Father Arturo Felix, Order of Friars Minor Conventual OFM Conv., recently sat down with The Bridge after joining the Mundelein Seminary faculty over the summer as a formation advisor. During an afternoon break from his new role as a formation advisor, Father Arturo shared about his life before he was ordained as a Franciscan priest in 2016, why he enjoys certain movies, and how coronavirus restrictions transformed his prayer life, along with some evangelization tips. Here is Father Arturo, OFM Conv., in his own words.
Could you tell us about your family and where you grew up?
“I was born and raised in Southern California, where I grew up Catholic with two sisters and one brother. Both of my parents are Catholic and my sisters currently work in retail while my brother wants to go to culinary school.”
What about your teenage years and your discernment for the priesthood?
“As far as seminary goes, I was looking at priesthood from the age of 14… after seeing the altar servers at Mass I thought, ‘Hey, I would like to do that!’ That drew me closer to the Eucharist, to the altar, to the sacrifice going on there, and to my parish priest, Father Santos Ortega. He was just a very great man. All of those things brought priesthood into my mind.”
How did you find your interest in Saint Francis of Assisi?
“I had to pick a patron saint for Confirmation. St. Francis (of Assisi) stood out for two reasons. One was his radical dependence on God, and the second one was a little more interesting. In his lifetime he was called an alter Christus, “another Christ…” So in my mind, my parish priest and this alter Christus were like one and the same thing… pretty inspiring!”
How did you come to the decision to attend seminary?
“After considering a state university or joining the military, I decided to attend college seminary for the Diocese of San Bernardino. After their first two years of classes and living at a formation house, the diocese would send students to a minor seminary for their last two years to finish up philosophy courses. So my bishop sent me to Loyola (Chicago), and our opening retreat was at no other place than Marytown. The Franciscans had been on my mind for a while, and that spiraled into thinking about Franciscan life. After finishing up my two years, I had another choice to make, and I figured I might as well give a shot to the Friars! After professing my simple vows I took theology classes at Mundelein for three and a half years. Following that, I professed my solemn vows and was ordained a Franciscan priest.”
What are some of your hobbies?
“I like to read, especially philosophy, theology, and the philosophy of science. I also like to watch movies, especially movies that make you think, make you ponder things. Some of my favorites are the ‘Matrix’ trilogy and a movie from 2011 called ‘Drive’, and I’m a big ‘Star Wars’ fan, too.”
What have you learned or been reflecting on during the COVID pandemic?
“Two things stood out. The first one is the hidden mystery of God. Celebrating Mass by ourselves… but still understanding that this mystery, even though it’s ‘hidden’ from the world because no one is here… it’s still efficacious… The second lesson I learned is the priest as intercessor. I was thinking during the times of restrictions, ‘How am I bringing the things of the people to God?’ Celebrating the Masses ‘by yourself,’ instead of thinking about the congregation in front of me, I was bringing everything I know from my parishioners giving it to God. The focus shifted from giving God’s mystery to the people to taking the people’s misery and going through and giving it to God.”
Do you have any tips for evangelization?
“It would depend on the situation for how I would word this, but the basic idea would be, ‘we’re not called to be necessarily good people or be nice people.’ What the faith gives us, what Christ gives us, what the Church gives us is the fullness of humanity. We are seeking fulfillment, and really the revelation of Christ brings that fullness of humanity to the forefront. So if we accept what Jesus says, if He is who He says He is, ultimately He brings us the fullness of who we are, the fullness of humanity. If we are fully alive, that’s what God glories in, and not just glories in, but that’s what he seeks for us, so anything less than that is us not being fully alive.”
Lee Noel is a first-year theologian studying for the Diocese of Cheyenne.