What is a consecrated virgin?
A consecrated virgin is a never-married woman who dedicates her perpetual virginity to God and is set aside as a sacred person who belongs to Christ in the Catholic Church.
According to the Code of Canon Law, women who are seeking out this particular vocation must be consecrated to God through the diocesan bishop, according to the rite approved by the Church. Upon consecration, they are betrothed mystically to Christ and are dedicated to the service of the Church, while remaining in a public state of life. Consecrated virgins live individually and receive direction from the diocesan bishop. Their consecration and life of perpetual virginity is permanent.
Their call to a secular state of life means that consecrated virgins have jobs and lives much like that of the average person. They provide for their own needs and the local diocese is not financially responsible for them.
“My life looks pretty ordinary. I have a full-time job and volunteer with a few things,” Polito said.
“I do the same things everyone else does in Colorado – enjoy the beautiful mountains and really good beer, spend time with friends and family and try really hard to be holy,” she continued.
As a professor, Dr. Smith said she spends most of her days “preparing for the classes I teach and doing the work involved for all the invitations I accept.” She also tries to speak at local engagements and is involved with a bible study group.
Unlike most religious orders, consecrated virgins do not have habits or use the title “Sister.” They remain in their own diocese to serve the local Church community under the authority of the bishop.
A consecrated virgin also has a particular focus on prayer, which is usually lived out through Mass, Liturgy of the Hours, spiritual reading and personal prayer.
“My day begins and ends with prayer, specifically for the Church of Denver – her bishops, priests and people – that is the mission of a consecrated virgin,” Polito said.
Smith also said that she prays the Divine Office and engages “in meditative prayer and spiritual reading.”
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One of the primary goals of consecrated virgins is to point towards a bigger reality: Christ is the ultimate fulfillment. As such, consecrated virgins live out their daily lives as witnesses of this radical love of Christ – not as single persons, but as spouses of Christ.
Illustrating this point, the consecration ceremony has some similarities to a wedding, with the woman who is entering the vocation wearing a wedding dress and receiving a ring.
“Being consecrated and being single are in opposition by their definition,” Polito said.
“I am a bride of Christ, I am wed to Him. I am not consecrated so I can live the free, single life and do whatever I want. I am consecrated so I am completely available to the desires and work of my spouse.”
History of consecrated virginity
References of consecrated virginity can be found in sections of the New Testament, such as Matthew 19:12 and 1 Corinthians 7:25-40. Early church fathers, such as St. Ignatius of Antioch, have also mentioned consecrated virgins as a distinct group within the Catholic Church, dating back to 110 A.D.