by Mother Therese Ivers, JCD (Cand), JCL, OCV, DHS
This is a continuation of yesterday’s post in which I respond to Sr. Laurel’s fundamental misunderstanding of the nature of the vocations to religious life and to sacred virginity.
Sr. Laurel claims that the Rite of Consecration of Virgins is the Church’s way of celebrating so-called “sacred secularity”, making it possible for secular people to be espoused to Christ. She says that the revised Rite of Consecration of Virgins was constructed to allow women who live in the world to be regarded as a Bride of Christ just as much as religious. However, there is a very serious flaw in her argument.
The Church constructed a vocation to what she terms “sacred secularity” in 1947: the secular institute. The purpose of this vocation was to fully profess the evangelical counsels in the state of perfection but in a completely secular context. Of great importance is the fact that the profession of secular institute members can be identical, word for word, for the profession of religious, simply by substituting secular institute for “religious community” and “secular institute member” for “religious”.
In other words, Sr. Laurel’s argument rests on the idea that religious are Brides of Christ. The Rite of Religious Profession says so. Therefore, we need a new Rite to tell people that people called to “sacred secularity” can also be Brides of Christ, which is why the Rite of Consecration of Virgins was created.
There are many problems with this argument, but some I will raise in my dissertation as it pertains to my “new scientific contribution to the juridic science” of canon law. A dissertation is meant to give a substantially fresh angle on something, and that is why I can’t give all the reasons I hold my position in public just yet. But there are reasons one can figure out from the very vocations and rituals out there.
Sr. Laurel neglects to consider that secular institutes were approved in 1947, a full 22 years prior to the issuance of the Rite of Religious Profession and a full 23 years prior to the promulgation of the Rite of Consecration of Virgins. The secularity that is demanded of members of secular institutes (whether they are lay or clerics), which she labels “sacred secularity”, was already present in the Church. The perpetual profession of the evangelical counsels of secular institute members can look identical to perpetual profession of religious.
Indeed, once the Rite of Religious Profession was promulgated, many secular institutes (and hermits, incidentally) used an adapted form of the Rite for their own professions. In case this is not clear, let’s spell out the significance of this fact. According to Sr. Laurel, it is the Rite of Religious Profession that spells out that a religious is a Bride of Christ. What she does not acknowledge is that many secular institutes use that Rite of Religious Profession for their perpetual profession ritual! And according to Sr. Laurel, it is the Rite of Religious Profession that makes the woman vow-ee a Bride of Christ. Thus, one must logically conclude that if secular institutes are using the Rite of Religious Profession, that “sacred secularity” and the possibility of woman in the world being Bride of Christ is already in the Church without the Rite of Consecration of Virgins.
Let’s repeat. Sr. Laurel sees the Rite of Consecration of Virgins as necessary to show the world that a woman can be a Bride of Christ in a “sacred secularity” and the Church needed the Rite of Consecration of Virgins to “prove” this. But, truly secular people (members of secular institutes) don’t need the Rite of Consecration of Virgins to “prove” that people can be a Bride of Christ in her meaning of the term, because they use the Rite of Religious Profession!
Put differently, the Rite of Consecration of Virgins was never intended to be about making a secular vocation (if it were, then why can religious receive the consecration of virgins?), because secular institutes were recognized in 1947, long before the Rite of Consecration of Virgins added secular women to the pool of eligible women to receive the consecration of virgins in 1970.
Now, let’s move on with another thing Sr. Laurel is undoubtedly unfamiliar with, namely, the fact that members of secular institutes, who actually live “sacred secularity”, can receive the consecration of virgins. Yes, that’s right! So, why would a sacred secular person receive a consecration that in the words of Sr. Laurel, place a person into a “sacred secularity”?
Just as a religious fully professed according to the Rite of Religious Profession can receive the solemn consecration of virgins (if she is eligible), so too, can a member of a secular institute, fully professed according to the Rite of Religious Profession (she can be professed with a different ritual, but I’m making a point here) receive the solemn consecration of virgins (if she is eligible). Thus, the notion that sacred virginity is tied to secularity is absurd. Secularity does not pertain to the definition of the vocation of sacred virginity.
Now one of the reasons why Sr. Laurel harps on the idea of “secularity” for consecrated virgins is that she prooftexts the liturgical part about virgins “are apostles in the Church and in the world, in the things of the Spirit and in the things of the world” to indicate that only women immersed and inserted into the “world” are called to this vocation. This is problematic because the homily from which this is taken is the same and sole homily for both religious nuns who receive the consecration of virgins and women who do not belong to a religious institute. Thus, one must acknowledge that religious can be in their own manner, “apostles in the Church and in the world, in the things of the Spirit and in the things of the world”. You cannot argue that this is not meant for religious, because it is the identical homily given to religious who are consecrated as virgins. Is the solemnly professed monastic nun who listens to this part about being an apostle magically called to “sacred secularity” when she becomes a Bride of Christ through the consecration of virgins? Of course not! Because that is not the point of the consecration of virgins!
That a “sacred secular”, that is, a member of a secular institute can use the Rite of Religious Profession and become a Bride of Christ through the Rite of Consecration of Virgins in the same way a cloistered nun can should trigger deeper reflection on the part of those who want to claim that the consecration of virgins is essentially about “sacred secularity”.