Here you go! (Update: There's some interesting, informative stuff in his combox, so that's worth a read, too.)
I have met Consecrated Virgins, especially in theology school. They have very strong identities as Single, Catholic women. They have careers of their own, and they are very much rooted in reality. They know, for example, that they are footing their own bills for the rest of their lives. They know, too, that they will get only a very limited amount of personal support from other Consecrated Virgins, as they tend to live far apart. (They do look forward to getting together, though.) They do not live in communities of Consecrated Virgins. In this they are better off than those nuns who expected to live in community but, in fact, now live on their own or with a single roommate.
The Consecrated Virgins I have met (that actually told me they were C.V.s, mind you) seem very autonomous. There is something about one or two of them that is very reserved, almost cold. I could be wrong; I'm naturally gregarious myself, so it's hard for me to understand people who work with people and yet seem utterly remote. (I will note that one big temptation for Single people--including young male religious---is self-absorption.)
That is just an observation about one or two of the C.V.s I have met. I'm not dissing the order. It was a wonderful innovation of the early Church that was revived when 1960s people got extremely excited about what they thought they knew about the early Church.
I am not quite sure what it was about the 1960s that made people think that the experiments of antiquity, which had developed into more confident and public forms of organization, worship and spirituality over fifteen hundred years, should be brought back. Traditionalist Catholic young women I know are not as interested in becoming C.V.s as they are in traditionalist religious orders (looking, perhaps, to the High Middle Ages, not to late Antiquity, for inspiration) although, of course, most of them want to get married and have babies.
Most definitely, I can see how women who live in countries were Christians are a despised minority would do well to see how early Christian women flourished and lived their lives for Christ under similar circumstances.
Tradition is clear that a vowed way of life is better than an unvowed way of life. I was very annoyed when the folks at Laodicea (especially Aelianus) would point this out. And I still hold that the most important thing to do is to "wait for your marching orders" even if you are turning 55 and have been praying to get your marching orders since you were 15. "Vocation" means "call," and the "Caller" is Almighty God, and Almighty God is free to call if and when He likes. Your job is to keep your eyes and ears open, to use your brain and to watch your heart. Vocation does not mean taking up a woeful burden but falling in love.
Very independent women who are drawn to religious life and wish to make a commitment to lifelong virginity--but do not want to live in a formal religious community--might very well fall in love with the idea of Consecrated Virginity.
(Oh dear, this post is a bit confused. On the one hand, I want to say "Yay! Consecrated virgins! Single people living a life of holiness, having formal ties to their bishops!" On the other hand, I wonder if "bringing it back" wasn't part and parcel of the semi-mythologizing archaeologism that plagues the Church today and if what we need in a world in which people are increasingly alienated from each other is more autonomy. But if women become C.V.s, then that's great, especially if it leads to--or stems from--much reading of the Fathers of the Early Church.)
Well, read Father Z and discuss. Just remember that insulting me gets your comment wiped.