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A Childhood Resolution Recaptured
INTERNATIONAL | WHO WE ARE | TESTIMONIES
Vocational testimony of Fr. Konstantin von Ballestrem LC

Vocational testimony of the Fr. Konstantin von Ballestrem LC
Fr. Konstantin von Ballestrem LC

*Translation of the Deutsch original text

When I was five or six years old and coming out of the parish after Sunday Mass, I told my mom, who held me by the hand: “Mom, one day I want to be a saint.” Little did I know what that meant or implied. But to me, the saints seemed to be life models worth imitating; and holiness looked like something worth spending my life for. This resolution was soon threatened by tests, small ones at first, but increasingly strong ones as I grew.

Other attractions presented themselves: spending time with friends without worrying so much about being holy; travelling and getting to know other countries, people, cultures; I played the cello in an orchestra and the drums in a band… In short, my former idea gradually moved to second place, and although I sometimes took it up again from time to time, I was increasingly ready to let it disappear.

In the German Military
After finishing school and facing the need to decide about my future path, I found myself with no inclination toward any particular direction or course of study. What would I do with my life? I was interested in philosophy and theology even seemed attractive to me. But I thought that in order to study those subjects I would have to become a priest, and I knew that wasn’t for me.

In my country, military service is obligatory, so for a time I was saved from having to make the decision. I joined the army and immediately committed myself to the two year course of studies to become an officer in the reserve. What can I say about the time I spent “in arms”? There are many opinions, and sometimes very severe ones, about armies and life in
Vocational testimony of the Fr. Konstantin von Ballestrem LC
them. Although military customs and morals are in part very special, I have to say that for me, it was not a waste of time.

At first, I was frightened; up to that time, I had lived in the protective greenhouse of my home and in the healthy world of my school, which was run by Dominican nuns. There was none of that in the soldiers’ barracks, obviously. I found myself with a kind of “cross-section” of my generation with boys from all kinds of backgrounds. As is natural in groups like this, living together became fertile ground for many initiatives, both good and bad. Little by little, I learned that the good initiatives had to be raised up and taken advantage of; as for the bad ones, I had to make a decision: either let myself follow along, blaming “the bad environment of the army” or remember my principles and act upon them. It was a challenge for anyone who was disposed to face it. Perhaps influenced by my old childhood resolution, I almost instinctively decided that I had to do what was worth doing. Thus, the army became an effective school of maturation and consolidation of the principles I had learned at home.

Lourdes and a Visit to the Legionary Novitiate
Nevertheless, the end of those two years came along and once again I had to decide what to do. What did I want? What did I like? What was I enthused about? I couldn’t say, at least, not with enough clarity to sign up peacefully for a particular degree. I decided to start a degree in law. Many in a similar situation did the same: it was a path of studies that opened up many options. 

I chose a school in the city where I had been born, but where I had not lived long: Freiburg, at the Black Forest (a really beautiful piece of God’s creation in the southeast of Germany). But beforehand, I did something that, as small as it may seem, turned out to be very important for my future. In the summer after finishing my military service, I participated as a chaperone in a train of sick people who were travelling to Lourdes. We were a team of men and women, boys and girls, who had committed to take care of all the logistics, medical care, and practical help that the sick people might need on this special train that was travelling from Trier, in Germany, to Lourdes. Now I think that God used that little gesture of generosity to let a new seed fall into my soul.

In fact, when I came back from that trip, which was pretty exhausting, I knew that the novitiate of the Legionaries of Christ in Germany was not far away. It was hardly an hour and a half away. That same summer, a distant cousin of mine had entered, and had written to me to invite me to visit him if ever I was passing by that way. Since I was now “passing by,” I decided to do it. 

To tell the truth, I enjoyed the visit, but that was as far as it went. I thought, “How good that these young men want to do this and give their lives for God.” But it wasn’t for me. I already had everything arranged to start my studies in law, and I wasn’t going to change my plans. Even so, this visit did allow an epistolary correspondence to start, which would remain with me during the next two years, and would help me in a difficult situation which was on its way.

