This is the story of my journey from a Jewish boyhood in the Bronx to a Catholic hilltop life in the rural hills of northern Arkansas.
I’m God‘s parrot, faithful to the Catholic Magisterium. Rabbi Yeshua said, “He who hears you hears me, and he who rejects you rejects me, and he who rejects me rejects him who sent me” Lk 10:16. What I hear Rabbi Yeshua say through the Catholic Church, I also say.
For many years I’ve had this parrot image on my main computer’s startup screen to remind me every day to serve Rabbi Yeshua as his parrot. With this 2017 rewrite of Second Exodus I decided to share it with you.
Humility leads us to focus always on Rabbi Yeshua not on ourselves. However, I’m inviting you to radical transformation of your life, so this page is “something about me.” I also would like to share with you Why I Believe. A magazine article from the 1990s, A Kosher Ham Finds Christ, a shorter telling of my journey to Calvary, is part of my magazine article collection so I keep it on the site as well.
The Early Years
At the beginning of my life I believed in God because my parents were moderately observant Conservative Jews. At age 8 I remember looking out our fourth-floor apartment bedroom window and thinking, “God has a destiny for me. I wonder what it is.” At the time I sensed only, “Your time will come.”
We lived in a Bronx apartment neighborhood so Jewish there were four synagogues, two of them Orthodox, within walking distance of our apartment. I had a pretty good Jewish education in preparation for my bar mitzvah. Overall my world was Jewish. For me, Jewish meant God and Torah.
When I was 10 years old, one Polish Catholic family had moved in, and I became best friends with their 10 year old son. Their apartment was filled to overflowing with Catholic crucifixes, sacramentals, holy water fonts, and statues and images of Christ and the Blessed Virgin.
Robbie Jazwin’s family went to church every Sunday morning no matter what. I remember one Sunday morning when a blizzard had left the city streets piled high with snow. I thought surely they wouldn’t be able to go to church, so I walked over to see whether Robbie wanted to come out and look at the snowdrifts. I found him and his father digging their car out so the family could go to church. Even if they got their car out, I didn’t see how they could drive on the snowy streets. But Robbie’s father said with determination that he would get his family to church and back with Jesus’ help and sheer force of will. He did. I thought the Catholic Church must be something extraordinary if this family would go to so much effort to get to Sunday Mass.
My Father and My Mother
My parents had a lifelong traditional marriage 7:35. My father was the absolute head of our home, and my mother was very glad to run our home under his gentle authority. Most of the families in our neighborhood had the same traditional marriage.
How They Met
During the 1930s my mother, as a teen-ager, worked in her parents’ candy store (aka soda fountain) on New York City’s Lower East Side. One day my father came into the store to buy something. He asked my mother for a date, but she explained that her parents strictly prohibited her from dating customers. My father continued to come into the store as a customer for two years. He never mentioned it, but he was working extra jobs and saving every nickel.
Then, one day, my father walked into the candy store and asked to speak with my mother’s father in the back room. They sat down, and my father said he’d like to buy the candy store. He took out his wallet and showed my mother’s father fifteen hundred dollars, an incredible sum during the Depression. Her startled father asked why he wanted to buy this particular store. My father replied, “Freda says you don’t allow her to date customers. I was hoping you’d allow her to date an owner.” He called his wife in and told her about the conversation. After a few words between them he told my father, “We can’t sell the store, we need it for our income. But perhaps we can make an exception to the no-customers rule.”
The Egg Cream
As long as I’m telling you about the candy store, I have to tell you about its most famous recipe: the egg cream. What’s an egg cream? There’s a lot of speculation, but I know because my mother was present at the creation. She made hundreds of them.
During the Depression my mother’s father was kept very busy running his candy store. He never had time to eat lunch while the store was open, but he knew he needed something nutritious, inexpensive, tasty, and fast. He put an egg, chocolate syrup and cream into some seltzer, stirred it up, and drank it, all within a few minutes. This became his regular lunch.
One day a customer came in, saw him drink it, and asked what it was. On the spot he decided to call it an “egg cream,” after its primary ingredients. The customer asked if he could try one, and my grandfather made one for him. The customer was enthusiastic and told him, “This is delicious. You have to offer these for sale.” My grandfather thought a moment, figured the cost, and made a sign, “Egg Cream 5 cents.” Word spread fast, and my grandfather’s store was soon crowded with customers drinking egg creams.
Then, suddenly, one day they all stopped coming. My grandfather didn’t understand until one of his faithful customers came in and told him that the candy store across the street was selling egg creams for 4 cents. My grandfather said, “It can’t be a real egg cream. He pays the same prices I do for ingredients. It can’t be done for 4 cents.” He asked the customer to buy one of the 4 cent egg creams and bring it across the street. Sure enough, my grandfather drank it and immediately said, “This is a fake egg cream. There’s no egg in it.” He began to get upset about the fake egg cream until the customer pointed out, “Look, there’s a Depression. We all have to watch our pennies. Better you should sell egg creams without an egg for 4 cents than to get all upset and watch your customers disappear.” My grandfather agreed and began offering egg creams without an egg for 4 cents. His regular customers came back. Both candy stores did well, and soon candy stores all over New York City heard of it and began selling their own egg creams, without an egg, for 4 cents.
Some time after that, my grandfather realized that milk would go through a straw more easily than cream, so he began making his egg creams with milk instead of cream. All the New York City candy stores soon heard of it and did the same. After that, egg creams had no egg and no cream, but they’re still egg creams.
One day, when I was about eight years old, I noticed a penny on top of our television set, but I paid no attention to it because it wasn’t my penny. My mother also ignored it because it wasn’t her penny. My sister, then three years old, also didn’t touch it because it wasn’t her penny either. Occasionally I wondered whose penny it was, but still never touched it.
Three months later, my father called together my mother, my sister and me in the living room near the television. He told us he had left the penny there in exactly the same spot three months earlier to see if any of us would take it. He was very happy that none of us even touched it. He told us that we were an honest family, and explained how very important a reputation for honesty can be all across our lives.
One day my parents took my sister, then maybe three years old, and me to a place where rowboats could be rented. I was maybe 8 at the time. Standing on the dock, I walked to the edge to look at the water. My sister saw me do it and also walked to the edge of the dock, but I stood between her and the edge to block her. She tried to walk around me, but I kept moving to block her. She turned to my mother, who asked, “Marty, why are you doing that? I said, “She’s so young. I have to be sure she won’t fall in the water.” My mother said, “It’s okay, she knows not to step off the dock.” I said, “Probably she does, but I’m her brother and my job is to keep her safe.” My mother started to object, but my father said, “Leave him alone. He’s a boy protecting a girl. He’s doing exactly what we want him to do.”
The Head of Household
At about age 12 I asked my mother for something, and she said, “It’s okay with me but I’ll have to ask your father.” I asked her, “Will you be able to persuade him?” She said confidently that she could. I asked how she could be so sure, and she said, “I’ll tell you a secret. Your father thinks he makes all the decisions for us, but I have ways of making him think what I want is his decision.”
