In his Apostolic Exhortation Vita Consecrata, Pope John Paul II addresses the Order of Virgins in this way:
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. (VC 7).
This ancient vocation dates back to Apostolic times. Tradition has it that Saint Matthew was the author of the Solemn Rite of Consecration for Virgins living in the world. This form of Consecrated Life involves a solemn blessing of the virgin by the Diocesan Bishop which sets her apart as a sacred person. She does not profess the vows as do Religious but follow the life of Our Blessed Lady living the Gospel values, the evangelical counsels, for the sake of the Kingdom.
The following passages from the actual Rite from the Roman Pontifical, chapter 16 Section A are used in the discernment of the vocation. Please note these basic are essential for the call to be truly gift from God.
Nature and Value of Consecration to Virginity
The custom of consecrating women to a life of virginity flourished even in the early Church. It led to the formation of a solemn rite constituting the candidate a sacred person, a surpassing sign of the Church’s love for Christ, and an eschatological image of the world to come and the glory of the heavenly Bride of Christ. In the rite of consecration the Church reveals its love of virginity, begs God’s grace on those who are consecrated, and prays with fervor for an outpouring of the Holy Spirit.
Those who consecrate their chastity under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit do so for the sake of more fervent love of Christ and of greater freedom in the service of their brothers and sisters. They are to spend their time in works of penance, in apostolic activity, and in prayer, according to their state in life and spiritual gifts.
To fulfill their duty of prayer, they are strongly advised to celebrate the Liturgy of Hours each day, especially Morning and Evening Office (as well as daily participation in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass). In this way, by joining their voices to those of Christ the High Priest and of His Church, they will offer unending praise to the Heavenly Father and pray for the salvation of the world.
Those Who May Be Consecrated
This consecration may be received by nuns or by women living in the world. In the case of women living in the world it is required:
- that they have never married or lived in public or open violation of chastity
- that by their age, 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 Diocesan bishop who is Ordinary of the place
It is for the Diocesan bishop to decide on the conditions under which women living in the world are to undertake a life of perpetual virginity.
Many gifts but the same spirit.
Comparing Consecrated Virginity Lived in the World & Religious Life Lived in Community: Looking at Jesus through the eyes of consecrated love – PDF
Helps for Spiritual Directors
The following resources should be used with prayer, study and meditation for those women discerning the call and gift to the Life of Consecrated Virginity Lived in the World:
- A copy of the Rite of Consecration
From the Roman Pontifical 2011 edition: Consecration to a Life of Virginity for Women Living in the World, Part 4 Chapter I Complete Rite Includes:
Chapter III Additional Texts for the Consecration of Virgins
Chapter IV Alternative Manner for the Presentation of Insignia
Chapter V Alternative Formula for the Solemn Blessing
APPENDIX RITUAL MASS FOR THE CONSECRATION OF VIRGINS
- Consecration to a Life of Virginity for Women Living in the World,
Part 4 Chapter I Homily & Prayer of Consecration
The Homily and Prayer of Consecration explain the virgin’s way of life.
A woman called to this vocation sees in these two sections not only an affirmation of how she is already living but also a confidence that the Church has historically held this gift as a part of its life since Apostolic Times. These two essential parts of the Rite would be comparable to the Rule of Life and Constitutions for someone in religious life.
- Code of Canon Law – Canon § 604
- Lives of the Virgin and Virgin /Martyr Saints
“Take as your example the Virgin saints who have enriched the Church’s life in every age.” Pope John Paul II, 1995 International Conference for Consecrated Virgins, Rome, Italy You will have some favorites. For a copy of a compiled lives of the virgin saints contact the Office of Consecrated Life. Virgin and Virgin/Martyr Saints
- 1988 Homily from Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger Mass of Consecration to a Life of Virginity for Women Living in the World – 1988 Homily
- 1995 Pope John Paul II International Congress for Consecrated Virgins Living in the World – 1995 Presentation
- 2008 Pope Benedict XVI International Congress for Consecrated Virgins Living in the World – 2008 Address of Pope Benedict XVI
- 2008 Archbishop Raymond Leo Burke International Congress for Consecrated Virgins Living in the World – 2008 Presentation Archbishop Raymond Leo Burke
There are many more sources and reference books, but these are the basic resources that should become the foundation of the virgin’s life. The Rite of Consecration should be interiorized and fleshed out according to each virgin’s gifts and graces.