Failure to Commit

"It is love alone that gives worth to all...

“It is love alone that gives worth to all…” _ St. Teresa of Avila

Sometimes a failure to commit is telling us something quite different than what we usually take away from the experience. For instance, in my case, I have a long history of these events and they have carried over in life to the present day.

While attending Long Island University in Brooklyn back in the 60’s I had a desire to get my degree in philosophy and eventually teach at the college level. However, as a philosophy major, I blamed the philosophy courses and especially the teachers for being second rate at best. So, using the wisdom of my twenty some years of life, I changed majors to English Literature and after a few more years of boredom quit college to pursue my real attraction: worldly distraction. It was a fall not unlike that of Adam. Strike one, for failing to commit. The question which I now pose to you is, was the fault in someone else or within me?

After bouncing around New York, earning rent and food money driving a cab, it struck me that it would be nice to follow my latest dream of being a blues guitar player. With guitar in hand I left for Boston. So I entered Berklee School of Music and pursued music along with some very talented people. But once again, I failed to commit. My excuse this time was that I just wasn’t good enough to continue this dream. The way I looked at it, was this: if I were an artist, my genius would most likely be in painting pictures of Elvis on black velvet with glow-in-the-dark colors. So whether or not I had the talent is not the question anymore because, for all my excuses, Berklee had accepted me into their musical studies program. Therefore, in their opinion, I had the ability to succeed. Strike two, for failing to commit. So I was back to driving cabs again; this time for many years. Was that failure based on lack of talent or lack of motivation or just plain sloth?

God had a plan to rescue me and I almost failed to commit here as well. But thankfully I did commit to my wife of thirty-four years who I fortuitously met while earning a meager living as a cab driver. Well it was about time that I committed to something. Halleluiah, for commitment number one! Was this commitment made because I saw the imperfections in my wife or in myself that would destine us to failure? Obviously not. True love it seems, makes the imperfect, perfect. It heals the wounds of life while making the impossible, possible. We become blind to any obstacles that might stand in our way.

Well life proceeds and I earned a living selling industrial products, becoming adept in electric motors, solenoids, transformers and industrial fans, to name a few. It supported my family a whole lot better than driving a cab and took me all over the country. I committed to a career in life which was made not because I loved selling and loved what I did but because I loved my family and their well-being. This commitment was also made for love and not for my own fulfillment. Another lesson to be learned.

My wife was a Catholic and I was a ‘nothing’ at the time we met and married. I had always been interested in religion but again, I could find nothing that I was willing to commit to or fully have faith in. I was a fallen-away protestant.

Years before I met my wife I had become a lover of Buddhist writings, especially in Tibetan Buddhism. But I did not get Buddhism: it was for an Eastern mind and that was just too abstract from my nature. However, some Buddhist writer, who I cannot remember, suggested to his readers the works of St. John of the Cross and St. Teresa of Avila. So I read Dark Night of the Soul by St. John of the Cross as well as another Catholic Book he suggested; The Cloud of Unknowing which had been written anonymously. Both of them are on Catholic mystical prayer. They had more impact on me than I realized at the time because I read them through the spectacles of Buddhist thought.

Years later, my wife was raising our children in the Catholic faith and as a dutiful but unbelieving father I would accompany them to Mass on Sundays. It was during this period, inspired by the Franciscan Monks who were the pastors of the church I attended (which looked like a Spanish mission from the Middle Ages), I began to read again the mystical writings of Catholicism. My reading accelerated as I became convinced of the truth of what I read. God tested my commitment by delaying my entrance into the Church by almost 3 years as I watched with sadness the old Franciscans, who were becoming a bit senile, forget that I was even getting religious instructions from them. So I awaited a new pastor and after he got his footings in his new assignment, I again started the whole process anew with him. Yes, maybe I can form a new habit of commitment after all: this was commitment number three. I had committed to read about the faith, to go through with the sacraments to gain membership to the faith and to abide as best I could, to the teachings of the faith.

My intentions and my desires, however, were not to merely be a pew sitter. I wanted more. I wanted what St. John of the Cross and St. Teresa of Avilla had: a real substantial union with God while still in my human condition. In other words, I wanted to be a saint in this life; to enter by the “narrow gate.” My desire drew me to Carmel and to spiritual retreats given by traditionalists who said Mass according to the Missal of 1962; which is sometimes referred to as the Tridentine Rite or the Extraordinary Rite. I attended classes for the Third Order of Carmelites or OCDS. Once again, I saw my interest wavering. I judged everyone and everybody and only saw an order that did not live up to what I had imagined in the writings of the Carmelite Saints. Was it the Order that was changed by the modern world or was it me, once again? I could not commit and therefore retired to my own hermitage hidden within my family life. Strike three, you’re out!

Apparently not in God’s game of baseball. We get many balls to hit and many strikes that we take while we just watch them cross the plate, right in the sweet spot, without even taking a swing.

So here I am, still drawn to a life of prayer, to which I am not willing to commit. I pray but I am no prayer warrior. I am weak and suffer from the capital sin of sloth. My inabilities to commit in life always show me the same things should I care to watch and listen: commitment comes from love and sacrifice not just because we want it. Pray for me, that Christ might increase my faith, my hope and my love: and that through this increase find the courage necessary to make a sacrificial commitment to Him through my prayer and all my actions. Commitments are sometimes hard to make and even harder to keep. Pray for me, as I also pray for thee.__ a favorite form of ‘goodbye for now’ from my old and honorable friend and mentor, to whom I simply refer to as Monsignor. May his prayers from heaven have even more effect now than they did while he walked this earth.