I was glad she could get him to approve what I wanted, but at the same time I saw it as a grave disruption of how things are supposed to be. On Saturday mornings my father would often bring me with him to his small tire store so I could learn how a man earns a living for his family. He did take me that Saturday, and after he opened the store I went to him and said, “Dad, we have to talk.” He answered, “Sure son, what is it?” I said, “A serious matter, let’s sit down.” We did, and he asked, “What’s on your mind?”
I told him what my mother had said. To my utter amazement he started laughing. I interrupted, “Dad, this is serious! Your authority as head of our home is being undermined!” He was even more amused. Then he noticed the chagrin on my face and figured he’d better help me understand. “Son, there’s so much a young boy needs to learn.” He paused and then continued,
“I’m absolutely the head of our household, and all the major decisions are mine. But I love your mother with all my heart. Her happiness is my highest earthly value. There are two kinds of women. Some women will simply tell their husbands straight out what they want. Your mother is the other kind. She’ll mention the subject but in a roundabout way trying to make me think it’s my idea. As soon as I figure out what she wants, I do it because I love her. God wants us to love and cherish our wives, to make them happy as best we can.”
“It amuses me to watch her do it, and I make a game out of trying to guess what she wants before she gives me enough hints to put it together. That’s what it is to be a head of household. A man always puts his wife’s needs first, his children’s second, and his own last.”
He then pointed out that he had bought me a hi-fi audio system because I was deeply interested in both music and very high quality sound reproduction. We also had an Encyclopedia Britannica to help me do well in school. I had a Schwinn bicycle that I liked to ride to Hebrew school and around the neighborhood. And we had a piano so my sister and I could learn how to play. He asked me to think of anything comparable in our apartment that was there for his enjoyment. There was nothing.
At 16 God saved my life. I had been working at a summer camp in Massachusetts. The camp employed twelve teen-age boys as maintenance, waiters, and dishwashers. Of the twelve, nine of us liked to go out after supper and drive around the area. Bobby’s mother worked as the camp nurse, and she had a car, a 1958 Pontiac nine-passenger station wagon. Those were the days of Detroit’s “horsepower race.” The big Pontiac had a 300 horsepower engine. The nurse allowed Bobby to drive the car after hours, so most evenings we’d drive around. One day we were cruising along a country road at 110 mph. I was sitting in the second row middle seat and had a perfect view of the car’s instrument panel. Suddenly the road had a down hill. The car was momentarily airborne. We thought it was glorious until the car landed again and we saw, just ahead, the road curve sharply to the right. Ahead of us was a stand of tall mature trees. Instantly we all realized that we were going way too fast for the curve and in another few seconds the car would hurtle straight into the trees and explode. My instant thought was, “So this is how it ends for me, just 16 years old.” Bobby said, “Goodbye, fellows.”
Bobby decided to spend the last seconds of life trying to save us. The car snapped around the curve like an amusement park whip. At the time I had a mental image of nine guardian angels pushing the left side of the car keeping it on the road. After that the road was straight again. Bobby slowed the car and stopped at the road side. For ten minutes we all sat there trying to catch our breath. Then someone said, “Did that really happen?” I remember saying, “Yes, it did. God wanted to save one of us, and for the sake of the one he saved all nine.” After a while Bobby drove us back to the camp, slowly. That evening I knew, absolutely knew, that God was real. We confirmed it the next evening when we went back to that same road. Bobby drove the curve at 35 mph, and the tires squealed a little. When he went back and tried it again at 40 mph the tires squealed a lot. We all agreed that trying the curve at 45 mph would have been fatal.
Music of My Youth
During my mid-teens, a Sabra friend introduced me to the Cafe Cassit, an Israeli hangout, then on Broadway and 98th St. in Manhattan. Many prominent Israelis came to the Cassit to sit and talk long into the night, the ones I remember mostly were the musicians. They would show up after 11:00 pm, when their shows closed for the night. The Cassit had a back room where the musicians could store their instruments. Theo Bikel would come in about 11:30 pm and order something to eat. We would all give him a decent amount of time to eat, usually a falafel, in peace. Then, after midnight, someone would call out, “Theo, a song!” Bikel always enjoyed singing most of all for his mishpucha, family, but in his humorous Jewish way he would grumble that a man should be allowed to eat and talk in peace. Then he would go into the back room, take up his balalaika, and into the wee hours of the morning he would talk Theo Bikel, Hanukah 2:31 and sing. 38:56
Usually, other Israeli performers were there, and each would sing for a while to give Bikel time to rest. The one I remember especially was Geula Gill of the Oranim Zabar troupe. Martha Schlamme also came often to give Theo a break. Sometimes they would teach us songs and we would all sing together. Sometimes, instead of singing, they would tell us stories. How they grew up in the Holy Land, how they came to live in New York City, their lives, their shows, Jewish history, art, music, anything that came to mind. Usually by about 3:00 am I could stay awake no longer, so I walked to the nearest subway station and made my way back to my Bronx apartment. Only once, by sheer force of will, I stayed up until the Cassit closed about 5:00 am. Oranim Zabar, Hora 2:54. Martha Schlamme, a Pintele 3:35. The Cassit strengthened my Jewish identity. I had been born in New York City, but in the Cassit I felt very Israeli.
Music for Wanderers
But there was other music I loved. Especially I loved The Wayward Wind 3:12. I liked to imagine myself the Wandering Jew, walking across the centuries without a land to call my own, a restless wind that yearned to wander Mt 8:20. I also loved Wandering Star 4:29, They Call the Wind Maria 3:02, Ghost Riders in the Sky 2:51, Darlin Sportin Jenny 2:31, and The Weavers 15:34.
Sometimes Rabbi Yeshua puts a little marker into our lives, a pointer towards the future that we recognize only in retrospect. By my mid-teens I came to sense in classical music a deeper refinement of soul than I had found in the popular songs. In particular, I treasured a recording of the Jewish-sounding Jascha Heifetz playing the Mendelssohn Violin Concerto 10:34 (1st movement) conducted by the Catholic-sounding Arturo Toscanini. The combination just sounded right to me.
Two opera-enthusiast friends and I would often take the subway from the Bronx to Manhattan to the old Metropolitan Opera House. There we would join the standing room line, as we certainly could never have afforded the seats. But for two dollars we could stand at the back of the theater. Sometimes someone in an Orchestra seat would only stay for the first act. Everyone who left before the opera was finished would let us know that he would not be back and give one of us his ticket stub, so the person he spoke to could take his seat.
Invariably, after the performance we would go around to the stage entrance and try to get past the guard. Most of our ruses were successful, and we became friends with the star singers. After a while it was easier because when the guard checked with the singer she would recognize the name and tell him to let us in. Once after a performance of La Bohème the second soprano sang Musetta’s Waltz again just for the three of us. My favorites then were the great warhorses of Italian opera, Puccini’s La Bohème 1:57:59, Verdi’s La Traviata 2:20:40, Mascagni’s Cavalleria Rusticana 1:11:48, and Leoncavallo’s Pagliacci 1:28:04.
