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Turn to Jesus (Article)

And the Telephone Rang…
Father Rodrigo Barceló Gómez, LC (Mexico)

P. Rodrigo Barceló Gómez , L.C.
Fr. Rodrigo Barceló Gómez , LC

It was a sunny afternoon in the middle of June 1991. I was going home after the last day of classes in my first year at a Salesian high school. I was very thoughtful that day: “What am I going to do during the whole summer?” One year before, my parents had told me that the high school wouldn’t accept me because of my lack of discipline. I would have to find another school. They finally accepted me after I promised to behave better and not interrupt the teacher during every class or make a ruckus with my little clique of friends during recess. Things hadn’t gone any better this year…

I didn’t want to leave this school; it was like a second home. The joy and enthusiasm at the school of Don Bosco, under the protection of Mary Help of Christians, imitating the example of Dominic Savio– all this had become my natural environment. This was accompanied by a deep inner restlessness that never left me alone, a disenchantment with fleeting things: any gift that was given to me in my childhood, any show of affection. Everything was passing very quickly for me: if they were toys, by the third day they were already ruined; when I was taking a course or some sport, by the third or fourth day I had abandoned it. I was looking for something that would fulfill my deepest desires. All this came together in a growing lack of discipline, and, as is logical, all this caused plenty of worries for my mom.

The only peace I found from this interior emptiness was in the moments dedicated to prayer and at Mass on Sunday. We used to go to Mass with my grandmother, a profoundly Catholic woman. She taught me how I should speak to God, with simplicity and openness: spontaneous prayers to Mary, visits to the Eucharist, praying the Rosary. This was the first thing that prompted me. The best day of my childhood was when I made my First Communion. Everything was setting the foundations for my friendship with Christ. I learned that I was only able to be at ease in front of Christ in the Eucharist, just being with him, looking at him. The other thing that I enjoyed a lot was the country; nothing mattered so much to me as mounting a horse and traveling the hills and valleys, contemplating the landscapes. It was a solitude in which God made himself present in the beauty of his creation.

But let’s return to that day in June when I was on my way home. This year things hadn’t been any better. United to my pranks and a great taste for the “alley” lifestyle, studies were going badly and I had to prepare some three “extraordinary” exams and present them in August. Thus, I thought that if I remained the whole summer without something to keep me occupied, it would be dangerous…

One of my habitual pranks at home was to disconnect the telephone
P. Rodrigo Barceló Gómez , L.C.
and hide it. That afternoon, historic for my life, I was bored and on the verge of doing a new bit of mischief. I took the telephone and decided to disconnect it and look for a new hiding place; no one was at home. This prank immediately seemed a bit old. I decided to put it back, connect it, and leave it in its place. Some seconds after I connected it, it rang.

A telephone call
“Hello, Rodrigo! Do you remember me? It’s Father Leopoldo.” At that moment, the image of Father Leopoldo Cuchillo, LC flashed across my mind. I knew him from a couple years previous: always dressed as a priest, all in black, enthusiastic and with something special about him. And those things attracted me a lot, in any Legionary I met. I knew why he was calling: a year ago he had invited me to the summer program at the Legionaries’ apostolic school in Ajusco. I had always tried to be kind to him because I did like him a lot, even though in the end, I never showed up at any of his retreats.

At that moment he already had a full list of boys that were going to the summer program in Ajusco. Three or four days remained until they would leave. He told me that he saw my number on one of his lists, and he decided to call me at the last minute to see if I was interested this time. That same afternoon he would leave from Morelia and he wasn’t going to return except to pick up the boys who were signed up.

All this surprised me. What a coincidence! I hadn’t spoken with him for almost a year, the telephone had just been reconnected, he just happened to see my number before leaving town… After this, it wouldn’t be hard to reconsider his invitation. That same afternoon, Father was at my house. He arrived with Father Gerardo Mendoza. They again showed me the pictures of the seminary in Mexico City and of the activities they were going to have during the summer. That really attracted me, but something was keeping me from saying yes. I wanted to be sure that I wasn’t making a mistake. One bit of advice from Father Gerardo put a crack in the wall that had formed between me and the vocation: “Doesn’t Christ deserve one opportunity?”

Yes, Christ did deserve an opportunity, and I decided to go to the summer program.

When the set day came, after having prepared everything, something told me that God was touching my life and that I had found the answer to all my worries. I was barely thirteen years old, but I thought that with this trip I was undertaking a path that was as difficult as it was fascinating. I didn’t conquer my desire to do a big prank at home before leaving. I decided to go to my older brother’s room and leave him a little “memento”: to leave everything messed up as if a stampede had gone through it. When he realized it, I was already 300 kilometers away. It all began just like that: a telephone call and another call that my heart had been waiting for.

