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The First Time I Met a Legionary, I asked Him, “Are You a Catholic?”
INTERNATIONAL | WHO WE ARE | TESTIMONIES
Father Jaroslav Nicola Lobkowicz, LC

P. Jaroslav Nicola von Lobkowicz , L.C.
Fr. Jaroslav Nicola von Lobkowicz , LC

“Before having formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you: I made you a prophet to the nations” (Jer. 1:1-5).

I was born in Paris on the 15th of July of 1974, of a French mother and a Czech Father. My Father was a political refugee; he had fled from the communist regime of Czechoslovakia and had gone to Germany, where he was taken in by his parents. My mom, a student in Paris, was a good friend of my dad’s cousin. They met in Munich (West Germany) and, when they finished their studies, they got married and stayed to live there.

We were the only family that went to Mass…

I have a brother who is one year older than me and another who is seven years younger. We lived our childhood and youth in a small flat in the middle of the city, surrounded by Turkish and Italian neighbors. We were the only family that went to Mass every Sunday, which provoked surprise among our Muslim and non-practicing Christian neighbors. My mother supported various families of the workers that didn’t know German, helping them with their bureaucratic procedures, such as the inscription of their children in schools, declarations before the authorities, etc. She helped them a little as well paying for their children’s education and, thanks to that, some of them were able to go to college.

My schooling began with French kindergarten in Munich, followed by primary school which lasted for four years. After failing the entrance into the German Lyceum (Gymnasium) I inscribed into the European Lyceum in the French section, in which I stayed almost two years and a half. I tried again and was admitted into the Dante Gymnasium.

Outside of the classical school curriculum as boys we sang in the choir of the state theater. Being in theatrical representations and earning a little money motivated us. The other side of the coin was that we had to spend various weekends trying out opera, which awoke my liking for classical music.

We brought them the basic needs.

We spent our Christmas and Easter vacations in Czechoslovakia and in France visiting our relatives. We brought the basic necessities that our relatives were lacking while retained in a communist country: salads, fruit, and soups. The atmosphere of religious persecution was always apparent. My cousins in school were looked down upon for going to Mass and some of my uncles were suffering humiliations in their work for being Catholics. At the same time, in the middle of it all, I saw among the families of Czechoslovakia, a lot of joy and an example of living faith and trust in God. An aunt of my father was a “clandestine” religious and this “crime” costed her12 years in jail and forced labor. The uncle of my father was a priest working in rural parishes of the country, in those that had only a few faithful. Every three years they would change places since they
P. Jaroslav Nicola von Lobkowicz , L.C.
Fr Jaroslav greeting the Holy Father during the Ad Limina Apostolorum visit of Czech bishops in 2005. The group of bishops included his uncle, the bishop of Ostrava.
were used to being visited by “parishioners” (that is government agents) who would ask indiscreet questions. My father’s brother, Franti¹ek, obtained state permission to enter the seminary and he exercised his ministry in circumstances similar to his uncle’s. Another of my dad’s brothers, Zdeòek, remained celibate, while his two sisters got married. With the fall of the totalitarian regime in 1989, to the surprise of all of us, Zdeòek was ordained a priest. He had been a clandestined seminarian. A little later Franti¹ek was consecrated a bishop.

In France, on the other hand, we observed a process of very subtle dechristianization, a “silent apostasy”- as some have called it- with vestiges of democracy and tolerance and with the banner of relativism. We, who knew up close the reality of a country that denied God, were seeking to live our faith in the midst of this adverse atmosphere. Our participation in the Catholic movement of the Boy Scouts, who were very zealous in this country, helped us a lot. Here we learned to speed sail in the bays of the Atlantic Coast. The boats were given to us by the National Marina. There were two uncovered ships with masts; the captain of our group was a seminarian and he also taught us how to pray.

My Heart Burned

In the years of my adolescence, at times it was tough to be the only practicing Christian in my class and in that school of 950 students. Sometimes they went after me with “intolerant” because I wanted to remain faithful to the teaching of the Pope: to many it appeared that the Pope was preaching an irrational morality and that it was also the principal cause of the demographic explosion.

