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ToJesusMyHeart

Consecrated virginity question

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Sponsa-Christi    730
Sponsa-Christi

Technically, consecrated virgins don't make vows per se

Unlike religious, who in some sense "consecrate themselves" actively when they profess their vows into the hands of a legitimate superior,  consecrated virgins are consecrated passively when they receive the Rite of Consecration to a Life of Virginity from a bishop. I often compare this to the way a Church building or an altar is consecrated.

However, consecrated virgins do make promises during the course of the Rite, and there is another point right before the consecration itself where the CV-to-be publicly states her resolve to persevere in a life of virginity.  So I think just saying "consecrated virgins don't make vows!" without any context could be a bit misleading. (It also doesn't bother me personally when some people informally refer to my "vows as a consecrated virgin" in non-canon law related social situations! ;) )

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Laurie    39
Laurie

ToJesusMyHeart: It's a good question. There's a lot of confusion around it.

(I've done a lot of interviews in the past 3 weeks. Despite the fact that I've stressed every chance I get that consecrated virgins in the world don't take vows or make a profession, a lot of journalists still got it wrong! I do, though, appreciate their efforts to understand my obscure vocation.)

Consecrated virgins living in the world don't take vows or make promises. That's something that sets them apart from religious sisters and nuns and members of secular institutes.

Instead of the word vows, or promises, for consecrated virgins in the world, the word used is "propositum." The accurate English translation for that Latin word is "intention" or "resolve." The correct English translation of that Latin word is SO important that the Congregation for Divine Worship & the Discipline of the Sacraments made a crucial correction in 2012.

Prior to the correction, the English version of the Rite for the consecration of virgins in the world used the word "vow":

Lord,

look with favor on your handmaids.

They place in your hands their resolve to live in chastity,

You inspire them to take this vow;

You prompt them in this, their intention;

now they give you their hearts.

The parts in yellow show what Pope Benedict and the Congregation deemed should be corrected in the revised English version of the mass. "Vow," which was an error in translation that lead to theological & canonical confusion, was replaced with "intention."

That said, there are consecrated virgins living in the world AND there are consecrated virgins living in those monastic communities that have historically had and kept the consecration of virgins. St. Scholastica, for example, was both a consecrated virgin and a Benedictine nun. It's possible for certain nuns in certain orders to be consecrated as virgins (in which the nun would have the intention -- propositum -- to remain a virgin for life for Christ) along with the nun's religious vows that she'd take as a member of her order.

It's not an easy topic to grapple with BUT I found so much misinformation online when I was first discerning that I had to reach out to many, many theologians & canonists in order to get it all straight in my head.

What I can confirm for you is that, in my consecration, I didn't make any vows or promises whatsoever. I DID answer the call the bishop posed to me, answer affirmatively to the questions from the Rite, and offered my intention, with my whole heart, of offering myself to Christ in virginity for my life.

With prayers for you!

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Laurie    39
Laurie

It's in the print versions of the Roman Pontificals, but I haven't seen digital copies available to purchase anywhere, let alone for free at a link.

I do have digital copies myself, but I'm not allowed to share them. I'm sorry. I got them straight from the Congregation for Divine Worship (English & Latin) b/c I have contacts there, but they said we could only use them for our mass programs & not share them any other way.

Since they are the current versions of the mass, they are copyrighted. Your cathedral will have the English, and hopefully the Latin, that you could scan.

 

 

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Sponsa-Christi    730
Sponsa-Christi

I was curious, so I just double-checked, and interestingly, the original Latin edition of the Rite of Consecration uses both the words propositum (which, as Laurie pointed out, is better translated as "intention" or "resolution") and the word vota (which depending on the context can mean a few different things, but here it would be literally translated as "vows").

Though here "vow" is used in a more abstract theological sense rather than as a technical canonical category. 

Here's the Latin passage in question, for those interested: Respice, Domine, super has famulas tuas, quae in manu tua continentiae suae propositum collocantes, ei devotionem suam offerunt, a quo ipsa vota sumpserunt.

The promises that consecrated virgins make during the Rite that I was thinking of are the ones in the examination immediately prior to the Litany of the Saints. During this part of the ritual, the bishop asks the candidates the following questions:

- Are you resolved to persevere to the end of you days in the holy state of virginity and in the service of God and his Church?

- Are you so resolved to follow Christ in the spirit of the Gospel that your whole life may be a faithful witness to God’s love and a convincing sign of the kingdom of heaven? 

