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!