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Turn to Jesus (Article)

Father Alvaro Corcuera, LC: St. Rafael Guizar Valencia, following Christ’s example
St. Rafael Guízar´s life shows us that to empty ourselves of ourselves to put Christ and his love at the center of our lives gives us a happiness that the world does not know and that only the one who experiences it can be thankful for it.

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Thy Kingdom Come!

Rome, November 1, 2006


To all our Friends
and Members of Regnum Christi

Dear Friends in Christ,

November opens with the Solemnity of All the Saints. In doing so, the Church wishes to commemorate and seek the intercession of the uncountable Christian men and women who, throughout the ages, have responded to the divine call to holiness and have thus embellished the splendid garden of the Church of Christ and of humanity. Each one of them, according to his or her temperament, personal history, gifts and talents, as well as with his or her human limitations, have sought to imitate Christ’s love for the Father and mankind in the most perfect manner possible. This encourages us, knowing that we are all called to the goal of holiness, to “be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Mt 5:48). The saints have reached their goal, not because God calls perfect beings, “angels”, but because within their human condition, together with their limitations and defects, these men and women have trusted God completely, they have not gotten discouraged in the face of their faults, but rather have learned to get back up after falling and not to linger idly on the road, since they have been called from all eternity to do good always.

The Church has recently been enriched by four new saints, among whom is St. Rafael Guízar Valencia, historically so close to our Founder, the Legion of Christ and Regnum Christi. Many of us had the grace of attending the solemn canonization ceremony in Rome, presided by Pope Benedict XVI. In the homily, he highlighted the saint’s spirit of poverty, pastoral charity, missionary zeal and paternal solicitude for the formation
La canonización de cuatro santos, entre ellos Monseñor Guízar
and perseverance of the priests of his diocese.

In this letter, I would like to recall with you the principal virtues St. Rafael Guízar left us with the testimony of his life. All of these are summarized in the virtue of charity, the queen of all evangelical and Christian virtues, and which constitutes the essence of Regnum Christi’s charism. I gladly write these lines with the hope that they might be helpful to you, knowing that we all desire and seek the same ideal. I also write out of gratitude to all of you for your prayers, your witness and the example of your daily surrender, which help us to see God’s presence in the world more clearly.

During his life, St. Rafael Guízar Valencia was already considered “the saintly” bishop of Veracruz. Not only have the faithful from his diocese benefited from his spiritual irradiation but also those of all of Mexico and all of the Americas, since he is the first native born bishop of this continent to be elevated to the altars. That same spiritual irradiation is also united to the history of our Movement. As we already know, he played a providential role in the spiritual itinerary of our Congregation and the Movement when Mons. Guízar Valencia asked our Founder to remain in the clandestine seminary, which the bishop had in Mexico City. It was also in the chapel of that seminary, in June 1936, on the Feast of the Sacred Heart, where God chose to inspire the then young seminarian with the charism we have received from him. This charism is centered on living and spreading the love of Jesus Christ and authentic Christian charity throughout the world.

1. St. Rafael Guízar, the untiring apostle

The ardent desire to save souls, which he cultivated from the first years in the seminary of Zamora, deeply typifies the life of St. Rafael. He approached every man and woman, no matter what their condition, status or age, with the intention of helping them encounter Jesus Christ personally. For the sake of saving even one soul, he was willing to do anything: sacrifice his health, his time of rest, even his reputation before others.
Imagen de S. R. Guizar
He gave countless examples of courage and heroism by spiritually assisting the dying while his own life was at risk, or by the continuous and exhausting popular missions, both in his home state as well as in other states of Mexico and other countries where he was exiled: the United States, Cuba, Guatemala and Colombia.

As the fifth bishop of Veracruz, he especially showed his character as an untiring apostle. He surrendered himself to the mission with the same passion as St. Paul, who frequently repeated, “Let us not grow tired of doing good” (Gal 6:9). During the nine years in which he was able to reside in his diocese, he visited each of the communities and parishes at least three times, reaching the most remote places on horseback or in a small fishermen’s boat if necessary; all to preach the word of God and administer the grace-filled sacraments.

He made use of the numerous natural and supernatural gifts with which Providence had endowed him, to put them at the service of the spreading of the Gospel: his public-speaking ability, his naturally good character and gentlemanliness, his remarkable musical talent, his capacity to administer the goods of the Church and his good humor. All of these helped him to preach Christ. He even used an old footstool as a pulpit to preach the Gospel after drawing a crowd by masterfully playing his accordion.

