From Monastery to Christ


Luis Forero

monast2The following story by Luis Forero is not of recent date – he wrote it down more than half a century ago. It dates back to those times when, at long last, the marvelous and pure light of the Gospel, rediscovered in the great Reformation of the 16th century, began to penetrate in many of the dark and lost corners of Latin America.

Since the times of the conquistadors, “religion”, much religion, had been aggressively promoted in the Spanish and Portuguese colonies. But the soldiers and adventurers, Roman Catholic to a man, half a world away from home and wife and children, did not give the impression that their morals were any higher than those of the indigenous peoples they were conquering and “converting”. Rather the opposite was true…

The very race that came into existence through these “Christian” invasions from Europe, the mestizo race, provides a sad, but eloquent, commentary as to what was really going on.

Monks and priests crossed the Atlantic with those daring men, but not even these “men of the cloth” gave a better example, many among them becoming proverbial in their debauchery. In vain the Council of Trentlooked for a way to curb the phenomenon of priestly concubines (those priests that had more than one were not uncommon either), in Medieval Europe as much as in the Americas…

Luis Forero could not avoid touching on the problem. To him this part of monastery life was as real as any other. He lifts a small corner of the ecclesiastical shroud – the ‘cloth’ that is meant to keep the festering ulcer from sight. Yet, though acquainted with the problem first-hand, he does not really mention things by name, not wanting to put his readers off too much. How little could he have imagined that in our own 21st century, the horrendous ulcers of perversion, more or less hidden for so many centuries, would burst and make headlines on TV, in newspapers and other media, leading to multimillion dollar sentences of the RC clergy in the USA, the Republic of Ireland and other countries.

However, what is truly interesting in the present testimony, so much more than the pathetic backdrop, is the fact that Luis found his way out, not just out of the monastery, or out of a religious system, but out of the thick darkness of sin and eternal perdition! And that his exodusshould be directly related to two verses from God’s own powerful Word. It was these really that opened the doors to him. Being a monk and a priest was not enough to keep him back… Luis came to life.., his sins taken away by the precious blood of the Lamb of God.

It is at that point, in 1943, that his testimony ends. But, longing to be a true servant to his Lord, Luis realized he needed training. He found this in the Bible school that functioned within the New Testament Missionary Union, in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Later still he became one of their workers and started full-time Gospel work as a member of the missionary team that operated in Paraguay.

It was in that same country that Luis came to know a precious young lady, Gricélida, who would become his wife. But why not read that fascinating story in Gricélida’s own words? At the bottom of Luis’ story you can access hers by a simple click.


To some the above title may seem to be paradoxical, for to them “Monastery” and “Christ” are certainly not poles apart… On the other hand, it may be that many imagine the story to be about one of those priests who, not managing to comply with the rigors of monastic life, turn their backs on it, seeking freedom in the outside world… Still others will have the suspicion that, surely, there must be a dark and sordid motive when a monk seeks to escape from a monastery – and in writing these pages, the author must be trying to whitewash things… Indeed, there is a lot that could be imagined, with or without foundation. But the Lord said: “Judge not, that you be not judged.” That should be sufficient.

I cannot reproduce in a few pages the innumerable details of the terrible struggles. I experienced these, not as a mere spectator, but as the one actually suffering them. All these scenes are so confused in my memory that it is impossible for me to paint a perfect picture. Nevertheless, I can say that my conversion was the result of conviction. Nothing external or worthy of note happened during the time that led up to my separation from the Roman Catholic church. It was not lofty reasoning that gave rise to my doubts, but the most simple and elementary reflections. It was the simple reading of the Gospel, coupled with my comparing what Christian life was in the first century with what is understood today by “Christianity”. That was all.


Every one who has penetrated into the solitude of a cloister has experienced at first a mixture of strange feelings. The harmonious grouping of Gothic arches, the great courtyards, the profound silence, and the solemn gravity of the buildings, are enough to suggest to any romantic soul from the very first moment a vision of peace and quiet, of hope and spirituality, which make one repeat with the poet:

monast5“What a restful life – that which flees from worldly clamor,
and follows the hidpath by which have traveled
those few wise men that have been in this world.”

