The 40-year-old Virgin

Fr. Joel Church meets World, The Loving Life

I recently witnessed one of the strangest and most counter-cultural ceremonies possible. On Saturday, June 26 at the Diocesan Cathedral, our Bishop received and blessed a woman as a consecrated virgin. This means that she has never been with a man in a physically intimate way, and she never intends to be with a man either. Rather than choosing marriage, she is giving her life to God as though He were her spouse. You might want to read that a second time in order to digest it.

The ceremony took place in a church that was nearly full. She made several promises, received the prayer of consecration, and then received the symbols of her consecration – a veil, a ring, and a prayer book. This woman is the first consecrated virgin for our diocese, but three other virgins had come from other dioceses to support her. Later I sat at the lunch table with this newly consecrated virgin and her three consecrated-virgin friends, ranging in age from about 30 to about 60. It felt like Sex and the City from an alternate universe. These women were comfortable in their own skins and confident with men. Unlike the popular show, where women agonize over relationships that never satisfy, and then solve their problems by going shopping, these virgins seemed more than satisfied.

Now most people would assume that there is something wrong with these women. Maybe they just hate men. Or maybe they are repressed to the point of fearing sex, and the repressive Catholic Church is coddling them. Or maybe since they have never tried it, they don’t know what they are missing. Or maybe, just maybe, what is wrong is people assuming that sex will satisfy. No matter how many partners and positions they try, something always seems to be missing. Maybe what they are really looking for is love, and when they can’t find it, they settle for sex instead. These consecrated virgins have found Someone who loves them unconditionally and who will never leave them. The new virgin said she was so happy living for Christ, she couldn’t imagine being happier. Maybe what’s wrong is that the rest of the world hasn’t discovered Him yet.

"Copyright Rick Evans | The Compass" used without permission

Bishop presides at rite leading Farrell to life of prayer as consecrated virgin (picture by Rick Evans)

The Rite of Consecration

The virgin kneels down before the Bishop, places her hands between the Bishop’s and says:

Father, receive my resolution to follow Christ in a life of perfect chastity which, with God’s help, I here profess before you and God’s holy people.

Then the Bishop prays over the virgin using the following words (I have added my own comments)

Loving Father,
chaste bodies are your temple;
you delight in sinless hearts.
Our nature was corrupted
when the devil deceived our first parents,
but you have restored it in Christ.
He is your Word, through whom all things were made.
He has made out nature whole again,
and made it possible for mortal people to reflect the life of angels.

The Church does not see sex as evil. Sin is evil. Sex is such a beautiful gift from God, but precisely because it is so good, it can be corrupted in many terrible ways. Chastity makes sure to keep sex, or what we should call nuptial love, free from sin so that it can truly shine as something beautiful.

look with favor an your handmaids.
They place in your hands their resolve to live in chastity,
You inspire them to take this vow;
now they give you their hearts.
Only you can kindle this flame of love, and feed its brightness,
giving strength and perseverance to our will.
Without you our flesh is weak,
bound by the law of nature,
free with false freedom,
imprisoned by habit,
softened by the spirit of the age.

These women do not give up sex because it is evil or because they are afraid of it. They have been invited into a nuptial relationship with Jesus himself.

You have poured out your grace upon all peoples.
You have adopted as heirs of the new covenant
sons and daughters from every nation under heaven,
countless as the stars.
Your children are born, not of human birth,
nor of man’s desire, but of your Spirit.
Among your many gifts
you give to some the grace of virginity.
Yet the honor of marriage is in no way lessened.
As it was in the beginning,
your first blessing still remains upon this holy union.
Yet your loving wisdom chooses those
who make sacrifice of marriage
for the sake of the love of which it is the sign.
They renounce the joys of human marriage,
but cherish all that it foreshadows.

God’s first gift to man was woman, and the first Sacrament was marriage, one of the few things to survive the fall. Through marriage, a couple experiences that joy that Adam had when he first saw Eve and exclaimed, “This one at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh” (Gen. 2:23). Yet God has prepared us all for something greater — union with Him in heaven. These women live that greater destiny here and now. (see Mathew 19:12)

Those who choose chastity have looked upon the face of Christ,
its origin and inspiration.
They give themselves wholly to Christ,
the Son of the ever-virgin Mary,
and the heavenly Bridegroom of those
who in his honor dedicate themselves to lasting virginity.

These women have not chosen to give up love. They have chosen no earthly man for the sake of Jesus’ love. It is ultimately a vocation of love. And the love starts with God; it is Jesus’ invitation to an exclusive relationship that makes consecrated virginity possible.

protect those who seek your help.
They desire to be strengthened by your blessing and consecration.
Defend them from the cunning and deceit of the enemy.
Keep them vigilant and on their guard;
may nothing tarnish the glory of perfect virginity,
or the vocation of purity which is shared by those who are married.

Marriage and consecrated virginity support and encourage each other. Virginity is not lived for itself.; it is not a woman saying, “I got my way to be happy.” No, they live to encourage the rest of us to trust in God and strive for our goal of union with God. This is what makes it so different from a middle-aged Sex-and-the-City mentality: these women are not looking to make themselves happy but to give themselves away to Someone who will cherish the gift and receive it. In becoming a gift, they discover happiness.

Through the gift of your Spirit, Lord,
give them modesty with right judgment,
kindness with true wisdom,
gentleness with strength of character,
freedom with the grace of chastity.
Give them the warmth of love,
to love you above all others.
Make their lives deserve our praise,
without seeking to be praised.
May they give you glory
by holiness of action and purity of heart.
May they love you and fear you;
may they love you and serve you.

Be yourself their glory, their joy, their whole desire.
Be their comfort in sorrow, their wisdom in perplexity,
their protection in the midst of injustice,
their patience in adversity,
their riches in poverty,
their food in fasting,
their remedy in time of sickness.
They have chosen you above all things;
may they find all things in possessing you.

These virgins have given themselves completely to Christ. Jesus said, “Give, and gifts will be given to you” (Luke 6:38) and “Everyone who has given up houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands for the sake of my name will receive a hundred times more, and will inherit eternal life” (Mat. 19:29). Yes, they have given up much, but look at all they have gained!

We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.
All: Amen.

For more information see the article: Bishop presides at rite leading Farrell to life of prayer as consecrated virgin

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