Why Not Ask God?
I started my studies in Freiburg. I had some friends there, got to know others, more or less studied, went out with friends, and had a good time. Nevertheless, after a while of living this more or less directionless life, I started to get a strange pain in my stomach. The doctors took a while to figure out what it was. In the end, it turned out to be a chronic inflammation of my intestine, but since at that time they didn’t know what it was, I was given a bit of a random therapy. The problem, they said, was that I had to change my life: eat less, eat more carefully chosen foods, exercise more, etc. In short, I was to get a more “balanced” life. Around the same time, I began to find that jurisprudence held no attractions for me. The subjects seemed dry, theoretical, and boring to me. I started to question this whole matter of my studies and the future again. It was necessary to think about my life more carefully again. 

During this time, I had kept up a sporadic correspondence with my cousin, the novice. When something about my little crisis came out in my letters, he suggested that I involve God in the process of looking for the meaning of my life. The reasoning was simple: “He made you—he made you as you are and not in any other way – so he is the one who will have some idea about what you’re going to be able to do and be. So ask him what his plan is.” The truth is that I didn’t give much credence to his theory that I was going to find some kind of an answer in prayer. But I did have enough curiosity to give it a try. I visited the neighborhood chapel more frequently, put myself in front of the tabernacle, and listened… At the beginning, there was nothing. I began to pray: “Lord, since you made me, tell me what for…” Little by little, I felt that someone was indeed speaking to me, very gently, but enough to continue with the conversation. That cousin of mine is now Father Sylvester Heereman, LC, the territorial director of the Legion of Christ in Germany.

Finding My Purpose at Last
One day, my cousin invited me to accompany him in a gathering of boys who were going to Rome. I had already organized a week of vacation of skiing in the mountains. I don’t know why, but I decided to cancel it and go to Rome instead. It was my second visit to a Legionary center, only this time it was bigger, a lot bigger than the novitiate in Germany. I found myself with more than 300 joyful, fervent, disciplined, attentive, and charitable young men, which made a deep impression on me. I talked to a lot of them, asked them their stories, and learned a lot. And I thought inside, “This could be a life worth living.”

After returning to Germany, I had to take some exams in the university and after about two weeks, on a Friday afternoon, I suddenly saw it very clearly: “God wants me to be a Legionary of Christ priest, so that’s what I’m going to do.” When I said this “yes” to God, he filled me soul in an instant with so much happiness, joy, and strength that I couldn’t doubt that this was the right path. Very grateful, peaceful, and deeply joyful, I went to the novitiate to communicate my decision. I was ready to enter at once, but since it was January and the candidacy began in July, we saw that it was better for me to give some months as a co-worker. Thus, I was able to stay for about three months in Mexico before entering the novitiate, a period that enriched me a lot, strengthened my decision, and renewed my old resolution to be a saint.

Above all, I want to express my gratitude. My first thanks go to God, who with his infinite goodness and great wisdom guided me along my path until here, and also to the Blessed Virgin who always accompanied me. Then I would like to thank all those who have given me their guidance and support: my parents, especially, my family, so many friends and acquaintances, and particularly the saints I have been able to get to know. Finally, I thank all those who perhaps I don’t know, but who with their prayer and sacrifices are praying for vocations day by day, to make a miracle like this possible. May God bless you and may the Blessed Virgin protect you!

Father Konstantin Ballestrem was born on August 8, 1973 in Freiburg, Germany, in a Catholic family which soon moved to live in Bavaria in the diocese of Augsburg. There, the young Konstantin went to school and completed his military service. Afterwards, he returned to Freiburg to study law. After a brief period as a Regnum Christi co-worker, he entered the novitiate of the Legion of Christ in the summer of 1996. He studied one year of humanities in Salamanca, Spain, and later went to Rome to study philosophy. He spent three years of apostolic practices in the novitiate in Germany, in Bad Münstereifel, near Cologne, and then returned to Rome to finish his studies. He is currently studying a license in dogmatic theology and is accompanying a group of religious students in their formation.

This testimony is part of the book “Ven y sígueme” (Come and Follow me). In January 2008 you can buy it at www.misionmultimedia.org. It contains 48 testimonies in Spanish, 11 in English and 1 in German.


PUBLICATION DATE: 2007-12-21


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