- Are you resolved to accept solemn consecration as a bride of our Lord Jesus
Christ, the Son of God?

The candidates, of course, answer each question with: "I am."

Even though these questions use the word "resolve" rather than "promise" or "vow," I would still consider these to be promises, as the structure of this part of the liturgy almost exactly mirrors the part of the Rite of Ordination for deacon where the deacon-to-be promises, among other things, to commit to celibacy for the rest of his life. I.e., when a candidate for Holy Orders answers similar "liturgical questions," canon law would regard these as promises, so I don't know why these would mean anything less for CVs.

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Laurie    39
Laurie

Of course, Sponsa-Christi, you are always free to have your own opinions. But I'm not sure why you've glossed over the fact that the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments purposefully amended the Rite to remove the word vow (for which "promise" is a correlate) and replaced it with "intention." Of course, you are free to have your own opinion, but it does seem to skirt the entire issue at hand.

I do think it's a gross mistake to undervalue an "intention." Intentions are the bedrock of philosophy and theology of the human person. They are not less than vows or promises. It is only due to them that vows or promises can even be made.

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Laurie    39
Laurie

As for vox/vow, I think you should quote text & translation to demonstrate your point, or else refrain from mentioning it. As we know, there have been many, many versions of the Rite in Latin, starting with the Leonine Rite in the 5th century, but what matters for the vocation as it is set forth by the Church today are the current Rites. Anyone, for example, could point to the word vow in the pre-2012 English version to try to prove a theological point, but to do so would be in error. The word vow was removed for a theological and canonical reason. Going back to an earlier version of the Rite (whether in English or Latin or any other language) to try to prove a point that has already been addressed & resolved by the Church in her most current translations would be fruitless.

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Laurie    39
Laurie

--Regarding the Latin word propositum: It's outright false to say propositum is "better translated as intention or resolution." Propositum IS translated as intention or resolution. Propositum is not translated as "vow" or "promise."

 To say it is "better translated as" implies it's all somewhat the same. It's not! Words have meanings, for a reason. It's easy to stick to our own opinions and preferences, but to say words have meanings that they don't have isn't a service to the truth. Vox means vow, propositum does not mean vow. Propositum means resolve/intention.

--Getting back to vox/vow appearing in the "original Latin" version of the  Rite, as I said above, I think you should quote text & translation and make a case for your point, or else refrain from mentioning it. It's unclear what you mean by "original Latin."  There are a lot of Latin versions out there.

--As for intention, some nuances that might help.

You can have an intention all by itself. Or, you can also have an intention and then add on to that intention a promise, vow, pledge, or oath.

An intention always comes first. You can have an intention without anything else added onto it.

Or, you can have an intention plus other things (a vow, promise, pledge, oath, etc.). But you can’t have any of those other things without first having an intention. Any of those other things can ONLY grow out of an intention. But, to say it again, you can have just the intention without any of those other things.

An intention is, at base level, a firm disposition of the mind, heart & will that a person has to do something, or to refrain from doing something.

Intentions matter so much in Catholic philosophy and theology that our eternal fates can depend upon them. Baptism of desire is rooted in the fact that those who intend to enter into full communion with the Church, if they die before being able to receive Baptism, in fact receive the grace of Baptism.

The intention alone suffices. No other action is required. If Sara wakes up on a Monday, convinced that Catholicism is true, and intends to seek out RCIA as soon as she can, and tells no one else about it, and dies that morning, before she can make any other kind of step towards being Catholic, her intention counts. 100%. She dies with the full grace of Baptism.

Similarly, if a man intends to murder his wife, and drives home from lunch to do it, if he's sideswiped by another car on his way home & dies, he dies with murder on his soul. He fully intended to do it and only something beyond his control kept him from it.

So an intention is a key component to who & what we are as humans. One of the ways to analyze an intention versus a promise or vow is that an intention does not need to be received by another. A promise or vow or oath, however, does.

That “other” who receives the vow or oath might be God or a human person or an institution, or a combination of those three, but it always involves more than just the individual person.

Sara might wake up at 5am to a crying infant. It may have crystalized in her head, overnight, that the Catholic church is the one true way. She might fully intend to seek out the church asap, and also be consumed with a crying infant. She might be so tired & busy that, in fact, in her realization that Catholicism is the truth, she doesn’t even turn to God in dialogue. Nonetheless, if she fully intends to be baptized, and she dies unexpectedly, before her baptism can take place, she receives the full grace of baptism.

