Full original in Portuguese.
Last post was about the conversion of Megan Hodder. This week we spoke with Alvaro Siqueira, born in Franco da Rocha in greater São Paulo, Brazil. Alvaro converted to Catholicism last year. Below are the replies he kindly wrote to our questions.
Negócios de Família: Could you tell how you came to be baptized as a Catholic? How did your family react?
Álvaro Siqueira: The course of my conversion and baptism took about a year and is closely connected with the work of Opus Dei. I was a Protestant because of my family and the little I knew of the Holy Catholic Church was founded on the bias of the evangelical church. After my senior year in high school, I had failed the exam to enter the college and by chance (for providence in reality) I started doing prep school in a place far from where I live. It was there that I met Leonardo Relvas, who told me about “a talk with the Priest” in the Vila Mariana University Centre. I went out of curiosity. Felt a deficiency I did not understand very well; I believed it was due to my lack of education in religion. Although I was taking classes in Protestant doctrine to baptize me (I was not yet baptized or the Protestant church), I acknowledged I knew little about religion and thought the Catholics could lend me a helping hand. But I did not want to mingle, much less take the confession of the Catholic faith, just wanted to give a boost in my study about religion.
I enjoyed the talk and decided to come back again and again. I not only enjoyed the talks (which they call “meditation”), but also the other activities that the University Centre offered. There was the “philosophical debates”, the ” get-together “, the “Pizza Friday” and I could also talk to the priest (later I came to know that this conversation is called the “Spiritual Direction”). I agreed to talk to the Priest because I had doubts about the book of Genesis and he proposed to answer them. It did not take long and that like become a real enjoyment. The Opus Dei was charming. I knew several Catholics, but I had never seen the Catholicism be lived that way and I realized that in fact I did not knew the Catholicism. The members of Opus Dei had in abundance something I was looking for and could not find in the people called “unity of life”. Not that the people I knew did not live the things they say, but when it comes to religion, among the people I knew at the time, no one resembled them. This unity of life was essential for my conversion. There were, right in front of me, people who lived the gospel, who not convinced with words, but with the way they live. However, my conversion would still take some time.
Ten months later it was approaching the date of my baptism in the Presbyterian church. I had already started catechism classes with Pedro Paulo, a member of Opus Dei, and I read the Catechism of the Catholic Church. I was unsure if I should be baptized or not and some friends gave me the advice to postpone the baptism, but it was not easy to do. I had passed through the board of members of the Presbyterian Church and correctly answered the questions they asked me (little did they know that some of those question I answered based on my classes of Catholic catechesis) and I was approved. One of the members of the board said he felt something he had never felt before with that group that would receive the baptism. The pastor had great esteem for me and I also liked him. I had even urged him to have me baptized some months and now that the time had come I was not sure I wanted it. It was then that something wonderful happened, it will increase the size of my answer to this question, but I feel compelled to tell:
It happened in the parish of Our Lady of Conception of Vila, close to where I was doing the prep course. I used to go there with Leonardo Relvas and with Thelli Vieira to attend Mass on Wednesday (I watched the masses more to understand the rite than to participate). I took some lessons there and prayed in between classes. The day before my baptism, in the Presbyterian Church, I went there to pray and I told God how I was apprehensive about my Protestant baptism, which had already been green lighted by the congregation. In the small chapel, besides the Blessed Sacrament, there were two statues, one of Our Lady of Fatima and another of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. In this second statue Jesus points to his heart and with the other hand shows his wounds, as if inviting us to be with him. As I prayed I stared into the Heart, and for a moment I felt that it was not for His own heart that our Lord pointed, but for mine, saying “Look into your heart. I did not place this concern for futile reasons, but so you understand my wishes.” I left sure that I could not be baptized as a protestant.
On the Sunday I was supposed to be baptized I called the Pastor and said I did not want to be baptized. He understood, but he asked me to go to the Sunday service anyway and I went. Because I gave notice of my intention at the last minute I had no time to tell my grandfather that there would be baptized and he was there just to see me. That day all people of my group were baptized, I was in the last chair of the church, a little embarrassed, and the whole church wondered “where’s Alvaro?” Because he had been said I would be baptized that night. I did not stay for the party who succeeded the ablution and I’m not sure the people figured out the reason.
A month has passed and I kept going to the Catholic doctrine classes with Pedro Paulo, as well as the Spiritual Direction with Father Marcus. I was invited a Spiritual Retreat organized by the Opus Dei and it was there that my conversion completed. In the retreat it was the first time I saw the recitation of the Rosary with many people and in the meditations Father Marcus told us about the miracle of Fatima, with details that made me meditate and I believed in the miracle and marvelled at what happened. After this meditation I sat by the shadow of a tree on the house we made the retreat, I made my first prayer to the Virgin Mary, saying ” Mary, I never had you as my mother, I know I always been, I confess that many times I despised you and bad-mouthed you because I was taught to do so. Now I beg you to take me as your son”. And then it began my Marian devotion and following the example of the little shepherds of Fatima, I began to pray the Rosary daily. Thelli was the one who taught me to pray and lent me a booklet.
From that point on I was already more Catholic than Protestant, and I knew much more about the Catholicism. Pedro Paulo said in cheer: “dude, if you already prays the Rosary you are a Catholic!” After that I said to myself “It has come the time to get baptized as a Catholic.”
On May 19th I received the baptism in the parish of Santa Generosa, on the feast of Pentecost, and I was the only one due to a problem in communication. I came to be baptized at 5PM, and the correct hour was 12PM, so I was the only one being baptized at that time. The godparents were Leonardo Relvas and Thelli Vieira , who closely followed my conversion and always guided me, I could not have picked better. My mother was there and despite being Protestant, received well my conversion, even gave me later, to my astonishment, one statue of Our Lady of Aparecida, who she said was beautiful. Three of my friends were there too, Lucas (who later became my confirmation godfather) , Caesar and Amanda , and their presence is noteworthy because the day of my baptism was the championship’s final and their favourite team was playing. They attended to my baptism and did not see their team become champion.
The Rest of my family also accepted my conversion very well. With the exception of an aunt of mine, none of them are practitioners of the religion they profess to have. I pray constantly, specially for my mother, so they convert.
NF: Of the books you read after your conversion, which was what most impressed you and why?
AS: It certainly was “The Rosary” by St. Josemaría Escrivá. In this book we learn to experience each of the mysteries of the Rosary so it seems that some day we were in Palestine, along with Christ, Mary, Joseph and the apostles. We learn to share the joy and sorrows of Our Lady, we take Christ in our lap after he was born, we see him ascend to heaven and disappear through the clouds, we sought, next to Jose, Jesus in each caravan and cry because we didn’t find him. I remember that after reading “The Holy Rosary” was so fond of the Holy Family I kind of feel part of it; that was a experience I had never had as Protestant. “The Holy Rosary” was crucial to bring me closer to Christ.