Saturday, 3 September 2011

Fr Z mentions Consecrated Virgins

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.


berenike said...

Yeah! Do as we say, not as we do, for we sit in the seat of, um, a chair that was lying in someone's basement.

(And newest Laodicean is firmly tied down, but he wasn't either (a Laodicean or tied down) at the time.

I heard a recording of a conference preached to catechists by the Scary Capuchin, confessor to, it seems, vast numbers of yoof and pious women and sisters and secular institutes and lay third order members. "I've got good news for you. [he shouts a lot in sermons and the like] There is no vocation to old maid hood!"

Mrs Doyle said...

Why is an unvowed life better than a vowed one Seraphic?
What about the vows made at Baptism? Don't they continue forever?

Marco said...

Hey Seraphic, can you explain what is the sensitivity about this, why you expecte commenting insults, and what the tension is in all this? Seems like there is an issue behind the issue there a conflict in trad land on it?

To the baptism vows writer Mrs Doyle - this could be true for adults baptism but not for childrens, I think; but you could repose the question as what about confirmation-adult vows and obligations.

Mrs Doyle said...

Thanks Marco - yes, definitely, change that from Baptismal vows to Confirmation vows!

Seraphic said...

Marco, as far as I know, nobody in trad land ever thinks about Consecrated Virgins at all.

I thought Mac over at "Mulier Fortis" was one, but a real C.V. (who evidently found this blog by googling "consecrated virginity") came by to complain that I was WRONG and Mac is not a REAL C.V. but just somebody who took temporary private vows of chastity.

The how-dare-you, shame-shame tone of the C.V. (instead of saying, "Oops, sorry to butt in as a newbie, but I just thought I'd mention..."), shared by many a young woman with poor communication skills who reads just one of my 3,000 posts and feels middle-aged married lady needs an anonymous kicking is why I am feeling a tad sensitive about rudeness today.

As far as I know, there is no controversy amongst Trids about Consecrated Virgins. The only person I know who has wondered why we need proto-nuns when we have developed nuns since St. Augustine or whether C.V.s really are a blast from the past or some post-Vatican II weirdness is little me.

However, I can't see any harm in resurrecting the order of Consecrated Virgins, unless they start giving themselves airs (as St. Augustine seemed to fear), and that would hurt no-one but themselves.

Meanwhile, I am too busy today to recall why exactly it is that it is better to live in a serious state-in-life commitment, not to mention grub around in Aquinas for the answer, so I am hoping someone alerts Aelianus to come in here and explain it all.

Aelianus will probably say that there is no such thing as the call to the married life, as married life is our natural end, and a vocation is something that calls us OUT of that end to embrace the Apostolic Counsels as avowed religious (monks and nuns) or priests. So either we fulfill our natural end by making vows as married people, or we answer a call to the priesthood or religious life (which arguably Consecrated Virginity is), or we just live in the state we were born to, without making a firm commitment to anything.

There is also an argument to be made about actuality beating potentiality hands down. For example, we may think it is much better to be a first year 18 year old university student, with all that potential and beauty, but actually it would be better to be a fully-fledged, middle-aged scientist who is at the height of his intellectual powers because he long ago made a decision and commitment to his field. It is also better to be a loaf of bread than a bowl of dough. "Christians, be who you are," is, I believe, another way of stating this. Another is "Be perfect" (i.e. fully actualized) "even as your heavenly Father is perfect" (i.e. pure being).

At the end of the day, and speaking as a married lady here, St. Augustine did say that virginity is better than marriage, but that (red) martyrdom is better than virginity, and it might be that some married ladies will stand firm and die for the faith while some virgins wimp out.

Seraphic said...

I don't know if this answers the question. It's not about baptism or confirmation but about making a firm and binding offering of your state-in-life. Someone nudge Aelianus.

Seraphic said...

Incidentally, I would argue that it is a much, much better idea to sit tight and wait for God's say-so than to just squinch your eyes shut and become a nun or marry just any guy off Catholic Match to be in a "superior state in life." Commitment just for commitment's sake is a BAD IDEA. Sometimes waiting for your vocation IS your vocation, if you see what I mean.

margaret said...

The variety in RC religous life is A Good Thing. You have active sisters, contemplative nuns, consecrated virgins, consecrated hermits and people in private vows. In the Orthodox church we have ONE model, essentially contemplative, and it leaves those of us called (we believe) to the religious life but not to a house in the country with goats or icon-painting, in an extremely difficult situation. Something good had to come of the 60s and I like to think for Catholics at least, this is it.

J.C. said...

Just to share another point of view, some C.V.’s do feel hurt when they’re called “single” in discussions on Catholic vocations—this can come across as making light of their spousal relationship to Christ. (It would be akin to referring to lay people as “those who haven’t made any serious commitments to the Church.”)

