A native of Montevideo, Uruguay, Gonzalo Martinez is working on a Ph.D. in computer science at the University of Notre Dame’s College of Engineering. Mr. Martinez earned his bachelor’s degree in computer science from the Catholic University of Uruguay in 2013. Mr. Martinez received the Sacrament of Confirmation in 2017 via the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults through Notre Dame’s Campus Ministry. He currently serves as president of the Catholic Graduate Community at Notre Dame. Mr. Martinez plans to continue his career as a data scientist upon completion of his doctoral degree.
Good evening, everyone. My name is Gonzalo Martinez. I am currently a graduate student in computer science at the University of Notre Dame.
Two years ago, I could not have imagined I would be sitting here in front of all of you in Rome talking about my faith and the Catholic Church.
That is because two years ago, I was fallen-away from the faith – from the Church.
I was still in my home country of Uruguay, where I and other young people experienced a kind of hopelessness because of a corruption that led — and still lead — many to be deaf to the good news of the faith.
When I was in middle school, I had to transition from a Catholic school to a public school. I was not prepared to resist the challenges of a social and cultural setting that was hostile to Catholicism.
Even then, I needed the Church to push me towards God, to remind me of my obligations towards Him — but I felt that the good news of the Church could not reach me then and there.
This was during a time of political change during which the Church appeared to have retreated. My generation that started out Catholic fell from the faith. I was lost for so many years in Uruguay because I could not hear the voice of the Church. I needed to hear someone tell me, not only that God still loved me, but also that I should participate in the life of faith that leads to Him.
I am here today because God led me to the University of Notre Dame. At Notre Dame, I was moved to enter full communion with the Church through the Rite of Christian Initiation. I am grateful for a holy group of friends at Notre Dame that received me with great joy.
I never had a group of friends like them. Instead of pursuing material and physical pleasures, my friends would talk about how to be more humble and more helpful to the people around them. They did not admire the rich and famous but instead strived to be like those Saints who never compromised the integrity of the Catholic faith, even when faced with death!
One friend in particular was crucial to my journey in growing closer to God. He was courageous, always prioritizing what was pleasing to God over conforming to societal standards. He was an inspiring witness for me, because he was not trying to fit God into his life, but rather trying to fit his life to God.
From my perspective, I believe this serves as a helpful reminder to all of us of the courage it takes to be a Catholic, to truly be a faithful Church. The world needs the Church to be a beacon of faith and hope -- to be the voice of Christ when we cannot hear it ourselves. Teach us to pray, to serve others, to receive the Sacraments, to pursue responsibility, to embrace our obligations to God and neighbor — which is to seek the real beauty in life.
To my experience, what we need as young people, is for the Church to be a visible example of faith fully lived, and never compromised. We truly want the fullness of the faith and the life of the Church, not an accommodation of it to the world. Truly, we don’t want our faith to be subject to the standards of anything that is not inspired by the Gospel. Our attraction to the Church does not lie in its ability to bend to the whims of man, but for its ability to give witness to Christ often in spite of them!
We are enthusiastic about what the Church holds most dear — about what is truly good, true, and beautiful. In my experience, cultural forces will not stop trying to compel and convince us that a life of pleasure and material wealth is the true meaning of life. If the Church does not reach us while we are young, someone else will tell us what we should live for. If anyone has turned on the TV recently or browsed the Internet, they will find a million voices telling us that we can find happiness far, far away from God. In fact, that our happiness is not with God.
Truly, help us to see. Help us to see that it is a blessing to struggle if we are struggling for God. Help us to see that is only in facing evil head on that we truly appreciate goodness. Might that be the “brand” of the Church?! What an uplifting gift it would be for a Church that confronts evil with the good, the distorted with the beautiful, and the false with the true.
We come here because this is Christ’s Church. So, as we place our hope in Christ, we also place it in those who He chose to lead His Church. Lead us with Christ at the center, with Mary to petition, and the witness of the saints to follow. Let us walk together in this journey and help each other achieve the holiness we truly desire!