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Turn to Jesus (Article)

Everything I Am I Owe to the Grace of God
I have been a very happy and fulfilled man. I do not feel the need for anything more and I am certain of spending the best years of my life on the One who is absolutely worth it. He will never betray me because his love is eternal.

P. Marcelo Cecato, L.C.
Father Marcelo Cecato, LC
I come from a modest city of 350,000 people, Ponta Grossa, in the state of Paraná, in the south of Brazil. My family is on the smaller side as I have an older sister and a younger one. My dad has always worked as a chauffeur and my mom as a seamstress.

God had his eye on me ever since I was toddler. As long as I can remember I was moved by the testimony of some local priests at my parish who were both holy and enthusiastic. Thanks to their example I felt drawn to God´s call to the priesthood.

Like many adolescents the desire to be a priest began to fade as I got older, but God always made himself present during Mass and as the companion of my heart. On many occasions I felt him very close to me and this inspired me to want to help those around me in need. I could see so many people waiting in line all day just to get a doctor´s appointment for themselves or their children. My heart would break seeing them suffer like that and it made me want to become a doctor so I could help them, every one of them, one by one. This thought would cross my mind quite often.

Despite all this I still couldn´t make up my mind and I never associated these inspirations with the priesthood. Yet the longing was continuous. Seeing me go through this doubt my dad decided to call our pastor when I finished ninth grade. The priest in question was a very holy man, advanced in years, who understood my situation perfectly, who advised me to finish high school before going off to the seminary. I was thrilled! Another three years to have fun.

The next year, when I was fifteen years old, I began working for an advertising agency. I found the work fascinating. I was rubbing elbows with people in mass media. My longing soon became another line of work: a radio host. I remember when I would play with my little sister. She would "call the radio station making a request and I would play her song." We would record all this and have our mom listen.

In 1986, my first year at this job, I came into contact with the Legion of Christ when a Legionary came to my school to give a talk. Father Fintan Kelly, LC, had a fundamental role in my life because at that stage I was going through some family problems and in him I found a friend who would always listen. He was a true friend and he was God´s instrument for me.

Soon after I participated in the first vocational get together in Brazil at the house of the Legionaries of Christ in Ponta Grossa. I was truly impressed by this first encounter with the Legionary community, especially the kindness that they showered us with. It really seemed like we were important people. After the concluding dinner I accompanied a few of the Fathers as they dropped off some of the other guys who had come and on the way back I asked a lot of questions trying to get rid of my doubts.

I was still too young to enter the Legion because a Legionary minor seminary did not exist in Brazil yet, so I lost contact with the Legionaries. Yet the experience still had a profound effect on me. I remember one of the Fathers giving me a card with a picture of Christ on it. I did not realize at the time how important that image of Jesus was to a Legionary but I always kept it with me in my wallet until I was eighteen when I entered the Legion. I felt a great peace each time I looked at it and I took care of it like it was a relic.

In 1988 I came into contact with the Legionaries of Christ again. Listening to the news on the radio while I was having breakfast one morning, I heard about Father Fintan´s car accident as he was coming back from Curitiba the night before. I wanted to go and visit him so I asked to get out a little early from work and headed over to the hospital. When I arrived there were a number of Legionaries there. They treated me with utmost kindness and let me know that Father Fintan could not receive any visitors and that he was being moved to another hospital in Sao Paulo.

Months went by without ever hearing about him but one fine day we came upon each other walking down the street. It was like a miracle! There was Father! It was definitely a great grace and we renewed our friendship.

After staying close to the sacraments and keeping myself in God´s grace, my eyes and ears were opened once again and I could hear God´s call. This doesn´t mean that the temptations to draw me away from the vocation went on vacation: I was about to receive a new car and I had an offer from one of the most important radio stations in Brazil.

At the same time I also wanted to have an experience in the military. I signed up to take part in a national competition but later found out that the finals would be during the candidacy program. During this time I became friends with a Legionary seminarian while visiting the Novitiate in Curitiba. He told me that a year before he was competing for a spot as an officer in the Brazilian Marines in Rio de Janeiro, and at a certain point he left everything to follow Christ. There is an average of 350 young men competing for one spot ... and he left everything. And myself? I was thinking of forgetting about Christ for some dinky little local unit. That was too much. At that moment God´s call really woke me up. What mission is more noble than saving souls? Today I get excited about thinking of my hopeful arrival into heaven seeing all of the souls that God helped through me, coming up to me and greeting me saying: "Thank you for your fidelity, thank you for persevering in the fight and not losing faith, for believing that Christ would triumph."

In the end I went to the candidacy program that summer. There Christ conquered my heart to be his soldier ... and his talk show host.

Ever since then I have been a very happy and fulfilled man. I do not feel the need for anything more and I am certain of spending the best years of my life on the One who is absolutely worth it. He will never betray me because his love is eternal. I ask him only to help me to be always faithful, a good shepherd, a man of love. I want my love to be brand new each day, never aging or becoming routine.

Father Marcelo was born in Ponta Grossa (Brazil) on September 20, 1970. He entered the Legion of Christ on January 3, 1989 upon finishing high school. He did two years of Novitiate studies in Curitiba (Brazil) and a year of Classical Humanities Studies in Salamanca (Spain). Following those years of study he dedicated three years to helping form other seminarians in Brazil and Mexico. In 1995 he traveled to Rome to study for his degrees in Philosophy and Theology. He is currently working in Brazil as a vocation promoter.



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