This doesn’t mean that C.V.’s see single-ness as bad thing, only that it can be hard for them when other Catholics would seem to overlook that fact that— like married and religious women—C.V.’s have also promised themselves completely, permanently and exclusively to another Person.

Alephine said...

I frankly have a hard time with the traditional ideas about the respective 'ranks' of various states of life. I expect they were a lot easier to take in the right way in a hierarchical society than in our competitive one. Those moderns who don't find this tradition offensive and ignore it sometimes overemphasize it (this isn't directed at anyone here, obviously). I've actually heard people maintain that a person who chooses to live a single life without vows (as opposed to being forced by circumstances to remain single) can't be a good Catholic. Which is simply, observably not true.

Seraphic said...

Quite right, Alephine. It simply isn't true. However, people who lack confidence are always going to try to take other people down a peg to make themselves look grander (a self-doubting married man will sneer at a single girl, a self-doubting priest will sneer at a married man, etc), and the way to cope is to merely smile and turn one's shoulder on their little game.

The difficulty with C.V.'s is that it is very hard for them to explain who they are and what they think they're doing. Most people (besides Muslim and other non-Christian immigrants who are clueless enough to argue that a nun's habit= misogynist, anti-social face mask)know what nuns are; CV's not so much. And CV's do sound like they are giving themselves airs when they explain that they are Mrs. Jesus, particulary in this sex-obsessed world. Goodness me, the absolute boneheadness of declaring one is "giving one's virginity to Jesus." Non-Catholics must laugh like loons when they read that kind of thing.

If I were a C.V. (which I never shall be, having said good-bye to Vity 15 years ago), I should just tell snoopy people who want to know why I am still single that "I belong to a religious order of women." And if the snoopy people said "Like nuns?" I would say, "Yes, like nuns, only we don't live together." And then if they hadn't gotten bored of the topic, or weren't obviously trying to seduce me, I would trot out St. Paul's advice to stay Single and dedicate oneself to the Lord's business. I would certainly not talk to random strangers, Catholic or not, about my virginity and being married to Jesus.

In short, a C.V. cannot really get any credit whatsoever from potential adoring admirers for her fantabulous "sacrifice" and supernatural marital status. Considering that ordinary real nuns have been considered "Brides of Christ" for centuries, "Get in line" is my attitude towards that kind of thing.

I don't really have much time for C.V.'s who get hurt because people think they are Single instead of Super-Special. Cry me a river. I have enough to do thinking about women (and, when I am in a generous mood, men) who want to be married but haven't found the right man (or woman) yet or found the right man (or woman) but then he (or she) died.

Therese Ivers, JCL said...

Well, as a CV myself, I thought I'd jump into the discussion. Politely, of course. :)

One of the reasons CVs are sensitive to being labeled "single" is because we feel we have a deeply fulfilling relationship/vocation that is little known and should be better known. Here's another way of thinking about it. Our world is quickly coming to the point where we refer to all kinds of cohabitation arrangements as "partnerships". Now, in an increasingly pagan world, it may be that married people (1 man + 1 woman united by marital vows) may have to start explaining that they aren't merely sexual "partners", that they're "married". They may even have to give an explanation for their understanding of the word "marriage". How many people can explain what marriage is? It's all about a relationship, an indissoluble bond between a man and a woman, with certain rights and responsibilities, joys and sorrows. Now, in a pagan world, they may shrug and ask why does it matter? Why not just have sex and all the rest with anyone with no commitments? I hear people ask why should they make marriage vows when it's just a piece of paper anyways. When you apply this to consecrated virginity, you have people who shrug the vocation off for reasons like - you're still just a single anyway... just make private vows... or it's just an irresponsible and less valuable vocation than religious life... When the reality goes far beyond being physically virgin and living alone for a consecrated virgin (just as marriage means much more than sharing the same roof). It's hard to explain it to those who do not understand that marriage goes beyond the visible just as consecrated virginity does.

With regard to consecrated virgins having a hard time explaining their vocations... I do have some thoughts on that. One is that it is totally about falling in love! This is a spousal vocation --- the only other vocation besides marriage in the Church which is essentially spousal. Religious life is not spousal. We fall in love with Jesus Christ. We want to be united with Jesus in his different aspects. United to the Crucified Spouse. To the joyful, celebrating at Cana Spouse. To the Spouse who had pity on the multitude and fed them. Now, almost all of the CVs I have talked to have this in common. They fell in love with Jesus Christ. It's not falling in love with religious life and then figuring out that consecrated virginity is a better fit because it's more individual and not so institutional. It's because Jesus has wooed our hearts, and we gratefully offer ours back. Here in the United States, where I'm from, people take it for granted that you get married because you're "in love". Married people don't have to justify their vocation by saying they are in love. It is weird that when we CV's do say we fell in love, we get immediately labeled with "romanticism". What on earth are we to do? Back to my first point, it's hard to show the necessity or value of marriage to those who feel that sex, companionship, and other advantages of marriage are equally obtainable outside that structure. It is extremely hard to show the necessity or value of people whose lives mirror the Church as Virgin Bride to Jesus Christ because there is no external benefit. The dignity of the vocation doesn't lie in how much you do, but in the mystery of the relationship and grace.

