Original Solitude

On the glory, grace and mystery of consecrated virginity lived in the world

Spousal Love in Conjugal Spirituality

Magnificent article by Christopher J. Stravitsch:

Our Catholic faith is lived through an array of spiritual traditions. While each observes the same theological truths, the Church is enriched by the different emphases within each tradition. The same is true of conjugal spirituality. Married couples, who give rise to the Domestic Church, are as varied as the schools of spirituality. While Catholic marriages are built upon a common theological foundation, each couple’s spirituality may emphasize certain aspects of their vocation to which they are particularly drawn, and in which they can live quite well. This paper explores perspectives of conjugal spirituality that cultivate reverence for, and understanding of, spousal love. First, a masculine perspective is presented, through which husbands are tutored in spousal love as they contemplate Christ, the Divine Bridegroom, whose agape is poured out from the cross. A feminine perspective approaches Mary’s fiat as a model for wives, who are called to image the Church as they receive and respond to spousal love. Next, a liturgical analogy is presented as a means for fostering reverence for what is sacred in conjugal union. Finally, contraception is critiqued as an antithesis to conjugal spirituality, while conceiving new life through the chaste practice of natural family planning is lauded as a noble fulfillment of it.


Authentic Femininity

Here’s an excellent article on Blessed Pope John Paul II’s teaching on woman and the feminine genius, from the website of the Servants of the Pierced Hearts of Jesus and Mary.

The Elevation of the Dignity and Mission of Women by the Petrine Principle in John Paul II
Sr. Ashleigh Heinrich, sctjm

“Authentic femininity that bears the divine image has been wounded by the inheritance of Original Sin. While the effects of humanity’s first parents on the feminine identity can already be seen in the Garden, the repercussions have reverberated through the centuries and have reached tragic levels in recent decades. While some historical forms of the degradation of women (male domination, being treated as objects of lust, and economic discrimination) persist, a new form of attack against the female identity has arisen from women themselves. Cleverly disguised as a movement to “free” women, these threats target the essence of the feminine heart—spousal love, maternity, and receptivity—and “in the name of ‘freedom’ and ‘progress’ militate against true values.”[2] The movement to masculinize women has obscured the dignity of the feminine heart that was created in the image and likeness of God.”  [Read the full article here.]

The consecrated virgin living in the world is a puzzle

The consecrated virgin living in the world is a puzzle to many people. One reason is that the CV does not fit into a recognizable box.

Although she’s canonical and come under the jurisdiction of the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, she’s not a nun nor sister nor religious nor even a lay consecrated. She has no “mother superior”, does not follow any particular constitution or rule of life, and is not obliged to carry out any particular apostolate. She normally lives alone and not in community. And she has to fend for herself and earn her own living. Yet her consecration is permanent and cannot be dispensed. It’s no wonder people don’t know what to make of her.

So it was wonderful to receive affirmation from Pope Benedict XVI when he addressed CVs at the 2008 International Congress-Pilgrimage of the Order of Virgins in Rome. He said:

“Your ideal, truly lofty in itself, demands no special external change. Each consecrated person normally remains in her own life context. It is a way that seems to lack the specific characteristics of religious life, and above all that of obedience. For you, however, love becomes the sequela: your charism entails a total gift to Christ, an assimilation of the Bridegroom who implicitly asks for the observance of the evangelical counsels in order to keep your fidelity to him unstained. Being with Christ demands interiority, but at the same time opens a person to communicating with the brethren: your mission is grafted on this. An essential “rule of life” defines the commitment that each one of you assumes, with the Bishop’s consent, at both the spiritual and existential levels. These are personal journeys. There are among you different approaches and different ways of living the gift of consecrated virginity and this becomes much more obvious in the course of an international meeting such as this, which has gathered you together during these days.”

The CV’s life, then, unites a life of prayer and total dedication to her Divine Bridegroom with a life in the world earning her living and carrying out apostolic works. As you can expect, her life is exposed to many temptations. But she also receives tremendous graces daily to  help her live her vocation faithfully and joyfully.

Read the Pope’s full 2008 address here.

Christ’s Precious Gift to His Church

In 2007, Cardinal Claudio Hummes wrote a wonderful article on priestly celibacy entitled Christ’s Precious Gift to His Church. Many of his points can also apply to consecrated virginity. Below are some passages from his article but with references to priests and priestly celibacy changed accordingly.

Consecrated virginity has been guarded by the Church for centuries as a brilliant jewel, and retains its value undiminished even in our time when the outlook of men and the state of the world have undergone such profound changes.

We know, therefore, that following him with faithfulness in virginity, which includes sacrifice, will lead us to happiness. God does not call anyone to unhappiness; he calls us all to happiness. Happiness, however, always goes hand in hand with faithfulness.

