Hot off the Press! New Book on Consecrated Virginity

While a lot of attention has focused on the spiritual and theological formation process for those who wish to become consecrated virgins, there hasn’t been as much
emphasis on the practical logistics of consecration planning.  If, as many consecrated virgins do, a virgin wishes to wear a wedding dress on her Consecration day, then the date must be set at least several months in advance because it takes time to have a dress shipped and altered.  Printing invitations, getting the invitation formula approved, discussing home chapel arrangements, planning the music, and other details take time, thought, and effort.   Because both virgins and diocese’s are often unaware as to the extent of the advance planning needed, a lot of things pop up last minute, are neglected, or even botched, causing great stress.   This guide gives tips on how to navigate the uncharted territory for a lot of dioceses in how they can work with the virgins who desire to be espoused to Jesus Christ.   I am therefore pleased to offer you my book via Kindle (or if you wish, by print):


P.S. Even if you don’t need a copy for yourself, please consider donating below to get this book into the hands of our American diocesan bishops!

Posted in Canonical Requirements, Consecrated Life, Consecrated Virgins | Leave a comment

Attention Discerners: What is Your Most Burning Question about Vocations?

Now is your chance to ask Therese Ivers, the leading canonical expert on vocations on the internet, your deepest or most puzzling question about vocational discernment. How?

On December 8, 2012, Therese Ivers will be hosting a webinar Q&A session on people’s most burning vocational questions. Depending on the type of questions submitted, other experts may be invited to the roundtable panel such as religious, married couples, and priests.

If you have a burning question, be one of the first twenty people to register, and we’ll guarantee your question will be answered* during the Q&A session. This is your chance to speak with a canonist without paying the steep hourly fees canon lawyers typically charge. Do you want to know if you can become a diocesan hermit before starting your dream order? Are you wondering whether you can become a deacon if you are divorced? Have you wanted to ask whether you should date while thinking about becoming a nun? Ask away! If you are one of the first 20 people to register, you’ll be given at least one question that is guaranteed an answer* and if there’s time, we’ll answer your other questions as well. If you are not one of the first 20 people, don’t worry. You can listen to the roundtable. Plus, once we answer the first 20 questions, we’ll open the floor and answer both pre-submitted and spontaneous questions. Sound good?

What you’ll get by being one of the first 20 people to register for the webinar besides getting an early bird discount:

bulletpoint Your burning question answered* if you submit your question at least 48 hours prior to the webinar.


bulletpoint The opportunity to listen to the answer to other people’s burning questions.  Their questions will probably help you in your own discernment process so this should be quite valuable for you!


bulletpoint And more!  Think “virtual door prizes” and other goodies for those who register.



What you’ll get if you register for the webinar, but aren’t one of the first 20 people:


bulletpoint The opportunity to listen in on other people’s burning questions.  The chances are that the questions that are asked will be similar to yours.

bulletpoint The possibility that your own question(s) may be answered during the open floor session.  You can submit questions in advance and type questions or “raise your hand” and perhaps say your question over the microphone during the open questions session.


bulletpoint And much, much more!  Yes, there are virtual “door prizes” and other goodies to be distributed to our webinar registrants and participants.



Here’s the nitty gritty you’ll need to know for the webinar:


You’ll need fast internet access to access the webinar. If you have dial up, you will not be able to participate.  Sorry, we do not know if you can use your internet capable phone or tablet to participate.

You’ll need speakers or a headset to hear Therese and fellow guests speak.  If you can play YouTube videos and hear them, you should be fine.

You’ll need a microphone if you intend to speak, and/or a webcam if you want to video “chat” from your end, and a keyboard if you intend to type.

The exact time of the webinar is to be determined. You will be emailed at least 48 hours in advance as to when it will take place.


The webinar will be probably be recorded on CD and/or DVD. No guarantees here, though, so please don’t ask.  Sometimes technology goes on the blink and I don’t want to promise this…

When you register, be sure to give your real email address because you will be given the password for the webinar room by email.



