August / September 2017 - Vol. 93

Bethany Association of Women Living Single for the Lord
Beth Melchor

 A Bride of Christ
by Beth Melchor

"I am my Beloved's, and His desire is for me." (Song of Songs 7:10)  These are the words inscribed on my ring – a ring given to me by Jaime Cardinal Sin on August 13, 1989 during my consecration as a virgin - a woman living single for the Lord - and living in the world.
Growing up I never dreamt that I would become a bride of Christ, but it is such a blessed privilege if we respond to God’s call. I dreamt of being a scientist who could help my country rise from its underdeveloped state. But when I encountered God in Lourdes, nothing made more sense but to give my life fully to Him who loved me first and was deserving of all my love.  From that point on, I began to think about entering the convent and specifically becoming a Religious of the Assumption. I spent much time with the Assumption nuns and they expected me to join them. In my prayers I would ask God to just say the word, and I would enter. But God seemed to have other plans for me.

"The Plans I have for you"
As a college student, I helped give retreats to students. As I shared my experience of God with them, they told me: "What you say makes sense because you are one of us. If a nun told us that, it wouldn't mean much because that's what a nun is supposed to say."  On another occasion when I was with the nuns watching a film on Vocation Sunday, the closing lines of the film spoke to me: "Christ does not accept all who offer themselves to Him. He leaves some capable individuals behind for tasks that are perhaps less glamorous, but just as important."  Soon thereafter, I was approached by a leader of a lay brotherhood in our community who invited me to consider serving God as a lay consecrated woman within the Ligaya ng Panginoon (LNP) community. As I brought this to prayer over several months, it became clear to me that God was inviting me to consider this “road less travelled”.

When Mother Angela, the Provincial of the Religious of the Assumption in the Philippines, told me they were waiting for me to enter, I had to explain to her what I had been hearing in my prayers.  She then shared with me that even Mother Foundress, St. Marie Eugenie, chose to follow God's leading not to join an established religious congregation, but to pioneer the founding of a new congregation. God was doing something new in her time, just as He was doing something new in my life and in our community.

Later I was told of another woman who was prayerfully considering "living single for the Lord" in community. It was not long before we were part of the first community household for single women that would later on support us in this call. We received much help from an established lay sisterhood based in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Each year they would send a pair of sisters from Michigan for a month as part of a mission team that helped with the formation of our commmunity, and at the same time they helped those of us who were interested in living single for the Lord in the community. Soon there were more than a handful of young women living in Jerusalem House, as our household was later called, actively serving in the various ministries of LNP and joyfully living the life of single blessedness alongside our many brothers and sisters in community. 

Little did I realize that God was faithfully fulfilling a word He spoke to me when I went on an Ignatian retreat upon graduating from the university. The grace sought during the retreat was to know God's will for my life. During the meditation on John 21:1-23, God's words were so clear that it is written out in my prayer journal, excerpts of which read:
"Little one, do you love me?" "Lord, you know all things, you know that I love you." "Then carry me in your heart and treasure me above all and bring me to all men. You must not look to the world or things of the world. You belong to me." then He spoke that which I waited to hear, "Yes, you will live single for me," and He spoke of the great joy that I would experience with this calling. But He also said it would take a long time moving into this and that I need not concern myself about this because He would always be there."
Another entry in my prayer journal reads:
“Write down the vision clearly upon the tablets so that one can read it readily. For the vision still has its time presses on to fulfillment and will not disappoint; if it delays wait for it. It will surely come, it will not be late.” (Habakkuk 2:2-3).  Indeed it did come and it did not disappoint.  Ten years after I made an initial promise to live single for the Lord on the Feast of Our Lady of the Assumption in 1979, at long last the day did come when I would be totally consecrated to the Lord in the eyes of Mother Church and before my community. The words of St. Therese of Lisieux were used for the invitation which reads:

“In her great delight and excitement in having been chosen to become Jesus’ bride, St. Therese of Lisieux amusedly composed the following wedding invitation to show her sisters in Carmel what incomparable honor it is to live as a woman consecrated and espoused to God.
Creator of Heaven and Earth
Supreme Sovereign of the Universe
Queen of the Court of Heaven

announce to you the spiritual marriage of their August Son


Little Therese Martin

As with any bride, the joy of that day could not be described. Professing my promise in the presence of community, family and friends made it all the more special. But that day was just the beginning of a beautiful covenant relationship that is beyond compare to anything the world could offer.  It is a foretaste of heaven even now, living the life of the Kingdom, where there is no marrying or giving in marriage.

I have been asked, “How do you experience Jesus concretely as your Spouse? Wouldn’t it be easier to enter a convent?”  Entering the Convent would definitely be something I would have embraced, if God did not call me to live the consecrated life in the world in the midst of my brothers and sisters in community. Jesus is very present in my daily life and I experience Him concretely in many ways; primarily in communing with Him in prayer and in the sacraments.  But Jesus shows His love and care, too, in many daily practical ways. There were so many instances when I was alone driving through the streets of Metro Manila when the car would break down with some mechanical problem. These happened at the time when mobile phones were not commonplace.  The car would always breakdown in front of a car repair shop or in a place where I could easily get help.  One time as I was making my way to join the family after the Christmas Eve mass of our community, the fan belt broke and the car had just enough inertia to enter the gate of my parent’s village halting in front of the guardhouse where I could easily call home for someone to pick me up.

There were other times when my token salary as a staff worker for Christ’s Youth in Action was wiped out by the need to purchase antibiotics. Gone was my plan to host a dinner at home with a few friends to celebrate my birthday after returning from China. But lo and behold, without asking in prayer, an unexpected check arrived in the mail that would exactly cover the expenses for the dinner.  No other spouse can compare to Jesus.

Beth's 25th
                          aniversary living single for the Lord

It has been 25 years now since that wonderfully blessed day that Jesus claimed me as His bride and I would not exchange a minute of it for anything else. As I continue on the pilgrimage of life as a bride of Christ, the prayer of Therese of Lisieux resounds in my heart: "I want, O my beloved, at each beat of my heart to renew my offering to you an infinite number of times until I may be able to tell you of my love in an eternal face to face."

My Vows to The Lord

“I desire to love God with all my heart, soul, mind and strength. I desire to follow Jesus as my Lord and Savior and to live in the power of the Holy Spirit. I desire to live a life of singlehearted devotion to the Lord and His service. I desire to love and serve God in a life of daily prayer and service, to praise and worship Him always, to ever seek His face – desiring always to grow in the fervor of that “first love.”  I desire to offer my life to the Lord so that He may use me in any way He wishes to advance His Kingdom. I desire to consecrate my life completely to the Lord that I might exist for His pleasure and praise

I choose a way of life in which I give up marriage and bearing children – both good and valued things – as a free will offering of love to God.

I choose to live a life of service and simplicity in order to more closely imitate Jesus who for our sakes became poor and was the servant of all.

I choose to live out these commitments in the midst of the people God has called me to and to embrace the way of life and mission of this community. I will respect and obey the authority of the community and the form of pastoral leadership provided for me by the community.

In all this, I stand in awe of the great mercy and the gracious love and faithfulness of God, He who has called me by name and has loved me first. I desire only to make Him known and loved by all, and to ever grow in my love for Him in this life, hoping to enjoy Him forever in the life to come – He who is my all.”


This article is excerpted from Taken by Love: From a Rebellious Youth to a Missionary in China, Chapter Six, (c) 2015 by Elizabeth Melchor, published through Shepherd's Voice Publications, Inc., under its self-publishing arm: lifedreams books, Quezon City, Phlippines. Used with permission.

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