Therese Ivers, JCL said...

Another thought I have is that consecrated virginity is its own vocation. It's not religious life. Religious life got imposed on consecrated virgins to make it easier for the Church to handle different societal needs and because there was an attraction to formalizing a particular way of life that embodied the evangelical counsels in a regimented and vowed way. Consecrated virginity lived in the world is the earliest form of consecrated life for women, starting with Mary's consecration at the Annunciation as Pope Benedict XVI says. Although many people question why virgins would bother with this vocation if they could get into a nice community and make vows instead of "only" receiving the consecration, I would pose this question. Why don't we balk more at men becoming diocesan priests? After all, they can be religious priests and take the vows instead of "only" getting ordained. I think the answer is pretty simple... Some men God calls to be diocesan priests. They are ordained by their bishop but do not make vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience. They live alone or with other priests, manage their own finances, etc. Other men are called to be priest religious. After making their vows in community, they go on to receive the sacrament of ordination from a bishop. Some virgins God calls to be consecrated virgins living in the world. They are consecrated by their bishop but do not make vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience. They live alone or with other consecrated virgins or family... manage their own finances, etc. Other virgins God calls to be religious consecrated virgins. After making their solemn vows in community, they go on to receive the sacramental of consecration from a bishop.

Therese Ivers, JCL said...

Sorry, one last post here... Just to clarify about the marriage thing. What I was trying to express is that we Catholics do not have a problem with people getting married instead of simply shacking up. Not that not-receiving-the-consecration is the equivalent of shacking up with Jesus, it's just that Jesus has invited some to go from the ranks of part of the Bride of Christ the Church to being a Bride of Christ a CV, just as some men go from the ranks of the royal common priesthood of Catholics to the being Priest by sacrament.

Seraphic said...

Thanks for dropping by, Therese!

Mrs Doyle said...

Thanks for the thoughts Seraphic, but this (sometimes) obsession that seems to be popular with some people regarding vows, makes absolutely no sense to me whatsoever.
The way I have always understood things, is that our first vocation, is to the Christian life. As Catholics, we have our parents vow for us at (infant) baptism, and then we renew them ourselves at Confirmation.
These first vows don't have an expiry date.
Then, if you're called to change your state in life, or more accurately, 'how' you live out your Christian vocation, they might contain some other vows.
But if you don't, there's a danger that single people who take their lay Christian life seriously are looked upon as people who have either 'missed' their 'true' vocation, or are just some weirdo forgotten group on the sidelines.
I remember you saying Seraphic, somewhere re Hilary, that she doesn't define herself by her state in life - neither do I!! And I think it unhelpful when people do.
If you're married, it wasn't as though you didn't have a vocation before you got married and now you do - the same goes if you find yourself widowed - you had a vocation, now you don't.
My commitment to my Catholic faith as a daughter of Christ won't change if and when I get asked to live it in a different way - through marriage etc... (because I'm 99.9% certain that I'm not called to be a nun).
For single people, I think this takes the confusion an anxiety out of the equation, by seeing their life as first and foremost what they find themselves doing TODAY. Whatever may happen in the future is up to God - I would venture to say that 'waiting' is actually 'being' - without wanting to sound too wishy-washy and spirit of vat 2 and all the rest of it.

If God calls you to be a C.V - go for it, if it's marriage - good luck, that's why it's a sacrament because you need all the help you can get!
If it involves a vow - awesome, if not, I don't see that if the life God has you living doesn't need an additional vow after your Confirmation vows that your life cannot be as precious to him and someone who has taken extra ones.

That's my 2 cents worth anyway!

P.S - Many recognised institutes in the Church don't include vows, for example numeries in Opus Dei remain single to be more available for their apostolate, but there aren't any vows involved, it's called apostolic celibacy.
They have the same vocation as the other members, who are married, but the primary vocation is their lay Christian life, it's just the state in life which might be different.

sciencegirl said...

I think this is fascinating, but I know some religious sisters who would say their relationship with Christ is spousal, and would say that women religious in general have this relationship with Him. The women in a convent are each a Bride of Christ, just as the scattered Consecrated Virgins are. If some CVs decided to live together, pray together, and run a school, it would take nothing away from their individual relationships with Christ-- that is essentially what religious orders have done. The central life of a religious is her life with Christ, who she indeed considers her spouse.