The apostolic zeal that overflowed from his heart undoubtedly welled up from his passionate love for Christ and his ardent desire to share this treasure with others. St. Rafael Guízar’s example of zeal for souls can also help us to live our apostolic vocation with the same zeal he had for the salvation of souls and to lead them closer to God.

2. St. Rafael Guízar, poor and humble, following Christ’s example

Eyewitnesses of St. Rafael Guízar’s life unanimously speak of the heroic manner in which he lived Gospel poverty. He was a man who gave himself completely to others without reserving anything for himself. He possessed only the essentials to fulfill his pastoral ministry. His room was austere, with a simple bed, a small desk, a closet and a bookshelf. He gave everything else to the poor. He would frequently return home missing an article of clothing because he had given it to a needy person he had met on the street. His own brother Antonio, bishop of Chihuahua, stated that “he treated himself as if he were needy”. His food was the most frugal. He didn’t mind having to use a horse in order to make his pastoral visits. Later, when he was already ill, he requested that they lay him on the floor because he wanted to die poor, like Christ, without a single commodity. “And that’s how he died. On the floor, in extreme poverty, in exile, away from his diocese, in a little house in Mexico City” (Christ is My Life, #16). The
Gospel says that Christ didn’t even have a place to rest his head. In the same fashion, St. Rafael died as he had lived, detached from everyone and everything, with Christ as his only treasure and with his hands full of fruits and souls sent to heaven, the goal of our lives and the eternal embrace with God.

St. Rafael Guízar wanted to be a poor priest and bishop and he dedicated himself especially to the poor and humble. He treated everyone equally, with the same tender charity, no matter what their class or condition because he wanted to give them the best, which was his faith in Jesus Christ. In each person, he discovered Christ’s face. He always sought to imitate Jesus.

Christian poverty does not consist in the lack of material means but in being detached from them, in not allowing the heart to become attached to anything except God, in having no other ambition in life other than living Christ’s commandment of love. It is the desire to “be” more, and not simply to “have” more. Our wealth is in giving. To live in order to give not only what we have but also what we are.

So many needy people are truly rich in their hearts; they are people, who with a single good deed, a smile, a gaze, show that they have (and give) true human wealth. Likewise, so many people with abundant material resources live in true poverty, the poverty that Christ praised in the Beatitudes (see Mt 5:3); they possess material goods, but not as the fruit of ambition or the desire to “have more”, to have power, to show off or out of pride, rather giving a social and genuinely Christian meaning to these goods. They know how to apply the Social Doctrine of the Church, and in this way they are building the civilization of Christian justice and love.

On the contrary, a person who is poor or rich in material resources, but is motivated by ambition or egotism, will never be able to find true happiness; deep down, he lives in the worst of poverties, the type that robs us of our peace of soul, drowning it in fathomless dissatisfaction. Christ taught us how to be truly rich, in man’s heart.

How enlightening is Christ’s example. He had dealt with everyone equally and he left all of us the same message, “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35). That is why, recalling the parable of the talents, those who have been blessed with a greater number of goods will have more responsibility. Those with more goods must have greater social, human and Christian awareness. This is the Gospel message that sets our hearts free, never again to be enslaved by the anguish of possessing for the
sake of possessing, knowing that where our treasure is, there also will our hearts be (see Mt 6:21). And ours is true wealth, to the degree in which we share it.

As the Popes have reminded us so many times, especially our beloved Pope John Paul II, whose anniversary of his priestly ordination we celebrate today, the Christian by his witness of poverty builds the civilization of being and not of having and is identified with Christ, who for your sake became poor although he was rich, so that by his poverty you might become rich (see 2Cor 8:9).

The virtue of humility is naturally associated with the virtue of poverty, which nourishes and sustains it. One is poor of heart because one is humble. Christ did not ask us to imitate him in the perfection of his divine attributes, since that would be impossible for us. However, he did invite us to be like him in his meekness and humility of heart (see Mt 11:29). Psalm 146 says, “The Lord sustains the humble” (verse 6). It’s because the humble person does not seek his stronghold in himself, rather Christ is his fortress,
his faithful Friend, the Brother that is always there at his side, in good times and in bad, as Lope de Vega’s famous sonnet reminds us, “What do I have, Lord, that you seek my friendship?” Thus, the humble person is freed from vanity, from the current fads, the fear of what others will say, and other types of slavery that do not permit us to be ourselves. The humble person is aware at every moment of the example of the one who called us his “friends”, and redeemed us by means of his humility unto death on a cross, thus changing the world’s standards,
Fieles mexicanos presentes en Roma
“the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mt 20:28).