By a daily dying to herself and by giving up the legitimate love of a family of her own for the love of Christ and of his Kingdom, the virgin will find the glory of an exceedingly rich and fruitful life in Christ, because like him and in him she loves and dedicates herself to all the children of God.

If ordinary Christian life cannot legitimately claim to be such if it excludes the dimension of the cross, how much more incomprehensible would the life of the consecrated virgin be were the perspective of the crucified One to be put aside.

Suffering, sometimes weariness and boredom and even setbacks have to be dealt with in a virgin’s life which, however, is not ultimately determined by them. In choosing to follow Christ, one learns from the very outset to go with him to Calvary, mindful that taking up one’s cross is the element that qualifies the radical nature of the sequela.

Love for the Lord is authentic when it endeavors to be total: Falling in love with Christ means having a deep knowledge of him, it means a close association with his person, the identification and assimilation of his thought, and lastly, unreserved acceptance of the radical demands of the Gospel.

It is only possible to be witnesses of God through a deep experience of Christ; the whole of a virgin’s life depends on her relationship with the Lord, the quality of her experience of martyria, of her witness.

Without this clear perspective, any “missionary urge” is doomed to failure, methodologies are transformed into techniques for maintaining a structure, and even prayers can become techniques for meditation and for contact with the sacred in which both the human “I” and the “you” of God dissolve.

Read the full article here

A precious pearl worth dying for and worth living for

The following is extracted from a letter written by a consecrated virgin to the NZ Catholic newspaper after it received many letters calling for priests to marry.

The celibate vocation is not a deprivation. It is a precious gift leading to deep fulfilment of our call to communion according to God’s loving plan for us.

God made us male and female for communion. Marriage and celibacy for the sake of the kingdom are the two ways of reaching this communion.

Marriage is an earthly sign of the heavenly marriage of the Lamb. Celibacy for the sake of the kingdom is the actual living out of the heavenly marriage.

In heaven, every human person is celibate. The marital act, no longer necessary, gives way to the heavenly marriage upon which celibacy is already focused. If rightly received and lived, celibacy is a miracle of grace by which the celibate can be so transformed as to be freed from sin and temptation to a high degree. Celibacy becomes a friend to embrace and not an enemy to struggle against, and the celibate begins to experience, though not yet perfectly, the redemption of the body in anticipation of the final resurrection when the celibate will be transfigured and perfected.

This precious pearl of celibacy is worth dying for and worth living for.

Discerning Marriage as Natural Vocation

By Fr. Bryce Sibley

It is necessary to clear up some confusion about the nature of marriage as a vocation, specifically in relation to celibacy and the priesthood as such. From my experience as a Catholic priest and university chaplain, this is the fundamental misunderstanding most young people encounter while considering a vocation. This confusion can have some serious effects on the ability to properly discern it, be it to priesthood or to marriage.   Read more …

Living chastely in a hell of unchastity

A priest emailed this to me when a mutual friend left his wife and young children to live with another woman:

“It is all about unchaste insanity. Unchaste behaviour is a form of insanity. It is powerful and at the basis of much murder, abortion etc. I thought of the importance of your call as a witness to chaste virginity and how powerful that vocation is; a reminder of the counter-cultural witness you have and, in a sense, how in the real world you are at the very opposite of much evil and tremendous unchaste behaviour around us. So your vocation is even more special and needed. What is this incident teaching you? And me? That living chaste life is in a hell of unchastity. This should make us go on our knees. Lord, give me a heart on fire with You. Thank you for your witness and how we need you even more. On your knees!!”

The Church has called women to be the stealth weapon of the twenty-first century

This article by Mary Jo Anderson,  Feminine Genius,  discusses the particularly feminine gifts of receptivity, sensitivity, generosity and maternity.

“The hour is coming, in fact has come, when the vocation of women is being acknowledged in its fullness, the hour in which women acquire in the world an influence, an effect and a power never hitherto achieved. That is why, at this moment when the human race is undergoing so deep a transformation, women imbued with a spirit of the gospel can do so much to aid humanity in not falling” (closing message of the Second Vatican Council).

Critics of the Catholic Church frequently mock the Church’s insistence that women have unique gifts for the Church and the world. Indeed, Pope John Paul II’s exhortations to women that they employ their “feminine genius” to build a culture of life often are met with a chorus of dissent from within and without the Church.   Read more …

Overview of the rite and vocation of consecrated virginity lived in the world

The following is from an article written for the consecration of a virgin living in the world, in the diocese of Christchurch in 2011. Much of the contents have been taken from the website of the United States Association of Consecrated Virgins.