Music for Reflection
The teen years are where we set the foundations for our lives, selecting a career consistent with who we will later become, and finding the girl to marry for the lives we will later live. I had been raised to believe firmly in lifelong marriage, and that a husband is the captain of his ship. I wanted a harbor for my soul, music that led me away from wandering to the permanent things where my soul could rest and reflect. During my teen years the Beethoven Ninth led me to Beethoven’s Missa Solemnis 1:39:11. a compelling mystery. Was Beethoven a Believer? I wasn’t sure, but his music led me farther back in time through Handel 2:38:20 and Vivaldi 30:12 all the way to Gregorian Chant, especially the Dies Irae 7:42, God’s great warning of the Day of Wrath at the Second Coming.
During that time I also became interested in hi-fi music systems as a hobby. I soon became well known around New York City’s Radio Row on Cortlandt Street, then Manhattan’s little electronic neighborhood where dozens of stores competed to sell knowledgeable enthusiasts the most advanced electronic equipment. I actually did some of the early psychoacoustic research. As far as I know, I was the first to discover that omni-directional speakers in a stereo array could present a broad sound front, rather than the “ping-pong” effect of the early stereo systems. After I convinced several Cortlandt St. stores, and they convinced factory representatives, the industry began to emphasize a broad sound front as being more like real music.
Also about that time I became interested in amateur (“ham”) radio and loved having conversations with other amateurs world-wide. All hams are licensed by the Federal Communications Commission for radio technology and Morse code proficiency.
My ham radio conversations were unusually interesting because I always asked provocative questions. God has a reason for every gift he gives us.
The School for the Blind
Ham radio taught me humility. About a mile from where I grew up, was the New York Institute for the Education of the Blind. It’s still there, now called the New York Institute for Special Education. It had a ham radio station. Since it was so nearby, our signals to each other were very strong and so I got to know Bob Gunderson, the teacher who ran the station, and the students who operated it. At one point they invited me for a visit, so I went over there. It was fascinating to watch how blind young men could operate a ham radio station, which depended greatly on visual observation of radio station meters, controls, all sorts of things. I made the mistake of saying I was sorry the boys had to go to so much extra effort to do the things sighted hams did so easily.
They didn’t say anything, but after we finished with the radio station, they showed me around the school. Some of the interior rooms had no windows. While I was in one of these rooms they turned off the lights! It was pitch black in there, and I felt very disoriented. They told me it was a power outage, and said I’d better get to one of the rooms with a window. As I tried to find my way the students said to one another, “Oh, listen to Marty struggle to find the door. Sighted people never learn how to get around in the dark. What a handicap, it must be so difficult for them.” I instantly realized what I’d done, and apologized. They were amused and immediately turned the light switch back on. Then they continued showing me around the school. Not another word was said about it, but now, after more than 60 years, I still remember the lesson they taught me, and never repeated that mistake.
The Highway Engineer
Another adventure in humility: As a teen-age boy who loved fast cars, I imagined myself an expert in everything relating to cars. Once I got into a conversation with a man who said something about designing highways for maximum safety. I told him flatly that he was wrong, and proceeded to explain ”how it really was.” The man thanked me for my insight and added, “It’s sad. 40 years in the profession and I really haven’t learned even the basics.”
My ears picked up that “40 years in the profession” as a warning sign. I asked him what he did for a living. He was a road safety engineer for the State of New York. After every accident, he or another engineer would be sent out to evaluate how the accident occurred and what design measures could be taken for future highways that would minimize that type of accident. I quickly said, “Perhaps I didn’t fully understand your explanation. Would you tell me again?”
Ham radio also gave me opportunities for charity. In my mid 20s, living on Long Island, I got into a radio conversation with a ham in Albany, about 150 miles to the north. I told him that I was working then in sales and asked him what he did for a living. He said he had graduated from college but couldn’t find a job because he was visually impaired. I asked how impaired and he said sadly, “Totally blind.”
As it happened, I had recently called on a company called Abilities, Inc. Abilities employed only handicapped people. It had plenty of supports, Braille signs, sign language interpreters, railings in the corridors, but employees were required to do their jobs fully up to industry standards. I knew Abilities had a lot more job applications than positions, but felt I had to try. I told him all about Abilities, including the fact that a lot of disabled men and women applied there, the competition would be tough. He thanked me and said, “Well, all I can do is try.” After about six weeks, late one afternoon, my phone rang. “Is this Marty Barrack?” I said “Yes, who are you?” He mentioned his name and I asked him to remind me who he was. He mentioned his ham radio call sign and then said, “I called to tell you that I just finished working my first day at Abilities! Thank you!” He told me that he loved the place, and that he was so grateful to God and to me for the chance to show what he could do. It felt so good to be God‘s instrument. I prayed for many more opportunities, and sensed an answer, “Your time will come.”
Around 1960, when I was a young amateur “ham” radio operator, I made radio contact with a Franciscan friar named Brother George. He invited me to visit him at his monastery, Graymoor, in Garrison, New York, about 40 miles north of where I lived. Graymoor was built on Mount Atonement. At the very top of the mountain was the Holy Spirit Chapel, where four of the friars had a ham radio station.
They had made a certificate for anyone who “worked” (had a radio conversation with) all four of the friars. It was called “Worked All Monks.” I rapidly got mine, but was confused because they described themselves on-air as friars. I asked one, Brother Lawrence, which they were. He sent me his answer on a QSL card (a friendly postcard remembrance of a ham radio conversation):
Monks we ain’t, friars we are,
But what a friar is few can say,
Flyers, fryers, fires, fighters,
Monks, it’s easier that way.
My father, Mac, was a lively Jew who loved to debate religion with Christians. He was very good at it, good enough that he only debated with Catholic priests and religious, or with Protestant ministers. In the one-man tire shop he ran for a living he had a weekly debate for 20 years with Fred Taylor, a Baptist minister! Every Saturday morning Fred would come in, banter with my father for a few minutes, and then one or the other would say, “You know, I was reading your Bible,” and off they went like a pair of cats chasing a ball of string.
When I told my father that I had met four Franciscan friars who were also licensed amateurs he had to meet them, so Brother George invited us up for a visit on a Sunday after Mass. My father was a licensed ham, as were my mother and my sister, so for him the visit was a double pleasure.
When we arrived we sat down for a while so my father could “ask Brother George a few questions,” his usual way to assess a new adversary. My father began by asking Brother George how long he had been a friar there, and Brother George said about 30 years. Of course, the debate was on, and the two men had a merry time.
After a time Brother George introduced us to Father Vic, a Franciscan priest and another of the Graymoor hams. Father Vic was a young priest, just out of seminary. By then I knew my father’s arguments pretty well, and noticed that he was handling Father Vic very gently, withholding all his strongest arguments and using only weaker ones. I was tempted to “help” my father by bringing up some of the stronger points but held back. He obviously had a reason, so I kept quiet and waited until we were in the car on the way home to ask him why. My father replied,
“Son, Brother George has been in the monastery for 30 years. His faith is rock solid, so I was able go after him at full strength. But Father Vic is new. If I had gone after him at full strength his faith might have been shaken, at least for a few minutes. I do these debates for sport, not for blood. I don’t want to introduce even momentary doubt, let alone doubt that could persist and undermine his priesthood.”
