Saturday, April 30, 2011

Anybody Interested…?

I have been wondering lately, would any readers be interested in something like a closed Facebook page (or a private blog, or some kind of forum—assuming I can figure out how to set up a forum) for consecrated virgins, candidates, and women seriously discerning this vocation who feel called to embrace a more structured and demonstrably “consecrated” way of life?

Based on some of the comments I’ve received on this blog (such as the first anonymous comment on this post), as well as many of the relationships I’ve developed through email correspondence, I’ve come to believe that I am not the only one who is inclined to interpret the Rite of Consecration to a Life of Virginity in a more strict and literal fashion.

This is absolutely not intended at all as a criticism of those who hold different views than I do—the Church hasn’t yet given any authoritative clarification on many of the practical aspects of a consecrated virgin’s daily life, so I recognize that right now it’s completely legitimate to have different opinions.

However, it seems that oftentimes those of us who do feel called to live our virginal consecration in a more radical way can tend to feel sort of isolated (despite the growing influence of various consecrated virgins’ associations worldwide).

Although as consecrated virgins we all receive the same Rite of Consecration, sometimes in striving to live a distinctively “consecrated” lifestyle, at times I personally feel almost though I’m living a de facto different vocation than the virgins who feel called to live out their consecrated lives in a more “hidden” way. And I’m guessing that my experience in this is not an entirely unique one.

My hunch is that there are probably greater numbers of “radical” (or at least “radically-inclined”) consecrated virgins than most of us realize, and I think it would be great if we could connect online for the purpose of offering mutual sisterly support.

I also think that it would be good to have a place where we could have open discussions amongst ourselves about things like: how to deal with certain practical issues, how to best interpret ambiguous areas of the Rite, how we explain our vocation to family and friends, relating to the wider community as a consecrated virgin, and dealing with some of the spiritual challenges unique to consecrated virginity. My thought is that it would be very helpful to have a place where we could run problems and concerns by others who have truly “been there.”

I don’t think that everyone in this proposed Facebook group/private blog/forum would have to agree with each other on absolutely everything—after all, part of its purpose would be to learn from each other and to try to see our concerns from different angles.

But just to make sure that we were all basically on the same page, this would be a group for consecrated virgins and candidates who believe that:

1. the call to be “dedicated to the service of the Church” should mean a literal dedication to direct service of the Church under normal circumstances;

2. consecrated virgins should strive to live the evangelical counsels of poverty and obedience in at least some sense;

3. consecrated virgins are called to have at least some kind of serious and meaningful bond with the diocese for which they were consecrated;

4. while consecrated virginity involves a great deal of joy, it also necessarily entails some very real sacrifices;

5. in fulfilling their obligation of prayer, consecrated virgins should be asked to meet at least some objective standards (such as praying the Liturgy of the Hours or attending daily Mass);

6. consecrated virgins are called to be public witnesses in the Church, and therefore should be as open about their vocation and identity as priests and religious Sisters are called to be about theirs;

7. young women should not be discouraged from discerning vocations to consecrated virginity simply because of their age.

If an online group of this sort would appeal to you, let me know. Either leave a comment at the bottom of this post (anonymous comments are okay here); or send me an email: [at] gmail [dot] com (put “CV online group” in the subject line).

I would appreciate input, not only about who’s interested, but also about the best way to go about organizing this kind of online community (e.g., would it be better to start a private multi-author blog, or to start a Facebook group?).

Finally, I want to restate once again that this is NOT in any way intended as a disparagement those who generally disagree with my interpretations of the Rite of Consecration to a Life of Virginity. Nor am I trying to create factions or cut off dialogue.

I completely appreciate the fact that—as far as the ambiguous areas of this form of consecrated life are concerned—all consecrated virgins have the right and the obligation to live out their vocation according to what they in conscience determine to be the mind of the Church. If you’re a consecrated virgin who is doing her best to follow her conscience, there’s no way I could fault you, even if I might disagree with some of your interpretations on an objective intellectual level.

It’s just my thought that, since consecrated virginity lived in the world is such a challenging vocation as it is, it might be helpful if consecrated virgins who share a similar (and perhaps less widely-accepted) understanding of our vocation were able to “meet” one another.

