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Turn to Jesus (Article)

He Picked Me to Play on His Team
Father José Luis Covarrubias Gutiérrez, LC (Mexico)

P. José Luis Covarrubias Gutiérrez , L.C.
Fr. José Luis Covarrubias Gutiérrez , LC

When I was a child I was often asked, “What sport do you like most, soccer or baseball?” I didn’t know what to say, since I liked them both. I was only sure about one thing: when I grew up I would be a professional athlete of one or the other sport.

My whole life revolved around the world of sports. The more my head was separated from the ground, the more practices and training sessions were added onto my list: tennis, downhill skiing, waterskiing, golf… When I was 16, I was invited to be part of the state team of Jalisco. In the end, it was just an invitation, since the training sessions were in the morning, and I was busy every morning with really interesting classes…

Leaving the state team of Jalisco was hard, but another one of my goals remained intact: I wanted to be on the national team in soccer and represent my country in a World Cup. To achieve it, it was clear that I needed a good physical preparation, better ball control than others, a team where I could stand out, and, most importantly, an invitation from a national selector.

Training began at home

I am the second of seven brothers and sisters, part of a family to which I owe everything I am now. In my family I received life, the gift of faith, love, and countless examples of self-giving, generosity, and absolute, unbreakable confidence in God, no matter how difficult the circumstances. Thanks to my parents and my siblings, I have been able to develop the talents God placed in me. They have guided me in the beautiful adventure called life.

I am convinced that every young man’s training for life begins at home; nothing can replace the family. At least, that is how it was for me. My parents, with their testimony of simple faith, their mutual love, and their unity, have always made me feel secure and eager to take full advantage of my life. Looking back, I see that what gave them that security they gave me was their faith and hope in God.

The first moments of separation

I have always been competitive, but not violent, except maybe a little grouchy. From early on I had a lot of good friends, and I don’t remember avoiding or not liking anyone. When I was in 5th grade our teacher did a survey to know who was considered the most friendly in the class, and in the end she told me that it was me. The truth is that I didn’t even realize it. For me everyone was a friend, no matter what team they went for or what their position was on the court.

Besides the fun games during recess, during elementary school I got good grades—in this stage I never left any homework undone—and I was also sensitive to spiritual things. When I was 11, I become a member of ECYD, which is an apostolate of the Legion of Christ for Catholic boys and
P. José Luis Covarrubias Gutiérrez , L.C.
girls who want to be friends of Christ and live their faith through prayer and apostolate.

I remember fondly when I went biking with my friends from house to house asking for donations for the victims of the 1985 earthquake in Mexico City; and so many times around Christmas when we collected food and other materials to hand out to the poor. I will never be able to describe or forget the happiness and gratitude of those people. “May God give you more,” said an old woman when I gave her a box and wished her a merry Christmas. I also liked going to Mass with my family on Saturday nights. Little by little God attracted me towards him in a simple and natural way.

Tough training improves your game

An important change in my life was when I went to the United States for a year to study English, at Oaklawn Academy in Wisconsin. I enjoyed the year a lot: the new environment, new friends, more sports, and fun outings. During our Christmas break we went to Rome and I was able to be present for the priestly ordination of twelve Legionaries of Christ in addition to a Mass of the Holy Father in the Vatican. The Christmas Mass with the Pope is something I remember very well.

During this year of “freedom,” even though I was still young—12 years old—I realized the value of the conscience and how each person is responsible before God for his actions. I also became aware that there were other realities besides what I already knew about: companions with family problems, conflict, sin, religious indifference, and so on. This helped me discover that God had protected me, giving me a truly privileged environment.

In the Academy I made even more friends, and I remember that on the days our parents came to pick us up, we were all crying so much as we said goodbye. I looked out the window and kept on crying for two hours on the way to the airport in Chicago.

After returning to Mexico after a year in the Academy I had a special experience. I noticed that my friends had changed during the year. Their interests had changed, while I was still a kid. I felt for a while like a fish out of water. I was still crazy about sports, while my friends were more interested in parties and girls. Without even wanting it, I began to close up in myself and experience a lot of personal insecurity. It may seem ridiculous, but I “rebelled” against God since I thought it was his fault that I was different. I stopped doing the prayers of ECYD (brief Gospel reflection, daily mystery of the rosary, etc.), and I stopped going to ECYD activities. The whole situation made me feel rotten, and every day my insecurity grew. Thanks to God, however, it didn’t last long. Seeing it now after many years, I can say that it was a period of purifying and growth in the faith, which was necessary for me as a preparation for what God had in store for me.

 The first contract

After those months of trial and insecurity, it didn’t take long for me to start going to parties and to find my place in that new stage of life. When I was 15 I already had a girlfriend. I liked this environment, which thanks to God was always a healthy one, and I had a lot of fun. I was once again dedicated to my studies, I kept on playing sports and making friends, both boys and girls, and, most importantly, I saw God as a friend again that would never let me down. By my own initiative, I began to go to Mass every day.

When I was 17 I decided to be a part of the Regnum Christi Movement, and with that I resumed the life of prayer and apostolate that had helped me so much and was making me happy. In this time my sister was giving a year as a Regnum Christi co-worker. I decided that in due time I, too, would like to give a year… Who would have thought that it wouldn’t be a year, but my whole life! Perhaps I was not very aware of it, but at that moment I was signing my first contract to play for God.

During those years, life was smiling at me like never before. High school and the year of college I had were the best years of my life, and I can say that everything, from the details to the most important things, was going great.