Thanks be to God I had a great spiritual sensitivity, and the testimonies of many saintly priests and religious that I knew, or the stories that I read really impressed me. I had a habit of dedicating a moment each night to talk to God, using the traditional prayers and also in a more free form, as our mother had taught us. When I was 16, in a time of prayer on a very ordinary day, an idea, a conviction, an irresistible yearning hit me in my inner self: the love of Jesus Christ crucified. I arose, I went to the oratory of the room and I took the crucifix to adore the Lord: I understood that Christ loved me personally, so much that he had given his life for me and for all men. My heart burned; that experience surpassed the emotive realm and touched my entire being.

In my last year in preparatory school one day in the house there was a curious phone call and I was the one who picked up the phone. It was a certain Father Kelly from the Legionaries of Christ. I had never heard the name, and when he said that Brother Paul Habsburg, one of my older brother’s classmates, had entered the novitiate, I asked myself into what sect the poor man had fallen into.

“Are you a Catholic?” I asked Father Kelly.

“Of course”, he answered, “We are recognized by the Pope and we have the special mission of promoting his doctrine.” This answer took away all suspicion and we invited him to dinner in our house. His visit was a revelation. For my mother and brothers and for me, his example of faith and dynamism aroused a great enthusiasm. My father’s reaction was not so enthusiastic.

A friend recommended that I visit the novitiate.

A friend had recommended that I visit the novitiate and so I met the Legionary communit for the first time. The atmosphere of prayer, joy, seriousness and charity, with which I could identify from the start, made a deep impression on me. And as well I began to realize that having a Legionary vocation was a real possibility for me and probably God’s will, even though I was not yet ready to leave everything.

After getting the diploma, I began studying to be a civil engineer, with the desire to be an apostle in the university atmosphere. With a group of friends, I helped organized retreats in the mountains and Father Kelly came to preach. When I eventually joined Regnum Christi I grew in the living of my faith: I went to confession with greater regularity, I began to rely more on the support of spiritual direction and I would visit Christ in the Eucharist. And so my conviction matured that one day if God called me, it would not be something that would keep me from being fulfilled or make me a less happy person. On the contrary, following his plans, I would find a greater self-realization than that which I would obtain following my own plans. My mother supported me fully in my vocation; my father on the other hand, sought to dissuade me which, paradoxically, confirmed for me that I had a vocation.

My life in the Legion

The discernment stage was an important moment: an end and a beginning. For the summer of 1995 my family moved to Prague, Czech Republic, with my younger brother, while my other brother stayed in Munich. The separation was especially hard for Philippe who was 14. He lost his two brothers and his friends and was going to a country whose language he didn’t understand; and all ended up in family dissent for my leaving.

I entered the novitiate in Bad Münstereifel, close to Bonn, in October of 1995: the initial enthusiasm that I felt after putting on the cassock quickly cooled off as autumn came to an end. The demands of learning the ways of the religious life were my daily bread and it cost me a lot of sweat and sacrifice. The closeness of the superiors and the balanced program of prayer, manual labor, sports, classes, and the example of the other brother novices helped me to overcome my first difficulties and to take advantage of them to grow spiritually,

After two years of novitiate, I did my first profession of vows and was sent to Spain to study classical humanities. After that I went to Rome to study philosophy for two years. In the Holy Year of 2000 I began my internship in France, where I helped a Legionary priest in youth ministry: we formed youth clubs of faith education, culture, and sports. We organized adventure camps, skiing, languages, and pilgrimages to Rome.

After those three years I returned to Rome to study for the license in philosophy and the bachelor’s in theology. I continued supporting as much as possible the work in France and Switzerland.

After receiving the bachelor’s in Theology at the end of 2008 I began doing ministerial work in the region of Lyon, France. I hope here to contribute to the building of the Kingdom of Christ and the foundation of a civilization of love, of peace and justice, according to the charism of the Regnum Christi. I thank God in the first place for this mystery of love with which we have been redeemed, the miracle of the priestly vocation, and for the gift of perseverance in his service.

  Father Jaroslav Lobkowicz was born in Paris on the 15th of July in 1974. After receiving his diploma in the lyceum of Munich, the Dante Gymnasium, he studied two years to become a civil engineer  in the Technical University of that city. He entered the novitiate of the Legion of Christ in Bad Münstereifel, Germany, on the 2nd of Febuary of 1996. He has a license in philosophy and a bachelor’s in theology from the Pontifical Regina Apostolorum College. Since the summer of 2008 he has been exercising his ministry as chaplain of adolescents and students in the region of Lyon, France.                                                

 

     

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


PUBLICATION DATE: 2008-12-20


 
 


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