In the Catholic Church a consecrated virgin is a woman who has dedicated herself to a life of virginity or perpetual chastity in the service of God and the Church in a form that is recognised by the Church. Men who have dedicated their virginity or perpetual chastity to God in this way tend to be referred to in Christian writings as "ascetics". Consecrated Virgins must not be confused with Consecrated hermits and anchorites, who have a rather different vocation.
A life of virginity for the sake of Christ and his Church is an ancient form of Christian religious living already mentioned in the New Testament. It preceded the foundation of religious orders. Hence, traditionally a Christian virgin was not a member of a religious community and this continues to be the norm (as in the case of Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha). For a while, after the Middle Ages the rite fell out of practice, but it was restored by Pope Paul VI in 1970.
As a form of Consecrated Life in the Church today
Since the Second Vatican Council, canon 604 of the Code of Canon Law 1983 is normative for those who feel a vocation to consecrate their virginity to God and to do so in a form recognised by the Church but without feeling called to join a religious community.
§1. Similar to these forms of consecrated life is the order of virgins, who, committed to the holy plan of following Christ more closely, are consecrated to God by the diocesan bishop according to the approved liturgical rite, are betrothed mystically to Christ, the Son of God, and are dedicated to the service of the Church.
§2. In order to observe their commitment more faithfully and to perform by mutual support service to the Church which is in harmony with their state these virgins can form themselves into associations.
The approved liturgical rite whereby the respective diocesan bishop consecrates the candidate by the solemn rite Consecratio Virginium.
Consecrated Virgins are not members of the hierarchy. They are not maintained by the Church but have to provide for their own upkeep.
In religious communities today
There are also individual religious sisters, that is to say, members of religious communities, who have taken a vow of virginity in addition to the religious vows they have already taken like all the other sisters of their order. An example is Wendy Beckett, known as "Sister Wendy," of the order of Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur, who became a consecrated virgin in 1970.
Noted Christian Virgins
- Agnes of Rome
- Agatha of Sicily
- Catherine of Siena
- Euphemia of Constantinople
- Lucy of Syracuse
- Lucy Yi Zhenmei, 19th century Chinese martyr
- Narcisa de Jesús Martillo
- Syncletica of Alexandria
- ↑ For the differences between these vocations see the article on Hermits and the definition of the eremitic/anchoritic vocation in canon 603 of The Code of Canon Law 1983, whilst for the canonical definition of the vocation of the Consecrated Virgins see canon 604 of The Code of Canon Law 1983. The two major differences according to church law are that the vocation of the Consecrated Virgins – unlike that of the Consecrated Hermits – is not characterized by the Old Testament Desert Theology, and that the Consecrated Virgins – again unlike the Consecrated Hermits – do not publicly profess the Evangelical Counsels, confirmed by a vow or other sacred bond, in the hands of the diocesan bishop, which means that the Consecrated Virgins do not bind themselves according to church law to observe evangelical poverty and obedience, and therefore also do not incur the consequences for not observing evangelical poverty and obedience. Formally the difference is that the Consecrated Virgins are consecrated by the diocesan bishop according to the approved liturgical rite, whereas the Consecrated Hermits consecrate themselves through publicly professing the three evangelical counsels, confirmed by a vow or other sacred bond, in the hands of their diocesan bishop.
- ↑ denoted by the Greek terms parthenos ("virgin") and agamos ("unmarried"), e.g. hē gunē hē agamos kai hē parthenos … ("the unmarried woman and the virgin [cares for the things of the Lord, how to be holy in body and spirit]"), thugateres tessares parthenoi prophēteuousai ("four unmarried daughters who prophesied"). Reference is made also to "the unmarried" in the masculine, ho agamos, tois agamois, e.g. ,
Present situation in the Catholic Church
- Text of canon 604 of The Code of Canon Law (1983, Latin edition) re: Virgins as members of the Consecrated Life in the Catholic Church
- Text of canon 604 of The Code of Canon Law (1983, English translation) re: Virgins as members of the Consecrated Life in the Catholic Church
- Catechism of the Catholic Church (1993) §922 "Consecrated Virgins and Widows"
- Pope John Paul II, "Vita Consecrata" (1996), §7 re: Virgins
- Pope Benedict XVI, "Consecrated virginity: new life for an ancient charism" (15 May 2008)
- Chart showing the place of the Consecrated Virgins (canon 604) among the People of God
- Consecrated Virgins in the Catholic Church
- MSNBC Woman joins small club of consecrated virgins
- JSONLINE Not a nun, but wed to Christ virgins
- Click2Houston story: Local Catholic Diocese Performs Consecrated Virgin Ritual: 150 Consecrated Virgins Live In U.S.and about 100 live in the UK