IRENE WILSON: ENGLISH MAJOR AT THE CATHOLIC UNIVERSITY OF AMERICA
So, this is my last post before I leave campus for summer and I felt it fitting to feature my best friend as my final good-bye to an amazing year. To say she has been a gift would be a huge understatement. The ways in which my friendship with her has impacted my life, and my faith, are literally so unimaginably beautiful and I could not have done this year without her. Irene Wilson, you are a game changer in a world that is in desperate need of one, and I can’t wait to see what you do.
Her faith this past year has grown so tremendously and it has been such an honor to be a part of. Seeing as she slowly, and at first reluctantly, gave herself so fully to Christ and overcame her fear of that ‘Yes’ to Him has been such an inspiration in my own life as I look to where I am still holding back. A huge aspect of this was in her relationship with Mary, “For a while I was really turned off from a relationship with Mary because of her “yes” which terrified me. I was like, ‘wow, this woman who’s completely free of sin just totally gave herself to Christ no questions asked.’ That was so terrifying. I knew that she was this beautiful mother but I didn’t feel I could connect with her like I could with the Father because Him being perfect made sense, but how could I relate to a perfect woman when I’m a mess.”
At the beginning of the year I remember speaking to her of this wall that she always hit right when she was beginning to catch on fire with her faith and how she never knew what caused it. It really frustrated her and I knew it was her goal this year to get past that. “Three months ago, I was sitting in the chapel and I had this sudden realization that my roadblock was that I never had a relationship with Mary. I didn’t realize I was avoiding it but, in that moment, I knew I was. Right away I was like, I need to find out why I’ve been avoiding this and how I can grow from that. So, I decided to do the 33 day consecration…” The 33 Day Consecration is a consecration to Mary where you completely give all of your gifts, prayers, and works to her with the knowledge that she will completely take care of you and bring you closer to her Son in a way that as humans we could never reach on our own. I did it a year ago and it transformed my faith.
I saw that transformation happening in Irene throughout the consecration. I saw God completely tearing down all of her walls, all of her pride, and make space only for Him. It was super hard, but also, one of the most powerful things I have ever seen. “I just remember on the day of my consecration it was the most at peace I have ever felt. As soon as the gravity of what I had done hit me, that I had finally broken down the walls that kept me from fully being with God, I was so at peace and overwhelmed with his love. My relationship with her gave me this whole new awareness of who I was in the eyes of God. I always knew that I was a daughter, but now to have this woman, this motherly figure, who is always there as a sense of beauty and grace was so new and refreshing for me. I finally knew this sense of motherly love in a spiritual way and it made me realize how important putting everything before the lord was.”
“As soon as the gravity of what I had done hit me, that I had finally broken down the walls that kept me from fully being with God, I was so at peace and just overwhelmed with his love.”
Every day since the consecration I have seen her grow and struggle with trusting God and then realize what she was doing and then completely give everything again, and this new sense of peace has been so tangible to everyone around her, “Obviously, my relationship with her isn’t perfect, it’s just starting, but I’ve realized through the process that the perfect relationship isn’t necessary. This bond with her brings me so much closer to understanding Christ as her son, which is so different than seeing Christ this untouchable and perfect divine being and I love growing deeper in that knowledge every day.”
So, how has this consecration affected how she views herself as a woman? “Mary is the ultimate icon for femininity. There are a lot of lies in society that I struggle with, that I’m not enough or I don’t have the strength, and that is so false and Mary shows me that. The strength in every word she says in the gospels is crazy. Every word she speaks brings beauty.” Let me tell you there is nothing, except the pro-life debate, that makes Irene more fired-up then talking about the disrespect of women in our world today. “There is a deep disrespect of women that is in our society right now, and always has been, and it is so disgusting and this attitude of objectifying women needs to change. Our purpose is not meant to be objectified, we were made to be glorified.”
“Femininity, true feminism, is about embracing my womanhood as God created it to be. He made me to be this handmaiden in our world and live in a way that brings about respect to everyone I encounter.”
The rants that Irene and I have had about how both men and women are objectified today happen very often, especially with it being so prevalent right now, (don’t get us started on Snapchat’s Cosmo story) and it’s hard to try and identify as a feminist when there are so many contradictory definitions of it, but Irene has been working to find a balance through it all, “Femininity, true feminism, is about embracing my womanhood as God created it to be. He made me to be this handmaiden in our world and live in a way that brings about respect to everyone I encounter.”
So how does this passion translate into how she presents herself, “The first step in creating this culture of respect is to come to a deeper understanding of who you are, especially in the eyes of Christ. You can’t disrespect yourself when you know who you are. Youjust know your value and the inherent worth that was given to you. And, who am I to present myself in a way that allows others to disrespect me?”
“Who am I to present myself in a way that allows others to disrespect me?”
Women are stuck in this conundrum where we want to be seen as beautiful but we also want to dress modestly and be respected, and heck, sometimes I even get cat-called when I’m walking down the street in some of my staple “modest” outfits. Irene sees that it’s only through creating a culture of respect that any of this will change, “Men, when you objectify me, when you call me hot on the street. It does not help my self-esteem. I don’t feel more beautiful, in fact I feel dirty, I feel less. And when I feel like I’m less, I’m going to dress accordingly. I start dressing in a way that doesn’t glorify who I am because I don’t really feel like myself. As women, we need to find our identity and then dress in a way that highlights who each of us are as individuals and then show it to the world. Because that is true confidence, and I am going to show the world that I deserve to be looked at only with respect, and if you say something else to me, know I will shut you down.”
“Men, when you objectify me, when you call me hot on the street. It does not help my self-esteem. I don’t feel more beautiful, in fact I feel dirty, I feel less.”
Irene Wilson, I literally value you so much and my heart aches at the thought of not being with you for the next three months. Thank you so much for being there throughout all my complaints about boys, and listening to all of my rants, and dealing with my overly-introverted tendencies. I love you so much and I need you to know that you have inspired me so much this year. I can’t wait to see how God works through our friendship in the years to come.
In Him through her,