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Consecrated Virginity Question


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Refering to the  clarification from the Congregation for the Inst. of Consecrated life in Rome as follows :

 

My Question: According to the Roman Pontifical the Rite of Consecration to a Life of Virginity is used for women living in the world and those in monasteries.Does 'living in the world' mean only that it is 'not in a monastery' or should it be lived strictly 'in the world' like in secular institutes ?

 

The charism of cons.virgins is to be an eschatological image of the Heavenly Bride and the life to come, when the Church will at last live her love for Christ the Bridegroom.The charism of Secular Inst. is to transfigure the world from within, acting like a leaven within the cultural, economic and political life. Hence it would be improper for a member of a Secular Inst. to wear clothing which would identify them as a consecrated person. However,Cons.virgins are called to be an image of the Chruch's love for Christ.Would it be proper if the local circumstances demand, to wear clothing which would identify one as a consecrated person or be addressed as 'Sister'  even though one does not live in a religious community ?

 

The following was the response with the Official reference number. 

 

 Prot n.SpR 862-4/2003

 

The life of virginity lived in the world gives public witness in everyday life , in some self-supporting work and in her service to the Church. It is not quite the same as the style of a secular institute because the virgin's consecration is public ,yet it is secular in the sense that she is not a religious.

 

The use of the veil, provided for in the Rite is decided on in the local circumstances with the Diocesan Bishop.The same would be true regarding any other identifying clothing and/or the use of the title Sister.

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ETA: This is not aimed at anyone- just to lighten the mood.  :saint2:

I ask one question and this happens.

I mean this as respectfully as possible, but the exact nature and extent of consecrated virgins’ secularity is far from a settled question. I’m saying this not because I want to debate (I truly do

I'm sorry for the duplications above. This is my first time commenting here and I'm not sure what I did wrong.

 

Thank you God's Beloved for taking the time to share the response above.

 

I've taken some time to go through the many documents located at this website http://consecratedvirgins.org/ for the Consecrated Virgins in the USA. Everything from the response above is reflected among the many items that can be found there.

 

As someone who has a degree in Political Science from a rock solid Catholic university, along with a degree in Humanities and Catholic Culture (an integrated study of philosophy, theology, literature, and history), I think we must be very careful not to adopt a modern interpretation of the word "public." Too often we adopt the materialistic culture around us and follow its lead in equating the word "public" with "advertised."

 

The deep sense of the term "public" refers to the things that are held in common. The Latin phrase res publica refers to the things that are shared by all, and it is the source of our term "republic."

 

I think it is a mistake to think a public vocation is the same as a visible vocation. St. Therese, after all, had a public vocation and was "seen" by no one but her sisters. The hiddenness of her vocation did not mean her vocation wasn't public.  But her life was not her own in the same way that a Consecrated Virgin's life is not her own. A Consecrated Virgin lays her life down for her brothers and sisters. Her vocation is for the Church. She is Christ's presence in the world, as His Bride, and she also continuously presents the world to Christ.

 

Similarly, often our understanding of the word "witness" is constricted. We tend to think of a courtroom drama where everyone knows person X took the stand. In a fuller sense, a witness gives evidence of and testifies to: in the sense of a Consecrated Virgin her very life of exclusive devotion to Christ as her Spouse gives evidence of the world to come and testifies to the deepest realities of human nature, that we are made for God.

 

Mary is the premier model for Consecrated Virgins. One of my favorite spiritual writers, Fr. Jean D' Elbee, has written a beautiful statement regarding Our Lady: "The Gospel tells us nothing about the childhood of Mary. It seems that God willed jealously to hide this diamond of greatest beauty. And Mary, all her life, kept her love of reticence, of self-effacement, of the hidden life, under the veil of simplicity, like a marvelous treasure. Think of her at Nazareth, the wife of a carpenter, keeping the household, sweeping, going to the fountain, she, the Queen of Heaven. She appears later as if lost in the midst of the holy women, having nothing to distinguish her.... Little Therese rediscovered this road of Nazareth. She approached this simplicity, but without equaling it--far from it. At Carmel there is still the austerity of the religious habit, of the enclosure. At Nazareth there was none of that. In our time Jesus also wants hidden saints like the "woman of Nazareth," who distinguish themselves in nothing exteriorly, but who burn interiorly."

 

Because Consecrated Virgins, and nuns, and sisters are all the Spouse of Christ, I think sometimes we focus our meditations on the nature of a Consecrated Virgin's vocation too narrowly. We focus on how Consecrated Virgins are or are not like sisters and stop there, whereas there are two other models that bear directly on the Consecrated Virgin's vocation. I think we can easily neglect meditating upon Mary's role as the model for Consecrated Virgins and what insights her life might give.

 

Also, I think we tend to neglect meditating on the role of the Church as the Bride of Christ in the midst of the world. She is set apart for Him while also being immersed in the world. I see parallels with the vocation of a Consecrated Virgin, who is His presence in the world and presents the world to Him.

 

I think it would be an error to conclude that a Consecrated Virgin must "look differently than" a member of a secular institute. The two vocations differ because one is a public state of consecration and one is a call to be leaven in the world. The very fact that bishops have latitude to decide matters such as dress for Consecrated Virgins indicate to me that the core of the vocation is such that style of dress, assuming the woman is modest and simple, is a periphery issue.

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Because Consecrated Virgins, and nuns, and sisters are all the Spouse of Christ, I think sometimes we focus our meditations on the nature of a Consecrated Virgin's vocation too narrowly. We focus on how Consecrated Virgins are or are not like sisters and stop there, whereas there are two other models that bear directly on the Consecrated Virgin's vocation.