A poor and humble saint, as was St. Rafael Guízar Valencia, is aware that he has received everything from God and is thus thankful to him. He knows that everything is a gift, a present from God, although it comes wrapped in suffering. Hence, whoever is poor in spirit is capable of living in a constant attitude of thanksgiving (see Col 3:17).

In a society such as ours, increasingly persuaded to place all our confidence in material goods, the figure of St. Rafael Guízar reminds us of the priority of heavenly goods, the attention we should give to those who need us, the charity we should practice towards our brothers who suffer material or spiritual necessity. In this connection, Regnum Christi undertakes works of Christian charity of many different types and encourages its members to commit themselves, according to the possibilities
of each one, in charitable organizations, social aid and service to the poor or needy as a sincere expression of their love for their neighbor, following Christ’s example.

3. St. Rafael Guízar, faithful son of the Church

St. Rafael Guízar committed his entire life to the service of the Church, in the way that God was asking of him throughout his life, amid circumstances that were frequently painful and difficult to comprehend for our human intelligence.

We know how in the first years of his priesthood he passionately surrendered himself to his pastoral ministry, to the preaching of popular missions, to the spiritual direction of the seminarians in Zamora, to the foundation of a religious congregation, Our Lady of Hope, to the construction of schools for boys and girls for the Christian formation of the youth. History also tells us of the heroic acts of obedience he made in faith. He always had
Un vitral con la imagen de San Rafael Guízar que formará parte de los ventanales de Cotija.
in mind Christ’s example, who redeemed us by obeying unto death and death on the cross. He knew very well that obedience is the sure path to holiness and apostolic fruitfulness, for the good of our neighbor.

The historical vicissitudes of his country forced him into a severe exile from his motherland but did not impede him from continuing his missions in other countries. When he received the news that the Pope had named him Bishop of Veracruz, in spite of fact that he would have preferred to continue his missions as a priest, he accepted this indication as a faithful son of the Church, putting the gift of his life at the service of the Church. We can say the same thing about his obedience to the ecclesiastical norms amid the difficult years of the religious persecution. His fundamental criterion was to fulfill faithfully and obediently everything the Church might ask of him, especially when it came through the Holy Father, even if it wasn’t always easy to understand from a human viewpoint.

This is an important lesson St. Rafael Guízar teaches us. For we too have as one of our principal loves the love for the Church and the Pope. The raison d’etre of our institution is always in and at the service of the Church, living the mystery of our insertion in her by Baptism with a spirit of service, of filial love, of obedience and of humility.

4. St. Rafael Guízar, devotee of the Eucharist and of Mary

Everyone who knew him personally testified to the strong Eucharistic devotion which St. Rafael Guízar practiced and promoted. It was evident in the love and veneration with which he celebrated each Mass, the promotion he gave the Eucharist on each of the missions, the worship of the Eucharist he encouraged in the seminary through the Holy Hours and adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, the advice he gave to his seminarians to remain in the chapel for a good time after Mass to thank the Lord for the benefit of Holy Communion.

As a sign of his admirable piety and his ardent love for the Eucharist, of which he was a tireless promoter in all the places he preached missions, the religious hymns he composed and loved to sing can still be found. He knew that the Eucharist contained the Church’s greatest treasure, Christ himself, and he made it the center of his life.

In a similar manner, his Marian devotion marked his entire life from the first moment of his vocation in the sanctuary of Cotija, dedicated to the Virgin of the Quarter, to the numerous personal and diocesan pilgrimages to Basilica of Guadalupe. In a few of his letters to the faithful, he asked them, especially in the difficult moments of the persecution, to pray all fifteen decades of the rosary, the first five in the morning, the second at midday and the third as a family in the evening. He invited the faithful to pray one Hail Mary on rising in the morning, to pray the rosary as a family at the foot of the altar of the Blessed Virgin, to do fifteen minutes of personal prayer to reflect on the treasures of Marian devotion and to offer special sacrifices to her for the intentions of
Estatua de San Guizar
the diocese. Besides all this, the Marian hymns that he himself composed are still well known and sung in many parts of Veracruz. Similar was his special devotion to the Blessed Virgin of Guadalupe. He himself led a multitude of faithful in the annual pilgrimage to the sanctuary in Mexico City.

