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Wednesday, 18 July 2012

The Mystical Marriage of the Consecrated Virgin

St. Catherine of Siena's Mystical Marriage

To you, young people, I say: if you hear the Lord's call, do not reject it! Dare to become part of the great movements of holiness which renowned saints have launched in their following of Christ. Cultivate the ideals proper to your age, but readily accept God's plan for you if he invites you to seek holiness in the consecrated life. Admire all God's works in the world, but be ready to fix your eyes on the things destined never to pass away.
The Third Millennium awaits the contribution of the faith and creativity of great numbers of young consecrated persons, that the world may be made more peaceful and able to welcome God and, in him, all his sons and daughters. Blessed John Paul II

This quotation is from the Apostolic Letter Vita Consecrata explained below.

I write this for my English friends, and some young people in Malta, who had not heard of the life of the Consecrated Virgin. Starting with this excellent website, I shall merely list a few points on the vocation. Personally, I know two and both woman work for the Church in various capacities. Both are professional women and wonderful lights in the world. I highly suggest that some of the single persons who are women look into this as a possible call from God. The beauty of this life involves several levels of holiness-poverty, celibacy and obedience. One becomes a "sign of contradiction in the world".

Let me start with the Vatican document on the consecrated life. On March 25th, 1996, Blessed John Paul II promulgated the apostolic letter Vita Consecrata. Blessed John Paul II began this letter referring to love and the Mystery of the Transfiguration. His description of the call of virgins to this rule is sublime. One can click on the name and follow the text. Here are a few sections from this beautiful letter:

Consecrated persons, who embrace the evangelical counsels, receive a new and special consecration which, without being sacramental, commits them to making their own — in chastity, poverty and obedience — the way of life practised personally by Jesus and proposed by him to his disciples. Although these different categories are a manifestation of the one mystery of Christ, the lay faithful have as their specific but not exclusive characteristic, activity in the world; the clergy, ministry; consecrated men and women, special conformity to Christ, chaste, poor and obedient.

The Institutes of Consecrated Life, through the profession of the evangelical counsels, must be conscious of their special mission in today's Church, and we must encourage them in that mission".The Fathers of the Ninth Assembly of the Synod of Bishops echoed this conviction: "Throughout the Church's history, consecrated life has been a living presence of the Spirit's work, a kind of privileged milieu for absolute love of God and of neighbour, for witness to the divine plan of gathering all humanity into the civilization of love, the great family of the children of God".The Church has always seen in the profession of the evangelical counsels a special path to holiness. The very expressions used to describe it — the school of the Lord's service, the school of love and holiness, the way or state of perfection — indicate the effectiveness and the wealth of means which are proper to this form of evangelical life, and the particular commitment made by those who embrace it.It is not by chance that there have been so many consecrated persons down the centuries who have left behind eloquent testimonies of holiness and have undertaken particularly generous and demanding works of evangelization and service.

Consecrated persons are asked to be true experts of communion and to practise the spirituality of communionas "witnesses and architects of the plan for unity which is the crowning point of human history in God's design".The sense of ecclesial communion, developing into aspirituality of communion, promotes a way of thinking, speaking and acting which enables the Church to grow in depth and extension. The life of communion in fact "becomes a signfor all the world and a compelling force that leads people to faith in Christ ... In this way communion leads to mission, and itself becomes mission"; indeed, "communion begets communion: in essence it is a communion that is missionary". In founders and foundresseswe see a constant and lively sense of the Church, which they manifest by their full participation in all aspects of the Church's life, and in their ready obedience to the Bishops and especially to the Roman Pontiff. Against this background of love towards Holy Church, "the pillar and bulwark of the truth" (1 Tim 3:15), we readily understand the devotion of Saint Francis of Assisi for "the Lord Pope",the daughterly outspokenness of Saint Catherine of Siena towards the one whom she called "sweet Christ on earth",the apostolic obedience and the sentire cum Ecclesia of Saint Ignatius Loyola,and the joyful profession of faith made by Saint Teresa of Avila: "I am a daughter of the Church".We can also understand the deep desire of Saint Theresa of the Child Jesus: "In the heart of the Church, my mother, I will be love".These testimonies are representative of the full ecclesial communion which the Saints, founders and foundresses, have shared in diverse and often difficult times and circumstances. They are examples which consecrated persons need constantly to recall if they are to resist the particularly strong centrifugal and disruptive forces at work today.


The prophetic task of the consecrated life is brought into play by three major challenges addressed to the Church herself: they are the same challenges as ever, posed in new ways, and perhaps more radically, by contemporary society, at least in some parts of the world. These challenges relate directly to the evangelical counsels of chastity, poverty and obedience, impelling the Church, and consecrated persons in particular, to clarify and testify to the profound anthropological significance of the counsels. The decision to follow the counsels, far from involving an impoverishment of truly human values, leads instead to their transformation. The evangelical counsels should not be considered as a denial of the values inherent in sexuality, in the legitimate desire to possess material goods or to make decisions for oneself. Insofar as these inclinations are based on nature, they are good in themselves. Human beings, however, weakened as they are by original sin, run the risk of acting on them in a way which transgresses the moral norms. The profession of chastity, poverty and obedience is a warning not to underestimate the wound of original sin and, while affirming the value of created goods, it relativizes them by pointing to God as the absolute good. Thus, while those who follow the evangelical counsels seek holiness for themselves, they propose, so to speak, a spiritual "therapy" for humanity, because they reject the idolatry of anything created and in a certain way they make visible the living God. The consecrated life, especially in difficult times, is a blessing for human life and for the life of the Church.

