My name is Michael Lambert.
I'm a twenty-five year-old Marine lieutenant stationed in Iwakuni,
Japan with an aviation support unit. I am single and have five
younger siblings. I grew up in rural Georgia in a very loving
Catholic family. I went to the Naval Academy in Annapolis, MD,
graduated in May of 1995, and accepted my commission in the Marine
Corps. Since then, I have served my country both as a world class
athlete and as a commissioned officer.
I was baptized and raised for the first five years in the Roman
Catholic Church, living in Atlanta. In 1978, my parents 'went
looking' for something that they had been missing in the big,
Gothic cathedral of Christ the King that they had both attended
since birth. Call it rebellion, disillusionment, or simply a flight,
they left the Catholic Church and Georgia, taking little old me
with them. We landed in the lap of my mother's uncle--Uncle Mac.
Uncle Mac pastored Church of the New Covenant, his own nondenominational,
charismatic church in sunny Southern California. The magnetic
enthusiasm of the prayer meetings and the instant identity that
came along with membership swept my parents off their feet. All
I remember is going to church for four hours on Sundays and getting
the 'gift of tongues.'
In 1984, we left the charismatic scene to come back to the Catholic
Church. One of my mother's brothers was a priest at the time;
he flew across country to give all of us kids the sacraments of
initiation we needed. I received my first Holy Communion at the
hands of my uncle, and I was officially back in the bosom of the
Church. Boy, I had no idea what I was in for!
Shortly thereafter, we moved back to Georgia, but an hour and
a half south of Atlanta, to a little town called Thomaston. Thomaston
is your typical small town in the South: generally God-fearing,
Protestant, very warm and pleasant, relatively crime-free, and
also very different from Southern California. Our parish was (and
still is) a small mission parish run by the Redemptorist Fathers
who live a half-hour north. Father Schantz, The priest assigned
there when we arrived in 1984, was a very holy, solidly orthodox
man. Only now can I begin to appreciate what he did for me. Two
tangible memories I have of him are both instructions: pray the
rosary and always ask for wisdom and humility. So, at the tender
age of thirteen, this man started me on my spiritual journey in
earnest. Of course, I didn't know it at the time.
Spiritually, high school was pretty uneventful. I tried to be
a good Catholic, but I was still a teenager. I had things more
important than church to occupy myself with.
So, off to the Naval Academy I went--full of purpose, determined
to be an admiral, and hoping that I wouldn't fail out. Well, things
went just fine, I suppose. I got the grades; I made the rowing
team; I advanced in rank, but somewhere along the line, it dawned
on me that I was pretty indifferent to it all. I came to the wonderful
realization that everything--both successes and failures--was
a gift from God. What freedom! Somehow, I had accepted the grace
of spiritual detachment that the Blessed Virgin so lovingly offered
me. Maybe it was a natural consequence of daily mass. Maybe it
was the fruit of much intercession for me from my parents and
Fr. Schantz. Who knows? It's all a big, marvelous mystery to me,
but somehow, I took those next few steps.
When I graduated, two decisive things happened to me. First, Deacon
Jim gave me a daily missal. Then, I carried out my orders to try
out for the U.S. national rowing team. I'll get to the missal
later. The first thing on my mind was making the national team
and going to Finland for the world championships. I quickly found
myself in a strange, new world, full of free time, free from seven
classes per semester, and minimally cerebral. I could finally
relax after four years of filling every spare five minutes of
every day. I put my Day-Timer away for good, and I began to look
I made the team, went to the world championships, came back, and
headed off for San Diego and the U.S. Olympic Training Center
that October. This was the big year. The '95 team was nothing
more than a trial run for the biggun, as we say in Georgia. The
Marine Corps said, "Lieutenant, go," and I went. I headed straight
across country and straight for the biggest event of my life:
(total conversion and change of heart).
I tried to hit the ground running when I got to the training center.
