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Turn to Jesus (Article)

I Tried to Escape from God
This experience helped me to realize just how short life really is, and it showed me that I needed to do something more for Christ with my life.

P. Alexandre Paciolli
Father Alexandre Paciolli, LC, the day he was ordained a priest.
I was ordained two years ago but the thrill of that event is still very fresh and alive in my heart and mind … on January 2, 2001, at more or less 11:00 AM when Cardenal Darío Castrillón Hoyos said the prayer of priestly consecration.

Before the Call

I was born in the city of Fortaleza, Brazil, on December 12, 1968. By the grace of God I am a Guadalupan and it is to her, Our Lady of Guadalupe, that I owe my Legionary vocation for which I am extremely grateful.

We are a currently a family of five: my dad, my sister and two brothers. My parents were born near Fortaleza. They grew up in an environment of great faith and a continuous struggle to get by and improve their standard of living. I learned so much from them, especially a love for challenges and to never settle for what you have already accomplished.

I was always mischievous but after so many practical jokes and pranks it was time to redeem myself. I began to study in earnest so I could enter a military school at ten years of age. There I learned what discipline and good behavior were all about. After four years at the Military School of Fortaleza I decided that I wanted to become an officer. I really liked the Air Force because my brother was a fighter pilot and my brother-in-law a pilot so I decided to follow in their footsteps. My parents were elated.

I took the necessary tests for the Navy and the Army and I passed them but not that of the Air Force. God had other plans. So I entered the a Naval Academy and a whole new set of adventures began. God’s plan for my life gradually was beginning to take shape.

The Call to the Priesthood Comes Knocking

I went to the Naval Academy at fifteen years of age. I left my hometown of Fortaleza and off I went alone to Rio de Janeiro. This was a huge challenge. I had to make it on my own and live up to what my parents expected of me.

My first year in the Naval Academy was very difficult. The chapel was a refuge for me from the arduous rhythm of life. God in his infinite wisdom knew how to “take advantage” of this situation so he could sew in my heart
P. Alexandre Paciolli
Father Alexandre entered the Naval military academy of Brazil at fifteen years of age. Here he is with his dad.
a love for him.

In 1987 the chaplain invited me to organize a retreat. Another great challenge! I gave a talk on the Prodigal Son (I hadn’t the foggiest idea where the passage was in the Bible). As I was giving the talk a number of people, including myself, began to cry as they reflected on their sins. The experience of my own mediocrity was amazingly strong and the grace of God even more. The retreat passed on but the grace of God had touched my heart.

A few days later a friend told me: “Alexandre, I was just thinking about the priesthood.” That same idea had been coming to my mind as well. He then asked me: “Are you going to become a priest?” I told him: “Never!”

God vs. Alexandre

Here began the struggle between God and Alexandre Paciolli. I did not want to have anything to do with God´s call. He would keep insisting. I was half-way through my second year at the Naval Academy in the year 1987. I tried to escape his call by devoting myself to sports. First it was track and field: shot put, discus, javelin, 100 meters. I got tired of that and went for volleyball. After a while I found that to be be too slow. Then it was water-polo and I wound up becoming the goalie. However God´s call was still loud and clear. He just would not leave me be.

So I tried some other sports that were a bit more adventuresome like deep-sea fishing and high-risk island camping, etc. Anything to avoid hearing God´s voice -- but his soft interior voice stayed with me.

Afterwards I opted for windsurfing, thinking that I had finally found the way to definitively escape from God. I fell in love with this sport and God gave me the grace and talent to really excel. I was winning more and more competitions, named captain of my team and I was as happy as could be. Still, God´s voice was there.

Another plan for forgetting about God came to my mind: finding a girlfriend from Copacabana. The plan seemed to be working because one of my friends invited me to go with him one day and there I was introduced to a wonderful young lady who would play a substantial role in my vocation. She became my girlfriend and we even began thinking of getting married.
P. Alexandre Paciolli y Card. Castrillón Hoyos
January 2, 2001 he was ordained a priest by Cardinal Darío Castrillón during the festivities of the LX anniversary of the foundation of the Legion of Christ.
But God would not quit: "Alexandre, I want you to be a priest." I just kept trying to escape.

How I Came Across the Legion of Christ

I was at a stage in my life where I was pretty much at peace because I felt as if I had finally escaped the threat of a vocation. Then, during a Sunday Mass with my girlfriend, I noticed that the priest who was celebrating the Eucharist, Father Javier Sicilia, LC, did it with such fervor and joy. I was really impressed. He later introduced me to Father Eduardo Robles Gil, LC, the Regnum Christi Movement´s young mens section direction in Rio de Janeiro.

First Accident

God then tried to really get my attention. I was preparing for a very important sailing competition in Rio de Janeiro and at one point a very dangerous storm broke out over the ocean. An enormous wave crashed into my boat; I lost everything I had in it and was thrown from the boat. There was an oil carrier coming right for me. My brother appeared out of nowhere in a motor boat and carried me off to safety. This experience helped me to realize just how short life really is, and it showed me that I needed to do something more for Christ with my life. And so I decided to incorporate into the Regnum Christi Movement.

Regnum Christi Incorporation

Father Eduardo Robles Gil helped me a great deal by means of frequent spiritual direction. Before I really saw what was happening, I became seriously involved in a few apostolates for Christ with the aid of a shepherd who was truly interested in my personal sanctification. I really felt at home in Regnum Christi and I once again felt the call of the priesthood ... but my girlfriend and the Navy still had a hold on me.

Second Accident

Then I was involved in a second life-threatening boat accident. I was invited to participate in the South American Sailing Championships. On our way there another storm suddenly arose when we were about twenty kilometers from the shore. The waves were at least 6 meters high and we felt like little pieces of paper being thrown about in the wind. Our boat, approximately 20 meters high, tipped over. I was in the bow and I wasn´t wearing a seat belt. I fell into the water but in God´s grace my foot got caught on a cord. I was dragged about for a few minutes but I managed to get myself back to the boat and help my teammates stand the boat up again. It was an unforgettable experience. We wound up winning the South American Sailing Championship and yet we saw death staring us in the face. Time and eternity. In that moment I decided that I would become a priest.

God´s Final Push

When we returned to Rio de Janeiro I got caught up in all of the honors and awards that came with our victory as well as the invitation to participate in a race around the world. Once again I began to resist the idea of the priesthood. My egoism just would not leave me be. Yet God was ready this time.

The knockout punch arrived when I least expected it. I was walking through the park with my girlfriend when she suddenly said: "Alexandre, can I ask you a question?" I told her of course. She then asked me:"Haven´t you ever thought of becoming a priest?" I couldn´t believe it! It was like a bucket of freezing water. God´s loving punch finally hit me: "I want you to be a priest please accept this beautiful call!" I still fought some but I finally gave in: "Here I am, Lord, I come to do your will." My commanding officers and my parents were by no means thrilled with my decision.

As a Legionary

Today people ask me whether or not I am happy. I would have to say No. No, I am not happy. I am VERY HAPPY! My family grew to accept my vocation after about six years. I later had the grace, about two months after my ordination, to offer the Mass during my mother´s funeral after she died of cancer. She passed on full of peace, happy and an incorporated member of Regnum Christi.

God expects an answer out of each and every one of us. All we have to do is trust and he will take care of the rest.


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