Deacon Martinez: ‘The Lord calls whom and when he wants’

| May 28, 2020 | 0 Comments

What began as a chance to meet new people on a mission trip in the Andes of Peru became an opportunity for God to reach more directly into Deacon Cesar Valencia Martinez’s life, calling him to the priesthood.

But the first call didn’t come from the Lord at all. It came from Deacon Martinez’s older sister, Pro Ecclesia Sancta Sister Natalia Justo, inviting him on the mission trip with her Peru-based religious community in his last year of college in Peru, where they grew up.

“I said yes, because you never say no to a nun,” said Deacon Martinez, 32, smiling.

At that time, at age 23, Deacon Martinez was not actively living the faith, though he grew up with parents who are Catholic missionaries and his sister had entered the religious community. He recalls feeling a tug toward the priesthood as an altar server when he was in middle school. But he soon forgot about that.

Studying history in college, he thought a weeklong mission trip into the Andes would be fun and meaningful. They stayed with two Pro Ecclesia brothers and a priest, delivered food and clothing to people in need, and celebrated Mass in an area that only has that opportunity two or three times a year.

What he saw was real joy in the service.

“I went there and I encountered real gentlemen living the right life. Their joy, and their work … I saw these guys living in a cloistered-like environment, and I realized that I am free to go out, to come and go, and I don’t have that happiness in me.”

A priest asked if he would receive the Eucharist, and a bit embarrassed, Deacon Martinez declined because he did not feel ready to do so. He went to confession, and the priest asked him, “What does God want with your life?”

Realizing he didn’t know, he resolved to start being a better Catholic. He went to Mass and remembers in particular hearing the reading in Matthew’s Gospel where Jesus says there is a great harvest but the laborers are few.

“I have heard that (Gospel) many times. But that was the first time I felt that really was for me,” Deacon Martinez said.

Six months later, he entered the Pro Ecclesia Sancta community. Six years after that, he waits to be ordained a priest of the community May 30 at the Cathedral of St. Paul in St. Paul.

Not that it all came easy. Deacon Martinez said, for example, he had been dating a woman for five years. To think about being a priest he had to renounce the possibility of marriage in his life. It became a good lesson for him that God sometimes calls people when they don’t expect it.

“The Lord calls whom he wants and when he wants,” Deacon Martinez said.

Now, he is excited about sharing the sacraments, particularly confession and marriage, and he knows the importance of supporting both.

“I think it is a great blessing to help people experience the mercy of God. I have experienced that in my own life,” he said.

Marriage is “one of the most important battles the Church is having right now,” Deacon Martinez said. “Preparing families, helping them feel we are actually here to support them in all the process, not just before they marry, but after they marry. I experienced that in my own family. I think that is a key place for me to work.”

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Category: Ordinations