In my early 20s one my favorite country songs was Josh Turners’ “Would you go with me?” Images of following one’s spouse to the ends of the earth, the total gift of self towards one spouse, the joy existing in the most intimate relationship — all these filled my imagination with thoughts of the relationship that I longed to share with a spouse. I could not wait for someone to ask, “Would you go with me? If I give you my hand, would you take it and make me the happiest man in the world?”
God never leaves the desiring soul unfulfilled. For the willing and docile soul, He surprises her with invitations she never thought she would receive. Ultimately, this has happened for me. A wonderful and delightful Spouse has posed me a question, not in the way I imagined but with equal romance and joy Perhaps even more so.
All souls created by God are made for the deepest and most intimate union with Him. In eternity — in that blissful state of heaven — we will be most blessedly happy because we will share a spousal relationship, mystical in nature, with Our Lord and God. The romantic and lifegiving love found in marriage helps us understand the type of love that God has for us. The gentle caress of a husband, the sweet kiss from a wife, and the adorable smiles of the child, offer us tender reflections of God’s love for us.
The life of a priest or a consecrated person complements the married life. God calls some souls to begin living out on earth the spousal relationship with our God in heaven. Among other things, the soul who delightfully and joyfully gives her ‘yes’ is a reminder of the intimate union with God that each person is called to for all eternity.
The prayers of my pastor and the encouragement of my spiritual director were the source of grace through which I decided I could open my heart to hear God’s invitation to consecrated life — if He desired to offer such an invitation. I had dated men: Why would I not allow God a chance at winning my heart in this way? That line of reasoning made sense to me, so I gave Him a chance.
Once my heart was open, God took it and ran with it. He filled my heart with the delightful love of a romantic relationship. He conversed with me throughout the months of discernment, leading me and teaching me in ways I never thought possible. He demonstrated the fullness of such a life. He undermined my initial notion that it would be a life of loneliness. The life of a consecrated virgin is a full life, because He truly makes Himself present. He behaved as any suitor would, providing delightful gifts which seem trivial, but their very triviality shows the tender care God has for us.
And yet, He did not physically speak with me. There were no apparitions or locutions. How could I know with certainty that God was truly working as I perceived Him to be?
Throughout the history of the world, God has worked through human beings. In this particular situation, He worked through the bishop who confirmed that which I sensed in prayer. God desires me to live as a consecrated virgin in the World.
A consecrated virgin living in the world lives life similar to any other person. She has a job. She has friends. She is active in society, in her parish, in her diocese. She may own a house. She buys normal clothes. She struggles with finances and paying taxes. She pays the electric bill. Yet, the difference between her life and others is that she gives her virginity to God as a gift. She is consecrated at the hands of the bishop, passively giving herself in a way that bears a resemblance to the way that the bread and wine passively allow themselves to be consecrated at the Holy Mass.
The consecrated virgin living in the world holds a different charism from a woman in the religious life. She is closely associated with the bishop and the diocese by bearing witness to the particular Church. She exemplifies the mystery of “Church.” There is a hiddenness in her vocation that allows the holiness of the Church to seep into the seams of society bringing grace to those she encounters. She brings the Church into the midst of the world. Almost unconsciously, the world encounters the Church through her.
Often named the most perfect gentleman, God knocked on my door, posing me the question:
“Would you go with me?”
Yes, of course I would! Not only because I love adventures, but because I love the One who asked me.
Anne Therese Stephens will give her vow and be consecrated to the Lord Oct. 3, 3 p.m., at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, Fort Wayne.
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