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'My Eyes Were Opened'

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He walked out on the secular world of business (and a lot of money) for the Lord. Marian Helper Alan Napleton, a parishioner at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Catholic Church in Keller, Texas, and founder of the Catholic Marketing Network (CMN), shares his story.

Scripture tells us that after the Lord struck Saul from his horse on the way to Damascus and blinded him, Saul went to Damascus where his "eyes were opened" (see Acts 9:18). That has always been one of my favorite passages from the Bible because, in a way, the same thing happened to me nearly 30 years ago.

Growing up in a small town in Pennsylvania, everyone in our blue-collar family knew how to work hard. My immigrant grandfather had spent over 40 years in a western Pennsylvania coal mine. He taught my father to work, and my father in turn passed the lesson on to my siblings and me. Although I was the first of the family to graduate from college, I did so working my way through school.

Finding I had an aptitude for business, I began to climb the corporate ladder with a job I loved. We built and managed commercial real estate and had an extensive portfolio all over the country. One of my responsibilities was to oversee some of these assets, and I was visiting one of our office buildings when I had my "Damascus experience."

Hold on, let me back up a bit and explain what happened to me when I was a young child that had a great deal to do with my coming back to the Catholic faith. We were raised Catholic, and although we never missed Mass, faith was not discussed much at home. I attended the local Catholic grade school, which, like most parochial schools in the 1950s, was staffed with Catholic sisters. It was in this school that one of the good sisters told our class the story of the Fatima apparitions that was to later change my life in a profound way.

I didn't know it at the time, but I received a special grace when I heard the story. Mesmerized by Our Lady's visit to three young children who were about my age at the time, I was given the grace to know immediately that the story was true and that Our Lady had caused a great miracle to take place. I also was fascinated that secrets were involved and that one of these was to be revealed in 1960, or so I thought in my young mind.

It's funny, but when Christmas came in 1959, I was not very interested because I thought for sure that when we returned to school in the new year, the first thing we would be told would be the big secret! Of course, this didn't happen. The secrets weren't mentioned, life went on, and I grew up. It was 30 years later that I found myself in that office building performing an audit with the building manager. We were at her desk going through the budget when my eye caught sight of a little pamphlet with the picture of Our Lady of Fatima on the cover. I recognized the picture immediately, and when I asked who the pamphlet belonged to, the manager said she didn't know and that I was welcome to it. I put the pamphlet in my shirt pocket until that evening when, in my hotel room, I pulled it out and began to read the story of Our Lady of Fatima. It was at that moment "my eyes were opened." My life changed immediately and dramatically.

It was as if I was back in grade school because, once again, I knew the Fatima story was all true. Our Lady had come down from Heaven, given the three Fatima children important messages, and performed the great "miracle of the sun" that tens of thousands witnessed. I knew at that moment that I was a child of God and that I was not leading a life pleasing to Him. I had stopped going to Mass, knew little about my Catholic faith, and was probably on my way to perdition, although my business career was a success and I was making more money than I knew what to do with.

I decided then and there to leave the corporate world and spend the rest of my life serving Christ as best I could. Like each of us, my spiritual walk has been unique and not without its ups and downs. Still, leaving that job was without a doubt the best decision I've ever made, and the Lord has blessed me in many ways. Although I didn't know how I would serve Him, He has since given me many tasks that have put me in the company of many wonderful and holy people.

Over the past three decades I have worked on a number of projects, and it was through the Catholic Marketing Network, an organization I founded 22 years ago, that I first met priests of the Marian Fathers of the Immaculate Conception and became acquainted with their work to spread the message of Divine Mercy. CMN is a consortium of Catholic publishers, so my first introduction to the work of the Marian Fathers was through their publishing arm, Marian Press. Last year, while visiting the National Shrine of The Divine Mercy, I was talking with the Marian Fathers about some bookstore-related work when they asked me to help coordinate the North American Congress on Mercy that was held in Houston this past October. It was a wonderful gathering and a blessing for me to be involved. Now, I've been asked to take on some additional projects, and I'm thrilled to do so!

I'm drawn to the work that is being accomplished by the MICs and their many volunteers. I love spending time at the beautiful Shrine, and the Divine Mercy devotion is now an important part of my spiritual life. I am happy and blessed to be part of this work as a Marian Helper!

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Berdie57 - Apr 10, 2017

I also was graced through the Blessed Virgin Mary, when I made my first Holy Communion in 2nd grade. It was such an honor when out of a class of about 35 girls, I was one of two chosen to carry in my clasped hands the ribbons from the pillow that held the crown for the statue of Mary in our annual May Procession. May you continue to be blessed through Our Lady of Fatima and thank you for sharing your story!

Marianne - Apr 1, 2017

So blessed to know Fatima to be true and have Mary guide you to her and her beloved son.