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Confiteor, or How I decided to become a priest…

It is said that this decade won’t officially be over until next year. However, for many people some events in their lives seem to be naturally coming to an end, in such a way that we can speak about the ending of an era and the beginning of a new one. Maybe that is just how we perceive time; our measures could be nothing more than social constructs, or so it is said by those who claim to know about these matters. Anyhow, each of us can build their very own narratives. In my case, I see in my story a decade-long narrative arc that comes to an end in 2020 and begins now a new chapter. This is why I decided for the first time to publicly write about something that is very personal: my own life.

Ten years ago I was nothing more than a teenager full of dreams and hopes, many of them perhaps discording and seemingly incompatible; yet in my head I always knew how to resolve the dissonance and carry on. To this date the deepest of those aspirations are still with me, they have only become bigger and stronger. Yet others had to give in and be sacrificed in the face of important decisions. However, all of them, with no exception, helped me become what I am now. Back then I could already perceive in me some sort of restlessness, some kind of intuition that never disappeared entirely and became at times specially problematic. This made me rethink my own identity and the way in which I perceive the world around me. This feeling has been since then like a flame that has never gone off and that, I am sure, has defined in one way or another each and every one of the decisions that I have made: studying Philosophy, moving to Mexico city, specializing in Art and Beauty, becoming a teacher, and most recently of course, moving to London to study Theology and Arts.

Nearly ten years ago (summer of 2010) it came to happen the event that would define, not only my decade, but also my entire existence from that point on: Rome. It is said that some journeys can change us to our very essence, and with good reason. But some journeys change us more than others. I have been extremely fortunate all my life; I have had the luck (and why not say it, the grace) to be able to visit some of the most beautiful corners of the Earth, but nothing can be compared to Rome. Nothing. Maybe it’s not the city in itself that makes me have this conviction (even though it is overwhelmingly beautiful and my favorite place in the world), but rather what happened inside me. It was not only the art, the scents, the views, the friendships, the museums, the food, the language or the beauty in general that can be breathed in the eternal city. That was but the background of something that began to reveal in me during long periods of meditation, contemplation and introspection.

When I went back to Mexico I found the counterpoint of that bit of heaven of being in the eternal city. That was a bittersweet period of my life. Yes, some friendships were strengthened and I finished school, that was part of it, but I also found deception, frustration, severe financial problems in my household, internal disputes between those who I love, siblings scathingly fighting each other, a broken heart, confusion and pain. I suffered in my own flesh (but especially in that of my parents) the thorns of persecution, harassment, terror and many other tragic consequences of living in a failed state of law where public servants act as omnipotent feudal chieftains that dispose of human lives at ease. I began to study Law but then changed to Philosophy partly because of the disgust that the Mexican legal system produced in me. Of course, deep down bellow it wasn’t only that, there was also something else that was calling me to dedicate myself to the pursue of truth. It was one of the best decisions of my life.

The Faculty of Philosophy at Universidad Panamericana in Mexico city (UP) was for me a true intellectual hive. There I had a solid formation under the guidance of some the finest minds in the country. I began to develop my own way of thinking and my own philosophical intuitions. My interpretation of the world had to grow to try to make some sense of everything that I saw around me. I made friendships for a lifetime. I met good souls of whom I can speak as brothers and sisters. Of course, that restlessness inside me persisted. It was there all the time. There was something that always drew me to keep searching and that kept calling me strongly. I knew that it would be something very related to Philosophy and everything that I was doing back then, but I didn’t know what it was exactly. Knowing that it was a spiritual inquietude I chose a vocation of celibacy and devotion whilst remaining a lay man. What I found there exceeded my expectations. I did learn much, and I grew in many aspects, but there was uneasiness inside me still. I knew that my way in life would be very similar to that one, but that it was different all the same. That feeling of spiritual freedom, however, remained very rooted in me. I desisted from that specific route, but I was still trying to find whatever was calling me. In those years I fell in and out of love more than once. I saw and I discovered a great deal of things. I traveled, I acted and I never stopped learning. But above everything else, I persisted in my intellectual journey and I enjoyed immensely to study what I most loved in life.

After my undergraduate I had the bitter experience of going out into what is called the real world. In other words, I had to find a job. Certainly I had worked before, while I was studying, but never full time. The financial problems were still there (indeed they still are) and that could only make me even more anxious about finding a good job when I had so little experience. I was convinced that I had to stay in Mexico city, after all it had been my home for some years by that time, and in order to do so I accepted precarious jobs without employment benefits. I won’t say they were bad, because they were not. I am still grateful to the people that took me back then. But they were not the best thing for me in that moment. Finally I accepted the fact that if I could find a better option in my hometown I would have to take it. That was also one of the best decisions of my life.

I went back to Aguascalientes (my hometown) to do one of the few things which I can assure that I know how to do well: teaching. My true professional vocation. Of course it is not an easy task. There are always many inconveniences and loads of hard work. Conflict and trouble are unavoidable. I had my fare share of mistakes. More than once I surely went too hard on my students. I always tried to apologize whenever it was necessary. Sometimes I felt less desire to have class than the students themselves, this is no novelty for any teacher. Unfortunately it is also true that it is a job pretty much underestimated in our society. But it is equally true that it is one of the most fulfilling and satisfying professions. I can affirm with no mistake that those who devotedly dedicate their lives to it, truly come to know what the word love means. It was then that I realized that my place is among people, and not only isolated in a library occupied by the work of a writer. I noticed that I would find myself extremely bored if my students were not around. I did miss them when I was not teaching, even if holidays were a most necessary break. In those two years as a full time teacher I discovered that even amidst the daily hustle of a High School, peace and joy can be found if you know where to look. I came across the dreams and aspirations of people in which I could see a reflection of myself; I learned the true meaning of empathy through the joy of watching other people grow. My own dreams became the desire that they could fulfill theirs. All of this, of course, while still feeling that intuition in me that wouldn’t leave me alone.

