Featured on the cover of the April, 1979, issue of Guideposts magazine was an actor, Ricardo Montalban. In 1945 Norman Vincent Peale founded Guideposts as an ecumenical outlet for inspirational true stories by people from all walks of life. A Protestant pastor, Peale might be best known for his book, The Power of Positive Thinking. In 1959 Peale faced some good-natured lampooning in a madcap musical, Li’l Abner, when one character admonished another, “You didn’t take your Norman Vincent Peale pill today!”

In 1979, Ricardo Montalban was almost sixty and at the height of his fame. Born in Mexico City, he had starred in films in Mexico and in the United States, and to avoid being typecast as a Latin lover, he sought a variety of roles in movies and on television. While playing his share of dashing romantic leads, including as a bullfighter and as a polo player, he also appeared in TV Westerns such as Gunsmoke and The Virginian, and he had parts in the science fiction franchises of Planet of the Apes and Star Trek.

Two of his early roles that ought to be better known were in film noir. In 1949 he starred as an undercover agent in Border Incident, a suspenseful exploration of human trafficking and illegal immigration. The next year he starred as a disciplined and tenacious police detective in Boston in the underrated Mystery Street, where he investigated a murder and pieced together clues leading into a dangerous lair.

Each week from 1977 to 1984 he portrayed the dapper and enigmatic Mr. Roark on a popular television series, Fantasy Island. As the show’s title implied, guests would fly to Roark’s tropical island to live out their fantasies. Often there was a twist, and in one memorable exchange, an indignant character demanded of Roark, “What kind of charlatan are you?” Unruffled, Roark replied, “You name the different kinds, and I will tell you which one I am.”

In that issue of Guideposts, Montalban wrote about the year 1957, when he starred as Lena Horne’s boyfriend in a hit Broadway musical, Jamaica. In 1980 he included the story in his memoirs, Reflections: A Life in Two Worlds. He related that as he settled into that role, he became friends with his dresser, a quiet, reserved man named Charlie Blackstone. During intermission, he and Blackstone would watch boxing matches on the television in Montalban’s dressing room, and on Saturday they would go to midnight Mass at Saint Malachy’s, known as the Actors’ Chapel, on West 49th Street.

As Montalban recalled, after a year of playing that role, he had enough and wanted to go back home to California to be with his wife and daughters. Each day, more and more fed up, he prayed for the show to finish its run. One Saturday night, before Mass he silently prayed again to God for the play to end so he could go home, but then he heard next to him Charlie Blackstone verbally praying in thanksgiving for the success of the play and the steady work it provided for him.

For Montalban, that moment was a profound epiphany. He wrote that he felt deep shame for his selfish prayer. What had become a burden for him continued to be a blessing for others, and he was thankful for the Lord teaching him that tough spiritual truth. From that day forth, when Montalban prayed the words “Our Father,” he was aware of the whole family of believers to which he was connected.

“In the past,” he noted, “my prayers had always been self-centered.” Now, however, he saw that “There was a real freedom in thinking of others that I’d never before experienced.” For him, “It was exhilarating.”

That exhilaration inspired him to refocus his prayer. “Before we left the church,” he wrote, “I simply asked the Lord for patience in understanding His will for me for the remainder of my stay in New York City.” Wryly, he added, “I didn’t have to tell Him how badly I wanted to go home; I’d been telling Him for weeks.”

Although the musical went on for another five months, Montalban became aware of changes within himself. “My anger was gone,” he observed, and then, “gradually, the stabbing pains of homesickness that had made life intolerable melted away.” In place of anger and self-pity there developed “a sweet sort of ache that was almost pleasant in the way it served as a constant reminder that there were loved ones at home waiting for me.” Moreover, he “recognized now that I had another family, my theater family, to appreciate and love for however long we were to be together.”

As it happened, that spiritual experience in his late thirties proved to be only a beginning. “Since then,” he concluded, “there have been many more times when I’ve called upon the Lord for guidance,” divine guidance amidst “times of trouble and confusion and despair that we all must endure.” Some twenty years on, he remained grateful for Charlie Blackstone helping him see that his prayers should be “with the needs of others in mind—as well as my own.”

As Montalban wrote in Reflections, over the years he took time to go on religious retreats. In particular, he appreciated Ignatian retreats and their discipline of silence. For an actor, the demand for strict silence became a welcome challenge. “Too often,” he explained, “words get in the way; they don’t really express what we mean.” From a retreat, he cherished silence, saying, “It refreshes the soul after life in a noisy world.”

As he looked back, he saw the many graces he had been given. When he was a boy, Mexico’s socialist government persecuted the Catholic Church, a violent period depicted in Graham Greene’s novel, The Power and the Glory (1940), and in a theatrical movie, For Greater Glory (2012). Young Montalban attended secret classes in the faith taught by Father Fajanel, a French priest bravely defying the leftist government.

Very likely, people who enjoyed watching Fantasy Island had no idea its star was a religious man. While his book is long out of print, his article for Guideposts is available on the magazine’s website. More than forty years after his article first appeared, Ricardo Montalban’s revealing honesty can help others expand a sense of prayer, jolting them, jolting us, out of self-absorption and nearer self-forgetfulness.