When I started practicing my faith, I was introduced to different vocations of the Catholic Church, Priesthood, Religious, Married, and Single life. That’s why when I came across a video of a woman in a ceremony for consecration as a virgin, I was a bit surprised. I did not know that there is a calling as such. If you want to know how to discern consecrated virginity, this guide is for you!
First, a little explanation of terminology and context. Consecrated virgins are a rather particular group of women within the Catholic church. They have taken public vows of chastity and tend to lead lives of prayer, service, and evangelization. The title “virgin” doesn’t refer to their sexual history. It refers to a woman who considers herself as espoused to Christ. Therefore, the bride of Christ devotes her entire life to God.
She lives in the world, but more so for the sake of Christ than for any human relationship. Therefore, her profession does not belong to an order or institute of consecrated life. However, since she has chosen this vocation from among all possible vocations and is under the direction of a Diocesan Bishop, she is considered within consecrated life by virtue of her profession.
It is the consecrated virgin’s calling to signify Christ’s undivided love for His people. She commits herself to a life of purity, prayer, and service. While the specific activities she engages in may vary according to her circumstances, the consecrated virgin’s focus is on prayer for the Church and its leaders and all of God’s people. By her witness as a celibate woman, she points to God’s call to all women and men to live out their baptismal promises with an undivided heart.
Note that the vocation to consecrated virginity is exclusively for women. Men cannot be consecrated virgins. For more information, check this out.
The calling to be a consecrated virgin can be traced to the Catechism as follows:
CCC 922 “From apostolic times Christian virgins, called by the Lord to cling only to him with greater freedom of heart, body, and spirit, have decided with the Church’s approval to live in a state of virginity ‘for the sake of the Kingdom of heaven.’
CCC 923 “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.’ By this solemn rite (Consecratio virginum), the virgin is ‘constituted . . . a sacred person, a transcendent sign of the Church’s love for Christ, and an eschatological image of this heavenly Bride of Christ and of the life to come.”
Discerning Consecrated Virginity
Consecrated virginity is a vocation that exists in plain sight and yet is unknown to most. It isn’t a new vocation, but rather one that was “rediscovered” by the Church at Vatican II.
- What consecrated virginity is: A woman who has chosen to remain single and virgin for life, dedicating herself as a bride of Christ.
- Why consecrated virginity is a hidden vocation: Some people mistake it for a cloistered life like the nuns they may see walking around the grounds of their local monastery, while others don’t even realize it exists.
- Where consecrated virgins live: Many live in the world among their families and friends, while others choose to reside within religious communities such as convents and monasteries.
- How consecrated virgins live: They can choose to maintain a full-time job outside of their ministry, or they can devote themselves full-time to prayer and ministry work. Most tend to work part-time to support themselves financially.
- What consecrated virgins do: They serve God through various forms of active ministry in their parish communities such as teaching CCD classes and praying at Pregnancy Help Centers, among many other forms of service within the community.
Consecrated Virgin Requirements
Aspirants to consecration by the Diocesan Bishop must follow the procedures as discussed here.
The church requires a few things of all those who wish to live a Consecrated Virgin life. A Consecrated Virgin should follow and practice the following:
- That they have never married or lived in public or open violation of chastity; the vow of chastity must be free from all affection for, and engagement to another person at the time of their consecration.
- That they possess sufficient maturity and personality integration needed for living a life of prayer and service within society. The Church has never stated an upper age limit.
- That they show a clear sign of being called by God to this vocation through their desire that has been tested over time and nourished by prayer, study, and spiritual direction. They should not be impulsive in answering such a call.
For admission, it is necessary that there is a Diocesan approval as well as meetings with the local Bishop and written acts of consent. According to guidelines from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, those who aspire to this vocation must have “lived a life of prayer and dedication.”
What does a consecrated virgin do?
Women make a private commitment to a life of prayer and service. Unlike some of the nuns, consecrated virgins are not cloistered. They are actually encouraged to participate fully in the life of their Diocese. However, that does not mean they cannot have a job. Consecrated virgins make a vow of poverty and therefore must financially depend on themselves or others. They must also have their own living space but can share a residence with other consecrated women as long as each is given her own room. Additionally, they are able to be part of a community outside of their Church.
Consecrated virgins are under the Bishop, the Diocese’s head. They share in his solicitude for all the faithful and especially for other virgins. They should be present with him at significant liturgical celebrations and participate in parish life. This participation can be by various means, such as:
- Taking care of the Church building.
- Using their professional skills in service to the Christian community.
- Assisting at baptismal and wedding ceremonies.
- Helping with adoration and exposition of the Blessed Sacrament.
- Cooperating in catechetical work.
- Participating in associations for women or other groups of laypeople.
Just like other religious, consecrated virgins live a prayerful life. They pray the Liturgy of Hours, regularly receives the Sacraments, and are faithful to private prayer. She prays for the Bishop and clergy, and other needs of her Diocese.
Do consecrated virgins have to be virgins?
Consecrated virgins can be either single or widowed. In other words, they may never have been married, or they may have been married but are now widowed.
The whole vow is symbolic, so the church doesn’t really care whether you’re technically a virgin or not. There are plenty of cases when women have entered into a marriage that ended in divorce, then gone on to marry again, and then decided to take on the life of consecrated virginity. In fact, some widowed older women may also choose this path.
Can consecrated virgins marry?
A consecrated virgin is married only to Christ, so she cannot marry another human.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church states: “they are betrothed mystically to Christ, the Son of God, and devoted to the service of the Church.”
They have decided to remain unmarried with great care and consideration, and they take their marriage oaths very seriously. The same practices as priests in celibacy and chastity. She is a bride of Christ just as much as she would be if she married a man. Through her vow of celibacy, she seeks to love Christ with her whole heart and so seeks Him in all her actions.
Consecrated virgin life may not be as familiar as other vocations, but this is surely worth considering. It is richly rewarding. Though it isn’t for everyone, and certainly isn’t easy, as long as your prayer life is strong, you can definitely live this way of life.