Tuesday, February 25, 2020

My Lenten Plans: The "Great Entertainment Purge of 2020," Silence, and Self-Care

For weeks, I've been thinking about what I was going to give up or add for Lent. There were so many options because there's so much I need to work on. After taking everything into consideration I decided to do three big things: "the great entertainment purge of 2020" (and, yes, it's as crazy as it sounds), embracing silence, and focusing on self-care -- all of which I'm horrible at but desperately need.

After listening to this inspiring sermon on the 7-Week Challenge to Conquer Technological Idolatry on the Sensus Fidelium YouTube channel last week, I decided to take up this challenge and thus my first big penance/goal was born. After reading Pope Pius XI's Papal Encyclical on Motion Pictures (Vigilanti Cura) -- which was mentioned in the sermon -- I decided to give up the majority of entertainment for Lent. As someone who turns to distractions such as social media, movies, and TV shows when anxiety, boredom, or illness strike, this is going to be hard for me.

I know I will get criticism for "going to the extreme" but I've decided to extend this beyond Lent. In  fact, during this Lenten season, I'm going to do what I'm dubbing to be the "Great Entertainment Purge of 2020." All movies, TV shows, music, and books that are problematic (for me) and will cause my mind to wander to dangerous territory is getting thrown out. No, not donated. Thrown out. That means I will be throwing away hundreds of dollars worth of material but I don't care. I cannot, in good conscience, keep these things around. And, it's not going to be easy.

One of my favorite (if not my favorite) Gene Kelly musicals, On the Town, will be the first to go. Why? Have any of you watched it? It's lovely with the dancing and the singing... but there's so much alluded to and implied that is, well, unchaste. Yes, go ahead. Judge me. Call me a prude. Tell me that I'm being too scrupulous and/or unrealistic for wanting to give up all forms of entertainment that contain these things but I just can't keep them.

When I decided to get serious about discerning the vocation of consecrated virginity, I also decided to be even more mindful of what things I consumed. When I really stopped to take inventory of the type of music I listened to (and really listen to the lyrics), what movies and TV shows I watched, and what books I read, I could see where I wasn't being as careful as I probably should have. And, again, yes, you can call me scrupulous but it just doesn't sit well with me.

I've been examining my conscience and my heart for some time now and I've come to realize that, because of my wildly active imagination, I can very easily fall into the temptation to have unchaste thoughts due to the media I consume. I've gotten better at it but it's still a struggle for me. I know how my mind works; I know how easily my mind jumps from one thing to another and stays on that thing until it's distracted by something else. I know how these things linger in my mind or will come up again, even years later. I don't want that. I want a clean heart and mind. I can't achieve that if I'm constantly remembering things that dirtied up my mind; things that I shouldn't have seen/read/heard in the first place. That is why I'm doing it.

Of course, this goes with my second (of three) big Lenten plans: embracing silence. These last 3 weeks since I returned to social media post-digital detox month have shown me how much I miss that silence I felt during that month. I also cut my entertainment consumption during that time and I saw the fruits it bore. It put me in the right state of mind to begin doing good research of my vocation discernment and to find that peace I was looking for. Taking my beloved Monks of Norcia (my spiritual family/home) as inspiration, I decided not to speak (or write... or tweet.... or text...) if it's either not necessary or doesn't help or edify anyone.

We're so afraid to be silent and alone with our thoughts but it's in that silence that we can hear God speaking to us. The Monks of Norcia started using sign language to limit verbal communication and only to communicate the important things and I think that's beautiful. I want (and, I'll be honest, crave) that silence now more than ever. Not only for my discernment to the vocation of consecrated virginity but also in other important things I need to do, such as consider a change in career and in my attempts to really do what I can to get myself healthy.

I've read enough research and studies that all state that silence (read: lack of constant stimulus) and rest can have great health benefits, especially for someone who is chronically ill and/or in recovery mode. Since my current recovery process is still in its early stages and it's going by much, much slower than after previous relapses, I decided that my third Lenten penance/goal is to focus on self-care. And, as if I needed another "sign" that this was what I needed to do, this excellent article on what to give up for Lent (based on your temperament) by my fellow epicPew writer, Chloe Langr, really inspired me to go for it.

