Discovering True Greatness
have long desired to do great things for the world. As a young child, I wanted
to be an artist, bringing beauty to others through my works. Later, as I
developed a passion for books and learning under the homeschooling tutelage of
my parents, I thought I would become a great academic, a thinker like St. Thomas
Aquinas who would change the world with my big ideas. Then, as I entered
college, I hoped to become a teacher or a missionary so that I could spread the
light of truth and faith.
Little Elizabeth enjoying the Florida sunshine!
The seeds of a deep love for God and the Catholic faith were planted early in my life. The first personal encounter I had with God came when I was preparing for First Communion, during second grade. Having been homeschooled since first grade, my parents were largely responsible for my catechesis, and my father in particular prepared me for my First Communion. While I remember bits and pieces of what I learned that year, the most powerful moment for me was a lesson on the Eucharistic miracle at Lanciano, Italy. As my father read to me about the literal, visible transformation of the bread and wine into Christ’s Body and Blood in this miracle, I understood profoundly that this same transformation happened every time the Mass was offered, although it was not always visible; the concept of transubstantiation and the Real Presence was imprinted on me and steadily grew into my great love of the Eucharist, which would play a major role in my vocational discernment.
Throughout grade school, I continued to learn about the Faith at home, and attended Mass every week with my family. I loved learning about Catholic traditions, the liturgical year and, later on, became interested in theology and philosophy. During middle school, I attended my parish’s Wednesday night youth group, and was especially blessed by my 7th grade catechists who encouraged me to ask questions, seek answers, and take ownership of my faith. As I began high school and transferred to the Sunday night Youth Group for older students, I was invigorated to pursue Christ in His Church and to share my love and knowledge with my peers. I quickly became involved various retreats, the youth choir, and a peer ministry team that helped plan events for high school students.
Through my youth group, I also became involved in XLT, a guided Eucharistic Adoration program for high school students which was being put on throughout my diocese. In this new experience, the seeds of love for the Blessed Sacrament that had been planted in my childhood began to take root. I began to seek more opportunities to spend time with our Lord in the Eucharist, and started signing up to make a holy hour whenever I could on retreats or during 40 hour Exposition events at my parish. And once I started to seek Jesus in this way, I began to realize He was seeking me.
Initially when I discovered the beauty of Eucharistic Adoration, I would bring a laundry list of topics to my prayer time, asking questions about my future, requesting blessings on whatever test was coming up at school, and other such
Elizabeth (third from left) with her siblings Gabriel (13), Jennifer (17), and Anne Marie (15) in 2012
After this retreat and my “yes” to God, I wasn’t sure what to do. I considered putting off my plans for college so that I could focus on discerning what community I was called to, but in this I found no peace, so in the Fall of 2010 I went off to Florida Atlantic University to study for my Bachelor’s Degree in Anthropology. Throughout my time in college, I continued to take opportunities for retreats, Eucharistic Adoration, and personal prayer time so that I could deepen my relationship with the Lord and be more in tune with His will for me. I also went through a “window-shopping” phase of discerning religious life, during which I would look at various community’s websites and vocation pamphlets.
With my interest in teaching and foreign cultures, I thought I might have a vocation to work in education or the missions. As a teacher or missionary, I saw that I could do great things with my gifts and talents. Yet, when I would bring my ideas to God in prayer, He never seemed to be asking me to do the great works I was grasping at. Instead, He simply asked me to draw closer to Him, to spend more time in His presence and give Him all my attention. Over time, I discovered that this was the Holy Spirit nudging me towards a more contemplative life, perhaps even a cloistered life. While looking up cloistered communities like the Carmelites and Poor Clares, I stumbled upon the website of the Passionist Nuns in Whitesville, KY. I had never heard of them before, but as I read about their life, for the first time I found myself thinking “I could do that. That could be me.” Though I had seen great beauty in other cloistered lives, none of them had evoked this response for me. Something about the Passionists “clicked” with my heart, and for a few months I followed their blog, not quite brave enough to contact them.
|Elizabeth in December 2013, just before beginning Postulancy|
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