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Turn to Jesus (Article)

God Calls Whoever and However He Wants
Father Julio Jiménez López, LC (Spain)

P. Julio Jiménez López , L.C.
Fr. Julio Jiménez López , LC

“You don’t have the look of a priest”. How many times have I heard this phrase? What is it to have a “priest-look”? Does God call priests because of their face? Well no; God calls who he wants, how he wants, when he wants, and from where you least expect it. He doesn’t hold to limits and he calls even those who “don’t have the look of a priest.”

I was born in Madrid on the 16 of March of 1976. We were two brothers. I had the grace and the responsibility of being the oldest in my family and as well among my cousins. I was born into a young family, very hard working and very zealous. Since we were young my parents instilled in us the human virtues such as honesty, strength, work, helping the needy, and respect. They taught us as well to pray before going to bed and the religious symbols were not foreign to us, especially the Holy Week processions and the devotion to the Blessed Virgin, particularly under the title of her Immaculate Conception.

I don’t know when the idea came to me to be a priest. The first time I said it, my parents were really disconcerted, because there was nothing they could see in the family that would indicate that I could follow this vocation; and although they said no immediately, afterwards they didn’t worry too much, since it was just a “childhood phase.”

I was a child like any other. As well I was a little nervous and for this reason my parents wanted to give me lots of activities to keep me busy. Sports became a passion and although I never got good at any one- I was never a professional in any-, I played almost all of them. I have to thank in a special way all those who gave me guidance in these various sports, especially my judo teacher, a great professional who today has the white red belt. He not only taught us how to fight, but also the art of work, of effort and love for what you do.   

I had some fights, since I had such a nervous character and an exaggerated zeal for justice; I took some hits and threw some. I remember at least one month before my First Communion, I showed up at home with a black eye because of an “inevitable” fight. And of course all the photos for the Communion, the video, the examinations… I only remember that it all took away my tendency to fight for some time.

In studies I was never a genius and my most frequent mark was an eight. One trimester I really went all out for a good time and I ended up with three suspended subjects; it was the straw that broke the camel’s back and during the next semester there were no more special activities. Of course I made up these subjects with good marks and I was able to save the school
P. Julio Jiménez López , L.C.
year. My parents motivated us a lot in this field, since it was really our only duty. It was only during our two-week summer vacations at the beach that they allowed us not to be reading a book. Really for me my parents have always been a reference point in my life. Seeing how they confronted life’s diverse circumstances was and continues to be a real education.

When with the passing of years my desire for the priesthood had died down, God sent me the first answer through the woman in charge of our catechesis, Mrs. Trinidad Molina, a woman of God with a great enthusiasm for helping souls. She saw the necessity of well formed catechists and organized a group of young people from Madrid to go on Saturdays to different villages south of Madrid to give catechesis to more than 500 kids. Mrs. Trinidad, seeing in me a possible vocation, invited me to a Rosary in which priests from the Legion of Christ were present. They invited me to get to know the apostolic school in the north of Spain. I returned to my home very enthused and almost with a decision already made, but my parents told me very clearly: “Not until you finish the BUP (the diploma) and without going so far.” For two years Father Mario Gonzalez called me and invited me to retreats, but I never went. The truth is that I had lost the zeal for the religious idea, although I continued going to Mass with the catechist group.

I don’t remember how and why, but the fact is that one day Father Mario invited me to spend a month of the summer in the apostolic school. I agreed immediately. My parents understood the invitation I had accepted perfectly. They knew it would be a difficult month for me, since I had never gone to an activity like this for so long. With me being so nervous, they thought that if I made it through one month, I would already have exceeded their expectations.

I arrived at the apostolic school on July 16, 1989, on the feast of Our Lady of Carmen. The first time my parents called, I cried and was anxious. Afterwards everything began to go normally and I felt more as time went on that this was for me, that God wanted me there.

The 15th of August was getting closer and my parents were coming to pick me up so we could go on vacation in Valencia. They saw I was very happy but they were not expecting my answer when I told them that I wanted to stay at the apostolic school. I had never seen my mom cry as on that occasion. It was also very hard for my dad. But he always had thought that we had to be free and responsible with our decisions and if it was something good, he would not prohibit it. They spoke together privately for a while, and then came back to me to ask if I really wanted to stay. In the end, they decided to respect my decision.