Overview of the Rite and Vocation

The rare and ancient rite is one of the oldest sacramentals in the Catholic Church; its roots go back to the time of Saint Matthew who consecrated a virgin to God. (Among consecrated virgin-saints are St Agnes, St Cecilia and St Agatha.) The rite is an elaborate liturgy reserved to the diocesan bishop and celebrated within Mass, in which the virgin offers the gift of her physical virginity to Christ, as a sign of the dedication of her entire being to him. By the Prayer of Consecration (the one in current use was composed by Pope Saint Leo the Great), God sets the virgin apart, and makes her a sacred person. She is given the title of the Church, Bride of Christ, and the bridal insignia of veil and ring, plus the book of the Liturgy of the Hours.

Upon consecration, the virgin receives a new and powerful grace that enables her to be more and more a striking sign of the love of the Church, the Bride, for Christ, her Bridegroom. Her consecration is conferred once, is irreversible, and cannot be dispensed. There is no trial period, so the virgin must be well prepared before presenting herself for consecration.

After consecration, the virgin does not withdraw from the world, but remains in it in the secular state, providing for her own living, and witnessing to God by her virginal life given exclusively to Jesus Christ, whose bride she is. She wears her consecration ring but does not normally wear other insignia, or veil or special attire. She lives her vocation in her own way according to her discernment as guided by her spiritual director and diocesan bishop. She is not organised under a constitution or rule, yet the vocation of consecrated virginity lived in the world is a definitive vocation in itself. The consecrated virgin is not a religious sister, nor is she in the process of becoming a religious sister.

To nourish her vocation, she makes it her priority to celebrate the Liturgy of the Hours each day, especially Morning Prayer and Evening Prayer. She also frequents the sacraments, attending Holy Mass and spending time before the Blessed Sacrament daily whenever possible, and makes time for spiritual reading and study of Scripture. She spends her free time in works of penance and of mercy, in apostolic activity and in prayer, according to her state of life and spiritual gifts.

Neither her diocese nor her parish is responsible for her financial needs, so she must support herself by work, pension, savings or other means, and provide enough for her own sustenance, medical and retirement benefits and charitable works. She may take on any kind of work that is not inappropriate to her vocation and dignity. There are consecrated virgins in various occupations: teachers, doctors, nurses, cooks, electronic engineers, caregivers, lawyers, accountants, businesswomen, etc. There are about 3,000 consecrated virgins worldwide, most of whom are in Europe and South America.

The Virginal, Feminine, Spousal and Maternal Love of the Consecrated Virgin

These four dimensions of the consecrated virgin are actually a unity, because in the context of consecrated virginity, it’s impossible to live out one dimension without also living out the others.

Virginal refers to the original integrity of body and soul which was ruptured by the sin of Adam and Eve, and which will be restored in the bodily resurrection at the end of time. Thus Our Lady’s perpetual virginity testifies to her immaculate conception, i.e., her integrity of body and soul was never ruptured. So the physical virginity of the consecrated virgin points to the final resurrection when we will all be virginal.

Feminine refers to the particular genius of women — receptivity. This is not a passive doormat type of receptivity, but the active awesome receptivity of Our Lady at the Annunciation when she gave her unconditional “yes” to God.

Spousal refers to the free, total, unconditional and faithful gift of the consecrated virgin to her Bridegroom, Jesus Christ, and in turn to others. Blessed John Paul II said that “one cannot correctly understand a woman’s consecration to virginity without referring to spousal love. It is through this kind of love that a person becomes a gift for the other.”

Maternal — the consecrated virgin’s virginal, feminine and spousal love is of no avail if it is not fruitful; she must bear many spiritual children.

But what do consecrated virgins do?

Consecrated virgins are often asked: “but what do you do?”  Well, a consecrated virgin is first and foremost a bride. What does a bride do? She is loved by the bridegroom, and responds by loving him in return.

So the consecrated virgin responds to Christ’s love for her, and allows herself to be more closely united to God and to be dedicated to the service of the Church and of mankind. Her consecration is a call to greater fervour in spreading the kingdom of God and in giving to the world the spirit of Christ. And of course, as bride of the Crucified Lord, her vocation is also necessarily the way of the cross.

Deeply rooted in the diocese to which she belongs, she has as the bride of Christ a particular spiritual bond with her diocesan bishop as well as priests of her diocese, who image the love of Jesus Christ for His Bride, the Church.

The consecrated virgin and the priest, therefore, spiritually complement each other as they live their respective vocations fully and authentically. Their celibate vocations highlight the married vocation, and vice versa, as the husband in the family represents Christ, and the wife the Church. And so the three vocations vivify each other.

Only by God’s grace can the consecrated virgin live her vocation fully and authentically. And she has a teacher and mother in Our Lady, the first consecrated virgin living in the world.

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