On July 22, 2017, the feast of St. Mary Magdalene, I was consecrated as a virgin living in the world. I would love to say that on that day, I was exclusively filled by God’s grace and simply bursting with light, love and joy. But as I was kneeling in the sanctuary of the Denver cathedral, looking at our Lord in the Eucharist, elevated in the hands of my archbishop, I was in shock. I had been to thousands of Masses in my lifetime, and this view was not unfamiliar. But today was different. That day, I wasn’t just looking at my God, my redeemer, Jesus Christ, body, blood, soul and divinity — I was looking at my spouse. That day, I was offering my whole life to Christ, committing my life to perpetual virginity for him, and, in turn, he was offering himself to me in a new way.
Consecrated virginity is one of the oldest vocations in the Church and a way in which women gave their lives to Christ in the ancient world before religious life existed. We hear of harrowing stories of virgins who were tortured and martyred in the early Church in order to preserve themselves for Christ alone. With the Eucharist at the center, and as virgin, bride and mother, consecrated virgins are a witness to, and an invitation for, the Church and the world to remain with eyes fixed on the heavenly banquet. As brides of Christ, they are a witness to the union with Christ awaiting us. As spiritual mothers, they are committed to receiving all who come to them and placing them at the feet of Christ through prayer. Like other lay consecrated vocations, they don’t look any different on an average day and have normal jobs and commitments. But truly, they are the heart of any diocese, committed to offering their lives and prayers for the bishops, priests and people of their local Church.
Now, with that beautiful and eloquent description of consecrated virginity, I must admit that there are not enough words to write here in order to make myself sound or feel worthy of the life of consecration. I am overly emotional, prone to drama, would be covered in tattoos if my spiritual director allowed, and solidly believe that my fondest memories of the last five years have been sharing my vocation with people and delighting in the fact that they squirm when they hear the word “virgin.” I am faithful to the prayers for my diocese and feel very honored to be given such a responsibility, but even consecrated virgins have marital disputes, and for some reason, I haven’t learned yet that no matter how stubborn I am, I will always lose.
But at the heart of this vocation is the Eucharist. Why? Because through it I am reminded that I am not worthy but still am chosen and desired and loved by Christ. He comes to us under the appearance of humble bread. He unites himself with me, a sinner, and sustains me through this Eucharist until I can be united with him for eternity. Through the Eucharist, the distance between us is bridged and the cares and petitions I carry on behalf of the Church are received into his most Sacred Heart. As a consecrated virgin, my life’s mission is to remind you, the Church, the world, that there is no one who is beyond the Lord’s desire. He wants everyone no matter how unworthy. Christ in the Eucharist can hold the world in its entirety; there is no limit to his love.
Andrea Polito was consecrated to the Order of Virgins in 2017. She writes from Maryland.