Friday, December 18, 2015

The Truth of Discernment and Vocation: Guest Post from Jiza

Jiza and I connected a few years ago when I was doing this every Sunday.  We found out we had a few friends in common from the Theology of the Body Institute, as well as shared hearts for ministry through beauty and Marian devotion.  I'm so inspired by her quietly devout spirituality and her artistic flair.  She and I have a new project in the works that I can't wait to share with you soon!  Meantime, please pray for our creative process as our project gets underway, check out Jiza's gorgeous photography business, Olive & Cypress (where you'll find more of her reflections), and enjoy this here piece of her heart.  I asked her to share some of her love story and spiritual journey; read on for her beautiful insights into walking the path to your vocation.
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“My God, since I am not worthy to be Your Spouse like my sister, I shall enter the married state to accomplish Your holy will...” – Saint Zelie Martin, Mother of Saint Therese of Lisieux

Much like Saint Zelie, I had originally thought I was called to be a religious sister.  Throughout my years of college undergrad, I had mentally prepared for the day I would enter & start my postulancy after finally receiving my degree in psychology. However, as my entrance date drew near, the numerous doors started to close, and like most college students, I began the typical journey of looking for a job and living a life as a young professional.

In the summer of 2008, I was a volunteer photographer for the Bike for Life Pilgrimage in the Diocese of Raleigh, North Carolina. It was a peaceful 2 weeks, but my future was still heavy upon my heart. I had just been through a failed dating relationship, was getting ready to quit my job as a special education itinerant in VA, and was eagerly awaiting a reply on an internship application for the Theology of the Body Institute in Exton, PA. As far as I knew, my life at the time was looking really unknown.

The pilgrimage ended on Feast of the Assumption, August 15, at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C. As the pilgrims were preparing to go our separate ways and back into everyday lives, Fr. Lawrence, a then newly ordained priest with the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal, asked me if he could pray for me and if I had any intentions. I replied very matter-of-factly: “I thought I was called to be a religious. And then I had a dating relationship and that didn’t work out either. I don’t know what God is calling me to do anymore.”

He replied, “Entrust everything to Our Lady. Place it in the hands of Mary and she will open doors. She always leads us to Christ and to God’s Will.” “Entrust everything to Mary,” he kept repeating. Then he paused and looked at me intently and said “And I have a feeling that you will find out what that is very soon.”

I did just that, and well… Fr. Lawrence was right. A couple of weeks later, I soon met my husband, Mark. Actually, we were re-aquatinted online (via-CatholicMatch.com) but we had originally met at a Theology on Tap just a couple of months beforehand. We had a prayerful courtship while he finished his final year at the United States Naval Academy and during my internship at the Theology of the Body Institute. That early January we were engaged.

Later that month, I bumped into Fr. Lawrence at the annual March for Life in Washington D.C. When I spotted him, I quickly ran to him and asked him if he had remembered the advice he had given me. He said “Yes! How is that going for you?” I eagerly threw up my left hand and yelled “I’m engaged!” After a congratulations and a hug, he then asked me “So, when is the wedding?” Without a thought, I blurted “August 15”, a date that Mark and I had mindlessly and quickly decided on the day before due to his deployment schedule. 
“That’s the Feast of the Assumption. Exactly a year from when I told you to entrust everything to Our Lady,” Fr. Lawrence said.
In a crowd with millions of people on the way to the Capitol Building, a silence fell upon me and Fr. Lawrence in that moment. We just stood there, stunned. Then the tears of joy started to well up in both of our eyes along with a burst of laughter.

I honestly don’t remember how Fr. Lawrence and I parted ways that day. I want to say that our original groups that we were accompanying for the March had caught up to us. However, what I do remember is the peace that overcame me and that never left me. I wasn’t searching for a confirmation or a sign regarding my vocation to the married life with Mark because the peace and the knowing was already there. However, God gave me one anyways. Perhaps because He knew I would often look back at that moment to reflect on His Love for me and the intricate part that Mary, with her Immaculate Heart full of love, always desires to point us to her Son, Jesus.
Today, younger women will sometimes ask me how I discerned my vocation. Bill Donaghy of the Theology of the Body Institute said it best, in that “The truth of vocation is that it’s a dialogue, not a monologue. A dance more than a cold directive.”  In the beginning, my vocation discernment was overzealous and self-centered. I was blind in the fact that I just wanted God to dictate to me what He wanted, rather than what I should have been doing all along, which was--is--to surrender myself daily in love to Him, and with a willingness and docility to grow in my relationship with Him.
Love is the fundamental and innate vocation of every human being (St. John Paul II, Familiaris Consortio, n. 11). Vocations are “peculiar to persons, and the very concept takes us into a very interesting and profound area of man’s interior life… A person who has a vocation must not only love someone but be prepared to give himself or herself for love… ‘What is my vocation’ means ‘in what direction should my personality develop, considering what I have in me, what I have to offer, and what others – other people and God – expect of me?’” (St. John Paul II, Love & Responsibility, p. 256).

Sometimes, I wish I could go back and tell my 22 year old self to not be so easily disheartened, assuming that she would have been willing to listen. However, I also know that my conversation with Fr. Lawrence on that faithful day was the catalyst for me realizing that my vocation is not about me, but about something greater than me. It is about Love and Love itself.
Entrust everything to Mary.
Thanks so much, Jiza!  Feeling inspired by her total surrender to Our Lady? If you missed it, click here for a roundup of Marian posts.  Have a wonderful weekend; I'd love to know what you're up to!

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