Senior year. It seems to be the time when little dreams start to surface into reality. It’s when the toddler’s plastic stethoscope and white medical coat is replaced with hours of community service to increase one’s chances of getting into a pre-med program. It’s when traveling to the far off lands of “the attic” is replaced with the unending search for the perfect international studies program. It’s amazing how fast time flies when the 4 year old says “I want to build things when I grow up” to when the 18-year-old says, “I’m going to be a mechanical engineer.” I don’t think I have ever met a little kid who did not have a response to “What do you want to be when you grow up?” Whether it’s a fire fighter, a lawyer, a mom, a doctor, or even Dora the Explorer, every person dreams of who he or she will be in the future.
I had a dream too. For as long as I can remember (a phrase which I understand to mean “since I was 4-years-old”) I have always said, “When I grow up, I want to be consecrated.” Sometimes I would say “a doctor,” or “a lawyer,” or “a politician,” or even “a nun,” but that was only when my 5-, 6-, or 10-year-old mind couldn’t fathom trying to explain what “consecrated” means to Uncle Rob or Aunt Betsy. Yet, after my sister, Melicia, became a lay consecrated woman of the Regnum Christi Movement when I was about 3 years old, from then on, “when I grow up” always ended in “I’m going to be consecrated,” whether or not I said it out loud.
I never seriously imagined myself as anything else, except consecrated. I have always had a strong sensitivity towards “asking God what he wants” and trying “to do His will.” Naturally, as time progressed, my 4-year-old dreams progressed as well. For these past 3 ½ years of high school, I have attended Immaculate Conception Academy, a precandidacy for girls discerning consecrated life in the Regnum Christi movement. I can sincerely say that they have been the best years of my life. I wouldn’t trade these 4 years for 17 years as a concert violinist or 5 years as an Olympic swimmer. Why? Because I have found what is important in my life: Christ. That personal experience of God’s love and his plan for me isn’t worth trading for anything.
My “dream” of being consecrated continued into my high school years. Being with the lay consecrated women every single day has fostered within me a strong appreciation for the consecrated vocation and an understanding of what it means to give one’s life entirely to God. It amazes me to think of how the lay consecrated here give up an extensive wardrobe, personal cell phones, careers, family life—everything, just to dedicate themselves completely to the formation and discernment of 30-50 high school girls.
We often speak of heroes today as men and women who sacrifice their lives for the good of others, who place their needs second and those of others’ first. If there are heroes, the consecrated women should surely be counted among them. They don’t serve others for just a day or even a 5-year term, but rather for the rest of their lives. With this experience of consecrated life, how can one not admire and aspire to such heroism?
Yet, our dreams and God’s plans don’t always converge. I always imagined myself as a consecrated, but now I have discerned that God has a plan for me elsewhere. In our monthly retreat, Fr. Edward McIlmail, LC, our chaplain, said that we need to look at ourselves with sincerity as David did before Goliath. David acknowledged that he didn’t know how to fight in armor or with a sword. So, he took the armor off and faced Goliath with a sling and a few pebbles, a weapon he knew how to use. This reflection prompted me to ask myself the question: “Is it that I need to accept fighting with a sling and pebbles or is it that I need to fight with the sword and armor that I know how to use?” If we make ourselves fight with the wrong weapon, we’ll never win the battle. It is only by looking at ourselves through God’s eyes, accepting our talents however great or small, and fighting with the weapons we know how to use, that we will be able to travel the road ahead, to fight the battle we’re in.
What we dream isn’t always what God plans. However, in the end, his plan is always better, it will always make us happier, and it will always give us peace. What I had imagined for over 10 years turns out to be different from what God planned for me, but now that I know what he is asking of me, I have experienced a tremendous sense of interior peace and joy, knowing that he is equipping me for the mission ahead and that he is guiding me now and will be guiding me when the next crossroad comes.