Sunday, March 24, 2019

Something Like a Near-Death Experience: What is the true meaning of life in general and my life specifically? Conversion of Atheist Jewish Harvard Professor (re-written)

They have sought Me that before asked not for Me, they have found Me that sought me not. I said: 'Behold Me, behold Me,' to a nation that did not call upon My Name.
[ Isaias 65:1 ]

The conversion of atheist Jewish Harvard business professor Roy Schoeman began soon after he had reached a crisis point, where his life had lost all meaning. The bottom fell out happened despite his stellar academic achievements: he attended M.I.T. undergrad and became a Harvard professor at the age of 29.

Although raised Jewish, he no longer believed in the Bible or God.

While stressed and distressed, he was wandering one morning through the peacefulness of nature, trying to find comfort, when he received, without warning, “the most spectacular Grace,” as he puts it.

“The ‘curtain’ between earth and Heaven disappeared and I found myself in the Presence of God and like a very intimate conversation with God: seeing my life and experiencing my life as I would see it after I died and looked back over it in the Presence of God.  And I saw instantaneously how I would feel about everything after I died.”

He was shown two major things: how much time he had wasted lamenting how little he was loved, when in fact God’s Love was there all around him; and “all the time I had wasted doing things that would be of no value in the eyes of Heaven.”

He had spent his life accumulating piles of what he dubs “monopoly money” — academic standing, awards, all that impressed human eyes, Mammon — “when right next to it was a pile of gold coins, which of course would be merit in Heaven. I saw how foolish it was to be greedy for things that wouldn’t do me any good at all.”

He saw that Heaven cared about the essence of life, not the minutiae, whereas a place like Harvard is oriented toward the minutiae.

It was a shocking wake-up call.

Schoeman also learned that everything that had ever happened to him, including and even especially suffering, had been “perfectly designed” by “the Hands of the all-knowing, all-loving Almighty God.”

The purpose of life, he saw plainly and so suddenly, so startlingly, “was to worship and serve my Lord and God master Who had revealed Himself to me.”

He saw this world fade into the real world of the supernatural: “like looking through a gossamer veil or seeing through a curtain at a theater," when the house lights are turned out with the stage lights turned on and one can see the actors on the stage. He was given to see there is a thin veil between the physical world and eternity.

Roy Schoeman, a man from the suburbs of fast, worldly New York, a star of academia, teacher of business to students earnest to become rich which left him feeling desperately unfulfilled and alone, burdened with an existential crisis, miraculously came into the intimate knowledge that not only did God know his name, but He had lovingly watched him every moment since conception: every trial, every emotion, every thought as if he were the only person in the world.

Schoeman prayed “to this God Who was so incredibly present, to let me know His Name, so that ‘I know what religion to follow to serve and to worship You properly.

"'I don’t mind if You are Buddhist and I have to become a Buddhist; I don’t mind if You’re Krishna and I have to become a Hindu; I don’t mind if You’re Apollo and I have to become a Roman pagan; as long as You’re not Christ and I have to become Christian.'"

That, the Harvard professor did not want.

It took hours for him to come out of the experience.

He could no longer cared much about teaching business at Harvard, which was worldliness to the core that left him empty inside.

For the next year, his prayer each night would be to learn the Name of His Lord and Master and God.

A year to the day Roy began his prayer, “I went to sleep and I thought I was awoken by a gentle hand on my shoulder and led to a room and left alone with the most beautiful young woman I could ever imagine.

"I knew without being told that it was the Blessed Virgin Mary.

"When I found myself in her presence, all I wanted to do was fall on my knees and [honor] her appropriately. In fact, the only thought that crossed my mind was ‘Oh my God, I wish I at least knew the Hail Mary to honor her,' but I didn’t.

“I was just overwhelmed — overwhelmed, just lifted into ecstasy — by her love, and as beautiful as she was to look at, more effective was the sound of her voice.

"When she spoke, her voice was like what makes music music — the essence of music! — and with it was a love that just flowed through all of my fibers and lifted me up into an ecstasy.”

In her Heavenly voice, the Virgin offered to answer any questions Roy might have.

He asked what her favorite prayer to her was.

At first she said all prayers. But when he persisted in getting a more specific answer, “she relented and recited a prayer in Portuguese, and I remembered the first syllables phonetically and the next morning I wrote them down; and later when I met a Portuguese Catholic woman, [I] asked her to recite all the Marian prayers in Portuguese so I could identify them. To the best of my ability, I identified it as, ‘O Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee'," the prayer of the Miraculous Medal.

When Schoeman asked Who the Holy Spirit was, Mary looked upward “with eyes melting with love and said, ‘He’s His gaze.'” 

What title did the Virgin say she liked most?

“I am the daughter of the beloved Father, mother of the Son, and spouse of the Spirit."

All of us, any of us, could feel this intimate connection to God's love if we pray (as St Louis de Montfort susinctly puts it:) "for the purpose of knowing the truth, and receiving contrition and pardon for our sins." Without knowing those words exactly, that is what Schoeman was praying in his heart: his worldliness, his sin in seeking the world and ignoring God, had left him empty, and he was looking to detach his heart from his past life and turn towards the truth of God, Who is the deeper and more real reality that alone can satisfy the human heart.

Because Roy's intention was sincere, and because God is infinitely merciful, God had mercy on him and led him to the joy of knowing God. God will do this for us, too, if we pray, every day, even after we have received some revelation, until the day we die, "for the purpose of knowing the truth and receiving contrition and pardon for our sins."

That is the way God mercifully showed the atheist Jewish professor that the intricacies of Catholicism, including Marian devotion, are trueand constitute the true religion.

Only in God (and not the "monopoly money" of worldly success) do we find true life and true peace and true meaning.
Schoeman is now Catholic.

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