by Therese Ivers
Although I meant to discuss this vocation at a later date, I was contacted by certain individuals these past few days asking for further information and so it looks like it’s time to tackle this topic on consecrated virginity now.
Most of us equate “consecrated life” for religious life. However, there are forms of consecrated life which do not entail life as a religious. One of them predates religious life and was recently revived as a form of the consecrated state. It is consecrated virginity, the primary model being the Blessed Virgin Mary.
What is a consecrated virgin? Strictly speaking, a consecrated virgin is a female virgin who has received the consecration of virgins from the hands of her local bishop. “Similar to these forms of consecrated life is the order of virgins who, expressing the holy resolution of following Christ more closely, are consecrated to God by the diocesan bishop according to the approved liturgical rite, are mystically betrothed to Christ, the Son of God, and are dedicated to the service of the Church.”
The consecration may be given to religious and to those virgins living in the world. The Benedictines have the custom of allowing their virgin nuns to receive the consecration after some time elapses after their perpetual vows. The virgins living in the world live out their vocation under the direction of their diocesan bishop. They do not take public vows of poverty, chastity, or obedience, for the essence of their vocation is to be a bride of Christ as a perpetual virgin.
Just as a side note, once in a while I’ll bump into someone in Rome who talks about their consecrated virgin friends. These “consecrated virgins” usually are pious ladies who have made private vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience, or even a vow of virginity. As they have not received the consecration of virgins at the hands of their bishop, they are not consecrated virgins strictly speaking, nor are they in the consecrated state. Hence it would be better if they did not refer to themselves as consecrated virgins and if they would encourage their friends to refrain from doing so as well.
A consecrated virgin is a bride of Christ. She becomes a “sacred person” and a sign of the next life by her spiritual betrothal to Christ. Her consecration is the bond which unites her to her Spouse and cannot be dissolved by any human power because her body and soul have been given over to Christ in perpetual virginity.
To be a consecrated virgin, one must be a female virgin (one who has not lost virginity through voluntary intercourse with a male) who has never married. She must be mature and capable of living out a life of prayer and penance. Of course, she must resolve on maintaining a life of perpetual virginity and only those who give proof of being able to do so can be admitted to the consecration.
In addition to the inquiries I received on the vocation of consecrated virginity, I also received a special communication from the American association of consecrated virgins that I would like to share with you here:
February 21, 2008, Commemoration of St. Peter Damian, Bishop and Doctor
Dear friends of consecrated virgins,
I come today with a special appeal, asking if you might consider helping a consecrated virgin from an economically distressed country attend the Rome 2008 International Congress-Pilgrimage for consecrated virgins in May. The gathering has been convoked by the Congregation for Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, with a letter sent by Cardinal Rodé, Prefect, to Bishop-presidents of Episcopal conferences throughout the world.
This is sure to be an historic occasion for consecrated virgins, as we gather internationally for the second time in history, and are delighted to have the opportunity to be received in audience by Pope Benedict XVI. It will be a time of serious study of the vocation of consecrated virginity, a time of prayer in the major Basilicas of Rome, and a time of meeting and enjoying new friends from throughout the world.
We anticipate attendance by about 430 consecrated virgins from 40 different countries, and translations will be made available in English, French, German, Italian, and Spanish. Due to the nature of our individually lived vocation, all the expenses of travel, meals, housing, translation, etc. must be covered by registration fees charged to each participant. The cost is high, even for those in more developed nations. Due to the generous donations of consecrated virgins in this country, we have been able to offer needed assistance to anyone traveling from the United States.
At this time, the international planning team is aware of 31consecrated virgins – 3 from India, 5 from Poland, 5 from the Ukraine, 9 from the Czech Republic and Slovakia, 1 from Hungary, 2 from Algeria, 3 from Mexico, 3 from Costa Rica – who are in need of financial assistance. And we anticipate that there are others from Africa. Minimally, each of these virgins needs 220 Euro to cover meals for the six day stay so that they may dine with the group and enjoy this important time for relationships. In order to also be housed with the group, the needed assistance would be closer to 500 Euro per person. With an exchange rate nearing 1.5, this translates to a need of $325 to $740 per person.
If you or your diocese is able to assist with this need, you may make your tax-deductible contribution payable to USACV, 300 West Ottawa St., Lansing, MI 48933, indicating “Rome 2008 sponsorship.” Your sisters from around the world thank you in advance for your continued generosity in support of the renewal of the vocation of consecrated virginity lived in the world.
Judith Stegman, president
If you can do so, I’d appreciate it if you would help these virgins from poorer countries to attend this congress in Rome by sending the association a donation to help cover their expenses. It is a lifetime event and I’m sure they would gratefully remember you in their powerful prayers. As for myself, I will be hosting a fundraising event in order to help them get the needed funds to bring at least one consecrated virgin here to Rome.
(c) 2008 by Therese Ivers
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