Seraphic said...

Well, Mrs Doyle, the whole "It is I better to take state-in-life vows than to live without state-in-life vows" is no doubt more interesting to philosophers and theologians than it is helpful for ordinary Catholics just trying to live their lives. And it should never, EVER be an excuse for Catholics to lord it over each other.

The "this state is better than that state", as annoying as it is in our democratic age, is part of Christian tradition, and that's why I mentioned it. Unlike a lot of married people, I have no problem with the idea that good virgin nuns and monks get "the crown of virginity" in heaven, whatever that means. Priests are also priests in heaven (and hell), and that doesn't trouble me either. If I'm called to be ordinary when others are called to be something greater, then that's that. I was born into a comfortable, North American family in the 20th century when millions upon millions were born into horrible situations, and so I really can't complain.

I do believe that the "call to wait" is itself a call along with, yes, the everyday call to "Come, follow Me." That's my contribution to the contemporary "What's Your Vocation?" craze.

The interesting thing about extending C.V. to women outside convents is that the Church has revived this "sacred virgin" attitude of Classical Antiquity and made it available to women in the most sex-crazed, least modest societies in history, an age that thinks the word "virginity" is itself hilarious and a dirty joke.

And this came during a period when women (laudably) fought against the virgin/whore dichotomy and insisted that their honour/value/marriageability did not rest in our virginity.

So what we have is an interesting Classical View of Women and Virginity vs Post-Modern View of Women and Virginity, and when people are tone-deaf about either, it is hilarious but also a bit sad and unhelpful.

Sciencegirl, not only that, but every soul is the espoused Bride of Christ. The Church is the Bride of Christ. This spousal analogy is very old, very widespread and very far-reaching. S*t. John of the Cross and John Donne wrote of themselves as espoused brides of Christ.

And so if a C.V. (not to say that more than one C.V. would ever do this) stomped her little foot on the floor and shouted "But *I* REALLY am the Bride of Christ" she would really look a bit of a plonker.

Mrs Doyle said...

Hmmm.... interesting Seraphic.

My initial thought was perhaps that at the time when C.V and widows (as mentioned on Fr Z's blog) where big, it was because women who did not want to get married, didn't want to become a nun (if indeed they existed), but needed a certain type of protection from men who maybe wanted to keep 'calling', and for widows, the protection from being turfed out onto the street. This and the fact that both would have more time to primarily pray for the needs of the church.

I'm sure there are others who know heaps more than i do, and you're right Seraphic, the idea of a c.v is very counter-cultural in a positive way.
It just doesn't gel for me how/why it is 'better' or preferable to elevate your state in life through a vow, rather than have the idea that for all of us, whatever state in life, God should come 'numero uno', virgin or not, married or not, priest or not, nun or not.

Maybe this is further proof that the lay vocation has been totally forgotten/not well understood and replaced with a state in life craze?

Antipodean Anachronism said...

Hi, Seraphic!

As a regular reader of your blog, but never a commenter, I have to comment. I am another FSSP satellite and can confirm that consecrated virginity is talked about - very, very occasionally - in circles in Australia, where there aren't too many religious orders to join.

I think it would be an extremely hard vocation to live, as one would be so isolated.

Keep writing! :)

Seraphic said...

As I bought groceries today, I remembered that one of my major pieces of advice to Single Women is to never admit to being, or not to being, a virgin to any man but your doctor, fiance, or--if it applies--your priest/bishop.

Since we now live in a porn-saturated society, where women's magazine's in the UK have the headline "Secret Sex with My Fiance's Father" right at child's-eye level, it is incredibly imprudent to describe yourself publicly as a virgin. It's a good thing to BE, but for heaven's sake keep your mouth shut one way or the other.

This in mind, I hope the CV's have the sense to call themselves "Consecrated Women" and not think it is their job to tell complete strangers that they are, in effect, professional virgins.

Seraphic said...

Oh, Mrs Doyle, I should mention that everyone who is not a priest is a layman. Nuns are by definition laywomen. Other Consecrated Women are laymen Married women are laywomen. All monks and brothers and married men and single men who are not priests are laymen.

Almost all of us are laypeople. Not deacons-priests-bishops. But everyone else.

Next, I was going to say that the Church has always privileged permanent virginity for women and priesthood for men and then virginity for men over plain old married life. St. Paul privileged single life over married life before there even were consecrated virgins, and he didn't say nuttin about no vows neither.

What happened, however, was a radical restructuring of society in which religious life was considered superior to married life, and nobody thought very much about permanent single life, because you either got married or you became a nun/priest/monk or you died young. End of story. (In some cultures, girls who die before they are married are buried in wedding dresses.)