Excited?  Register now!

*So now, you’re probably wondering whether there are any restrictions on the burning question you can submit. Yes, there are. But, we think you’ll agree that they are fairly reasonable. First, although we will try our best to research answers for you, the response we give you will not be an academic one with footnotes and citations and all that. Second, we will not critique specific institutions. Don’t ask us if the Sisters of the Burning Flame are a “good order” or not.  Or if the Diocese of Timbuktu is “solid”.  Third, your question must be specific not broad and general. A good question might be why Franciscans wear a knotted cord. A too broad and general question might be “how do I know what my vocation is”", or, “what are the names of all the contemplative communities in the United States?”. The type of question covered under the guaranteed answer ideally should be one which has a “yes” or “no” answer, or one which might take an expert 1-10 minutes to answer and explain. Lastly, the question should be genuinely helpful for your own personal vocational discernment and not merely a hypothetical situation which might never take place. Thus, while there’s nothing wrong in asking if there’s any significance to the blue bands on Mother Teresa’s sari’s, it is much better to ask us to name a quality which communities look for in candidates.

Posted in Audio, Discernment, Webinar | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

A Glimpse Into One of the Rarest Vocations On Earth

by Therese Ivers, JCL, OCV

Part I.  The Friars
Vocation directors often find it quite challenging to find new members for their communities in this day and age.  When the pool of candidates for Friars is limited to a percentage of a small group in which the majority of members are already married or in the diocesan priesthood, it can get very difficult indeed to grow one’s Order.  The Order being described might well be labeled the “hardest religious Order in the world to join”.  The head of this religious Order is a man who, while not a cardinal, holds the rank or precedence at the Vatican of a cardinal.  He is also a sovereign prince.  He rules one of the smallest countries of the world, and at the same time, is a friar of an ancient religious Order spanning centuries of the Church’s history.  Members in this unique Order are divided into two major groups.  Certain full fledged members are recognized in the Catholic Church as religious friars.  The others, men, women, and chaplains, are members who make a promise of obedience but retain their proper canonical status (lay/consecrated/clergy).  Recognize the Order yet?

sisters in spain

Known for its international charities throughout the world, this religious Order is popularly known as the “Order of Malta”. It’s official title is the Sovereign Military Hospitaller Order of St. John of Jerusalem of Rhodes and of Malta.  The Knights of Justice are religious knights.  That is, they are as religious as the Dominicans, Franciscans, and Benedictines.  They take vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience.  Their general superior is known as the Grand Master, and the current one is Grand Master Fra’ Matthew Festing, who was originally from the UK. This is a video of his audience with the Pope upon being elected as the Prince and Grand Master of the Order:

What does the Order of Malta do?  According to its website, “The Order of St John of Jerusalem is one of the oldest institutions of Western and Christian civilisation. Present in Palestine in around 1050, it is a lay religious Order, traditionally of military, chivalrous, noble nature. Its 13,500 members include Professed Friars and others who have made the promise of obedience. The other Knights and Dames are lay members, devoted to the exercise of Christian virtue and charity. What distinguishes the Knights of Malta is their commitment to reaching their spiritual perfection within the Church and to expending their energies serving the poor and the sick.”

Here is a quick video on some of the activities of the Order of Malta:

The Professed Friars of the Order of Malta come from the lay ranks of the Order of Malta.  They are dedicated to the defense of the Faith and to assisting the sick and poor.  These professed friars are known as the Knights of Justice.  They make religious vows.  What is unique about them is that they – for the most part – continue to live and act IN the world but are no longer OF the world.  Concretely, this means that the friars are religious who continue to live as befits their station in life.  If the friar was a doctor before, he can continue being a doctor, living in his house, and maintaining his style of life.  Knights of Justice support themselves.  He is a man of God, and thus he filters his life through this all encompassing new lens of being a religious friar.  So, while he might continue to maintain his style of life, and is expected to have a secure income for this purpose, he will be living in a spirit of simplicity and is expected to be generous in giving his time, talent, and treasure to the Church.  The Knight of Justice professes obedience, and lives this out in accordance with the regulations of the Order.  He also professes chastity.

