|Fr. Zachary Dominguez, LC. |
My relationship with Christ as far back as I can
remember has always been very personal. Christ was real for
me, a real person to whom I could speak and
ask help. The awareness of Christ in my life I
believe came from my Mom and grandparents whom I heard
speaking and imploring Christ, especially when I irritated them. I
was also influenced a great deal by my Father and
Grandfather, «Tata». They always gave me a witness of manhood.
My Grandfather made it through the Great Depression, was an
army soldier during WWII (with pictures to prove it!), and
he was someone who loved Christ. My Father taught me
to do hard things (even if against my will) and
he would not let me give up in my undertakings.
These human characteristics engrained in me were and still are
an absolute necessity in my following of Christ.
of a close friend of mine impacted me a great
deal. When I was about 12 or 13 my friend
Monica, with whom I had just spent the day, was
tragically hit by a car on her way home. I
remember thinking, «I just said goodbye to her, how could
she be gone?». This event turned my attention towards eternity...
In 1992, I started my freshman year in high school.
I entered quite a different school environment than my time
being homeschooled. My Christian convictions would be put to the
test every day. Normally, the biggest crisis in high school
is trying to fit in with a crowd. I probably
fit in too well. My freshman year in high school,
I played on the football and baseball team, so I
was able to find a group of people to hang
out with at school. I played sports throughout high school,
primarily baseball, and this was my main focus at the
time. It still never even crossed my mind to be
a priest. If God was calling, I was not listening.
Spiritually speaking this was a roller coaster moment in my
life. The desire to fit in with others around me
and the world with all its vanities were pounding at
the door. On the outside I was just like everybody
else, but deep down I wanted to be faithful to
Christ. I knew that my faith in Christ called me
to be different, but I could not find the strength
to do it. I was not a disaster, but I
was not a saint either. The very fact that I
experienced this internal turmoil was a sign of God’s grace.
He was calling me to holiness. My biggest regret in
high school was
being a coward. There were so
many people that I saw needed help or an example,
but I was too self-centered to take a risk. I
was too chicken to show my faith! Thinking back on
high school, it is amazing how we are just kids
but making decisions that affect us for a lifetime. One
of my friends was murdered because of retaliation after beating
someone up. Several friends dropped out of school because of
pregnancy, one had an abortion, and others with drug problems.
by God´s grace was I protected from doing really imprudent
things which would have adversely affected my life and my
vocation. I was surrounded by drugs, but I had no
real desire to take them. I was surrounded by promiscuity
and girls that wanted to be loved and wanted, but
they sought it in mistaken ways. I had the conviction
that I was going to wait until I got married.
I remember thinking at the time: «What are they going
to have left to give to the person that they
are going to marry? They have given their hearts and
bodies to so many people». All this I attribute to
the grace of God, who was preparing me from something
that I never thought I would do in my life!
Like most young people these days, I wanted to be
a professional athlete, but reality starts to set in when
you look at those who go on to play professionally
and look at your own talents. Needless to say, by
the time I was a junior, I knew that I
was not going to be playing professional sports. «What´s next?»
I thought. «Let’s go get the bad guys!» I found
a desire within myself to be an FBI agent. This
was my new goal in life.
The spiritual tension which
existed throughout high school only intensified in college. There was
a fire within my soul to be holy, to stop
being mediocre in the way that I lived my faith.
I had a desire to give of myself, but I
did not know how or where. I wanted to find
other people who loved Christ and wanted to follow him.
I did not find them or, better said, I did
not look hard enough. Humanly speaking things were going very
well for me. I received a scholarship to pay for
my first year of college, and providentially I got a
job working for a Semiconductor in Orlando. They were even
going to pay for the rest of my studies. The
only drawback was that I had to work full time
and attend school part-time.
By 1998, I was making a
good amount of money, so much so that I had
my own apartment, my car was paid off, and I
was pumping money into my bank account. I lived pretty
meagerly only spending about $30 a month on groceries, a
lot of «hand-on-ham» sandwiches (ham and cheese with no bread).
Spiritual tension was growing, manifesting itself in a feeling of
emptiness or dissatisfaction which I could not understand. I had
everything I thought would make me happy. I had an
easy, well-paying job, car, apartment, money in the bank, and
friends. «Why am I not happy!». Then I got my
After a worldly night out with my buddies, I had
the need and desire for a good confession. I planned
on going after work on Saturday. A co-worker of mine
asked me if I wanted to go out to lunch
with her, and I accepted. Just before the lunch break,
there was a short summer rain shower, typical of Florida,
and as she was driving around a curve, the car
fish-tailed. We ended up driving head-on into a light post.
The car was totaled. I did not have my seat
belt on, and I flew head-first into the windshield and
broke the entire dashboard with the lower half of my
body. She had an airbag and seat belt and so
suffered just a few scratches and back problems. When I
regained consciousness, I looked up and saw the imprint of
my head on the windshield and blood pouring out of
my head. I said: «I am going to die, and
I am going to Hell. For what? Was it worth
it?». I was taken to the hospital to get my
head stapled. After this near-death experience, I received a grace
to really try and live what I said I believed.
conversion was noticed by a Jehovah Witness (a very good
man) at work. He saw that I was actually trying
to be a good Christian, and he began to challenge
my Catholic faith. At the time I did not realize
it, but the JW´s have a book on how to
convert Catholics, so he began to ask me certain questions
which I did not know how to answer. I told
myself: «I am not going to let this guy shut
me up», and I began to study Catholic apologetics (a
way of explaining and defending the faith). The website Catholic.com
helped me a great deal. We ended up debating different
topics for hours every day. A former Catholic and atheist
got involved, and I started to debate them. I discovered
a treasure that I had all along but did not
realize. I started to understand my faith for the first
time. I learned the history of Christianity and saw that
the only reasonable option was that the Catholic Church was
indeed founded by Christ. I became proud to be a
Catholic and belong to the Church of Christ. While I
was falling in love with my faith, I was hating
college more and more. My accounting studies were not very
fulfilling, and the reality of the life of an FBI
agent was losing its appeal. I thought: «I have to
do something that I like even if it means living
poor. What do I really love? I really love my
faith. What can I do with theology studies? I can
In 2000 I decided to change majors. I started to
study theology, and it was at this time that people
started to ask the question: «What exactly are going to
do with a theology degree, become a priest?» I would
respond: «Forget it! I am going to have ten kids!
