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."
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.
Before women were able to enter a religious order, many dedicated themselves as consecrated virgins. St. Agnes, St. Agatha, St. Cecilia and St. Lucy are among the early saints recognized by the Catholic Church as consecrated virgins.
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During the sixth century, the practice of consecrated virginity fell by the wayside as the popularity of monastic religious life grew, and became extremely rare the Middle Ages. However, consecrated virginity made a comeback as religious orders began to preserve the "Rite of Consecration to a Life of Virginity." Vatican II also ensured consecrated virginity's restoration in the modern world when it revised the "Rite of Consecration."
Currently in the universal Catholic Church, there are around 3,000 consecrated virgins, 235 of whom live in the United States, according to the Association of Consecrated Virgins.
Discernment of consecrated virginity
For Polito, discerning the vocation to consecrated virginity was unique because she wanted to consecrate herself to the Lord, but was not attracted to the religious life. She felt torn.
"I brought these struggles to a priest who introduced me to consecrated life in the lay state and was very convicted of its importance," Polito said.
She then spent years in prayer about consecrated life, and started to discern consecrated virginity more specifically. The two things that drew her to this vocation were the bridal and ordinary aspects of its calling.