The Messy Quest for Meaning

The Messy Quest for Meaning


Author: Stephen Martin
Publisher: Ave Maria
ISBN: 9781933495323
Format: Paperback
Page Count:
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Drawing on lessons learned from Catholic monks and saints as well as his own experience, Stephen Martin has crafted five unique practices to help Catholics and other seekers grapple with life’s truly important questions and discover their calling in the world.

The Messy Quest for Meaning is one of the first books to tap into the wisdom of the Catholic spiritual tradition to help readers discern a vocation that will not only provide them with a livelihood but also just might help save their lives.

Martin first tells of his own struggle to find meaning and purpose in his life and then details the five transforming practices that he learned, over time, from the Trappist monks with whom he studied, interviewed, and prayed:

1. Follow your own desires and discover what really attracts you.

2. Hone in on what matters most to you and channel your passions.

3. Let go through an act of humility and accept where your desires lead instead of where you want to steer yourself.

4. Realise that you are not likely to find or to fulfill your vocation solely by yourself but that you need to find it in community.

5. Journey into the unexplored regions of your community and, even more significantly, your own heart, mind, and soul.


Stephen Martin is a speech writer, journalist, and award-winning essayist. He directs public relations and executive communications for the nonprofit Center for Creative Leadership. Formerly a business and education reporter for several daily newspapers, Martin co-authors a regular column on social innovation and entrepreneurship for the Raleigh News & Observer. His essays have appeared in America, Commonweal, Portland, and He holds a bachelor’s degree from Duke University and a master’s degree from the University of North Carolina-Greensboro. He and his wife Dawn and their two children live in Greensboro, North Carolina, where they are members of St. Pius X Catholic Church. He has his own Messy Quest website.


The first part of this book is largely biographical and tells of a young man’s search for something that will give a satsfactory meaning to his life; in other words, a vocation. After many vicissitudes, including a strange, stress-related illness, he emerges into a way of life that helps him to find that vocation. He then seeks to share with his readers some of the means by which he achieved this goal. These include a look at the lives of some famous people who found their true vocations and followed them wholeheartedly, and his study of the writings of Thomas Merton and of the ordered and focused lifestyle of Trappist monks. Finally, he writes of the importance of his return to the practice of the religion in which he was brought up – Catholicism. As the search for meaning seems to be central to the human condition, the reading of this book could provide some helpful guidelines, while at the same time giving us an interesting and often amusing account of someone else’s life and struggles.

Alexandra Irvine,


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