17 May 2013

Followup on Legitimate Developments of the Vocation to Consecrated Virginity

[[Dear Sister O'Neal, thank you for answering my last question. You have written that one indication the vocation to consecrated virginity lived in the world is secular is that the Church does not make candidates for the consecration to live anything other than secular lives as they discern or prepare for consecration. Some are arguing that the vocation is growing into a kind of maturity and that by requiring changes in this they are just arguing for a more radical form of the life --- something that should have been required all along. I think someone asked you if some CV's wanted to live a more radical form of the life then why shouldn't they be able to? Could you comment on these two things together?]]

Thanks for your questions. The post you are referring to where someone asked me about developments of the life is either  Notes From Stillsong Hermitage: Radical Secularity?, or Notes From Stillsong Hermitage: Minimized Secularity, A Legitimate Development? In those I think I answer the question about legitimate developments and non-legitimate developments as well as what constitutes radicality in ANY vocation. What is critical to remember is first, that there have, in the main, been two forms of the vocation, one religious and one secular. The secular form (which was the initial form of the vocation) died out in the 12th Century and was wholly supplanted by the religious (cloistered monastic) form of the life. What canon 604 does is recover a valuable and consecrated secular vocation that had been entirely lost nine centuries ago. Secondly, we must remember that all vocations call one to follow Christ with one's whole self or wholeheartedly. Religious poverty is not necessarily more radical than the poverty embraced by a parent who sacrifices to give her child a college education or the advantages which lead to that, for instance.  These are different kinds of poverty, different expressions of it, but one is not necessarily more radical than the other. Other posts that speak to the radical nature of this secular vocation are, Notes From Stillsong Hermitage: Followup to "Radical Secularity?", and Notes From Stillsong Hermitage: Eschatological Secularity and CV's living in the World.

Given these and other posts I think we have to say that Canon 604 calls for a radical secularity lived in whole-hearted discipleship to Christ. As I noted in earlier posts, a vocation does not become more radical by changing its very nature. Thus, a more radical vocation to eschatological secularity does not become more radical by diminishing the element of secularity. Only by making it a more whole-hearted response to the One who issues the call does it become more radical. Both elements, the eschatological and the secular must be deepened and made whole-hearted in this response. Thus, one's life of prayer needs to grow and mature so that God is more and more sovereign in one's life, but so also does one's life of service to others --- something which is extended at least in part by one's life amongst and work with them. Also, in regard to c 604 we have to be very cautious in suggesting that some CV's,  by the very fact that they lived secular vocations, have not been living radically enough, especially if that suggestion is linked to notions that "younger CV's" are recovering the radical nature of the vocation while "older vocations" failed to live it. (I mention this because I have heard this argument made by some CV's and it sounds like it may be implicit in your question. My apologies if it is not.) This is simply not true and the Church's own documents and liturgy stresses the profoundly secular (but not secularist) nature of the vocation.

It is, of course, perfectly understandable then that CV's will try to live more and more radical lives of prayer and service in response to God and the needs of God's people. Faith leads to faith; deep calls to deep. Conversion is part of every vocation.  They might well choose to pray the LOH (more hours than the recommended Morning and Evening Prayer --- Night Prayer is a logical addition) especially since this is not the prayer only of Religious, but instead is the official prayer of the entire Church; they should already be building in time for contemplative or quiet prayer (what person of prayer does not?). But beyond this it seems to me the Church has been wise in not specifying other requirements, especially those which could be mistaken for the commitments of Religious which separate from the world or mitigate the secularity of the vocation. Any other tailoring of an individual CV's life of prayer (or service) should probably be left up to the virgin and her spiritual director; the Church has largely done this just as she has consecrated women living secular lives rather than Religious ones.

I hope this is helpful. If the links don't provide what you are looking for, please get back to me and try putting your question another way.