Wednesday, January 16, 2008

My vocation story, part III

Shortly after I began having unsettling thoughts about my potential lack of a vocation, by sheer providence I happened to meet a young priest from a neighboring parish. He took it upon himself to offer me some guidance, and he was willing to go out of his way to help me.

Besides talking with me about vocation (and listening to what I had to say!), this priest also gave me some really helpful reading material. Among other things, he also xeroxed for me the entire section of the 1983 Code of Canon Law which pertains to the consecrated life. In reading this I came across can. 604, which was when I realized that consecrated virginity in the world was still a form of consecrated life recognized by the Church. (I wonder at times if I am the first woman in Church history who found her vocation by reading Canon Law!)

Something about this grabbed my attention, so the same priest later gave me a copy of the Rite of Consecration to a life of virginity. (You can read it here.) Upon reading the rite, I felt as though I had found what it was that God wanted me to do with my life. I wish I could explain this in more detail--and I can identify reasons for my attraction to consecrated virginity, but it would take another post to try to discuss them--but I suppose I really can't. I think that being "called" is ultimately a mysterious thing.

A few months later, the priest called the appropriate people in our archdiocese on my behalf. He was told that I was too young to be considered for the Rite of Consecration. I was nineteen years old at the time.

In addition to this another priest, the one who was hearing my confessions at the time, thought my discerning any vocation was a bad idea in general (he wanted me to wait until I finished college), and that my discerning consecrated virginity in the world was particularly unwise.

So, I decided that I must not have been discerning properly after all. I spent about two more years visiting different religious orders in the hope that I would find where God wanted me. I encountered some very excellent communities and met many admirable religious during this time, but I could never completely forget the idea of consecrated virginity in the world.

When I was twenty-one I transferred to my present university, and met a handful of priests who were supportive of my interest in consecrated virginity. I think this made all the difference, because I somehow found the nerve to be honest with myself about what it was to which I was actually being called.

I had kept in touch with the young priest who had first encouraged me, so I mentioned to him that I was still serious about becoming a consecrated virgin. I asked him to do what he could to help me in this--and he did. He arranged for me to speak with the priest in charge of the consecrated virgins in our archdiocese, and the three of us met shortly after my twenty-second birthday. After meeting me, the priest in charge told me he would be willing to consider me as a candidate for consecrated virginity, despite the fact that I was extraordinarily young. Deo gratias!

So this is where I am now. I am still at the point where I could be told tomorrow that I don't have a vocation or that I'm too young (though I'm not anticipating this). And as a hopeful aspiring theologian I still have a lot to do academically to get my future in order. I'm happy and excited about my life, and I trust God. But I still feel that I need all the prayers I can get!

13 comments:

Emily Byers said...

Praised be Jesus Christ!

Found your blog while searching for the names of saints who were consecrated virgins. I, too, am an aspiring consecrated virgin in my early twenties. There aren't a whole lot of us "young ones" out there, are there? A few months ago, I was looking through the articles on the USACV Web site and was shocked to see how old most of the consecrated women were... I suppose that in my zeal, I assumed they'd all be as young as I was!

I hope to meet with my bishop (God willing) sometime in the next month to share with him by desire to be consecrated. After that, I'm heading down to Honduras in August to spend two years working at a mission there, continuing to discern and to be formed. Please keep me in your prayers, and if you would like to, please do stay in touch.

- Emily

an aspiring consecrated virgin said...

Dear Emily,

It is so great to hear from another “young one!”

I’ll definitely keep your in my prayers! I really wish you all the best as you meet with your bishop and continue with your discernment and formation.

My thought is that there are probably quite a few young women in this country who may have a vocation to canon 604, but simply don’t realize that this is an option. And of the ones that are aware, I would imagine that most of them encounter a lot of discouragement (even from dedicated clergy and religious). But as I’ve mentioned before, I think the key thing is to trust that the God who inspires holy desires will also bring them to fulfillment.

By the way, the USACV website does contain a list of consecrated virgin-saints. You can find it here: http://www.consecratedvirgins.org/vm.pdf

The author of this list, Francisco de B. Vismanos, wrote a book called Las "Virgenes Cristianas de la Iglesia Primativa". It’s hard to find and it hasn’t been translated, but if you can read it it’s an excellent resource.

And if you want, you can e-mail me at: sponsa.christi.author (at) gmail (dot) com.

BobbyDarinFan said...

Hi there..I'm 15 years old and reading your vocation story made my night! I'm discerning [seriously..as seriously as is possible for a rising sophomore, anyway] a religious vocation and had done some research on consecrated virginity a few months back. I think it's so interesting that you found your vocation, as you put it, by reading canon, because I can relate to the prior lack of awareness toward consecrated virginity in the "modern world." Anyway, I'm not going to ramble, but I also hope to become a theologian/professor someday; philosophy, theology, and Latin interest me SO much, and now that it's finally summer I can't wait to delve into the topics. Just a quick note to let you know I will pray for you and your vocation. I don't have a Blogger account but I do have AIM. It would be neat to talk to you sometime if you have AIM. Pax et caritas! ~Monika

an aspiring consecrated virgin said...

Dear Monika,

It’s good to hear from you—many thanks for your prayers! I don’t have AIM, but do feel free to e-mail (sponsa.christi.author (at) gmail (dot) com).