It’s also possible that Sara might wake up at 5am full of peace & joy & a quiet house. She might turn immediately to praying, and in her understanding of the truth, make a private promise to Christ. She might privately vow to Him: I pledge to you, I will enter your Church and serve you. That’d be a beautiful thing to do, but that private vow would, in her instance, be an extra devotion. It wouldn’t be required for her to receive Baptism of desire.

There are times when that additional step of a vow or promise or oath isn’t just something “added on” but is something required and necessary. It’s necessary in a court of law where it’s not enough to just intend to tell the truth, but the civil authority also requires that you state that intention in the form of an oath for all to hear. That oath is given by the individual AND received by the civil authority.

When a consecrated virgin is asked by the bishop if she intends to remain a virgin, it is in the form of a question and answer. He is discerning, once and for all, if she is a worthy candidate to receive the prayer of consecration that he will pray over her.

This is quite different from the vows a sister makes. In questioning the virgin, the bishop does not “receive” the virgin’s intention in the way that a religious superior, together with the church, “receives” the vow of a sister.

That’s because an intention, by its very nature, is not something that is received by another. Rather, an intention arises out of the heart and will of an individual and simply is what it is. The individual can then choose to make a promise or vow rooted in the intention, but doing that is separate from the intention itself. And, a vow or a promise added on to the intention to be a virgin is NOT required of the virgin by the church in order for her to be consecrated. If it were required, the Rite would refer to her making a vow or promise.

With a consecrated virgin, the bishop is verifying and clarifying that she intends to live in a way fitting to the consecration she is about to receive. She doesn’t offer a promise or vow for the bishop to receive. Instead she states her resolve, to assure him (and Christ!) she is a worthy candidate, and then she receives the prayer of consecration from the hands of the bishop.

I get that it’s nuanced but these nuances matter. Which is why the word was changed from vow to intention in the first place in the Rite.

I’m not sure how to state this any more clearly. Here’s a final try: I was just consecrated:

It’s impossible that I could simultaneously just have been consecrated AND have been required to make a promise which I didn’t make because I was unware that I was supposed to make the promise.

You can’t make a promise by accident. You have to know you are making it. You can’t make an implicit promise, or a sort of promise, or a promise unawares.

You have to intend (!) to make a promise, and then make it, in order for it to even be a promise. And that promise has to be received by someone else.

I didn’t make a promise. I wasn’t asked to make a promise. I didn’t offer any kind of promise. And nonetheless I was consecrated as a virgin living in the world!

Edited by Laurie

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Sponsa-Christi    730
Sponsa-Christi
13 minutes ago, Laurie said:

Of course, Sponsa-Christi, you are always free to have your own opinions. But I'm not sure why you've glossed over the fact that the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments purposefully amended the Rite to remove the word vow (for which "promise" is a correlate) and replaced it with "intention." Of course, you are free to have your own opinion, but it does seem to skirt the entire issue at hand.

I do think it's a gross mistake to undervalue an "intention." Intentions are the bedrock of philosophy and theology of the human person. They are not less than vows or promises. It is only due to them that vows or promises can even be made.

Was the typical Latin itself (i.e., the Latin which is the "master copy" for all other translations) actually changed? I was under the impression that only the English translation was going to be updated.

My professional opinion as a canonist is that CVs do indeed make promises at their consecration (even if this is not the defining element of what makes them "consecrated"), but I don't see this classification as calling into question the value of other types of commitments. 

Anyway, whether someone is making a vow, promise, expressing a propositum, or doing some combination of these things, it all means that they are making a serious public commitment to God and the Church. There are technical canonical differences between the kinds of commitments, which are not insignificant. But like the question of whether or not certain communities are technically "consecrated life," these academic canonical categories aren't always the most important consideration when you're talking about the lived experience of consecrated life.

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Laurie    39
Laurie
12 minutes ago, Sponsa-Christi said:

Was the typical Latin itself (i.e., the Latin which is the "master copy" for all other translations) actually changed? I was under the impression that only the English translation was going to be updated.

I think we are talking past each other here. What do you mean?? What I mean is the original Latin version that we know of is from the 5th century (earlier possible Latin versions are lost). I didn't know which version you meant by "original Latin."

