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Turn to Jesus (Article)

The Question That Changed My Life
Father Massimiliano Zago, LC (Italy)

P. Massimiliano Zago , L.C.
Fr. Massimiliano Zago , LC

Already at the age of six, I had a diploma for being an acolyte.  I was the youngest of the group.  One day, while serving Mass, and looking at the parish priest wearing purple vestments, the words spontaneously came to me: “One day I will also wear those purple vestments.” They are the thoughts of a six year old, which no one gives much importance to, but what is certain is that very soon I hope to celebrate my first Mass wearing purple vestments.

My mother’s prayers

I had the grace of being confirmed when I was twelve by Bishop Antonio Mistrorigo, the bishop of my dioceses (Treviso), a wonderful and profoundly spiritual bishop.  When the ceremony had finished, we were preparing for a group picture and by chance I overheard a conversation between the bishop and the parish priest. “Your Excellency, we have a mother here who is praying that her son becomes a priest; what do you think about that? 

The Bishop responded, “Remember, God always hears the prayers of a mother.  Have you read the story of Monica, St. Agustin’s mother?  How many prayers and tears shed by this woman for the conversion of her son and history tells us God gave her this grace.”

Eight years a Boy Scout

I think being a Boy Scout for eight years in my parish, Maria Asunta, in Paderno de Ponzano, Veneto, prepared me for living in a community of religious life.  Years of fun and games, human and spiritual formation, learning to appreciate the beauty of nature and creation, and to help and respect others.  The scout law is beautiful, and if it is lived well, the boy or adolescent becomes more responsible on his way to maturity.  For me, the most valuable lesson of these eight years was esprit de corps, working together for a common end and being able to renounce one’s own interest for the good of the group and others.  In a word: generosity, a virtue necessary for religious life.

A conversion in my family

When someone is born in a Catholic family, sometimes they don’t realize what a grace it is.  My family has always been very Catholic, but when I was an adolescent, God permitted an experience of the action of grace in the soul of someone very close to me.  When my mom’s brother died, my father stopped going to Mass.  According to him, God was unjust to let a young man, twenty-three, die of cancer. 

Ten years later, my mom became pregnant with her fourth child.  The moment of birth arrived, and things just got more complicated.  My little sister was on the point of dying and so my father turned to the Blessed Virgin for help: “If you save her, I promise I will go to Confession and receive Communion.”  My sister was born in July 1987, and my father went to Confession and received Communion on the 8th of December, the feast of the Immaculate Conception, with in the Marian year proclaimed by
P. Massimiliano Zago , L.C.
John Paul II.  I remember on arriving home, my father, very happy, gave us the news.  I ran to tell my mom it was a miracle.  It was in this moment that I heard something from my mother that was written in my heart and mind for the rest of my life.  She told me, “Massimiliano, I offered God my life for the conversion of my husband.”

Giving yourself to others fills you with joy

“There is more joy in giving than receiving.”  In 1994 the moment arrived to choose between military or substitute social service.  I chose the second.  I spent a whole year working with special needs boys and girls.  The first day was difficult; I had no idea how to deal with them.  Fear and human respect were winning against generosity.

As time passed, I started to realize they did not need anything special, just attention and affection.  Now human respect and fear were giving way to generosity.  On the last day we organized a going away party, and it was difficult to hold back the tears!  The following day, at home, the names of the kids were coming spontaneously to my mind: “Marcos, Dory, Adriano…” And with the names, this phrase spontaneously came to me: “There is more joy in giving than in receiving.”

A preaching Mexican priest

Being part of a Marian prayer group is something for which I will always give thanks to God.  I was also part of the choir, because I knew how to play the guitar and the bass.  One night in one of our meetings, after the Gospel, the homily began.  It was a new voice.  I never really paid much attention to the homilies, but that time I did.  He started like this: “I am a Mexican missionary priest here in Italy.”  A Mexican missionary priest in Italy… who would even think of saying this?  The homily continued in perfect Italian and was perfect in its content.  This Mexican missionary priest, so straightforward, was winning my friendship.  Who would have ever thought that the Lord would have used this priest, a missionary in Italy, to invite me to take part in a vocational discernment course of the Legionaries of Christ.

Ronaldo and the “normal” seminarian

For me the word “seminarian” was a synonym for a person very spiritual on the one hand and very well educated on the other, but not in the realities of the world, like sports.  Sports completely captivated my attention, and all my friends and I ever talked about was soccer. 

One time, the Mexican priest arrived with a Legionary seminarian from Spain.  Once our prayer meeting finished we started talking.  All of a sudden the seminarian started to talk about an Italian team buying Ronaldo, which happened to be my team!  Then I asked him his opinion on the matter, since he was for the team selling Ronaldo.  I was surprised; and my prejudices about seminarians were destroyed.  My conclusion was: this seminarian is normal.

Marriage or priesthood

It is not easy to discern your life and vocation when things are not clear.  In 1996, two friends just died, I could not stand my work and the business I worked for, I had no car, no stable group of friends and the girl I was trying to get found another boyfriend.  When a priest invited me to come to a vocational discernment course, I said no.

That summer, I made a pilgrimage to Medjugorje.  The train was full of young people who wanted a new experience.  I came back happy.  I saw an “invisible hand” fixing everything.  I met many friendly people, I started another job, my work was much more fulfilling, a new car finally came, and I started to go out with a girl.  Humanly speaking, I had everything, but on the inside I felt a constant emptiness.  God was telling me: “Now you have everything you want and now you realize that this is not what is important; you will not find happiness here but in the full realization of your vocation.”

A second discernment course invitation arrived by the Mexican priest: “Massimilliano, look to the future: are you sure marriage will fulfill you as a man and a Christian?  If you do not have this clear on the inside, than I would purpose a program for discernment.”  I had many reasons to again say no, but I said yes, and with this began a marvelous adventure in the Legion.


I am convinced it is Mary, the mother who was and still is present in my whole life, who gave me the grace of the vocation and the graces I continually need.  I was baptized on October 13, the day of the last apparition of the Blessed Virgin in Fatima.  I received my first Holy Communion in May, the month dedicated to the Most Holy Virgin.  I received the call to the religious life on August 15, the dedication of the basilica of St. Mary Major in Rome, the first Christian basilica dedicated to Mary.

In this same basilica, God willing, I will celebrate my first Mass, and being Advent, celebrate it with purple vestments.  I will leave in her hands the fruit of my priestly ministry, because the life of a priest totally consecrated to her can not remain sterile.

Father Massimiliano Zago was born in Treviso (Italy), September 1, 1974.  He finished school in the Tequnical Instutue Max Planck de Lancenigo (Treviso).  On September 15 of 1997, he entered the novitiate of the Legion of Christ in Gozzano (Italy).  He did his Humanistic studies in Salamanca (Spain).  He worked for three years in youth ministry and the promotion of vocations in the north of Italy (Movara).  He has a Master’s degree in Philosophy and a Bachelor’s degree in Theology from the Pontifical Regina Apostolorum College.  Presently, he works in youth ministry and the promotion of vocations in the northeast of Italy (Padua).


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



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