20 thoughts on “Failure to Commit

  1. Awww, you are only human. But I understand you want more, as you should and we all should. I will pray for you.

    I do not think the Carmel thing was necessarily you. I do not know of course, but St. Teresa lamented the lax way of life in her own convents, and did not feel she could find God to the degree that she wanted if she lived as they lived. People could have said she was judging as well, but she just wanted more.

    I definitely think that when people grow lax it weakens the amount of graces that they receive. I do not think it is judging to see that and call it for what it is.

    Now if you were sitting there thinking, “all these people are in sin,” then that would be another story.

    I will pray for you. It was an honest post with some very humble thoughts on your own life.


    • As I have begun doing, I appreciate from the bottom of my heart those who have chosen me for a variety of awards, but . . . and I am honored by all who have nominated me . . . I prefer that they be given to others. The reason, purely self-serving, is that I find them a distraction from my writing. I do not wish to even have the thought flash before my mind that I need do this or that in my posts to gain what I feel I have no right to anyway. My writing first and foremost needs remain spontaneous and at times painfully wrong if it is going to improve my meditations on the items God places before me as a written task. This, my good friend, is how I pray. Writing can be a meditation without knowing where it will take you. This is how I can be more like our good and faithful servant, the Catholic Nomad: a pilgrim simply taking one step at a time and not knowing where the next one might lead. Thank you again and I do hope you are not disappointed by my boorish behavior. Also, I have not forgotten my commitment to you to write more apologetics, its just that I have taken a detour on my journey for a little while. God bless you and your family.


      • Boorish behavior? Nah. There was nothing crudely insensitive in your reasons for refusing the award. On the contrary, your reasons make sense and were well stated. No boorishness.

        And no disappointments. I understand why you do not wish the reward, and I can respect that. I just hope you take my offering the reward as a compliment.

        God bless you as well.


  2. You can count on my prayers. But, you can’t see the forest for the trees. That beam in your eye is a mere speck. I see these posts as great prayers to God and His Church. A.M.D.G. day after day after day.


    • When was the last time you got your eyes checked? I think its time for a new prescription. But thanks anyway. I’m sure you already know that you and your lovely wife are in our prayers as well.


  3. Great post! I will keep you in my prayers. In order for God to work for you and within you, you must fully trust him.

    I also attended LIU in Brooklyn several years ago. The online world just might be as small as the offline world after all.


    • Thank you. It is a small world. I’ve seen some recent photos of the campus and so much has changed from the time attended. Thanks for the prayers. We can’t get enough of them. I will also pray for you Jade. May Christ be ever in your heart.


  4. I think you underestimate yourself. To be blunt you have a gift for conveying the faith via the written word which is something God has granted you in order to bring His good news to others. Plus, you are blessed to have a wife with an in-depth understanding of the faith. A very Catholic Power Couple!

    Think of all of the souls you impact in your instruction, here and at the Parish. How many people can say they help souls enter the Mystical Body? You are one of the few and my hat is off to you. My prayers for you and your family.
    Laus Deo


    • Thank you for that. I think many have perhaps read too much into the article however. My point of reference being myself, as I am the only one I can speak for, was used solely for the purpose to show that we need God’s grace to accomplish anything. That the simple prayers for more faith, hope and love, may one day help us in the task of making and keeping commitments that we are not doing at present. I’m no saint but most people aren’t either; but it does not mean that any of us have lost that opportunity as long as God continues to hold us in existence upon this earth. It was not an underestimation of myself, per se, just a real need for increased grace and a need to be realistic about my own failures. For our failures show a weakness; and the weakness usually resides in the will. Only love can motivate the will sufficiently to make the hardest commitments of all: dying to self. Without that information indelibly infused into our minds there is no hope of dropping the pose for the true inner experience that we desire. That death of ego must begin within us so that God can be allowed to live His life within our souls. He will not accept competition in this regard. Only a very strong love and desire to die to self to be reborn in Him will allow this to happen. Our prayers for one another are very beneficial for our advancement. My post has been getting a lot of the same type of reaction as though I were positing a pseudo humility or bemoaning my failures; that was not my intention. We all fail. We only need to have the will to get up again and analyze why we fail. My analysis is that commitments need a strong love and a strong sense of sacrifice. I should have spent more time in the writing and editing but I said what I said and I’ll live with that. Pax Christi and thanks for your kind words.


  5. In rereading what youve written I see your points. The death of the ego is essential in truly worshipping Christ. This is shared by the Desert Fathers and Teresa of Avila as well as John of the Cross.

    I feel compelled to share my story to show how Christ can move a rotten soul to love via the Universal Church. One day I shall and you’ll be the model I use.


    • I’m glad you’re starting to see what I really wanted to convey. Later today I plan to release a follow-up post on humility. What we all come to see, if we examine ourselves ‘in conspectu Christi’, is that we can revel in nothing: not even if we are a John of the Cross or a Teresa of Avila. We are also living in our wretchedness and only Christ is Good. It is He alone that we can come to love sufficiently to allow our wills to die to self so that he might transform us into images of Himself: the way God wanted us to be (an ‘imago dei’).


  6. Pingback: Living In the Presence of God « Servus Fidelis: the faithful servant

  7. Is it possible that your non-commitments were the will of God? Perhaps God wanted you to be a cab driver for a while and then stumble around waiting for your vocation of marriage and then your commitment to the Catholic Church. You are blaming yourself but God’s will be done. I, of course, will pray for you and ask that you pray for me. I’m always impressed by the quality of your writing and the points that you present. I find you an excellent ambassador of the faith.


  8. Pingback: Living In the Presence of God - News for Catholics

  9. Pingback: Living In the Presence of God | News for Catholics

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