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Sponsa-Christi    730
Sponsa-Christi
59 minutes ago, Laurie said:

So an intention is a key component to who & what we are as humans. One of the ways to analyze an intention versus a promise or vow is that an intention does not need to be received by another. A promise or vow or oath, however, does.

It's true that an intention, as a general concept, is significant by itself and doesn't need to be received by anyone in order to be "real." However, in the part of the Rite that is referred to as the "propositum," the candidate actually does say, while placing her hands in the bishop's: "Father, receive my resolution..." So in terms of the specific intention of CVs, I think there is a fairly strong receptive element here. 

4 minutes ago, Laurie said:

I think we are talking past each other here. What do you mean?? What I mean is the original Latin version that we know of is from the 5th century (earlier possible Latin versions are lost). I didn't know which version you meant by "original Latin."

Sorry---by "original Latin" I meant the typical Latin from which the English and other vernacular translations are taken. I thought "original Latin" would make more sense to readers here, but I can see where that might have made things less clear.

Edited by Sponsa-Christi

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Laurie    39
Laurie

I think it’s curious that you take a Latin word, “propositum,” and ascribe to it synonyms it doesn’t have (such as vow or promise).

At the same time, you take another Latin word, “vota,” and read it only one way, as “vow” which is the way that supports your own opinion.

The problem is, “vota,” has many meanings, and vow is only one of them. It seems you personally prefer the word “vow” and therefore have disregarded the fact that the English word “vow” is NOT the word that the Vatican chose in 2012 as the preferred English term. I don’t get it.

Vota DOES mean vow. It also means wish, hope, desire, prayer, etc. The approved English translation of the Latin you quoted gives the English equivalent as “intention” not “vow.”

So, yeah, you can point to the word “vota” in Latin and insist it means “vow” and insist that means a consecrated virgin makes a vow/promise.

But you have to insist that over and above the fact that the Congregation for the Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments considered it an error that it was originally translated as “vow” in English. They revised that error, removing “vow” and replacing it with “intention.”

I understand that there are canonical interpretations of things, but even prior to that there are philosophical interpretations of things. Canonical language never contradicts philosophical meanings. And to speak as if intentions or resolves are something secondary, and that promises or vows are somehow something more primary or foundational, is quite odd. You can't have the latter without the former.

I also understand that you may have a "professional opinion as a canonist" but none of those things make your opinion the correct opinion. It being professional, or it being the opinion of a canonist, doesn't make any difference if the opinion itself is in error. As I've said before, a position stands or falls on its own merit. Either it's accurate or it's in error, regardless of who is stating the position.

I don't think we disagree that all the items you listed are examples of making a serious public commitment. I do get the impression that you feel as if consecrated virginity must be linked to a promise or vow in order for it to be as intrinsically as valuable as and equal to religious life. I say that because you seem to twist things as hard as you possibly can to insist there is a vow or promise made by the consecrated virgin. Again, I don't get it!

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Laurie    39
Laurie
28 minutes ago, Sponsa-Christi said:

It's true that an intention, as a general concept, is significant by itself and doesn't need to be received by anyone in order to be "real." However, in the part of the Rite that is referred to as the "propositum," the candidate actually does say, while placing her hands in the bishop's: "Father, receive my resolution..." So in terms of the specific intention of CVs, I think there is a fairly strong receptive element here.

Again, I do feel like we are talking past each other. She can only offer her intention to the bishop, at all, because it is a prior disposition of her mind/heart/will. That disposition is the root of any capacity she has to offer her intention to another. An intention is, in a primary sense (not a "general sense," but a primary sense -- that is, in a foundational and unchanging way, no matter what the specific circumstances) significant, by itself. It's only thanks to that that a person can offer it in any form to another.

Whether it's offering the intention itself to another to acknowledge (such as she does with her bishop), or formalizing it as a promise or vow or oath. Of course there's a VERY strong receptive element! She steps forward, assures the Church (and herself & Christ) of her intention, quite actually places her very self into the bishop's hands, and he consecrates her. But to say that for all that to really happen, and to really be a commitment,  she has to make a promise (when the Church uses the word promise/vow all over the place for consecrated vocations and DOESN'T use it in this instance) seems pretty odd.

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Laurie    39
Laurie

Were you assuming that an intention itself can't be offered to someone or received? That might be part of the issue. It can be. But to say that it CAN be offered/received doesn't at all mean an intention, in itself, is the same as an oath/pledge/promise/vow.

