My parents are German Jews who fled from the Nazi holocaust and settled here in the U.S. I was born and raised in a middle class suburb of New York City. Growing up I was quite religious, but drifted away from religion when I went to college—first to M.I.T., where I absorbed the hip scientific "we know better than to believe in God" philosophy.
Despite worldly success my life felt irrelevant, meaningless. When I suffered some reverses in both my professional and my personal lives, I hit bottom. It was at that point that the Lord gave me perhaps the greatest grace of my life. While walking on an empty beach, it seemed like I "fell" into Heaven. I directly felt God's presence and His love. I knew that He existed, that from the first moment of my life He loved me and watched over me, and that everything, every event which happened in my life was exactly the best thing which could possibly happen. I knew that everything I did—for good or for bad—mattered and was weighed in the scales. I knew that we lived forever, and knew that Heaven existed. I knew about the angelic hierarchy. I knew that this was not the picture of God that I had from the Old Testament. I prayed to know the name of my Lord and Master, my God. I prayed "Let me know your name. I don't mind if you are Buddha, and I have to become a Buddhist. I don't mind if you are Apollo, and I have to become a Roman pagan. I don't mind if you are Krishna, and I have to become a Hindu. As long as you are not Christ and I have to become a Christian!" So He did not reveal His "name" to me...
From that moment on I knew the meaning and purpose of my life was to worship and serve my God. I knew that when I died I would regret two things—every hour that I wasted in the eyes of Heaven, and all of the energy I wasted worrying about not being loved when every moment I was held in a sea of love without knowing it. But I had no idea of who He was, of what religion this was, of "how" to worship Him.
About a year later I had a "dream" of Mary, in which she spoke to me and offered to answer any questions I might have. When I woke, I knew that the initial meeting had been with Christ. I still had no idea of the difference between the Catholic Church and the other forms of Christianity, and I still had an aversion (based on the typical anti-Catholic stereotypes) to the Catholic Church.
A few months later I found myself in the French Alps on a ski vacation. After several days of dreary rain I decided to take a day trip in my rental car to the La Salette. I decided to visit it simply because it sounded like a beautiful, isolated spot, and saw the sanctuary glowing in a hollow, surrounded by massive mountains and deep snow. Much to my surprise, I found out that it would be possible to stay there, so I made arrangements to spend the night.
I never expected to find myself staying at a Marian shrine. Yet the deep peace and the palpable love which flowed from the spot enveloped me and drew me into a quiet joy and contentment at being there.
A snowstorm and a mishap with my rental car prevented me from leaving when I planned, and forced me to spend most of the remainder of my vacation there. The time was spent walking in the mountains, thinking about God and about my life, praying, and sleeping—a lot! In fact, most of my time there was spent napping. When I would try to get up, I would feel myself gently pushed back into a delicious, healing sleep. I remember forcing myself awake after one nap, only to fall back asleep into a dream in which a car was on a lift in a garage, being worked on by a dozen mechanics. I was the car and the Blessed Virgin Mary was the shop supervisor, and she reprimanded me for trying to get off the lift while I was still being worked on!
It was a major overhaul! By the end of my stay I was hopelessly in love with Mary, and committed to living the life she and her son Jesus wanted for me. I knew that the Catholic Church was where Mary was to be found, was the Church created and sustained by Jesus.