 

 

I totally agree with this. But beyond just looking towards other models for consecrated virginity, I think it’s also good to remember that this vocation already does have its own charism. It’s not really a vocation in search of a theology--even if it is a vocation that’s still going through “growing pains” with respect to our understanding of its best practical lived expression.

 

For this reason, I tend to dislike it when people describe my understanding of my vocation as being “quasi-religious”--I actually don’t believe that consecrated virgins should simply strive to become as much like religious as possible, based on the premise that religious life is somehow “more consecrated.” Although I do think, that because consecrated virginity and religious life are both public forms of consecrated life, it’s only natural that there would be a certain degree of “family resemblance.”

 

Consecrated virginity as a vocation preceded the development of religious life properly so-called (as in, a communal way of life marked by permanent vows, adherence to a specific rule, and a participation in the spirituality of a particular founder or foundress) by several centuries. Historically, some of the first precursors to religious life as we know it today were communities of consecrated virgins who lived together in order to assist each other in living out their mutual vocation more faithfully.

 

Also, I think that many elements which people often associate immediately with religious life—like “bride of Christ” imagery, making a commitment in the presence of a bishop, or even the receiving of the veil—actually originated with consecrated virginity. So with some things, it’s not a case of consecrated virgins trying to imitate religious, but rather, it’s the other way around: over the course of the centuries, women religious tended to inherit certain customs initially associated with consecrated virgins.

 

I don’t think that there’s anything wrong with this kind of historical â€œsharing.” But I do think that it should keep us from simply defining consecrated virginity as “not religious life”; or from necessarily assuming that just because some concept or practice might remind us of religious life, that it therefore automatically can’t apply to consecrated virginity as well.

 

Likewise, I believe very strongly that consecrated virginity does indeed have its own unique characteristics, which modern religious life doesn’t share (or at least, which religious life doesn’t share to the same extent or degree)—such as, among other things, an essential “rootedness” in the local Church, an identification with the Church’s early virgin-martyr saints, or the centrality of a spousal call and identity.

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I totally agree with this. But beyond just looking towards other models for consecrated virginity, I think it’s also good to remember that this vocation already does have its own charism. It’s not really a vocation in search of a theology--even if it is a vocation that’s still going through “growing pains” with respect to our understanding of its best practical lived expression.
I think how I would express it is that the models of Our Lady and the Church as the Bride of Christ in the world illuminate the heart of the vocation and offer insights (not just analogies or illustrations, but substantive insights) into the theology of the vocation. I myself wouldn’t use the term “models” here as if it were an abstraction.

It was my understanding that when consecrated virgins in the ancient Church received the veil, they then wore it in daily life. That was borrowed from the custom of the time that all married women wore veils. I think it’s accurate to say the sequence consisted of: married women wore veils > consecrated virgins wore veils > religious sisters wore veils.

These days all three wear wedding bands (many religious, at least).
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As someone who has a degree in Political Science from a rock solid Catholic university, along with a degree in Humanities and Catholic Culture (an integrated study of philosophy, theology, literature, and history), I think we must be very careful not to adopt a modern interpretation of the word "public." Too often we adopt the materialistic culture around us and follow its lead in equating the word "public" with "advertised."

 

The deep sense of the term "public" refers to the things that are held in common. The Latin phrase res publica refers to the things that are shared by all, and it is the source of our term "republic."

 

I think it is a mistake to think a public vocation is the same as a visible vocation. St. Therese, after all, had a public vocation and was "seen" by no one but her sisters. The hiddenness of her vocation did not mean her vocation wasn't public.  But her life was not her own in the same way that a Consecrated Virgin's life is not her own. A Consecrated Virgin lays her life down for her brothers and sisters. Her vocation is for the Church. She is Christ's presence in the world, as His Bride, and she also continuously presents the world to Christ.

 

My own understanding basically agrees with your observations, Laurie. When we refer to public vocations today (or to the public character of the associated commitments) we refer to those vocations and commitments associated with public (canonical) rights and obligations and so too, those which are the focus of necessary expectations on behalf of both Church and world. Because of the public nature of the vows/commitment the person acquires a new identity in the Church and belongs to everyone in specific ways. It is absolutely true we are not talking about notoriety or visibility; I agree completely with you on that. I believe you are speaking of precisely this dimension when you say the person's life is no longer their own. The vocation generally (CV, Hermit, etc) is seen as a gift of the Holy Spirit and the Church claims it (as does the individual whose vocation this is) in the Rite of Profession/consecration/ordination..

 

Thus, I would add that it is publicly, formally, and legally no longer their own as well as being personally given over to another (God via the mediation of the Church). With private  commitments, the life DOES remain one's own in the sense that there are no legal or formal obligations or necessary expectations attached. Of course one may give their life entirely to God in the process, but no one necessarily has a right to call them to accountability on the way they live this out, nor may anyone have necessary expectations of them in this regard. Only the person who is privately committed is directly involved in the commitment per se --- that is, no matter how many people may be significantly touched as that commitment is lived out it remains a private commitment implicating no one else directly. On the other hand with public vows, while only the person is bound by the vows themselves, a whole set of ecclesial and civil relationships are set up which define the state of life and persist until and unless the vows are dispensed, lapse, or the person dies. The person ceases to be her own person because she is publicly answerable for the gift the Holy Spirit has given..

