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Archives A call to love and joy

Nov. 9, 2022

By Mary Beth Bracy
Contributing writer

When I was 16, preparing to attend World Youth Day in Denver, I secretly woke up early every morning before school and prayed. As a teenager who was largely preoccupied with crushes on boys, sports, and pop culture, I felt a yearning for something more in my heart. This led me to petition God in a way that I thought I never would: “If You want me to be a nun, please show me on this pilgrimage.”

During World Youth Day, there was an altar call for vocations. Soon the stage was filled with young people who were inspired to dedicate their lives to Jesus. Something impelled me to go up; mesmerized, I don’t even remember feeling my feet touching the ground.

A few days later, I heard a priest speak about the Real Presence of Jesus in the Holy Eucharist during a Holy Hour of Adoration. Although I was raised in a fervently Catholic family, the proclamation of this truth before our Lord exposed in the Blessed Sacrament really touched my heart. I remember thinking: “If Someone loves me so much that they would give their life for me to the point of hiding under the appearance of a piece of bread, then I want to give my life totally for Him.”

When I returned home, I was filled with a new outpouring of the Holy Spirit’s love. Though I felt like God was calling me to be a religious, like Saint Thérèse or Saint Faustina, I had to finish high school and then came college. Over the years, I was sometimes distracted by relationships and my career. I also did volunteer work to spread the faith and helped care for sick relatives. In addition, my mother and I had the Peaceful Dove (Catholic book/gift) shop for 16 years, and I also worked as a teacher. On several occasions, as time passed, I pondered the idea of the religious life or the life of a consecrated virgin.

Thankfully, I was able to find a good priest to be my spiritual director and help me on this journey; he challenged me to be open to God’s plan and to pray for His will. When I encountered God’s Love and felt cherished by Him more deeply, I wanted to return His Love too. After much prayer, careful discernment, and spiritual direction, the Lord confirmed to me His call to consecrated virginity in the world.

Consecrated virgins live in the world, among their family, friends, parishioners and co-workers, supporting themselves in their occupations. According to Canon Law 604, they “are mystically betrothed to Christ, the Son of God, and are dedicated to the service of the Church.”

After meeting with Bishop LaValley, I applied to become a consecrated virgin and began the formal discernment process. Presently I am a candidate to become a consecrated virgin in the world for our diocese and finishing my formation. I will soon publicly become a Bride of Christ! Bishop LaValley will confer the consecration on Divine Mercy Sunday at St. Peter’s in Plattsburgh.

Central to the life of a consecrated virgin is a love for the Holy Eucharist and desire to imitate Our Blessed Mother, who was the first consecrated virgin.

“The Order of Virgins is a special expression of consecrated life that blossomed anew in the Church after the Second Vatican Council,” Pope Benedict XVI said in his address to the Order of Virgins in 2008. “Its roots, however, are ancient; they date back to the dawn of apostolic times when, with unheard of daring, certain women began to open their hearts to the desire for consecrated virginity, in other words, to the desire to give the whole of their being to God, which had its first extraordinary fulfillment in the Virgin of Nazareth and her ‘yes.’”

I look to the example of saints who were consecrated virgins in the world. Several, such Agnes, Agatha, Anastasia, Lucy, and Cecilia, we remember in the Canon of the Mass. Saint Kateri Tekakwitha also lived a very similar lifestyle and traveled on our own shores. Her spirituality was intensely Eucharistic, as consecrated virgins are called to be devoted to the Real Presence of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament. From this Christ-centered spiritual life, as Saint John Paul II explained, they are called to generously serve their local Church, as “an expression of its mercy.”

Although the journey sometimes seemed tortuous, the Sacred Heart of the Good Shepherd never abandoned my heart. So many priests, consecrated, and lay people have helped me in my faith journey—family, friends, and believers across the North Country and beyond, for which I am eternally grateful. Jesus brought me peace and healing, delivered me from so many fears, and inspired me to become a public witness to the Kingdom of God. Encouraged by His grace, I want to remain chaste in a culture that has forgotten the beauty of virginity—to give myself totally to Him out of love for His Eucharistic Heart, who has given Himself totally for me—and to spend myself for others in joyful service.

My favorite Gospel parable, as Jesus relates in Matthew 18:12, is when the shepherd leaves the 99 in search of the one who goes astray. So often I’ve felt like the lost sheep who the Lord rescues. The words of the song “Reckless Love,” by Corey Asbury apply to us all: “There’s no shadow You won’t light up/Mountain You won’t climb up/Coming after me/There’s no wall You won’t kick down/Lie You won’t tear down/Coming after me.”

By God’s grace, I’ve learned the lesson of Luke 5:4, that it’s never too late to “go out into the deep.” As J.R.R. Tolkien wrote in his poem “All that Glitters is not Gold”: “Not all those who wander are lost.” Sometimes our vocational paths may seem long, but God plans everything for the good of those who love Him in His perfect time. Please pray for me as I embark on this new journey and know of my prayers for you each day before the Eucharistic Heart of Jesus.

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