The Eucharistic and Marian devotions, which are so characteristic of Regnum Christi’s spirituality, are also an incentive to continue imitating Jesus Christ as perfectly as possible. Just as it did for St. Rafael, the Eucharistic devotion will help us to center our day on the Tabernacle, making it, as our Founder has taught us, the center of our families and our whole lives. Devotion to Mary, manifested in the fervent recitation of the Holy Rosary, which brings so many graces to the soul and to the families
that pray it daily at home, will help us to live more closely the mystery of her Son.

5. St. Rafael Guízar, firm and brave in the face of difficulties

Humanly speaking, the life of St. Rafael Guízar wasn’t easy. The historical period in which he exercised his priestly and Episcopal ministry was, as we have already mentioned, full of sorrowful and bloody incidents, which didn’t allow him to rest or dwell in one place very long. He spent the greater part of his life surrounded by a whirlwind of setbacks and obstacles of all kinds: danger of death, persecutions, periods of exile from his diocese and country, rejections and misunderstandings. Moreover, he had to face every kind of adversity: difficulty and material want, hunger and thirst, the discomforts typical of travel in those times, journeying long distances by
mule or on horseback, and his feeble health caused by the strenuous hours of work and because of the diabetes and phlebitis that plagued him for the greater part of his life.

Nevertheless, the setbacks and persecutions never caused him to be timid or become discouraged. On the contrary, it seems that his spirit was strengthened by them. His faith and absolute confidence in Providence, his ardent love for God and souls was capable of moving the highest mountains and of growing in the face of difficulty. He was a man accustomed to sacrifice and capable of total self-donation, seeking only to love Christ and helping others to do the same.

In the midst of all these tribulations, Christ’s example always encouraged and strengthened him. We know that with him at our side, like a Friend, we can suffer and endure anything. He was also consoled by recalling the Beatitudes and by the awareness that doing good is the most effective way of overcoming evil (see Rom 12:21). He knew that when a Christian finds himself surrounded by every class of tribulations, as the apostle St. James states, then he should be glad, because when his faith is
tested God gives him the grace of constancy and perseverance (see Jam 1:3- 4). Thus, as occurs with these holy men, one acquires the capacity of understanding and taking upon oneself the problems and griefs of others, becoming like Simon of Cyrene, not considering so much my personal plight, but considering that of my brother. If he is all right, then I am too.

Our lives and apostolic commitments are also frequently surrounded by many difficulties, which can only be overcome with loving patience. St. Rafael Guízar teaches us that although the life of an apostle is exposed to big sacrifices the effort to extend Christ’s Kingdom in the world is worthwhile; nay, it is the only true ideal for which to live and die.

We too live in hard times in which fidelity to Christ, to the Church, the Pope and his Magisterium implies going countercurrent in many fields. These are the occasions in which we feel the burden of having to be in the world without being of the world. The Christian who is convinced and truly loves Christ is capable of overcoming any difficulty that comes his way in order to be faithful and live to the full his mission as a witness and apostle, while at the same time not considering himself superior to others but as a humble servant.

6. St. Rafael Guízar, a man who knew how to love

Before concluding these lines, we must ask ourselves what it was that made St. Rafael Guízar live as he did, constantly on alert, always in the state of mission, without allowing himself rest or truces in his self-giving. The answer we find in his life, as in the life of all the saints, is quite simple: love is what permitted him to give himself completely to his mission and in this way achieve an unsuspected fullness in life.

Undoubtedly, God granted him the grace of learning to love in all the circumstances of his life and hence, he didn’t believe he was losing his life by surrendering it, minute by minute, for the good of the souls God had entrusted to him.

We can say the same about him as Peter said about Jesus Christ, “He went about doing good” (Acts 10:38). He spent and expended himself for others, seeking their temporal and eternal well-being. This gave him a deep, personal happiness and abundant apostolic fruits that last even until today.