As a melancholic-phlegmatic (I'm apparently no longer a phlegmatic-sanguine), the article suggested I prioritize self-care and practice saying "no" and creating healthy boundaries (for melancholics) and give up pushing the snooze button (as a phlegmatic; I'm totally guilty of doing this several times each morning). That shouldn't seem like a big deal but those who know me know how hard it will be for me to go through with these things. I tend to sacrifice sleeping, eating, resting, etc. for others. If someone asks me to do something, I won't rest until it's done. It's that people-pleasing habit that hasn't fully gone away. The only time that I allow myself to take care of myself is when I'm so sick that I cannot do a good job at what's needed... and even then, I feel super guilty for not doing it. As the article correctly states, I have a hard time saying "no" and I need to. As I said earlier, my recovery this time around is worryingly slow than usual so I need to really take care of myself. How can I be of service to others if I can't even function?

Self-care is going to mean going to bed at an earlier time so I can get plenty of rest and not have the temptation to hit the snooze button in the morning. It also mean really pushing forward with the reintroduction of new foods into my diet (we've added 3 new things since the last time I mentioned it but I have to eat them sparingly as too much and/or too often makes me feel sick), drinking 8 cups of water instead of my usual 6, and not pushing my mind or my body to do more when I feel tired. It means no taking on any more commitments than I already have.

Of course, all of these things are going to be tied into one big thing that I'm adding: more time in prayer and more time with God.

I already mentioned the benefit of the "Great Entertainment Purge of 2020". Yes, I will be using that as a hashtag on social media during Lent.

When I need to be distracted? More prayer time or reading a spiritually-fulfilling book. If I get bored, I'm going to allow myself to be bored. Radical idea, I know. lol. I don't remember what article it was, but I read that getting 2 hours of silence per day and not having any additional stimulus is good for your health. It'll also be an excellent time to talk to God about what is on my heart and mind.

Motivation to go to bed earlier and not hit the snooze button? Early morning daily Mass. I'll go each morning that I'm feeling physically well enough to attend in person and I'll watch it live when I'm homebound. That and every chance I can take to go to Adoration, I'm taking. Again, I don't know how often this will happen with my chronic fatigue and my lack of car (though this should soon be fixed!) but it's a great motivator!

Motivation to practice self-care; to drink and eat better? My Oblate retreat in a couple of months. I want to get healthy enough to go to the retreat and be able to attend all the Masses, prayer times in the chapel (read: Divine Office hours), and talks without worrying about my health being a factor. Also, since I will be traveling for the retreat, I'm going to have to get used to an earlier bedtime and wake-up time since it'll be in a different time zone.

And, those, ladies and gentlemen, are my big Lenten plans. If you're wondering where social media fits into it -- I'll still be active but I'll have restricted hours. I set up my Freedom app (yes, that's an affiliate link) to block out all social media, news, and entertainment content from 4 a.m. - 5 p.m. during the week and 4 a.m. to 2 p.m. on weekends months ago but I may add another 2-4 hours to those schedules during Lent. I don't *need* to be on social media for that long; it'll defeat the whole purpose of being silent and only communicating good things. When I need to post links, I'll keep using HootSuite. I'll reply to messages on social media, but only in the evenings and nights. I'm limiting my time for both my own sanity and as penance.

So, those are my Lenten plans. What are yours? I can't wait to see what y'all have come up with!

Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm going to go eat and drink something because I haven't had much of either all day and it's a quarter 'til 4 p.m. Oops. Did I mention I'm terrible at self-care? Yeeeah. lol.

As always, thanks for reading and God bless!

Monday, February 17, 2020

How the 54-day Rosary Novena Kept Me From Getting Married

Yes, controversial title but... you'll see what I mean by the time you get to the end of this post.

Last Tuesday, we left our apartment just as dawn was breaking. It was a beautiful but chilly (for L.A. standards) start of the day. I had two books in my hand — Three to Get Married by Ven. Fulton Sheen and And You Are Christ’s by Fr. Thomas Dubay SM. One for a writing assignment, the other for my personal discernment.

