A Call to Shine in Holiness, Not Greatness

Illuminating the Past

Although born in a Catholic household, I grew up with a limited understanding of my faith and began with what felt like a one-sided and half-baked relationship with God. So, all throughout my childhood and teenage years, I practiced my faith inconsistently and poorly. Admittedly, my approach to prayer was transactional; I seldom turned to Him and only did so when I absolutely needed to. For a long time, I only saw God as my Creator, not as my Father because I feared Him. This initial impression refrained me from seeking God the Father for who He truly was and is. As a result, my prayer life was dull and repetitive; it consisted of reciting prayers I memorized, asking God to grant some requests, apologizing for my sins, and thanking Him for answered prayers once in a blue moon. In hindsight, I never really showed up to get to know Him, shared how my day went, nor spent time sitting with Him in silence — waiting to hear the sound of His voice. Instead, I was preoccupied with meeting societal expectations and surviving the hustle-and-bustle lifestyle my rigorous international school set me up for. Overwhelmed by this highly-pressurized environment, I was in this constant pursuit of approval and affirmation, which fed my heart with insatiability and insecurity.

Turning over a New Leaf

God turned the page for me dramatically in 2015. He decided that it was time to start a new chapter, and free me from the toxic bubble I comfortably resided in and wilted in spiritually. That year I took the leap of faith and surrendered my education and future to God. Calling me to pursue this challenge of taking the year off, God made my life path more pronounced and known to me through my father’s vision. My father recalled that a heavenly body appeared right before him with angels at each side of the figure. It was St. Martin de Porrés — the patron saint of social justice and racial harmony. As he stared intently into my father’s eyes, St. Martin seemed to proclaim that he is to be my patron saint. Relieved and thrilled to know that I have a purpose larger than myself, I responded to my father’s divine revelation by opting for a gap year and extending my passion for art to a nearby community center for children. This opportunity made me realize that there really is more to life than one’s credentials, more specifically one’s education and career. What a liberating epiphany this was for me then! Even if I pushed my education back by a year, what I gained was far greater and more lasting: an intellect, will and passion that stem from God’s truth, goodness and beauty. Eventually, I was admitted to the most fitting program, which embodied my heart of service in 2016: Education Studies at NYU Steinhardt!

The Struggle is Real and so is God

During my second and third year of university, I departed from my faith because I was struggling to juggle prayer time and attending Mass with school work and a volatile long-distance relationship. I was so focused on excelling in my studies and maintaining my relationship with my former boyfriend that God was no longer my top priority. This caught up to me and gradually everything I was hoping to salvage and control plummeted, impacting my former relationship the most. Because God was not at the center, I lost my center. Since things did not go my way, a gaping hole was left in my heart, oozing with disappointment and resentment. Out of anger, I shut God out and developed this warped sense of fairness and justice. In an attempt to rise above all this alone, I resorted to fitness and worked out every single day in order to feel better about myself. I hoped that breaking a sweat and releasing endorphins would cleanse my system, and heal my shattered heart.

Although instantaneous in uplifting my mood every so often, my spirit longed for something more. About a year into my junior year, I grew in spiritual curiosity once again. The quest to seek and find God in my life resumed. So, I reached out to some of my most devout friends and mentors and asked them questions about faith, forgiveness, and healing. These questions led to more questions and even new, unexpected friendships. One day, early in 2019, God spoke to me loud and clear when I decided to contact the Head Chaplain of NYU’s Catholic Center. As I recounted my father’s dream to the chaplain, he blurted out that he was, in fact, called into the priesthood under the influence of St. Martin.

This was no coincidence. This was providence! The resurgence of St. Martin in my life was such a profound turning point that I could not help but break down afterwards. God’s outpouring love was made so visible that I could not unsee it. This was God’s generosity at play: Him giving me another chance, calling me to return to His Kingdom. #MyProdigalSonMoment Ever since, I have learned to stop questioning the miraculous and the supernatural. Saint Martin’s intercession led me to a faith-based community at NYU, which became not just a space to study and freely practice my faith in, but my second family.

Spiritual Renewal

2020, the year that reinvigorated my faith, renewed me with God’s grace and truth. With COVID-19 shutting down universities, I experienced a rough last semester in the confines of my sister’s one-person studio. Three months of self-isolation and social distancing prodded me to revisit my purpose in life. In the midst of an eternity of uncertainty, I came across “The Chosen” TV series. And this timely onscreen revival of the Bible moved me to tears. Jonathan Roumie who played Christ portrayed the Lord in an authoritative yet tender way that my spiritual curiosity intensified and transformed into spiritual thirst. I now understand that this was an invitation to grow in holiness and a call to shine alongside Him. Disciplining me so that I can mature in spirit and truth, God permitted that I experience conflict and pain so that I may learn to love in times of difficulty and difference, not just when it is easy and convenient. After all, I cannot evangelize what I despise.

Evangelizing the Millennial Way

Still acquiring the knowledge and wisdom to evangelize, my mind and heart continue to grow in docility, allowing God’s light to descend and sanctify me. Now that I have completed my studies, I can finally devote the rest of my life to God, seeking and serving Him in my own little way. As a Catholic woman and creative, I hope to inspire others to be vulnerable and to always strive. Moving forward, my goal is to cultivate authentic friendships, divine intimacy, as well as clarity and conviction for spiritual multiplication in digital spaces where millennials linger.

Photo by Erica Viana on Unsplash