- Consecrated virgin
In the Catholic Church a consecrated virgin is a woman who has been conscrated by the church to a life of perpetual virginity in the service of God. Consecrated virgins are to spend their time in works of penance and mercy, in apostolic activity and in prayer, according to their state of life and spiritual gifts. Consecrated Virgins must not be confused with Consecrated hermits and anchorites, who have a different vocation.
A life of virginity for the sake of Christ and his Church is an ancient form of Christian religious living already mentioned in the New Testament. It preceded the foundation of religious orders. Hence, traditionally a Christian virgin was not a member of a religious community. For a while, after the Middle Ages the rite fell out of practice, but it was formally restored by Pope Paul VI in 1970. This sacramental can be bestowed on women either living in monastic orders or in the world.
As a form of Consecrated Life in the Church today
This form of living a dedicated life was revived by the Second Vatican Council in the mid-20th century. This consecration may now be bestowed on nuns or women living in the world. The 1970 Prænotanda to the Rite of Consecration to a Life of Virginity states the following requirements for women living in the world to receive the consecration:
that they have never married or lived in open violation of chastity; that, by their prudence and universally approved character, they give assurance of perseverance in a life of chastity dedicated to the service of the church and of their neighbor; that they be admitted to this Consecration by the Bishop who is the local Ordinary.
The approved liturgical rite whereby the bishop consecrates the candidate is by the solemn rite of Consecratio Virginium (Consecration of Virgins). The usual minister of the rite of consecration is the bishop who is the local Ordinary. Henceforth, the woman is committed, not only to celibacy, but to leading a life of prayer and service, and is obligated to observe the Liturgy of the Hours.
The legislation outlining this was provided in the most recent Code of Canon Law of the Catholic Church:
§1. Similar to these forms of consecrated life is the order of virgins, who, committed to the holy plan of following Christ more closely, are consecrated to God by the diocesan bishop according to the approved liturgical rite, are betrothed mystically to Christ, the Son of God, and are dedicated to the service of the Church.
§2. In order to observe their commitment more faithfully and to perform by mutual support service to the Church which is in harmony with their state these virgins can form themselves into associations.
Historically the rite has been maintained by nuns in monastic orders, such as the Benedictines and Carthusians. This consecration could be done either concurrently with or some time after their making solemn religious vows. Among Carthusian nuns, there is the unique practice of their then being entitled to the wearing of a stole, a vestment otherwise reserved to clergy, which gives them certain liturgical privileges, mostly used during their reading of the Gospel at Matins. It has been speculated that this is a vestige of the Order of deaconess.
Consecrated virgins belong to consecrated life. They are not supported financially by their bishop, but must provide for their own upkeep. These women work in professions ranging from teachers and attorneys to that of firefighter. Some lead lives of contemplation as hermits. One notable example of the latter is Wendy Beckett, known as "Sister Wendy," a former member of the religious congregation of Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur, who became a consecrated virgin in 1970, and who, though living as a recluse, has supported herself through her work as a world-famous art critic.
Noted Christian Virgins
- Agnes of Rome 3rd century martyr
- Agatha of Sicily 3rd century martyr
- Lucy of Syracuse 3rd century martyr
- Euphemia of Chalcedon 3rd century martyr
- Genevieve of Paris, 5th century
- Catherine of Siena, 13th century Dominican tertiary and mystic
- Rose of Lima 16th century, Dominican tertiary and mystic, first native of the New World to be canonized
- Kateri Tekakwitha, 17th century Native American
- Lucy Yi Zhenmei, 19th century Chinese martyr
- Narcisa de Jesús Martillo, 19th century native of Ecuador
- ^ Consecration to a life of virginity, praenotanda, Introduction
- ^ For the differences between these vocations see the article on Hermits and the definition of the eremitic/anchoritic vocation in canon 603 of The Code of Canon Law 1983, whilst for the canonical definition of the vocation of the Consecrated Virgins see canon 604 of The Code of Canon Law 1983. The two major differences according to church law are that the vocation of the consecrated virgins–-unlike that of consecrated hermits-–is not characterized by the Old Testament Desert Theology, and that consecrated virgins-–again, unlike hermits–-do not publicly profess the Evangelical Counsels, confirmed by a vow or other sacred bond, which means that the Consecrated Virgins do not bind themselves according to Church law to observe evangelical poverty and obedience. Consecrated virgins are consecrated by the diocesan bishop according to the approved liturgical rite, whereas the consecrated hermits dedicate themselves through publicly professing the three evangelical counsels, confirmed by a vow or other sacred bond.
- ^ denoted by the Greek terms parthenos ("virgin") and agamos ("unmarried"), e.g. 1 Cor 7:34 hē gunē hē agamos kai hē parthenos … ("the unmarried woman and the virgin [cares for the things of the Lord, how to be holy in body and spirit]"), Acts 21:9 thugateres tessares parthenoi prophēteuousai ("four unmarried daughters who prophesied"). Reference is made also to "the unmarried" in the masculine, ho agamos, tois agamois, e.g. 1 Cor 7:8, 1 Cor 7:32
- ^ It is a source of joy and hope to witness in our time a new flowering of the ancient Order of Virgins, known in Christian communities ever since apostolic times. Consecrated by the diocesan Bishop, these women acquire a particular link with the Church, which they are committed to serve while remaining in the world. Either alone or in association with others, they constitute a special eschatological image of the Heavenly Bride and of the life to come when the Church will at last fully live her love for Christ the Bridegroom. ( (cf. "Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Vita Consecrata of the Holy Father John Paul II on the Consecrated Life and its Mission in the Church and in the World", Rome, 25 March 1996.
- ^ Consecration to a life of virginity, praenotanda Nr. 4. Those who may be consecrated, Nr. 6 The minister of the rite
- ^ United States Association of consecrated virgins
- ^ http://www.chartreux.org/en/frame.html
- ^ http://www.consecratedvirgins.org/about-vocation/elements.asp
- ^ http://www.boston.com/bostonglobe/magazine/articles/2009/05/24/the_forever_virgins/
Present situation in the Catholic Church
- Text of canon 604 of The Code of Canon Law (1983, Latin edition) re: Virgins as members of the Consecrated Life in the Catholic Church
- Text of canon 604 of The Code of Canon Law (1983, English translation) re: Virgins as members of the Consecrated Life in the Catholic Church
- Catechism of the Catholic Church (1993) §922 "Consecrated Virgins and Widows"
- Catechism of the Catholic Church (1993) §2337-2359 "The Vocation to Chastity"
- Pope John Paul II, "Vita Consecrata" (1996), §7 re: Virgins
- United States Association of consecrated virgins
- Pope Benedict XVI, "Consecrated virginity: new life for an ancient charism" (15 May 2008)
- MSNBC Woman joins small club of consecrated virgins
- JSONLINE Not a nun, but wed to Christ virgins
- Click2Houston story: Local Catholic Diocese Performs Consecrated Virgin Ritual: 150 Consecrated Virgins Live In U.S.and about 100 live in the UK
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