Commit to know Him

North Texas Catholic
(Mar 1, 2024) Take-Five-With-Father

Friar Luis Gerardo, OFM Cap, stands near the pews at the Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish in Fort Worth. (NTC/Juan Guajardo)

HE IS: Friar Luis Gerardo Arraiza, OFM Cap, pastor of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Fort Worth

PATRON SAINT: St. Francis of Assisi


ORDAINED: Nov. 1, 1988 at Our Lady of Lourdes in Dallas

A CRADLE CATHOLIC: Born and raised in Northern Spain, Basque Country, Friar Arraiza was deeply immersed in a traditionally Catholic society. “I was born in a Catholic family, in a Catholic culture.” While his parents would always dutifully take him and his two siblings to Mass on Sundays, on the Holy Days of obligation, and accompanied them in their sacraments, theirs “was a compulsory faith; I mean, to what extent did we really know Jesus?

“I remember as if it were me now, what changed my life was that even though I have been Catholic all my life, at the age of 17, I found in my hands a copy of the New Testament. Up until then, although I was ‘Catholic to the bone,’ I had never read the Gospel.”

DANGER AND BEAUTY: “Suddenly, I started reading the Gospels, and I was enormously surprised with the person Jesus was. I mean, I didn’t understand anything, but He seemed to me to be crazy, provoking, and also entirely inspiring. What drove me, and the reason why I became Christian, a Catholic is because of Jesus Christ. It seems to me that He has a message that is tremendously vivid, bold, and dangerous. That’s why being a Christian, if one takes it seriously, is very, very dangerous but very, very beautiful.”

CALLED TO AN ORDER: Devoted to his order, Friar Arraiza’s “primary vocation is to be a Capuchin Minor Brother.” He was first introduced to the Order of the Capuchin Franciscans as he studied at his university and began growing noticeably distressed because of an “intense desire for something more than just going to Mass on Sunday, which is what the majority of people did.” Although he searched for a way to live out his faith in a “more meaningful way,” he couldn’t find anything that satisfied him. Fortunately, a friend witnessed his restlessness and put him in contact with a Capuchin Friar he’d been meeting for his own spiritual guidance. “I started talking with this friar, and as time went by, I discovered the Franciscan Capuchin lifestyle. It caught my attention primarily because it was a very simple and very fraternal style of living.”

Friar Luis Gerardo, OFM Cap, stands near the pews at the Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish in Fort Worth. (NTC/Juan Guajardo)

PATH TO PRIESTHOOD: In the next few years, Friar Arraiza joined the Order of Friars Minor Capuchin, where he completed his studies. Afterward, he was sent to Dallas and Fort Worth to assist in friar formation. “When I arrived here, I was a perpetual friar, had taken my vows, and I wasn’t a priest. Of course, this was a long time ago, in 1988, and in Dallas, I noticed there was a great need for priests, especially Spanish speakers. And since I spoke in Spanish, that was the principal reason that I was then motivated to be ordained to serve the Hispanic community, which at that time was lacking Spanish-speaking priests.”

A BROTHER AT HEART: The difference between a friar and a priest lies in the “distinction between religious life and the diocesan priesthood. It’s true that the majority of friars are priests. The basis of our vocation is not in our ordination into the priesthood, nor is it in living as a priest. The point of our vocation is in its profession. We publicly make vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience. At the same time, we rely on our superior to live the style of life of a Capuchin. There are some who don’t want to become priests; some who do. Fundamentally, this Franciscan style of life is not based on what someone does, but how someone does it. I mean, one could be a priest, could work as an architect, in a prison, at Starbucks, in Walmart. No matter where, what you do has to be done based on the Franciscan spirituality (faith). In fact, at times the priesthood has depleted us because it has forced upon us a series of conditions, which, on occasion, have gone against our vocations based on that life of simplicity, minimalism, and fraternity.

Many of us don’t identify as Fathers. I make an effort to make people aware that we are brothers, which, consequently, is why I never use the title of Father Luis Gerardo. Always, if I have to provide a title, it’s ‘I am Brother Luis Gerardo or Friar Luis Gerardo.”

ON FRANCISCAN SAINTS: “Francis of Assisi wasn’t a priest. The founder of our order wasn’t in the clergy. Many of the Capuchin saints also weren’t priests. So many of the Capuchin saints were mendicant friars who were never ordained as priests. What they did, many years ago, was look for donations for the convent and for the poor, and for that life, which for the most part was very simple. They were very well received in those societies, in the places where they lived. The founder of our order wasn’t a priest, and many of the later examples of the Capuchin life are brothers who weren’t pastors — for example, the very well-known Padre Pio.”

FAVORITE SACRAMENT: “I’ve been a priest for 35 years and from the first moment, this sacrament called to me, and continues calling me, even after so many years. It’s just that people, just because I’m a priest, trust in me… it blows my mind. How [remarkable] is it that because I’m a priest, people can open their hearts and trust in me, tell me their problems, and search for some type of salvation? That’s why for me, the sacrament that I most like, that I most enjoy, is the sacrament of reconciliation.”

ON LIVING YOUR FAITH: Friar Arraiza’s parents, he said, were very good people who cared for their children. Still, they were comfortable with a “culturally established faith rather than a living experience of Jesus Christ in the Catholic Church. [They also] didn’t search for a parish group that would help rekindle my faith. That didn’t exist for me.”

In Texas and in our diocese, the friar stresses, families and individuals have “enormous potential” to find parish groups and ministries in which to participate, far more opportunities than he’d seen in Spain. “The opportunity here is limitless. Just say the word, and it will happen.”

One must push themselves to live their faith actively, the friar stressed. “For me, the biggest frustration is the fact that so many Catholics become accustomed to coming to Mass on Sunday, and even though we’ve made repeated invitations to be part of our many parish groups, the majority of people, for a variety of reasons, are very comfortable [only] coming to receive the Eucharist on Sunday. The act of joining a group, and that of determining to delve deeper into your faith, is profoundly complex.”

DEVELOPMENTS IN HIS PARISH: Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish, Friar Arraiza said, has begun investing in adult faith formation. “I am of the opinion that just as or more important than the training of children and young people is that of the adults. … When it comes to training themselves in the Catholic Christian faith and knowing the beauty of being a Catholic Christian, most people do not understand that.”

At his parish, Bible study is centered on the Eucharist because of the National Eucharistic Revival. “I think it is necessary for people to draw closer to Jesus in the Word. It’s necessary for people to read the Gospels, the introductions to the Gospels as well as the footnotes, because the world of the Gospels is a world that has little to do with ours. It is a world from 2000 years ago with cultures and a language that are radically different from ours.

"What I tell people is start with the Gospel of Luke. And when you get stuck, go to someone who has more knowledge and ask and use a Bible that has explanations because otherwise, you’re going to get lost and confused. Many people tell me, ‘It’s not that I don’t read the Bible, but I don’t understand anything.’ Welcome to the club. We all get lost sometimes. But it’s necessary to put in an effort to retain the knowledge.”

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