Another lesson in charity for me.
The Radio Station
During my next visit Brother George brought me up to the chapel where Father Vic showed me around the station, and pointed out its main antenna, which was mounted on the side of the chapel. As I looked at the antenna, I realized it was nearly impossible that it should be located there. The roof was so steep it did not seem that a man could possibly walk on it, especially with the constant wind at the mountaintop. At the same time, it was impossible to have installed it using a ladder, as the ground on that side sloped steeply down away from the chapel.
I asked Father Vic how he had installed the antenna. He told me that he had gone out on the peak of that very steep roof, made his way to the end of the building, and hung over the edge as he installed the antenna. I remarked that there was a breathtakingly high risk that he could have fallen off the roof to his death on the rocky ground below.
Father Vic explained that his objective in setting up the station at the highest location on the monastery grounds was to have a “2 meter” radio signal that would reach hundreds of miles in all directions and evangelize the surrounding area. He knew he could die painfully in the effort, but said that if so he would go straight to heaven as a martyr. He said that just before beginning the effort he had gone to Confession and then celebrated Mass, so that if he fell his soul would be shining clean and ready for Christ. I was impressed beyond words. This man believed. I was Jewish then, and would remain Jewish for nearly 30 more years, but I knew that the Catholic Church must be very important if this priest in his brown Franciscan habit was willing to risk his earthly life for it.
My favorite amateur radio experience from those days was meeting the hams at Graymoor. But there were many hundreds of lively experiences. I’ve been a licensed amateur operator for more than 50 years, though now I’m no longer active.
“I Love You”
God gave me beautiful Irene as my companion on our lifelong journey on Calvary Road. Marrying her in 1967, the year the old Met was razed, was my Cana moment Jn 2:5. It ended the days of my youth, and set me on a long journey toward Rabbi Yeshua. Along the way I remembered Robbie Jazwin, my Polish Catholic friend from decades ago, and the Heifetz-Toscanini Mendelssohn Violin Concerto, silent markers placed in my path, to be noticed decades later.
A few weeks before we were married, I happened to be reading a Dear Abby column. I considered Abby a women’s columnist, but on that particular day I had time to kill and only a newspaper to read. A woman had written to Dear Abby in great distress. She had been married eight years, and her husband never complimented her on anything. She tried to cook his favorite foods, she tried to be appealing to him every way she could, but there was never a compliment. If she did something that displeased him he would tell her so in great detail. She was at wits end.
I got angry with her husband. Here he had a wonderful woman who was trying so hard to please him, and all she asked was a little appreciation. I resolved on the spot that my own bride-to-be would never know that feeling even for an instant. I would tell her “I love you” one million times over the life of our marriage. After a while I sat down and figured out that it would add up to 55 “I love you’s” every day. Whenever we were together I told her “I love you” every five or ten minutes. I really expected that at some point she would say, “I know you love me and I’m glad but we have other things to talk about.” She never did. She loved to hear me say it, and would smile and say, “I love you too.” Over time I came up with all sorts of signals so I could tell her I love her while we were shopping, at gatherings, even in church.
For example, when we ate at home she would try various recipes and ask me how I liked them. She was capable in the kitchen and usually I enjoyed everything she fixed for me. But every once in a while one of her experiments didn’t quite work out. When she asked me how I liked it, I’d say, “I enjoy everything you prepare for me because you prepare it, but there are other meals you prepare that I enjoy even better.” She understood.
From the first day to the last I always ran my household the same way my father had, putting Irene‘s needs above my own whenever I could, and explaining why when I couldn’t. It was a Jewish tradition before it was a Catholic tradition, and it helped me prepare much more easily to live a Catholic life.
And it was fun. My favorite restaurant cuisine was Chinese, Irene‘s was Italian. After I would announce my decision to take her to an Italian restaurant she would say, “You’re the man, you make the decision!” I’d say, “I just did. I love to see your beautiful smile much more than I like the Chinese food.” She would say, “I’m very happy for that, but you also should decide sometimes for your preference.” I did once in a while, but mostly I’d go for the Italian. When she saw that she started asking for the Chinese food as her preference, so I moved to about 50-50. Then she started saying, “I really, really prefer Chinese tonight.”
It became a husband-and-wife game. There was no way to go wrong. If she asked for Italian I’d always take her to Italian. If she asked for Chinese, sometimes I’d take her to Chinese because that’s what she asked for, and sometimes to Italian because that’s what she most enjoyed. Of course, there were many other restaurants, Mexican, American, Vietnamese, I’d take her to because we both enjoyed the variety, but that was always the game. Either way we were always telling each other in that way among many ways, “I love you.”
Soon after our marriage, Irene asked whether I’d like to see the Mass she attended every Sunday morning. I knew it was important to her, so I said, “Sure, I’ll be happy to go with you.” At that time the Latin Mass was still the Mass. Irene‘s uncle Frank was an usher that day, so he made sure to tell the pastor that there was a young Jewish man in an end pew who would probably appreciate an explanation of the Latin Mass. Since the younger priest was celebrating that day, the old pastor came up to the balcony to help me understand. However, he approached the man in front of me and asked whether he’d like an explanation of what was going on. The startled man was obviously a longtime parishioner, since he knew exactly when to stand and sit and kneel, but he could only say, “Yes, Father.” I was pretty sure the explanation was meant for me, but was very concerned not to embarrass Irene so I decided to listen closely to the explanation but that silence was my safest path. Irene, sitting beside me, was aware of all this, but she didn’t want to embarrass the venerable old pastor so she too remained quiet. It was the first Mass I’d ever attended, and the only Latin Mass I ever attended before my baptism.
I often like to go back in memory and reflect on how God led me step by step toward the Catholic Church. Each step had had a purpose that was discernible in reflection. This one impressed me at the start of my married life with Irene on the awesome beauty and power of the Mass she attended every Sunday morning. She was visiting Jesus!
My beautiful Irene always prayed that someday I would be baptized into the Catholic Church, but patiently accepted that I had been born a Jew and would probably die a Jew. Irene’s deeply Catholic faith, in the context of my early experiences with Robbie Jazwin, with Graymoor, and with her own quiet but similar determination to get to Sunday Mass no matter what, together showed me, as if they were a chorus from Handel’s Messiah 4:22, that the Catholic Church must in some sense be God’s representative on earth.
My beautiful Irene negotiated international treaties, so during our career years she was often overseas for a week or more at a time. At such times, I liked to walk from our home in northern Virginia a half mile to a local shopping plaza, where I would buy a newspaper and something to eat, really just parts of the very pleasant walk, and then walk back home. Midway between was Irene’s parish church. I had taken that walk many, many times. As I walked I would always think about something, a conversation I was planning to have with someone, a conversation I’d had with someone, where I would take Irene to celebrate her safe return home from overseas, but always something.