The contemporary "state-in-life" craze is not really a "state-in-life" craze but a post-conciliar "VOCATIONS" craze, caused by a change in thinking about vocation. Now marriage and single life are themselves described as vocations on par with the vocation to priestly or consecrated religious life. This is both helpful and unhelpful, and I've noticed that Vocations Directors say almost nothing about the Single Life. They start with the priesthood, and then they praise married life, and maybe they say a word about nuns, and then they run out of time.

I would like to say that wanting to get married and just not having met the right person yet is 100% okay. It does not make you lesser than your sister who married at 22 or your cousin who joined the Tennessee Dominicans at 20. It just makes your life harder to bear (or so it seems--getting married at 22 is no bed of roses).

Anonymous said...

Seraphic, I just came over from Father Z's blog and saw your comments on Consecrated Virginity. They were very good!

I'm 57 years old, never married, and never 'knew a man' in the Biblical sense. I found out about Consecrated Virgins in the early years of Internet surfing, when I found the site for the USACV.

I did talk once with a priest in my diocese who was the Vocation Director, but never got anywhere because he was out of the position within a few months. i also once got some info from the nun who was in the Vocation Office-never got any further than that.

i go to the EF Mass exclusively now, and I wouldn't know how to ask the priests who come to say the TLM at our little chapel about Consecrated Virginity. I'm afraid they will call it 'an invention of Vatican II'...well, I know better! I know that's not the case!

I've always been a virgin, and so if I'm considered to be 'too old' to be a religious, and I really don't want to get married. Consecrated Virginity does appeal to me, but I don't know how to go about asking about if since I would be considered 'traditionally minded'.

Barb in NY (screen name 'irishgirl')

Seraphic said...

Hi Barb! Fifty-seven doesn't sound too old for many religious orders, first of all. It might be a tad old for trad orders attracting umpteen zillion 19 year olds, so that's a bit of a snore. But maybe not! You never know. You could always ask.

A trad Mass priest would know better than me what was and was not invented at Vatican II, since trad Mass priests often point to the actual documents of Vatican II and say things like, "I don't see any life-sized liturgical puppets in here."

However, if you don't want to talk to just any old priest about it, I recommend contacting whoever the diocesan Vocations Director is now. They have to combine prudence with open-mindedness, and my guess is they first want to make sure you are a stable in a mental health kind of way.

Then there's the bishop. If I understand this correct, C.V.s put themselves under the authority and spiritual protection of their diocesan bishop. Most definitely at some part of your discernment you'd have to meet with the bishop. As a woman under authority, you might have to ask what he thinks of you going only to the EF.

Meanwhile, you might also want to check out the "Mulier Fortis" blog and email Mac to ask about her temporary vows. Mac is devoted to the EEF and is very traditional, and she gets spiritual nourishment from her temporary vows and renewing them.

I hope this is helpful. I think your wish to present your life of virginity as a special gift to God is most admirable. Also you have not been suckered or tricked or tempted out of it, and that is not just admirable, it is enviable!

Seraphic said...

Whoops. That should be the EF, not EEF, to which Mac is devoted.

By the way, there must be other CVs in New York. Perhaps someone you can contact through the website could put you in touch with them!

Anonymous said...

Hi Seraphic-thanks for responding so quickly!

I don't know my current Bishop very well-he's kind of a 'newbie' here. I've only seen him once, and that was at a 'Men in Black' soccer game last year [priests and seminarians]. I didn't go to introduce myself because I'm rather shy around 'important' people and didn't want to 'hog' his time.

Regarding contacting the Vocations Director, I emailed the new director after attending the soccer game. He never wrote back-I guess that, after finding out how old I was, he put my message in his virtual 'trash bin'....that figures...

I've also been on the Institute for Religious Life's website, and have looked at some of the 'Profiles' of communities that I would be interested in IF I had a vocation...and nearly all said that they WOULDN'T consider a late vocation post-35 or 40.

As regards my 'mental state'...I think I'm pretty stable. I'm just alone most of the time.

I do know that there are at least two CVs in New York State; I've read stories about them in my local paper. But I have no idea how to contact them.

But I get the impression at times that Consecrated Virginity is only for those women who are smart and have lots of college degrees in things like Philosophy and Theology. I'm just a 'dummy' who doesn't have a degree and can only pray my Rosary....

Sigh. It's very frustrating when you don't know what your vocation is in life....sorry for rambling on....


Seraphic said...