Although there are no Dames of Justice (women) in the Order, there is a female cloistered “branch” of the Order with two houses.

One is in Spain and their website is HERE.

The other convent is in Malta itself.  Their website – in English – is HERE.

Part II to come.

For a fascinating look at the Order, you may
want to get this book:
To read more about the solemn ceremonies of
the Order of Malta, this book is great:

(c) 2012 by Therese Ivers, JCL, OCV

Note: A small commission is paid when books are purchased through these links. Thank you for your support.

Posted in active, Knights and Dames, Religious, Religious Brothers, Religious Life, vocations, Vows | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

What’s Wrong With These Two Statements?

As I was perusing vocations sites on the internet, I happened upon a statement which I have slightly edited. What is wrong with this (edited) statement when you apply it to permanent deacons?

From the beginnings of the Church there have been those who felt the call to consecrate themselves exclusively to Christ in a private manner. In recent times there has been a revival of this vocation, by which a makes makes his private ordination in the presence of his bishop.

Is it just me, or is there something dreadfully theologically incorrect in the quoted (albeit edited statement)?  I literally only changed one major word and pronouns.  Take a moment to do this poll:

Now, here is the original text.  I hate to dignify it by republication…  What is wrong with it?

From the beginnings of the Church there have been those who felt the call to consecrate themselves exclusively to Christ in a private manner. In recent times there has been a revival of this vocation, by which a woman makes her private consecration in the presence of her bishop.

Here’s the poll.  Please participate!

Notice any similarities between these two?  It’s really interesting how there is a lot of confusion about permanent deacons and consecrated virgins.  Here are some commonly believed myths:

1)  Permanent deacons/consecrated virgins are lay.

2)  Permanent deacons/consecrated virgins cannot hold secular jobs.  After all, they are ordained/consecrated!

3)  Permanent deacons/consecrated virgins are financially supported by their diocese/parish.  (Usually not true unless they work full time for the diocese or parish in a salaried position.  Being a deacon or consecrated virgin does not entitle the individual to a job in the Church! Most of the time permanent deacons and virgins have secular jobs and do ministry/apostolate on the side.)

4)  Permanent deacons/consecrated virgins are second class- they didn’t “make it” to the priesthood or religious life respectively.

5)  Permanent deacons/consecrated virgins are obviously not Church vocations because they are not “the priesthood or religious life”.

Feel free to share any other common myths about either vocation with us in the forum!  Also, feel free to look up the folks who have this statement on consecrated virgins on their website and politely let them know the Church’s teachings and praxis on this public vocation.  You never know if some great saint will find her vocation this way!

P.S.  If you’re feeling very ambitious, here are some other false statements floating on the web.  Please contact those responsible for publishing on their websites and respectfully and politely request that they be changed:

1.  Various (arch)dioceses and even the World Day for Consecrated Life sites have this false information published on consecrated virgins:

Single lay people may choose to be consecrated virgins and make private vows to the local bishop as they live out their vocation in various walks of life.

Comment.  Single lay virgin females who intend to remain virgins in perpetuity for the sake of Christ may request to become consecrated virgins.  The solemn Consecration to a Life of Virginity Lived in the World conferred by the bishop constitutes the virgin as a “Bride of Christ”, a “sacred person”, and a member of the Order of Virgins, who is dedicated to a life of prayer and service to the Church.  She fulfills her vocation in the midst of the world, and does not make vows of any kind, including those of poverty and obedience.   Truth is powerful.  Give people the truth, not what somebody “thinks” consecrated virginity is.    Hint.  The revised Rite of Consecration to a Life of Virginity lived in the world does NOT have the word “vow” in it.  In the entire ceremony, with all the homilies, questions, blessings, etc., there is not one instance of the word vow or even promise.   You will find, however, references to the virgin becoming a “sacred person” receiving a “special annointing”, being the bride of Jesus Christ the Son of God, a commission for the virgin to be “an apostle”, etc.