I know that in these long years of formation there have been difficult moments. I know that at times they didn’t understand and they asked themselves often: “Why my son?” There have been those who were intent on convincing my dad to take me out of the apostolic school, but my dad was and is still very firm on the matter: “It is the decision of our son and we respect and support it.” This is how it had been during these almost 20 years and I know that through the good and the bad they have been with me and God has also been very present in our family.   

After a year in Ontaneda I went to the apostolic school in Moncada (Valencia) to finish my high school degree. I need to thank those who were my formators during this period. Although I was a rather difficult adolescent, they believed in me and were a true bulwark for me. I also need to say with sincerity that in the two apostolic schools, I learned to love the Blessed Virgin as the mother of my vocation.

After finishing my studies in Moncada I decided to enter the novitiate of Salamanca. The two years of novitiate were terrific: I learned to love my vocation more and to be a better Legionary. After making my first temporary vows, I started to study the classical humanities. Here difficult moments came up since I had to interiorize and mature in my decision for the religious life. At times I felt a strong leaning towards the world and other ways of life. The superiors, with great respect for my freedom, helped me to make my decisions before God and not motivated by the sentiments of the moment. And so I went to Rome to study philosophy. With the studies in the university I went every other month to do youth ministry in Bologna, Italy.   Here I found very upright and honest people.

After finishing my bachelor’s degree in philosophy my superiors sent me to help in youth ministry and vocational promotion in the central and southern zones of Mexico. The two years I spent in this marvelous country were really enriching, but God had a test prepared for me. From the time I first arrived in Mexico I began to have stomach problems. And I noticed that my health at times was suffering but I didn’t think it very important. I learned a lot the first year. That summer I was told I would be in charge of the zone that I was working in. Since that time I began to work without taking much care of my physical health and my spiritual life. I also had to go to the hospital twice for digestive problems and I began to doubt if I would be able and if I wanted to continue going forward in religious life. In these moments, doing some good spiritual exercises really helped me a lot. A little while after this I went back to Rome where my health improved and I was able to finish the license in philosophy.

After the first year of theology studies I had the unmerited grace of doing the month long spiritual exercises. These provided the foundation of all my work in those three years in Rome with continuous contact with God and a keen knowledge of myself.  Afterwards I went to back to Mexico to be the academic director of the apostolic school in Ajusco and the director of the youth clubs in the south zone of Mexico City. This was an exceptional period full of experiences, of contact with very special souls, from the apostolic boys to the superiors of the center, of incredible displays of generosity: families that preach the Gospel, boys capable of heroism in preaching Christ and making their neighbor happy, faithful marriages in spite of difficulties, etc. It has all made a deep mark on me and I thank God for the young people, the boys, the professors, the parish priests, the directors of the school and all others that have been an impulse in my last years of preparation for the priesthood. Although it was for a short time, I also worked in El Salvador and afterwards in Costa Rica. Here with the help of God and dedication of many people the first youth clubs began at this time.

Finally I returned to Rome to finish my theological studies and in February of this year I was notified that I had been admitted to Holy Orders. It was already a step toward the altar and I figured that although I didn’t have the “priest-look” and that I was still missing many other qualities, God would provide. My parents received the news with a lot of joy and my mother exclaimed: “It’s about time!” I remember very well the joyful expressions on their faces after the imposition of the bishop’s hands in my diaconate ordination.

Now with the priesthood a new period in my life starts and I don’t know everything that is waiting for me. For the moment, my superiors have asked me to study the license in theology and I was named assistant formator of our students in Rome. I thank God for this display of confidence and I ask him that I may always be a faithful instrument and never a protagonist, after the style of Mary who in the background was the one who prepare Christ so he could give this needy world the love of him who is Love.

Father Julio Jimenez Lopez was born in Madrid (Spain) on the 16th of January of 1976. He studied in Saint Sebastian School in Getafe (Madrid). In 1989 he entered the apostolic school in Onteneda, Cantabria (Spain). He did his novitiate in Salamanca (Spain), where he studied classical humanities. During his apostolic internship he worked in the apostolic school in Ajusco (Mexico City), in youth ministry and in vocational promotion and in Mexico City and San Jose (Costa Rica). He has a license in philosophy from the Pontifical Regina Apostolorum College. He is now doing his license in theology, and is a member of the team of formators in the center of higher studies of the Congregation.


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



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