Realizing this is a long post already, I would like to add the following from the website above. This list will help clarify the call. This call involves a commitment, and is a vocation. These women do not, obviously, belong to those groups of singles who do not commit themselves to anything. I would read and ponder this lovely detailed examination. I am so happy Blessed John Paul II re-organized this life-style. I hope readers understand that to make a decision for Christ should involve a relationship with the Church in a formal way, as we were not meant to be alone in the world, tossed and turned by circumstances, without focus.

From the Code of Canon Law:
• The virgin is consecrated to God by the diocesan Bishop according to a rite approved by the church. [Catechism of the Catholic Church, 922-924]
• She is betrothed mystically to Christ and dedicated to the service of the church.
• She enters a public state of consecrated life in the Church.
• She lives her life individually, under the direction of the diocesan Bishop.

From the Rite of Consecration to a Life of Virginity:
• The consecrated virgin is constituted a sacred person in the Church. [Introduction, No. 1]
• No particular service or spirituality is imposed; the consecrated virgin's time is spent in works of penance and of mercy, in apostolic activity, and in prayer, in accord with her state of life and spiritual gifts. [No. 2]
• She is strongly advised to recite the Liturgy of the Hours daily, and is committed to praying Morning and Evening Prayer. [No.2]
• Her life is one of perpetual virginity. [No.5]

Secular State:
The consecrated virgin remains in the secular state, providing completely for her own material needs, medical care, and retirement. At no time is the diocese financially responsible for her. [Sr. Sharon Holland, Consecrated Virgins for Today's Church, 1998, as printed in Consecrated Life, Vol. 24, No.2, pp. 257-75]

The consecrated virgin does not wear habit or veil, nor use the title "Sister," nor write "OCV" after her name. She witnesses subtly, but publicly and powerfully, by her virginal life given exclusively to Jesus Christ. Consecrated virgins today wear their ring, but their comportment, modesty in dress, simplicity in lifestyle all betoken their living of the evangelical counsels. [from Archbishop Burke, Questions and Answers in "Preparation Process," USACV Information Packet, revised August 2009]

I was going to post this tomorrow, but some readers wanted to know more about this. God bless you all. Tomorrow I shall write on the Order of Widows, which does not exist at this time, but did. There are some in Europe and the Vatican is working on a Rite.


Anonymous said...

Hey, I wanted to add to your post on consecrated virgins, as I am currently discerning this vocation with my spiritual director and part of EF Mass community.

I know whenever Father Z posted on his blog about CV's the topic of traditional Catholics and whether or not this vocation is discussed in FSSP/Trad circles, if CV's can use the EF Breviary instead of the LOTH, etc. etc comes up.

It was never talked about at my parish amongst the people, nor the priests, but this is not a well-known vocation to begin with. There are only roughly 3000 CV's in the world. Further, since it was a vocation revived after Vatican II there is even less likely of a chance anyone in a tradionalist circle knows what it is.

When I tested the waters with my trad friends, the first one thought is sounded like a "hokey innovation of Vatican II". The other one had actually discerned this vocation and set me up with the vocations director.

I discerned on my own for about a year because I was too scared to approach our priest about something revived after Vatican II, as nothing related Vatican II was ever mentioned.

With regards to priests from the FSSP, I haven't had any real negative feedback, and the priest who is my spiritual director and helping me discern this vocation is from the FSSP. The one issue that will be a factor is that it's likely going to be a learning experience for both parties. There is 400 page discernment guide, that had a lot of good stuff in it from the Church Fathers and from prior to Vatican II. There is some stuff that's a little "different" let us say, but no blatant quackery. It's sufficent enough for my spiritual director to set up a good, and somewhat intense discernment plan based on solid Church tradition over several years.

With regards to the Breviary instead of the LOTH, I was in contact with the President of USACV and asked. There's nothing preventing the CV from using the Breviary instead. However, her bishop could say he wants her to use the LOTH. I have a theory that if the CV starts using the Breviary early and throughout her discernment and is already competent in using it, the bishop will be less likely to make her switch to the LOTH. Logically speaking, there is no real sense in doing that except maybe during times when she might be praying in common with others who use the LOTH. Whether or not the CV knows Latin could be seen as an issue, but if Baronius Press ever gets its English-Latin Breviaries back in stock, if the CV can pronounce Latin and knows some, she should be good to go.

Supertradmum said...

A great comment and God bless you. This is a very old custom in the Church and not new. Bl John Paul II merely reinstated the tradition. I am so happy you are pursuing this. I know two ladies personally who are consecrated virgins.

They do the new hours, but there is no reason why you could not do the older Latin version if your bishop approves, as you make your vows to him. God bless you on your way and I hope you get lots of local support.

I am sure you have looked up the website if you are in the States on Consecrated Virgins.

John Morgan said...

Why aren't men included in the OCV? Does the Catholic church have an equivalent order for men where virginity is a prerequisite?

Supertradmum said...

John, there are some men who do make a celibate commitment before God in the presence of a bishop. Michael Voris is one. I suggest writing to him for details.

Anonymous said...

Some consecrated virgins – from Australia, New Zealand, and the Philippines – have created a new blog. We want to share the vocation – how to discern about the vocation– and to teach others – about what it is. One of us is a theology lecturer – she has two doctorates – in systematic theology and sacramental theology. One is a canon lawyer. I studied classics first -- and then became a nurse. I then began another degree – in patristics.

Supertradmum said...

Cecilia, thanks for the info.