Update 5/4/11:

Just for some clarification—I have no plans to discontinue this blog, even if my idea for an online community is successful!

Also, for the purposes of this proposed online community of consecrated virgins and discerners, the seven above-mentioned points are, for the most part, non-negotiable.

My intention in trying to start an online community is not to argue for a specific interpretation of the Rite of Consecration to a Life of Virginity, but rather to encourage mutual sisterly support among consecrated virgins who already share a similar understanding of our vocation.

If you disagree with my thoughts on the most appropriate way to live out a vocation to consecrated virginity, that’s perfectly fine! You’re still more than welcome to comment on this blog.

However, I’m envisioning the proposed online community as a place where virgins who feel called to live a more “strict” or “radical” consecrated life can share our thoughts and experiences without feeling as though we constantly need to justify our desire to live a more demonstrably “consecrated” lifestyle to other participants in the community.


Braut des Lammes said...

I didn't comment on your recent postings (although I was highly interested and read them carefully): I like the idea.

Shana said...

As a discerner with "radical inclinations" (lol) I'd be interested...

I'd be fine with either format. Facebook is kind of nice because you can kind of see who you are talking with stuff by looking at their profiles and you can start discussions as well as write notes. On the other hand a blog sounds good because you may be able to make it look more aesthetically pleasing and may lend itself better to encouraging members to write a more substantial amount of stuff and really communicate their thoughts. Yeah, I know my indecisiveness is super-helpful! :-P

Shana said...

Also, not to get off topic but seeing as how I’m an artist I’m sure you’ll pardon me. Looking at this painting a second time I noticed that one of the virgins (?) has a pet dragon on a leash! I find this hilarious. What’s the story behind that?

Anonymous said...

Dear Jenna,

After reading about your idea of an online community of those who wish to embrace a more structured and demonstrably ‘consecrated’ way of life , I would like to share a few thoughts:
• Facebook has too many security issues. No doubt this can be avoided with certain settings but one needs to be somewhat tech-savvy for that.
• The points you have mentioned e.g. the evangelical counsels of obedience and poverty, objective standards such as praying the Liturgy of the Hours or Daily Mass, seem like an imitation of Religious life – maybe a psychological need to fulfill what ‘other’s think a complete consecrated life means.

• You are very young and although very gifted in your theologizing, only years of experience will show you that Spiritual Union with Christ and a Spiritual motherhood may lead a pilgrim on this earth to go beyond the dissection of the Beatitudes into the 3 evangelical counsels . Do not be surprised if the journey leads you to recognize the face of Christ in the community of humans who have faith in Him knowingly or unknowingly , much wider than the Institutional church. As you are more deeply united with the Lord, His vision will become your own vision. Then you will realize what Church is and what ‘Dedication to the service of the Church’ can mean through the eyes of One who sees a community of the saved [ from the past, present and future]. As you embrace humanity beyond the Institutional church, you will give birth to believers among them and be a spiritual mother. That is Christ’s vision for His Spouse- for you Jenna. It is one thing to serve the Institutional Church- most people whom you have not given birth to- but are trying to form them as a Catechist- and another thing to serve the world where you give birth to believers-some of whom may decide to join the institutional church.

Both ways are possible when you interpret ‘Dedication to the service of the church’- STRICTLY and in many different ways Christ calls each consecrated virgin.

• Regarding a meaningful bond with the diocese / local church – it makes sense.

• Consecrated virginity entails some very real sacrifice . Just as Jesus’ sacrifice – the paschal mystery is proclaimed inside the church building everyday, this sacrifice [kenosis]has to be lived in the life of every consecrated virgin daily – even if she does not ‘ attend’ mass everyday. I think this is something specific to the charism of an individual CV which is not the charism of an individual religious.
• This will automatically mean living the evangelical counsels without having to dissect them into Obedience, Poverty, Chastity. As one loves Christ more and more, the love of all other things becomes less and less.
• The church was structured/ institutionalized only a few centuries after its early beginnings. The charism of consecrated virginity is better interpreted in the light of the Early Christian community.

