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LoveZoe11

Conscrated Virginity

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LoveZoe11

Hi everyone,

I have been discerning for about five years now. At first I felt called to religous life, but recently I've felt more of a call to simply be a bride of Christ, a Conscrated Virgin.

The issue is: my diocese is seriously lacking in vocation resources for women. Also, I don't believe there are any CVs in my diocese (Springfield MA)

Does anyone on this forum know of any resources for discerning a CV vocation?

Does anyone know if it is possible to be conscrated by a diocese other then the one you live in? (I know the Archdioses of Boston has a strong CV formation program for example)

Any help, and of course, prayers would be greatly appreciated.

 

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TheresaThoma

I don't really know that much about CVs but I do believe that you have to be consecrated in the diocese that you live in. I know some bishops may ask a woman to meet with CVs outside of the diocese during their discernment if there are not others in the diocese. It would probably be worth it to reach out to both your diocese and to the Archdiocese of Boston to help you discern.

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Sponsa-Christi

The general understanding is that yes, you need to be consecrated by your own bishop which for the most part translates into the bishop of the diocese you live in (though there might be some exceptions if, say, you're a full-time student living only temporarily in a place, for example). It is possible that the bishop who is the head of your diocese can delegate the consecration to another bishop, but it's your dioceses' bishop who is the one that needs to make that call.

I think it would certainly be reasonable if, seeing that another nearby diocese had a formation program already in place, it was suggested that you use their formation program but be ultimately consecrated in your own diocese. It's also not unusual at all for CVs to join other CVs from nearby dioceses for social things or special events. (I was invited to attend the Year of Consecrated Life celebrations for the diocese next door, for example.)

 

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Lou

I wondered if I could add to this question!

My little addition which I hope doesn't distract from the main topic LoveZoe11... I'm discerning a vocation to monastic life but also feel a call to consecrated virginity. I've read mixed reports about how some monasteries allow nuns to take the Rite of Consecrated Virginity at Solemn profession: often in traditional Benedictine monasteries. I wondered if anyone knows if this is common practise or if it occurs often now or in what traditions? Trappist/ Carmel/ Poor Clares/ Benedictines?? 

It would be great to know how the two vocations can be one or can grow in tandem!

<3 

Edited by Lou

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LoveZoe11

Thanks for the advice everyone! (and sorry for the double posts!)

I have contacted my diocese vocation office and hopefully they will be able to give me some guidance 

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Sponsa-Christi

@Lou Numbers-wise, it's fairly rare for the consecration of virgins to be an option in monasteries. If you feel strongly called to the dual vocation of consecrated virgin and nun (which I would totally appreciate!), you'd probably want to use this criterion to narrow down your list of communities to visit. 

The consecration of virgins is something that only happens in certain religious families, most notably the Benedictines and the Carthusians. Most medieval Orders, like the Poor Clares and Dominicans, did not carry on this ancient tradition by the time they were founded. However, I know the Poor Clares do have a strong tradition of using bridal imagery in their profession ceremonies, so if your call is more towards a "bridal" spirituality in general rather than the Ordo Virginum in particular, that might be something to consider. 

Most Benedictine reform movements, such as the Cistercians and Trappists, also dropped the consecration of virgins from their profession ceremonies. (I've heard in passing that there were specific, thought-out reasons for this--like a focus on greater simplicity or something--but I don't really know enough to comment intelligently on this topic). In the 1950s, some Carmelite monasteries were given the privilege of using the Rite of Consecration to a Life of Virginity, but I'm not sure if this is a tradition that is still carried on in any Carmel today. In the same time period, there were also a handful of active Benedictine communities who were allowed to use the consecration of virgins, because they were able to trace their foundations to European cloistered monasteries that had a long-standing custom of using the Rite. Unfortunately, the active communities that had this privilege opted to do away with it after Vatican II. :( 

In terms of actual monasteries that still use the consecration of virgins today, I think the most well-known ones would be Regina Laudis in Connecticut and St. Cecilia's Abbey in the U.K. (both are Benedictine). I know there is also a Benedictine community in the Netherlands that uses the RiteI presume also that all of the current monasteries of Carthusian nuns continue to use the consecration of virgins--but of course, a call to the Carthusians is a very specific vocation in its own right. 

 

@LoveZoe11 In terms of resources for women discerning consecrated virginity, to be honest there's simply not that much out there right now, especially not in English. The U.S. Association of Consecrated Virgins has some materials, and I have a (right now, not-very-well tended!) blog. When a good book or article does pop up, often the best way to hear about it is by word of mouth from other discerners or CVs. To that end, if you look around on social media, there are also some facebook groups and pages that might be useful.