Since I still don’t have a car, we had a taxi waiting for us at the front gate of our building. We climbed in and made our way to pick up another client (we are part of a next-day ride-share program). I put on my broken headphones, one side (the broken one) dangling from my ear. Nope, I can't afford to replace those yet. As long as one side still works, I don't care how silly it looks.

I had turned on my iPod touch almost from the minute I got into the taxi so the music was playing (like always on a long commute/trip), providing me background noise to drown out the familiar buzz of early morning traffic.

At some point, the music stopped being background noise. He popped into my mind just as “She Said” by Brie Larson (yes, Brie "Captain Marvel" Larson) started playing. I thought it was odd that my mind chose to focus on this particular song since it reminds me of my pre-reversion life, particularly of my time as a freshman at Santa Monica College. This is at least 3-4 years before I met him.

I don't think I need to tell y'all who he is. Since this is a post on my vocation discernment journey and I've been open about the fact that I was in wedding plan mode with someone late last year.

Anyway, I wasn't anticipating his suddenly popping up in my mind just as the following lyrics were being warbled:

“You can’t get inside my head,
Can’t be my safety net...

... I might hit the ground,
But, at least, I’ll have a story to tell,
She said, ‘I gotta find out for myself.’”

I listened to the song a couple more times to really remember the lyrics (it’s been years). I looked down at my two books on my lap and it struck me how appropriate the song was for me at the moment.

He was my safety net. With 11+ years of friendship under our belts before we even brought up the possibility of a relationship, let alone marriage, we had a history. He was one of my best friends. He was always there for me when I felt like I was floundering; like I needed someone to pull me out of a raging sea I couldn’t swim or even float in. Still, I kept him an arms-length away at all times.

In the months since I got the courage to pull the plug, I often wondered why that was. I thought it was because that’s how I was; overly-cautious and perhaps not as loving as I always thought I was. Listening to the song -- and the week of pondering that followed -- made me realize why that was: I somehow I always knew that I wasn't meant to get married, no matter how much I wanted it and how hard it would be to let go of that "safety net." It, unfortunately, took me a long time to realize it and accept it. The clues were there all along but I ignored them. Being a disappointment to my mother -- who desires grandbabies -- also played a factor in it but that's a different story.

During those 5 months when the fella and I (quickly) went from friends to discerning marriage, I saw parts of myself I didn’t like. I felt less and less like myself as things progressed. In fact, I ended up hating myself. I was changing, and not for the better. I didn’t like who I was becoming. I felt pulled away from God and I hated it. As awful as it sounds, I couldn't bear the thought of my heart not belonging solely to Him; of it being shared with someone else. I hated how far away I felt from God and how, the further it went on, the easier it became for me to accept temptations to sin without caring what happened. Massive red flag right there.

It was during this time that I began doing the 54-day Rosary novena. One of the initial intentions was for the fella and I to do God's will. I didn't make it past day 9 (the last day of the first of the 6 back-to-back novenas within the larger novena) when I knew, in my heart, that God was showing me a different path. As the novena continued, I stubbornly tried to dismiss what God was placing in my heart. I wanted to get married, and especially to him. He was (on paper) my perfect match. I wanted a family. God couldn't have possibly placed the desire to be married and discern marriage with the fella unless it was His will... right?

To my surprise, my prayers began to change on day 10 of the novena. No longer was I praying for our marriage; I was praying for us to do God's will, even if that meant not sharing our lives together. The more obvious it became that God didn't seem to be calling us to marriage, the more specific my intentions became. At some point, I began asking Mama Mary to lead me to my future spouse, whoever he may be... "even if my future Spouse is actually your Son."

The first time I said it out loud, I didn't even think about it; it completely slipped out! I was caught off-guard as I had no intention of saying those words. The longer I prayed the novena, the more I prayed for us both to do God's will... and the easier it became for me to add the intention of knowing whether my future spouse was actually Christ.

Before the novena ended, I knew what I had to do. I was dreading doing it because I didn't want to hurt him. For weeks I tried to gather all the courage I could muster to tell him. I was afraid of how he would react. I didn’t want to lose his friendship but I knew it wouldn’t be fair to him for me to drag it out. I knew I couldn’t marry him. God had made that abundantly clear after the first 9 days of the novena. No, Christ wanted me for Himself... and I was willing to give Him all of my heart and all that I have.