So then, wishing to be one of those “wise men”, with the inexperience and naivety of youth, my head filled with the religious romanticism of which I was a fervent admirer, one day at the age of sixteen, I knocked at the door of a monastery. I was admitted on the spot. They dressed me in the habit of Saint Francis and so I began the monastic life.

How beautiful it was at the beginning! Scarcely had I entered the precincts, when it seemed to me that a new life was springing up in my heart. I had separated myself from men, and had made in my soul an inner sanctuary where I had to withdraw to talk with myself. There I would digest spiritual readings that dealt with the dangers of the world, Chateaubriand – picturing the melancholy beauties of a monastery, the lives of the saints, astounding penances, portentous miracles. All of these were like a host of voices, saying continually, “You are a monk; obey blindly; the monk is a corpse to be led by his superiors to life or death, he has no will of his own. The Superior is God himself.”

I do not stop to analyze this mode of religious education, nor yet to relate the deplorable effects it produced in my soul at the beginning of my religious life; I only wish to recount briefly what took place within me.

monast6Scarcely had I imbibed these medicines when a spiritual lassitude took possession of my soul, which even now I remember with alarm. I had no will of my own. A vague fear took possession of my whole being, and my sole desire was to profit by the momentary security that the monastery was offering me. I said to myself, “How fortunate it would be to die after completing one of these spiritual exercises in which so many ‘indulgences’ are granted, and so to be certain of going to purgatory. For no matter how many years one is there, there is still the hope of being saved.” For who could be sure of salvation in any other circumstances? We were told of many persons who had lived most holy lives, but in their last hours, because of one vain glorious thought, had been condemned for eternity. Of others who did terrible penances but because of self-will had also been condemned. No one could be sure of his salvation. Even saints and those predestined to glory had in their last hours passed through terrible conflict against the enemy, who was out to snatch away their souls, and many had succumbed.

However, here is something that left me totally baffled. These thoughts which in me produced such strange feelings, and engendered a desire to flee away into the jungle, if that were possible, there to be free from sin, produced no effect whatsoever in my companions in the monastery. This was plain to see. If they had any such thoughts at all, they must have gotten so accustomed to them that they seemed quite natural. To them, condemnation and salvation had become one and the same thing. They had heard so often the awesome words of condemnation, purgatory and salvation that they had become immune to them.

But there was something even more inexplicable: not one of them was in any degree exemplary. They maintained all the appearances of a well-feigned saintliness in the pulpit, in the confessional, during mass and before the public, so that no one would have guessed what was taking place within. But living among them, I was fully aware of the abominations they were committing. If I were to describe them in these pages, I am sure that even the most famous anticlerical manifestos would be left in the shadow.

Then came the years of philosophical and theological studies with a measure of youthful happiness. Saint Thomas and Scotus, alternating in philosophical arguments in the recesses; ecclesiastical history, i.e. a sanitized version, allowing only some blots that somehow confirmed the divinity of the Church, and Canon Law, which must have the preferred place in the life of a priest. Then, there were my fellow students; some enthusiastic, some misanthropic and reserved, some jovial and extrovert. In all, it was a life of blessed ingeniousness and happy ignorance.

The ordination to the priesthood followed – with all its consequences. A fuller life, freer and more comfortable, in which the acquisition of the title of “Reverend” extended a passport that entitled one to all kinds of liberties. Now one could smoke, get drunk, be a witness to all the abominations, all the scandals – and take part in them -, be engulfed by that current, be carried along by it, and finally be shipwrecked and drowned in the cesspool, morally dying the most horrible death. Behold – the Monastery!


Have you ever entered a cemetery? Oh, what peace one finds there! It is a valley of solitude with its own inner language, a mysterious flower garden that weeps with us. The wind passing through the needles of the thick pine groves seems like a cry from beyond the tomb, which invites us to prayer. The long line of forgotten tombs and beautiful monuments conjures up mysterious cities of far off lands enveloped in a pale mist and a fragrance of rare flowers. Yes, it is all most beautiful.

