I Was Once a Franciscan Friar

Fourth in a series on how ministers of other denominations were led to accept the Advent faith.

By ERNESTO FERREIRA, Principal, Portuguese Training School, Portugal

As a son of sincere Catholic parents, I spent my childhood in surroundings where reli­gion held the first place. At ten years of age I went to Spain from a town in Portugal, near Lisbon, and entered a Catholic seminary, where at fifteen I became a Franciscan friar. I com­pleted the theological course for the priesthood in Portugal at twenty-two, but as I was too young for ordination, I spent one year studying in the High Colonial School, in Lisbon. Then I served as a priest for three years.

Already from my theological studies, doubts had arisen about several Catholic doctrines. In 1938 I happened to come across some Ingather­ing magazines and a pamphlet by E. E. An-dross about the second coming of Christ. This literature had been handed to my fellow priests by some ladies during confession. I felt a great desire to know more of this message, and on finding the addresses of the churches in Por­tugal in the Ingathering papers, I wrote to the pastor of the nearest church. A reply soon arrived, accompanied by more literature to read.. At the first opportunity I paid a personal visit to this pastor, and after that I read many Adventist books. I can still remember the deep impression made by The Great Controversy, by Ellen G. White, and Our Day in the Light of Prophecy, by W. A. Spicer.

Then there began for me a very difficult struggle, resulting in sleepless nights when new ideas fought against the old. Although I accepted several doctrines immediately, I was unable to grasp others quite so quickly. The truth which opened the widest horizons and convinced me most definitely of the vanity of Catholicism was the state of the dead. This truth not only showed me the uselessness of worshiping saints and images, the fallacy of purgatory, and a particular judgment after death, but also revealed the plan of redemption, the destiny of man, and the necessity for the coming of Christ.

After that my sermons, my advices in the auricular confession, my use of a Protestant Bible instead of the usual Breviary, and my keeping company with a group who were al­ready favorable to Adventists in Braga, where I was then living, all made me the object of much discussion. I was watched by the bishop. My Franciscan superior came to Braga ex­pressly to talk with me. He knelt before me and begged me to abandon these new ideas. To this I replied that I would follow the truth wherever it might be found.

Finally I decided to leave the Catholic Church and to join the Adventists. I went to the same superior to say good-by. As a Fran­ciscan, I was not the personal owner of what I was using; therefore I went without money, with only the clothes I was wearing, having left my watch, fountain pen, books, and so forth, in my room. He was surprised at my at­titude, and insisted that I take some money to tide me over the first days. When I refused, he put it into my coat pocket against my will. After this, he wrote to my parents, saying that I had lost my mind, but that he hoped I would soon get better and return.

I was baptized on December 57, 1938, and am now rejoicing in the truth. There were many things I had to learn and just as many to unlearn. Instead of the human traditions I needed a knowledge of the simple truths of the Word of God. Instead of the intricate intro­ductions to each book of the Bible I needed to study the Bible itself. So I improved very ma­terially during the two years in the little Por­tuguese Training School in Lisbon.

In order to obtain an official diploma for secondary training, I had to secure a testimo­nial from the Franciscans. Sometimes I hear it said that none of the friars are good. I know that only God is truly good. Nevertheless they signed a document couched in very kind terms, outlining the studies I had taken, and adding that I had been a good student, always noted for good moral and civil deportment. In a Catholic country such as Portugal so great a spirit of toleration is not to be expected.

Besides the work in the Lisbon school I helped in bureau and evangelistic work until I was called into military service. Formerly, as a priest, I had enlisted in the army, as did the other young priests in Portugal, to serve as a chaplain in case of war. When I came out from the Catholic Church, I was subject to military inspection. Consequently, during 1942 and 1943 I served as a soldier in the sanitary or the medical departments in an army hospital. It would be interesting to tell how during that time I was excused from service on the Sab­bath, but space forbids. God was to me a living God during my military experience.

When I came out of the army hospital, the Seminario Adventista (Portuguese Training School) was opened at Portalegre (having been moved from Lisbon) and here I have been since 1944 teaching and doing evangelistic work. I esteem it a high privilege to be a part of the Advent Movement and to work as a humble minister of God.

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By ERNESTO FERREIRA, Principal, Portuguese Training School, Portugal

August 1948

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