Faced with the prospect of a professional athletic career, a nearly-half million dollar salary, and a perfect lady, what’s not to like? Apparently, for Grant Desme, it was the noise and unrest of the world.
Can a culture of life and the noise and tumult of the marketplace co-exist? Rev. Robert Sirico, reflecting on this, says they can, so long as it is not a place where:
[C]apitalism…places the human person at the mercy of blind economic forces…What we propose, rather, is a free economy that puts the human person at the center of economic actions because the human person is the source of all economic initiative.
Grant Desme is a young man who seems to understand this type of freedom: the freedom to choose the life that God is calling one to, even if that means living a life that appears to be outside the marketplace. Desme had signed a professional baseball contract with the Oakland Athletics, but felt something was amiss.
All the success he craved left him numb. Desme would sit on the bench and talk with his teammates about God. He and Steve Kleen, a non-denominational Christian, engaged in deep philosophical debates long into the night. Desme wouldn’t proselytize, either; he was just there to talk, a father as much as a Father. And the more he thought about it, the more something occurred to him: “I’m getting more enjoyment out of this than hitting the home run I did the other inning.”
He left baseball behind for the quiet, regimented life of a monk at St. Michael’s Abbey in California. Now, instead of hitting homers and rounding bases, Desme’s life is taken up by scheduled prayer 10 times a day and manual labor around the Abbey grounds. He even gave up his name, and is now Frater Matthew (“frater” is Latin for “brother”, “Matthew” being the name the community bestowed on him.) Someone who understands Desme’s choice is Father Ambrose, of St. Michael’s, who chose the monastery over a Rhodes Scholarship:
“It’s sort of like the terrible curse of success…I thought, ‘Well, OK, I’ve got what I’m dreaming about. I’m still miserable. My heart is restless. So what does that mean?’ That restless heart – I had to tend to it in a way that before was about attaining something like the Rhodes Scholarship. When there’s still a restless heart, that requires a much more supernatural explanation.
“That’s how God speaks to young men and women in our culture: when the world and what it has to offer will never be enough. Young people want to be heroic. They want to do great things. Not just what the world tells them will be great.”
Of course, one might note that even the abbey is not a place completely removed from the marketplace, as they host an annual summer camp for boys, and sell a few books and CDs. And that’s the point that Fr. Sirico makes: in a culture centered on the human person, imbued with dignity and free will, the marketplace will be a fruitful extension, no matter one’s career choice or path in life. It is the human who chooses the market and invests in it not just money but values, not the market creating the human. Grant Desme – Frater Matthew – seems to understand that, from both sides of the abbey walls.