I wondered if the fella knew what was going on. Ask anyone who knows me; I can’t fake anything to save my life. You always know where you stand with me and you know when something is weighing heavily on my mind. It wasn't until last week -- after months of silence -- that I got the confirmation that he knew something was up even before I said anything. That's all I'm going to say regarding that.

Since last Tuesday, I've been reflecting on my life and my past relationships. As I shared on my Instagram post yesterday, it seems like God had placed the desire to belong solely to Him during childhood. When I was only 6-8 years old (as I entered the age of reason), I used to tell people that I was going to become a nun. It was the dream. Yes, I fell in love with Jesus at that early age. Attending Mass was the highlight of my week. I can even remember 8-year-old me taking a little white, plastic cross to school that said "I love Jesus" and proudly showing it off to my friends... at a secular elementary school. They would look at me like I was crazy but I felt it. I loved Jesus.

Eventually, I left strayed from the Church. After I made my First Communion and was Confirmed, my "cafeteria Catholic" parents (and my poorly catechized self) didn't see the point in attending Mass since I "no longer had the obligation" to. From ages 13 to 21, I was away from the Church... and I was boy-crazy. I always had a boyfriend or a crush.

A lot happened during that time -- during my "crazy" teen years -- but I still identified myself as Catholic. And despite my flirtation with the entertainment business during those years, I somehow managed to avoid becoming a #MeToo casualty. I was also able to avoid temptations despite "invitations" in my late teens and early 20s, something I credit to both the Holy Spirit and my Guardian Angel -- especially the latter since God knows what dangers I faced during those years.

I'm willing to bet that none of you remember this, but, a little over a year ago, I heard the words "Let Jesus court you" after praying the Little Office of the Blessed Virgin Mary... the same one he gave me years ago. You can go ahead and read the post for yourself; I can't make that up -- it's been there for over a year! As I stated then, I had begun making peace with the fact that God was probably calling me to stay single. I didn't understand why I heard "Let Jesus court you" then -- and especially while I was discerning marriage with the fella -- but I do now.

During the previous 54-day Rosary novena (2018), I had prayed to get to know my future husband. I thought my answers had been answered with one of my best friends. In hindsight, I'm thinking that perhaps God wanted me to discern marriage so I wouldn't always wonder "what if..." I'm very much the type of person to do that; always wonder what might've been if only I had *fill in the blank.*

After having discerned marriage with someone who is probably the closest I will get to my ideal (earthly) match, I no longer wonder "what if..." I had found someone who wanted to marry me (and vice versa); my "perfect match." Yet, he couldn't fill that God-shaped hole in my heart. Looking back, I can now see that neither he nor the one who taught me about true, unselfish love nor anyone else worked out because God was saving my heart for Himself.

It took two consecutive 54-day Rosary novenas (and countless others over the years), but I truly believe my prayers have been answered. It kept me from getting married in the traditional sense, but it gave me something greater: the sense that I have finally found my true future Spouse. I can now say that easily and without reservations.

The idea of being a bride of Christ and giving my whole heart and life to Him fills my eyes with joyful tears; my heart with overflowing love. Even if Archbishop Gomez doesn't believe I'm meant to become a consecrated virgin (as in, making it a public declaration), I know that making private vows will be something I want to do with my whole heart.

By the way, the last song I listened to on the trip that led to this past week's reflections? “Noticed” by Mute Math, from the same album that was the soundtrack to my reversion in 2006!

The lyrics?

“And all this time oblivious to what you make so obvious,
I can’t believe I never noticed my heart before...”

“And all this time it was staring me blind,
I can’t believe I never noticed my heart before...”

“The only time I ever noticed my heart was when I noticed you...”

Yes, the only time I ever noticed my heart was when I noticed You, Lord.

Anyway, just sharing these thoughts I wanted to share. Everyone's vocation discernment story is different. I'm glad I have a place to share mine as it unfolds.

Okay, that's enough "soul-baring" for now. ;)

I hope you all had a lovely weekend!

As always, thank you for reading and God bless! :D

Sunday, February 9, 2020

So Long (For Now), Twitter...

