I am the second of three siblings, which served me quite well, since my older brother blazed a path for me and I was able to learn from his experience. My parents have always been a clear reflection of the love with which God loves us, especially by their total dedication and constant self-giving to the family. I will only be able to thank them sufficiently through the Eucharist, when Christ gives himself to everyone through the hands of the priest.

The “Culprits” Behind My Vocation
My parents entrusted my education to the Sacred Heart Brothers, the Corazonistas, whom I remember very much for their witness of daily self-giving to the youth. We didn’t always make it easy for them. Dostoyevsky said that “whoever has a childhood full of memories has his life assured.” I think my childhood qualifies, as those who listen to the alumni of the Corazonistas can testify: we are always remembering anecdotes, stories, life experiences. I thank them for what
Testimonio vocacional del P. Alberto Quílez Figuerola L.C.
they did for my spiritual formation, and they must bear part of the “guilt” for my vocation. I spent my life there for 11 years (primary school through high school) in the midst of classes, studies, exams… with a punishment or two, a correction here and there, of course. From my first years at school, I was very much into sports. I was part of the handball team at school and on various occasions we won the Barcelona championship. I also swam, although with less fond memories, since in high school it meant that I had to get to school an hour early. I also participated in extracurricular activities that were frequently organized: theater, pilgrimages, music… I can say that they were able to make the school into a kind of second family.

Another part of the “guilt” for my vocation must be borne by the school chaplains, who were young and enthusiastic priests of the Legion of Christ. I noticed their fervor when they celebrated Mass, their availability to listen and forgive sins in the sacrament of confession, their doctrinal preparation, and their human distinction.

With so many good examples all around, I started to perceive a little bug, an interest in following Christ like them. But by what path? As a Corazonista brother or as a Legionary priest? When I was 12, I met a Corazonista brother who was also a priest, which made me even more confused. As often happens when God calls but the person can’t see clearly, I opted for the easiest path: I tried not to listen too much, and I waited to see what would happen. Even so, I recognize now that God still made himself present and was protecting my vocation. The years passed by until I reached my last year in high school. At my school at that time, it was not possible to take the COU (a year of study before university), so my friends and I started looking into other schools. With some hope of forgetting the vocational bug, I registered with the Teresians of Father Enrique d’Ossó, never suspecting the surprises that God had in store for me.

I Suspected Nothing
During Holy Week of 1992, I went on a pilgrimage to Rome with some companions in a group organized by a Legionary priest. We stayed in their formation house. We arrived to the Center for Higher Studies in a moment when the community was on the move toward the dining room for snack, and a huge number of young men with their black cassocks walked by in front of our eyes. God came out to meet me there like nobody’s business. The next day, while I was getting ready to go to the Mass of Pope John Paul II with the group of young men, the priest in charge of the group called me to give me a piece of news: he had chosen me to bring up one of the gifts for the offertory at Mass with the Pope, and I had to leave right away with another young man. We got to St. Peter’s Basilica and they left us with a man in charge of the ceremony. When he saw us and another pair of girls, the good man asked: “Would you mind pairing up in couples?” “Heck, no!” I responded on the fly, looking at the girls with wonder. God knew what he was doing and I suspected nothing.

In the time that was left between the practice and the ceremony, we talked a lot. I told her who I was and where I was from. She for her part told me about Regnum Christi, a lay movement she belonged to. She had come to Rome for a vocational get-together because she was planning to consecrate her life to God. Another divine call to attention that I didn’t pick up on in the moment. I was very impressed at her testimony, her generosity, and her decision, so I decided in my interior to offer that Mass (which I saw more as a matter of enduring a long celebration under the sun of justice) for those people who wanted to consecrate themselves to God. And he started closing the circle around me, although I was as yet unaware. The Mass started, and the moment came to bring up the offerings. She and I were the first ones leading the procession with the cup and chalice in our hands while the choir sang “Eccomi! Signore, io vengo!” (Here I am. Lord, I come!). We knelt down before the deep and paternal gaze of John Paul II and… nothing else happened.

A Message Prepared from All Eternity
As always, the celebration of the Eucharist continued on its course and I followed it with more faith than attention in the booklet they had given us. But in the consecration, I knelt down with fervor and clearly heard the message that God had prepared for me: “Alberto, you just offered your entire life.” For me, the message was very clear and direct: a Mass, an intention, a call, a cup with the hosts that the Vicar of Christ was going to transform into the Body of Christ. He called me to be his priest forever, to offer my entire life on the altar. The rest of the week was a tug-of-war between God and my personal plans, the path of God and the path that I wanted to chart for myself.

With all of that, the love of God triumphed in my decision. I knew that God wanted me as a priest, but where? For what mission? I wanted to do everything: help the youth, help families, hear confessions, celebrate Mass, go on missions, work in education… How could I do all that? Where? With the help of my spiritual director, I went that summer to the novitiate in Salamanca to experience the life firsthand and to get to know the priestly vocation in the Legion of Christ. The witness of my companions in the summer candidacy program, the novices’ enthusiasm for Christ, and especially prayer helped me to enter the novitiate and start out on a new path in the religious life. It has been a path with its fair share of surprises and setbacks, but God’s love has been present through it all.

Now, 15 years have gone by since I started out on this adventure of following Christ. Deep joys and satisfactions have been woven in with difficulties and challenges in my years of formation until this point of reaching the priesthood. But I am sure of one thing: it’s worth it! My life for Christ!

Father Alberto Quílez Figuerola was born in Barcelona on September 24, 1975. He entered the Legion of Christ on September 14, 1992. He studied classical humanities in Salamanca (Spain) and earned his licentiate in philosophy from the Regina Apostolorum Pontifical Athenaeum. He has worked in Spain and Mexico in the education and guidance of adolescents, working with the School of Parents in various cities in Spain. He is the author of the book A manos llenas (With Full Hands). He is currently working toward his licentiate in theology with a specialization in spirituality and the Bible at the Regina Apostolorum.


PUBLICATION DATE: 2008-01-04


 
 


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