Because of recent news articles, I would like to explain the four types of consecrated life in the Catholic Church.
Perhaps the most famous man who is consecrated, that is, one who took private vows, is Michael Voris. Some consecrated people make public vows, as I did, in front of a Latin Mass priest, and a small congregation after Latin Mass one day. If my bishop had been interested, as I approach him and he was not, he could have witnessed the vows rather than the priest, who was open to this call.
In order to explain the Church’s official stand on Consecrated life, let me begin with the 4th Century custom of women, especially, giving themselves to the service of the Church and making vows. This happen years and years before organised convents and monasteries, but had roots in those hermits and anchorites, another “order” in the Church, who made vows. Although consecrated people now are mostly not hermits and anchorites, but in the world, there are thousands living a simple lifestyle, praying, and serving the Church in varied ways. The 1983 Code of Canon Law reiterated the Order of Virgins, as did St. John Paul II in his Apostolic Exhortation, Vita Consecrata, which I examined on my blog years ago. The Church recognises that such people, like the Order of Consecrated Virgins, and others, are a quiet sign of contradiction in the world. We serve the Church in many ways, especially with intercessory prayer, meditation, and contemplation (not the same thing—see may old blog for the differences).
A consecrated person is no longer a lay person, but a religious, which is the state of one who takes vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience.
The four “orders” are to date, with one officially recognised by the Vatican, which accepts the others without a particular rule, is the Order of Consecrated Virgins. This order has at least 5,000 virgins associated with it. These women are virgins, under the 1970 Ordo Consecrationis Virginum.
Recently, the Pope may a statement, not an official document, stating that Consecrated Virgins need not be virgins. He is contradicting previous popes, and seems a bit confused as to the meaning of the Order and rule. A virgin is a virgin, period. Now, I know that some women who were abused as children have applied to the Order and been accepted. That abuse does not constitute a purposeful lack of virginity, or a body “kept in perfect continence,” as the document of 1970 deprees. This confusion needs to be clarified soon. The consecrated virgin becomes a sacred person, as do all those who are under vows. These women make the vows under a bishop, who is open to this. Some are not.
The second group of consecrated women, which to this date, do not have official recognition or a rule by the Church, is the order of Widows. Again, this order dates back to the 4th century, at least. Widows, under this rule, would have to truly be a spouse who has lost her husband though death. This order was popular in the early days of the Church and useful for ministries. This order also supplied guidelines and rules for women, a discipline of life.
The third group are consecrated women, like myself, having been married, perhaps divorced and annulled, free to make vows, but not widows or virgins. Again, there are many such women who are living in the world, and some as hermits or anchorites. We serve in various ways, such as being active members of Third Orders or Auxiliaries to orders.
The fourth groups is that of consecrated men, who make, again, either public or private vows. Vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience to Holy Mother Church, are more difficult. Living in the world and living true poverty, chastity, and obedience, without the support of a religious order, or meeting only now and then with other consecrated women or men, can be trying. However, suffering is part of this walk of being “sacred” in the world.
Happily, the future of the Church looks brighter when one realises that there are cells of consecrated people in the world. During the coming persecution, when priests and nuns will be imprisoned, exiled, martyred, consecrated persons in the world will carry on some of the work of the religious, such as Catholic teaching, praying, and so on.
I put out a challenged to any reader thinking of joining us. Please respond to God’s call. God will take you more seriously in your walk with Him, when you are under vows.
JMJ, pray for us.
Good is good,