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Turn to Jesus (Article)

Everything That Is Not Given Is Lost
Father Jaime Rodríguez Díaz, L.C. (Spain)

P. Jaime Rodríguez Díaz , L.C.
Fr. Jaime Rodríguez Díaz , LC

I had set myself a deadline: before the end of January, I had to tell my parents and not put it off one more day. Finally, the moment came on a Sunday afternoon. As the fourth of six children, it wasn’t easy for me to get my parents alone. On the third try, I was able to get the words out: “I have to talk to you.” My tone must have been very solemn, judging by their faces. “I think God is calling me to be a priest and I want to go to the seminary.” I had not yet finished speaking and all three of us were already crying. The unexpected news had a bittersweet taste to it: I think it filled them with joy and pride, but at the same time, it was hard for them to think of me leaving home so soon. I was 17. Telling my parents was a definitive step. It was already a decision.

I was a boy like the others, and I lived a normal and happy life in Monteclaro, a suburb on the outskirts of Madrid. From the age of 8, I had studied in the Everest School, directed by the Legionaries of Christ, and the time had come to leave the cocoon. I had a fantastic family, lots of friends, plans, and dreams, like any boy who is about to go to university. I liked going out with my friends and going to parties. My studies were going well, I liked to read, learn languages, play basketball, and go skiing.

Was I missing something?  Why be a priest?  How did I discover my vocation? A vocation story is often compared to the story of a seed. The sower looks for good earth, plants the seed, waters it, and it grows and bears much fruit. This is how it happened in my case, too.

Good earth

The good earth that helped my vocation to grow was a big Christian family. My father is a fervent and holy man of firm principles, with an iron will. My mother is a joyful and fun woman, both abnegated and holy. Since there were six of us children, we learned from a young age to live together, to share, and to enjoy as a family. Books, toys, clothes… the little ones inherited everything from the older ones. We didn’t have luxurious things or all of our whims granted, but we never lacked anything. My father worked a lot to give us the best education he could. Our favorite vacations were always as a family. My best friends were my siblings. The most fun parties were our family reunions with our aunts, uncles, and cousins.

In my family, the faith was not just something inherited, but something we lived: we normally said grace, and when we were little, we prayed three Hail Mary’s before going to bed, along with another prayer to the Child Jesus. We ran to Mass every Sunday, because in spite of my father’s pressure, we
P. Jaime Rodríguez Díaz , L.C.
never got out of the house on time… Everything was done with great simplicity and naturality.

This was the good earth. One day, the Sower went by and… sowed three seeds!  He called me first, and then my two sisters, Marta and Gloria, who today are holy and happy consecrated women in Regnum Christi. And he also called the rest of my siblings to be happy and holy in their families and jobs: Nicolás as a lawyer, Begoña as a university professor, and Blanca as a nurse. The six of us love each other very much.

The sower

Good earth is not enough. The Sower, with a capital “S,” has to plant the seed. How did it happen?

“A person does not decide to be a Christian because of an ethical decision or a great idea, but because of an event, an encounter with a Person who gives new horizons to life, and with it, a decisive direction” (Encyclical Deus caritas est, n. 1). I am convinced that the vocation is not a good idea or an altruistic decision; neither is it a university subject. It is an encounter.  A call and a response.

My life revolved around school, and the summer camps and activities of ECYD, which is the youth group of Regnum Christi. I don’t know when I got the idea in my head of wanting to be like the priests in my school. They were all nice and kid to me. I could confide in any of them. I remember all kinds of get-togethers, excursions, tournaments, works of Christian charity… Alfonso Triviño, our team leader, was a young university students full of enthusiasm and almost limitless patience, with his bike always at hand and his yellow satchel. We went walking together to Santiago, to Pirineo to ski, to Lourdes, to Peñalara…

con su bici siempre a cuestas y su maillot amarillo. Fuimos juntos caminando a Santiago, al Pirineo a esquiar, a Lourdes en furgoneta, a Peñalara en tiendas de campaña…

In 1992, they invited me to spend Holy Week in the novitiate of the Legionaries of Christ in Salamanca. From the moment I entered, I was impressed to see 200 young men in their cassocks, in an atmosphere of silence and prayer, in poverty… but above all, I saw joy and charity. I was very impressed with how they treated each other. During the Easter Vigil, I experienced a strong call from Jesus to leave everything and follow him. It is difficult to explain. It was not the logical conclusion of a syllogism, nor was it the result of a rational argument. It was an intuition of the heart, as real as love itself, accompanied by a lot of peace and joy.