An intention is its own thing, at a base level. I would say it's "offered to another" with every statement we make. "I'll see you at dinner." ("I'm telling you, and you can believe it, I intend to see you at dinner.") That's nothing but my intention, offered to another, in language that another can receive and understand.

We make and offer intentions all the live long day.

In some instances intentions take very peculiar forms, usually according to civil or religious norms. They are stated in a precise, prescribed way, and received in like manner. That's the case with pledges, vows and the like.

To give that distinction doesn't mean that the only way you can offer an intention to another is if it's in the form of a vow/pledge/oath/promise. Those are just some ways intentions can be offered or received. What's true is those very specific forms are, by their very nature, received by another. Whereas intentions, by their very nature, don't have that restriction -- they exist as their own thing that might or might not be offered/received.

 

 

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Francis Clare    630
Francis Clare

I can see this topic devolving into a "food fight"!!!  I'm detecting a circular argument going on here :))

Laurie, I understand you were just consecrated.  Sponsa, I assume you've been consecrated for a while now from prior posts and topics.  Am I right?

 

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Sponsa-Christi    730
Sponsa-Christi
17 minutes ago, Francis Clare said:

Sponsa, I assume you've been consecrated for a while now from prior posts and topics.  Am I right?

Yes, I was consecrated in January 2009. 

Also, I think the translation question is interesting, but at this point I think I've now basically shared my two cents on CVs and vows/promises (or the potential lack thereof). 

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Laurie    39
Laurie
9 hours ago, Sponsa-Christi said:

Also, I think the translation question is interesting, but at this point I think I've now basically shared my two cents on CVs and vows/promises (or the potential lack thereof). 

The translation question is fundamental to how our vocation is understood, theologically & canonically. It's not like it's just an interesting but only sort of relevant sidebar conversation.

I was honestly amazed that you didn't know there was a revised version of the English Rite. It's been out since 2012. I realize you will feel sensitive about my saying this, but you do put yourself forward as an expert on our vocation in this forum. I cannot grasp how you consider that you have a professional canonical opinion on the nature of our vocation and yet you DID NOT EVEN KNOW there was a massive theological revision 5 years ago.

I'm sorry because I KNOW from our past discussions that this is going to really upset you, but I think that it has got to be said. If you're going to give advice to discerners in a public forum on this vocation, you should have a baseline level of knowledge. We don't take vows. There was confusion on that very matter (and so I could very well understand your own confusion on the matter prior to 2012). The Church herself addressed and cleared up that confusion 5 years ago by revisiting the Latin, determining the English version of the mass was an incorrect translation leading to errors in understanding the vocation, and correcting it.

I wish you the best. I know you won't like my saying this in public, but as I've told you in the past: If you give blatantly & demonstrably incorrect counsel to discerners, publicly, online, it must be corrected.

Take care.

10 hours ago, Francis Clare said:

I can see this topic devolving into a "food fight"!!!  I'm detecting a circular argument going on here :)

 

That made me laugh!!

But, with my most recent comment, this topic has taken a much more serious turn. I've done the best I can here. I don't think I've done a perfect job communicating the truth, but I certainly have done my best.

With prayers for each of you.

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Sponsa-Christi    730
Sponsa-Christi
53 minutes ago, Laurie said:

I was honestly amazed that you didn't know there was a revised version of the English Rite. It's been out since 2012.

Actually, I had heard that they were revising the English translation of the Rite. My understanding was that this was part of the wider project of revising the English translations of the Church's liturgy in general, which began with the new Mass translation we started using in Advent 2011. I just wasn't aware that the new translation of the Rite of Consecration was now already currently in use--this was the first time I had heard that the new translation was already out there.  

1 hour ago, Laurie said:

The translation question is fundamental to how our vocation is understood, theologically & canonically. It's not like it's just an interesting but only sort of relevant sidebar conversation.

My understanding is that, when determining what the Church most accurately intends to say, you always go to the typical Latin edition of whatever document you are studying. Of course, a translations from the typical Latin into other languages can provide some useful theological insight, but a translation itself doesn't determine Church teaching (especially not universal Church teachings, as translations are by their very nature aimed at only a particular language group). 

Though if it really was the typical Latin edition that was changed, rather than just the English translation, that would be very significant (though I would have been surprised if a revision of that magnitude wasn't published in some official Vatican media channel.)

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