 

Both privately and publicly committed persons give their lives for their Brothers and Sisters. Both commitments may be gifts of the Holy Spirit. The difference seems to me to lie in the degree of necessary expectations, ways of exercising accountability, and formal relationships which help ensure the integrity and fruitfulness of the commitment which necessarily obtain.

 

best,

Sister Laurel M O'Neal, Er Dio

Stillsong Hermitage

Diocese of Oakland

http://notesfromstillsong.blogspot.com

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I think how I would express it is that the models of Our Lady and the Church as the Bride of Christ in the world illuminate the heart of the vocation and offer insights (not just analogies or illustrations, but substantive insights) into the theology of the vocation. I myself wouldn’t use the term “models” here as if it were an abstraction.

It was my understanding that when consecrated virgins in the ancient Church received the veil, they then wore it in daily life. That was borrowed from the custom of the time that all married women wore veils. I think it’s accurate to say the sequence consisted of: married women wore veils > consecrated virgins wore veils > religious sisters wore veils.

These days all three wear wedding bands (many religious, at least).

 

A theology spells out the nature, the underpinnings, and the implications of the charism. On the other hand, unless a charism can be theologically articulated it ceases to be a gift to anyone. From my own vantage point, I believe the CV vocation IS in search of a theology, or at least in search of those who will spell this out in a meaningful and systematic way to those in the Church who are supposed to benefit from this charism --- what ever that may actually be. (By the way, I am not denying there is  a very significant charism and I believe I understand and have referred to it many times here; it is up to theologians together with those living the life to make it clear how it is that when the Church asks for bread they have not been handed  an ancient stone which truly nourishes no one at all.) When people ask CV's why they "didn't go the whole way and become a nun"? or say "That's nice but so what?" when a CV says, "I am a spouse of Christ." they are asking "how does this vocation truly represent a gift to the Church and world?" and sometimes, "How is this a gift to the Church which does not demean or diminish the gift MY vocation is to the Church and World?"

 

My own understanding of the use of veils was that they were worn not only to mark the virgin as married but to mark her as beyond the deficiencies of being female as well. Virgins regularly argued they were not subject to the rules and limitations of ordinary women and some suggested they had become "male" in the process because of the freedom that attached to this position in society. They took St Paul's "neither male nor female" seriously and literally! St Perpetua had a terrifically telling dream about this perspective on the eve of her martyrdom in the arena. She was to be thrown to beasts, but in the dream when she arrived at the arena she became clad in gladiator's armor, was armed appropriately and was led in to fight with other gladiators. Virgins regularly acted as an independent and even a quasi-clerical authority within the Church; only over time did their "presumption" of being rid of female "deficiencies" cause both pagan men and Christian men (especially elders and clerics) to begin to argue against this and to regulate or control the vocation more strictly. Tertullian was one famous Church Father particularly put out by the virgins of his day. To continue the image from above, there were times when Tertullian thought of the vocation as a stone  (or a scorpion!) rather than bread or a fish!!!

 

In any case, the meaning of the use of the veil (or its theology) also transformed over time. (I would argue the nature of the charism itself also changed to some extent, as did the theology of the vocation itself.) Not only was the original notion of the virgin as married strongly reasserted and the virgin-as-male dropped, but so was the relative subservience of the virgin to Church (now meaning male) authority. The use of such symbols do change and today the common symbol of betrothal, espousal, or marriage is the wedding ring or band.

 

best,

Sister Laurel M O'Neal, Er Dio

Stillsong Hermitage

Diocese of Oakland

http://notesfromstillsong.blogspot.com

Edited by SRLAUREL
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Both privately and publicly committed persons give their lives for their Brothers and Sisters. Both commitments may be gifts of the Holy Spirit. The difference seems to me to lie in the degree of necessary expectations, ways of exercising accountability, and formal relationships which help ensure the integrity and fruitfulness of the commitment which necessarily obtain.

 

I agree, Sister.  It does need to be stated also, I think, that though "the expectations, ways of exercising accountability, and formal relationships" ideally "should help to ensure the integrity and fruitfulness of the commitment" (in canonically vowed ways of living) is an objective assessment and not necessarily the subjective response to Graces granted leading to that integrity and fruitfulness of commitment.  One can only HOPE that the factors you meantion will lead to that response to Grace so necessary and indespensible.   However, the necessary and indispensable response to Grace can take place without those factors and outside of the canonically vowed state, or consecrated life.

 

I am very publically committed, the moment I state that I am a practising baptized Catholic and the general public does have expectations of me and all and these expectations met or denied have the potential to either build up or detract from The Church, The Mystical Body of Christ.  There is no expectation publically on me re poverty, chastity and obedience, since my vows are private.  But The Lord has His expectations 24 x 7 x 365.  Personally I fear The Lord and His Glory - and His Divine Rights far more than those of man.  Luke 12 " [4] And I say to you, my friends: Be not afraid of them who kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do. [5] But I will shew you whom you shall fear: fear ye him, who after he hath killed, hath power to cast into hell. Yea, I say to you, fear him."

 

Holiness of life can be attained and ideally should be obtained in the canonically vowed state, it can equally also be obtained in the privately vowed state or in any other state of life whatsoever.  The Good Lord grants all the necessary Graces to grow into holiness to all.  There is not an exclusive claim to holiness in the canonically vowed state, nor any other state in life, and this needs to be stressed to my mind.  Each of the states in life builds up The Church, The Mystical Body of Christ, each in their own particular manner.

 

Overriding all things is God's Will for a person and the particular path along which He may call a person to holiness with all Graces necessary - and no matter the state of life involved.  And no matter how highfalutin and splendid theological objective considerations may be.  Please do forgive my expressions.  I strive to speak for the person in the pew as one of them for sure.

