did you come to meet the Order?
was born in Zamora and studied humanities in Almagro, la Mancha
(Spain), and got to know the Order through a Spanish Dominican who
was very warm and approachable, deeply kind and of a calm disposition,
with his white and black habit giving shape to his simple and attractive
personality. The following year I visited his house, along with
my mother since I was barely twelve years old, and I asked him about
his life and his ministry. I just asked him, "Where do you
come from, and what is your work?" He answered, "More
than anything else I do two things: pray and study." These
are the conditions for being able to announce the Word of God. That
impressed me, and I never forgot his words.
far as studies go, I did the routine course of studies of the Order:
humanities, philosophy and theology in Granada and later on in Madrid
Dominican apostolate has given you most satisfaction?
was ordained when I was just a little over twenty-three years old.
I was sent to Almería where I worked for eleven years working
with manual laborers and many people who for the most part never
lived in their own homes. They taught me in many ways what they
expected of a priest: they wished him to be close, in solidarity
with them, and free to be able to talk with all and to speak the
truth to any person or group whatsoever. It was there that I learned
to sacrifice myself, as they did, for the sake of others.
Order bestowed on me a great responsibility: to be Master of Novices.
By helping my younger brothers to grow, I grew myself. Giving instruction
in and following the processes of self-knowledge, I grew more self
aware. It was a call to live from within.
my Dominican life, what I have been able to learn, to live and to
pass on are a great source of satisfaction to me. I believe that
this is due in part because the Order of Preachers places much value
on the human person. I am also zealous to collaborate with my Creator,
so that what he created and deemed "very good" might not
deteriorate or suffer any impairment. I want to collaborate so that
the person know himself, recognize himself from within, and be happy
by using what the Father has given him, and by knowing God, God
might give him the power to bring to light all the good there is
in the human being. For this reason I say that I am completely satisfied
in being a Dominican, because we are dedicated to cultivating the
intelligence to the point of being able to give a reason for things'
having been brought into being. Definitely, the object is to cultivate
the intelligence to be able to give a reason for one's faith: not
only for one's thoughts but also for one's affections. for me, this
is proclaiming the Gospel of Grace and Truth.
Province of Bética has houses in Cuba. What has been your
experience on that island?
got to know Cuba while Provincial of Andalucía (Bética)
in 1986. I had the opportunity of visiting eight times afterward,
always departing from Mexico City. Since the Mexicans are very generous,
I always arrived in Cuba bearing many gifts. One day the customs
inspector in Cuba asked me why I was carrying so much baggage. I
answered "I am a religious and I'm here to see my brothers."
"And what are you bringing?", he asked. "As much
as I can," I answered. The only thing that caught his attention
was an image of the Christ child. After examining it, he said in
a sincere voice, "How I love all this," referring to the
faith. This detail opened up to me an unknown world within the heart
of the Cuban people.
did you find, living in Cuba for almost eight years?
truth is that I was entering into it little by little. As Provincial,
I sent all the friars I could and later I went myself in 1993. I
wish to say that for me it was a great moment of Grace. I had the
privilege of knowing the Cuban people, a people with great solidarity,
cordial, known for their generous and affectionate manner and whose
singular virtue is the ability to listen to the word of others.
I always knew I was dealing with respectful and open persons. I
was honored and happy to be among them. I was able to develop my
work as a friar preacher. After eight years I am certain that they
love me, and what's more, that I carry them in my heart.
also must say something about the Cuban priests and their bishops,
with whom I was in close relation. I had scarcely arrived when the
Bishops Conference invited me to direct a retreat for all the clergy.
It was a great responsibility and a demonstration of confidence,
which I appreciate for all it is worth. When I left, I was invited
again to give them the retreat in preparation for Holy Thursday.
I had the opportunity of expressing my most sincere gratitude, for
the warm reception they gave me, and for renewing their confidence
in me as I was leaving.
going on at the priory in Havana?
have opened up the Priory of Saint John Lateran (which is how all
the people call our Priory of Saint Dominic) to everyone. We have
placed a sign at the entrance that bears a few words of José
Martí: "Beloved Dominicans-always good, even with America!
The priory has become a place of hospitality, of reflection, where
no one feels excluded. People from all cultures, of different backgrounds,
have participated in dialogues. People from the Church come through,
people from government, from the world of culture, from the syncretistic
world, from other confessions, a real mosaic. It has become a place
Havana we have, furthermore, Vedado Parish and Holy Rosary Parish,
and four chapels besides. Activity there consists of preparation
for receiving the sacraments, preparation for sacramental ministers
for the community. Another Dominican house is located in la Ciudad
de Trinidad, 400 kilometers from Havana.
are seven friars on the island: fr. Juan Manuel Fernández
del Valle, senior Cuban of those living there, since he has never
been assigned outside of the island; fr. Luís Muñoz;
fr. Antonio Bendito; fr. Cirilo; fr. Rafael Provenza; and fr. Pedro
does the Order offer the Cuban people?
Order offers to the Island of Cuba what we are, what we do: we provide
an opening for encountering God and others. We offer an ambience
for prayer and a space for dialogue for those who wish to exchange
opinions, for those who seek reconciliation and peace. Life in Cuba
is quite frenetic, there are many problems, and it is acknowledged
that the embargo has hurt the people. But we offer a space where
all are welcome, are received just as they are, where they exchange
opinions and dialogue.
preach Jesus Christ. When people ask me, Who is Jesus Christ?, I
tell them who he is for me, what he did, what he said. What we do,
in short, is a service to the Truth. We also have, in Saint John
Lateran Priory, a library where thirty or forty people come every
day. It is open to the public from 9:00 a.m. until 9:00 p.m. Monday
through Friday. Saturdays and Sundays we give to preaching and the
celebration of the sacraments.
you getting Dominican vocations in Cuba?
to God they are starting to come. We have three youths in Havana
who would like to know the Dominicans better. We have three novices
in Colombia in the Priory of Santo Domingo de Bogotá, and
I believe that the future gives us cause for hope.
young men come to ask for information we ask them two things of
them: sincerity in seeking God and respect for the opinions of those
who do not think like them. We require them to come to the maturity
of being able to live with others with openness and generosity.
For a Dominican the life of study is important, and a real ability
in this area is highly recommendable, in the first place so that
one may think for himself, and secondly, because study is a prominent
mark of Dominican spirituality. It is necessary that these young
men know that in this vocation they must give their life in poverty
and the following of Jesus.
you think the Order has a future in Cuba?
future is rooted in a confidence in God. I believe in those who
believe, but I also believe in him who seeks without perhaps believing.
I believe in him who struggles to make the world more human, more
future? Yes, a future in reconciliation.