|P. Juan Pablo Durán Rueda|
I have never lived more than four years in the
same place. I was born in Tucson, Arizona, in a
university hospital. That same year, my parents went back to
their native city of Bogotá, Colombia. When I was four
years old, we all moved to Atlanta, Georgia, and by
the time I was eight, we were living in Hong
Kong. When I was twelve, we all went to Tokyo,
and when I was fourteen, we returned to Atlanta. Before
I turned eighteen, I was a novice in Cheshire, Connecticut;
at twenty I was studying in Rome; at twenty-two I
was working in Salamanca, Spain; and at twenty-six I went
back to Rome. Now I am back in Cheshire.
My vocation was God’s idea.
Mom, I Want a Little Brother
was five years old when God first knocked at the
door of my heart. My mom (the oldest of nine
siblings) wanted to have more children, but was unable to.
Four years passed with no results. I also wanted a
little brother, and soon that became the only thing I
asked for on my birthday and at Christmas. My parents
consulted doctors and tried every treatment there was. Finally my
mom was told that she would never have children again.
that time we received a visit from a priest who
was traveling with an image of Our Lady of Fatima.
My parents (unusually, at the time) had invited him over
to see what this good priest and his prayers to
Mary could offer. I understood that if I prayed the
Rosary every day and asked the Blessed Virgin with faith,
the Mother of God would grant me a little brother.
With the brochure in my hand and a glow-in-the-dark plastic
rosary in my fingers, I and my mom began to
pray the Rosary every day. Within four years, my brothers
Juan Manuel, Santiago, and Andrés were born.
My Dad Invented Sprite!
(Well, Not Really…)
When I was eight, my whole family moved
to Hong Kong because of my dad’s job. He had
done well in the development and launching of Coca-Cola’s new
drinks—Sprite among them—and the company wanted him to work with
the emerging Asian market.
I have only happy memories of those
years. I had everything my heart wanted—friends, places to play,
swimming, sports. I was able to buy fashionable clothes, video
games, music, and gadgets. I could go to the movies,
the athletic club, the mall, the mountains. I traveled around
Asia, especially Malaysia and the other Pacific islands. After three
years we moved to Tokyo, and I grew in my
desire to learn, to feel, to be free in a
city that offered me everything.
My mom cautioned me not to
let myself be deceived by the glitter and ease of
the world. There had to be a hierarchy of values,
and mine was clear: seize the day, have fun, and
do not behave too badly.
God had moved to second place.
Every so often I would go with my mom to
bring food to beggars that took refuge from the cold
in the subway stations. It took a certain amount generosity
to get up at three in the morning, and it
made me feel good when I did it. However, I
kept moving towards experiences further and further from the faith.
is how I began my life in Atlanta when I
was fourteen, with a vigorous desire to be accepted in
a new environment and to make the most of life.
Theater, music, friendship, science, soccer, love, and romance: life was
smiling on me, and my conscience was darkening. My family
had to be content with just my spare time. As
for God, I had occasional, annoyed thoughts of him.
May of my junior year of high school, I was
at the height of my self-complacency, but I had not
succeeded in anesthetizing my wounded relationships with my family, my
teachers, and some of my friends. In order to make
a temporary truce with my mom, I agreed to speak
with a “family counselor,” who turned out to be a
Everything about him left an impression on me: his
cassock, his seriousness, his friendly kindness. He was affable, wise,
direct, full of compassion but firm. We started to talk,
and—without exactly knowing why—I opened my heart to him. I
felt that he understood me, and I saw that he
was fighting for the salvation of my soul. I was
terrified at having to change my life, and I tried
to defend myself with every argument I had. Amid all
my confusion and anguish, I felt with certainty that the
forgotten voice of God was calling at my heart’s door.
went to confession, and we said goodbye. Before starting up
the car I spoke again to the Blessed Virgin, as
I had done years before. “Mother, I trust in you.
I’m putting everything in your hands. I don’t know where
you’re taking me, but help me to be faithful to
Master, Where Are You Staying? Come and See. (John 1:38)
few weeks later, the school year ended, and my girlfriend,
my group of friends, and the big parties were gone.