• It makes sense that consecrated virgins should give public witness to their vocation in the Institutional church like priests and religious sisters are called to give regarding their vocations. OCV should not be confused with secular institutes.

• Young women should not be discouraged from the vocation of CV because of their age ? – This is an Ideal I respect if someone is so keen to be consecrated when very young. But from my practical experience on this subject, I do not see the prudence . You will know why I’m saying this- only when you have lived it for another decade or two.

Jenna, I’m not at all discouraging you from the idea, do work on it. You are close to my heart and in my prayers. I have gone through this way before – only to see my vision widen and deepen- but not without pain . Believe me, I had to die ! I love you for your courage.

This time I wrote of the spiritual dimension .I'm open to discussing from your point of view.

Anonymous said...

To Anonymous:
I know we are going a bit off topic, and I'm contributing to that, but I wanted to comment on your comment.
I am a religious not a Consecrated Virgin. With all due respect, I disagree with your "when you get older..." approach to the discussion. I personally am young, but have already had experiences that most religious my age havn't had, and many will never have. I don't deny that as I grow, I will change and continue to mature. I have heard many times things like "when you are 30 you will understand this" or "you will have such-and-such kind of trial". Our life, as humans, as Christians and as consecrated persons, is a constant "becoming", but is also a consistant development of a certain history. For example, when I was a teenager I had a very rigid and formalistic view on life (life in general, religious life, life in the Church, Liturgical life...), in my experience so far, those views have been shaken and the rigidity and formalism have disappeared. Some of my views have changed, but all is part of an ongoing development of who I am effectively. Many of my strongest ideals are the same, though many of my reasons have changed as well as my ways of persuing them. "Embracing humanity outside of the institutional Church" I'm sure does not mean abandoning all structured ideas. I personally have come to dispise structures - and above all - to despise the false security that can be sought in them. Still, I keep coming back to where I started instead now with freedom and conviction, open-mindedness and detachment, but also through much suffering. I decided to comment simply because I simply inclined to disagree with a mentality that says "you are going to grow like this", because it is not necessarily true. Spiritual motherhood has nothing to do with structures, I totally agree with you on that, it has to do with love but also - I think you will agree - with complete fedelity to oneself (who I am, before God), and ones conscience (how I, before God, feel called to live). On the individual points, it's not my place to comment, but in the light of what I have said, I think that there is plenty of room to disagree on the issues, but that it is incorrect to blame differences of opinions and views on age differences. Your experience brings you to where you are, my experience brings me to where I am, and so on, that's the beauty of it... it's also a specific blessing/challenge that you as consecrated virgins have, namely the freedom to maintain your own opinions and form your own ideals with regard to your vocation.


Anonymous said...

I really like your blog - I hope that you don't give up your blog and go to Facebook. Facebook does still have many security issues - I have friends that have had their Facebook accounts "hacked" into and it was very ugly.

I think you have a wonderful discussion going on here with your blog - continue to craft excellent questions.

Braut des Lammes said...

Anonymous #1: Just shortly, as this is not my blog: the Rite of Consecration of Virgins includes the solemn handing over of the Book of Hours to the Virgin with the request: pray without ceasing… This is far from an "imitation of religious life". Moreover, at least some of the Bishop's Conferences have explicitely stated their wish for the CVs to attend Holy Mass daily. Sponsa Christi is just repeating what the Holy Church has been said before.

As for the technical respect: Although I have only recently joined FB, I'd prefer a closed FB group. German catholic bloggers have one and it seems to work very well.

Anonymous said...

Dear Friends,

Thanks for your responses.I like these discussions.They make us think.

Personally I think it is helpful to be prudent with the consecration of very young women.I know the Lord can call anyone at any age and spiritual experience and maturity can come to very young candidates too.

My concern is a practical point. Religious life can be dispensed for serious reasons- however the church has not yet given a formal definition regarding such possibility for CVs. The contemporary world has its own challenges with greater possibility of someone landing in a wrong vocational choice.

Of course very young women can be consecrated but I see this more as an exception inspite of the possibility that younger candidates have better chances of having the right motivation for becoming CVs.Then the gift of ones life lived as a virgin for the love of Jesus would be more meaningful and demanding.