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Lou

@Sponsa-Christi Thank you so much for writing such a thorough response! St Cecilia's in the UK has attracted me in the past but the website is so off putting! I'll continue to pray, I feel my overriding vocation is one to the monastic life, so perhaps that will be enough to override all else. Something to hold though. Thank you!

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Veiled

CV here, grateful that Sponsa Christi can respond. The USACV just put out a book on formation for consecrated virgins. While it remains the diocese that decides how formation should proceed, the book might be helpful for someone who's never heard of the vocation. The USACV has other resources for discerners as well, and an information conference where you can go and learn from CVs and other discerners in a retreat-like atmosphere.

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Sponsa-Christi

@kateritekakwitha There isn't one universal formation process for consecrated virgins. Basically, every diocese is responsible for figuring out how to discern vocations to consecrated virginity and what formation for their own CVs will be like. 

To speak very frankly, right now the vocation of consecrated virginity is not generally well-understood or deeply appreciated. I think a lot of this simply has to do with the vocation being a "new" vocation in the life of the modern Church. As a result of this, most formation programs for CVs--even in the dioceses that have been the most pro-active in this area--just aren't all that comprehensive. (In fact, even the best diocesan programs that I know of don't really strike me as being truly "enough" at this point in time, but I don't think this is necessarily anyone's "fault.")

To complicate things, there is also some disagreement among already-consecrated virgins about certain aspects of the fundamental identity of this vocation, especially pertaining to how consecrated virginity should find its best lived expression. The specific questions up for debate, along with the different opinions of individual CVs, are complex and nuanced. But to try to sum things up in a vast oversimplification, the questions sort of boil down to: are CVs called to live a visible, distinctly "consecrated" way of life; or are they instead called to live a holy "lay" life as an ordinary, subtle witness and "leaven in the world"? I'm bringing this up not to start a debate here, but rather just to make the point that it can be difficult to design a really comprehensive formation program if you're not quite clear on exactly what it is you're forming someone for . 

I do think that better formation programs will develop once we have a generation of educated, capable CVs who can refer to their own lived experience of consecrated life in the Ordo Virginum.

And as a side note, at least in the United States more and more younger women are discerning consecrated virginity, and there seems to be a trend for women to be consecrated at younger ages. So in ten years, I personally don't think consecrated virginity will be seen as primarily a vocation for older women. Speaking for  myself, I was consecrated nine years ago, when I was twenty-three. 

But to be very honest, right now part of accepting a call to consecrated virginity is being willing to be a bit of a pioneer, and to be sort of a self-starter (in terms of being highly motivated and disciplined) in seeking out helpful resources for oneself. Another part is also being patient and cordial with those of your sisters who obviously could have used some better human, intellectual, and spiritual formation.

Edited by Sponsa-Christi

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Sponsa-Christi

@kateritekakwitha

11 minutes ago, kateritekakwitha said:

so basically, CVs don't really know what their vocation is, and neither do bishops therefore there is not much formation out there, before or after consecration?

Well, I certainly feel like I know what my own vocation is! :)  Although my understanding has deepened over the years, though I think this normal and healthy in all vocations. E.g., I'm sure married people understand marriage better, and priests appreciate their priesthood more deeply, on their fiftieth anniversary than on their wedding or ordination day.

Also, I probably didn't make this clear, but virtually all CVs do agree on the real core elements on this vocation, such as the fact that consecrated virginity is most essentially a call to be a bride of Christ, etc. Where we disagree--and where disagreement is still possible--is on some of the implications of these core non-negotiable elements.

For example, I believe that ordinarily CVs are called to devote the majority of their time to some kind of direct service of the Church. Other CVs feel that CVs most fittingly live out their vocations by being a quiet Christian witness in purely secular careers. While no one side in this debate has officially been declared "wrong" by the Church, the lack of a settled, agreed-upon understanding can make formation difficult on a practical level. That is, the formation for someone who needs to fit prayer around a secular work schedule is going to be a different kind of formation than the formation for someone who picks a job based on whether or not it fits with her prayer obligations, and so forth. 

23 minutes ago, kateritekakwitha said:

you mentioned "I do think that better formation programs will develop once we have a generation of educated, capable CVs who can refer to their own lived experience of consecrated life in the Ordo Virginum."

I don't see how that can happen - like how to progress from here?