 

It does sadden me that often discussions on the various states in life do seem to set up barriers between the states, even some sort of a class/heirarchy of importance system, rather than striving for unity and fraternal community and how all vocations complement each other, speak to each other, and fulfill God's Will for each person building up His Church.  There is an individualism and/or group individualism often afoot it seems to me rather than an investment in The Church as The Mystical Body of Christ on earth in which every single member, every grouping, is irreplaceable.  It seems to me many including in the consecrated state are struggling to find their personal identity as in the theological scheme of things.

 

Most of the discussion in this thread goes over my head since I do not have the necessary theological skills nor knowledge of Church history and the various ins and outs of often quite complex matters to me.  I even tremble at times contributing to some threads.  This is sad.  It does illustrate however, just how often the person in the pew as it were is left behind and it is my experience that at some point, such persons cease trying to learn and are content with 'bare minimum Catholicism' and live in two completely separate worlds and never the twain shall meet, if I can term it all that.  They have their Catholicism in one world, and their secular lives in another - and neither world has anything to say to the other.  It has all becomes "too hard to understand" for some to live in any other way sadly.  It is important and vital that The Church and the various canonical consecrated states, our clergy, educated laity, can speak to the educated on their level - but must also strive so that the ordinary Catholic can also understand and find their rightful place of immense, unique and irreplaceable value in the life of The Church and for The Kingdom and no matter their particular state in life - and this does include those who bear illnesses that may exclude them from almost all the various states in life.  How often I have read on Catholic discussion sites how such people do suffer struggling to find who they are where they (i.e. suffering illness) - and where they are too in the Life of The Church in their own right apart from the objects of the charity of very generous and loving others.  "I will take your hearts of stone and grant you hearts of flesh".

 

My tuppence...........and I am aware :offtopic: ahh well, fait accompli.

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Sr Laurel:  Because of the public nature of the vows/commitment the person acquires a new identity in the Church and belongs to everyone in specific ways. It is absolutely true we are not talking about notoriety or visibility; I agree completely with you on that. I believe you are speaking of precisely this dimension when you say the person's life is no longer their own

 

 

The moment I was baptized, my life instrinsically was no longer my own to dispose of as I wished.  I am called by God to live in a particular manner.  Baptism is a very public consecration.  Just as in the consecrated state, the person's life is no longer their own called to live in a particular manner and in a public consecration, building on their baptism, to that particular way of life.  They are not called out of their baptism, but to live it out in a radical, evident or overt and quite public manner.  The baptized lay person is also called to a certain way of living in an evident, overt and quite public manner and at times (rather than in a stable state of radical-mess) this living out will ask a certain radical-ness. 

 

When God calls a person to a consecrated state or to the priesthood, they assume a quite public way of life in the instrinsic life of The Church and the theological understandings of that way of living differ from those in the lay state.  Hence, they are no longer in the lay state with its own theological understandings, but in another state in life with different theological understandings to those of the laity.  All states are to be lived in a public manner with their own particular theological explanations - and never "hid under a bushel".

 

  All states in life, all roles in The Church, no matter the theological understandings exist to build up The Church, the Mystical Body of Christ - and The Lord grants all the necessary Grace to assume that public role to holiness of life and therefore hollness in the particular way of life because of it and not despite it.

 

Why is one person called to the laity and another to a consecrated state or to the priesthood?  This forever remains within the Mystery of God and the very fact that it might be problematic to me in some way, either because I am or am not called elsewhere to where I am in fact, would make me personally question my prime personal spiritual inverstment as possibly being a little too much in "me".

 

I wonder if the awareness that some lay people do not take their baptism seriously, lays somewhere in all these posts and threads and that the different states of life in The Church can seem to 'compete' with a scale of importance being a focus with the laity are right down the bottom in the scheme of things and hence dismissive of their vocation.  I have even read threads on some sites where baptised Catholics feel that they have no vocation at all.  This non understanding can be laid at the feet of the laity as their fault - but I do wonder.  Is their fault too in discussions on vocations and in terminology used.  Is there a lack also in the education of laity and without an understanding of the demands of modern life, especially if one is married with children.  The great limitation on both finances and time.

I am in a position of living alone with adult indpendant children, retired on an age pension in the main, with plenty of time to read and to think, and to pray.

Edited by BarbaraTherese
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The moment I was baptized, my life instrinsically was no longer my own to dispose of as I wished.  I am called by God to live in a particular manner.  Baptism is a very public consecration.  Just as in the consecrated state, the person's life is no longer their own called to live in a particular manner and in a public consecration, building on their baptism, to that particular way of life.  They are not called out of their baptism, but to live it out in a radical, evident or overt and quite public manner.  The baptized lay person is also called to a certain way of living in an evident, overt and quite public manner and at times (rather than in a stable state of radical-mess) this living out will ask a certain radical-ness. 

 

When God calls a person to a consecrated state or to the priesthood, they assume a quite public way of life in the instrinsic life of The Church and the theological understandings of that way of living differ from those in the lay state.  Hence, they are no longer in the lay state with its own theological understandings, but in another state in life with different theological understandings to those of the laity.  All states are to be lived in a public manner with their own particular theological explanations - and never "hid under a bushel".

 

  All states in life, all roles in The Church, no matter the theological understandings exist to build up The Church, the Mystical Body of Christ - and The Lord grants all the necessary Grace to assume that public role to holiness of life and therefore hollness in the particular way of life because of it and not despite it.