I was back on Twitter for only a week but it was enough for me to know that I had to cut it out of my life again... and for a longer period of time than a single month. I had actually begun contemplating another break -- one during Lent -- a few days ago. However, after being reminded of how negative and rude people are on the site, I knew my days were numbers as of tonight.

You can call me thin-skinned... sensitive... whatever you want. That's fine. I am sensitive, especially to others' words. I don't think people understand just how much power words carry; how it can be sharper and more damaging than a sword. I believe in using words to build others up instead of tearing them down. I also believe in being open and honest, especially since you never know when someone is silently going through something similar and may need to hear/read your words to know they're not alone. That's just how I am. However, I was just reminded of just easy it is for people to take your good intentions and twist them into something ugly. That's part of the reason why I decided to step away from Twitter.

You know what the funny thing is? I can handle words in person better than I do online. I have no idea why that is; perhaps because I can see the facial expressions and hear the tone in voices of people who say what they say. Perhaps putting a face to the words helps remind me of the human nature and of how people sometimes have bad days or are going through struggles. That's a downside to the online world; it's all depersonalized and that somehow makes it harder for me to remember these things.

The other reason for my leaving is one that I've already spoken about; the issue of humility and the temptation to spend too much time on it. One week was enough for me to see that I can't handle Twitter in a healthy manner. I can't do moderation with it. Seeing those likes and comments is an ego-boost that I can do without. If I could delete the account, I would. For work reasons, I cannot so it'll remain up until I no longer need it for work.

I'm beyond grateful for the wonderful friends I've met through it in the past 12 years I've been on it. Yes, 12 years! Thanks to it I found my "Holy Women Squad" as we've been nicknamed (a name I borrowed from a friend; I didn't come up with it myself). Thanks to it, I've learned so many things. I've found support and encouragement during difficult times. I'm so grateful for all the good that Twitter has to offer... but I honestly cannot deal with it right now. I now understand why a Carmelite friar friend was banned from social media for the first year (or two, I forget the length) of his novitiate. I now understand why some of the friends I look to for inspiration on how to live 

I'm not saying "goodbye" to all social media. I can handle Instagram because of the few people I follow. I'm cutting back on Facebook a bit but that's only because I don't use it much to begin with. Those are the only two other social media platforms I use so it'll be easier to manage.

I'll still post links and things to Twitter via Hootsuite. It won't be just of my own articles and IG posts but other things that I think others will enjoy... without dreading the little notifications bell being lit up. Of course, I'll be praying for everyone as well.

With it being Septuagesima Sunday, I think it's the perfect time to look at what brings me closer to God and what doesn't. Being on Twitter doesn't. It makes me angry. It makes me feel hurt. It brings out the worst in me. I don't want that for myself nor do I want anyone to experience that from me. So, this is a "so long (for now), Twitter." I don't know when I'll feel ready to return but it's clear that I came back way too soon.

To those who enriched my experience on it, thank you! To those who didn't, I forgive you. To those I've angered or hurt with my own words, even if done completely unintentionally, I ask for your forgiveness as well. I pray for you all, regardless of my interactions with you.

Anyway, just a little post for now.

As always, thank you for reading and God bless! :D

Wednesday, February 5, 2020

My Vocation Discernment & Why My Virginity is *NOT* a Trophy to be Won

Yes, I know, controversial title. It'll all make sense in a bit. Yes, I have some very strong words to say to a couple of folks.

First of all, happy feast of St. Agatha! Mom and I went to daily Mass and hung around our beloved little parish for a good while this afternoon. It was the perfect way to celebrate the feast of my co-patroness for the year. As I mentioned in my Instagram post earlier today, I had a lovely chat with the parishioner I'm closest to and she assured me of prayers to St. Agatha for my health and vocation discernment. She was one of the first (along with another parishioner) to know I was in the beginning stages of discerning consecrated virginity so she knew the importance of today for me.

I'll admit that I didn't know much about St. Agatha -- or, really, most of the other virgin martyrs -- prior to a few months ago when she and St. Philomena started to regularly pop up in my life in November of last year. To paraphrase my parishioner friend, I don't believe their sudden presence in my life was a coincidence. The more I've learned about these brave and holy women, the more I feel like they're kindreds. Not just because of the physical purity but because their words very much encompass what I've been feeling and thinking for years.

