Saturday, April 26, 2003

The NYTimes on consecrated virgins

As Kathleen Danes prepares to become a June bride, in her bedroom closet hangs her gown, in a shade of sky blue. It is not that Ms. Danes is ineligible for virginal white. Quite the contrary; at her church ceremony, she will formally become a consecrated virgin wedded to Jesus Christ. She chose that hue, she said, because it was the color worn by the Virgin Mary."At this consecration, the greatest, most important celebration of my life, I want to feel close to my spouse's mother," said Ms. Danes, 62, who will participate in an ancient and little-known Roman Catholic rite called the Consecration to a Life of Virginity for Women Living in the World. "There is no better way to reach the heart of Jesus than through his most holy mother."

When Ms. Danes, the sacristan at St. Paul the Apostle Catholic Church in Lighthouse Point, Fla., is consecrated in the Archdiocese of Miami, she will join a tiny but growing number of consecrated virgins around the nation. The rite allows women to be publicly recognized as living a life of prayer and devotion while living in society rather than as nuns.

To become a bride of Jesus Christ, a woman must have never married and must demonstrate a life of chastity and devotion to the church. There is no age requirement, although some dioceses prescribe a minimum age like 30. Consecrated virgins have no formal obligations besides daily prayer, but they typically engage in service to the church. There is no equivalent vocation for men.Loretta Matulich, a consecrated virgin from Oregon City, Ore., and president of the United States Association of Consecrated Virgins, said there were at least 100 consecrated virgins in the United States, up from about 20 in 1995. In just the last year, about 15 women around the nation were consecrated, and in the next six months, another 15 will be, Ms. Matulich said.