Man’s greatest treasure is the love that builds up throughout the multiple acts of his life. St. Paul invited the first Christians to do everything for the glory of God (see 1Cor 10:31), to make God’s love more manifest. Whoever does this finds happiness, doesn’t become discouraged in the face of errors, never tires in doing good, isn’t paralyzed when distress, incomprehension or humiliations emerge. Always do good! This
Cuadro de San Guízar
brings the greatest peace to a soul and will give true happiness to the heart. One who
loves cannot but be happy, “Rejoice in the Lord always. I shall say it again: rejoice!” (Phil 4:4). The holy person irradiates the joy of Christ to others, “A sad saint is a poor excuse for a saint.” Undoubtedly, St. Rafael Guízar was a marvelous example of this joy, even with his refined sense of humor. He softened everything, even the deepest sorrows and the gravest dangers, especially when they threatened his own life. St. Rafael Guízar’s life is an invitation to total self-donation to the mission of being holy apostles. All humanity should be the object of our love, since all of us need love and are called to love. We know that this message of love is what will truly change
this world, just as the saints have done. They are men and women who learned how to love and have allowed themselves to be seduced by God’s love.

True love builds up unity and peace. Regnum Christi is called to witness to a profound, serene unity and peace among its members, and from them, together with all the other Christians, to all mankind, without exception. It is God who calls us to form part of this family in which we all must “be of one mind, sympathetic, loving toward one another, compassionate, humble. Do not return evil for evil, or insult for insult; but, on the contrary, a blessing” (1Pet 3:8-9).

In a similar fashion, true charity must proceed from the heart. Ours is not to judge, we cannot take God’s place, who is infinite justice and mercy. Christ teaches us to love in the depths of our heart and to love by speaking positively about other people and their acts. We are not justified to speak badly of others even when we are telling the truth, unless there is a higher motive, because we are damaging charity, which demands respect for the good name of others. Frequently, for example, we present an array of sins to God in confession. However, we may forget to examine ourselves regarding charity in order to confess the faults that most injure God because they most
injure his children. Nothing better can happen to us than to become peacemakers, to talk about the good things, building up the reputation of my brother, speaking well of him and overcoming evil with good. This cannot be improvised. It wells up from the heart, from prayer, from being what God created us to be. He created us to love and be loved. This is the secret to true happiness.

Otherwise, as a consequence of the laws of life bitterness, spite and sadness will invade our lives, if we lower ourselves to being messengers of bad news. The Gospel is, by contrast, the good news, the joyful message of God’s love and of all the wonders his love works in the hearts of people. The Gospel thereby forges happy people. God has not created us for sadness, rather he rejoices in seeing the happiness of his children. As we know, this deep joy and happiness comes from living to the full our vocation
to love.

There were many virtues that were characteristic of the life of St. Rafael Guízar, as a Christian, priest and bishop: his witness as a man of God, his profound piety and love for the Eucharist, his goodness and charity towards all, his radical poverty, his humility and meekness, his untiring missionary zeal and his passionate love for souls. Our Founder’s contact with St. Rafael undoubtedly inspired him to write those words which reflect upon the vocation we have received, “a group of priests who would dedicate their lives wholeheartedly to preaching the Gospel—missionary priests who would live the Gospel thoroughly, love Christ with all their strength, be missionaries of that love, and preach Christ’s new commandment of love among all people” (Christ is my Life, #11).

St. Rafael Guízar lived all of this with simplicity, naturally and with great perfection. His life shows us that to empty ourselves of ourselves to put Christ and his love at the center of our lives gives us a happiness that the world does not know and that only the one who experiences it can be thankful for it. He who is sustained by the strength of love can say with St. Paul, “There is nothing I cannot do in the One who strengthens me” (Phil 4:13), because he who strengthens me, he who is Love itself, can give me
the grace of loving.

Dear friends and Regnum Christi members, at the end of his life and with peace of conscience, St. Rafael Guízar could say, “I have not denied the Lord anything”. May we also live with this same generous attitude of wanting to give God and the Church not only something external to us, but also our very selves. This total donation, according to God’s desire, will make each one of us a truly free man or woman, rooted in the happiness that only God can give.

Let us thank God for the gift he has given us in the person of St. Rafael Guízar Valencia, a gift for the Church in Mexico, the Church of all America and the universal Church. As a heavenly intercessor, let us entrust to him the great needs of the Church, as well as our own personal intentions. Let us ask him for the grace of being able to share the same passion he had in his love for Christ, the Church, Mary and souls.

With my heartfelt greetings, closely united in prayer and in the same love of God, I remain sincerely yours in Christ Jesus,

P. Álvaro Corcuera, L.C.



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