The Vatican releases an Instruction in response to demands for guidelines to direct the actions of diocesan bishops towards women who choose to consecrate themselves whilst remaining in their normal life without wearing a veil or live in community.
Vatican City (AsiaNews) – The Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life today published the Instruction Ecclesiae Sponsae Imago in response to requests from various sources to direct the actions of diocesan bishops in their pastoral outreach.
This comes as the Church is experiencing "a real revival of the Ordo virginum", that is of that special form of consecration that allows women to remain in every day life without the obligation of having to wear the veil or living in community.
According to the document, women choosing this type of consecration "appears to be very significant, not only for the number of women involved, but also for its diffusion throughout all continents, in many countries and Dioceses and in very diverse geographic areas and cultural contexts.” Card Braz de Aviz, prefect of the Congregation, said that this wealth will be celebrated in 2010 at a great international meeting.
The text notes that the New Testament already says that “this form of evangelical life appeared in a spontaneous way in the different regions where ecclesial communities developed”. However, “Over the course of centuries, the original way of life of the Ordo virginum, with its characteristic foundations in the local ecclesial community under the guidance of the diocesan bishop, gradually disappeared”.
Pope Paul VI revived it on 31 May 1970, and, as of 2016, during the Year of Consecrated Life, more than five thousand virgins were consecrated in the world, a number in constant growth.
The document presented today cites the biblical and Christological foundation for consecrated virginity, underlining that is given freely and fits the Marian profile. Through the virginal consecration, women are constituted as "an eschatological sign of the Church, as the Bride of Christ".
For the secretary of the Congregation, Mgr José Rodríguez Carballo, " the consecrated women called in the sequela Christi to embrace his chaste, poor and obedient lifestyle, dedicate themselves to prayer, penance, works of mercy and the apostolate, each according to their own charisms, welcoming the Gospel as a fundamental rule for their life" becoming close "to the women and men of their time, especially the poor and needy.”
On the issue of the ecclesial configuration of the Ordo virginum, Mgr Carballo stressed that "the Instruction focuses on the concrete implications of diocesan rootedness. This is a special bond of love and mutual belonging: the consecrated woman acknowledges herself as the daughter of a particular Church, shares its history of holiness, and with her own gifts contributes to its edification and participates in its mission. From this perspective, in addition to the pastoral responsibility of the diocesan bishop, the emphasis is on belonging to the Ordo virginum, which, even if it is usually experienced in solitude, establishes deep relations of communion.”
“Since diocesan rootedness does not consist of a particularistic closure within the boundaries of a diocese, consecrated women can be open to the horizons of the universal mission of the Church and experience supra-diocesan forms of communion, both at the level of particular Churches, with the support of the respective Bishops’ Conferences, and at the level of the universal Church, i.e. the Holy See and in particular our dicastery." In this context, diocesan bishops are responsible for discernment, training and accompaniment of aspirants and candidates.
"The reintroduction of this form of life in the Church may seem an anachronism, but it is an act of trust in the action of the Spirit, which is leading many women to accept and interpret this vocation in the light of the path completed by the Church over the centuries, according to the needs of the current historical context: it is a true path of sanctification: fascinating and demanding."
“Preceded and sustained by the grace of God, the women who receive this consecration are called to live in obedience to the Holy Spirit, to experience the transforming energy of the Word of God that brings so many different women into a communion of sisters, and to proclaim the Gospel of salvation with their words and their lives, becoming images of the Church as the Bride, living only for Christ the Bridegroom, and thus making Him present to the world.”
“They look to Mary, perfect image of the Church, as the guiding star for their journey. The Church entrusts them to her maternal protection.”