But forget the dreams and the poetry for a moment. Let us return to the reality, spoken of by our Lord in Matthew 23:27-28. Let us open one of those tombs… What is the spectacle meeting our eyes? What do we see? Rottenness and worms, stench and dead flesh, broken vessels and cold faces. Let us penetrate farther, into the inner cells, where no one has ventured. What horrors! Piles of bones, skulls, disease, corruption, all that is horrible massed together, the personification of the hideous.

This is what Jesus had to say: “Woe to you.., hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which indeed appear beautiful outwardly, but inside are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness. Even so you also outwardly appear righteous to men, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.”

Dear readers, behold the heart of MAN. It is also the likeness of the Roman Catholic church and all its institutions. Who does not admire the grandeur of its ceremonies, the perfume of its incense, mingled with the polyphonic music of its cathedrals, the golden tiara of the Pope, the diamond-studded breastplates of the bishops, and the architectural majesty of the monasteries? But enter a little way ‘inside’. Open one of those ‘tombs’. Study the History of the Church. Go into the monasteries. Find out what the priests are thinking and fantasizing. Uncover those ‘tombs’ that call themselves representatives of the Holy Father. Study its laws and the conclusion of its dogmas. Then you will see all around you the personified image of degeneration and vice, of astuteness, ill-will and hypocrisy, simony with all its abominations, unholy vices, the black story of many popes, the unspeakable cruelties of the Inquisition, the blood of innumerable martyrs, and what the practices of confession and holy celibacy are producing.

There you will see the poor Catholic people, led by these same priests, as it were submerged in a winepress of alcohol and blood. You will be convinced of the effects of the so-called means of sanctification, or sacraments of confession and communion. You will recognize them in the faces of those who most zealously attend mass, people commonly known as “beatas” in Spanish speaking countries. Their features, and above all, their tongues, reflect the abyss. Ah! – how horrible all of this, and deeply disturbing!

Allow me then, to say here, that all this corruption, all this moral depravity, is the result of the dogmas taught by the church. Remember this. For what point would there be in saying that the corruption which we now see in Bolivia is typical of Bolivia, or in saying that this corruption has little or nothing to do with the things received as truth in this church? No, all of this is the direct result of the things believed among them. The teachings of the Catholic Church are responsible for this great evil. Its conceptions of the “sacraments”, its invention of dogmas, its purgatory, its teachings about two classes of sins, its indulgences, its concept of grace, its confessional and its celibacy are responsible for the horrendous immorality found within its confines. I beg you to think soberly on this point, and you will acknowledge that I am right. Its priests have put such heavy burdens on the shoulders of so many, and they themselves do not touch them with the tips of their fingers.

For the sake of indolence and power they knowingly deceive those whom they teach. They have deliberately conspired to keep the masses in ignorance of the Bible, in order not to lose their power and authority over them. This is the reason they hate the Protestants so fiercely. They curse the Bible, and snatch it from the laity, for they know that those who read it soon shake off the Roman yoke.

(We must remind the reader at this point that only since the last Council in Rome – in the sixties – has the Bible become widely available to the Roman Catholic masses; in other words, some time after the present testimony was written.
Before the Vatican Council took place, countries with a Catholic majority made it practically impossible for anyone to find a Bible in his or her own language, unless, of course, you should call on the hated Protestants.
And even now, though our Catholic friends can buy and own a Bible, sadly, in the matter of reading it, nothing much has changed. After all, your “Spiritual Director” – the priest, and the “Holy Sacraments” – administered by him, take care of all your needs… So why take the Bible seriously at all and make any effort to read and understand it..? – Note fromthe editors.)

Dear reader, remember that I too have been a priest and that I have contributed to and have taken an active part in this “merchandise” of souls (Rev. 18:11, 13), and that I owe an enormous debt of restitution for the damage caused. For that reason, when I now remember the singular favor the Lord has shown me in taking me out of that field of death, I cannot find words to express my gratitude for the immense benefit. But by recounting briefly the painful process through which I had to pass before arriving at the truth, I hope to provide some light for those of good will who may wish to free themselves from that web of darkness, and enter into the true way of the Lord.


I looked at myself, and wondered where I was and where I was going. I looked again, and found that I was worse off than other people. I was shut up in a tomb saturated by that atmosphere of pestilence and sin. I found myself bound by strong ropes, and drowning in the anguish of my soul. It was useless to cry for help, for no one would pay attention.

