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November 26, 2011

Consecrated virginity and Religious life have different paradigms


Apostolic religious life characteristics:

1.      may have been inspired from Buddhist and other traditions
2.      men and women even if previously married can embrace religious life
3.      fully developed during middle ages
4.      ascetic and institutional rather than charismatic and movement
5.      emphasis on self giving. Religious consecrate themselves through the profession of vows which are temporary for some years- followed by permanent-and is done at the hands of the Religious superior. The ceremony can be presided over by a priest.
6.      community life among religious
7.      evangelical counsels mainly based on the beatitudes : obedience, poverty, chastity, etc.[emphasis on asceticism]
8.      religious men and women may symbolize the Bride of Christ only as a community [ which itself is a symbol of the church community which is the Bride of Christ]. The Spousal bond is communal. I think an individual religious man or woman is a bride of Christ to the same degree as any baptized lay person although the symbolic element is greater in the religious woman. He or she may ‘privately’ develop this relationship with Christ as several religious do so. That’s why some religious women in monasteries  receive the consecration of virgins several years after Final profession.
9.      the essence of apostolic religious life varies in kind and degrees among various institutes
10.  separation from the world in varying degrees
11.  service of the Church or the world based on their institutional charisms. Religious institutes were founded by persons inspired usually by a need in society or by some dimension of Christ and His teachings as mentioned in scriptures.
12.  religious can be dispensed from their temporary and even perpetual vows for serious reasons.

Consecrated virginity characteristics:

1.      could have developed a spirituality in contrast to Roman traditions of vestal virgins
2.      only women who are virgins can be consecrated [ with the exception of victims of rape, incest etc ]. Read this
3.      fully developed by the 4th century when the Church was institutionalized. [ In today’s world it is still developing and finding its identity and mission]. Read this
4.      emphasis on the charismatic and family dimension of the early Church which gradually got institutionalized
5.      virgins answer God’s call and are consecrated at the hands of the Bishop through a prayer which is a constitutive sacramental . Read this
6.      Diocesan spirituality: the local church is her community. Consecrated virgins can form associations as per canon law 604#2 .Read this
7.      based on the Paschal mystery which was the treasure at the heart of the early Church expressed as obedience, self-emptying[kenosis] on the cross, virginity or espousal with Christ. Read this
8.      a consecrated virgin is a woman who is spiritually and legally married  to Christ through a public rite which concentrates the specific grace in the person of the virgin and constitutes her a Bride of Christ as an individual. Her bond with Christ is personal and therefore more than symbolic .She is constituted an eschatological Image of the Church which she spiritually embodies in a mysterious way as suggested by this tradition [ perhaps similar to how the consecrated eucharistic bread  symbolizes the Christian community –the Body of Christ]. The virgin’s body is constituted as sacred /set apart for Jesus Christ in His divinity and humanity as affirmed by the Fathers of the Church.
9.      the essence of consecrated virginity is the call to assume the obligation to love the Christian community and the world –as a virgin, bride of Christ and a mother. She is a symbol of the church even as an individual just like Virgin Mary [I do not believe that the Rite of Religious Profession confers this charism on the Individual Religious man or woman].
10.  in the world but not of the world. In the world is also a relative term in the sense of not living in a monastery . Read this
11.  dedication to the service of the church based on charisms of each individual and the needs of the local church-with emphasis on spiritual motherhood which reaches out for the spiritual as well as other dimensions of human needs. When Jesus’ heart was pierced-blood and water flowed symbolizing the sacraments of baptism and eucharist, the birth of the Bride of Christ-the Church. Consecrated virginity was founded on the Cross. It is believed by some that the consecration confers the virgin with a gift of the Holy Spirit  based on the needs of the local church community. Read this
12.  as yet the Church does not have a formal definition regarding dispensation from obligations or annulment of the consecration of virgins.

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  local church or Diocesan community, as a virgin, bride, mother. A Religious woman is ‘set apart’ for the specific charism of her Religious congregation of institute.

For my personal research article on Ordo Virginum    Click Here


  1. Hi Nameeta:

    God bless you!!!

    I'm C.V. from Venezuela, and I do what a can with english. So, please forgive my misteakes ;-)

    I really like your blog. I find it very interesting and helpfull for our vocation.

    An in order to do so, please may me make an observation:

    The Ordo Viriginum do not derive from Roman traditions of vestal virgins. This afirmation was made for the detractors of the cristian virginity.

    Our Fathers of Church, like st. Augustine, were very clear in this point when they're defending the "sponsa Christi".

    Here I give you some links (in Spannish) of books wich speak about this subjet.

    Again, God bless your.

    Oh! and you can find us in Facebook: ORDO VIRGINUM-VENEZUELA.

  2. Hi Nina,

    Thank you for visiting this site ! I'm so glad you brought the point to my notice. I recently published a complete study on this vocation in the Vidyajyoti Journal of Theological Reflection, Sept 2011 issue and in that I have mentioned consecrated virginity possibly developing 'in contrast' to vestal virgins . Hence I have corrected it on this post as recommended by you. It was an oversight that I pasted this part from the older version of my article from the computer. Thank you so much !

    Please feel free to write in Spanish if you are more comfortable . I understand a little and can translate it with google translator. Your views and thoughts are most welcome.

    You have a nice group on facebook with good resources .I read some few days ago.

    Please pray for me. I too pray for all of you .

  3. The following link gives details on the difference between profession of religious women and consecration of virgins with emphasis on the title of Bride of Christ .


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