I've learned a lot about how to be a CV from actually living as a CV, and I think the collective life experience of seasoned CVs will be a big help in creating future formation programs. Life experience at least provides a road map for what questions and issues need to be addressed in formation. And this kind of lived experience simply didn't exist in 1970 when the Rite was first restored. 

Also, there are some CVs engaged currently engaged in rather serious academic studies that can lead to a better understanding of this vocation. More and more CVs are actively pursuing advanced degrees in theology and canon law, for example. I really do think that this kind of intellectual formation, combined with first-hand insight into this vocation, can lead to better formation programs in the future. 

And keep in mind that just like Catholic doctrine can develop (that is, become more detailed over time, with the fundamental truths being elaborated upon without being changed), so can the Church's understanding of different vocations and states in life. For instance, even though the priesthood goes back to the Last Supper, the seminary system of priestly formation only dates back to the Council of Trent. I.e., the Church went through over 1500 years without a standard formation program for priests!

34 minutes ago, kateritekakwitha said:

also - the video I posted, is that normal formation?

The CV in the video was speaking about her own experiences. That being said, this does sound like a fairly typical experience of formation for a lot of CVs today. 

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Sponsa-Christi
36 minutes ago, kateritekakwitha said:

to be honest I thought it was a rather embarrasement to the church to have some of the CVs out there who barely know their catechism and are talking about their consecration like some kind of pie in the sky type idea, or others who can only talk about locutions that led them to be consecrated and such. 

I'd be the first to agree that CVs should know the Catechism! Though most CVs I know are very eager to fill in whatever gaps they have in their general knowledge of the faith. 

With some of the overly romantic descriptions of being consecrated and such, a lot of times it's hard to put very profound experiences into words without sounding melodramatic or silly. Think of how St. Therese's Story of a Soul can be so off-putting to so many people at first--even though she was relating some profound spiritual truths, it often sounds a bit cutesy because Therese was using the vocabulary that was available to her as a sheltered, middle-class Victorian young woman.  Finding ways to describe one's experiences with the appropriate dignity and gravitas (or better yet, knowing when to "keep the King's secrets"!) can sometimes only comes with a further maturing in one's consecrated life. 

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Sponsa-Christi
46 minutes ago, kateritekakwitha said:

and if CVs themselves have all these problems, then what should discerners do? and what to do if in some dioceses I heard the bishop appoints CVs who have little to no formation themselves , to form the others? that would be horrible

Basically...we do the best we can with what we have, and trust in God's providence. 

When I was first discerning, Kateritekakwitha, I actually had a lot of the same concerns as you. (And in a sense, I still do have these concerns--good formation for CVs is really, really important!) Yet even though in some ways becoming a CV seemed like a royally stupid decision for all the reasons you're describing, no matter how much I tried I couldn't escape the sense that God was calling me to this. And so I took a leap of faith!

Lacking a real formation program myself, my consecrated life has been hard in a lot of ways. I try to be very honest about that to women discerning this vocation. If the challenges of discerning a vocation to consecrated virginity seem overwhelmingly daunting to you, maybe this isn't where you're called, and there's nothing wrong with that!

But on my part, I absolutely do not regret becoming a CV, and I do what I can to make things easier for new CVs in the future. In the end, I just really believe that God does have a plan for this vocation, and personally I've learned that I just need to be patient as it unfolds. 

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CatherineM

We have a couple here, so I guess our Archbishop understands what one is. I could see having to move just to find one who would take a CV. 

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BarbaraTherese

We had one CV in our diocese and the only one to my knowledge up to today.  I met her quite some years ago now and spent an informative afternoon with her on the beach.  Apparently, our Archbishop at that time was not keen about CV vocations - I find this very strange indeed, very strange, since a CV vocation per se is a call from God.

There was one funny incident.  She says:

"Would you like a magnum?"  Shocked initially then spied the ice cream van with the magnum advert - I nearly fell off the seat laughing.

I didn't know that a magnum was an ice cream.  She didn't know that it was a gun.

 

At the time she was in my brother's parish she wore a religious habit.  My brother leans over to me (at my nephew's First Communion)and says "She is only dressing up and is not a real nun".  I did try to explain to my brother later but I think he wound up thinking I was as weird as he thought the CV was - possibly more weird in fact.  It is not a well known vocation at all here.  In fact, to date I have never met a lay person who knew it was a potential vocation and call from God and a very valid potential vocation in The Church.

I reside in Sth Australia.

 

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