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Turn to Jesus (Article)

My friend Kept Looking at Me with a Silent and Frightened Face
Father Leandro Trevisan, LC (Brazil)

P. Leandro Trevisan , L.C.
Fr. Leandro Trevisan , LC

“It was you who created my inmost self, and put me together in my mother´s womb; for all these mysteries I thank you: for the wonder of myself, for the wonder of your works. You know me through and through, from having watched my bones take shape when I was being formed in secret, knitted together in the limbo of the womb. You had scrutinized my every action, all were recorded in your book, my days listed and determined, even before the first of them”
(Psalm 139, 13-16).

I wanted to begin this story with this psalm because my vocation, like all others, is a gift from God. He, by the most lovely hands of Mary Most Holy, has guided my steps: he took me out of sin, protected me from great evils, worked on me interiorly, and picked me up with his hand. In short, he is the great protagonist of my story. I have been, am now, and always will be only one of the many works of his hand.

Many good examples
My family is of Italian descent and from our blood is drawn all the Italian tradition, culture, and religiosity. My great-grandparents came from the region of Veneto. My dad is called Celito João and my mother Ivone Lúcia. I’m the oldest of 5 siblings. Sidnei, who is married and has 2 children, came right after me. After her came Marco, Daniela and Danieli.

I was born May 17th in 1978 in the city of Frederico Westphalen in the south of Brasil. Ever since I was little, I wanted to become a priest. When they would ask me what I wanted to be most, I always said, “Father.” This desire would see itself enlivened with the example of so many consecrated souls that I knew, like my uncle Egidio for example, who was a palotino priest. There were as well the sisters of the Child Mary.

I did well in school; I had many friends, I didn’t break things nor did I pull any serious pranks. My best friends were Protestants, and we talked of God very naturally and without prejudice. What most caught my attention from their churches was the missing tabernacle and Eucharist. It seemed to me that the walls in such churches had an air of emptiness, loneliness, and sadness.

Time went on, and when they would ask me what I most wanted to be, I would no longer respond decisively as before. The attraction of the world with its vanities was extinguishing my desire to be a priest. I did my High School in the Agricultural College of Frederico Westphalen. It’s a technical school where one studies everything about farmland, animals, and plants. It was a new experience for me. I lived at the college where at 15 years old I found myself working alone for my money and organizing my time and my life…

We were 200 students. In the morning we studied and in the afternoon we worked in the fields or in the
P. Leandro Trevisan , L.C.
barns. I didn’t have much of a chance to receive the sacraments. All the formation I had received from my family was certainly a big help for me, and I even had the support of my godparents who lived and worked in the region, but my spiritual life deteriorated during this period. I had many difficulties in believing in God, in Heaven, in Christ… Everything seemed dark and without meaning. I began “worshipping” the “goddess” of reason. If there was anything that didn’t seem strictly reasonable to me, I simply tossed it aside. Nonetheless, I never tossed aside my prayers to Mary, and she for her part preserved me from anything really bad. In the middle of all the difficulties, God continued working inside of me, and today I marvel at how the Lord was involved in my life.

In a spiritual retreat for youth
Reason, my only guide, could not explain away many things for me and this caused me to fall in crisis. Each time I gazed up to heaven and saw its infinite vastness, all the stars and all the works of the Lord, I would be left in awe and my reason saw itself obliged to bow down before the evidence of a Supreme Being’s existence, a Creator who governed all his works. All the while I felt a growing emptiness inside of me because of all the superficialities of the world.

In those years I participated in a spiritual retreat for young people in my diocese called the Youth Leadership Course. This experience helped me a lot and I started attending the group activities each Saturday. As well, my paternal grandmother helped me; she was part of the Legion of Mary. One of her usual customs was to visit the sick, and she would bring me along with her when she could. It really impressed me to see how she entered the houses of the sick and always had a consoling word of hope for them.

I felt that my heart began to burn
In one of the weekly meetings on Saturday a priest showed up: Father Sergio Barbosa. He was the first Legionary I met. At first it caught my attention that he was wearing black, was well groomed and had studied in Rome. He spoke to us about his vocation. I felt my heart burn within me. It was the call of the vocation that returned after so much time. At the end, he mentioned that if anyone was interested in being a priest, he would be able to speak with him after the meeting. I tried to “escape” by the back door, intending to convince myself that I really didn’t have a vocation, that my life was already all planned out and that what I felt just before was a figment of my imagination… among other things that we do or think when we’re trying to avoid God and his will.