Good luck with your summer study projects! If you don’t mind me making a suggestion, you might also want to try praying the Liturgy of the Hours this summer. The Liturgy of the Hours, also called the “Divine Office” and sort of nicknamed the “the Breviary”, is the official prayer of the Church. It’s a very important part of religious life, consecrated virginity in the world, and also the priesthood—although since Vatican II more and more laypeople have incorporated it into their daily prayer as well. I started praying the Divine Office when I was eighteen, and it was a BIG help in my own discernment.

The full Liturgy of the Hours is in four volumes (and it’s kind of expensive, but if you ask your parish priest he may have some old copies he could lend you), but there is also a shorter one-volume version called “Christian Prayer” which you could try using.

I’m glad you like my blog, and I’ll keep you in my prayers, too.

Bernadette Snyder said...

Keep the faith, young lady! I just took my vows in the Order of Consecrated Virgins on the Feast of Corpus Christi (May 25th) at age 29. "Don't let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith and in purity." ~ 1 Timothy 4:12. I took my personal vows at 19 and was first annoyed at having to wait ten years to be consecrated in the Church. Looking back, I can see how much pruning I needed and how God did just that, helping me to grow throughout that time. Everything in my life right now has been absolutely perfect in regards to where I need to be in my vocation. It would not have been so perfect 10 years ago - we must be patient and trust in God's timing. Remember that the day of your consecration is also your wedding day - and it is Christ's wedding day, too. Let Him be in charge of the wedding and He will make sure it is perfect in every way for the both of you.

I will keep you in my prayers.
Vaya con dios,
Bernadette

an aspiring consecrated virgin said...

Dear Bernadette,

Belated thanks for your prayers and words of encouragement. And congratulations for your consecration—Corpus Christi is a beautiful feast to have as an anniversary.

My consecration is set to take place this coming January, about two months before my twenty-fourth birthday. Since I have been “discerning” since I was twelve, I will have waited for this for about half my life—but the timing does indeed seem perfect!

I wish you all the best as you begin your formal consecrated life, and I will pray for you, too.

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for posting this!! I have felt the call for a long time to consecrate myself to Christ outside of a religious community, but I didn't know it was possible until yesterday when I read the very part in Canon 604 that you mentioned in your story. I just turned twenty, so I know that I have a long way ahead of me in terms of discovering my vocation, but your story is a tremendous inspiration. Thank you so very much again for posting!

Bernadette Ament

an aspiring consecrated virgin said...

Dear Bernadette,

Many thanks for your encouraging comment, and I’m glad you find this blog helpful. I will certainly remember to pray for you as you discern.

If you don’t mind some unsolicited advice: I would say that at twenty, you should definitely take all the time you need to make a good discernment. But if you’re fairly sure that Christ is calling you—even at your young age—to be His own, by all means RUN to Him!

Speaking for myself, I’m very grateful that I started seriously considering my vocation (that is, visiting convents and thinking about canon 604) when I was still only eighteen. Since God is our ultimate good, we can't go wrong in listening to His voice as soon as we hear it.

Anonymous said...

I consecrated my virginity when I was 18 years old but never heard of being consecrated by a Bishop. Those things were not talked about in my day. With all the changes with Vatican II never once was the consecrated life ever mentioned. I first heard of it ten years ago misunderstanding it to be an order of nuns. I don't think it has ever been done in my diocese. If so, it was done in private. Just recently a priest suggested that I look at the rite of consecration from his book because he thought my life fit the discription. Most priests have not heard of it and have no knowledge of what it is about. It is just now being introduced. I think the reason most women are older, who receive the consecration is because it was not an option when we were growing up. I do think every person is called at different times in their life but I also think many missed the call. It is truly a gift from God and a very special blessing to know at such a young age but most of all that it is even available to those who are younger. A word of advice is that no matter what vocation you have or how old you are, the street car named desire is always there. Be true to yourself, be true to your vocation, and love God with all your heart, mind, and soul.

Carmen said...

I am so happy to see many young and aspiring Consecrated Virgins! God willing I will be consecrated Aug 22, 2009 so 6 months away! I am 27 and so full of joy that God has called me to his by this incredible vocation. I would love to be in contact with all of you consecrated virgins, it is such an encouragement to see how God is working. My best friend was consecrated last year on Feb 2 and it has been beautiful to share this vocation with someone so close.

Please feel free to contact me at:
chinabriceno@yahoo.com

Prudentia Mumbi said...

It's good and encouraging to read your story. It is encouraging to see how the vocation is growing so fast especially in the States and U.K.. I for one had to wait for 6 years for the same reason of being young. Don't give up and keep praying and thank God that you have that priest who is of great help.
Be blessed forever. United in prayer Prudentia,from Zambia, Central Africa

Maria said...

Hi! I'm Maria Alessandria from the Philippines. I'm almost 23 and I've been discerning a call to religious/consecrated life for over a year now. But I think I heard my call when I was 13. Thank for your vocation story and your blog! It helped me honestly admit to myself that I do have a vocation! Been in denial despite reading so much on it.
I did not know anything about consecrated virgins till some months ago. But the desire to be His bride was there. Still not sure cause I'm a sophomore law student. Hoping to be a human rights lawyer. Always felt I was meant to be in the world but I wanted to belong to Him too! Now I know that it is possible! Thank you!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the recommendation about "Las Virgenes Cristianas de la Iglesia Primitiva." It is hard to find, but I finally found it at the Spain site of Amazon, at www.amazon.es, for around 30 Euro. I just ordered it and look forward to reading it. Thanks!