2)  From a religious website:

Women who commit themselves to follow Christ more closely and to serve the Church are consecrated in a liturgical ceremony by a diocesan bishop. Consecrated virgins live as devoted Catholic lay women.

Comment:  Not bad.  The only difficulty is if a person misinterprets the word “as” to mean “are”.  Apart from being able to reserve the Blessed Sacrament in their homes, consecrated virgins do mostly live “as” devoted Catholic lay women.  It would be incorrect, though to say or read it as saying “Consecrated virgins ARE devoted Catholic lay women.”

Posted in Celibacy, Consecrated Life, Consecrated Virgins, Permanent Deacon, private vow, vocations, Vows | 1 Comment

To Save A Thousand Souls by Fr. Brett Brannen: A Book Review

by Therese Ivers, JCL

Have you ever been torn between getting married and becoming a priest? If you are serious about discerning your vocation, one of the best tools to have is this book, To Save a Thousand Souls : A Guide for Discerning a Vocation to Diocesan Priesthood. In it, Fr. Brannen discusses the different aspects of vocational discernment, what you need to bring to the table if you’re thinking about the diocesan priesthood, common questions and fears about becoming a priest, insights into what seminary life is like, etc. A good amount of space is dedicated to one of the biggest concerns of healthy men: the requirement of celibacy.

Overall, I think that this book is a very good one, probably the best on the market insofar as being helpful for discerning the diocesan priesthood. I strongly recommend this book for everybody discerning the diaconate or priesthood. Since the amount of material covered is vast in this book, I will simply say that it is a gold mine for men discerning their vocations (even though they are ineligble for the priesthood, women can benefit from it too since it gives many key factors in learning how to discern a vocation) and should be a staple in everyone’s library. However, that being said, there are a  few concerns which I have with the book which you should be aware of.

In the first place, this book is geared primarily towards those specifically thinking about diocesan priesthood. This is good. We need diocesan priests. However, if you are a man and discerning the call God is giving you personally, then this is only one of many vocations you need to be discerning. It’s not just a matter of looking at marriage and diocesan priesthood. Why not? Because you may be called to another vocation. God may have created you to be most happy as a religious brother or a religious priest or a member of a secular institute or a member of a society of apostolic life or as a diocesan hermit or a permanent deacon (he does not mention all of these possibilities in his book). Thus, do not take this book as the end-all, be-all of discerning a Church vocation. The author himself says that religious life is higher than diocesan priesthood, and should be discerned first. Obviously, the book is focused on the vocation to diocesan priesthood and so you will need to consult other books and really investigate other vocations so that you can make an informed vocational decision.

Another concern I have about To Save a Thousand Souls is that the theology of chastity presented is fairly good overall for men/women to understand its place in human life. However, there is a serious error on the concept of virginity in the first edition of the book. Until it is corrected in a later edition (I shared my concerns with the editor of the book and he promised to convey them to Fr. Brannen), I would advise the reader to be aware of the fact that the way virginity is covered is incorrect. Let me explain. On page 224, Fr. Brannen writes:

St. Augustine understood sexual integration. In his writings he implies that virginity is lost through masturbation. He meant that when a man masturbates, he is showing that he has not been fully integrated in body and soul the way God made a human to be. Pope John Paul II expounds on this concept in the Theology of the Body when he re-defines the term “virginity” as sexual integration. The usual definition of virginity describes a person who has never engaged in physical sexual intercourse, but these two giants of the faith see virginity as something much more profound. And this is great news. It means that a person with a sexual history can “reclaim his virginity,” so to speak, by attaining sexual integration.