 

Why is one person called to the laity and another to a consecrated state or to the priesthood?  This forever remains within the Mystery of God and the very fact that it might be problematic to me in some way, either because I am or am not called elsewhere to where I am in fact, would make me personally question my prime personal spiritual inverstment as possibly being a little too much in "me".

 

I wonder if the awareness that some lay people do not take their baptism seriously, lays somewhere in all these posts and threads and that the different states of life in The Church can seem to 'compete' with a scale of importance being a focus with the laity are right down the bottom in the scheme of things and hence dismissive of their vocation.  I have even read threads on some sites where baptised Catholics feel that they have no vocation at all.  This non understanding can be laid at the feet of the laity as their fault - but I do wonder.  Is their fault too in discussions on vocations and in terminology used.  Is there a lack also in the education of laity and without an understanding of the demands of modern life, especially if one is married with children.  The great limitation on both finances and time.

I am in a position of living alone with adult indpendant children, retired on an age pension in the main, with plenty of time to read and to think, and to pray.

 

 Exactly right, and not really off-topic I don't think. Baptism represents a public commitment and consecration. I would suggest that the failure to take Baptism seriously as an exhaustive call to holiness is not due only to the laity's failure, but has been the fault of the Church (hierarchy, theologians, etc) which really nutured the laity's tendencies here. The tendency to hierarchilize everything has not served the Church well. Most of the time it is an entirely too-worldly (non Jesuan) way of thinking or proceeding. We have tended to reflect on and esteem the gifts of certain vocations at the expense of others. In the main this has happened because of a Greek way of thinking about reality which has permeated Catholic thought and which actually stands in direct conflict with Jesus' (and more Semitic) paradoxical way of seeing reality.

 

In this thread there is a sometimes tacit and sometimes more blatant tendency to disparage vocations to secularity --- as though those conflict with consecrated standing. They don't. One of the second Vatican Council's greatest contributions was it's clear teaching on the universal call to holiness. We need to take that with absolute seriousness, just as we take the saeculum as the primary place people are called to work towards the Kingdom.

 

best,

Sister Laurel M O'Neal, Er Dio

Stillsong Hermitage

Diocese of Oakland

http://notesfromstillsong.blogspot.com

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Here is a post from my own blog , written more than a year ago.

http://ocvnewevangelisation.blogspot.in/p/why-did-holy-spirit-revive-ancient.html

 

Contents pasted below :

 

Why did the Holy Spirit revive the ancient Order of Virgins for today’s world ?

 

This is the question I’ve been reflecting about recently. We hear arguments like , “ there’s no need for a vocation which began in antiquity!”  But that would mean we don’t need the  vocation to be a Christian since Christianity itself  began 2000 years ago.

 

Some people object to any  consecrated virgin who says she is a Bride of Christ. They say , “ so  is the entire Church , every Christian and also Religious women . So what makes her more special …. Its just romanticism” etc. etc.

 

holy+spirit.jpg

These remarks are worth a million. We can give it a serious thought. Afterall, Why did the Holy Spirit decide to revive  the ancient Order of  Virgins after Vatican II for women  continuing to live in the world   ?

 

Already mentioned in an earlier post here  as far as I understand, the Second Vatican Council tried to remind the Church that Jesus Christ loves the world and so should we. It tried to reduce the gap between clergy and laity // religious and laity - and to somewhat flatten the hierarchical mountain , to bring the priesthood at the center rather than the top.The vision/mission of the  ordained priesthood according to Vatican II was at the service of animating the common priesthood of the laity [all the non-ordained people of God ]--so that together the entire church could be at the service of the world. The purpose of the desire to flatten the pyramid was mainly for greater unity and harmony within the Church.

 

 Why does the Church  celebrate the Eucharist? ………Jesus said , “ Do this in memory of Me !”. Since then at every Mass , we have remembered our Lord Jesus Christ and  He has become really present among us ,we have received Him in us.  This special way of remembering  or ‘Anamnesis’ in liturgical language – makes present today what is remembered from the past.

 

bride+of+christ.jpg

The consecrated virgin should manifest the identity and mission of the Church as virgin, bride and mother . She becomes a sign , an eschatological image of the Church’s love for Christ [the Church of the past, present and future] .  Perhaps this vocation  should help all Christians to ‘remember’ who we are in the eyes of Christ and make  the  entire Church [ communion of saints throughout history ] really present as a sacrament of salvation  in today’s world.

 

Also as reflected in my other post here  the Rite of consecration to a life of virginity  is in fact a marriage covenant  between Christ and the virgin . Maybe the Holy Spirit could foresee  Christians forgetting this relationship of the Church with Christ . In fact  in several countries people have forgotten the meaning  and value of marriage  itself which seems outdated and unnecessary.  So maybe the Holy Spirit decided to revive this Rite of consecration of virgins   to be at the service of animating the relationship of union  which every baptized Christian has with Christ .

 

Through  the sacrament of  ordination – a previously lay person or deacon  is set apart from the ranks of the common priesthood of the laity and consecrated  to serve the Church though the ministerial priesthood.

 

In a similar manner through the Rite of consecration to a life of virginity , a  woman is set apart from being a lay member of the Body /Bride of Christ to identify with and become an Image of the Entire Church .There is a paradigm shift.

 

The  Church-Bride of Christ was born when Jesus emptied Himself [kenosis] on the Cross as His heart was pierced . Through  a new anointing of the Holy Spirit during the consecration and mystical espousal with Christ – the virgin  is called to deny self , to lose or renounce her Individual identity as a member of the Body of Christ [Mt 16:24]  , to  die in union  with Jesus on the Cross and thus assume the  Collective identity of the entire community of the Diocese , later expanding  her consciousness even further to the Universal Church. It is NOT a call to an Individualistic or Solitary life .