A couple weeks later, a friend of mine from second year (I was in third) invited me to a spiritual retreat in Curitiba. It was the only weekend I had free! No party planned, no dinner with friends – nothing! It was another of those strange “coincidences” of God! Given that Curitiba is a nice city, I accepted the invitation. So my friend brought me to the room where there was the priest who was organizing the retreat. Well now! There he was, Father Sergio himself who came to my group meeting for youth. I didn’t talk of my reservations and I opted to be just a type of “tourist” during the retreat. My friend and I went along as though it were just a hike, nothing more.

When we arrived to Curitiba, the minor seminary of the congregation (of the Legionaries), we had just begun exiting the bus when some seminarians came to help us and unload our bags. During the meal I noticed that they wouldn’t serve themselves unless they first served us the food. They would thank us for anything. I was contemplating all this in silence. I went on a hike with them and they only spoke well of others; their conversations were only about their mission, about God, about the Church and the congregation. Saturday night, while we were praying our Rosary, right when we were passing in front of Mary’s grotto, I had my “Saint Paul” conversion experience. This experience of light was so clear and strong that I couldn’t resist. What I had felt as a child surged anew within me, yet with such vigor as I never had it before. When we finished with the Rosary, I told my friend, “I’m going to be a Legionary priest.” My friend kept looking at me with a silent and frightened face.

I returned home and told everyone the news. My little old grandmother spent many of the following months thanking God for the great grace which he gave her. My friends would listen, but few thought I would actually be able to follow Christ so seriously.

The two things that really caught my attention in that seminary of Curitiba were the spirit of charity and the consistency of life. There they were so that they could be priests and give of themselves totally and radically to our Lord, with a spirit full of joy like that of the first Christians who were of one heart and one spirit.

Small signs
Time went on, and God maintained the fire of my vocation. I would see small signs coming my way, apparently without importance, that helped me to recognize the limits of human reason and filled me with light that reinforced in me the certainty that the Lord was calling me.

One day I was walking in the fields on campus and I felt something inside saying, “Look under you,” and when I looked I saw a four-leaf clover among thousands of clovers that were on the ground. I stooped down and took it. How is it that I stopped here? How is it possible that just here and now in this moment my eyes caught sight of this tiny little plant? Two days later, I was studying for an exam and I was attempting to memorize the 120 different types of distinct pasture that exist: scientific name, production, cultivation… I was speaking with a friend of mine in that same spot where the clovers were, and again I felt something within me saying, “Look under you.” I looked and saw beside my toe another four-leaf clover that the wind had blown aside from the rest. Both of us were surprised. I picked it up and put it beside the other I had. My friend looked for quite some time for another four-leaf in the same spot but couldn’t find any. For some time I kept both of them. Beyond the story of these four-leaf clovers, what interests me is to point out that in those moments, I felt the same interior joy that I had felt in front of the image of Mary in the grotto in Curitiba, and for me (only for me), it served the purpose to reinforce the call from God.

It’s worth the cost to follow Christ
In November of the same year, I visited the novitiate of the Legionaries and that trip confirmed my decision to give my life for Christ. My mother wanted to find out more about the congregation and told me that until she herself spoke with the Legionary priests, she would not give me the green light. January 6th of 1996, I left home heading towards to my new life, accompanied by Father Luis Pablo Garza, who travelled 3000 kilometers to visit and speak with my family.

Upon entering the novitiate, I found my second “conversion.” The first was in that retreat of the minor seminary. In this second one, I made my general confession of my entire life. I can say that God’s love has totally changed my life. The day I received the Legionary cassock was one of the happiest of my life. That night, seeing as how the following morning I would be putting it on for the first time, I became very aware of how it all came together: What have I been created for?  Why was I taken care of so much? What had nothing of this world filled me? I had found my path; the Lord was calling me to follow him, one day after the next, with his grace, until the day I would die.

The years of formation have passed, and now I journey forward with happiness towards priestly ordination. It’s worth the cost to leave everything to follow Christ and to work for the salvation of soul!

Father Leandro Trevisan was born in Frederico Westphalen, Rio Grande do Sul (Brazil) May 17th 1978. He entered the novitiate of the Legion of Christ March 8th 1996 in São Paulo (Brazil). He completed his humanistic studies in Salamanca (Spain). He has done youth work in parishes and in vocational promotion in the region of São Paulo and Curitiba (Brazil). He has studied both philosophy and theology in the Pontifical Regina Apostolorum College. He currently resides in Rome where he is obtaining a license in moral theology.




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