Our Lord was opening my heart to be generousz
I really never thought about becoming a priest, I was more interested in guns and cars so I thought about being a cop. However it was until I started to have a personal relationship with our Lord that the thought of being a priest came to mind.
This is how my story begins. I’m the second of four kids; two girls and two boys; the boys are in the middle. For many years I was the spoiled one, until my younger brother arrived and my kingdom was over. I was not forgotten by any means, but all the attention was for the little one. Yes I was jealous. I was raised by my grandparents because both mom and dad were working at the time, so it was until my little brother arrived that my mom fully dedicated herself to the house and us.
Childhood for me was a blast, I spent time playing basketball, riding the bike and later having my first love… then another… and another… until I experience the brutal pain of being dumped…. at that age it hurts you know. First time I fell in love was in fourth grade, but I was more interested in cars and sports, later on in sixth grade and finally in high school.
One experience that marked me the most was the death of my grandfather, he had been with me since I was born, looking after me when I went out on the bike and fixing it when it was broken. I was at a friend’s house when I heard he had passed away, I couldn’t stop crying, I was eleven. It was there where I received a special grace from our Lord, the thought and a clear idea of the resurrection that somehow I would see him again comforted me so much that despite the tears the suffering was bearable. That is how Christ, little by little became present in my life.
When I was in sixth grade a friend of mine punched me. At that time I was using braces so my lip was torn open and my teeth were all moved. I had to go to the hospital get stitches and then go to the dentist… I couldn´t chew anything… I remember laying in bed thinking to myself how fragile we are and how everything could come crashing down… I realized how much we take things for granted and how thankful we should be for everything we have. I started praying more often after that, even though I was not a saint, prayer became a part of my life
My true conversion came at the beginning of my adolescence, I thought I had everything… friends, parties, car, clothes, sports and yet there was a sense of emptiness in my life. During my teenage years my mom had grown tired of dragging us to Church. So we pretty much did whatever we wanted, however in 1995 I met Fr. Peter Byrne LC and got to know Regnum Christi. I liked what they did, how they prayed and went about, but I didn´t start my journey with them. My friends from school invited me over for some small group discussion and prayer, it was interesting and I started going, they were Protestants. Little by little they started to wake up my faith and the desire to know more about it. I received another grace from our Lord, the desire to find out what was the catholic faith all about; I used to say I was catholic but I really didn´t know anything about it. I ended up reading Scott Hahn´s Rome sweet Home and a few others and I started going to Mass by myself. Even though I was not receiving communion, going all by myself was already something.
That year Pope John Paul II wrote an apostolic letter about the rosary, I read it, liked it and started praying the rosary daily… it seemed natural to me to contemplate the mysteries of the rosary while praying the hail marys, just like the pope mentioned it in his letter.
After these experiences of prayer and drawing closer to Christ, something happen… I felt he was calling me to something more, perhaps He wanted me to do something more… at that time I was doing better at school, well not really but I had a better relationship with my parents and even with my siblings, I was even attending a prayer group; this time a Regnum Christi group. I learned more about Holy Scripture and found myself still longing for more…
In 2002 I was already experiencing the unrest of the heart whether God was calling me or not. I was trying to make it for Mass not only on Sundays but almost daily. I kept doing everything I liked, school, ping pong, friends, the beach and family, but every time I went to Mass the readings specially the Gospel seemed to be talking directly to me… most of the topics, if I remember correctly were regarding a vocation. Leave your land and go to the place where I will show you, the disciples leaving everything followed him… it is hard to explain what I was experiencing back then, but it seemed like a knife piercing in. Finally I decided to go to confession, it had been a while… lucky for me I ended up looking in the phone directory for the churches around my place and hours for confessions, now a days we have apps that do that, back then it was that brick of paper… I found one close by, and long behold I saw a friend of my mom, so it was nice to see a familiar face. It was there in that confession where I first told the priest that maybe Christ was calling me. His words were a beautiful invitation, he quoted our Lady, Behold I´m the lowly servant of the Lord let it be done to me according to your word… those words really resonated in my soul, maybe because I had prayed the rosary so much that I was spiritually sensitive to these words or just a grace from our Lord. I felt challenged and at the same time prompt to follow what the good Lord was planning for me.
To make the story short… I didn´t want to go but our Lord was opening my heart to be generous. After participating in a program called Helping Hands Medical Missions, seeing the needs of others, how much I had been blessed not only on the material side of things but with all the love of my parents and family, I had but one question why? Why had I been so fortunate? Why had I experienced so much love from my grandparents, siblings, uncle, aunt and so forth why? There was only one thing that I could do repay back all that I had experienced. I had to repay back with the same token: love. At the end of the program I publicly announced that I would go to a discerning program with the Legionaries of Christ and try out my vocation… deep down inside I was scared to death it was the first time I said it aloud, worst still to so many people, now I was committed to go.
The hardest part was to tell my parents, so filled with courage I called them in to the living room to talk. I never done something like that before, probably they were scared and thinking the worst… but to my surprise when I said I needed to go and check this place and try out my vocation their answer blew me away, my mom started crying and then she said “ we saw this coming”. I too started crying but because I could not believe what I was hearing; for me it was like another sign that our Lord was really calling me to leave everything behind and follow Him.
That´s how the adventure began, and how I started following our Lord. I enter the novitiate the summer of 2003, took my first vows in 2005, studied humanities and philosophy in the US, later on I did my internship in Denver for three years which I loved. I met so many great people convinced of their faith, living it day in and day out. Later on I studied theology in Rome, and I have started my ministry as a Deacon in Florence, Italy.
The road has not been easy, but I have always experienced our Lord close to me, even in those moments where I have not looked for Him. I don´t know what he has in store for me in this new stage of my life, with all the responsibility, sacrifice and selfgiving that it entails… I know that I will find out and that I will be able to write it like it is in scripture “How shall I make a return to the Lord for all the good He has done for me? The cup of salvation I will take up, and I will call upon the name of the Lord” Psalm 116, 12-13