Posted October 13, 2010 in My Story:
Choosing to Be Third (Part 2)

by Patrick Stewart.

In part 1 in our September issue, Patrick told us about his life as a highly successful officer in the U.S. Navy who was lost in the culture of death.

By the time my naval service was nearing completion, I was probably an alcoholic as well as a workaholic, and I was hooked on the drugs of codependency and seduction. I was also in a long-term, unmarried relationship.

My parents knew this, and unbeknownst to me at the time, they and a priest friend made a pilgrimage to Fatima to pray for me.

At about this time, most likely as a result of their prayers, I had another encounter with the mercy of God.

After a long Saturday of clearing brush on a piece of land I owned in the hills of southern California, I was relaxing at my condo in my outdoor Jacuzzi. As I sat, a cold beer in hand, tending to tired, sore muscles, I had a sudden and very unsettling sensation.

It was as if everything that I had striven after in the previous ten years—my much awarded naval career, my condo, my sports car, my beautiful property, and my long-term relationship—was all meaningless. It felt like my insides suddenly spilled into the hot swirling water.

When you finally get what you have long sought and find it to be dross, oh that is a terrible moment! Christ was knocking at the door of my heart and, in my depths, I knew he could give me real life. But once again, I turned away from him.

I would get serious about God, I told myself, when I turned fifty. Ri-i-i-ght!

A year later, just days after I turned 33, my parents and their new assistant parish priest were conspiring, once again, for my soul.

I flew from California for a two-week Christmas vacation with my family. I was just six months away from leaving the navy and was intending to start a new career in southern California.

Fr. Phillip just "happened" to stop by for a visit with my parents on my first night home. Though I liked him instantly, I quickly decided that I would have nothing to do with him. My fallen spirit knew he wasn’t safe.

But despite my intentions, I phoned him a few days later, and we went out to lunch. That was the beginning of several intense days of visiting. I ended up telling him my story and confessing years of sin.

In addition to giving me sacramental absolution, he presented me with three gifts that helped open the door of my heart to the beginning of true conversion.

He told me that, despite all the wretchedness of my life, my family still loved me, the Church’s doors were open wide for me, and the Lord had always and would always love me.

At 11:00 p.m. on December 31, 1986, with Fr. Phillip at my side, I committed my life to Jesus Christ on the altar steps of my family’s parish church.

Once many years before, as a child, I had knelt before a television screen during a Billy Graham tela-revival and pledged my life to Jesus.

Much more importantly, when I was an infant, my parents and godparents took me to the baptismal font where I died and rose again into the life of Christ, into the heart of the Holy Trinity.

But now, as an adult, I chose to let the power of my baptism and the graces of the many moments when God had entered into my life, even in my deepest death of sin, take hold of me, and begin to reshape me into the me that God had intended for all time.

I returned a few days later to the west coast to begin the painful process of ending my seven-year relationship and to finish out my last six months in the navy.

What can be done with new, on-fire converts? Some say they should be locked away for the first few years!

One of the other senior officers on my ship was a born-again Christian. Between the two of us, we had direct access to 800 sailors, and we tried to share the joy of Christ with every one of them. It’s a wonder that we weren’t thrown overboard!

However, God used me despite my in-your-face enthusiasm. Through us, a few sailors heard about Jesus for the first time, and a few others began their journey back to the Lord.

I met wonderful men during those six months, men of good will and beautiful hearts. I had worked side-by-side with many of them before my conversion but had never caught sight of their goodness.

I rediscovered our Mother Mary on that trip, and she has helped me through some testing moments since.

In August of 1987 I left the navy, my California friends, and most of my possessions and returned to my parents’ home in North Carolina.

That fall, while studying philosophy at Duke University, I met three marvelously eccentric and holy ladies of the Madonna House Apostolate in Raleigh.

They were living a simple life of prayer and hospitality in a poor neighborhood. I was deeply touched by their love of the Lord and the Church and by the love they so easily shared with me and so many others, and through them I ended up going to MH Combermere as a working guest.

(My unenthused parents and spiritual director thought I should be heading to the seminary instead.)

To make a long story short, I spent ten months there and a few years later, in 1990, I returned to become a member of the community. I am now the director of one of its mission houses, Marian Centre Edmonton.

How does all this connect with "I am Third," which I talked about in part 1 of this article?

Through living in Madonna House, I have discovered that, though it takes a lot of struggle, there is nothing more beautiful on this side of heaven than a culture of life, and that culture is guided by men and women who love God first, their neighbors second, and themselves, third.

Do I love myself third yet? Am I third in my own heart? Only God really knows. But if you asked me if I want to be third, I’d say yes, yes, yes. With all my heart, that is what I want.

The End


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