The context of this passage is that Fr. Brannen is writing to prospective seminarians, who may have lost their virginity to masturbation or intercourse, and goes at great length to indicate how the priesthood is possible for those who may have fallen in the past but are not bound by sexual disorders in the present. What is true is that a man who has lost his virginity may repent and he (and if not sexually addicted or suffering from a deeply rooted tendency towards homosexuality) may be eligible for the priesthood. God does forgive sexual sin. The key here is that the man has to be living chastely for some time and give every hope that he can continue to live chastely. However, it is not true that Bl. Pope John Paul II “redefined virginity” any more than St. Augustine did. What both Bl. John Paul and St. Augustine would say in modern terminology is that a man/woman may attain “secondary virginity” (chaste sexual integration), but not what is known as “primary virginity”.

Primary virginity is what is permanently, irrevocably lost either through the conjugal act in holy matrimony, or through masturbation/fornication and/or adultery. St. Augustine, in writing “On Holy Virginity” is very clear that a woman must be a “virgin” and never have experienced voluntary sexual intercourse to be considered “a virgin”. Why does this matter? Because primary virginity, while not required for the priesthood, is required for women who wish to be consecrated virgins. Secondary “virginity”, or more properly, chastity, is sufficient for all vocations (Holy Orders, religious life, hermits, secular institutes, societies of apostolic life, and marriage) except one, that is, only females with primary virginity are admitted to the vocation of consecrated virginity because they in their bodies most perfectly represent the Church as Virgin-Bride.

Further, on page 225, the author comments:

This is why Pope John Paul II wrote in The Theology of the Body that “everyone in heaven is a virgin.” Even if a woman was married and had ten children on earth, she is a virgin in heaven. Why? Because everyone in heaven has attained sexual integration, or they wouldn’t be there. Union with God passes only through sexual integration.

Theology Of The Body is a thick book. My version has over 600 pages. I couldn’t find the quote “everyone in heaven is a virgin”. However, I would expect that the context would be the lack of concupiscence in heaven, rather than that all people in heaven are actually virgins. The reason is that while everyone in heaven has “sexual integration” and all in heaven are chaste, and no one in heaven will be having the conjugal act, only a portion will be virgins. The Scriptures and Doctors of the Church are clear that a distinct portion of the people in Heaven are “the virgins who follow the Lamb wherever he goes” and that these virgins are people who have preserved their primary virginity. Thus, the woman who had ten children is not a virgin. She is chaste in heaven, lacks concupiscence, and is sexually integrated. But, since she lost her primary virginity honorably in marriage, she is not considered a virgin. If she was considered a virgin, then the virginity of the Blessed Virgin Mary and that of all virgins who did preserve their primary virginity would lose all meaning.

Why is it that I spend this much space on the concept of virginity?  It is quite simple.  Fr. Brennan wrote this book to promote a vocation – the diocesan priesthood.  By “redefining” virginity, he effectively destroys the basis for another vocation in the Church that is most similar to the priesthood:  consecrated virginity.  This is absolutely not acceptable.  If a vocations director can’t get it right, how are the seminarians and future priests and bishops supposed to appreciate the value of the vocation to consecrated virginity?

The most serious critique I have of this book besides that of not being clear about the reality of virginity (as opposed to chastity, celibacy, or lack of concupiscence in heaven), is that of the author’s stance on psychological evaluations for applicants to the seminary. Fr. Brannan simply factually states how/what psychological evaluations are typically done by dioceses and completely bypasses the real issues at stake here in terms of the prospective seminarian’s rights. Seminaries, dioceses, and religious orders can abuse a person’s conscience by not handling these psychological evaluations correctly. Further, the results of these evaluations may be subject to legal subpoena or to unauthorized persons’ access if the candidate does not take the necessary precautions to defend his right to maintain privacy in matters of conscience. Part of these issues I covered in my thesis for my canon law degree in Rome, which you can get HERE (use coupon code JULYBOOKS12 for 20% off up to $25). I do intend to present this topic more fully in upcoming books and workshops.

Please note:  I do get commissions for all recommended books.

(c) 2012 by Therese Ivers, JCL
All Rights Reserved

Posted in Celibacy, Discernment, ordination, Permanent Deacon, priesthood, seminarian, vocations | Leave a comment