The Messy Quest for Meaning

Five Catholic Practices for Finding Your Vocation
Foreword by: Karen Sue Smith
$4.00 $14.95

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Format: Paperback

Publication date: April 23, 2012

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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. Realize 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.

Product Details

Pages: 192

Trim size: 5.5 x 8.5 inches

ISBN: 9781933495323

Imprint: Sorin Books

  • “Moving story.”

    The Messy Quest is not a career-guidance handbook, but something more profound, more foundational. … The book draws overtly on Catholic teaching. Yet, non-Catholics (perhaps especially non-Catholics) might find that this moving story and the process (Martin) chronicles resonates with them. In each chapter, he tells of his life and his discovering of various Catholic mystics and activists, and shows how seekers can integrate the wisdom of the saints into their own journeys of faith.”


  • “Highly recommended.”

    The Messy Quest for Meaning is a strong pick for self-help collections, highly recommended.”

    Midwest Book Review

  • “A prolonged conversation with a wise mentor.”

    “The experience of reading Stephen Martin’s The Messy Quest for Meaning is like that of a having a prolonged conversation with a wise mentor, who in response to your droning on about your angst-filled career hand-wringing, tells you stories about how he, and others, have wrestled similarly. Your situation, he communicates, is not so unique, it’s actually very typical. We can take great comfort in the fact that others have hoed this row and have shared with us the lessons reaped.”

    The Englewood Review of Books

  • “Very beneficial.”

    The Messy Quest for Meaning will be very beneficial to people who are looking for help in determining their professional vocation or their calling in any area of life. Although Martin bases his points on Catholic practices, he masterfully explains the five steps in a way that non-Catholics can also apply them. Trying to understand one’s vocation or calling is not unique to any particular belief system, and Martin’s information will be valuable to anyone searching for guidance and encouragement in his or her own messy quest.”?

    ForeWord Reviews

  • “A gently helpful book.”

    “Stephen Martin reminds us that, although we may feel mired in the muck of daily details, God calls us to be about God’s holy work. And, surprisingly, even at those times when we can least be expected to, we answer. I am as fond of the phrase ‘messy quest’ as I am of this gently helpful book. Martin reassures us that the messy side of life can be a cleanly spiritual place to live.”

    Valerie Schultz
    Author of Closer: Musings on Intimacy, Marriage and God

  • “Practical wisdom.”

    “This memorable book speaks directly to the seeker in each of us, offering practical wisdom for moving deeper into our callings.”

    August Turak
    Entrepreneur and Grand Prize Winner
    John Templeton Foundation Power of Purpose Essay Contest

  • “Tangible and appealing.”

    “Making sense of a world so permeated with shallowness, brutality, and random misery takes more than courage. It takes wisdom born from experience and clarity of thought wrung from a hard-earned moral compass. Stephen Martin displays both in The Messy Quest for Meaning. With a journalist’s flair for storytelling and a monk’s contemplative sensibility, Martin charts a path that Catholics and non-Catholics will find tangible and appealing.”

    Justin Catanoso
    Author of My Cousin the Saint

  • “A welcome gift.”

    “This hopeful book will be a welcome gift to anyone still sorting out who God is calling them to be.”

    Tim Muldoon
    Author of Longing to Love

  • “Full of real struggle, not pat answers.”

    “With great intelligence, wisdom, and humor, this book confronts the sheer terrifying freedom of having too many choices of what to do with our lives. . . . unfailingly honest and full of real struggle, not pat answers.”

    William T. Cavanaugh
    Professor of Theology
    DePaul University

  • “Do yourself a favor and read this book.”

    “What distinguishes this book is Martin’s new, refreshing voice. Do yourself a favor and read this book.”

    Karen Sue Smith
    Editorial Director

  • “Invitingly honest.”

    “Invitingly honest, often provocative, and unfailingly useful . . . a boon to anyone who seeks answers to questions of vocation and identity.”

    Rev. James Martin, S.J.
    Author of Between Heaven and Mirth

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