“There must be something wrong with me,” I decided as I dodged the advances of yet another unfitting admirer. “Why don’t I ever get asked out by a decent guy?”
Eventually, the “decent guy” I had grumbled about did turn up, more or less. However, this time, my interior response to his persistent (and often grandiose) attempts to convince me to date him were immediate and surprising: My heart is already taken.
To put it simply, I couldn’t say yes because, well, Jesus. Little did I know, this was the beginning of a beautiful love story the Lord was unfolding in my soul.
The first stirrings of a divine calling came in high school, when I was certain I was destined for the convent. I told my mom over a massive plate of Oreo s’mores (yes, these do exist), and yet even as I poured out my heart to her, I was just as wary as she about leaving my family and those I was helping to care for. Did God really want me to abandon the ones He had entrusted to me? What was I missing here?
Over the course of the next few months, I scoured the internet for an alternative to religious life, one that would satiate my desire to go deeper, while still allowing me to remain in the world. But nothing spoke to me. If my vocation was not to be a nun (and Christ was making that clearer every day) and I didn’t feel the call to live as a Third Order Carmelite (and I didn’t), what did the Lord want from me?
The answer wouldn’t come for nearly a decade. During this time, the Lord asked me to serve Him in other ways, from aging grandparents to exuberant godchildren. An inner yearning to escape to a convent would surface at times, but I knew I was needed at home and that God would one day unveil my true calling, whatever that might be.
Then, in the summer of 2019, I began a 33 Day Consecration to Merciful Love with my parish. This self-guided retreat is a transformative journey based on the spirituality of St. Therese. Making the consecration was a true catalyst in my walk with Christ, and mid-way through the retreat, I was left with a burning desire to give Him everything.
By this time, I was certain I was not called to live in community, so when the idea of making a private vow of virginity started to surface in prayer, I pondered what my life as a “celibate single” would look like.
Once again, I began researching options for women who desired to belong totally to Christ while still living in the world. That’s when I discovered Consecrated Virginity. As I read about this ancient and little-known vocation, an inferno of joy and yearning blazed in my soul. This is what I had been searching for my entire life. God had planted a seed, but I still felt the nudge of the Spirit to make a private vow.
After this prompting, I attended a Catholic women’s retreat in Dublin, Ireland. On the last evening of the retreat, Jesus, ever the gentleman, spoke so clearly and tenderly to my heart during adoration that I promised myself to Him forever.
Fast forward two years. I am now an official Candidate for Consecrated Virginity, the first woman in my diocese to embrace this vocation.
You may not know what consecrated virginity is (most people don’t!). Despite this, consecrated virginity is the oldest recognized form of consecrated life in the Catholic Church. A consecrated virgin is a woman who has been consecrated by her local bishop to a life of perpetual virginity as a Bride of Christ. Consecrated virgins are dedicated to prayer and the service of the Church, but continue to live in the secular world as witnesses of their radical love of Christ.
To this day, I’m not sure why the Lord kept this vocation hidden from me for so long. All it took was a simple Google search to discover what my heart had always hungered for. But looking back, I can see Christ’s hand in everything. In His perfect order and perfect timing, He was gently preparing my heart to belong exclusively to Him.
When I turned down that determined suitor, the Lord was preserving me to be His spouse. Truly, I was never meant to belong to anyone but Christ. He is is the first, the last, and the only, Love of my soul.
And for all eternity, I am His; I am not my own.