The other guys were all better rowers than I was. Everyone was
more experienced, but somehow, I did alright. Understandably,
I was pretty focused on making the team. Just under the surface
in the lake of my soul, though, something was swimming around.
I found myself reading a little spiritual material here, praying
a bit more there (at least for wisdom and humility). Since I couldn't
make mass every day like I did at school, I picked up that daily
missal that Deacon Jim had given me. I found the mass readings
and antiphons to be the next best thing.
Well, the training regimen kept up its grueling tempo through
the winter months and brought us nearer to the Olympic trials
in April. As we were gearing up for the preliminary screening,
I had my event. Quite possibly, one of the five most important
days in my life fell on February 22, 1996. I had just finished
the day's readings and flipped to the back of the missal. As I
thumbed through the 'Treasury of Prayers,' I came across one called
the Litany of Humility
. It caught my eye, as
I had prayed for this particular virtue for nearly half of my
life. As I went through the prayer, I felt a scary, strange, but
special attraction to this spirituality, because it expressed
many of the deepest desires of my heart: that I not desire
esteem, love, honor, or praise, and that I not fear
humiliated, rebuked, ridiculed, or forgotten.
Then comes the kicker. Really, I was doing fine until this point.
Out of my mouth comes the following prayer: "That others may
be chosen and I set aside, Jesus, grant me the grace to desire
Woah, Silver. Wait a minute. What did I just say? This
can't be right. I'm at the Olympic training center, trying to
make the U.S. team. Why did I just pray that I not get chosen?
This, my friends, is what you call catastrophic. In hindsight,
I call it a gift straight from the Immaculate Heart of my loving
mother--one intended to knock me straight down to the humus
(earth). It did its job. Oh, boy, did it do its job.
If you can imagine igniting a bunch of dynamite under a wooden
shack, then you can picture what happened to my soul. The little
house that I had built myself over the course of some twenty-two
years suddenly exploded. All of the perceptions I had, all of
the likes and dislikes I entertained, all of the goals I designed
for myself--in a word, all of my attachments--were instantly nothing
more than a cloud of rubble flying through the sky.
It took a solid month for the dust to clear and for me to start
assessing the 'damage.' What did I have left? What was the point
of all this? Where was I? Who was I? OK, God, what do I do now?
"Listen," came the quiet, but now very recognizable voice of the
Blessed Virgin Mary. "Wait for my Son, and listen. Empty yourself
That was pretty easy. My house had exploded, and there I was--sitting
on the humus
, the ground, the foundation of my being, and
all that was left of my fake house. My foundation had survived
the explosion. And I sat on it. I just sat there, confused, naked,
dazed, but somehow very free and expectant, blinking my eyes like
a newborn in the sunshine of a beautiful morning.
I have since come to realize why I sat there on the bare, rich,
musky earth: there were treasures buried in it. Hidden graces
lie within the foundation of my being--graces that I had knowingly
or unknowingly accepted earlier in my life. Wonderful mysteries
like the holy rosary, daily Mass, constant pleas for wisdom and
humility, my loving parents kept me from leaving my humus
the earth God gave me.
So I sat.
My mother, bless her soul, started sending me good, holy books.
Until this point, I had never had an interest in reading anything
other than the usual: Tom Clancy, Ken Follett, even some J.R.R.
Tolkien, but never any strictly spiritual works. All of that changed
I began on a good introduction to the Church Fathers by John Michael
Talbot, Meditations from Solitude
. From there, I went through
a little Teresa of Avila, some Thomas Aquinas, a good bit of Thomas
Merton's early works, and then St. John of the Cross. Particularly
fruitful were Merton's introduction to contemplative prayer and
then St. John's explanation of my dynamite: the dark night of
I didn't make the Olympics that summer, so I had to do some of
my Marine Corps training in Quantico, Virginia. I took my friends,
the saints, with me to The Basic School, and they tutored me while
I learned to be a professional warrior in both temporal and spiritual
warfare. Another military school followed this one, and I continued
to read, pray, and grow spiritually.