The same Legionary, Father John, invited me to World Youth
Day in Paris, and afterwards to missions in London. We
slept on the floor in a parish hall, and we
showered in our bathing suits with the hose in the
parking lot. The food in England was as interesting as
Still, it was an indescribable joy to see how,
through my words, God touched the young and the old,
the indifferent and the fallen. It made up for all
the austerity and loneliness. I was happy. I could do
“Forever? Do you want to?”
I remember that it
was at night when God’s eternal calling came into my
One Hail Mary Away From Becoming the Rich Young Man
Youth Day was an necessary motivation for the year that
awaited me in Atlanta. I had a lot to change
and to purify. Many times I fell, and just as
many times I got up to keep fighting. Even with
the moments of grace, it was not easy to discern
what God was asking of me. Neither was it easy
to respond. Every door was opened for me. I was
granted the scholarship at Emory that I had dreamed of.
Once more I had friends who supported and loved me.
I had healed my relationship with my family. My brothers
were an inexhaustible source of consolation and encouragement.
At the last
minute, when I was about to go to the university,
my parents invited me to spend a week in Italy,
especially Rome and Florence. There I saw the Pope again.
His voice had resounded a year before with the invitation
to generosity. I saw the paintings and images of my
predecessors in the faith: St. Peter, St. Paul, St. Francis
of Assisi, St. Ignatius of Loyola, St. Francis Xavier, St.
Therese, St. Maximilian Kolbe, and so many other famous saints
of all ages, colors, and backgrounds. In my heart I
repeated the question to myself, “Why not you?”
God was calling,
and with his mercy, I managed to take the first
step. In reality I did not know if God wanted
me there forever. However, I was sure of the first
step, which was to go and participate in the summer
discernment program with the Legionaries of Christ. There I decided
to enter the novitiate, a second important step for me.
God was leading me little by little, sustaining my generosity
one step at a time, until he led me to
decide to commit my entire life.
Unless a Grain of Wheat
Falls to the Ground and Dies, It Remains Alone. (John
I cannot deny that consecrated life meant drawing near to
the Lord’s Cross willingly and decidedly. Likewise it has been
a discovery of this Cross’s redeeming and transforming power.
away from my parents, but I discovered a deep communion
with them. Moreover, I have been able to share in
the lives of many families and of many people I
did not know before. I was physically absent during my
brothers’ adolescence, but I have often had the honor and
the grace to be their confidant and guide. Not to
mention that I have hundreds of fellow Legionaries to call
brothers. I did not begin a career in medicine as
I had dreamed, but I have been a spiritual director
and have seen how grace heals hearts. I never had
a girlfriend again and I will never have a wife,
but I have felt arise in me a passion of
overflowing mercy for the members of the Church, especially those
most in need of love. I have no children, but
I have accompanied young people along their way, and for
everyone I am “Father.”
In the darkness of faith I have
discovered that it is a free gift, and I have
discovered how it is the beginning of eternal life. In
temptation, dependence on God. In confusion, his presence. In the
fight, his victory.
Thank you! Thanks to my Legionary brothers,
with whom I give my life every day. Thank you
for your faithfulness and generosity, which shine like a torch
and a guiding star amid the storminess of our times.
Thanks to my brother Legionaries who are the heroes of
our history. Thank you, fathers! Thank you, brothers!
Thanks as well
to all those who have shared a part of this
Thank you! Thanks to my mom, who twice gave
me life, and to my dad, the strong watchman, to
my brothers and my little sister. Thanks to my whole
family—those who are here and those who support me from
heaven. Thanks to my family, whom I love with all
the strength of my heart and for whom I give
my life every day.
Thanks to our Lord, for calling me
to the Legion and the priesthood. Thank you for the
gift of life and faith. Thank you for accompanying me
in this life and awaiting me in eternal life.
the Mother of God, who has sweetened beautiful moments and
softened difficult ones. My mother and Mother of my vocation,
God sent me little signs to encourage me; and
yet, despite all of these proofs, I began to have
second thoughts. I went to my pastor for advice. He
said something that has stuck with me to this day:
“God normally wants you where you are; if not, he
will let you know. It seems that he is letting
you know, so you can only follow him by taking
this next step.” I then went to one of my
professors, whom I did not even know that well, and
he told me, “I have learned one thing in my
life: when God asks you to do something, you do
it, and then there is peace.”