My name is Miriam and I am a consecrated virgin of the Archdiocese of Portland. I was consecrated by Archbishop Sample in May of 2020. I was first introduced to this vocation in 2006, but I trace the origins of the call back to 2002, when I experienced a profound conversion in college. I had recently stopped attending Mass, and I was really struggling with belief in God and the problem of evil. My mom gave me a copy of Mere Christianity and one day as I was reading, the Holy Spirit broke through my defenses and lit the fire of faith. It felt like someone had woken me up from a very long nap! For several weeks after this experience, I remember telling my mother that the closest comparison to what I was feeling was “butterflies” – that sensation when you’ve fallen head over heels for someone. A couple of years later, a spiritual director said to me: “well, it sounds as though Jesus has proposed to you, and He is waiting for your reply.”
Another turning point in my discernment came during a talk on Theology of the Body. The speaker, Christopher West, mentioned how consecrated women can serve as “eschatological signs.” I felt a gentle exhilaration fill my heart; I wanted very much for my life to be a signpost – tiny as it may be – pointing to the joyous reality of heaven.
When I moved to Oregon, I lived with my sister’s family for a time, and I was immersed in the daily life of a household: the noise, the tenderness, the laughter, the smushed-up peas on the floor, and the dirty diapers. Seeing my sister grow in her own vocation helped to steadily open my own heart up to where the Lord was calling me. A supportive family, solid friendships, and good spiritual direction were all key aspects of my discernment. In other words, discernment wasn’t happening in a vacuum. Since the consecration, I’m sometimes asked if I’m at all sad that I won’t be married or have children. But the truth is, the yes to consecrated life feels more expansive than the no to marriage and family. Rather than seeing closed doors, I see an immense horizon, and I stand before it with my hands outstretched, looking for all the ways I can love the people that the Lord has placed in my life. Besides, in the end, we’re all called to marriage; that is, the magnificent and lasting communion awaiting us in the heavenly kingdom.
The full name of the vocation is “Consecrated virgin living in the world.” I am called to stay in the daily realities of ordinary life, but with an “undivided heart”, striving to be His hands and feet, wherever and whenever His presence is needed. It is important, then, that I stay close to the Eucharist and continue to draw strength from the Real Presence, precisely because the remedy of His presence is so needed in our world today.
Ms. Miriam Marston, Director of Faith Formation, St. Anthony Parish, Tigard, OR