For the last ten years, when God’s plan for my vocation did not make sense, the temptation was to give up hope. Yet, through His love and mercy, He has gifted me with the constant guiding light of knowing He made me for Himself exclusively. So no matter how dark the uncertainty was on the exterior, it could not extinguish this interior light. This light aids me to reflect on Our Lady’s immaculate yes and encourages me to imitate her in following the Lord where He leads no matter the cost. Praise His marvelous and hidden judgments.
After I left the Poor Clare Colettines in 2017 and a second attempt that did not pan out five years after with another cloistered community, I decided to pursue other forms of consecrated life. My heart was disappointed and grabbed the idea that these two closed doors were enough to move on from trying to find the community my heart desired to call a family, a home. Led by my spiritual director, another wonderful gift from God, I knocked on the door of active religious life, consecrated virginity and single consecrated to no avail. I was still floating in the abyss of what seemed like an impossible juxtaposition of the call the Lord had placed in my heart and outwardly finding a way to live it out.
My call to religious life began after I reverted to the faith during my last year in college. Reading the autobiography of St. Teresa of Avila brought me from my waywardness to the Sacraments. I did not even know what Adoration was! Growing up in Mexico for the first years of my life, I was raised in the faith. However, I never knew one could have an intimate relationship with God. We moved to the States in 2000 and God became more like a distant uncle. He was not someone I was interested in keeping in my life, along with my culture because I wanted to fit in. I owe the Lord much for pulling me out of my wretched misery. I was so unhappy without Him and my life was in the dumps when I began reading that life-changing book. I bought the book at GoodWill years prior and never looked at it again until then. I remember being in my poor apartment alone and sad. There was not much else to do to pass the time, so I read desperately for something to occupy my troubled conscience.
How St. Teresa spoke about God enkindled a spark of love in my heart. What she had found in God was what I was looking for, and I didn’t even know it. She was a woman in love and her lover returned that love a hundredfold. I’ve seen this love be described as a “divine romance par excellence”. And may the Lord be forever praised for raising her to the heights of sanctity so that lost souls like mine could learn and return to the faith. This spark of love propelled me to begin my vocation search in 2013, except it has now turned into a blazing fire I cannot deny. My heart burns for God alone.
In July 2022, my friend mentioned an article in a magazine highlighting a religious community. She said, “Jess, this sounds like you!” I politely replied, “No, thank you.” The article was about the Discalced Carmelites of Cristo Rey in San Francisco, CA, a bilingual cloistered community. My heart was closed off. I was not interested in learning about them. However, I permitted the Lord to change my heart if He wanted me to reconsider this life. One night, as I was reading Divine Intimacy, I realized how much my spirituality is Carmelite. It is as if I was aware that my spirituality always responded immensely well to the Carmelite way, yet I did not have the self-knowledge to connect it with awareness and language. It is strange to explain, but looking back, it makes sense as I have been deeply formed by Carmelite spirituality since my reversion. This realization opened my heart enough to allow the Lord to enter. So, in November 2022 I reached out to the Carmelites and my first visit was in January 2023. Then I went on a weeklong live-in in April, and after that, the community voted to accept me officially beginning Divine Mercy Sunday.
An unexpected find of a gem of a community. The Lord gives, the Lord takes, blessed be the name of the Lord! This has been like one of those love stories when you give up looking for the one, and then he shows up right after that when you least expect it, but you know without a doubt he is the one. For the first time, I understand why some say their community felt like home the minute they found it. I have found my family. I am ready to do all that is needed to enter Carmel. Even though everything is happening quickly, I remain in the Lord’s peace and leave every detail to His divine providence. As St. Teresa of Avila said, “Patience obtains all things. Whoever has God lacks nothing; God alone suffices.” Amen.