Dear readers and visitors to this website,
I feel called to offer the words below regarding my current status as a writer, alongside thoughts relating to our times.
In 1998, at the age of thirty I left the comfort and security of a high-paying job in Manhattan, just a few years out from earning my MBA, to embark on a new career as a writer. I was coming to the craft relatively late, though I guess that could be debated. Who, really, has lived enough of life to be a good writer in his twenties? Not many. Perhaps better stated, I did not have the educational background, being a business major in college, nor many words on paper to set myself up for a convincing launching. I had taken one class at Gotham Writers Workshop in New York and quit halfway through. I was a fairly good reader, but that was only recent, and I was really just learning my way around a good bookstore. There was so much I simply didn’t know. The Russians were exhausting. I hadn’t yet read Moby Dick. I got Arthur Miller and Henry Miller mixed up. I was drawn to Jack Kerouac and the Beats, but that was because of my own picaresque meanderings more than for an appreciation of the literature itself. I couldn’t articulate an analysis of a story very well, and for that matter, I knew I was not an innate storyteller myself. Still, I was compelled to take the leap.
It has been twenty years now, and being a writer has not at all gone as I thought it might. To be honest, I didn’t know exactly how it might go, or even what a rough blueprint might look like. I simply set forth because I wasn’t fulfilled in what I was doing, and because I could do so financially, but most importantly because I was responding to a calling rooted less in writing itself than in a desire to share spiritually.
For many years, that spiritual sharing took the form of fiction. However, after a few false starts after my story collection, The Body of This, was published, I was drawn to the topic of Christian virtue and that is when both my both my life and my writing underwent a dramatic change. My most recent book, 8 Days & Virtue, which is actually two books under one cover, are the first fruits of that change. 8 Days is a detailed account of the remarkable strokes of grace God bestowed upon me over an eight-day period in 2011, and Virtue is the book-length prayer that served as catalyst. It is perhaps best if I quote from the Prologue to that book:
"In my life of recognizable broad strokes, of familiar small moments, something quite unusual and remarkable did happen to me: on the morning of November 2nd, 2011, All Souls Day, God visited me. At the very moment that I typed the word that would complete the book I was writing about virtue, the Holy Spirit entered my body—my living soul—without warning and with such merciful fury that I was knocked to the ground in fits of ecstasy, my very foundation literally, figuratively toppled. His coming marked the beginning of an eight-day period of spiritual elevation, in which I experienced similar acts of direct union with God the Father and with Jesus Christ, His Son. While my experiences were bewilderingly good and overtly divine, I also suffered great physical and spiritual and emotional withdrawal (indeed, I wanted what I was experiencing to stop.) But perhaps most disturbingly, in addition to all the good, I was also given an awareness of the real presence of evil, and even interaction with it. Needless to say, my life has been forever changed."
These subsequent years have been a holy adventure. I have proceeded with great joy and satisfaction in my primary calling as husband and father, while carrying this experiential knowledge of God and trying, not always successfully, to honor what I have been given and to proceed according to His will. These years have been grace-filled, but not easy. In fact, they have been the most blessedly challenging of my life. In the most basic sense, it is a both a spiritual and psychological trial having experiential knowledge of being “in the world, but not of the world.”
When I was ready, and shortly after 8 Days & Virtue was published, our good and loving God allowed me to know the counterpoint to the glory He revealed to me during those eight days in 2011. On the night of November 11, 2014, evil attacked me and in no less dramatic fashion, setting off a thirty-three-day period of persecution, suffering and darkness, a period in which I was brought to the utter boundary of my strength. God’s ways are not our ways, and while there is much I do not understand about what I have been given, I recognize the tremendous blessing not only of the glory revealed to me during those eight days, but also the pain and suffering I was later called to experience (something I had been given only a glimpse of during the eight days,) particularly as it related to the beauty of, and our absolute need for, God’s mercy. While I couldn’t help but focus, at least initially, on the evil and ongoing attack, I recognized the commensurate graces I was given to be able to endure and, in particular, the great power and protection of the Virgin Mary. She is so strong; so very, very strong.
These things occurring in my life naturally prompted many questions, beginning with Why me? I can tell you that my life during those initial eight days were like living a movie, so surreal was it. I can also tell you that the pain, suffering, persecution and sorrow of those thirty-three days were both utter torment and abiding grace. In both cases, the revealed truths were difficult to endure, so far outside the realm of “normal” human existence. The Triune God is real. And so is evil. I was experiencing both. In both cases, I simply wanted what I was experiencing to stop. I wanted to be “me.” But who was I? Ostensibly, a husband, a father, a friend, a brother, a son, a neighbor. An American. But I was clearly so much more—we all are; both body and spirit. I had no choice but to straddle both worlds, feeling the immediacy of my own situation, but realizing, too, the experiences of my soul were nothing less than what each and every one of us will experience, either the ultimate goodness of life in Him, or the ultimate pain and sorrow of a separation made by our own choosing.
And so why did God choose me for this? I cannot say for sure, though I have learned that these graces are for the individual first, and then, quite often, for others as well. That I was called to the writing profession through a spiritual inclination is not lost on me. Also, as someone who has lived a recognizable life, a life of meandering, a life of searching, a life of yearning, a life of sin and repentance, a life as a “regular guy,” is significant as well. In light of this, I was called to share the experiences of those eight days, and so I did, and 8 Days & Virtue was published. I have written another book, a memoir and account of the subsequent thirty-three days, but it is not clear at this time if that is meant to be published.
Whatever the case, I cannot help but feel that my experiences have portent and meaning in our current times. Like many people, I am greatly unsettled by the degree of conflict and confusion in the world today, and, of course, within the Church itself. It is difficult to bear. There is so much to be said, yet so little. We have turned away from God. We are living in a time of growing apostasy and unbelief. Because we do not know God, we do not know what it means to be human. We are unraveling.
Our good and loving Lord wants nothing more than for us to seek to know Him. Recognizing this call and acting on it is the single most important effort we can make in our lives, and the key to both worldly, and eternal, happiness. It is recognition of who we really are, and what it truly means to be human.
I do not know where my writing goes from here. As I mentioned, those twenty years ago my inclination was a spiritual one, though I could not have known, of course, what lay ahead. Writing was a manifestation of my lifelong desire to know God, to love Him, and to help others know and love Him, too. Writing has been a beautiful struggle, a winding path, and absolutely intertwined with my spiritual life. I will end by recounting my first cogent thought at the onset of the eight days, after an immediate recognition that it was the Holy Spirit blowing through me in a wind of ecstatic grace: It’s all true! Oh my God—(my faith) it’s all true! I have been given the great grace of experiencing this, and I cannot say it, or write it, any more succinctly. And perhaps that is why I was chosen for this. Because I can say it.
If it is all true—and it is—my goodness, the implications.