On May 14, five hundred women from around the world arrived in Rome for the beginning of the second International Congress-Pilgrimage for consecrated virgins. The consecrated women, who belong to Ordo Virginum, were addressed on Thursday morning by Benedict XVI, who encouraged them to be witnesses of the industrious hope, of joy, and of peace that comes from their total gift of self.
Although the Order of Virgins exists in the Church now, Benedict XVI noted that it wasn’t until Vatican Council II that this way of life resurfaced in the Church. "However, it has ancient roots that go back to the beginnings of evangelical life when, in an unprecedented novelty, the hearts of certain women began to open to a desire for consecrated virginity: in other words, the desire to give one's entire being to God, which had had its first extraordinary fulfillment in the Virgin of Nazareth and her 'yes'," he said.
"Your charism must reflect the intensity, but also the freshness, of its origins," said Benedict XVI noting how, "when it came into being, the charism did not involve a particular way of life. Little by little, however, it was institutionalized, finally becoming a full public and solemn consecration conferred by the bishop through an inspirational liturgical rite that made the consecrated woman 'sponsa Christi', an image of the Church as bride."
Consecrated virginity also has its own uniqueness that “is profoundly rooted in the particular Church to which you belong. ... From the diocese, with its traditions, its saints, its values, limits and difficulties, you open up to the scope of the Universal Church, sharing particularly in her liturgical prayer,” he said.
When virgins join themselves to the Universal Church in this way, the Pope explained that their “prayerful 'I' progressively broadens out, until in the prayer there is nothing more than a great 'we'. ... In your dialogue with God, open yourselves to dialogue with all creatures."
"The choice of virginal life," the Holy Father concluded, "is an allusion to the transitory nature of earthly things and an anticipation of future good. Be witnesses of vigilant and industrious hope, of joy, of the peace that belongs to those who abandon themselves to the love of God. Be present in the world, yet pilgrims on the journey to the Kingdom."
This year’s meeting of the Order of Virgins is only the second time that the women have met. The first congress was held in May of 1995 and attended by 330 consecrated virgins.