The First Call
Then, one day in 1986, I began the walk and was startled to notice a blanket of peace over me. I couldn’t think about anything. Then I heard an interior voice say gently,
“I love you. I have always loved you. Come home.”
I knew that somehow it was coming from Irene’s church. As I continued walking toward the church it became stronger. When I passed the church the voice became weaker, and by the time I got to the shopping plaza it was gone and the blanket of silence lifted. I immediately wondered what this could be. A book I’d read long ago? A conversation I’d had with someone? I searched my memory for every possibility and found nothing.
Five More Calls
I thought it was over, but during my walk back home the same thing happened. I said nothing to Irene when she returned, but on her next trip the same thing occurred, in both directions, and again I let it pass without responding. Then, on her third trip, it happened again, both ways. At that point I began to think of, “Samuel! Samuel!” 1 Sam 3:4 and wondered, “Could this be a call from God?”
My Initial Reaction
I didn’t want to say anything to Irene until I was more certain, but I told her I was curious to know what she believed as a Catholic. She was always extremely perceptive, and immediately realized that something was stirring. She immediately prayed silently for guidance, and the Holy Spirit led her to understand that she should respond to what I asked for but to let me set the pace.
She brought me the books I asked for, enrolled me in a parish inquiry class I asked for, and answered my questions. At the end of the inquiry class, as Easter Vigil approached, the deacon who was teaching it asked who wanted baptism. All eyes were on me, because I’d asked so many questions in the class, but I said no. By then I knew Irene would be concerned for my soul and wanted very much for me to be baptized. I already felt more Catholic than Jewish but kept wondering whether I was doing this for God, or to please my beautiful wife. It had to be between God and me.
God’s Final Call
The call did stay with me.
After each silent winter, March is the month when trees and flowers begin their annual renewal. One March day, walking on the Ellipse in Washington, DC, I prayed,
“Father God, for 46 years I’ve been a Jew for you, but now I’m sensing a call into the Catholic Church. Father, I’m yours, but Catholics worship Jesus. If you give me to Jesus I’ll go happily, knowing that in serving Jesus I’m serving you. But if you don’t give me to Jesus I’ll remain yours as a Jew. Show me your will, Father God, and please, let it be so clear that I will not be racked by doubt.”
The instant I dropped my eyes from heaven I saw a vivid vision of Jesus walking beside me, dressed in a simple brown shepherd’s robe but transfigured, clothed in the purest white light. I had just enough time to think, “Oh my God, I never expected an answer so soon or so vivid, but this is it!” Then I felt the same blanket of peace that I’d experienced three years earlier, and heard the same interior voice, this time saying,
“I love you. I have always loved you. Welcome home.”
It was exactly the same statement, but with one syllable added. Instead of “come home,” it was “welcome home.” Oh my God, I felt that I had to be friendly, appreciative, say something worthy of so great a moment, but couldn’t think of anything.” Then I heard him again, “It’s okay. You don’t have to say anything. I know. I understand.” I thought, “Yes Lord, but I still have to be friendly and appreciative.” Again he reassured me, and again I struggled to say something worthy of the moment. Finally, Jesus smiled and said, “Clear enough?” I remembered that I had prayed for a clear revelation. My tension broke. I smiled and said with enthusiasm, “Clear enough, Lord Jesus!” At that moment the vision disappeared.
My Final Response
I hurried home as fast as I could. Irene had arrived back from an overseas trip an hour earlier, so she was already home. When I walked in my first words to her were, “Irene, call your priest. I want to be baptized now! She asked what happened, and I told her. She called her parish. I’m certain the Holy Spirit set it up. The parish had three priests serving seven thousand parishioners. Appointments were usually weeks ahead. But we got in to see the pastor, Father Sal Ciullo, within minutes!
We hurried over. Father Sal asked, “What can I do for you, my son?” I said, “Father, I’d like to be baptized.” He asked, “What led you to this?” With a voice on fire I told him. He said, “You’re ready. Boy are you ready! When would you like to be baptized?” At that point the Holy Spirit spoke for me. I was about to say, “How about right now?” But I heard myself saying, “Father, you know so much about this faith and I know so little. What’s the most appropriate time for me to be baptized? At that point Easter was only a few weeks away so he said, “Easter Vigil Mass.” I asked why then, and he replied, “On Easter Vigil Christ died for us and rose anew in glory. You will die in your sins and rise anew in Christ.” I said, “Father I love it. Yes, Easter Vigil. Write my name on your calendar!” He assured me, “Oh, we don’t forget things like this.” I told him, “Father, I’m not getting up out of this chair until I see you write my name on your calendar for baptism.” He smiled and wrote my name on his calendar.
First Mass Together
When we reached the last pew in the back Irene started to go in and sit down. I asked her, “Where are you going?” She said, “This is where I always sit.” I replied with one word, “sat,” and continued walking toward the front of the church. Irene had been long accustomed to her favorite pew, but she was so happy her husband was finally in the church, wherever he wanted to sit was fine.
She asked me, “Where are we going?” I said, “I want to sit up in the sanctuary beside the altar so I can watch the priest consecrate the Host as close-up as possible. They won’t let me do that so I’ll be satisfied with the first pew.” She said, “All the way up front?” I said “Yes” (we’ve been front pew Catholics ever since).
Baptism Into Christ
“We saw once more the grandeur of something which we take too much for granted in our daily lives: the fact that God speaks, that God answers our questions; the fact that, with human words, he speaks to us personally. We can listen to him; hear him, come to know him and understand him. We can also realize that he can enter our life and shape it, and that we can emerge from our own lives to enter into the immensity of his mercy.”
He had put into concise words an experience that I had sensed every day since I entered the Church. My first book, How We Communicate: The Most Vital Skill, had been published right about the time of my baptism.
A few weeks after my baptism I was sitting in my living room. A copy of How We Communicate was on the coffee table. I began to reflect on my extraordinary journey into the Church and I prayed, “Lord Jesus, you did so much to lead me into the Church. There has to be a mission. Whatever it is, I’d like to get started. Tell me, Lord, what’s the mission?” I distinctly heard in an interior locution, “Communicate my Word as far and wide as you can.” It was an echo of his command for us all, “You shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria and to the end of the earth” Acts 1:8.
I replied, “Lord, I’ve only been a Catholic a few weeks. How can I communicate your Word? He led me to look down at the book and replied, “Of course you can. You wrote the book on communication!” He had me. But I said, “Lord, you gave me a gift for communication, but how will I know what to say?” I interiorly heard him smile as he replied, “Moses had the same concern.” He brought to my mind the memory of Moses’ protest against his mission and God’s response, “Now therefore go, and I will be with your mouth and teach you what you shall speak.” Ex 4:12. I replied happily, “Okay Lord, we’ll do it together!” That was the “You shall receive power …”
Paul’s Journeys, My Journeys
Soon after that, at the office where I worked, I discreetly began several conversations about the Faith with friends in various parts of the building. My supervisor noticed that I left the office from time to time without explanation. He thought it might be related to my recent baptism, but he knew that my work was always done on time, I never left when he might need me, and I was never gone too long at any one time, so he wasn’t concerned. I answered many questions about the Catholic faith, and was leading several people toward the Church.