What about the vocation?

Perhaps someone is already despairing because there still doesn’t appear even the least shadow of a desire to be a priest, but I am telling the things how they happened. The truth is that during my life I never thought about being a priest. I wanted to be a soccer player or a baseball player or…

As far back as I can remember there have been Legionary priests in my house. I studied with them in the Cumbres Institute from pre-school until I graduated from high school. The year I was in the United States, in Oaklawn Academy, I was also with them. That contact increased when I participated in ECYD and later in Regnum Christi. I always had a great respect and admiration for them, also a great appreciation, but it never occurred to me that I could be one of them.

Although several of my friends were telling me I would end up as a priest because of the way I was and because they saw me going to Mass, the truth is that I didn’t think it was so possible. I was already happy where I was and I believed God was also happy with me.

The first time I saw the vocation as a possibility was when in my last year of high school we were given a few conferences about the different professions and paths in life. Engineers, architects, doctors, and a married couple all went up to speak, as well as Father Juan Pedro Oriol. His joy and conviction, his love for what he did, his pride in being a priest, all struck me. But more than anything else it was one phrase he said: “The most beautiful thing in my life has been to know generous young men and women who had everything, but are now giving their lives for Christ and for all mankind.” That statement made me think that the priesthood wasn’t the last resort in life, something to fall back on if I wasn’t happy, if all else failed, or if no one wanted to marry me. I realized it was about a vocation of renunciation and generosity, complete self-giving forged in an authentic love for God and for others. In the end, it was about a choice, a completely individual calling.

Two of my friends also felt the same thing and began a serious discernment of the vocation. They faced it right away, without trying to avoid it, without fear, and in the end they discovered they didn’t have a vocation to the priesthood. In my case things happened in the opposite way…

 “Maybe I could be one of the chosen members”

Behind that first moment that made me see the priesthood as a path where I could be happy, or even happier than in other paths, I began to ask myself if God was really calling me or not, and I started getting worried and nervous about something that had previously meant nothing to me. I who had always wanted to be on the national team was now trying to resist the call of the highest selector. “Why me, Lord?” I asked him, “There are also people needed to bear witness outside… I promise that out here I will not let you down.” The truth is that I didn’t want to leave what I had and accept such a demanding commitment.

Towards the end of 1992, Father Juan Pedro Oriol invited me to a Christmas retreat in Monterrey, but I couldn’t go because at the beginning of December my paternal grandfather died, also named José Luis. He would always tell me, “You have to take my name very high.” When he died I thought about that a lot, about what I had to do to take his name high, striving not to let myself be convinced that I should pay attention to the call I was feeling inside.

During Holy Week the next year, Father Juan Pedro invited me to another retreat, and again I said I would go… but in the end I turned around and went on vacation, first with my family and then with my friends. From then on, I tried to center myself on “my world,” in the things I liked doing, so as to forget about the vocation. At first it worked, and I thought I had achieved it. I didn’t count on God’s infinite patience. As the Holy Week of 1994 drew near, I received a letter from Father Juan Pedro, inviting me to go on a retreat. I accepted, and this time I actually went. I wanted to get rid of the anxiety that was still in me. I went alone, without friends, so that I would have no excuse to not get into the retreat. It was certainly an experience that made an impact on me. I defended myself, thinking that it was normal to feel a desire for a vocation in a spiritual retreat about the vocation. The fact is, however, that the topic of my vocation was not resolved.

At the beginning of June I went to speak with Father Juan Pedro, and he invited me to see in the presence of God if he was calling me to the priesthood. I was convinced I didn’t have a vocation—and neither did I want one—but I wanted to know it for sure. So I dared to wager with God and go to the program of vocational discernment during the summer.

Chosen by Christ

After deciding to take the step, I had to tell everyone what I was going to do. I never thought that it would be so easy, and I only found words of encouragement. How much I have to thank God for the support I received from everyone! He alone knows how much that helped me through so many people and how their encouragement inspired me to take on that endeavor, and all those yet to come. I especially give thanks to my parents, who from the beginning offered me an example of faith and submission to God’s will. This was worth more than any talk or sermon. Together with them I thank my whole family for their continuous support, for their love, and for their prayers.

I left my home on June 17, 1994. That day I began the adventure of following Christ, an adventure I thought would last two weeks at most, an adventure I have now been on for a little over 14 years.

That whole summer was marked by a great interior struggle. I didn’t want to accept the fact that I had a vocation, and I dedicated myself to do everything possible so that my parents would think the same thing as I. Once again, however, God made his will known, and he made me realize that that wasn’t the way to act if I really wanted to know what he wanted of me. God triumphed and inflamed my heart with the desire to follow him for ever. Now I have no doubt that Christ has called me, and that he has picked me to play on his team.

Father José Luis Covarrubias was born in Guadalajara, Jalisco (Mexico) on March 5, 1975. He attended the Cumbres Institute. He studied finance in the Pan-American University of Guadalajara. On September 15, 1994, he entered the novitiate of the Legion of Christ in Monterrey (Mexico). He studied humanities in Cheshire, Connecticut (United States). For three years he was the member of the formators team of the novitiate and college of humanities in Salamanca, Spain. He has a licentiate in philosophy from the Pontifical Regina Apostolorum College of Rome, and is currently studying to earn a licentiate in theology in the same Atheneum. Since the summer of 2005 he has been a member of the formators team at the see of the general directorate of the congregation.  


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



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