The Thursday Q & A

Q.  Does a consecrated virgin pray the Liturgy of the Hours in the name of the Church?
A.  A consecrated virgin is not bound or obliged by universal law to pray the Liturgy of the Hours, and therefore she does not pray it in the official name of the Church.

(c) 2009  by Therese Ivers, JCL

www. DoIHaveAVocation.com

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5 Responses to The Thursday Q & A

  1. a newly consecrated virgin says:

    Even though Canon Law doesn’t mention a consecrated virgin’s obligation to pray the Liturgy of the Hours, the Rite itself includes a commissioning. I would think that this, therefore, would mean that a consecrated virgin prays the Office in the name of the Church.

  2. Therese Ivers, JCL says:

    The easy test for determining whether a person prays in the name of the Church is whether they are obligated to pray the Liturgy of the Hours by a specific canon or by virtue of an institute’s constitutions. In the case of consecrated virgins, there is no obligation stated in c. 604 or in the Rite that they do so. Thus, even if a consecrated virgin’s bishop gives her an individual obligation to recite all or part of the Liturgy of the Hours, because it is not universally legislated, she prays “with” the Church not in “the name of” the Church. In canon law rights often are attached to obligations. A person’s canonical obligation to recite the LOTHs, gives the corresponding right or standing to pray in the name of the Church.

  3. a newly consecrated virgin says:

    I don’t mean to be argumentative, but where does this “easy test” come from? Is there some authoritative source where this hermeneutical principle is defined?

    I would think that, since the one canon on consecrated virgins in the 1983 Code is so basic and limited, that it would also be legitimate to look at the Rite of Consecration itself as an authoritative document regarding consecrated virgins’ rights and obligations, and the theological nature of this vocation. (E.g., it’s the Rite, and not the canon, which tells us that literal virginity is a necessary precondition to receiving consecration. And it’s the Ceremonial of Bishops–another non-canonical document–which tells us that an auxiliary bishop can validly and licitly consecrate a virgin.)

    With this in mind, it seems to me that the formula for presenting the breviary during the Rite of Consecration (“Receive the book of the Liturgy of the Hours, the prayer of the Church…pray without ceasing for the salvation of the world.”) couldn’t be anything else BUT a commission, and therefore a real obligation, to pray the Office.

  4. a newly consecrated virgin says:

    Oops…I just re-read your last comment and realized that you were NOT trying to say that Canon Law is the only authoritative source for determining the rights and obligations of consecrated virgins.

    Still, I do think that the commission to pray the Liturgy of the Hours contained in the Rite is most appropriately interpreted as being truly binding.

    Also, although the introduction to the Rite of Consecration says that consecrated virgins are “strongly encouraged” to pray the Liturgy of the Hours, I think it would be most reasonable to understand this “strong encouragement” as a real requirement, as opposed to mere “encouragement” as we would use the word in a colloquial sense. (As a parallel, when the Church “invites” someone to live a life of prayer and penance, it’s not as though that individual can decline that “invitation” in the same way he might decline an invitation to something like a friend’s dinner party!) Further, consecrated virgins are “strongly encouraged” to pray the Office “in order to fulfill their obligation of prayer” (not an exact quote, but close–I don’t have my copy of the “Rites” book with me.) So we know that consecrated virgins DO at least have a special obligation of prayer per se.

    A couple of auxiliary points to this question: I’m wondering if, since official, specific directives regarding consecrated virgins are presently so minimal, it might be best if we sought to understand the nature and obligations of the vocation of consecrated virginity from a more unified theological–rather than from a PURELY legal or canonical–perspective. For example, in this question it might be better if we asked “Is praying the Liturgy of the Hours intrinsic to the vocation of consecrated virginity?” instead of “Is their a rule which requires, with absolute explicitness, that consecrated virgins pray the Office?”

    And, in the case where a bishop did explicitly require consecrated virgins to pray a certain number of Hours of the Divine Office, wouldn’t this be something close to a religious institute’s proper law–and thus binding for the determination of one’s rights and obligations?

  5. Therese Ivers, JCL says:

    Dear Consecrated Virgin,

    Canon law is meant to be the legal manifestation of theology. It is precisely because canonists are trained to look to the fonts (such as Church documents of various weights, proper laws, theological writings, traditions, etc.) in order to help resolve certain legal ambiguities that we spend so much time in our licentiate classes. Based upon canonical principles of interpretation, I would agree that it is most appropriate for a consecrated virgin to pray the Liturgy of the Hours, and if she is able to do so, it is wonderful for her to do the entire office. I do not agree that it is binding upon her given the language contained in the Rite. Reciting the Liturgy of the Hours, in my canonical opinion, is a matter of counsel, not of precept. (By the way, you may have noticed that I used the words counsel and precept because they are closely associated with consecrated life and their meaning has been established over centuries of use particularly with respect to the 3 vows and their meaning. Even within vowed life of religious, there are things which bind by the vows and others which do not, which is a subject presumably all religious study in depth since it pertains to the heart of their vocation. A lot of so-called obedience and poverty is a matter of counsel, not of obligation.) I suggest that there is reason behind the fact that it is not a precept, and that is to give the virgins and their bishops flexibility. Perhaps the virgin is more inclined towards lectio divina and the psalms in a less formal structure really call to her.

    Warmly,
    Therese

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