On several occasions I didn’t know the answer to a question, but felt that admitting it might compromise the faith the person had in me. So I would pause a moment and pray interiorly, “Jesus, need some help here right now!” And I found myself giving an explanation I myself had never heard. The first few times it happened I hurried home afterward and checked with my beautiful Irene, whose Catholic knowledge was rock solid, and discovered that the explanations I gave were always right. Jesus was keeping his promise!
I was excited about all this and began to ask Rabbi Yeshua to send me more people to teach. Soon after that more people began seeking me out. That happened two or three times, until I had more people than I could handle discreetly while still making sure my office responsibilities were met. Then I prayed, “Lord Jesus, I can’t pray for fewer people and I can’t sustain this pace much longer. Now what do I do?” Again I sensed a smile as he replied interiorly, “Pray for a flock you can handle.” I said, “Okay Lord, I pray for a flock I can handle.” Soon afterward several people stopped calling me, and the situation settled down. After a time I prayed again, “Lord, you did it! You gave me a flock I can handle. But why did you first overload me?” His answer, as usual succinct, interior, and gentle, was: “I want you to see that I answer your prayers.”
God’s Gifts for My Vocation
Soon after my baptism, Irene and I had starting attending an adult-ed class at our parish church a quarter mile from our home. Art Benedetti, a devoutly Catholic friend of mine, told me that I really needed to go to a class taught by Deacon Frank Earley at a parish about seven miles from our home. I told Art that we liked our parish teacher and he was within walking distance, so why should we go to one seven miles away?
Art kept insisting. “You have to go see Deacon Earley.” Finally, one day, when Irene was overseas, I thought, “I’m alone this evening anyway. I’ll go to Deacon Earley’s class, then I can tell Art I attended one of his classes, we like our local guy, so buzz off. I got there about 45 minutes early as Art had recommended, and was startled to see that half the seats were already taken. A half-hour before the class began every seat was taken. When Deacon began his talk I was astonished. He had a depth of knowledge far beyond what our local teacher had, and was lively and expressive in explaining everything.
It turned out he was a special assistant to Father Hardon. He traveled to the Vatican with Father Hardon on most of his trips, so he knew all the Vatican cardinals. He had an encyclopedic knowledge of all things Catholic. On one occasion when a student raised a question Deacon Earley answered, “Holy Mother Church has never formally ruled on that, but last time I was in the Vatican I discussed that very subject with Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, and he said …”
When Irene got back I told her, “Honey, you have to see this Deacon Earley, He’s awesome.” She said, “What, you too?” I said, “Next week we’re going to Deacon Earley’s class. After that, if you want to go back to our local parish, we’ll both go back.” That week we went, and at the end of the class Irene said, “Wow, yes. He’s our teacher now.”
Deacon Earley’s Vatican knowledge came in handy on another occasion. By then the demand for his classes had so increased that he was teaching both morning and evening sessions. Once, during a Saturday morning class, a student mentioned that a few days earlier he had heard Pope John Paul II was dying, and wondered if Deacon knew anything about it. Deacon Earley said he would have heard by now if anything was seriously wrong, but just the same he called up a Vatican Cardinal he knew and asked how the Holy Father was feeling, that we had heard rumors. The Cardinal replied, “Well, I saw him a few hours ago, dressed for outdoors, on his way to the Tatra Mountains for a skiing trip.” Deacon Earley returned to the class and assured us that the Holy Father’s health was robust.
Deacon Earley, Irene and I became friends, and met often outside of classes, but the Catholic Church was always the dominant subject of conversation. He soon decided to introduce me to Father William Most, a world-class Scripture scholar and theologian who was then in residence at Deacon Earley’s parish. Father Most and I enjoyed each other. He added still more to my teaching, and read my Second Exodus book manuscript to be sure it was entirely orthodox.
When I asked Father Most a question, I didn’t articulate the question itself. I’d simply name the book, chapter, and verse. Father Most knew the entire Bible from memory and could recite it in Hebrew, Greek, Latin, English, and several other languages. On hearing my question he would recite the verse in English for me, anticipate the question, and answer it!
After I retired from my career, Father Most and I were separately asked to teach at a two-week seminar at Marytown, the National Shrine of St. Maximilian Kolbe. I was to teach the first week, Father Most the second week. Father Most was delighted that he and I would be sharing the teaching. He happily told me, “Now, if you get any Scripture questions you can’t answer, just tell them to wait a week and ask me.”
After a time, Deacon Earley and Father Most agreed that I should meet Father John A. Hardon, SJ. They arranged for Father Hardon to be invited to their parish, and there introduced me to him. When Pope Paul VI needed a rock steady catechism fast to stabilize the Church after Vatican II, he asked Father Hardon to write The Catholic Catechism. When John Paul II asked Mother Teresa to teach her sisters how to catechize their patients, he asked Father Hardon to be her spiritual director and catechist. Father Hardon was also one of Pope John Paul II‘s closest friends. I was awe-struck at meeting him, but he quickly put me at ease. We were just a couple of Catholics on our pilgrim journey to heaven, each of us in the vineyard where Jesus had planted us. I told him that, more than anything in the world, I wanted to teach the Catholic faith for the rest of my life. He heard the excitement in my voice and took me in as one of his small band of disciples, thereby becoming my first great mentor. When my first Catholic book, Second Exodus, was ready to be published, both Father Most and Father Hardon wanted to write forewords for it, and it was published with both forewords!
The Most Humble Priest
Father Hardon was the most humble man I’ve ever met. Once, when I arrived at a Marian Catechist annual retreat, Father Hardon, who was the retreat master, saw me and said, “Marty! I’m honored you’ll be with us!” Stunned, I said, “Father, I’m honored! You’re Father Hardon, author of innumerable books, friend of the pope and all the Vatican cardinals, fire starter for Catholic projects all over the United States. I’m only Marty Barrack, who just got his first Catholic book published.” He smiled and said, “Well, I’m still honored by your presence with us.”
Never Waste a Heartbeat
Father Hardon was incredibly focused on his priestly mission. His motto was, never waste a heartbeat. He insisted that in eternity there is no change; this life is our only opportunity to become what we hope to be for all eternity, and it could end at any moment. He wanted to celebrate Holy Mass, hear Confessions, celebrate the other sacraments, teach the Faith, offer spiritual guidance, and always, pray. That’s it. When we his disciples were with him we always tried to take him to great restaurants where he could get healthy and delicious meals, but he always wanted to go to McDonald’s. When we asked him why, he explained that eating in a restaurant was time taken away from the road to Calvary since nobody was actually acquiring sanctifying grace. He had memorized the McDonald’s menu so he could be in and out in ten minutes.
Whenever Irene and I had the privilege of driving him from one of his talks to the airport I would pepper him with Catholic questions which he always answered gracefully. On one occasion on the way to an airport I ran out of questions, and shifted to small talk. Father Hardon waited a minute or so to see what I was leading up to. When he realized I wasn’t going to ask another Catholic question he interrupted and asked how much farther it was to the airport. I told him, “About 20 minutes, Father.” He immediately said, “Good. Just enough time for a Rosary and an Angelus. Will you join me?” He knew the exact timing for a great many prayers and had quickly put together a combination that would profitably fill our remaining time together. We finished the Angelus at the very moment we had to drop him off.