Dear Barb,

Here I am again. I am all about 57 year old ladies who don't know what their vocation is in life. Welcome to the maverick collection of scientists, grad students, poets, journalists, quilters, oil workers, navy gals, trads, new moms, widows, divorcees and about 15 men (including 2 priests) who are the regular readers of Seraphic Singles. Most of them (not the moms or priests, of course) are Singles Searching for their vocation, so they hear you.

Now, first of all, you don't KNOW that the Vocations Director binned your request because you are 57. You just email him again, honey. I have a theory that Vocations Directors are like rabbis on TV who shut the door on wannabe Jews until the wannabe Jews are so desperate they kick the door down. Our Lord tells stories about people who keep on hammering on doors and yelling until they get what they want.

Send an email to the Bishop while you're at it. Make it short. "Your Grace" (unless he's an Archbishop and then it's "Your Excellency"), my name is Barbara Last Name. I have been a member of your diocese for X years. Welcome to Y!" (End of first paragraph.)

"Over the past Z years, I have worked as a Q, as well as participating fully in parish life. Of late I have discerned a call to the order of Consecrated Virgins. I wish to spend my life praying for our diocese and helping the diocese in whatever way I can as a Consecrated Virgin." (end of second paragraph)

"I would very much appreciate a short interview with your Grace."--or Excellency--"My phone number is XXX-XXXX, and Father XY has agreed to be a reference. Thank you very much in advance for your time."

"Yours sincerely,
Barb Last Name"

Short and sweet and clear. Busy people love short and sweet and clear--especially in a first letter. The reference is a supremely good idea, because even though the bishop won't know who you are, he should know who the priest is.

I don't want to hear any garbage about needing a degree in Philosophy or Theology or any of that stuff. Back in Classical Times, nobody cared if or how women used their brains. I'd be surprised if everyone in St. Augustine's little proto-nun flock could read. What really counted for Consecrated Virgins was that they (A)were virgins, (B)paid attention to their bishop, (C)prayed a lot. If that was good enough for the Bishop of Hippo, that should be good enough for the Bishop of Buffalo (or wherever).

The important thing is not to get all suspicious and bitter because the Single's worst enemy is not some lackadaisical (or sh*t-testing) Vocations Director but bitterness. Bitterness is bad. Think "happy, happy, happy." It is Seraphic Single Rule #1.

Not to make all my fellow non-virgins feel bad, but I think just about every Roman Catholic theologian until 1965 would think you, as a virgin, had an ontological edge on all the non-virgins, even if you never took vows. This is not something for you to tell people, but to ponder in humility and with a sense of humour. Even if you get no recognition on earth, I would not be surprised if you didn't get some kind of special credit when you got to heaven. I am not sure WHY this is, but for about 1,965 years tradition said this is.

Alephine said...

Barb, there is a CV with a blog (Sponsa Christi) who I am pretty sure is in NY.

some guy on the street said...

Not that anyone needs my two cents, (and I'm a bit under the weather, too, so beware of rambling) on the subject of vowed vs. unvowed state in life, I thought of a silly little analogy that might help some.

In competetive snooker &c, point shots must be called, e.g. "9 in the far side pocket"; but in friendly games it isn't strictly necessary and you can decide to count flukes, but there's a clear bravado in saying it, telling your friends or opponents you're going to do some specific challenging thing, and then doing so. In a similar way, there's something clearly audacious in publically promising to God to live as exemplary of some particular supererogatory thing, and having a neighbor in authority hold that promise for you, and then living it out.

It certainly doesn't diminish ordinary virtue to see the bravado of heroic virtue, any more than it diminishes the angels that God the Son became Man. On the contrary, if ordinary virtue weren't itself laudable, it could hardly be virtuous!

Anonymous said...

Hi Seraphic,

Thanks for the 'sample' letter. But I have to admit I am not 'participating in parish life' right now. The only thing I am involved in is Perpetual Adoration. I dropped the things I was doing-lector and cantor-when I went to the EF Mass full-time. And besides that, I haven't had much contact with the priests I used to know in the past, since the priests who come to say the EF Mass I attend come from outside the diocese.

My best friend is a priest, but he lives in England (ordained by Blessed JP II in 1982). We correspond by letter and I hear from him occasionally by phone. I don't know if he would count as a 'reference' because he's not on this side of 'the pond'.

I didn't mean to 'toss any garbage' about having to have degrees in philosophy and theology to be a CV. It's just that when I read stories about them, they almost always have them, or else they're big at organizing things like new apostolates. I'm terrible at organizing and initiating things--I prefer the hidden life and being in the shadows.

I don't like pestering people too much-for example, emailing the vocation director again. If they didn't show any manners in responding to my initial message, what makes you think he will a second time? I guess I'm not like the persistent widow in the Gospel story....