Finally, after pursuing the way of Philosophy, after having chosen Art and Beauty as my main subjects, after having taught Theology and Humanities for two years, I came to where I am now. I received a full scholarship to study in London. Doing so was also one of the best decisions of my life.

In London, especially in Goodenough College, where I live, I found an international community in which I have made friends for a lifetime. We have all sorts of backgrounds here. There is no continent which is not represented in this fraternity. We profess different religions and have different beliefs, but we all have the same values in common, and we all feel part of something which is bigger than us and embraces us. I dare to say that in this small society in which I live, a true ideal of harmonic internationalism has been successfully fulfilled. It is an ideal that transcends every border without losing any of the richnesses that come from diversity. It is here that I have truly understood the meaning of the word universality. It is here that I have come to meet some of the kindest people that I have ever met in my life. I say so entirely conscious of the ambiguity of the term. These are nice people, kind people, good people. But what does it mean to be kind and nice? In this case I can speak of people whose purity of soul can be seen from miles away. People who can be very hard to find in the world. These are people whose ideals and aspirations are noble, who want to see goodness in the world and are willing to make it happen. None of us is perfect, of course, but I am sure that we are entirely sincere in our ambitions. This is a family in which one can feel easily at home.

It is precisely here, in this environment of international fraternity and of intellectual richness, after having been through sorrows and joys, after ten years of searching and spiritual inquietude, where I have finally come to the full realization of what it is that has been calling me all these years. I said before that it is like a flame that keeps growing and never extinguishes. Here it seems to have caused a full blown fire. I don’t know if it took me too long to realize this, or if it was the right time. I suppose that it took just as long as it had to take. I must say beforehand that a part of me did not imagine that I would receive what has been given to me (because I believe it has been given to me).

I have named this narcissistic account of my life “confiteor”, which is the Latin for “I confess”, and I want it to be precisely that, a confession. The first thing I must say is, then again, that I am very narcissistic. I am vain, self-centered and self-indulgent. I can be at times too superficial, and as the actor that I am I like to be in the spotlight. I do not deny any of this. I have many other faults: I can be pretty lazy, or I can be also too ambitious, in which case I sometimes bite more than I can chew. I think this is all a consequence of overestimating myself. I can also be too cold and indifferent at times, or too obsessive. I tend to be indulgent and to avoid conflict, but I also have a very irritable side. I am still very far away from the ideal of a good minister that I have in my mind. Yes, by that I mean a good priest; a priest of the roman, catholic and apostolic Church. I say minister because, strictly speaking, all Catholics are priests from their baptism. So, if you have had enough patience to read about two thousand words of narcissistic cackle to this point, you should know that that was the uneasiness inside me. That is what hasn’t left me for the past ten years. That is the core of the narrative arc of my decade. It has been a long process in which I have discovered that the meaning of my life is in the ministry. I don’t know yet how the logistics to make it happen are going to be carried on. I don’t even know if it is wise to be writing about it at this point of my vocation. But I know that I am sure of it.

I know these are not easy times for the Church, no one has to remind that to me. I know that from a material and human point of view, at least from the point of view of some people, my decision can almost seem as suicidal. It is not easy, I admit. Maybe all of this narration is more a personal exercise in which I strengthen my decision than something actually relevant or useful for someone else. I hope at least not to have bored you with all my personal conundrums. There is much to do. There is much to repair. It is necessary to ask for forgiveness and to forgive. There are yet too many broken hearts and wounded souls to be healed. It is necessary to listen. There is much to discover and to rediscover. There is much to build as well. All of which makes me only more respectful for those who have taken this path before me and have stayed loyal and true to it. These are dark times; there is much pain and confusion. We need, especially now, good priests and I only pray to be up to the challenge that awaits.

This decade has taught me much. I have known both glory and despair, joys and sorrows, privilege and ignominy. I have been through much pain, and I have witnessed even more, both in the people that I love and in strangers. I have seen how the whole world falls apart for the people I love and I know the frustration of not being able to do much about it. I know the agony of living in a situation in which you don’t have certainty of what is going to happen the next morning. I have experimented the feeling of not knowing if you will be able to sleep under the same roof the next day. But I have also known the pleasures of life. I have been very fortunate. I have lived a bit of everything during my time in this world. I must admit that I do have a taste for the good things in life, maybe my whims exceed my budget, but I have also learned to live through hard times and carry on. What still shakes me to my deepest is the suffering of the innocent and the loneliness of the last of the Earth.

I have yet much to learn, too much probably. Perhaps it is good for me to take this path, so that I can at last tame my egotism. I have yet to be more generous and much less narcissistic. I confess that there is still much that I would want to do. I am certain, however, that if I achieve to change the world even for only one person, and I am able to make them see the light, then my whole life would be justified. Honestly, I hope to be able to do so with many. I hope too, quoting Sorrentino in his series The Young Pope, to make the eyes of people shine with hope. Maybe these are all just naive dreams of a still naive kid. Maybe none of this will be relevant someday. At least for me this has been my whole decade, and these have been the same ambitions that have moved me since that summer in Rome.

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