I then began the beautiful prayer of the Church, the Liturgy of
the Hours. The four-volume set was my 'big present' from my mother
at Christmas. What a gift! I discovered such richness, such depth,
such universality that only a divine, Mystical Body could manifest
anything like what I discovered in the writings of our spiritual
ancestors. And the journey took another turn. I started praying
the rosary again regularly, after having neglected it for four
[I must note here that this whole journey of mine was marked from
the outset by some unwarranted gift of submission to the Divine
Will. By unwarranted, I mean that I don't deserve such a sublime
gift. Really, nobody does, but I
especially don't. I have
done nothing, suffered nothing to merit it. Somehow, I have just
always preferred to do what God wanted me to do. Go figure.]
My little devotion to the holy rosary led me to stay after Mass
one Tuesday when I was passing through Maryland and had stopped
at the Naval Academy. A group started saying the rosary, and I
gladly stayed and prayed. After the rosary, they started saying
some prayers I had never heard before. I listened, wondering what
sort of group I had found. It turned out to be a Cenacle of the
Marian Movement of Priests. One man gave me his copy of the big,
blue book that contained all of the message Our Lady had given
all of her children through Fr. Stefano Gobbi.
Quite frankly, I was floored. I had never heard of people getting
messages from heaven. The closest thing I could compare it to
was Old Testament prophecy. Naturally, I opened the present Mary
gave me. The words were so compelling, I was motivated to new
heights of charity. I loved the idea of having an approved collection
of words that supposedly came straight from the Blessed Virgin,
herself. I then came across a few more modern mystics, most notably
Christina Gallagher, the Irish stigmatic and victim soul.
My next major step, however, lay right around the corner. I had
this little book that I had been carrying around with me, but
had never picked up for one reason or another. It was called True
Devotion to the Blessed Virgin
by St. Louis de Montfort--the
foundation for the Pope's Marian spirituality. I read it from
cover to cover in a matter of two or three days. This spirituality
seems to mesh perfectly with what God developed in me through
the contemplative prayer, and the mystical progression of St.
John of the Cross. Like a well-crafted puzzle, this piece slid
right into place, bringing the picture nearer to completion.
This discovery precipitated my Total Consecration to Jesus through
Mary according to de Montfort's formula. Shortly thereafter, Our
Lady tied me up with her Brown Scapular, so I would have an even
harder time leaving the protection of her loving embrace. It all
makes perfect sense, because she wants nothing more than to bring
us quickly into the waiting arms of her divine Son.
Shortly after entering the life of total abandonment to Jesus
through Mary, I came upon the final, the ultimate chapter
in mankind's relationship with his Creator. It is called the Kingdom
of the Divine Will. It consists of the (fully approved) revelations
recorded by a little Italian woman who died in Italy in 1947.
It is a very deep and truly sublime revelation. I cannot do it
justice with my poor explanation, so I'm going to be brief: it
is the fulfillment of the Lord's prayer, "Thy will be done on
earth as it is in heaven." When you really think about that, something
truly wonderful and magnanimous must
take place for a human,
walking the earth, to be able to do the will of God like the saints
and angels. It must happen sometime, though, because Jesus prayed
for it. It has now happened.
To finally address "Why I chose the Catholic Road to Jesus," I
had to first explain how I progressed to the point. Through a
gradual--and sometimes painful--process of self-abasement and
deferment to the will of God, the Virgin Mary has brought me to
embrace the fullness of her Son's Mystical Body in the essence
of the Roman Catholic Church. It is only now that I can say that
I am aware of what I choose to be a part of. Before February 22,
1996, I was a Catholic because I had been born into it. Since
then, I have come to realize that I am a Catholic because Christ,
Our Lord, made me to be a Catholic. It is who I am. It is the
fullness of who every creature was created to be. It is integral
personhood. Sadly enough, this great gift of complete communion
with Christ is not accessible to everyone. Soon, however, all
will be rectified. Until then, we must pray.