Oh! How often in the silence of the night my sighs seemed to be lost in the infinite. The clamor of my soul must have reached the heart of God. I was hungry and thirsty for an inner renewal, and for a kind voice to speak to me and tell me to arise. I believe all this must have been the beginning of the blessings that were on their way. When a soul, recognizing its miserable state, looks on itself with horror, and feels a hunger and thirst for righteousness, and longs for some ‘superior being’ to raise it up, God will not make it wait. He heeds the call. And so it happened. Little by little the dark clouds passed away. There came an increase of light, which, however, for many days seemed to swing between hope and fear.

One of those days, feeling truly oppressed by the heaviness of my life, when the earth was sad and the wind blew cold everywhere, I was walking through the streets of the city of Cochabamba, engulfed in an infinity of thoughts which I cannot now recall. Suddenly, in a window, a text from Matthew’s Gospel stood out: “Come to me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest”(11:28) and those others from John’s first epistle: “Tblood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanses us from all sin” (1:7)

I passed the house indifferently, being accustomed to read such verses in the windows of the Protestants, against whom, as a priest, I held many prejudices. But as I walked on, I noticed that the words had been so strongly engraved in my mind that I was repeating them over and over without realizing it. I had read these verses many times, and had preached on them; but they had never produced the impression which I now experienced in my soul. Was it the state of mind in which I happened to be? Was it perhaps a momentary mental impression? I do not know, but it is certain that I felt myself imperceptibly drawn to the One who had uttered such tender words; but… the place where I had found them was the house of a Gospel Mission.

Under such circumstances, strong natures need only a sudden blow to crystallize them into adamant; but I was not yet of a strong nature. The readjustment of my ideas was a painful process. Could it be that the despised “evangélicos” had something of God? Why had I felt that spiritual relief at their house as I read those verses? There were times when I saw things clearly, but I recoiled from them lest I bring a curse upon myself. The weeds of error were deeply rooted, and the teachings of my childhood had entered into the folds of my soul. Yet I began to doubt. Could it be that after all the Catholic Church was not the church of God? The truth was the truth; facts could never be anything but facts.

Although I had never studied the Bible in any depth, I was convinced that the interminable rituals and the typical teachings of the Catholic Church would have been foreign to the “primitive” church. This appeared clear to me when I thought about it. Peter and his companions were simple fishermen, and carried the Gospel to the world with equal simplicity. In the midst of my doubts, I kept on remembering the words I had come across by chance, and it was a relief to call them to mind when I felt most downcast. For several days I set myself to study the Scriptures in order to locate the teachings and practices of my Church… They were not there. Where were they then? In the Church’s “tradition”, came the reply from the Catholic apologists. Yes, but tradition was the work of men, and tradition degenerated enormously. With tradition as a pretext, my church had taken from other religions a whole lot of dogmas that in the time of the apostles were simply unknown.

Slowly a certainty took possession of me, which moved me as would a powerful hand: the Catholic Church was an apostate church, and in it the simple way of truth was corrupted. It had become a gigantic system of covetousness and indolence, which had been developed through centuries of darkness and superstition. I compared the Roman Popes, their thrones and their power, with Christ, who refused to be king and had declared that his Kingdom was not of this world. I compared the mode of worship of my church, including its images, holy water, candles, vestments etc., with the simple practices of the early church. I recalled the fact that Christ washed his disciples’ feet, but that the Pope had his followers kiss his! And the black history of many of them!

Even before I had consulted the Bible on this point, Rohrbacher, the famous ecclesiastical historian, had already made my confidence in the Papacy waver. His revelations of the private lives of some of the popes, with the shameful intrigues to which they owed their election, were not meant to leave a negative impact on the mind of a Roman priest, but in my case they did. The Pope, chosen by the Holy Spirit! What an absurdity, when gold, violence and even murder have so often been the steps which carried them to the throne! Think of the Holy Spirit selecting a Borgia!

And what shall we say here of the confessional, of purgatory and the indulgences, and above all of its infamous excommunications, which even now make many tremble and hinder them from knowing the truth. Others have done a good job writing on these themes and exposing the truth in all its crudeness.

