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Successful executive leaves everything behind to enter ancient mountain monastery

MONTSERRAT,SPAIN
Lakov Filimonov | Shutterstock
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He's found happiness not in wealth and luxury, but in a Benedictine monastery in Spain.

The community of Benedictine monks in Montserrat, Spain, spent four years without receiving any new members. But recently that changed with the entry of an unusual candidate: David Valls, a 57-year-old former high-level executive who worked for many years for a multinational oil company.

“I was rich and led a life of luxury, but I wasn’t happy,” Valls says in an interview, quoted in El Mundo. He has decided to leave behind his fortune to enter religious life, surrendering himself to a life of prayer, celibacy, obedience, and poverty, according to the Rule of St. Benedict. “Now, I’m happy,” he says, after having realized that “money and power left me more and more dissatisfied, until they led me into a crisis. But it wasn’t a mid-life crisis; it was a crisis of values.”

During that critical time, “someone who cared about me suggested that perhaps it was time to take a break, and I decided to go to the guest house at Montserrat and go on a retreat.” Montserrat is a mountain range in northeastern Spain, near Barcelona. It is home to a Benedictine abbey and an important Marian shrine and pilgrimage site, whose origins date back a thousand years. It was in this timeless center of spirituality that God showed Valls the path to follow. “It wasn’t a sudden thing that happened in just one day; it was a process,” he explains.

In a world where money, fame, travel, sexuality, and luxury are more glorified than ever, deciding to leave it all behind to live the rest of your life in a monastery is about as counter-cultural as it gets. The seeds of this radical choice were planted in David Valls’ childhood.

He was born into a Catholic family in the city of Barcelona, practically in the shadow of Montserrat, and was raised in the faith, but drifted away from religion. “I had lived with several women, and I was even married outside the Church with one of them for five years, but I was an absolute egoist. The most extreme sign of that egoism was thinking that telling my lovers that I didn’t want children was a sign of sincerity,” he said. “I was an aggressive executive, and I liked money. I lived a life of luxury.”

Today, he’s not proud of the life he lived. A life focused entirely on satisfying selfish appetites is not only ultimately unsatisfying; it’s toxic to those who live it, and everyone they touch. “When you see that the people around you aren’t happy, and that you’ve hurt people, there’s no other option but to stop,” he says.

The process of his spiritual conversion and the discovery of his vocation inspired Valls to quit his job in Madrid and move to the monastery at Montserrat to enter the postulancy and, later, the novitiate. It took ten years of purification, prayer, and discernment for the day to come, but this past Pentecost Sunday, he took his vows and assumed his new name in religious life: Paul. He is committed to living as a monk until death, and “that’s all I want; it makes me very happy.”

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