by Therese Ivers, JCL
An individual who had heard me introduce myself to a group as a consecrated virgin spoke with me at a table. He asked me whether I was thinking of “taking the next step”. Startled, I asked him what he meant, and he responded by saying that he was wondering if I was thinking about joining the religious life. Naturally, I wasn’t planning on joining a convent and explained to him that consecrated virginity is a vocation in its own right.
It struck me that I might have asked that same question of those religious women who find their identity in the thought of being a bride of Christ: “Are you thinking of taking the next step by receiving the consecration of virgins?” For, in my research, I discovered that the consecration cannot be dispensed and yet religious vows can be. I even read in the lives of the saints the story of how a solemnly professed nun, who was a daughter of a king, was for political reasons promised by her father to be the wife of another royal person. This king even obtained a dispensation of vows from the Pope for this to take place, which was to take effect upon her acceptance of the dispensation. Far from accepting the dispensation, the princess-nun took the unusual step (at the time) of receiving the consecration of virgins from her bishop, so as to forever cut off the possibility of marriage.
Another person approached me hours after the encounter I had with the young male. She expressed regret that she didn’t make it to my “private vow” ceremony. For the record, I didn’t make any private (or public) vows before my bishop. Instead, through the ministry of my bishop, I was made body and soul a virgin bride of Jesus Christ through the long consecratory prayer that constituted me a “sacred person” and which placed me in the consecrated state. The closest analogy I can make of my consecration is with ordination. The bishop confers Holy Orders upon a man, (it is not obtained by vow) and it makes him forever a deacon/priest/bishop of God. A deacon/priest/bishop cannot lose this fundamental sacramentally changed identity even if he ceases believing in God and acting as a cleric. In a similar way (although by an ontologically changing sacramental not by a sacrament) the bishop confers the consecration upon a virgin and through the action of God, makes her a bride of Christ, a consecrated virgin forever.
Yes, I will take the next step, which is to become holy in my own vocation as a bride of Christ. I thank God for my vocation and wish you all the best in yours!
(c) Therese Ivers, JCL
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