Ed. This article first appeared in The Hebrew Catholic, #80,
From the Spiritual Wisdom of Charles Rich
By Ronda Chervin, Ph.D.
One of the most fascinating Hebrew-Catholics of all times was Charles Rich (1889-1998). Born in Hungary in a Jewish village similar to the one in Fiddler on the Roof, Charles was noticed by the rabbis as an extraordinarily religious boy. He loved to stay in the forests to pray alone. His father joined one of the many waves of Jews who went to America to seek better opportunities. After establishing himself in New York City, he sent for the family.
This was the beginning of a very dark time for Charlie. He found it impossible to be close to God in the teeming city and among the strict legalistic rabbis he had to study with. Eventually he lost his faith. He worked as a waiter and went every day for 8 hours to the 42nd Street public library searching world literature, philosophy and religion for the God he had lost. Eventually he fell into despair and tried to commit suicide. Three times he tried; three times he failed, being rescued the last minute.
Feeling even more of a failure, one day he went into a Catholic Church. Jesus spoke to him directly from a painting telling him that He was God and to trust in him. Instructed by the Jesuits, Charlie became a Catholic and then a lay contemplative, spending hours and hours of the day rapt in prayer. Catholics seeking a deeper prayer life were attracted to him, especially Jewish converts such as myself.
Quite a number of books of his thoughts and meditations have been published under titles listed at the end of this article. Recently a collection of his unpublished sayings and writings has become available. This is the first in a series of excerpts chosen from that treasure that I thought would be helpful for Hebrew Catholics in our spiritual journey.
“It is Christ and nothing but Him that’s worth desiring and coveting in this world and this infinitely more passionately than the miser hoards the gold that he can’t take with him to the grave.”
“To be a great artist you must know when to stop. One additional stroke might spoil everything. Without a brake a car is no good. If you keep on speeding you’ll wreck yourself.”
“God help you if you are ever satisfied in this world.”
“You must convert everything into prayer, like throwing scraps, by themselves useless, into a stew and making the stew richer. Every insignificant thing – turn it into prayer.”
“In regard to your spiritual life, you can’t get to the top floor without passing through the first floor.”
“People are unrealistic because they don’t like the truth.”
“Don’t be too systematic in the spiritual life.”
“God is the easiest person in the world to get along with.”
“The real test of faith is how you react when things happen to you unexpectedly.”
“Start to think right, then you will act right. But you won’t think right until you stop kidding yourself.”
“The Devil says “kill time,“because time, if it is not killed, can be used for spiritual advantage.”
“You can lose everything else, but you can never lose God.”
“There must be annoyances because life itself is an annoyance.”
“The juice remains in the lemon unless someone does the squeezing. That’s why God allows others to hurt us.”
“You can’t change the world. Christ couldn’t. The world breaks the heart of its lovers. It lifts you up, then lets you down.”
“You cannot depend on a human being. The only one you can depend on is God. There is happiness in this life, but people make the mistake of depending on it.”
“Look forward to disappointments. That’s how you get rich spirituality. Another day, another dollar. Another day, another grace.”
“You have a cross. You mistake your cross for a problem, so you try to solve it. But it can’t be solved. That is your problem!”
“Try to see the good that people accomplish. See the good and disregard the little things. Make a bargain – never let a little thing interfere with the greater good.”
“The cross is the bread and butter of spirituality.”
“We are like rubber balls pushed under water and coming up again. Don’t ever stay down.”
The rosary takes you out of time – like going out of the city into the country.”
“There are as many different sanctities as there are saints.”
“If it was good for you to feel better, God would make you feel better, wouldn’t He?”
“Nothing is worth worrying about. You can always have God – day and night.”
“How can you build a new house unless you get rid of the old house. This body has to die.”
(Hoping things will get easier?) “The only time things will loosen up is when your soul is loosened from your body.”
“I am anxious to get out of this world so the scope of my activity may increase.”
“People look forward to a vacation. Why not look forward to heaven. It is a grace for which you must ask – the longing for heaven.”
“I am a Jew and I never let an opportunity go by to make a sale. I mean I always do business – business for God.”
Ed. More about Charles Rich can be found at http://friendsofcharlesrich.com/home.htm
Books by Charles Rich
Autobiography The athor’s journey from Judaism to Catholicism, drawing on the literature and lives that inspired him.
Refelections A collection of his meditations, some of which previously appeared under the pen name of Paul Davidson.
Saint John of the Cross Charles Rich “had a very special affinity to St. John of the Cross… He knew him by heart!”How to Become Really Rich Contains a facsimile of Charles original and annotated notes on the Song of Songs.
Books about Charles Rich by Ronda Chervin
Hungry for Heaven Introduces reader to Charles Rich, “who radiates Christ with all his heart and mind and knowledge …”
Holy Dybbuk “Ronda presents excerpts from many of the letters written to her by her dear friend Charles Rich.”
Letters for Eternity A sequel to Holy Dybbuk.