Father Hardon was serious about “never waste a heartbeat.” He once told Susan Schoenstein, his principal secretary, that he had a pain. Susan, a retired nurse, immediately realized that it might be a serious matter and wanted to take him to see his doctor. Father refused, not wanting to spend time on anything that didn’t confer grace. Susan insisted, and finally got him there. When the doctor walked in and saw Father Hardon he asked, “What’s wrong?” Father was feeling a bit waspish by then and replied, “Nothing’s wrong with me. That woman made me come.” The doctor turned to Susan, who gave him a clear medical description of her observations. The doctor then said, “Yes you do have an ailment, and I’m glad Susan brought you here.” At that point Father became docile and let the doctor do his job.
Father Hardon’s Prophecy
We had moved to our home in rural northern Arkansas in 1996, in the firm belief that God had called us there. The following year I was with Father Hardon during a retreat when he told me in a prophetic voice,
“Make every decision for the rest of your life on what would be best for your Second Exodus Apostolate. You will never know its true importance because that will come after you pass into eternity.”
I was certain this had come directly from God.
On the way back to Arkansas I discussed with Irene what we could do to put Second Exodus front and center in our lives. The first decision had to be what location would be best for the Apostolate. We took two weeks off and drove around the country looking at likely locations, and eventually came up with Front Royal, Virginia. We told our friends only that we were going to take a drive around the country as a private retreat, but told no one the true mission.
Soon after we got back Irene experienced a medical difficulty. She wanted to see a specialist we knew to be a devout Catholic so, even though he was 75 miles away, she set up an appointment with him. No one knew we were going there.
While we were sitting in his waiting room, the doctor came out of his treatment area and walked directly toward Irene and me. We were startled, but I began to introduce myself. “Hi, I’m …” He interrupted, “I know who you are. You’re Marty Barrack. You wrote Second Exodus. You think you’re here because of your wife’s problem. It will be easy to fix and I’ll take care of it. But you’re really here because I have something to tell you.” Then he turned around and went back into his treatment area!
When we went into one of his treatment rooms he swiftly took care of Irene’s ailment. Then he turned to me and said, “Now for why you’re really here. God doesn’t want you to move to Virginia. He led you to Arkansas because he wants you to live in Arkansas!” Stunned, I asked him, “Do you mind if I test your prophecy?” 1 Thes 5:21. Anyone who objects to a test does so from pride and is certainly not a prophet, but the doctor answered correctly, “You should test it. When you do you’ll see I’m right.”
He had already proven himself a prophet by knowing who I was and about our travels. But the prophecy itself remained to be tested. I decided to put our home up for sale, but to sell it ourselves. We prayed to God that if he wanted us to move to send us a buyer, as we would need cash to buy a home in Front Royal, but if he wanted us to stay in Arkansas, to block everything and not send us a buyer.
I already had the Second Exodus web site up, so I made a page just for the sale, with beautiful photos of our home, our excellent parish church, and the surrounding wooded hills, with detailed descriptions of everything. Then I wrote some newspaper copy, and bought ads from a company that had Catholic newspapers in San Diego, Los Angeles, and San Francisco.
When the advertising woman saw my newspaper ad that prominently highlighted my web page address, and then looked at the page, she said, “You’re going to have your place sold an hour after this ad hits the street. Your asking price is a tenth of what most houses here sell for. And you have an orthodox and enthusiastic parish. Our cardinal archbishop is heterodox, and we’re all starving for orthodoxy. I’m going to call you up the day before the paper hits the street. When it does, stay home. You’re going to get phone calls all day. Many of them will make you offers well above your asking price, hoping to be sure to get it. You just write down each one’s name, phone number, offered price, and whatever else you like. At the end of the day, pick the one you like best, call him up, and tell him to send you a check and you’ll send him a deed. It’ll be that fast!” I thanked her for all her help.
When Irene and I woke up the next morning we prayed, “Okay Lord, it’s time. If you want us to move, let it be as the woman said. If you want us to stay, block everything.” We stayed home all day, and no one called. At first we wondered whether the newspaper distribution had been delayed, but we stayed home all week and no one called. It certainly looked as if God was blocking everything, but I was determined to be sure. I kept the monthly ad running for five months, and in all that time no one called to even ask about our home. Finally, I shut down the ad, took the web page down, and understood that God had sent us here for the rest of our lives.
The Marian Catechist Apostolate
On April 5, 1997, at a national meeting of the Institute on Religious Life, which Father Hardon had founded, Father Hardon described a new apostolate he was forming for the spiritual and doctrinal formation of Catholics, the Marian Catechist Apostolate. Irene and I with Deacon Earley were there together at a table. When Father Hardon‘s talk ended, Deacon Earley, Irene and I immediately went up and told him we were ready to sign up as soon as he was ready for us. Pure joy!
Father Hardon believed that Marian Catechists, because of their intensive spiritual and doctrinal formation, should write extensively on the Faith to share their formation with many others. At the time, commercial book publishing was very competitive for writers. Father Hardon wanted to have a Writers Apostolate within the Marian Catechist Apostolate that would help Marian Catechists publish their work.
At the time, Father Hardon had a monthly teleconference with his inner circle, where we discussed various issues relating to the projects Father had assigned us. Father Hardon described the Writers Apostolate he had in mind and asked for volunteers to run it. At the time I was the only published author in the group and would have been happy to run a writers apostolate, but Father had just told me to make every decision for the rest of my life based on what would be good for the Second Exodus Apostolate. To my mind, that meant leaving all my available time open to work on Second Exodus, so I kept quiet.
During the 1999 national meeting of the Marian Catechist Apostolate, Father Hardon gathered us into a big room and again raised the idea of a Marian Catechist Writers Apostolate. Still mindful of my promise to commit all my resources to Second Exodus, I tried to look like wallpaper. It worked for a few minutes, but then someone said, “Marty Barrack would be perfect for a writers apostolate.” Father turned to me and said, “What about it, Marty?” I didn’t want to discuss my promise in front of the whole group, so I said, “It’s an interesting idea in principle, Father. Let’s discuss it offline and explore what might be involved.” Father had started a great many Catholic projects and was extremely gifted at overcoming objections. All he said was, “That’s not the question I asked you, Marty.” I said the only thing you could say to Father Hardon when he was looking for help. “Yes, Father, I’ll be happy to do that for you.”
For a while I was working mostly on advising each individual, but Rabbi Yeshua always lights the way. I wrote extensive guidance on how to get a book, magazine article, even a letter to the editor, published. Since the Marian Catechist Apostolate didn’t have a web site yet, I posted the article on my Second Exodus web site, and made sure every Marian Catechist knew about it. The flood of queries reduced to a trickle, and I could once again devote most of my time to Second Exodus.
