I’ve been aware of Pope St. John Paul II’s Theology of the Body since I was a teenager, when my parents attended all three immersion courses at the Theology of the Body Institute. They encouraged me to do the same, and in 2014, I attended the first remote course offered near New Orleans where I live. I hoped that it would help me in my vocational discernment.
I have always felt that God wanted me to do something special for Him, but I could never quite put my finger on what He wanted me to do. I had a mixture of wanting to find “the one” and raise a family – I love kids – but I also had a single-heartedness for the Lord. When I attended the ordinations and first Masses of friends who were entering the priesthood, however, my heart began to overflow with respect and love for these men who were dedicating their lives to be like Christ and giving up the blessings of marriage and family life.
The Scripture verse John 15:12-13 often came up in my prayer, “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” I felt the Lord asking me to lay down my life as well so I began by making a private vow in my heart to remain single for the Lord and to pray for His priests.
At this point, I wondered if the Lord was calling me to become a nun, but after considering a couple of orders nothing exactly felt right for me. Then I attended an informational conference on consecrated virginity. I had never heard of consecrated virginity, but found out that this ancient order in the Church dates back to the 4th century AD. Unlike a religious order of nuns, consecrated virgins live in the world, but not necessarily in community. Each consecrated virgin works with her bishop to discern what her contribution to the church will be and how the charism of consecrated virginity can serve the Church through acts of service, prayer, charity, and the sharing of one’s special gifts and talents.
I prayed for an entire year to discern whether consecrated virginity was my calling, and I thought attending a Head & Heart Immersion Course would help shed some light on this big decision. During the week, I re-learned in a very demonstrative way that marriage is a great sign of unity and that it reflects, in a certain sense, Trinitarian union. I also re-discovered the truth that those who choose a celibate life aspire to become one with God directly through self-sacrificing love for others.
Through the Sacrament of Reconciliation and the Liturgy of the Eucharist, which was offered daily during the course, my heart was being stretched by the Lord to receive His confirmation of my vocation. I felt the Lord speaking to me through His priests and my fellow participants at the course. Through them, I heard God thanking me for the offering of my virginity.
However, also on TOB I, I was able to understand more clearly and profoundly our culture’s current attack on women. The evil one is still on the prowl to devour souls and he particularly attacks the design and dignity of woman. Not only did I feel that I needed to be a living sacrifice for priests, but also for my fellow sisters in the world whose bodies have been attacked by lust, casual sex, date rape and abortion. I felt compelled by the blessings of my virginal womb to make an offering for all the women’s wombs that have been attacked in these ways.
The real war on woman looks overwhelming but I realized that Christ had already conquered all sin and death; that He rose from the dead and that there is no room for despair-only hope! Further, the Father designed the most immaculately beautiful woman on earth to be our mother, advocate, mediatrix and example.
God chose a woman to bear His Son! Mary was given the awesome task of being a mother to the great High Priest and mother to us all. On the last day of the course during the Liturgy of the Eucharist, I looked at the stained glass window of the depiction of the Annunciation.
I gazed into Mary’s eyes of receptivity and admired her “yes,” to the Lord’s plan. That is the “yes” I want to say to the Lord! I implored Mary’s help in my mission to be a living sacrifice for priests and women and I felt the glory of her Son’s resurrection pouring into my heart! I could feel the Lord’s love for every beautiful soul in that chapel and that He has a unique and beautiful plan for all of us to love and follow Him all the days of our life. Mary will hold our hand every step of the way!
Mary, Virgin and Mother, Pray for us!
Elizabeth Rizzo was born and raised in New Orleans, Louisiana, and holds a degree in Communications from the University of New Orleans. She has been employed by the New Orleans Sheriff’s Office for 11 years serving as a Real Estate Specialist. She enjoys spending time with her family and friends and singing to and for the Lord as a cantor at Mass and weddings. She has attended TOB I and TOB II and looks forward to TOB III.