An amazing set of circumstances occurred as soon as I found myself home again. How many times have we made vows or promises to ourselves that we would change only to discover the hard truth down the road that while we had the emotional energy to make the commitment at the time, the day to day grind of life sapped us of our enthusiasm, and we found ourselves, of course and as usual, right back to where we started. It seems impossible at times to overcome the inertia of our lives and to snap into a new pattern that is lasting and meaningful. This is the tyranny of our modern culture of death, rebellion, noise, rudeness, vulgarity, and irreverence. We know there is something better, but we cannot escape the gravitational pull of the depressing, anxious world around us. Why would things be any different for me as I walked back into the real world from the protection of my secluded silent retreat? Throughout my life, I made thousands of promises to change for the better only to find myself consistently circling around the same mad, mad world.
However, an enduring life change did happen, and I will tell you how. The Virgin Mary prepared the road for me, the road that would be my journey. Saintly friends in the kingdom of God waited for me. Mary opened the door to a mystical path. Here is what happened.
Overwhelmed by the experience of the silent retreat, I spent the following two weeks contemplating my life in light of the decree to “seek first the kingdom of God.” I had plenty of time to sit, think, and read. In the middle of my silent retreat a couple of weeks prior, I lost my job. Things obviously were changing quickly.
I was home now, stunned from my retreat, jobless, and with nothing to do but think while I began my employment search full time. Up to that point, I spent my entire adult life totally absorbed in this world, always chasing the next higher paycheck, enjoying as much of the “world” as I could while still being “Catholic,” and constantly trying to win the esteem of my fellow man. After all, my two Ivy League degrees, my top tier executive consulting experience in New York City, and my stewardship of a world-wide recognized brand name while working in Chicago made for wonderful cocktail party conversation. In the right company, I could portray myself convincingly as a very successful and important person.
However, it all amounted to a game, a very dangerous game, whereby I wanted to strike a deal of my own between the world and God, between the kingdom of man and the kingdom of God. I wanted to play on both sides of the fence, so to speak. This is a very foolish game; for, when one plays in this manner, one ultimately ends up on only the world side of the fence. With God it is all or nothing. The great St. Louis de Montfort, who’s True Devotion to Mary formed the singularly most important influence in my spiritual life, puts it this way, using the biblical story of Jacob and Esau as an analogy:
“Sinners sell their birthright, that is, the joys of paradise, for a dish of lentils, that is, the pleasures of this world. They laugh, they drink, they eat, they have a good time, they gamble, they dance and so forth, without taking any more trouble than Esau to make themselves worthy of their heavenly Father’s blessing. Briefly, they think only of this world, love only the world, speak and act only for the world and its pleasures. For a passing moment of pleasure, for a fleeting wisp of honor, for a piece of hard earth, yellow or white (St. Louis’s favorite expression for gold and silver) they barter away their baptismal grace, their robe of innocence and their heavenly inheritance.” (Montfort, 1941)
All of this pleasure seeking, money grabbing, and esteem building led me over the years to the brink of insanity, depression, physical deterioration, and, most significantly, spiritual death. During my days at the silent retreat, I came to understand and interiorize fully the concept that the “wages of sin is death.” I finally got it. It made sense now. I realized that all of those “thou shall not’s” in the bible were there to keep me from killing myself. I had not known that.
Now, Our Holy Mother, the Virgin Mary, prepared me to leave “the world” that I might act on my new desire for heaven. I sat for a couple of weeks pondering my new life situation without power, prestige, position, or influence.
It was now time to “seek first the kingdom of God,” and to Hades with the world.