|(St. Apollinare, Ravenna, Italy)|
A little known vocation within the Church is that of a consecrated virgin Having helped several women (from Canada) obtain this Blessings, I feel it should be made known among Catholics seeking to give themselves to Christ, but not in the religious life.
A consecrated virgin is a never-married woman who dedicates her perpetual virginity to God and is set aside as a sacred person who belongs to Christ.
According to the Code of Canon Law, women who are seeking out this particular vocation must be consecrated to God through the diocesan bishop, according to the rite approved by the Church. Consecrated virgins receive direction from the diocesan bishop. They are betrothed to Christ and are dedicated to the service of the Church, while remaining in the world. Their consecration and life of perpetual virginity is permanent.
Their call to a secular state of life means that they have jobs and lives much like that of the average person. They provide for their own needs as the local diocese is not financially responsible for them.
Unlike most religious orders, consecrated virgins do not have habits or use the title “Sister.” A consecrated virgin also has a particular focus on prayer, which is usually lived out through Mass, Liturgy of the Hours, spiritual reading and personal prayer.
This vocation dates back to the very beginnings of the church. Sts. Cecilia, Agnes, Agatha, and Lucy (first-century martyrs) were all virgins living in the world.
Although prevalent in the early church, the vocation of virgins living in the world disappeared after the 11th century as women living a life of chastity came together in communities. By the time of the Second Vatican Council, the consecration of women existed entirely in conjunction with religious life.
|St. Lucy- Arturo Olivas|
The rite of consecration of virgins in the world dropped off over the centuries as monastic community life for women developed. The rite for women living in the world was brought back with Vatican II. It is specifically noted in the liturgy document, ‘Sacrosanctum Concilium.'
To be set aside as a bride of Christ, the woman must have lived a life of perfect chastity. This is another factor that distinguishes the vocation of consecrated virginity from religious orders, which women may join if they are widowed or if they resolve to live a chaste life from that day forward.
The bride is the image of the church herself as virgin, as bride, as mother, reflecting Christ’s spousal union with His church.
Today, the U.S. Association of Consecrated Virgins counts about 245 consecrated virgins living in 106 dioceses across the
. United States