03 November 2010

Question on Consecration vs Dedication

[[Sister Laurel, you speak of consecration and being "initiated" into the consecrated state as though it means more than the person making vows or dedicating his life to God. You also refer to something "objective" happening besides what happens "subjectively." Doesn't this make of religious profession something kind of "magical"? . . .]](I will need to answer the rest at another time. My thanks for your patience.)

Yes, in recent posts on the former HIOL, and in others over the past three years I have spoken in this way. I would suggest you look at labels having to do with "dedicare vs consecrare" for instance for more detailed discussion of the topic than I will give right now. Let me summarize it this way: despite the common use of the term consecrate (for instance: "I consecrate myself to God. . .") the documents of Vatican II were very careful in distinguishing between this less accurate and the more proper usage. Therein, VII INVARIABLY used terms like dedicare or in mancipare for the HUMAN element in profession, and consecrare for the DIVINE element.

In the rite of perpetual profession there are correlative moments: 1) After the Word of God and Homily the person is called forth formally and replies "You have called me, Lord. Here I am." (or something similar), 2) she is examined on her readiness to answer/accept this call in all of it aspects with and for the whole of her life, 3) she prostrates while the entire Church in heaven and on earth are called upon to witness and participate in what is about to happen to her through the Church's mediation (the Litany of the Saints is sung here), 4) with her hands on the book of the Gospels she makes her profession of vows in the hands of a legitimate superior (for the hermit it is her Bishop), and the vow formula is placed and signed on the altar 5) the Bishop, with hands extended, prays a prayer of solemn consecration over her thus mediating God's own consecration of her, and 6) the insigniae of profession and consecration are given to her.

The entire rite is meant to mediate God's call to the person in an effective or performative way and to receive the person's vows (part of the mediation process and dynamic), but please note the central elements, ## 3,4 and 5. In the rite of profession for temporary vows there is no prostration and no prayer of consecration though there IS a prayer for God's grace in its stead. In the rite of perpetual profession this then is replaced by the "Solemn Blessing or Consecration of the Professed". (Note that consecration is only referred to here, not at the profession of vows per se.)

In the Rite of Consecration of Virgins the distinction between dedication and consecration is even clearer. Here the virgin makes no vows at all. She is asked several questions regarding readiness to follow Christ and then she is asked if she is resolved to accept solemn consecration as a bride of our Lord Jesus Christ. Note the rite in no way suggests the person is consecrating herself to God. There is a prayer and statements of resolution to follow Christ in perfect chastity. Following this there is a long prayer of "Solemn Consecration" followed by the presentation of insigniae. For diocesan hermits who choose to dedicate themselves publicly without vows, but instead make a public resolution, oath, or some other form of sacred bond, this is also received by (made in the hands of) and followed by the formal or actual consecration by their Bishop.

I don't think there is anything magical here in the sense I believe you mean it. But mysterious and awesome? Yes. The Church has discerned this vocation with the person. In light of this she acts to mediate God's own call and "setting apart" of this person as a sacred person. Only God can make sacred. Only God may consecrate. Only God may hallow. These are the verbs which are proper to God himself. When the Church acts "in his name" she acts in the power of his person and allows God to act through her. This is fundamental Catholic theology and ecclesiology. Thus, similarly to what happens in baptism, the person is objectively changed by what occurs in public perpetual profession or the consecration of a virgin. (This is why religious profession has often been treated as a new baptism or as sacramental in character.) The point though, with regard to HIOL and private vows is that only the dedicare portion of the equation occurs there, not the consecrare aspect. This certainly means the dedications and professions of evangelical counsels by HIOL members was serious and sincere. But they were not ALSO consecrations in the sense that Vatican II and the Rite of Religious Profession uses the term.