The Navarro Carmona family the day of Juan Carlos's ordination
Maria Luisa, Manuel, Maria José, Antonio, Julia... are those mothers and fathers who have seen how God has become body and blood through the words spoken by their children at the moment of the Consecration in the Holy Mass. Normal and different families, from rural and urban areas, with very different histories, with more or less children, with more or less ecclesial life... But united by the call to which their children responded and participated.
Manuel and Maria José have two sons, one of whom, Antonio Jesùs, is a priest in the diocese of Cadice and Ceuta. In their case there is a particularity: Manuel is a permanent deacon, who shares part of the ministry with his son and lives this situation with great joy.
His vocational history is linked to a date: that 24th of June when "after the Eucharist in which the whole family participated, we were presented by our parish priest to the one who was our vicar, Msgr. Ceballos, to ask for the admission to the seminary for Antonio Jesus and the admission to begin for me the path of the diaconate".
Manuel and Antonio Jesus meet not only physically as father and son, but also spiritually, especially in those celebrations in which the permanent deacon assists the priest.
"The day of his first Mass," recalls Manuel, "was a moment rich in meaning and feeling. As a deacon, I asked for his blessing before reading the Gospel, as established by liturgical norms: 'Father, my son, bless me. A moment that I will never forget and that every time we celebrate the Eucharist is repeated and acquires the same value".
When God calls you all your children
The Navarro Carmona family, from Cordova, has two sons, both diocesan priests. The entry into the seminary of Antonio, the first son, has not come as a surprise to them: "we have seen his progress and we have seen him eager to continue on his way; we say that the journey has not been easy, indeed it has been very hard. However, he has seen the positive side, he has been reconfirmed and his vocation has grown in the face of the battles of arrest".
On the contrary, Juan Carlos' decision cost a little more: "at a certain point we thought that he could dedicate himself to another profession, and we offered him several possibilities of choice. "I remember", underlines mother Julia, "that we had accepted the vocation of doctor, to heal, to save lives... when we finished talking he said: 'Do you want me to do that career? I do it. Poi continuerò con quella che mi piace: voglio dedicarmi a curare le anime e salvarle".
Commossi, abbiamo risposto: "la tua vocazione è salda, vai avanti".
Suo marito, Antonio, has to remark that the call of the second son seemed, in fact, "troppo per la nostra famiglia".
Nevertheless, they are not strongly opposed to the vocation of their children: "We believe in the freedom and the right of our children to choose their own life. We do not agree with any imposition, parents do not have the right to oppose God's decision".
For this commitment to freedom and responsibility "because we let him stay in the seminary with what was worth ... after he became a priest, most of the family was happy.
In his school, a colleague, one of his professors, told me that he was amazed to have let him go to a seminar with the academic value he had".
These are normal reactions in those who do not share or do not understand the importance of the call, and to which these parents have responded with a clear analogy: "Many parents, even in disagreement with the choices of their children, defended them by saying: if he is happy, this is what matters. Ebbene, in the same way one can answer: it is not that he alone is happy, but it is that with his dedication and his testimony he can make many people happy".
There are also some of the most tenacious misunderstandings, we remember the spouses who live in Cadice, with the reaction of the lady who took care of him as a child while his parents were working. When he told her of his decision to enter the Seminary because he felt the vocation, she said "Antonio, my dear, but my dear, who is this who calls you?
Un esercito di preghiere
In a letter written to the mothers of priests when he was Prefect of the Congregation for the Clergy, Cardinal Mauro Picenza stressed that "Every mother of a priest is mysteriously a 'daughter of his son'.
It will also be able to exercise a new 'motherhood' in its own confrontations, in the discreet but most effective and invaluable closeness of the prayer and in the offer of its own presence for the ministry of the child. These mothers are a true 'army' that, from the earth, raises to Heaven petitions and offers and that, even more numerous, intercedes from Heaven so that every grace may be made effective in the lives of the sacrificial shepherds".
These are the words that could be applied to the group of priests who, every month in Madrid, meet to ask for priestly vocations.
An initiative of Maria Luisa Bermejo is born from the ordination of her son Yago, from the Prelature of Opus Dei. At the moment Maria Luisa is in contact with other mothers of priests and together they have started a group to ask for priestly vocations: "I spoke with a friend of mine who has a son who is a diocesan priest. Together we thought of doing something more for priests, and the idea was born to meet one day to pray the Rosary for priestly vocations. We have shared this idea with some diocesan seminarians who have put us in contact with their mothers and everything has begun. Hand in hand with the meetings new people joined us, we spoke with a priest who suggested us to meet in a church to be able to better prepare. Then, the rector of the Church of the Holy Spirit in Madrid, Don Javier Cremades, gave us all he could. He not only allowed us to go once a month to recite the Rosary, but also began to celebrate a Mass for us, and to guide us in some moments of prayer".
The group of priests from Madrid was growing little by little: "We have almost reached 70", recalls Maria Luisa, who adds: "now we are a little less, but we continue with these meetings. Every month a son of one of the families comes to say Mass and guides us in the prayer. Not only do we pray for the priests, but we have also created an impressive network of friendship between us".
These mothers of priests decided to add a name to their prayers: "We came up with the idea of making a kind of 'invisible prayer friend'," says Maria Luisa, "we wrote the names of a priest - who could not be our own son - and his mother on a sheet of paper. None of us has taken one or two sheets and has promised to ask each day for those priests. Io ne ne ho ho due, e sono soddisfattissima" concludes.
Manuel, as deacon assists his son Antonio Jesus in the Holy Mass
These fathers and mothers pray for their children, with "the recognition that their liturgical prayer is a prayer in 'two voices'" as Manuel points out, but they also raise their prayer for those who have difficulties in their environment to respond to God's call, for their faithfulness and perseverance.
Pain and joy
In a society in which the figure of the priest is, more than ever, at the center of everyone's attention, these fathers and these mothers share the pain of anyone who has a child in public care. As Julia underlines, "they are always at the center of attention: their decisions, actions and facts are analyzed with a magnifying glass and there is always the fear of an erroneous interpretation, or the addition of an iniquitous public process... but the joy is immense and comes in abundance because these children are very grateful to us. We know that they are always there, at every moment, to support us with their request and their presence".
Maria José and Manuel express themselves in a very similar way when they underline that "in the hateful society, we are guaranteed to be criticized and despised, if we only say that we are credible ....". A greater reason comes when our son not only shows himself to be credible, but with his life and his dress he proclaims himself to be a priest. It is not rare to observe followers and comments on his passing, but it is also necessary to say that other people come to him and ask him for confession, advice, a blessing...".
However, these same manifestations bring with them many anecdotes of "chance encounters" with the Church, such as the time when during one of his trips from Madrid - where he was studying Moral Theology - to go to Cadiz, the train stopped in the middle of the countryside. Now some passers-by have gone from him to ask "father, ask me why not, because he is escaping from this situation".