I'll be the first to admit that while I was away from the Church, I wasn't thinking about saving myself for marriage because it was the right thing to do. No. I was afraid of what my father's reaction would be if I ever got pregnant. My father was very much the stereotypical Mexican man exuding machismo. I loved him very much but, yeah, you didn't mess with Dad or get on his bad side for anything. So, as I got older and *ahem* "invitations" to spend some alone time with certain young men were brought up, I quickly dismissed them. And, okay, I just didn't want to get pregnant either. (I'll touch on this in a bit.) Still, I don't believe it was a coincidence that God (and the guidance of the Holy Spirit and my guardian angel) kept me from making decisions I would've later regretted.

When I was 19-20 (read: baby undergrad) was when guys did not hold back when making their intentions (or lack thereof) known. There are three specific incidents that stand out in my mind, all happening within a year and a half of each other.

The first was a musician friend (who attended the same college as I did) who was the first guy to ever boldly declare his goal. He just "wanted to have some fun." Um, pass. Sorry, bruh. Being a cute musician with a killer accent (he was British) was not going to make this gal swoon. That was the last conversation I ever had with him. Unfortunately, that was not the last time I heard the "have some fun" phrase.

A few months later (shortly after I was offered a contract with an agency), my then-crush had found out I liked him. As he told me, he was "completely flattered" and "thought (I) was cute" but he didn't want anything serious. He just wanted to "have some fun." I guess he overestimated how much I liked him (and I did like him quite a bit) because he took 30 minutes to try to convince me to take a taxi cab (which he offered to pay for, by the way!) and "have some fun" with him. I threw every excuse I had in my arsenal at him. When he didn't succeed, he got very angry with me. The last thing he said to me was that he was going to take a cold shower before logging off abruptly. (Side note: This was in 2005 so we were still using AOL Instant Messenger). That was the last time I spoke to him.

A few months later, his older brother moved in with him and he somehow got me to add him on Myspace. He also "thought (I) was cute" but he was trying to approach it in a different manner. He wanted to see if we were compatible for a relationship. However, there were clues along the way that made me think that it was just something he wanted to try to do as a way to compete with his brother; like a bet. You know, "She won't sleep with you but maybe she will with me" sort of thing. I may have read too much into it but there were hints and red flags that made it seem that way. Not gonna happen, buddy.

Even though I was away from the Church at the time, the fact that was he was a proud atheist wasn't gonna pass with me. Sure, I hadn't attended Mass in years (had not been to confession or received the Eucharist even longer than that) and I was woefully ignorant of the Catholic faith (read: poorly catechized), I still identified myself as a Catholic. I knew that a Catholic and an atheist trying to have a relationship would not end well because of those differences. Needless to say, that went nowhere and I eventually (mercifully) lost touch with him as well. I'm pretty sure I blocked him if I'm being honest. lol.

I actually ended up reverting to the faith months after that so my encounters with such guys became increasingly rare as my social circle changed. Funnily enough, the last blog post I read by the last guy I mentioned was him complaining about the election process of Pope Benedict XVI. Apparently, he had been glued to his TV, waiting to see the white smoke that would tell the world that we had a new pope following the death of Pope St. John Paul II. He ended up getting angry at himself because he was an atheist and he didn't understand why he had been keeping a close eye on the new papal election. As he stated, he "didn't care." That's the sanitized version of what he wrote. Also, the fact that this is my most vivid memory of my time right before my reversion says a lot. 

As the years have passed, I had better luck in the guy department but these types of guys never fully disappeared. In fact, I was still dealing with guys who were self-proclaimed faithful Catholics who were putting too much of an emphasis on the physical side of relationships as recent as a few months ago. I know all about the importance of the marital act in marriage but let's save that kind of talk for when it's appropriate, huh? I felt insulted when allusions to this sacred act were brought up because I felt like I was being disrespected. The guy clearly did not have chastity in mind when speaking to me. It made me want to yell, "My virginity is not a trophy to be won!" It wasn't the first time I've wanted to say it but it has been the last time (so far). And, if I'm being completely honest, this was the thing that pushed me towards seriously considering consecrated virginity when the vocation came up weeks later; the straw that broke the camel's back.

