Aleteia spoke with the actor Eduardo Verástegui, who has has taken the occasion of the coronavirus pandemic to call on the world to pray the Rosary together.
Aleteia: A million people praying the Rosary: an incredible undertaking and a beautiful inspiration. How did you decide to take up this challenge with your friends on social networks, from various places in the world, cultures and languages?
Eduardo Verástegui: I believe that even without speaking the same language, we can create unity: we understand each other because we pray. It’s a form of reconciliation of the world across the borders, cultures and languages of different nations. We’re a family and we complement each other.
The pandemic has caused us to lock ourselves up in our homes. It was very difficult for me because I didn’t know what was going to happen. I was accustomed to traveling continuously, and [the lockdown] meant that someone had clipped my wings. That’s how I felt during the first two weeks. I thought about the fact that my parents were at our family home elsewhere, my siblings were in the United States, and I was at my home. In the end I realized I had to thank God for having a place to live and having the means to live, and that was beautiful.
However, I couldn’t think only about myself, but also about other people, who—like me—are also locked up in their homes, but have no financial means or credit cards. There are poor families, mainly big ones, who live from day to day. They don’t have the internet or access to social networks, so I thought I had to do something to help these families that are in such a difficult situation. So, through a movement called Viva México, I contacted Caritas to join forces with them and help [these people].
We created a movement called Dona Despensas (“Donate Food Baskets”). In this movement, we make food baskets for the poor, and we’ve already managed to prepare 60,000 packages for the neediest families. However, this wasn’t enough for me. I felt I had to do more. I’d made a daily schedule for myself during the pandemic: hours of work, study, and physical exercise, and also time for prayer. But I was home alone all day. I know that man is never alone and I’m aware that God is always with me, but humanly speaking, I was alone.
Therefore, I thought that I could use social networks to pray together. Why not? I didn’t want to pray alone anymore. I wanted to connect with people. It was before Sunday, March 22, that I spontaneously wrote that we could pray together for life. I thought that possibly some people would be interested, maybe a hundred, or that maybe I would pray alone on the internet. But it was a great surprise to see that 10,000 people joined me in my initiative for this prayer.
I was pleasantly surprised, because the Rosary is a long prayer and when transmitted on the internet it lasts almost an hour. I told everyone: “Well, if we’ve done this on a Sunday, let’s also pray on Monday.” And so it was on Monday, Tuesday, and continued every day. As May 13 approached, I told them that we had a new challenge, which was to pray exceptionally on this day. I thought that there would be about 50,000 people joining us. It turned out that there were over 200,000 people praying. It was the “Rosary of Fatima!”
For me, it was a miracle that there were so many people. The next day, after May 13, I was so moved that I said on the social networks that we should prepare for a new challenge: one million people by May 31, at the celebration of Pentecost.
We’re celebrating the centenary of the birth of St. John Paul all year long. Did you have the opportunity to meet him?
Yes, and I thank God very much for that. The meeting was beautiful: that was where I began my new way of life in which I discovered my new mission. I can say that my life changed when I met John Paul II: I received a rosary from his hands and I asked for his blessing. I told the pope that I make films in defense of life and the Holy Father listened to me, blessed me and made a cross on my forehead. A few months later he died. The meeting took place in the Paul VI Hall in November 2004 and he died in April 2005.
For me, he is not only a saint, but also a man who had his passions. There was a time when he was an actor like me, so I appreciate him more and feel more attached to him. He used art to show true values and to fight against evil—communism, for example. I believe that art, such as cinema, influences society a great deal, and therefore can become a tool for spiritual combat. Art in this sense can also help transform the world.
The life and example of John Paul II continues to be a great inspiration to me. He dedicated part of his life to helping and saving his country, Poland; I also want to fight spiritually for my country, Mexico. I want to inspire others to love more, to live life with love and faith, and thus to change the world. John Paul II—as a priest, and later as a bishop and pope—had a great impact on society. He left his mark on our history. Through his encounters with young people, as at World Youth Days, he changed the world. I must also admit that I admire how he lived his old age, when he was already very weak and sick; despite these difficulties, he had extraordinary spiritual strength and intellect. He is an example for me to follow.
What are your family and relatives’ memories of John Paul II’s first historic pilgrimage to Mexico?
Not only my family, but everyone remembers this pilgrimage. John Paul II wasn’t only a pope whom the whole world admired; here in Mexico we received him as someone very close—we Mexicans treated him as just another Mexican. During his pilgrimages, the Pope said that Mexico is always faithful. The Holy Father had a special devotion and love for the Mother of God of Guadalupe. It was he who, more than 500 years after the apparitions, canonized Juan Diego, whose indigenous name means messenger eagle. That’s why St. John Paul II is very much loved and recognized as a friend in Mexico. I’m convinced that now, as a saint from heaven, he’s interceding for us and joins us all when we pray the Rosary.
You recently composed a song called “Quiero vivir” (“I Want to Live”). What inspired you to write it?
I imagined how children in the womb would sing to their mother if they had a voice. What would these children talk to their parents about? Thinking about that, this song “Quiero vivir” arose: we put our skills, our voices in the mouths of these children who cannot sing yet. I also believe that it’s a mission that God has entrusted to me: to use my talents and my abilities to fight in defense of life, especially that of the unborn, those little unborn and defenseless children, because they have no voice and cannot defend themselves, but they have a right to life.
Being pro-life encompasses more; it also means defending children who have no food, as well as those who are kidnapped, sold and sexually abused. Human trafficking is a big problem, and we must do everything possible to stop this crime. It’s hard to believe, but millions of children are abused and sold. Being pro-life means protecting the life and dignity of every child. Pro-life also means supporting young people who need help because they’re addicted to drugs or alcohol. We have to do something for them: for me, all of this is part of being pro-life.
[It means] defending those who are unjustly condemned or imprisoned and don’t have the economic means to defend themselves, to hire a lawyer. Being pro-life is also about helping the elderly. There are several programs that put young people in touch with the elderly. In retirement homes, there are many lonely, abandoned people who don’t receive any visits, even from anyone in their family. We create programs for young people to be with older people. All these activities are also pro-life. Pro-life means protecting life from conception to natural death. This is a beautiful and unique mission for me.
If every mother had a womb like glass so that she could see her child before birth, none of them would have an abortion. Everything I’ve mentioned is very important to me; that’s why my film Bella and the short films I make talk about this. The film Unplanned managed to bring together various kinds of people involved in pro-life activities—artists, politicians, etc.—to defend life. Last year we advertised the film Unplanned for months. We traveled around the 32 states of Mexico with this film. That’s when the idea of the song “Quiero vivir” came up.
You’re an actor, musician and film director. Do you feel like a “warrior” fighting for a good cause you believe in?
If God gives you the possibility and the perspective of supernatural life, after a time during which you wasted many years of life, when you realize it, you want to give everything for Jesus and entrust your life to Him. Now I feel like a child of God who does everything to change this world for the better, and I want to live like that. I hope that in this way I can reach the holiness to which God calls us all. That’s how I want to live, overcoming all difficulties.
Thank you very much for the interview.
Note: Eduardo Verástegui will be leading the praying of the Rosary (in Spanish) for the intentions of respect for life and an end to violence in the United States of America, on Sunday, June 7, at 1 p.m. (Central Daylight Time, the time zone of cities including Chicago and Mexico City). You can join in by going to his Facebook page