By Sr. Talitha Guadalupe (Sisters of Life novice)
All vocations are of the Cross. Vocation is the place where you realize that what your heart yearns to do is so far beyond you that it can only be accomplished in Christ. Thus you give yourself fully to Christ, sacrificing yourself to Him, and trusting that by doing so you participate in the world’s salvation. Each of us has a unique vocation. Each of us is a unique image of God; no one else can show God to the world as you can. He has a beautiful and totally individual plan for each one of us.
I first discovered my vocation calling at World Youth Day in Toronto in 2002. I was sixteen at the time and very young in my Catholic faith. For the first time, I saw the Stations of the Cross, or perhaps it would be more correct to say that I experienced the Cross. I saw Jesus sacrifice Himself and knew it was for me. In that same moment, as I was watching Jesus die on the Cross, my older sister leaned over to me and said, “Have you ever thought of being a nun?” In her voice, I heard the voice of God. From the moment onward, I never doubted my religious vocation. However it was not until five years later, when I was on a “Come and See” weekend with the Sisters of Life, that I was able to concretely make the connection between the love of the crucified Christ and my sister’s revealing of my vocation. During those five years, I was searching for signs, for ways of knowing which community I was called to join. Then, when I met the Sisters of Life, I prayed before the Crucifix and I knew I did not need signs. I knew God’s love for me on the Cross was enough. Could there be any greater sign than a God who died for me?
Thus, I entered the Sisters of Life and spent nine months as a postulant, living with the community but not yet being a sister. During this time, I prayed about the mission and identity God had for me. I prayed about who I was in His eyes. Then I was given the gift of entering the novitiate, receiving the holy habit and a religious name, Sister Talitha Guadalupe. One month and one day after entering the novitiate I found myself on a plane to Sydney, Australia to attend another World Youth Day.
When we arrived in Sydney we went immediately to Mass at St. Mary’s Cathedral. There Sister Mary Anglica pointed out to me something I had never seen before. As you enter the Cathedral, there is a beautiful stained glass window showing the Gospel story from which my name is derived. The window depicts Jesus raising a young girl to life and in the corner is the inscription, “I say to you arise.” In Arabic the words are “Talitha, koum.” Then, the next day when I was praying before Mass, I asked God to show me what my mission was to be for this World Youth Day. I opened the Gospels, and the story was my story, the story of the raising of the little girl. It was as if God was saying to me that my mission was just to be, to be who I am in His eyes and to allow Him to show the world something of Him through me. I was to be His stained glass window, reflecting to the world an image of Him that no one else could.
I stand in awe of this reality. Always in the past, I have prayed for signs to know who I am called to be. After this World Youth Day I feel that God has revealed to me who He wants me to be. He asks me to be His Sister Talitha and He entrusts me to the care of Our Lady of Guadalupe that this may be so. Now I need to pray for a different type of grace, for the grace not to discover my identity but to live inside it and to truly experience it as God’s gift to me. I was given the grace to touch Pope Benedict (at the Mass on Saturday morning for priests, seminarians and young religious) right in front of my window in St. Mary’s Cathedral, the window of Talitha, after to having prayed to Our Lady of Guadalupe that this may be so. In this I feel that through the Church, God is asking me to truly live my identity, to truly allow Him to radiate through me.
This was indeed my experience of World Youth Day. I did not witness any major conversions, but I was able to be present to many people and I saw the power of this. I saw the power of allowing myself to be small before God and simply to be where He placed me. One encounter in particular resonates in my heart. Towards the beginning of the week, I was walking and saw some anti-Catholic cartoons lying on the ground. I felt compelled to pray for those who were handing out the cartoons, and did so, entrusting them to Mary and asking her to draw them into the heart of Christ and to heal any bitterness they may be feeling. Then, a few days later, I actually saw a man, “Peter,” passing out these cartoons. At first I walked by, but then I felt impelled to go back. I asked Peter what he was doing, and he said he was just passing out some Baptist biblical literature. Then he looked out into the sea of pilgrims walking by, a sense of wonder came over him, and he said, “There are tens of thousands of people here and Christ died for each one of them.” My heart too stopped before this marvel and together Peter and I were filled with wonder at God and His love. Then I asked Peter to pray for me and shared with him my name. He smiled when he heard my name, recognizing it from the Scriptures, and said he would always remember me. He thanked me for being sweet and I left. I do not know what God will do with this encounter, but it touched me. It touched me to be able to share with Peter, a man who was attacking the Church, my identity as a daughter of the Church, and to be able to stand together in wonder before God.
God is awesome in the truest sense of the word, and He has a mission for each one of us. Sometimes we wonder what this mission could be; we worry that we will never find it. But we need not worry. Eventually God leads us to a place where our hearts meet His in such a way that without really even being aware of it, we radiate His presence. We are each uniquely created in His image and thus we each show something of Him to the world.
As Sisters of Life, we speak of our mission in terms of the Annunciation and the Visitation of Mary. We speak of conceiving Christ beneath our hearts and carrying Him forth into the world as Mary did. This was always a hard image for me. I felt that in giving Christ away, I would lose Him. Yet, God has shown me that this is not so. Instead, in receiving Christ, in receiving Him fully, I am so transformed into His image that I share Him in being myself. It is my being and not my doing that He desires and so it is with every person. As Cardinal O’Connor, our founder and father would pray, “God wants to reach out to others through your hands, God wants to speak to others through your lips, and God wants others to look into your eyes and see Him. Give God permission.”