I think consecrated virginity and religious life do not share the same paradigm. The differences in the vocations may be more than the similarities. To live a distinctly 'consecrated'lifestyle perhaps CVs could focus on deepening what is original to the charism of OCV -instead of trying to emphasize what is similar to religious life.

It is legitimate for CVs to live the vocation giving public witness-how this can be done without imitating religious is the challenge.

Perhaps most CVs around the world are ex-religious or women who wanted 'some' rite of profession or consecration for women living in the world. They saw the rite of consecration to a life of virginity -not as a 'vocation' but as a 'rite'or 'formula' to fulfill the need of a ceremony.

Shana said...

Dear Anonymous:

Could you elaborate on the following:

I think consecrated virginity and religious life do not share the same paradigm. The differences in the vocations may be more than the similarities. To live a distinctly 'consecrated'lifestyle perhaps CVs could focus on deepening what is original to the charism of OCV -instead of trying to emphasize what is similar to religious life.

It is legitimate for CVs to live the vocation giving public witness-how this can be done without imitating religious is the challenge.

Braut des Lammes said...

@Shana: regarding your question of the pet dragon: it's one of the socalled Virgines capitales, St. Margaret of Antioch (Margaret the Virgin). One of the miraculous incidents report her being swallowed by Satan in the shape of a dragon, from which she escaped alive, as the cross she carried irritated the dragon's innards. The dragon is her iconographic attribute, see for instance:

Anonymous said...

Dear Shana,

In response to your request that I should elaborate on my comment, I need some time. Shall be grateful if readers can brain-storm on the following points which might help me:
1] What are the similarities between Consecrated virginity and Religious life.
2] What is specific to the vocation of the Individual consecrated virgin and the Individual Religious man or woman.
3] What is specific to the charism of the Order of Consecrated virgins and specific to Apostolic Religious life in general.

Anonymous said...

Hello Jenna,

If you do decide to have a closed blog or Facebook account just for CV's who share your ideas about serving the Church, etc, I hope you will also still maintain this open blog available to everyone. I'd miss reading your postings!

Hee hee, Shana thanks for pointing out the lady with the pet dragon! How funny! Yes, I want to hear the story about this too!


Frannie said...

I would love some place like that. Either format, as long as you kept the blog would be fine for me :D

Shana said...

Dear Anonymous:

Yes, I think this would be a good discussion as I think it could be elucidating for people coming from all sorts of different angles.


I wanted to respond to the following that you wrote in a previous post:

As you embrace humanity beyond the Institutional church, you will give birth to believers among them and be a spiritual mother. That is Christ’s vision for His Spouse- for you Jenna. It is one thing to serve the Institutional Church- most people whom you have not given birth to- but are trying to form them as a Catechist- and another thing to serve the world where you give birth to believers-some of whom may decide to join the institutional church

I can see what you are getting at here but I really think that people who are baptized Catholics, many of which are just nominally or culturally Catholic, need to be “given birth to” spiritually as well as people outside of the Church. What Paul writes to the Galatians very much comes to mind:

My children, for whom I am again in labor until Christ be formed in you! (Galatians 4: 19)

If Paul—who is not a woman—can validly use this language...surely a Catechist who is a woman would be able to use it! I’d say that Jenna has a real role to “give birth to” or “labor until” Christ be formed in the children she catechizes.

I’m young and went through a religious ed program and I can say that it seems as if the majority of, or a least a great many, of my peers in that program either never really were “with” Christ or have fallen away or at least don’t really seem to take their faith that seriously. I hear statistically most college students fall away from the Church in their college years. Heck, I didn’t really come to know Christ personally in a deep way until I was 18. As was and am still now I feel in need of people to play a role of spiritual motherhood in my life, to “labor until” Christ be formed in me more completely; to “give birth” to Christ in me!

Dear Other Anonymous:

Braut des Lammes gave a good response about the pet dragon that I'd invite you to check out.

P.S. Of course we love the blog and the arena for open discussion of these very important issues it provides, keep the blog!

Anna J said...

