Clergy vocation stories make for some fascinating reading, because from a secular point-of-view, the religious choices that people make seem so out-of-whack with what people in every day society normally strive for. They normally are school, career, family, a house and onward. To chuck all that aside and instead voluntarily live a vow of poverty, chastity and obedience as well as service just does not seem like the norm. There is nobility in it, to be sure, but it is certainly not the norm. I have heard many priests say that it is a supernatural calling, one that cannot be fully analyzed or expressed, for it is an inner yearning that cannot be satiated by things earthly, no matter how hard one tries. And it is a calling that can reach out to all people, irrelevant of occupations and classes. Dolores Hart, as an actress, was no exception to the rule.
The Ear of the Heart is just one of those amazing vocation stories, because, in reality, all vocation stories are amazing in their own unique way. The Ear of the Heart, however, is not just about religious life. It’s about the tumultuousness and success that led up to it and of the wonderfully fruitful aftereffects of a vocation seen through. It is about so much more. In her youth, Dolores Heart was probably one of the most envied young women in America, gifted with beauty, talent, brawn and brains. An actress by training, she did have the natural beauty and elegant looks similar to that of the Hollywood starlet Grace Kelly. But for all that she was blessed with and all that awaited her in the entertainment industry and community, it just did not seem like it was enough. Coming from a broken family whose parents were really kids themselves and who seemed more interested in Klieg Lights and the word “Action” than they were in a typical 9 to 5 job, a little daughter to care for and a house with picket fences, Dolores Hart’s life was certainly not one of continuity and joyful family bliss. Family love was there, it just wasn’t stable. It was in constant flux with moves to different states with different relatives and different behaviors from one day to the next. But like her parents, she too found herself thrust into the backlots of Hollywood as a true up-and-comer. While she had always wanted to be a performer, the fact that it came true was a rare feat. She starred in a plethora of films with topnotch A-listers as well as Academy Award winners, Elvis Presley being her first. In her Broadway debut for 1958-1959 she was nominated for a Tony Award as Best Featured actress for The Pleasure of His Company, winning a Theatre World Award. Yet, for all the glamour, publicity, parties and globe trotting and later, even a fiance, there was that inner voice that kept insisting that the life that she was living was not the life she really wanted nor was one that was wanted for her. Stunned by a possible vocation, she was quick to leave the idea behind when she asked the Mother Superior at Regina Laudis, after a couple of visits, if she thought she might have one. When the Mother Superior said no and that she should go on making movies, Dolores Hart was like, Thank God and fled back to the life of: Lights. Camera. Action. However, there was a turnaround once she got back to Hollywood. The industry didn’t seem to have the right parts for her, although she had honed her acting chops to such a degree as to be noticed by Broadway. But as parts were slow to come and her dating life did hit a snafu, she felt increasingly drawn to religion, always attending daily Mass and giving talks to the Catholic contingent of the Hollywood sector. While she did not immediately recognize the hallmarks of a vocation, others certainly did. And what was so touching in the reading of The Ear of The Heart was how protective celebrities, people behind-the-scenes and folks in general were of her. Out of the doldrums of having little or no work, things began to pick up and work was consistent. Her dating life also improved, so much so, that she was engaged. Yet, things were just not right. The genuine happiness that she was expecting was simply not there. The only thing that was consistent in her life was inconsistency, and she could not shake that off. Not even her fiance, Don Robinson, could synchronize himself to where she was at in her journey. The memoir propels at a really exciting pace after her Hollywood career gradually diminishes. When it dawns on her that her vocation might be a legitimate calling and not some Hollywood flight-of-fancy, that’s when the second half of the memoir gets even more exciting and compelling.
The Ear of the Heart was so different from any kind of memoir and or autobiography that I have ever read, essentially because at the beginning, it starts off not as I would think any kind of Hollywood tell-all would start off as: “There is a tiny room in the basement of the abbey at Regina Laudis...” Page 3. The story of how a person starts off a life in one way and finishes it in something that winds up being the exact opposite of what society and culture dictate, will always make for illuminating reading, especially when God the Father, Jesus Christ the Son and the Holy Spirit are at the helm, being the ultimate directors, writers and producers of the human experience. They just need cooperative talent. A truly fascinating and a very enjoyable read!
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