 

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 In today’s world it can be very painful for a consecrated virgin  to see her calling misunderstood , to feel one does not belong to any category when we hear exclusive prayers for clergy, religious and laity . Maybe during such moments we should realize that in losing our Individual Identity and being identified with the Church herself , we do not belong 'to' the Church but being identified 'with' the Church, we belong to Jesus Christ Himself . He is our Spouse and our Everything. From being daughters of the Church we have to be identified with Mother Church  called to the mission of Evangelisation and New Evangelisation that will bring salvation and the Reign of God on earth.

 

 From the sphere of the Diocese with its traditions, its Saints, its values, its limits and its problems you broaden your horizons to the universal Church, sharing above all in her liturgical prayer, which is also entrusted to you so that "the praise of our heavenly Father be always on your lips; pray without easing ",(RCV, n. 28). In this way your prayerful "I" will gradually be enlarged, until there is no longer anything except a great "we" in the prayer. This is ecclesial prayer and the true liturgy. May you open yourselves in your dialogue with God to a dialogue with all creatures, for whom you will find you are mothers, mothers of the children of God (cf. RCV, n. 28). --- from the address of Benedict XVI to the participants in the International congress-pilgrimage of the Ordo Virginum [The Order of Virgins] on 15th May 2008

 

 

 

 

Consecrated virginity  is not superior to other vocations. But it should inspire a  good jealousy among all baptized  Christians . The youth should be inspired to jealously guard themselves from the sins against chastity, remembering they belong to the Body of Christ.  Couples in love should be inspired to get married instead of  a ‘live-in’ relationship. People should be inspired to have courage to make commitments in life. Every Christian should be reminded  that the Church exists to evangelize , to serve the world to bring about the Reign of God.

 

So the next  time you meet a consecrated virgin who seems to proudly say she is the Bride of Christ , you should remember the value of your baptismal calling , of marriage , of the primacy of God in your life.

 

 

 

Truly, the Holy Spirit’s plan to revive the order of consecrated virgins- will reach fulfillment when this vocation inspires every baptized  Christian in any state of life - to introspect and have a New Evangelisation , to fully live a life in union with the Trinity and remember that the Church exists to Evangelise, to be a sacrament of salvation in this world that Jesus loves and wants us to serve like Him. When that happens , the entire Church will experience the much-awaited Rapture or Parousia.

 

The Spirit and the Bride say, "Come!" Whoever hears let him say, "Come!" Whoever thirsts let him approach, and whoever desires, let him freely take the water of life [Revelations 22: 17 ]

 

 

 

Of course during the last one year my ideas have been further refined ..............so the above post is not perfect !

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 Exactly right, and not really off-topic I don't think. Baptism represents a public commitment and consecration. I would suggest that the failure to take Baptism seriously as an exhaustive call to holiness is not due only to the laity's failure, but has been the fault of the Church (hierarchy, theologians, etc) which really nutured the laity's tendencies here. The tendency to hierarchilize everything has not served the Church well. Most of the time it is an entirely too-worldly (non Jesuan) way of thinking or proceeding. We have tended to reflect on and esteem the gifts of certain vocations at the expense of others. In the main this has happened because of a Greek way of thinking about reality which has permeated Catholic thought and which actually stands in direct conflict with Jesus' (and more Semitic) paradoxical way of seeing reality.

 

In this thread there is a sometimes tacit and sometimes more blatant tendency to disparage vocations to secularity --- as though those conflict with consecrated standing. They don't. One of the second Vatican Council's greatest contributions was it's clear teaching on the universal call to holiness. We need to take that with absolute seriousness, just as we take the saeculum as the primary place people are called to work towards the Kingdom.

 

best,

Sister Laurel M O'Neal, Er Dio

Stillsong Hermitage

Diocese of Oakland

http://notesfromstillsong.blogspot.com

 

Thank you very much for the above post, Sister - very much indeed.   From the bottom my heart! :dance2:  A post to keep on file, which I am about to do.
 

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In this thread there is a sometimes tacit and sometimes more blatant tendency to disparage vocations to secularity --- as though those conflict with consecrated standing. They don't. One of the second Vatican Council's greatest contributions was it's clear teaching on the universal call to holiness. We need to take that with absolute seriousness, just as we take the saeculum as the primary place people are called to work towards the Kingdom.

 

 

Writing in a spirit of respectful discussion...I’m not sure that the Church’s teachings on the universal call to holiness can be directly identified with Sr. Laurel’s concept of “sacred secularity.” To me, these would actually seem to be two distinct ideas.

 

As I am understanding it, “sacred secularity” would seem to be the idea of relating to God primarily in and through mundane things; whereas the universal call to holiness is the teaching that every Christian, regardless of his or her state in life, is called to be holy.

 

While these two concepts aren’t necessarily always in conflict with each other, they are distinct. For one thing, the universal call to holiness encompasses all the faithful, from the laity to Carthusian monks and nuns. However, there are some members of the Church to whom “sacred secularity” most certainly wouldn’t apply. (E.g., a bishop isn’t going to become closer to God or lead more people to Christ by going to work full-time for something like an accounting firm—but this fact doesn’t imply that all accountants are therefore “impure” or “second-class Christians.”)

 

Likewise, arguing that consecrated virgins aren’t called to be “secular” in the strong sense of the term (that is, saying that they are called to devote themselves to God and the Church in a more direct and elusive way than the vast majority of the laity) is NOT the same thing as disparaging vocations that are truly secular.