Dear Jenna,

I think that this is a fantastic idea. Even though I disagree as regards the scope of what is meant by 'dedication to the service of the Church' I think it is marvellous that you are indeed delving into the diocesan dimension to things. And I think it is marvellous that you think of getting together with the like-minded. You have been very generous and courageous in pursuing the truth in this blog, but I am also concerned for you to be surrounded by encouragement and not lay yourself too open to discouragement in these tender, early years of your consecration.

I will pray for the success of this venture.

God bless

Anonymous said...

Dear Shana,
What you share of your experience seems very appropriate for countries already in or moving into a Post-Christian era . True,in such scenario the formation of the baptised who do not have an experience of Christ would be like laboring to give birth to the face of Christ in them. Thanks !

N-R said...

Dear Shana,

Here’s why I think cons virginity and religious life are on different paradigms. The differences in the vocations seem more than the similarities.

Apostolic Religious life characteristics:
1. Inspired from Buddhist and other traditions.
2. Men and Women can embrace religious life.
3. Fully developed during middle ages
4. Ascetic and Institutional rather than charismatic and movement
5. Emphasis on self giving ,Religious consecrate themselves.
6. Community life among religious.
7. Evangelical counsels mainly based on the beatitudes : Obedience ,Poverty, Chastity etc.[emphasis on Asceticism].
8. Religious men and women may symbolize the Bride of Christ only as a community [which itself is a symbol of the Church community which is the Bride of Christ.].The Spousal bond is communal. I think an individual religious is a bride of Christ to the same degree as any baptized.lay person. He or she may ‘privately’ develop this relationship with Christ as several religious do so.That’s why some religious receive the consecration of virgins several years after final profession.
9. The essence of apostolic religious life varies in kind and degrees among various institutes.
10. Separation from the world in varying degrees.
11. Service of the church or the world based on their institutional charisms . Religious institutes were founded by persons inspired usually by a need in society or by some dimension of Christ and His teachings as mentioned in scriptures.
12. Religious can be dispensed from their vows for serious reasons.

Consecrated virginity characteristics:
1. Could have been derived from Roman traditions of vestal virgins.
2. Only Women can be in the order of consecrated virgins.
3. Fully developed by the 4th century when the church was institutionalized.[In today’s world it is still developing and finding its identity].
4. Emphasis on the Charismatic and movement dimension of the early church which gradually got institutionalized.
5. Virgins answer God’s call and are consecrated at the hands of the Bishop through a prayer which is a constitutive sacramental.
6. Diocesan spirituality : the local church is her community.
7. Based on the Paschal mystery : Obedience, self-emptying[kenosis] as on the cross, virginity or espousal with Christ ,
8. An individual consecrated virgin is a woman who is spiritually and legally espoused to Christ through a public rite. The spousal bond is not just symbolic.
9. The essence of consecrated virginity is the call to be a virgin, a bride, a mother.
10. In the world but not of the world . In-the –world is also a relative term in the sense of not living in a monastery.
11. Dedication to the service of the church based on the charisms of each individual and the needs of the local church- with emphasis on ‘spiritual motherhood’ which reaches out for the spiritual as well as other dimensions of human needs.When Jesus’ heart was pierced-blood and water flowed symbolizing the sacraments of baptism and eucharist – the birth of the Bride of Christ-the Church. Consecrated virginity was founded on the Cross.
12. As yet the church does not have a formal definition regarding dispensation from obligations or annulment of consecration of virgins.

I could go on writing the differences….. . Shall answer your remaining queries in separate comments.


Anonymous said...

Rallegrati ed esulta my dear sister! I come back from Rome for the beatification and meeting vatican blog. I wrote about them. Please, I ask if can you help me to search another blogs or webpage about consecrate virgins in Asia, America, Oceania and Africa. Thanks for all. God bless.


Black Sheep said...

I just wanted to say that there is at least one person here who is not a consecrated virgin, a discerner, or even a practising Catholic, and yet has your blog on the list of favourite pages - just because it is interesting, informative, and beautifully written. I do not always agree with you, but your blog makes me reconsider many things, as it conveys the vision of "radical" Catholicism which is positive and intellectual at the same time. I wish you success with your FB community-in-spe, but I venture to hope that you will still find time for blogging!