Sunday, January 27, 2008

How I Live

One challenge unique to my vocation as an aspiring consecrated virgin is the general lack of concrete directives for living one's daily life. Unlike new religious, I do not have a tried and tested way of life handed down to me.

As consecrated people, consecrated virgins are called to live the Gospel as fully as possible. However, this still leaves a lot of room for interpretation. Seeking to "live the full Gospel" could inspire me to move to the nearest desert, stop bathing, and embrace a set of extraordinary ascetical practices OR it could inspire me to live an upper middle-class lifestyle with a commitment to celibacy and twenty minutes set aside for daily prayer.

In my mind, these scenarios represent two "extremes" on the spectrum of the forms my future consecrated life could take. Naturally my hope is to adopt the best of both worlds; namely, the zeal and witness-value of the former situation with the sense of balance and stability of the latter.

At least as far as I'm aware, I do have a lot of freedom in determining the details of my present and future daily life. As I see it, this is both a tremendous responsibility as well as a great gift (which I pray I will use prudently!). My goal is that in being free, I use this freedom to do God's will without reservation.

That being said, I thought I would share some of the things I do presently which I consider part of my consecrated life:

First, I made every effort to attend Mass daily, because the Eucharist is truly the center of my world. I would only miss Mass if I was too sick to get out of bed, if I would have to drive there and the roads were completely impassable, or for some other truly extenuating circumstance. Even if I'm travelling, I usually try to call ahead or look on-line to find a Mass in the area where I will be staying.

I also pray the Liturgy of the Hours (a.k.a. the Divine Office) five times a day. I say Morning Prayer, one of the daytime hours (usually Mid-day Prayer, though this varies), the Office of Readings, Evening Prayer, and Night Prayer. Since I live at a Catholic university, I am sometimes able to recite the Office within a group. But out of necessity, I usually say it on my own.

The Liturgy of the Hours is an important part of my life because it is the official prayer of the whole Church. As such, I feel honored--and very happy!--to be able to participate in it. Consecrated virgins are "strongly encouraged" to pray the Liturgy of the Hours, and in my diocese consecrated virgins are required to say at least Morning and Evening Prayer.

I make a point to receive the sacrament of Reconciliation on a weekly basis. This may sound like a lot to some people, but (trust me) it doesn't seem like that much once you actually start. Since my primary relationship is my relationship with God, I do my best to stay on good terms with Him at all times! And regular confession is the best way to accomplish this.

It's also important to me to spend time in silent prayer. I think of this my chance to have a "heart to heart" talk with Jesus.

Right now, I really don't keep track of how much time I spend praying this way, because it's something I'm naturally inclined to do and I take advantage of the appropriate opportunities for prayer as they present themselves. But before I transferred to my present university, my schedule was such that I did need to budget time for silent prayer. Generally, I tried to spend about forty-five minutes to an hour every day.

Since a call to consecrated virginity is also a call to a life of penance, I do try to fast in some way. I really can't fast in the normal sense of the word--i.e., by not eating--because I am very petite and can't risk losing any weight. So instead, I ordinarily give up chocolate three days a week. (This may sound silly, but I'm quite fond of chocolate so I find this adequately penitential.) I do try to be discreet about this, out of modesty as well as from a desire not to be laughed at for liking chocolate that much.

Also, I never drank as a teenager, and when I turned twenty-one I chose to continue to abstain. I am perfectly aware that Jesus drank (I do love the story of the wedding at Cana), and I have no problem with other people drinking responsibly. But aside from its penitential aspect, I find that my avoidance of alcohol is an excellent way to bear a Christian witness, especially on a college campus. And perpetual sobriety carries the added benefit of protecting me from some potentially compromising situations.

Evangelical poverty is important for me, though as a student I find that this tends to take care of itself! Still, I look for ways to live simply. For example, I don't wear designer clothes, make-up, or any jewelry besides a simple silver cross. I go out to movies or restaurants only rarely, and I don't shop recreationally.

My desire to become a theologian stems from my call to consecrated virginity, and as such it is something of a secondary vocation for me. Because becoming a theologian means a life of scholarship, I treat my school work as one of my duties towards God. I see my hours of study as another facet of my consecrated life.

So this is what my life looks like! As I understand it, being a spouse of Christ means you try to live every moment with Him. And I strive to do just that, even while I'm still only "engaged".

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