Things here have been so so crazy lately. I've been going a mile a minute trying to keep up with so many (wonderful blessed happy difficult tragic ordinary and extraordinary) things. The moments I do have where I can sit for a hot second, my mind is just spinning so I give up on writing anything of substance. But I just have to sit down and share with you the joy I was privileged to witness this past weekend. There's no way I can't. Last Saturday my dear friend Kate was consecrated to the life of holy virginity and it was (is!) amazing.
....the what now?...
The consecrated virgin is one of the oldest vocations of the Church but one that in the past few centuries hasn't been seen much. In fact, consecrated virginity began way back in the ancient Church as women embraced the Gospel and decided to dedicate their entire lives and selves to Christ. The Catechism says: "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.'" CCC 923
Saints like Lucy and Cecilia and Agnes were all women, consecrated virgins, who decided to forsake earthly marriage for a higher one. They officially vowed before God and their fellow Christians to have one divine Spouse and to live their life in service to Him and His Church. This was long before the Holy Spirit began to call women to do so in formal community with other women (sisters and nuns). Many people don't realize that the call of consecrated virginity still exists today and there are women in each diocese who have answered that call. Much like the resurgence of the permanent diaconate, it is a vocation that was 'buried' for a bit but is now being rediscovered. Before Saturday, our diocese had two consecrated. And now, praise God, we have three.
Before Consecration, a woman goes through a lengthy discernment process with both a private spiritual director and the bishop. Similar to priestly ordination, there are many steps to discern and a process that must be followed to make sure the candidate is making a choice in full knowledge, free will and is, in fact, being called by God to this consecrated life.
The homilist poignantly reminded us that we are ALL called to holiness and that Kate's life will now be a visible reminder of that. He spoke of how the life lived in Christ is a share in the cross and recalled the extraordinary witness that the early virgins give us in their lives and deaths.
After Consecration, she lives a life in the world but not of it. She is independent of an order so she still provides for her own living. She is a bride of Christ living as His hands and feet in the world. She is obliged to pray the Divine Office and serve the Church in whatever capacity the local bishop decides.
The Rite of Consecration includes the Litany of the Saints where the candidate lies prostrate as a beautiful testimony to her complete and humble gift of self to her Lord.
She takes her vows to Him led by the bishop and witnessed by attendants and the rest of the congregation.
He extends his hands and consecrates her to the Lord.
Because this truly is her wedding day to her Beloved, she wears the appropriate dress and receives the veil and ring as a sign of her union.
Completely, totally, faithfully, fruitfully His.
She is her Beloved's and He is hers.
And her friends get to celebrate with them, too ;)
Our diocese is so incredibly blessed to have another of His brides living among us. Kate's call has been years in the making, her engagement to Him a joy to behold, and her life a constant witness of His joy and faithfulness. Please pray for Kate as she begins to live this vocation and also for her recovery from surgery (Jesus plans interesting and appropriate honeymoons ;) I know she will be praying for you, too.
For more information on Consecrated Virginity please visit The United States Association of Consecrated Virgins.
If you are a young unmarried woman who feels that God may be whispering this call in your heart, please contact your diocesan director of vocations and they should be able to help you begin the process of discernment.