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February 7, 2014

Real-Life Scenarios experienced by Consecrated virgins

Scenario 1:

The local church has  a practice of renewal of vows / commitment  by the extra-ordinary ministers of the Eucharist at a special Mass every year. During one such Mass, the lay ministers are asked to occupy reserved seats in the parish church to increase visibility. There are two religious institutes in the parish ... so the religious Sisters are also asked to  occupy reserved seats for the same reason [although they would not renew any commitment since EM is supposed to be part of their calling ]. The entire parish congregation prays for them.


Where do you think  a CV should sit .....among the parish congregation, or the lay ministers or among the religious sisters ?

[ This is a real life situation ]

I guess such a situation as described above -is uncommon in the West due to declining numbers of religious. The local circumstances differ from one diocese to another and that's the reason the Church has clearly defined the essentials of the charism and allowed pastoral flexibility regarding externals according to local circumstances.

This is how I would like to respond to Scenario 1

1. Supposing that the CV was consecrated by the bishop in the same parish church a few months ago, the parishioners are aware from the Rite of consecration that she is now living some kind of  new vocation ....that she is a bride of Christ and dedicated to the service of the Church. The Rite clearly mentioned that. The Rite was the ONLY SOURCE for the lay people to get any idea what CV is about.

2. Since CV is a rare vocation, the Church uses the older terminology to define categories -----clergy, religious, laity.
According to Early Church history, CV were a Socio-liturgical category in the Church. They had reserved seats in the church to avoid distraction and help to focus on prayer.  If the consecration of virgins had not been restricted to nuns in monasteries, over the centuries, the tradition would definitely have continued in parishes today, with religious sisters also accompanying consecrated virgins.  So it is clear that the CV should not sit among the parish congregation in this particular Scenario.

3. Since she is a CV and dedicated to serve the Church with motherly love, she is also an EM. She does not have to annually renew any commitment to serve the Lay ministers have to do. Also, she is no more a Lay person. So it is clear that she should not sit among the Lay Ministers in this particular Scenario.

The CV has only two options --either to be absent from the ceremony ----or occupy the pews reserved for religious (all consecrated women are called 'religious' in several countries) who will not renew any commitment ...but will still be prayed over by the parishioners.

Questions to consider:
1. What would best express the identity and vocation of the CV ?
2. What will avoid causing misunderstanding about the Nature [ essence ] of the vocation of CV?

I think if she occupies the pews reserved for religious (consecrated persons according to the mind of the Church, she is giving public witness to her consecrated status and dedication to the service of the Church. If she does not sit among them, she will cause confusion and misunderstanding about the Nature [ essence ] of the vocation of CV to be virgin, bride, and mother.

What does Church tradition say about the witness of CV in the world ?
a. there were CV in early Church whose consecrated status was known only to the Christian community, but they observed discretion among the pagans.
b. there were CV who gave clearly visible public witness to their vocation in the early Church, even embracing martyrdom for doing so among the pagans.

To me it seems the CV in today's world is allowed to live her vocation in discretion in the secular world. But in the church community her vocation needs to be clearly, visibly public. This does not mean that every CV should wear a habit or identifying clothing, or use a title Sister. How she will give public witness, will depend on local circumstances and decided in consultation with the Diocesan bishop.

A CV in today's world is called to publicly give witness to her identity and vocation as virgin, bride, mother. However, she is NOT called to publicly give stress on  her  living or working in the world, to transform the world as a member of a Secular Institute  is called to do.

Her vocation as virgin, bride, and mother is explicit .... she is called to give public witness to this identity.  To do so is the very essence of her vocation and charism.

Her 'living in the world' is in the sense that she does not live in a monastery or convent.....she is not called to explicitly stress or focus her attention on the world in which she lives... in the sense of focusing on transforming the political economic, temporal aspects. It is not a 'necessary' aspect of her vocation.....but as a citizen with civil rights and duties she has to respond to her existential situation in the world as an evangeliser. There cannot be universal rules imposed on CV to be obligated to do so like a member of a Secular Institute would be obligated to do so.

In the Scenario described above, the CV can give publicly visible witness to her vocation simply by occupying the pews reserved for religious (consecrated persons in the mind of the Church).

She also gives public witness to the fact that she is a consecrated person but not a religious, by sitting among them but NOT wearing a habit.

1 comment:

  1. I have read the author of Stillsong hermitage blog commenting on my posts 'completely out of context' .

    It will be most charitable for readers to write to me directly by clicking the 'Email me' option on the right hand side of this page , instead of asking the author of another blog to interpret what I mean !

    I do not understand WHY the particular author habitually reads into my posts with colored glasses [Generalized prejudices about catholics in Non-western countries -indicating casteism, elitism , desire for positions in the church etc.]

    I have written in very simple words in the posted scenario about 'increased visibility' and two groups of EEM who are called on a particular occasion to renew their commitment or simply be prayed over by the local parish community.

    I suggest the author herself needs to take a lead in practicing kenotic spirituality in the way she relates with CV on the internet.


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