From the ‘pond’ to the ‘ocean,’ and back again: Consecrated virginity lived in the world

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People sometimes wonder about the Spirituality that marks my journey as a consecrated virgin living in the world. I describe my life metaphorically as undulating between a “quiet pond” and the tumultuous “ocean.” 

Each day begins at the “pond.” I pray the Liturgy of the Hours and make a Holy Hour, listening to the Lord: I enter within, realizing that He will once again journey within me throughout the day, revealing His Will. That Will includes Christ’s desire for a life of greater self-knowledge, surrender and ever-increasing dying to self through union with Him. He intends to share all His attributes with me. What a great act of mercy and grace! What faith I need to believe this — in pursuing this vital union with Him, it truly is no longer I; it becomes “we” who breathe, walk, pray, and work together. 

At times this union has ebbed and flowed in my human frailty. I have always desired an espousal to someone who would strongly challenge me, and in my consecration I more than met my match! Yet, He has persistently drawn me closer. We receive according to our faith and He incessantly challenges us to greater depths. For this I am so grateful. 

Following my precious time at the pond, I have but a short walk over to the ocean. The boardwalk is well marked and well traveled, leading from the pond to the ocean shoreline. The busyness of our days resembles the “ocean.” Waves swell and crash on the shore, glistening peaks and foam rush in with the tides. So many bright distractions appear: opalescent shells, stones of various colors and shapes. So many delightful people come to chatter; joggers, beachcombers, families, children, and strangers, mingle as their dogs scamper about. Many wonders inhabit this vibrant, engaging, bustling place. My days can likewise be hectic — joy, satisfaction that things go well at work, ministry, and prayer. 

Yet oceans can become brutal with the change of weather; events in my life have sometimes left me bewildered. In such times, I think of the poem, “Footprints in the Sand.” I knew that I was not walking alone; the Lord was carrying me. Years later, I perceive more: He is within me; I can be transformed in His Will. We are not two, but He calls me to oneness. I know how right St. Paul was when he exclaimed, “I am living; no longer I, but Christ is living in me; and that life which I now am living in the flesh I am living by faith” (Gal 2:20). When distressed, I do understand this. The frailties of my human condition move me to surrender to the Divine Will more deeply. 

When inner trials and exterior challenges weigh heavy, I return from the seashore. I feel the breeze at my back nudging me toward the inward “pond,” where the hunger for His presence is rekindled. Prayer balances me, living in His Will keeps me focused, and He holds me in a tranquil embrace. I share with Him the pleas of the many from my day along the shoreline. As swans swim by and butterflies alight, the peaceful beauty rekindles my yearning for more faith. Seeing reflections of clouds and trees in the water, I look within and ask to be a reflection of Mary who lived fully the inner life of God. I reflect within the heart of Christ so that Christ may deepen and divinize this union. 

I have come to a deeper awareness that He is always within me in the stillness of the “pond” and in the stronger motions of the “ocean,” and while I need both in my life, I rely first on the “pond,” (the quiet of contemplation), to ready me for the challenges and busyness of work and activity — to prepare for the great adventure of the “ocean” with all its energetic demands. Through it all, He is within, as I move across the boardwalk, in the divinizing ebb and flow between “pond” and “ocean.” 

Elizabeth Lee was consecrated to the Order of Virgins in 1995 under Canon 604 of the Code of Canon Law by Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley, O.F.M. Cap. She is a graduate of Roger Williams University and works as a media manager at the National Catholic Bioethics Center. She has served as secretary of the United States Association of Consecrated Virgins and has been a guest on the North American Catholic Educational Programming Foundation television network and featured on ABC’s “Nightline” discussing the vocation of consecrated virginity.

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