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August 21, 2011

Rosary : Reflections for Consecrated Virgins

Recently I read a translation of the  catechesis given by Pope Benedict XVI which can be found on the link here.

Prayer is an important aspect of the life and vocation of consecrated virgins for whom Virgin-Mother Mary is a model. In this particular catechesis our Pope speaks about, a meditation that consists not in words but in our mind making contact with the heart of God.”

He also says, “And here Mary is a true model. The Evangelist Luke repeats numerous times that Mary, for her part, 'kept all these things, pondering them in her heart' (2:19; cf. 2:51). She keeps them; she does not forget. She is attentive to all that the Lord has said and done to her, and she ponders; that is, she makes contact with diverse things -- she dwells deeply upon them in her heart.”

“She, therefore, who 'believed' the announcement of the angel and became an instrument so that the Eternal Word of the Most High might become incarnate, also welcomed in her heart the wonderful miracle of the human-divine birth; she pondered it, she dwelt deeply upon all that God was doing in her, so that she might welcome the divine will in her life and conform to it. The mystery of the incarnation of God's Son, and of the maternity of Mary, is so great [a mystery] that it requires a process of interiorization. It is not only something physical that God accomplishes in her; rather, it is something that demands an interiorization from Mary, who seeks to understand it more deeply, seeks to interpret its meaning, to understand its implications. Thus, day after day, in the silence of ordinary life, Mary continued to keep in her heart the wondrous events she subsequently witnessed, even to the extreme trial of the Cross and the glory of the Resurrection. Mary fully lived her existence, her daily duties, her mission as mother, but she knew how to preserve within herself an interior space for reflection on the word and the will of God, on all that was occurring in her, on the mysteries of the life of her Son.”

“St. Augustine likens meditation on the mysteries of God to the assimilation of food, and he uses a word that recurs throughout the Christian tradition: 'ruminate.' The mysteries of God should continually resound within us so that they might become familiar to us, guide our life, and nourish us as happens with the food that is necessary to sustain us.”

“To meditate therefore means to create within ourselves an atmosphere of recollection, of interior silence, so as to reflect on and assimilate the mysteries of our faith, and all that God is doing in us -- and not only the things that come and go. We can 'ruminate' in many ways; for instance, by taking a short passage of sacred Scripture……………… reading and reflecting on what we've just read, pausing to consider it, seeking to understand it, to understand what it says to me, what it says today -- to open our soul to all that the Lord wants to say to us and teach us.”

“The holy rosary is also a prayer of meditation: In repeating the Hail Mary we are invited to think back and to reflect upon the mystery we have announced. But we can also dwell upon some intense spiritual experience, on the words that have remained with us…………………You see, therefore, there are many ways of meditating and of thereby making contact with God -- of drawing near to God, and in this way, of being on the road to heaven.”

Drawing inspiration from this, a consecrated virgin can pray the rosary very beautifully, remembering  what the Lord has done in her own  life and continues to do. Meditating on the vocation of consecrated virginity in the light of the mysteries in the life of Virgin-Mother Mary also refreshes  the hope of our own future in the journey towards deeper union with God and  His Reign.

One can choose any 5 mysteries to meditate while praying the Marian rosary, from the following suggested sections or add one’s own:

Mysteries of being Human:

Birth in the human family

Childhood:   memories

Puberty / Adulthood

Human Suffering

Joyful memories

Mysteries of  Faith:

Ancestral faith tradition

First Encounter with Christ

Christening or Name-day : The significance of the Christian name

Baptism : initiation into the mystery of the  Trinity and the Church

Confession: Reconciliation

First Holy Communion


Anointing of the Sick / Healing

Mysteries of  the Vocation to Consecrated virginity:

First experience  of  a  Call

Vocation to Be

Vocation to Do

Receiving the Consecration

The Holy Trinity in one’s life

The Paschal Mystery

The Early Christian community

Jesus and I

Virgin- martyrs



Spiritual motherhood

Being an Image of the Church

Bride of Christ

Body of Christ

Covenant with Christ

People of God

Service in the Church


Mission : Evangelisation and New Evangelisation

One can also try meditating on the vocation in the light of the mysteries of the Annunciation, the Visitation, the Birth of Jesus Christ, other Marian or Christ events in Scripture or Tradition, or on Scripture passages  that have been  of special significance or  inspiration in one’s life.

August 1, 2011

Diocesan Spirituality and Dress of Consecrated Virgins

The Early Church was called ‘the Way’ because it started more as a movement which got institutionalized by the 4th century. The Order of Virgins formed a definite socio-liturgical category within the Christian community and consisted of women –mostly converts. Often they had to observe some discretion with regard to their identity in the  world. They continued to live with their families or in households of virgins without structured lifestyle.  Their status as consecrated virgins was sometimes known only in the church. Hence in most local churches they did not have a uniform attire. Each one dressed according to the local circumstances, culture, occupation, etc., while maintaining modesty. As Christianity became more widespread and accepted, there emerged a specific Rite of consecration or ceremony called the ‘veiling of virgins’ based on Roman marriage rituals, to express their marriage with Christ.

