How seeing Pope Benedict XVI brave a storm revealed this priest's vocation

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Fr. Luis Peláez was 17 years old when he volunteered at World Youth Day in Madrid to host pilgrims in a school gym in his neighborhood. Ten years later, he is a priest at a parish in a town south of Madrid and a prison chaplain. How did he get here? He says it's thanks to a testimony Pope Benedict XVI gave at a prayer vigil.

“The Pope decided, or at least that's what we thought, not to leave even if the storm hit. We were hit by a huge summer storm. And the stage, where the Monstrance of Toledo was, and also where the Pope was preaching, it looked like it was all falling apart, because the fabric was all flapping in the wind. I remember the Pope saying that our faith was stronger than the rain. And I was struck by those words.”

Fr. Peláez wasn't the only person moved by that moment. Fr. Federico Lombardi, who was Pope Benedict XVI's spokesman at the time, shared his memory of the event during a conference organized by the Joseph Ratzinger Foundation and Rome Reports.

President, Joseph Ratzinger Foundation
“After the storm there was total peace. Total silence. It was truly one of the highlights of his pontificate and like a parable of the pontificate itself.”

That event helped reveal to Fr. Luis a desire to dedicate his life to God, a call he initially resisted.

“That experience at World Youth Day remained engraved within me, but I tried to hide it, honestly. I tried to go another way. With a lot of effort and dedication, I began my studies, but changed my mind in the blink of an eye.”

He didn't even last six months studying Telecommunication Engineering. A few months after starting school, he met with the rector of the seminary of Alcalá de Henares to discern his vocation.

There were many factors that pushed him toward the priesthood: his parish priest's dedication to serving others; how at ease Fr. Luis felt with his faith group; and the example set by a seminarian he met that same year. But as he himself acknowledges, World Youth Day was a decisive moment.

“It lit a spark.”

He also found clarity in the Pope's words, a phrase Fr. Luis repeats to himself every day.

“I remember perfectly how the Pope would tell us, 'Do not settle for anything other than truth and love.' And I remember perfectly how, in that moment, two friends and I, who were sitting rather close to the Pope, got down on our knees.”

It's the lasting impact of a World Youth Day that took place 10 years ago. The next one will be in Portugal in 2023.



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