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Turn to Jesus (Article)

A Loving Hand Was Guiding Me
Father Juan Carlos Hernández Torres, LC (Mexico)

P. Juan Carlos Hernández Torres , L.C.
Fr. Juan Carlos Hernández Torres , LC

I had the inestimable grace of being born in a terrific Christian family in San Miguel el Alto, Jalisco. My parents started their family while they were young and had six children: five boys, of which I am the fourth and one girl. I have some great memories of Christian living such as praying the Rosary in the family each Saturday of the year and all the days of the month of May; the Mass dedicated to the Holy Trinity all the first days of the month in which way I saw my father participate in a special; the respect and the veneration for priests, especially those whom the family dealt with, etc. All this helped without a doubt to cultivate the ground in which God would deposit the seed of my vocation.

My childhood was peaceful and typical of any boy of that age, although with some surprises. The first memory I have is that of struggling under water. This happened when I was only a few months old and I was about to drown at the beach.

Since I was three, I studied in a school run by religious sisters in my town. The studies were very demanding and I came close to repeating a school year.

I spent the majority of my evenings with friends from school that I had known since kindergarten. We formed a soccer and baseball team together and made for a very united group, especially when it came to homework and fights. One year two of them went to the summer program in the apostolic school in Leon but discovered that it was not their vocation.

The sport I dedicated most time and effort to was Tae Kwon Do. I had the fortune of having a master of great spiritual and human standards. Even though we were a group of preadolescents, he always treated us like adults and passed on the human virtues that the art teaches. Another sport which I dedicated a lot to, thanks to my older brother, was archery and hunting.

At an early age I also began to draw and paint. I started to sell my pictures to my mother, from whom I inherited my painting ability. Accompanying my father to his work, I went to learn the art of commerce. I remember having put my first business together (selling knickknacks) with two other associates at the age of nine, and at ten my father bought me fifty little chickens to make my savings. Really, my task was very easy: guard them every evening until they got big enough so the rats couldn’t eat them. My father gave me the land, the food, and the cages, but in the end the earnings were mine.

One day a priest came to my school that presented himself as a “Legionary of Christ.” At my young age I still could not distinguish between a diocesan priest and a religious. But two things caught my attention and for me they were a cause
P. Juan Carlos Hernández Torres , L.C.
of interest: the fact that he dressed like a priest, and the enthusiasm he radiated. I had never seen a priest play soccer, and so well besides.

During the talk, Father Enrique Flores told us that the only important thing was to get to heaven and that this was achieved only through loving God and being in the state of grace. He also spoke to us about the seminary in Mexico City. After the talk and the soccer game I forgot about it all until one day Father Enrique showed up at my house along with my best friend, with whom I had just finished fighting, inviting me to get to know the apostolic school in Leon. For me it was a surprise to see Father Enrique at my house, and the reason was that this friend had told him that I wanted to go to the seminary. After the surprise I didn’t have a choice but to say yes.

During the visit to the apostolic school in Leon, I noticed the charity with which the “brother apostolics” (as we were used to calling them) dealt with each other and with us. I saw them happy and enthusiastic with their vocation and they were able to communicate this interior wealth. But my vocation stirrings really started when Father Enrique told me that all the Legionaries are very close to the Pope, that they are ready for whatever mission that he may give to them and that there were also some who got to greet him and serve his Masses. God made use of this enthusiasm to bring me later on to the deeper motives for self-giving to the religious life and the priesthood.

When the school year finished, Father Enrique invited me to the summer program in the apostolic school in Leon. In the beginning I said yes, since I wanted to escape some math classes that my mom had organized for me during the summer. Later I began to doubt when I got to know the plans for our family vacation… But I had already given my word.

The first days in the apostolic school were fundamental for the strengthening of my budding vocation. The great spirit, the charity, and the joy that reigned in the apostolic school helped me start this adventure. I give thanks to God and my parents for having helped me in those moments of difficulty and for encouraging me at all times, considering that the distance was very hard for them.

I did three years of secondary school in the apostolic school of Leon and later I changed to the apostolic school of Ajusco, in Mexico City. These years were very beautiful, years of knowledge and growth in love for my vocation. I give thanks to God for having called me at this age and for having given me the gift of excellent formators: holy men filled with the priestly and religious spirit.

After an intense period of prayer and discernment I received the Legionary uniform, the cassock, and I began my novitiate in Salamanca, Spain. The novitiate is the school where one learns to live like Christ, and to feel and think like Christ. This is the most difficult work in the life of every Christian but an essential one in the life of a religious and priest. I remember this period as one of the best of my life, and I go back continually in spirit to those two years.

I continued my formation in this same center of Salamanca studying humanities and sciences. At the end I had the grace to form part of the first group of Legionaries to study philosophy in Thornwood, New York.

After two years I went to Colombia to do youth ministry and vocation promotion for two years and later I went to Barquisimeto, Venezuela to help as a formator in the apostolic school the Legion has there. They were years full of graces on the part of God our Lord and much learning in the art of the apostolate. After these four years, I went to Rome to finish my university studies.

Looking back, I see clearly the loving and provident hand of Christ that has guided me during almost 20 years of priestly formation for the priesthood. A hand that I always saw in this long path in which there has been no lack of difficulties. For this reason, I give thanks to God for the unmerited gift of the priestly vocation in the Legion of Christ and also to the Most Holy Virgin for her loving presence of a Mother and companion during all my life. In the second place I give thanks to my family for having educated me in the Christian home and for having supported me in my vocation. At the same time I thank our founder and all my Legionary formators for having been patient and docile instruments in the hands of God and for having been fathers and teachers in the different stages of my formation.

I am happy to know that I am in the path that God has planned for me from all eternity and happy for having been chosen by Jesus Christ in the greatest undertaking, which is the salvation of souls.

Father Juan Carlos Hernandez Torres was born in San Miguel el Alto, Jalisco (Mexico) in 1977. He entered the apostolic school in 1989 at the age of eleven. He did his secondary school studies in the city of Leon, Guanajuato and the diploma in the apostolic school in the apostolic school in Ajusco, in Mexico City. He did his novitiate and humanities in Salamanca, Spain. He had a license in philosophy and a baccalaureate in theology from the Pontifical Regina Apostolorum College in Rome. He did youth ministry and vocation promotion in Bogota and Medellin, Colombia. He was a member of the team of formators in the apostolic school in Barquisimeto, Venezuela. He now works in youth ministry and vocational promotion in Puebla, Mexico.      

Translation of the vocation story published in the book "Vivir para Cristo"



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