After Bishop Burke took over the Marian Catechist leadership, I began to realize that the Marian Catechist Apostolate needed a web site. I approached Bishop Burke with an offer. He was delighted, so I built a site for the Marian Catechists. Since I was the author of both the Marian Catechist and Second Exodus web sites, it was easy for me to move the Writers Apostolate onto the Marian Catechist site. About seven years later, my declining health made it necessary for me to ask Mrs. Knothe, the National Coordinator, to find someone else to run the Marian Catechist site.
The Marian Catechist Writers Apostolate continued for a few years longer. I knew the entire book publishing industry had vastly transformed by then. Many small publishing firms had opened up that were happy to produce and sell books for all comers at reasonable cost. More important, most people worldwide had switched from using paper books to the Internet as their primary source of information, and many new online companies were happy to put any author’s book online.
Rabbi Yeshua gave me a perfect opportunity to test the new approach. I had just completed a new book to replace the Second Exodus book as the centerpiece of my apostolate. As I was just about ready for my third foray into finding a commercial book publisher it dawned on me that I was already finding most of my own information online. I decided to move my entire apostolate online including the new book, Eternal Israel. It worked beautifully. All anyone else had to do was Google “book publisher” and get all the information he needed. I kept the Writers Apostolate going for a while to make sure it was easy for everyone, then I approached Mrs. Knothe, the Marian Catechist Apostolate National Coordinator, explaining why the Writers Apostolate was no longer needed. She agreed, and together we officially disbanded it. However, I still wanted to have some guidance on Second Exodus so I wrote an updated New Evangelization page.
Rabbi Yeshua had strongly reinforced what I already knew: Trust Rabbi Yeshua! At first it seemed that the Writers Apostolate would inundate me and make it much harder to work on Second Exodus. But by being willing to take it, trusting the Son of God, it all came together, and a lot of good Catholic writing got published.
Father Hardon’s Fiftieth Anniversary
Irene and I were also present in Detroit on June 18, 1997, the fiftieth anniversary of Father Hardon‘s priest-ordination which was also his 83rd birthday. It is not widely known but, mindful of his never waste a heartbeat imperative, he had intentionally arranged for his priest-ordination to be on the same day as his birthday. He knew people would want to celebrate his birthday and his ordination, and decided it would be better to spend one day on celebrations rather than two. Father Hardon declared that day during his homily,
“I know Pope John Paul II too well not to be able to tell you he sincerely believes two things: that the twentieth century has been the most sin-laden century in human history, but he also believes the twenty-first century will be the most grace-laden, the holiest century in the history of mankind.”
When Father Hardon was ready to pass into eternity during year the Jubilee year 2000, I became a disciple of then-Bishop Burke. We had many excellent private conversations; his guidance was extremely helpful.
Cardinal Burke spoke in 2010 on Father Hardon at Mundelein Seminary. The Cardinal’s subject was, For the Greater Glory of God: The Lasting Legacy of Father John A. Hardon, SJ 1:06:13 He opened by remembering the April 5, 1997 meeting of the Institute on Religious Life. My second great mentor in the Faith was remembering my first one. Pure joy!
I’ll pass over our many conversations together, including all his bountiful help on the Second Exodus Apostolate. He read most of Eternal Israel line by line. Our last face-to-face conversation was at the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe in La Crosse in 2012. My health was failing, and we knew this would be our last face-to-face conversation. Neither of us wanted to end it, but a Vatican Cardinal’s time is metered out in five-minute units. Finally, as we both looked at our watches and knew the time had come, I said, “Eminence, a question of ecclesial courtesy?” He said, “Of course.” I said, “Is it appropriate for a layman to hug a Cardinal?” He smiled, said, “For you it is,” and gave me a big hug.
As Irene and I reached our 60s we began to think about how much longer we would be able to get along on our own. We followed Church teaching on procreation, but Rabbi Yeshua sent us no children. Irene saw that most of our friends were our own age, and probably wouldn’t be able to take care of us in our old age. She wanted us to move into an assisted living apartment.
I had tremendous respect for Irene‘s intelligence and powers of observation, but I had to say no. Rabbi Yeshua had sent us to the tiny rural community where we lived, and when we tested whether he want us to stay his answer was unmistakable: stay! I told her we would stay there and that Rabbi Yeshua would take care of us. After a time, he called Irene home. I was alone, and really had no idea how Rabbi Yeshua would take care of me. I knew only that he called me here, that he would take care of me here, and he has.
I live on a rural northern Arkansas hilltop, far from the big cities where I grew up and lived my career. The view from my south-facing windows looks over seven miles of scenic country hills. The little structure protects a statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
God called me to this beautiful and peaceful place, and here I will stay until he calls me home. I’m well past 70 now, and after an extraordinarily colorful life I’m committing the rest of it to this web site as a gift to Rabbi Yeshua that will live after me, God willing for a very long time. And of course to thanking him for all that he has given me Lk 17:17–19. “Thank you Jesus, glory to you, Lord!”
I’m a Jew. Always will be. Jews love bargains, and I found the best one of all. Rabbi Yeshua, also a Jew, said, “Salvation is from the Jews” Jn 4:22. And, oh boy, does Rabbi Yeshua know how to offer a bargain. Look at it: “Every one who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven” Mt 10:32. I’m acknowledging him as fast as I can. I evangelize inquiring Jews, Protestants, Catholics, consecrated religious, priests, bishops, everyone. But when I meet Rabbi Yeshua face to face I will absolutely follow the Blessed Virgin Mary‘s timeless advice, “Do whatever he tells you” Jn 2:5.
The Catholic Church is Rabbi Yeshua‘s road to eternal joy in heaven 1 Cor 2:9. She has three great states: The Church Militant, also called the Barque of Peter, sails in this life across the centuries of salvation history. The Church Suffering serves the souls in purgatory. And the Church Triumphant rejoices in heaven proclaiming Rabbi Yeshua‘s glory to come.
I’m a soldier for Rabbi Yeshua in the spiritual war, a joyful warrior. Joyful? Yes, there is joy in the Church Militant. We are trained to fight like sheep because we know how sheep can be more powerful than the strongest tigers 2 Cor 12:10.
I have crossed the line. I am finished and done with earthly life for its own sake. I no longer need prosperity, promotions, or popularity. I won’t look back, slow down, back down or be still. I lean on Rabbi Yeshua‘s presence. I live, love, and write in the power of his sanctifying grace.
These days I walk slowly with a cane, but my pace toward heaven is fast. My road is narrow, my companions are few, my mission is clear. When I eat in a restaurant, often alone, I always ask Rabbi Yeshua to bless all the food in the place, on my plate, on everyone else’s plate, on the buffet, in the kitchen. I won’t give up, shut up, let up or slow up until I have stayed up, stored up, prayed up, paid up, and spoken up for Rabbi Yeshua.
I am a disciple of Rabbi Yeshua. I am a Catholic. I will go until he comes, give until I drop, speak out until all know, and work until he stops me. And when Rabbi Yeshua returns for his own, he will see the Holy Spirit’s fire in my heart Acts 2:3.