I had two years left before starting my university studies, which was the natural moment to take this path, so I decided to wait. And as time went by, the idea of a priestly vocation began to weigh on me. Like any boy, I was attracted by other things. I wanted to have a good time and have fun, and I was influenced by the trends and the atmosphere around me. I had a head full of dreams and projects. I started to think that I could do a lot of good for the Church as a good Catholic, which is no small thing. God had given me so much in life. I was not able to understand or accept why he was asking me to leave it all. When the idea of the vocation came into my mind, I pushed it away for later. I didn’t want to think about it. It was like I was just going along, saying: “I don’t want it.”

The water

Good earth and the seed are not enough, either. This idea could be forgotten, like so many other things. In fact, the seed was starting to die…

In August of 1993, I was a counselor at a Mano Amiga camp. Mano Amiga is a Regnum Christi organization that gives support and education to people with few material resources. We had a group of 60 boys ranging in age from 9 to 15. At first, it was not easy. It was hard for us to form a good atmosphere of team spirit and team life in the camp. We found that under their appearance of rebellion, there were some really good boys with very hard lives: broken families, problems with delinquency, drugs… Little by little, they felt more motivated and began to open up. And I stopped living in a bubble and started to give myself to others.

Among the counselors, there was an amazing team spirit. We were with Alberto Reyes, a Cuban seminarian, an alumnus of the international Maria Mater Ecclesiae College. He had a special strength that he pulled from his prayer life. He always gave himself to everyone with joy. On the last day, we all had a knot in our throats when it was time to say goodbye. I think we all cried a little. No one wanted to leave there.

This experience was like throwing rivers of water on my vocational seed. I experienced what Jesus said, and what is written in the Acts of the Apostles: “There is more joy in giving than in receiving.” I discovered that the happiest man is the one who gives the most, the one who gives himself the most, and that whatever is not given is lost. I couldn’t go back to thinking just about myself, about how to have success and fun in life. During those two weeks, I was the happiest person in the world. Why give two weeks and not a month?  Why a month and not a year? Why a year and not a whole life?

I wanted to change the world. I had become very sensitive to the problems and sufferings of others. I realized that it wasn’t in my power to change the structures, but that I could change hearts, starting with my own. In the end, the world is not changed from above, but from within. Christ asks us to be yeast the leavens the dough to hasten his Kingdom. I no longer saw the vocation as a burden. The message of Christ’s love is the answer to all the problems of the world and of mankind.

And gave much fruit

Almost 15 years have gone by since that Sunday afternoon when I told my parents that I wanted to go to the seminary. I look with gratitude at God who has given me the grace to persevere until today. I face the future with enthusiasm, with the desire of contributing my grain of sand, big or little, so that more and more men and women will know Christ and love one another. I know that we have only one life, and that our time is brief, very brief in comparison to the needs of the Church and of men. I have some qualities. Others have other qualities. The Legion of Christ and Regnum Christi are only one part of a bigger Body, which is the Church, rich in vocations and charisms. All of its members mutually complement each other, united in the common mission of bringing the joy of the Gospel to all mankind.

Father Jaime Rodríguez was born in Madrid (Spain), on October 15, 1976. He studied in the Everest School of the Legionaries of Christ. On September 14, 1994, he entered the novitiate of the Legion of Christ in Salamanca (Spain), where he also carried out his humanistic studies. He worked for 3 years with youth groups in Valencia (Spain) as the head of Club Faro and as a teacher of Catholic formation in the Cumbres School. From 1995 to 2001, he was the director of the summer camp of Santa María del Monte in Burgohondo, Ávila (Spain). He has his license in philosophy from the Pontifical Regina Apostolorum College. He is currently working in the general secretariat of the Legionaries of Christ in Rome, while also pursuing his license in theology.


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



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