I am a mother to three daughters (possibly four, if their miscarried sibling was a girl, too). These three are at vastly different stages of spiritual and emotional development. My oldest is a tween, and on the cusp of all that comes with adolescence. My middle girl is in the golden days of elementary school age, and my youngest is a preschooler. Yet, I talk to all three of them about their vocations already.
Falling in Love with Him
From the time they are in utero, I pray for my children to know His love. When they are babies, carried to Mass in our arms, I teach them to blow kisses to Jesus.
My master’s degree in theology had a heavy emphasis on catechesis. I know how to impart knowledge about the faith to my children, but I know that knowledge is useless without love. And so, I try to turn any teaching moment into an opportunity for relationship with God. When the girls and I visit Jesus in the tabernacle, we refer to him with terms of deep affection, “Our Little Jesus,” “Jesus, our Love”, “the Little Love” (because he made himself so tiny in the Eucharist, just for the sake of love). After Communion, my preschooler’s form of praying for spiritual Communion is to snuggle up to the heart of one of us who have received the Eucharist so she “can get a snuggle from her brother” (which is how she refers to Jesus).
As a former child who suffered terribly from scrupulosity, I know how easy it can be for a child to get lost in the rules and requirements of our faith. I try to be attune to hints of scrupulosity in my children, and turn the conversation back to relationship. For example, I had an older child talk to me with concern about purgatory the other day. I compared it to the time of engagement in marriage – the union is imminent, but there is work to be done to prepare (marriage preparation, if thorough, can be hard at times!) for coming together as one. There is also the pain of knowing you can’t be married yet, because there is still preparation to be done. Purgatory isn’t God unleashing his anger on you – it is him preparing your heart for union. It is preparing your heart to accept that all good things are from him, oriented towards him, and that what your heart longs for can only be found in him.
In all relationships, there are obligations to the one you love. There are commitments and rules you follow. But, if the relationship is a healthy one, all of those things are done out of love for the beloved one.
Transferring this View to Vocation
My daughters are still young, but I am trying to lay out a roadmap for them that is similar to the one that I followed – the one that led me to my own vocation of marriage to their father.
When it came time to discern my own vocation, and in the last twelve years of marriage, the only place I have found real peace is in God, and in finding him in the people and circumstances he had led me to. This isn’t to say that I don’t try and seek peace in a thousand other places – scrolling social media, streaming videos and TV shows, online shopping, reading the news ad nauseum – but God is the only place where I have actually found it. The happiest moments in my marriage (and discernment leading up to it) were the moments when my husband and I recognized Christ in our midst, or invited him there. The moments when I most deeply fall in love with my husband again are those moments when I see in him – and especially in our crosses and suffering over the years – a shared longing for God.
But long before I was engaged, married, and a mother, I fell in love with Jesus. I cultivated a habit of regular prayer and time with him in the Eucharist, but my own actions were small in comparison to the gentle, persistent love they were met with.
Falling in love with Christ changed everything for me. It ultimately enabled me to receive my vocation as a gift, and it has sustained me in the hard parts of marriage and motherhood. My husband doesn’t complete me, or fulfill my desires. Jesus does. However, my vocation is a gift of his love to me – which means that I can freely receive my spouse’s love as flowing from Christ’s love.
And, my husband knows that as much as I am in love with him, I will always be even more in love with Him. Likewise, I want my husband to love God deeply, longing for union in heaven, too.
This might sound lofty, but I think that His love is a gift God offers each of us, regardless of marital state or vocation. Long before we feebly reach out for him, God is madly in love with us.
Valentine’s Day as a Single
None of this is to say that the single life is easy. It truly isn’t, and Valentine’s Day often pours salt in that wound. Even when it is full of crosses (because it’s not for nothing that Jesus asked us to “take up your cross” every day), life is often easier when you are married/religious or priest/consecrated celibate. There is a peace and ease that comes with having a relationship status that can easily be named.
But if you find yourself still in the throes of waiting or discernment, it helps to remember that there is already One who is deeply, madly in love with you. Resting in that love will never be time wasted. And, if you do end discerning marriage/religious life or priesthood/consecrated celibacy, then that vocation will only be truly possible when it is rooted in your role as His Beloved.
You are beautiful to Him. And you are so, so deeply loved. Happy Valentine’s Day!