It was very clear, the Founder of Christianity was gentle and pure. He forgave his enemies, and taught his followers to do the same. He cursed no one, not even those who did not follow him. The church He established was simple in form, and its leaders were from the humblest class. In his service they went forth into the open air, and taught the people by the wayside. Often He was weary with his journeys, and slept under the open skies by night. He had no system of sacraments and laws; all He taught was the “new commandment”. There was no Pope, no cardinal, no mass, no confessional, no celibacy. His preachers were humble, and did not claim priestly powers to bind and loose. They gathered the poor around them and taught them. What they taught is found written in the books that these ardent defenders of the faith gave to the world. And those Evangelicals, in whose house I had seen those beautiful verses that filled my soul with joy, were working in the same way. Often I had seen them preaching in the open air, the pure and simple gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ, and I was sure that their meetings had the character of the primitive Christian churches. Then, would not this explain that peace and spiritual relief that I felt, by simply remembering those verses? This was perfectly clear to me. God was calling me by his Word, and I must obey God before men. I had to choose between two parties.

On one side stood the Lord Jesus, calling me with his tender voice, inviting me to forsake sin, and putting into my soul the fragrance of immortality and the warmth of consolation. On the other side the Catholic Church, threatening me with an awful curse if I forsook her bosom – even with the stake and torture chamber had it been in her power. But Christ triumphed by his grace, and even now I have not quite emerged from my astonishment at the memory of it.

The very next day I went to the Evangelical Mission and knocked at the door. The young lady who came to the door showed no astonishment whatever at the presence of a priest. It seemed to her quite natural that a priest should come to the door, and with a gracious gesture, and a smile that betrayed the greatest sincerity, she showed me to a sitting room. After a little while, it was there that I came face to face with my very first Evangelical Christian. He was a tall, slim gentleman, in whose face goodness was displayed, and the absence of any insincerity or suspicion. As soon as he saw me, he approached me, extending his hand with a brotherly smile and inviting me to be seated.

For a moment I remained silent and looked at him. It was evident that these men were different from others; they were not alcoholics, there was in them no deceit nor suspicion. There was candor in their faces, and something that made them likable and attractive from the first sight.

I had intended to inquire about the meaning of the words that I had read in the window, but I refrained. How could I, a priest who taught the people, be ignorant of the meaning of those words? Shame and pride took the first place. And yet I was ignorant about them. I knew that they had produced a strange effect in me, but I did not know why.

So I limited myself to thanking him briefly for the courtesy he had shown me, and asked him if he was the person with whom I could discuss an intimate matter of conscience. He understood me at once, and told me that he would serve me in such an important matter with the greatest pleasure, but, modestly, gave me to understand that it would be better if I could talk to the Director. By means of a card he gave me the address where I should go with entire confidence. I took my leave, thanking him again, and as he took my hand he gave me a penetrating and significant look, a look as of an apostle who wished to cast light on my path.

I stayed away from that house for some time, but the load I was carrying continued to crush me with its enormous weight. My whole body felt weak. Depression and apathy were taking over. It seemed that my heart was unable to get enough blood supply to my head, and all I felt was a profound distaste for life. For some time I continued to struggle against my “new ideas.” Then I remembered the words, the look, the love received in the Mission house. This lifted the load somewhat, my restless soul was quieted. The black clouds started to dissipate, the dark door opened and allowed me to cast a look full of hope beyond the shadows of my tomb.


At length I went to the Director’s house. It was a new surprise. This new Evangelical man who stood before me was the Director of the Evangelical Mission – what was it that made those men so attractive? That calmness, that serenity, as they appeared on the outside, were they not the reflection and the proof that their souls were immersed in an ocean of peace? No doubt, no suspicion, no shadow of malice found a home in those hearts, fed daily from the Word of God. How one could see from the first instant that their souls lived in another sphere, different from ours! And that for that reason they had better knowledge of the human heart than most of the “spiritual fathers” I had known!

