Recent Posts

Thursday, 19 July 2012

On the Order of Widows

Anna, the Widow and Prophetess

In Old and New Testament studies among both Catholic and Protestant scholars, a resurgence in the interest of the history of widows has happened. Now, some of the Protestant interpretations, usually, of course, based entirely on Scripture, reveal, as do the Catholic studies, the plight of the widow in the time of Christ. This post is not a history of the widow either in the Old or New Testament, but a discussion of what is sometimes called The Order of Widows.

Starting in the years following the World Wars, there emerged an interest in Europe to acknowledge the needs of widow both physically and spiritually. France seems to be the earliest example of the post-war re-institution of an Order of Widows. According to Elizabeth Rees, in the most complete article I have seen on this, the French Bishop of Paris had a blessing for widows approved by the CDW for a specific group attached to an order of nuns.

There are several groups in America, none of which have the approval of the Vatican at this time. Some live in communities, and some have non-communal affiliations. I do not mention them by name, as these are not approved, and in some cases, somewhat liberal. I would only recommend approved orders at this time.

However, in some European countries, but not in America, a few individual consecrated widows have made private vows to their bishops. These widows do not live in communities.

In the early Church, the Order of Widows may be connected to what is written in 1 Timothy 1-16. The criteria are that the widow must be truly one, of one husband; that she is over 60, (nice, assuming a woman younger may get married again), not gossipy or taken to wine, with an excellent reputation in helping the poor and other members of the Church.

One of the interesting notes is that it is the family who is to take care of the widow if she has one and not the Church. This is specifically stated. Those poor widows without families, of whom we can assume there were many, needed Church protection and funds.

Let a widow be chosen of no less than threescore years of age, who hath been the wife of one husband  Douay Rheims 1 Timothy 5:9
The Widow's Mite

Now, St. Paul uses the word "enrolled" or "chosen", and with the above list of set and clear criteria, the Church has concluded that this was some sort of "Order" with a rule.

That the Vatican has taken such a long time on revising this means that the CDW wants to get it right, clear, and in accordance with Scripture and Tradition.

At this time, for those women who are interested, I suggest you talk first with your spiritual director, then your bishop, and then, possibly write to Rome. If Rome had many letters requesting a renewal of this group, it may happen faster. In the meantime, a widow could make private vows, as least in Europe.

By the way, a widow is not a divorcee and an annulled woman. I did check that out with a priest who is involved with such a group. God bless all widows.