There have been a lot of factors that have gone into my decision to consider discerning consecrated virginity. I don't believe that all the experiences I had as a teenager up to my discernment to marriage a few months ago were coincidences either. I believe that everything has been leading up to this time and discernment. Of course, I had considered staying single over the years. People would say that it was because of my rotten luck with guys (seriously, worst luck ever) and that it would change when I found the right person, but I was always comfortable being single. It felt like the right thing for me.

I never complained about people who got engaged, got married, or found their significant others... nor did I understand why my single girlfriends would start ranting about being alone when these events happened. I've always loved Valentine's Day, proposals, and weddings. I've loved helping my guy friends plan their proposals to their now wives; I never envied them. I've always been a hopeless romantic, even when I've had no one in my life.

Yes, I deeply desired a family and the companionship because I didn't want to feel lonely, but it wasn't until recent months that I had that wonderful sense of family and community on a greater scale. I didn't need to be married to have a family; to belong to a community. I have my family, my friends, my Benedictine community, and my parish. I began to see how I could serve everyone, not just an immediate family, and do good for the Church in a special way.

As I mentioned earlier, the idea of being pregnant has never appealed to me. I can still picture 13-year-old me being horrified when friends were talking about childbirth because, nope, I totally did not want to know about or go through that.

Yes, I love babies. I love making them smile and laugh. I'm a total "baby whisperer"; God has given me the gift of knowing just how soothe crying and fussy babies. You can't take me to Disneyland or, really, anywhere where there are a lot of babies without having me coo over how cute they are or without me trying to make them smile. I'm very maternal towards the children of friends and family, too. You have a baby who needs a godmother? That child will be the most beloved child and I will fully commit myself to help you raise them into a faithful Catholic as the years go by. Still, the thought of having children of my own...? Well, I'm never been able to picture myself having them. Adopting? Sure. Having them physically? Not so much.

Even while discerning marriage, I had to try to make myself come to terms with the fact that babies were probably coming my way when I got married. In fact, I was relieved when my hematologist said I was able to have babies despite my platelet count. It took me by surprise, too, because I just have never envisioned babies for myself. Still, because I was discerning marriage, I had to basically force myself to get used to the idea of being pregnant and becoming a mother at some point. See where this might've created a major problem? Yeeeah.

It wasn't until I began to really learn about consecrated virginity as a vocation that it made sense to me. I'm skipping over a lot of specifics to be talked over with my spiritual director and Archbishop Gomez but let's say that the further I delve into it, the more it fits with my desires... and the more my past makes sense.

That overflowing love I feel in my heart? The one I've spoken about since the early days of my blog, back in 2007-2008? I can give that as a consecrated virgin. I can give it to Christ, the Church, and to those who I will have the honor to serve. That family I've always longed for? I already have it, just not in the traditional sense. The only thing that will be "hard" (though, not so much anymore; my heart belongs fully to Christ these days) is to give up the idea of companionship with a significant other. The sacrifice is giving up the idea of a husband and the constant dread of always being a disappointment to my mother since she's always wanted to be a grandmother; I was her only hope. She may say she supports me (at least, now she does) but you can see the disappointment written on her face.

Everything has led up to this. I've always considered companionship on an emotional level and never on a physical level which should've been my glaringly obvious clue all these years! The clues were always there... it just took St. Philomena popping up randomly in my life, having St. Agatha assigned as my patroness for the year, and the events that unfolded during the 54-day Rosary novena (read: the undoing of my discernment to marriage) for me to get to where I am now. What can I say? I'm slow sometimes. lol. But now that I have a clearer vision, a better understanding of myself, and some Heavenly allies, I'm excited to see what God has in store for me.

St. Agatha, please pray for me as I wait to begin this (possible) new chapter in my life. Always remind me that I must always strive to lead a holy life and do His will.

Anyway, this was the big post I wanted to write for St. Agatha's feast day. It took me longer than I wanted to write (I had article deadlines and other things to do first) but now it's out... and I'm glad I was finally able to say some of the things that only a small handful of people have known for years.

I hope y'all are having a lovely week thus far!

As always, thank you for reading and God bless!