Immediately I opened my heart to him with complete confidence, with a torrent of words and with no thought of elegance. I depicted my situation, and my anguish of soul. I let him know of my efforts to be good, and how they had all been in vain; the monastery’s atmosphere, and my doubts about my church and its endless dogmas; and how from the first instant in which I had read those blessed verses in the window of his mission, I had felt drawn by them.

Immediately he understood me. Opening his Bible he asked what I believed about salvation. I told him that according to the Council of Trent I could not be sure of my salvation, and much less of my justification; that my salvation depended on my good or bad works, and that I was sure that, in purgatory, I would have to purge a long list of sins. Then he read to me John 3:36: “He who believes in the Son has everlasting life”, and asked me what I understood by that. I knew that faith in Jesus Christ was necessary for salvation, but not to such an extent that I could be justified by faith alone. I replied that indeed faith in Christ saves, but only when accompanied by good works. “Well, then”, he said to me, “what would you say about your own case?”

I should have been a hypocrite if at that moment I had said that I had any good works. I was thoroughly convinced that I could not offer to God anything but ruins, and that all the efforts I had made to be good were useless. I answered that I was convinced of my lost condition. “A good sign!” he answered, and then read to me Acts 13:38-39: “let it be known to you, brethren, that through this Man is preached to you the forgiveness of sins; and by him everyone who believes is justified from all things from which you could not be justified by the law of Moses.” He showed me at the same time that in no part of the Bible is there any doubt about the justification and salvation of the believer, explaining to me that all our righteousnesses, our best deeds, such as alms-giving, good works, etc., are but “filthy rags” (Isa. 64:6) ; but that in Christ every believer is made spotless and perfectly righteous, and that we can do nothing to improve on the work of God.

He read Romans 4:5 to me: “to him who does not work but believes on him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness.” Also 2 Corinthians 5:21: “made him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in him,” explaining how all my sins had been nailed to the cross, and that my debt of sins and failures could not be payed a second time; that all I had to do was recognize and accept that great marvel that God had performed for me. Then, by means of John 1:12, he explained to me what the “new birth” is all about: “Amany as received him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in his name”, giving me a clear idea of the new life, and describing the immense blessings of the life in Christ.

That is about all I remember confusedly of that interview. And how to express the multitude of fleeting sensations felt at that time? The clamor of passions, that ceased as if by charm; my sins that were swept away like dry leaves; Jesus who was coming towards me, to bind me to him with everlasting cords; the wounds made by sin, slowly healing; the tones of that man, which caught fire as he went on explaining those mysteries; the clarity with which I perceived them. All this seemed so strange to me that I needed all my strength to convince myself that it was real… And then, the entrance of those truths into the ruins of my soul, taking charge and making my soul one with them. Hungry and thirsty for infinite love like that, I then saw such love, not roughly drying the wounds of my soul, not offending its sensibilities, or exposing its old errors, but lifting it softly and tenderly to a willing acceptance of those truths, and from acceptance to faith, and from faith to peace; and from peace, to rest of heart in that sublime hope, from hope to joy, a joy mindful of that beloved One who accomplished such a marvel for the sinner.

Behold, dear readers, the triumph, and a testimony which should be sealed with tears of gratitude, and in which every letter should be a hymn of praise for those rivers of love that God sends where least expected. Who could have gained such a triumph? Only Jesus Christ, and He did!

After all the turmoil, the rest has been very easy, in the sense that I have had no doubts or regrets or difficulties in leaving the monastery. I have quietly resigned myself into the arms of my Lord. He has sustained me until now, and I am sure that He will sustain me until the last moment of my life. I have not suffered, as others have, the uncertainty of the future, nor yet the persecutions of which I might have been the object. From the first day I received Jesus Christ, there have not left me the hidden joy and inner peace which make me look at life with complete serenity. My only desire is to do the will of him in whose arms I rest.

Cochabamba, October 28, 1943.

The testimony of another religious man, in reality a “religious fanatic”, follows. This one also left behind religiosity when he met the Savior and became his follower. It is the testimony of the apostle Paul, found in the letter he wrote to his friend Titus (3:3-7). It became the “proto-testimony” of every true believer.

“For we ourselves were also once foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving various lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful and hating one another.

But when the kindness and the love of God our Savior toward man appeared, not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior, that having been justified by his grace we should become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.”