During the 4th century as persecution ceased, some of the women chose to move into the desert and developed a spirituality –more akin to the monastic and religious life today. Religious life seems to have based itself on the Beatitudes, gradually more defined in the form of the three evangelical counsels and is a ‘world-renouncing’ spirituality, with influence also of Buddhist monastic forms.  They wore a habit as a sign of  consecration, renunciation from the world, identity of their religious community, and/or as a penance.

In today’s world, after the decision of the Second Vatican Council-

once again the seeds of the Order of virgins (a gift of the faith of  the ancient church) preserved in the 4th century ‘prayer of consecration’ of the Rite of consecration to a life of virginity (according to canon #604), are being sown in the  reality of various local churches or Dioceses around the world.

Virgins are called to  absorb the water and the tears poured in hope by people of the land, die to self and become new life- personifying the Gospel message in their lives, inculturated or incarnated in the  context, becoming trees which give food and shelter to the people around. This is the true self-actualization in the Christian sense.

The diocesan  life-style is one lived ‘in the world’ yet not ‘of the world.’ It does not have a world-renouncing spirituality, but its spirituality is deep, as it is based on Jesus’ incarnation and passion, death, and Resurrection. It is a call to radical discipleship and the beatitude it lives is not to be ‘like’ Jesus by imitating Him but to be Jesus’ own presence -The body of Christ- in the world. It reaches in a somewhat different kind of journey towards God and His Reign.

Diocesan and Religious life are two different paradigms in Christian life. They are demanding with regard to the Christian call to discipleship, but in different ways, through different reasons for consecration.  A consecrated virgin is  ‘set apart’ to live and manifest the identity and mission of the Church as a virgin, bride, mother. A religious woman is ‘set apart’ for the specific charism of her religious congregation of institute.

Inculturation of Attire for consecrated virgins

Since consecrated virginity is lived mainly in the diocesan local community,  a uniformity of dress/ attire around the world is neither advisable nor practical.

Within some local churches, due to presence of religious life which did not exist in the Early Church, it has becoming challenging for consecrated virgins to publicly  manifest their own consecration. Hence, in some dioceses, even consecrated virgins wear a habit although they do not live together like a religious community. In most churches, they do not have any specific attire or identifying clothing.

Several consecrated virgins  wonder whether a specific attire would help them to live the vocation more publicly, at least within the Church. Perhaps the following points will be helpful-

  • Attire  depicts the Identity of the individual. It  should respect self, the  community, family, or institution it represents – and also respect the community, family, or institution it  interacts with  during work,  worship, celebrations, social life, etc.

  • The life-style of the consecrated virgin within the diocese is usually decided in consultation with the bishop of the diocese.

  • Consecrated virgins are called to inculturation which is based on the spirituality of Incarnation of the Word in the particular context.

  • Dress which shows an informal, family spirit is closer to the local customs at least in Asia.

  • An important element of culture is colour. I’m sure  heaven would be a very colourful  and beautiful experience. So there’s no reason why a consecrated virgin should stop wearing simple, beautifully designed, modest, colourful clothes, according to local culture. Don’t we like to admire the beauty of well painted and decorated  cathedrals and churches ? A consecrated virgin represents  the Church as Sponsa Christi or Bride of Christ and People of God. The  Christian community does not wear a uniform to distinguish itself from others.

  • During worship - colour of attire could be  in harmony with the Liturgical season, feasts, etc. Maybe a scarf around the neck of the Liturgical colour could  help manifesting the identity of the consecrated virgin publicly.

  • Wearing a cross or crucifix  is a sign of the Paschal Mystery, the Treasure of the Church. Every church has it. Also, there is no reason why a consecrated virgin should not wear pieces of simple jewellery  which depict  her faith in the Lord Jesus or devotion to saints.

  • Attire also depends on the climate, local conditions, and occupation. It should be  comfortable for the kind of work she is called to, while respecting self, what / whom she represents, and whom she works for / with. This is especially if she is working in the secular world.

  • Consecrated virgins are not called to a degree of poverty that depicts renunciation. But simplicity and moderation in choice would be helpful. If working with people who are materially poorer than her, it would be good to wear less expensive clothing in the spirit of incarnation in the context.

  • If a consecrated virgin in consultation with the diocesan  bishop,  see reasons for a particular or uniform attire / or depicting  consecration to some degree, such attire with the occupation which is very active, social-services, involvement with people, may suggest the positive quality of combining contemplation with action. In such a situation, it would be recommended to choose blue which is the colour of  Virgin Mary, since consecrated virgins are especially called to live like her as virgin, bride, mother- Or white which is the colour of virgin-bride in Christianity.

  • Whenever possible, attire should also help in purifying local culture according to Christian values and dignity of women. If wearing a veil depicts subjugation of women, it would be better for consecrated virgins not to wear a veil in daily life.  If it helps prayer, it may be worn.

  • She should not forget that she is a bride of Christ and should thus try to express the dignity of being His spouse. Her attire should show that Jesus Christ comes first in her life.

I like to think of  the following statement from the address of  Holy Father Benedict XVI during the International congress-pilgrimage of Ordo Virginum in Rome in 2008 :

Take care always to radiate the dignity of being a bride of Christ, expressing the newness of Christian existence and the serene expectation of future life.