Bishop-elect Rodriguez through his family’s eyes

When Bishop-elect Jorge Rodriguez was six years old his parents took a trip to Mexico City, and when they asked their son Jorge what he wanted as a gift, he asked them to bring him a crucifix.

“That was the first sign of his embracing Christ,” his older sister Ligia Rodriguez told El Pueblo Católico.

The bishop-elect is the fifth of six children: Jose Ramon, Nery Beatriz (Betty), Pilar, Ligia, Jorge and Maria del Carmen (Carmina). El Pueblo Católico was able to speak with his family, who all reside in their hometown of Merida, located on the Yucatan peninsula in Mexico.

Ligia recalls that, as many children who feel called by God at a young age, “Jorgito” played Mass, and in particular he liked to celebrate the sacrament of matrimony. She also noted that all the children were taken to catechism class, “but he was the only one who finished the course!”

Jose Ramon spoke about Jorge’s solidarity with the poor: “My parents gave to the poor, but [Jorge] did what he could to make sure the help arrived to the poorest of the poor. If given the opportunity, he would give away his new shoes. I had the opportunity to accompany him and I met some of the families he helped. He was very quiet and did not keep track of what he did. Many times we didn’t even know until much later.”

Despite being a pious young child, Jorge surprised his family with the news that he was going to study to be a priest. “We thought that he had already forgotten,” Beatriz recalled.

“When he told us that he wanted to be a priest, it gave me such joy because out of all of us he was the one who was choosing the best path,” Ligia recalls. Nonetheless, his sister, who is three years older, said she missed him a lot because “he was the one who accompanied me to parties and dances.”

In 1987, Jorge was ordained to the priesthood in Rome as a priest of a religious congregation (the Legionaries of Christ). Four of his siblings traveled to Rome for the ordination. Carmina note that during the Mass she, and another sister, felt the presence of their father, who had died five years earlier. “We are confident that this was the presence of my father, who accompanied us from heaven.”

Carmina will be the only sibling to not attend the episcopal ordination in November, as she will stay to care for their Neri, who for health reasons and age (97 years), is not able to travel. “But we will be there in our hearts,” Carmina said.

When asked for a little insight into the person of Jorge Rodriguez, Ligia said that she is someone she admires, because he is “very strict and very firm in his convictions, yet is very cheerful and likes to joke.”

Jose Ramon admires “the affection that surrounds my brother”: “It must be very difficult detach oneself from one’s family, but he has a much bigger one now,” referring to the faithful that Jorge attends to daily in his priestly ministry.

His five siblings agree that the bishop-elect knows very well how to combine his affable and joking nature with firmness in his convictions and character.

Pilar told the Denver Catholic how they all went to the beach once as a family, and they had brought her 12-year-old grandson with some of his friends: “My grandson wanted to confess to him, and soon all of his friends were making a line. All of this because [my grandson] told them [Father Jorge] was ‘cool’ to confess to! To this day, those boys continue to ask for Father Jorge, and they are now 20 and 21 years old!”

Bety related that her brother is a “a man of integrity”: “He does not like things done half-way, and he is very charitable. He is very dedicated and happy in his vocation,” and she added that when she learned that he had been appointed auxiliary bishop of Denver, “I started jumping up and down with excitement!”

After speaking by phone with all the siblings of the future bishop, El Pueblo Católico received a voice mail from Father Jorge’s mother, Nery Novelo: “I congratulate Jorge very much on his appointment. May God help him very much. Here I wait for him.”

COMING UP: Navigating major cultural challenges

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We’re navigating through a true rock and a hard place right now: moral relativism and the oversaturation of technology. In fact, they are related. Moral relativism leaves us without a compass to discern the proper use of technology. And technological oversaturation leads to a decreased ability to think clearly about what matters most and how to achieve it.

Fortunately, we have some Odysseus-like heroes to guide our navigation. Edward Sri’s book Who Am I to Judge?: Responding to Relativism with Logic and Love (Augustine Institute, 2017) provides a practical guide for thinking through the moral life and how to communicate to others the truth in love. Christopher Blum and Joshua Hochschild take on the second challenge with their book A Mind at Peace: Reclaiming an Ordered Soul in the Age of Distraction (Sophia, 2017).

Sri’s book describes conversations that have become quite common. When discussing moral issues, we hear too often, “this is true for me,” “I feel this is right,” or “who am I to judge?” We are losing our ability both to think about and discuss moral problems in a coherent fashion. Morality has become an expression of individual and subjective feeling, rather than clear reasoning based on the truth. In fact, many, or even most, young people would say there is no clear truth when it comes to morality—the very definition of relativism.

Beyond this inability to reason clearly, Christians also face pressure to remain silent in the face of immoral action, shamed into a corner with the label of bigotry. In response to our moral crisis, Sri encourages us to learn more about our own great tradition of morality focused on virtue and happiness. He also provides excellent guidance on how to engage others in a loving conversation to help them consider that our actions relate not only to our own fulfillment, but to our relationships with others.

Sri points out that it’s hard to “win” an argument with relativists, because “relativistic tendencies are rooted in various assumptions they have absorbed from the culture an in habits of thinking and living they have formed over a lifetime” (13). Rather than “winning,” Sri advises us to accompany others through moral and spiritual growth with seven keys, described in the second half of the book. These keys help us to see others through the heart of Christ, with mercy, and to reframe discussions about morality, turning more toward love and addressing underlying wounds. Ultimately, he asks us, “will you be Jesus?” to those struggling with relativism. (155).

Blum and Hochschild’s book complements Sri’s by focusing on the virtues we need to address our cultural challenges. They point to another common concern we all face: a “crisis of attention” as our minds wander, preoccupied with social media (2). More positively, they encourage us to “be consoled” as “there are remedies” to help us “regain an ordered and peaceful mind, which thinks more clearly and attends more steadily” (ibid.). The path they point out can be found in a virtuous and ordered life guided by wisdom.

To achieve peace, we need virtues and other good habits, which create order within us. “With order, our attention is focused, directed, clear, trustworthy, and fruitful” (10). The book encourages us to rediscover fundamental realities of life, such as being attune to our senses and to aspire to higher and noble things. The authors, with the help of the saints, provide a guidebook to forming important dispositions to overcome the addiction and distraction that come with the omnipresence of media and technology.

The book’s chapters address topics such as self-awareness, steadfastness, resilience, watchfulness, creativity, purposefulness, and decisiveness.  These dispositions will create order in how we use our tools and within our inner faculties. They will help us to be more intentional in our action so that we do not succumb to passivity and distraction.  Overall, the book leads us to consider how we can rediscover simple and profound realities, such as a good conversation, periods of silence, and a rightly ordered imagination.

Both books help us to navigate our culture, equipping us to respond more intentionally to the interior and exterior challenges we face.