I can teach!». But the seed of the priesthood was
planted by these unaware Individuals, and from that point on,
the idea of the priesthood was a thorn in my
I started studying Theology through a distance learning
program with Franciscan University of Steubenville in Ohio. This enabled
me to begin my Theology studies and continue working in
Florida. My plan was to spend one year saving money
so that I could leave Florida and pay for the
rest of my education at Steubenville. This was my plan
but not God’s.
I did my best to really live my
faith that year and made use of all the means
the Church had to offer: frequent confession, Mass, and adoration.
The idea of the priesthood was like a mosquito, hiding
in a room at night. Just when it is quiet
and you lay down on your bed, you hear a
buzzing sound. You turn on the lights to kill it,
but you can’t find it. Then you lay down again,
hear the buzz, turn on the lights, but nothing, and
then you ask yourself if you are just imagining it.
But the buzzing sound will not go away! And then
you wake up with a bite on your leg! The
call happened in much the same way.
The buzzing sound
increased, but I just worked harder to kill it. One
Saturday, I decided to attend a «Call to Holiness» conference
with several Catholic speakers. In between speakers there were vocational
testimonials, but I conveniently left the auditorium. I did not
want to hear about the vocation, so I went to
browse the religious goods store. Then something caught my attention.
I was shocked by a flyer. «$299 pilgrimage to Rome
for 12 days». I decided right then and there that
I was going to go even if it meant sleeping
on the floor.
After signing up for the pilgrimage the
priest in charge of the trip left a few messages
on my phone, which I never returned. I was really
reluctant to meet with him. By chance, I answered the
phone when he called (the days before Caller ID), and
I reluctantly agreed to meet him. The meeting was enjoyable,
and he told me about a group of young Catholic
students (RC members) who met for study circles at my
old university, UCF. These Catholic students were the cause of
a turning point in my life….
August 2000: I was really
impressed with this group of young Catholic students. The university
would not give this group a room to meet, so
they would meet in the student lounge. Try to imagine
the scene: you have a bunch of sofas with college
kids laying around, Jerry Springer showing on about five or
six televisions, and us in the middle doing an opening
prayer and reading a Gospel passage. I remember thinking: «These
guys are pretty radical. I can hang with them». The
fearlessness in which they witnessed their faith coupled with a
normal and balanced college life showed me that you can
live the faith and not smash the Bible in someone’s
face. I learned that you preach the Gospel by giving
a witness of the way you live your life. The
leader of the group did just that with me….She was
an intelligent, pretty girl who was discerning a consecrated vocation.
I remember thinking: «Why is this girl discerning a consecrated
vocation? She seems normal to me». At the time I
thought that the only people who become priests or nuns
are weird people or who couldn’t do anything else with
their lives. Even though I knew normal priests throughout my
youth, I had bought into the worldly view of them.
I guess that’s why becoming a priest never crossed my
mind earlier in life, or perhaps I was just distracted
with the castles in the sky which the world offers
Her example of seeking out God’s will in
her life was probably the most powerful influence on me.
I could not get the idea of being a priest
out of my head, and I would block it out
of my mind during prayer. As I struggled with just
the idea of being a priest, I watched her seeking
to discover what was God’s plan for her. I saw
her travel to convents for discernment visits and vocational retreats,
while I was so scared of the idea, I wouldn’t
even talk about it. Her witness was a slap in
my face, exposing my cowardliness and lack of love towards
God. After about three months with the group I started
to seriously ask the question: «Could God really be calling
me to the priesthood?».
December 2000—January 2001: I was on a
pilgrimage in Rome with about 200 hundred other young men
admiring all the sites and graces that the Church has
to offer. The Legionaries were offering daily Mass, retreats, and
spiritual dialogue during the trip. I decided sleep was more
important and did not bother with daily Mass or retreats.
I even avoided talking with the Legionaries who were with
us because I was scared of the vocation. Despite all
my efforts to avoid thinking about the vocation, it kept
forcing its way into my mind. We went to the
ordination Mass of about 60 Legionaries. Even though I slept
through half of the Mass, at the moment of ordination,
I was overwhelmed with emotion.
My last night in Rome,
I told God: «Look, I do not have a vocation,
but I will give you three months of my summer
to discern and prove that it is not for me!».
At that moment a tremendous peace came over me….
Zachary Dominguez, L.C., was born on June 26, 1978, in
San Diego, California, United States of America. He entered the
Legionaries of Christ as a novice in Cheshire, Connecticut, U.S.A.,
on September 14, 2001. He studied Classical Humanities in Cheshire.
Has a degree in philosophy and theology from the Pontifical
Ateneum Regina Apostolorum. He collaborated in youth ministry in Atlanta
(U.S.A). He currently serves in youth ministry in Washington D.C,