Path to the Priesthood: Fr. Jesus Valenzuela
by Fr. Jesus Valenzuela, Assistant Pastor, FSSP Guadalajara
If you had asked me ten years ago, right after finishing high school, where I saw myself in the future, I definitely would not have said, “in the middle of Nebraska studying for the priesthood,” much less for a traditional order. Growing up in Mexico, I did not know anything other than the new Mass. For me that was the standard, and when other priests mentioned the old rite, they would do it in a derogatory way. Normally, I thought in that same way about the old Mass. I certainly did not expect that this would become the Mass to which I would dedicate my whole life.
My family had a tradition of sending the boys to the United States for high school right after finishing middle school. When I was fourteen, my turn came. Leaving my parents behind and coming to the United States was the starting point of a new life. It was then that I started thinking of the possibility of becoming a priest. The summer after my freshmen year, I went to a discernment camp in Chihuahua, Mexico. The seminarians there taught me the basics of the spiritual life and of discerning God’s call, and at that point I started taking my vocation somewhat seriously.
I returned for the second level of that discernment camp, and after that, I returned once again. At the end of the retreat, the superiors of the seminary asked me to join, but I refused. It was my senior year in high school. I dated, applied for scholarships, graduated with honors and for those reasons I tried to put my vocation away, but no matter the struggles, God always “bugged me” with the thought of going to the seminary. This restlessness continued for two years, and for two years I put it away. I felt like Jacob wrestling with the angel.
I decided to attend college for engineering. I learned about the traditional Mass through a friend. I gave it a shot, but was not immediately drawn to it. I had my doubts. I decided to learn more about it, and even though the emotional appeal lacked, everything else just made sense. With this in mind, I said to myself: “If I am going to be a priest, I am going to say this Mass.” I visited the Fraternity apostolate in Guadalajara to discern for two weeks. I was hoping that the priests would tell me that I did not have a vocation, but against all odds they suggested that I join the seminary. Now as a priest, I am stationed in this same place where I started my discernment with the Fraternity.
The following year, I joined the seminary in Nebraska, and eight years later became a priest. It was never easy because, as I realized later, it was never meant to be such. God does not always ask us to do the easy things. As a seminarian in Chihuahua told me: “What is easy is already done, the difficult is for you to do, the impossible is up to God.” Leaving family, friends, perhaps a good future in the world always poses a struggle. Nevertheless, I have to admit that I do not regret it. All of that seems small in comparison to what I have gained in return. +
December 10, 2019