 

If consecrated virgins are called to live a life which is different from that of most laypeople, it doesn’t therefore follow that the lay vocation is consequently somehow “bad.” The lay state has its own instrinsic nature, dignity, and value to the Church, which is independent of the Church’s expectations for consecrated virgins.

 

And actually, from a pastoral perspective, I think that asking consecrated virgins to observe a way of life which is “secular” in the strong sense of the term might be one thing that contributes obstacles to a proper appreciation of the lay vocation.

 

From my point of view, it would seem to send a disempowering message to the laity if we were to say that the lay faithful needed consecrated persons to model their vocation for them. This would seem to suggest that consecrated virgins can live the lay vocation somehow better or more fully than the laity themselves, because the CVs have the benefit of being canonically consecrated.

 

I believe it would be much more wholesome and encouraging for everyone concerned if we did understand consecrated virgins as having a truly different vocation, instead of just being called to be something like “super laywomen.” I think that, if consecrated virgins live demonstrably “consecrated” lives, that this would complement the lay vocation in the life of the Church as a whole.

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1] The vocation of consecrated virgins is ECCLESIAL in one word. She is given to the diocese.

 

2] As mentioned in the Roman Pontifical the nature and value of consecrated virginity is the same whether lived in the monastery as a community or outside the monastery as an individual.

 

3] The beauty of the charism is that it can be lived in a rainbow variety of ways . However I would advise a woman who sees it her mission to be a leaven to transform the political, temporal aspects of the world- to consider joining a secular institute or lay association/movement since such vocational options are already available. Consecrated virgins do not need to change their charism just because today's world seems to have the need or because some religious wish to maintain a monopoly regarding public pastoral consecrated life.

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4] Canon 604 clearly states that virgins are dedicated to the service of the ‘church’ .  The suggested homily in the rite mentions apostle in the church and the world. The entire rite  and charism is primarily focused on spousal spirituality and dedication to the service of the church community.

 

Through this rootedness it expands its vision and embraces the world in mission too. Since the consecrated virgin is an image of the entire church as bride and body of Christ , she can be adorned with many many other charisms to express her central vocation. Sacred secularity would be just one of the many possible ways of living the vocation.

 
 
5] Some people argue that post Vatican council II theology of sacred secularity ought to be embraced by all consecrated virgins to live our vocation truthfully ,  I will argue that  the Bride of Christ is an image of the entire church .The Holy Spirit would not be keen to change the charism of the order of virgins or add sacred secularity to it without at the same time  inspiring the same for diocesan hermits, priests  and even the religious. Unity is very important to the Holy Spirit.
 
6] The bride of Christ spiritual relationship through baptism is not the same as the mystical espousal of the consecrated virgin with Christ of which her charism expects her to be an Image .It would be improper to insist that a married woman is obliged to focus on mission in the world at the cost of her relationship with her husband and children / family . The entire family of the church [ clergy, laity, consecrated persons]should be involved in transforming the world as leaven –not just consecrated virgins.
 
7] Much of what is attributed to religious life today actually belongs to the charism of consecrated virgins in the early church and paradoxically is being denied to consecrated virgins themselves in today’s world. This is not in the interest of Truth , Justice or human rights and dignity of virgins  who have given their entire lives to Christ and the service of the church. . Imagine if a married woman is  told that she should keep her marriage hidden , her spouse cannot live with her, she should not call  herself Mrs.,her service to her family is part-time and her married vocation need not involve her whole self – body, mind, emotions, spirit and social relationships .It is legitimate that a consecrated virgin should  express with dignity her relationship as Bride of Christ.
 
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We can suppress the Truth for a while but on the third day Truth will Rise again!
If a married woman tries to be dedicated to her spouse and family , it does not mean she is ignoring or denigrating the world outside her family.It just means that  her family is her life. In today’s world of course there are women for whom their career in the world is more important. To work outside her family is a matter of need for survival or a choice. Every woman is free to choose . To focus on ones family is not a middle way for her ! 
 

8] THE URGENT NEED IN THE MISSION OF  CONSECRATED VIRGINS IS NOT  TO  CONSECRATE THE WORLD TO GOD BUT FOR A NEW EVANGELISATION THAT WILL REMIND MEMBERS OF THE CHURCH OF THEIR OWN CONSECRATION AND RELATIONSHIP WITH GOD AND THE WORLD.

 

 

The Pressing Needs of the World Today: A new state of affairs today both in the Church and in social, economic, political and cultural life, calls with a particular urgency for the action of the lay faithful. If lack of commitment is always unacceptable, the present time renders it even more so. It is not permissible for anyone to remain idle.
secularity.jpg
Certainly all the members of the Church are sharers in this secular dimension but in different ways. In particular the sharing of the lay faithful has its own manner of realization and function, which, according to the Council, is "properly and particularly" theirs. Such a manner is designated with the expression "secular character"(32).
The images taken from the gospel of salt, light and leaven, although indiscriminately applicable to all Jesus' disciples, are specifically applied to the lay faithful.[ Post –synodal Apostolic Exhortaion : Christifideles Laici ]


 
TODAY’S CHURCH REQUIRES A NEW EVANGELISATION .CONSECRATED VIRGINS SHOULD RATHER ANSWER THIS NEED WHICH IS SO INTRINSIC TO OUR  ORIGINAL CHARISM THAN TO MEDITATE ON SACRED SECULARITY WHICH IS THE CALL OF EVERY BAPTISED MEMBER OF THE CHURCH AND TO WHICH SECULAR INSTITUTES AND THE LAITY WHO FORM 99.99998 % OF THE CHURCH ARE ALREADY CALLED IN A PARTICULAR WAY THROUGH THEIR OWN CONSECRATION.

