I never want to spend another spring break away from my girls, I thought as I returned from an education conference that I had been torn about whether or not to attend. Little did I know, though bittersweet, that week was the mark between my before and after, and it would have nothing to do with the conference itself.
St. Paul had a dramatic conversion; an easily recognizable, specific encounter with Christ divided his life. Recently at a LifeTeen-led diocesan training we had encouragement to write about our conversion with a focus on our before, the moment, and after. As I sat in the quiet of the chapel, I was once again pondering that rather than a Road to Damascus narrative, I had a quiet conversion — one that was so subtle, I did not recognize it until looking back a couple of years later as I tried to sift through when my life irrevocably changed.
God has a way of revealing what we should know, when and how we should know it. As I lived the experience I had no idea how significant it would be in the grand scheme of things. Though the trip was specifically for the conference, with the passage of time it is clear that it was so much more about being out of my comfort zone, a willingness to be vulnerable and step forward in faith.
After never really having a deep connection to Mary throughout my life, I concluded Fr. Michael Gaitley MIC’s 33 Days to Morning Glory while on the trip. Miles away from home, I sat on my hotel bed thinking, I don’t fully understand this, but I am willing to say yes. I know you will help me to understand. The next day, I found myself venturing out of the hotel in the evening. The night before my flight to the conference something spoke to my heart as I read an article about the Sisters of Life in a copy of Catholic Digest that someone had left in the free materials section of our church. Reading about their vocation struck me, and I noticed one of their locations was in the very town I was heading. A Google search helped me to realize that they would be hosting their monthly Holy Hour within walking distance of my hotel.
This summer as I read about my Confirmation Saint in the book Saint Aloysius Gonzaga, SJ: With an Undivided Heart, I noticed that he resonated with my life in so many ways beyond the original connection of him being the patron saint of youth and my desire to be a teacher. Two key reasons were his veneration of Mary and devotion to the Blessed Sacrament. Shortly after reading the book, I was looking back to my calendar in order to verify the time frame of different events while working on a writing project, and it hit me — that trip had both elements, Mary and the Eucharist.
From the time of the conference both have been key to my journey of faith. I prioritize praying the Rosary daily and recognize the Eucharist as my most powerful form of self-care. The big shifts did not happen immediately with my Marian Consecration and attending Holy Hour while at the conference. Instead, different pieces clicked into place over the days and months, sometimes starting and stopping before becoming regular priorities. The concepts were not completely absent from my life prior to the experience either. I have memories of praying decades of the Rosary at different phases of my youth and young adult life and then had a pull to learn to pray the Rosary fully about a year prior. I found peace in having weekly Adoration while completing my master’s in education to become a teacher but did not continue the practice as I transitioned to a new town at the start of my career. Instead, the shift was about more fully recognizing the importance and consistency.
There was something about how those two events one day to the next helped to cement together all the different pieces of the foundation that had been laid throughout my life. That year the one little word I chose to guide my thinking was core with the intention to reflect on what was most important and then align my life to that. I hadn’t realized that it would be the year I would reconnect with my Catholic faith and start a journey to discovering what it means to live a Christ-centered life. Though life is not without tensions and challenges as I navigate properly prioritizing a busy life, through the process, I am re-defining the concept of peace in my mind. Rather than feeling like I am drowning towards the end of each week, I am learning how to let go of worry in exchange for trust. I am recognizing the power of prayer to ground me.
Now, I am preparing for another education conference – one I was not sure I wanted to leave my family to attend. Yet, the thought came to mind about how maybe once again there would be unforeseen links to my spiritual growth. Then, as I was reviewing some religious education curriculum for our diocese, a page about the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, DC where the conference would be held captured my attention. Once again, I am getting ready to step forward with faith that this will also be a part of my journey with a willingness to patiently wait as God reveals how.
What are some of the defining moments in your life? Was your conversion more like St. Paul’s or was it quiet and gradual?
Loving Lord, I am in awe with how you work in our lives. Your timing is always perfect. You know exactly what we need and when we need it in order to grow into the people you are calling us to be. Help me to live a life totus tuus. Thy will be done.
Copyright 2017 Amanda Villagómez