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January 6, 2014

The Holy Spirit in the Consecration of Virgins

In the Catholic Church there are two kinds of blessings for consecrated life: Constitutive and Invocative .     [Read  This  and  This]

1] In the Consecration of  virgins- according to the intention of the Church, once the virgin has made her propositum or resolution, it is by the very words of the Prayer of consecration prayed by the bishop, that the virgin’s body is constituted as sacred [for God] and set apart for the Service of the Church. 

This is according to the theology of liturgy in the early Church.

2] Religious men and women are consecrated by the act of ‘professing’ vows at the hands of the legitimate religious superior with all other canonical requirements like formation, etc., being in place. The prayer of blessing or consecration in a religious profession which can be prayed by a priest- is intended by the Church to be an  Invocative blessing. 

This is according to the theology of St Thomas Aquinas around the 13th century.

The Epiklesis of the prayer  in the rite of Profession of religious mentions:
Send the fire of your Holy Spirit into the heart of this, your daughter, to keep alive within her the holy desire He has given her……………….

 The Epiklesis of the prayer  in the rite of Consecration of virgins  mentions  the Gift of the Holy Spirit [as in the sacrament of Confirmation ]

 Through the gift of your Spirit, Lord,
  give them modesty with right judgment,
 kindness with true wisdom,
  gentleness with strength of character,  
freedom with the grace of chastity.
 Give them the warmth of love,
 to love you above all others.
  Make their lives deserve our praise,
 without seeking to be praised.
 May they give you glory  by holiness of action and purity of heart.
  May they love you and fear you;
 may they love you and serve you.  

I  liked the explanation given  in this link regarding the 7 gifts of the Holy Spirit :

 St. Thomas Aquinas says that four of these gifts (wisdom, understanding, knowledge, and counsel) direct the intellect, while the other three gifts (fortitude, piety, and fear of the Lord) direct the will toward God.

In some respects, the gifts are similar to the virtues, but a key distinction is that the virtues operate under the impetus of human reason (prompted by grace), whereas the gifts operate under the impetus of the Holy Spirit; the former can be used when one wishes, but the latter operate only when the Holy Spirit wishes. In the case of Fortitude, the gift has, in Latin and English, the same name as a virtue, which it is related to but from which it must be distinguished.

In Summa Theologica II.II, Thomas Aquinas asserts the following correspondences between the seven Capital Virtues and the seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit:[11]

        The gift of wisdom corresponds to the virtue of charity.
        The gifts of understanding and knowledge correspond to the virtue of faith.
        The gift of counsel (right judgment) corresponds to the virtue of prudence.
        The gift of fortitude corresponds to the virtue of courage.
        The gift of fear of the Lord corresponds to the virtue of hope.
        The gift of Reverence corresponds to the virtue of justice.

To the virtue of temperance, no Gift is directly assigned; but the gift of fear can be taken as such, since fear drives somebody to restrict himself from forbidden pleasures.

According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church :

1302 It is evident from its celebration that the effect of the sacrament of Confirmation is the special outpouring of the Holy Spirit as once granted to the apostles on the day of Pentecost.
1303 From this fact, Confirmation brings an increase and deepening of baptismal grace:

- it roots us more deeply in the divine filiation which makes us cry, "Abba! Father!";117 [According to Canon law 604 --this is parallel to the consecration of the virgin to God ]
- it unites us more firmly to Christ; [ this is parallel to the mystical espousal of the virgin to Jesus Christ ].
- it increases the gifts of the Holy Spirit in us; [this is parallel to the dedication of the virgin to the service of the Church ].
- it renders our bond with the Church more perfect;118
- it gives us a special strength of the Holy Spirit to spread and defend the faith by word and action as true witnesses of Christ, to confess the name of Christ boldly, and never to be ashamed of the Cross:119

Recall then that you have received the spiritual seal, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of right judgment and courage, the spirit of knowledge and reverence, the spirit of holy fear in God's presence. Guard what you have received. God the Father has marked you with his sign; Christ the Lord has confirmed you and has placed his pledge, the Spirit, in your hearts.120


The parallels between the Sacraments of initiation, especially the Sacrament of Confirmation and the Consecration of virgins which is a Constitutive Sacramental, indicate that the vocation is  rooted in the sacraments of Initiation and deepens Sacramental grace. Thus the consecrated virgin becomes an eschatological  image of the Church’s Love for Christ, inspiring and animating the vocation to holiness, of every baptized person in the Church.

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