 

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My own understanding basically agrees with your observations, Laurie. When we refer to public vocations today (or to the public character of the associated commitments) we refer to those vocations and commitments associated with public (canonical) rights and obligations and so too, those which are the focus of necessary expectations on behalf of both Church and world. Because of the public nature of the vows/commitment the person acquires a new identity in the Church and belongs to everyone in specific ways. It is absolutely true we are not talking about notoriety or visibility; I agree completely with you on that. I believe you are speaking of precisely this dimension when you say the person's life is no longer their own. The vocation generally (CV, Hermit, etc) is seen as a gift of the Holy Spirit and the Church claims it (as does the individual whose vocation this is) in the Rite of Profession/consecration/ordination..
 
Thus, I would add that it is publicly, formally, and legally no longer their own as well as being personally given over to another (God via the mediation of the Church). With private  commitments, the life DOES remain one's own in the sense that there are no legal or formal obligations or necessary expectations attached. Of course one may give their life entirely to God in the process, but no one necessarily has a right to call them to accountability on the way they live this out, nor may anyone have necessary expectations of them in this regard. Only the person who is privately committed is directly involved in the commitment per se --- that is, no matter how many people may be significantly touched as that commitment is lived out it remains a private commitment implicating no one else directly. On the other hand with public vows, while only the person is bound by the vows themselves, a whole set of ecclesial and civil relationships are set up which define the state of life and persist until and unless the vows are dispensed, lapse, or the person dies. The person ceases to be her own person because she is publicly answerable for the gift the Holy Spirit has given..
 
Both privately and publicly committed persons give their lives for their Brothers and Sisters. Both commitments may be gifts of the Holy Spirit. The difference seems to me to lie in the degree of necessary expectations, ways of exercising accountability, and formal relationships which help ensure the integrity and fruitfulness of the commitment which necessarily obtain.
 
best,
Sister Laurel M O'Neal, Er Dio
Stillsong Hermitage
Diocese of Oakland
http://notesfromstillsong.blogspot.com

Thank you, Sister Laurel, for your input here.

It does seem we are on the same page regarding the public nature of the vocation.

I would add that it is because a consecrated virgin is publicly, formally, and legally no longer her own that how she structures her daily life, in conjunction with her bishop’s and her spiritual director’s input, is of the highest importance. This is crucial for a consecrated virgin. Unlike a religious sister, who has a structure gifted to her upon her entrance into a religious order, a consecrated virgin must discern carefully how God wishes her to fulfill her obligations.

This is the very reason, I believe, the Church emphasizes that candidates for the vocation to consecrated virginity lived in the world must be mature women. She must be capable of discerning and concretely fulfilling her obligations without the aid of many things found in another public vocation, the religious life (having a superior, a communal schedule, etc.). This “lack” however, is not a true lack. It’s not the absence of something that should be there.

The Church has specified what she expects of a consecrated virgin, some of which expectations are to spend much time in private prayer, to attend daily mass as often as possible, to pray at least morning and evening prayer if at all possible, to follow the spirituality that bears the most fruit for her, to support herself, to be dedicated to the service of the Church.

These are not nebulous demands when taken as wedded to an individual consecrated virgin’s life. The objective obligations of her vocation cannot be divorced from her interior life. (This is true of each vocation.) For example, she is obligated to attend daily mass as often as possible.

The discretion built into this obligation does not make it any less of an obligation. There is a sense in which only she can be the judge of when it is not possible for her to attend mass. She is, however, responsible to the Church for her judgment on that matter. She is also responsible to the Church for her personal formation on the matter. (I used the term interior life above broadly, to include her virtues, her judgment, her character, etc.)

If she finds herself slipping into lukewarmness regarding mass attendance, it is up to her to detect this and provide for her own formation. She should bring it up with her spiritual director. She might choose spiritual reading that focusing unpacking the power and beauty of the Eucharist.

The fact that she has latitude given to her by the Church regarding daily mass attendance, and latitude regarding what means she chooses regarding nourishing her soul spiritually (how she might address lukewarmness, for example) does not lessen her obligation.

All of the vocations involve objective obligations wedded to an individual’s interior life. A religious sister might attend daily mass at 7 each morning. It would be a mistake to think that her mere attendance at mass is fulfilling part of the obligation of her vocation. If she’s not making the effort to be interiorly present and actually participate in the mass, then she is likely not meeting the obligation of her vocation.

I will turn now to part of what Sponsa Christi has written. Thank you, Sponsa Christi, for taking the time to give us your insights.

“…whereas the universal call to holiness is the teaching that every Christian, regardless of his or her state in life, is called to be holy.”

What I would say is that the universal call to holiness could not be considered apart from a person’s state in life. I would say that the universal call to holiness is the Church’s recognition that each vocation, faithfully and fully lived, leads to holiness. Full stop.

I think sometimes we have the tendency to parse holiness, as if there are gradations to it. I don’t think we should phrase the universal call to holiness in a way, for example, that might make it sound like a woman could be holy regardless if she is a lay woman. If she is called to be a lay woman, her universal call to holiness is through her vocation as a lay woman. The universal call is always incarnate in a specific instance.

I’m going to have to stop here. (I am battling physical pain right now which saps my mental energy. So I am finding myself unable to contribute here as much as I would like.)

I am praying for all of you!
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