From the moment I arrived at the apostolic school, God made for me a kind of ‘personal sign.’ I liked everything, but there were things that were hard for me: yes, above all, it was the specific demand of such a life. Halfway through my first year at the apostolic school, I could say that I already had the certainty that this was my vocation. Plenty of things continued to be hard for me; it seemed that this beautiful path would be long and difficult. One day in May, during my first year, I placed my perseverance in this priestly call in the hands of the Blessed Virgin. I remember that I told her that on my own I wouldn’t be able to keep my vocation up to the priesthood. She would have to take my call in her hands like a treasure and bring me to the day of my ordination. Mary has done this with flying colors. From that day I had the certainty that she was guarding my vocation as her own. She didn’t need my “permission” to act when it seemed opportune.

A profound experience
In that summer of 1991, I made the greatest discovery of my life: the Legion of Christ. I asked every question there was: Why do the fathers dress that way? Why the name “Legionaries?” Why this? Why that? All this seemed to be unveiling, and I wanted to know more. In fact, in no time I was able to meet Nuestro Padre.

One afternoon we were playing at a school in Mexico City. Since I was a little injured, I didn’t take part in the games. I decided to take a walk through the school. It was my first time with the person God had chosen to place the Legion in the history of the Church and in my life’s journey. Our founder was walking through the school gardens; it impressed me a lot to see him there. I was able to say hello quickly. There began a series of short, intense encounters that would continue throughout the next sixteen years. I guard those moments with Nuestro Padre as a treasure in my memory. I was never the same after receiving my first letter of encouragement. His advice was all directed toward being generous with Christ. In particular, I remember August 12, 2002, in Cuernavaca, when my companions and I professed our perpetual vows. Nuestro Padre presided over the ceremony. At the end of the Mass, when I was able to thank him, he told me: “You have to remain strong.” I hear that order each day when Christ invites me to be firm and faithful in love.

To the school of Don Bosco… and of the Legion of Christ
The day I received my first destination for apostolate, they told me that I was going to help found the apostolic school of Guadalajara. Those beautiful years in Ajusco came to mind and another one after those, a saint in cassock, surrounded by boys: St. John Bosco. Since I was three I had lived in Morelia. I remember my grade school there at the school that the Salesians had had for more than sixty years with great nostalgia. Two things from those years have been very helpful in following my vocation: the relationship I began with Christ and the enjoyment I through the formation of adolescents.

Work with adolescents has been my apostolate for a couple years. In the moments of struggle, I remember the image of that saint of Turin, surrounded by boys, showing them the path to happiness. Don Bosco made so many young men happy! He saved so many from the dark precipice of unhappiness and made them see their own dignity as sons of God! His secret was to live full of joy. In these years, working in the Legion’s apostolate, I have learned that the best language for speaking with adolescents is joy and simplicity. That is the only thing that can really win their hearts and their openness, and at the same time, their enthusiasm and innocence. We can see this enthusiasm and surrender especially in Nuestro Padre. He was a great inspiration for me in my religious life and now in my priesthood. I remember with gratitude those encounters I had with our founder, the last of which was in October 2006.

And what about my family? Did I forget them that day? No, never. Each day I have felt very closely the love that my family has for me. Their lives, the path that each one has taken… I feel their decisions interwoven with the path of my vocation. This is a call of the greatest love from God, not only for me but for each of my loved ones. I am convinced that just as God calls me every day to be happy in his company, so he calls them to the happiness that only he can give. We are united by family bonds and by the same vocation. I am very grateful to my grandmother who encouraged me to follow Christ, to give my life and pray ceaselessly. “Don’t let him go,” was her prayer, asking Christ and Mary for the gift of my perseverance until the priesthood. Now from heaven, she will be able to accompany me on the day of my ordination. Thank you also to my mom who has been my companion and has lived the things I recounted here just as intensely as I did.

Upon arriving to the priesthood, I thank God for two things that have not failed in these sixteen years. The first: I have not doubted my vocation from the beginning, nor have I thought of leaving it. The second: my parents did not deny their support, always showing a great respect for the plans of God and for my decision to follow this path from my adolescence.

There is one person in my vocation sustaining it all and will do so until the end. She has authority over everything I do for God and for others: Mary, the mother of Christ. Now comes the second part of what I asked her on that morning in May, that she allow me to be faithful until death in the service of God. Only in heaven will we be able to know how much she has loved us on this earth; there is no love greater than a mother’s. Only in heaven will we know that Mother’s heart that beats in unison with the Father’s.

Father Rodrigo Barceló Gómez was born in Mexico on August 12, 1978. Ever since he was little he lived in Morelia, Michoacán, where he did his grade school and high school with the Salesian fathers. In 1991, he entered the apostolic school in Mexico City and, afterward the novitiate in Monterrey. He studied humanities in Salamanca. He helped as a formator at the apostolic school in Monterrey. He also helped found the apostolic school of Guadalajara and has worked in promoting vocations. He has a license in philosophy from the Pontifical Regina Apostolorum College. Presently he is a working at the apostolic school in León.

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



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