Alephine-yes, that young CV with the blog is from the Archdiocese of New York; I'm from one of the Upstate NY dioceses. But she's a little too 'brainy' for a non-college-educated nobody like me. She's studying canon law, for heaven's sake!

Seraphic said...

My first thought is "canon law" big fat deal. It's canon law, not rocket science. (I think one of my readers studies rocket science.) And it doesn't exactly bring in the big bucks.

You seem to have a thing about being a "nobody" and other people being "somebodies" because they are bishops or young women with university degrees. Since it prevents you from introducing yourself to people, or sending that second email, or even contacting a nice-seeming C.V. (I had a look at her blog), it's an attitude that is biting you in the butt.

My unsolicited advice is to either get over the fact you never went to college or to go to college (at night school, or after retirement). If you don't want to go to college, revel in being a working class hero. Bishops' mums and dads usually very blue-collar themselves.

Anonymous said...

Hi Seraphic-did I say something wrong in my last entry? Did I get you at the wrong time of the morning? (I'm not being nasty here--just puzzled)

Just because I might be hesitant and shy about contacting 'important' people like my local bishop is no reason to get down on me.

I have an 'attitude that is biting [you] in the butt'? What does that mean?

I come here for a little bit of support as a middle-aged single Catholic woman, and what do I get? I get a lecture!

Not everyone's a 'go-getter'-I just prefer the hidden life, that's all. I don't like pestering people.

And I'm not doing the 'pity party routine', either!

As an old Sixties' song says, 'I am what I am, and that's all I ever can be'....and that's the truth!

I'm not angry at you, honest....I'm just bewildered...


Seraphic said...

No, indeed! I am not at all miffed. I just see that "important people" and "I'm a nobody" are themes in your comments, and I wonder what that's all about--especially in democratic America!

Instead of saying WHY you can do stuff, you keep saying why you CAN'T do stuff. The sign of having a vocation to a particularly thing or person is the feeling that you would knock down walls to do it!

I'm definitely on your side, so if it is a misplaced humility or a chip on the shoulder (hard to tell by combox!, especially when you use scare quotes) that is stopping you from getting what you want, than I'm going to critique it--not you.

Anonymous said...


We just had a long weekend in US, so it might be too late to ask. But somewhere in the comments, you mentioned "a vocation to wait".

What did you mean by that? (Am asking b/c I do not know, not to start argument).

Have recently been reading about medieval spirituality, where women would live a career "in the world" raising children, being a duchess, whatever - then sell their earthly goods, take vows, and retire to a convent to make their peace with God. Does this still exist anywhere in the world today where most of the orthodox convents want 19 year olds? Is this at all related to what you meant?

And is this what Barb above was talking about? God calls when He calls. I would like to have this as an option for later in life, but had a chance to talk to a well known order of nuns who were horrified at the thought.

Isabella of the north

Anonymous said...

Hi Seraphic-whew, I'm kind of relieved by your above post.

I went over to the 'Sponsa Christi' blog and left my email address with the young CV who runs it. I don't know if she'll get to me right away, because she's getting ready to go over to Rome and study for her canon law degree for three years....courtesy of the NY Archdiocese!

No, I don't have a chip on my shoulder-at least I don't think I do-I just feel kinda lowly approaching anyone in authority. Bishops and priests are pretty busy these days and their time is important. I don't know if they really have time for a nondescript laywoman like myself. I haven't had a spiritual director since 1994, when my last one dropped me due to more responsibilities placed on his shoulders.

I'm just 'a lady in the pew'. I don't belong to any committees or in the latest 'movement du jour'. I can't afford to go to singles conferences all over the country (seems that most of them are held west of the Mississippi anyway) or women's conferences.

It would be nice if there were events for us Catholic women who are more 'traditionally minded' and not into this Theology of the Body stuff. Mind you, I loved Blessed JP II (saw him in person four times in my life), but a lot of his writings went 'way over my head!

I can't hep it if 'I am what I am'....this is the way things are for me right now....maybe I'll hear from Jenna in NY, maybe not....she's got more important things on her mind right now....


berenike said...

St Benedict, and the desert fathers, are all about making sure you're serious about becoming a monk.

Being a lector or a cantor or whatever doesn't make anyone more involved in parish life than people who "just" go to Mass.

Consecration is a grace for the person who receives it and for the Church. The canon lawyer or whatever stuff is just a job. Doing something else would seem all the better, as you avoid all the dangers of being a "Professional Christian", especially as you wouldn't have a religious community to knock sense into you if necessary: you have normal work to do that instead!

You might like some of the stuff by Bl. Charles de Foucauld, and the way of life of the Little Sisters of Jesus - as a kind of inspiration, I mean, or encouragement. And there is something about consecration in the world that I will try and get round to translating and sticking on the blog that you might find interesting. (attempts to stick mental post-it note).

Seraphic said...

Isabella, those duchesses who retired to convents as elderly ladies brought the equivalent of millions of dollars with them when they did! Nowadays there are Catholic retirement homes, and so the principal reason widowed aristocrats went into convents is taken care of by them.

I can see why religious orders today are horrified that women would just retire to them, sans massive dowry. Dowries are out, and decades of potential of teaching/nursing/social working are in.

When I say your vocation can be to wait, I mean your vocation is to live your life as a Christian and keep your ears, eyes and heart open for a call to something else like marriage to X or joining the sisters at Y of taking vows of obedience as a consecrated virgin to bishop Z. It's just about waiting for a clear pull from God towards something rather than throwing yourself into a way of life for the sake of choosing something.

Barb, I'm glad you emailed the Sponsa Christi woman, and I hope she emails you back.

"Just a" and "non-descript" are not good way to refer to yourself, by the way! If you run yourself down like that, people will unconsciously accept you at your own valuation.

I wonder if you have notice how many times you made value judgments in your last comment. Count 'em up! You might be surprised.

Anonymous said...

Hm. As I tried to say on another occasion (it didn't work out too well, as I recall...), I believe that there were various traditions in the Church that allowed women to live consecrated lives either alone or in groups without actually taking solemn vows and joining orders. These traditions arose, mutated, disappeared, and arose again as need demanded and circumstances allowed. The home-bound consecrated virgins of the early Church, desert mothers, anchoresses, beguines, are some of the variants. Often the idea of these movements for women was to let them escape the luxury of monastic life (which did sometimes develop over time) and allow for real contemplation and asceticism. Sometimes the idea was to allow the women to take more active part in works of corporal mercy in the world than monastic life permitted. Before the introduction of simple vows, something for which Vincent de Paul had to fight hard and cannily, such groups of non-monastic sisters often ran into trouble with local authorities.

Anyway, not to run about on my hobby horse; my point is that it would not be unprecedented for an older religious form of life in the Church to be revived by a newly perceived need for it. It may be that this is one such form, reviving because people find it so hard to live in community nowadays. (Though perhaps we ought to try harder.)


berenike said...

'ere you go :)

The relevant bit is shorter than I thought, but there's some good stuff in the rest of the text. Might get round to englishing the whole thing.

Anonymous said...

Hi Seraphic- I didn't realize that I was making 'value judgments' about myself. I'm very simple-I don't 'psychoanalyze'. That was one of the things which kept me from making Final Promise in the OCDS.

I keep things very simple in my spiritual life as well.

Life is complicated enough in the temporal sphere without it getting that way in the spiritual.

Maybe it would have been better to live in medieval times as Isabella said-things were a lot less complicated and convoluted.

Ah, who knows.....


Anonymous said...


Thank you for clarifying the vocation to wait concept. This is the first I've ever heard of it. Makes sense.

The computer just ate my first attempt at a comment, but a visiting sister I talked to last week phrased it a little differently; spend more time listening to God than talking about what *I* want.

She said I've got the time to wait. And my priest told me that many orders can dispense the age "requirements" if they think you are a good fit with the community.

I've had so many people telling me to wait and pray while enjoying the world around me, that I think I will work harder on doing just that.

Thanks again,

Isabella of the north

Mac McLernon said...

Hi Seraphic!

Just thought I'd point out that my vows, although private (according to Canon Law) are definitely not temporary. I gave my life to God for keeps - and so will remain in the single state for the rest of my life.

I renew the vows on the advice of my SD, as he says (a) it's a good thing to remind people that being single for the sake of the Kingdom of God is a specific vocation, and also (b) because it's a good excuse for a party...


Anonymous said...

I'm a few years late on this topic but just found your blog. As far as traditional women wanting to be cv's well I'm one of them. I was consecrated by my Archbishop during a TLM at a TLM parish 10 years ago. I'm also a retired firefighter, ok a strange combination. I love the TLM and have permission to say the pre 1962 divine office. I'm active in the USACV, our consecrated virgin association.I do know of two other women in different parts of the country who are also interested in becoming cv's and active in TLM parishes.


Anonymous said...

As an OCV, I read the comments with interest. Nothing new. Before I became an OCV I was in an enclosed contemplative order for two years. I still consider myself a contemplative and my cloister is the world. Yes, there is freedom and autonomy being an OCV. There are risks too. In my view it requires a maturity and broad-minded outlook to live the vocation, and strength of will. Identity: most important. Unless I know myself, I'm lost to the world. For information, there have been dissenters, in equal measure priests. Now that I find interesting.

Seraphic said...

I don't usually post Anonymous comments, but CVs are still so rare and unacknowledged, that it is always a pleasant duty to read a CV point of view.